The Early History of Eastlake, Ohio


In early times, all of northern Ohio belonged to the Erie Indians. The Eries are probably related to the Iroquois. It is not known whether they are descended from, or ancestor of, that nation. Erie territory extended from New York's Genesee River across northern Ohio to the Miami River.

The Eries named out river "Sha-ga-rin" or "Shaguin," meaning "clear water." Their game, the elk, were good engineers and made our first roads. Their trails followed the easiest grade.

The Evans map of 1755 (pdf) shows the predominance of elk in our region, calling the Chagrin river "Biche," which is the French word for "elk." To the French, the Erie were the "Nation du Chat" or the "Cat Nation." They revered the lynx, or the eastern wild cat.

The Reeve village site of the Eries, located on a bluff 1/4 mile south of the mouth of the Chagrin, was first visited by Charles Whittlesey in 1877. It originally consisted of two walls of earth. The bluff was about 35 feet high, and on the east side of the river, Reeve village was dug and mapped by the Ohio State Archeological and Historical Society in 1929.

A reminder of our Indian ancestry is the name of "Lost Nation Road." There are many stories of the origin of this name, so this will be multiple choice: (1) Indians escaping from a battle that took place at the intersection of the "Salt Trail" (River Road) and the "Flint Trail" (Euclid Avenue) in downtown Willoughby skipped town in canoes they had anchored in the river, and became the Lost Nation. (2) The folks living here were isolated by weather conditions, therefore, cut off from civilization, they become a lost nation. (3) Early settlers, having lost their own stills, were rowdy and boisterous, but preferred to be a lost nation.

Early Settlers

In 1797 David Abbot, the first permanent white settler in this township, received a grant from the Connecticut Land Company. It included land adjacent to the east and west sides of the river. For the site of Abbot's first grist mill there are as many locations as there are authors. The best evidence places it in 1798 at the intersection of the northeastern channel (known then as the Elk River) with the west branch of the Chagrin. High water here forced Abbot, in 1803, to rebuild about two miles up the river near the ford at Erie and Pelton.

illustration-historical-easAnother enterprise of Mr. Abbot was the building of the schooner "Cuyahoga Packet" on the Chagrin in 1805. David Abbot had sold his mills and property and moved with his family to Milan in 1810.

John and Catharine Miller were among the first settlers, coming here in 1801. Samual Miller, their son, was the first white child born in the settlement, and his pale face stood out among the papooses along the southern shore of Lake Erie.

Read more about the history of Eastlake  View pdf

The Members of the Eastlake Historical Society


Eastlake Celebrates Its Seniors

Martha Anderson

By Jackie Pacholke

Martha Anderson

Experiencing discrimination in both nursing and teaching did not keep Martha Anderson from pursuing a career that she loved and would keep her entire working life.

She was born Martha J. Montgomery on Feb 13, 1928, in Terre Haute, Indiana, to Milton and Meta (Mayfield) Montgomery. She had two brothers and four sisters. The family relocated to the west Cleveland area in 1939. After graduating from John Marshall High School in 1946, she attended St. Alexis School of Nursing, graduating in 1949. The nursing school was very strict. The girls could not be married. One girl married just before graduation and they expelled her from the school with no diploma. Although the student nurses were in their twenties they had a 9:50 curfew. The school was a very affordable way for a young lady to have a career. As an RN the nurses were taught to stand if a doctor was about and to treat them in a respectful manner. Their hair could not rest on their shoulders and for this reason many had short hair cuts. Receiving a nurse's cap was part of the graduation process. They had to be kept clean. They were starched cleaned at the Chinese laundry. (Nurses have since forgone the wearing of the cap.) The nurses wore white nylon stockings with white starched uniforms and white oxford shoes with a little heel.

From 1950 to 1953 Martha worked as a public health nurse for the city hospital. There were many communicable diseases during this period. She would notify the public and quarantine those who had mumps, measles, TB, whooping cough and scarlet fever. She also worked at a well baby clinic helping to vaccinate infants.

Martha met and fell in love with a friend of her brother named Raymond Matheke. He went into the Army. All young men during that time seemed to enter the service. In June of 1951 they were married at Christ Methodist on the West Side of Cleveland.

In 1952, the couple moved to 332nd St. in Eastlake. The street was off Willowick Drive and 331st Street and had the name of Rob Roy. This home was an affordable pre-built cottage.

From 1953 to 1955, Martha worked as a visiting nurse in Cleveland, giving home health care as needed. She would ride the county line bus to work. It would take her down Lakeshore Boulevard to the Glenville and Bratenahl area. This would be similar to what one would experience on a Laketran route.

When Martha was 25 years old her husband taught her to drive a stick shift car. From 1955 to 1957, she was a school nurse working for various schools in the Willoughby-Eastlake school district. After Mrs. Matheke became pregnant she was forced to leave her job for the school district as they had a policy that did not allow pregnant woman to work.

She had two children who both graduated from North High School: Linda, who now resides in Seattle, and Dan, who has served as an Eastlake Councilman-at-large.

During 1959-1960, Martha worked part time evenings at the Painesville Hospital as a staff nurse. In 1961, she transferred to the West End Hospital where she became the shift supervisor for the hospital.

In 1965, Martha became the first chemical instructor for the Willoughby-Eastlake School District's nursing program. No males were admitted into the program. The class was taught out of the big mansion on Shankland Boulevard. It was around this time that her husband Raymond passed away. Martha went back to being a school nurse. She checked that students had been vaccinated. She gave them eye tests. She was instrumental in starting the testing for scoliosis in our school system. She also taught fifth and sixth grade girls about menstruation, which by the way required a permission slip signed by their parents.

Cornelius "Neil" Anderson was a neighbor whose wife had passed away about the same time as Martha's husband. He was a salesman and supervisor for Colgate and Palmolive. The two married and moved to Eastlake Drive. At one time they also lived on Oriole Drive. Mrs. Anderson commented about how the street had been planted with Bradford Pear trees that had a beautiful bloom in the springtime. These trees had been planted by Harold Pacholke.The couple currently resides on Sunset Cove Circle. They have lived here for about 13 years.

Martha Anderson is legally blind. She lost her sight in one eye from being severely long-sighted. Laser surgery helped to stop the bleeding but she still lost her sight.

This article is written courtesy of the Eastlake Historical Society. If you know of someone 80 years old or older who has lived in Eastlake for 50 years or more please contact The Eastlake Historical Society through City Hall. We would love to include them in our article series.


John Russ

By Jackie Pacholke

John Russ

If you were to ask John Russ where he lives in Eastlake, his reply would be, "Go to home plate at the Captains stadium, look down third base, continue looking out past left field and after about a half-mile down the street you will come to my home." When he moved in around 1956 the street was called Manley. It was one of the few streets that would take you directly from Vine Street to Stevens Boulevard. They have now given it the name of East 354th Street.

He remembers Vine Street being lined with bricks that resembled loaves of bread. There was a bar located on the corner of his street later called Beanies. It is gone now with the addition of the Walgreens Drug store. He likes the store being there. It is convenient for his use and he finds the employees who work there very friendly. He was surprised that they were able to get an exit onto Route 91. That helps to keep the traffic off his street. He doesn't mind the fireworks on Fridays from the Captain's Stadium. He seldom hears them. He spoke about the junkyard owned by Mr. Gates. It ran from Stevens Boulevard back into the street that is now occupied by Route 91. For some time there had also been a used car lot and a junk yard that entered from Vine Street where the new Walgreens is today. People don't seem to buy junk parts today like they did back then. Both of these yards are now gone.

He has tried ordering his medicine online, but it only caused him to fret. He was always wondering when it would come, did the order go through correctly and did he really remember to order it. It is just much simpler to go to Walgreens and get it. Back in 1956, he used to go to a drugstore located in the shopping center that houses the Wing House. He also remembers Biagio's being one of the few pizza makers in the area. He still enjoys them today.

John Russ was born Dec 4, 1924, in a house located by 64th Street and Glass Avenue. Glass Avenue has since had its name changed to Lausche Drive. His parents who married in Cleveland were both of Slovenian descent. His father immigrated here in 1905. His surname had been spelled Rus, but it was changed to Russ in the confusion of documentation. His mother was Margaret Steblaj. He had a brother who died at birth and a sister, Mary. The family relocated across the street from St. Francis School in 1927. John graduated from East Tech High School in 1943. He had been drafted into the Army before he graduated from high school, but the government let him finish before he was inducted. John did not have good eyesight. He was theoretically blind without his glasses. Instead of sending him into combat the Army trained him to make false teeth. He was in the 229th General Hospital. A general hospital was one that was located in a real building, not a tent or battlefield. He was kept in the States until 1945 when he was sent to Valenciennes, France. He remembers that he was given a week's leave and was able to go to the Riviera. It was beautiful. In May of the same year his group was placed onto the newly built ship called the General Aultman. It left Marseille France and headed through the Straits of Gilbraltar down to the Carribean. He did not work on teeth at this time. He was placed on "KP" duty and helped to feed the men on board. Because of his duties he was often allowed to go ashore. The ship traveled through the Panama Canal on to Papua New Guinea. It later went to port in the Manilla Bay of the Phillippines. John had now been involved in the largest troop movement over the longest distance for any ship at that time. The ship had transported more than 5,000 men. He was taken off of this ship and moved to Nagoya, Japan. This was about 150 miles south of Tokyo. The war had ended. Here is where they finally set up their false teeth shop. He had acquired so many points from being overseas and in so many places by ship that after a few months he was discharged. He has been a member of the VFW in Willoughby for 40 years.

Upon returning to the States he dated his future wife, Katheryn Phillips, for six years. They were married in 1956 shortly before moving to their only home in Eastlake. On Memorial Day the family would still gather near the old homestead by St. Francis for mass. Then John would march in the parade.

Mr. Russ worked for Sears and Roebuck for 31 years. He began in Cleveland in the automotive parts dept. When Shoregate opened their Sears store he was happy because it cut down on the time and cost of his travel to work. This Sears store was located for many years in the building now occupied by Marc's.

After 52 years of marriage Kathryn died from heart complications. The couple had one daughter, Mrs. Karen Scheel , who is currently residing in Eastlake. Mr. Russ has five grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.

Some of his fond memories of living in this area with his family involve St. Justin Marytr and their church picnics. He remembers when they used to have them at the Mahon Dude Ranch. This was located where the Chagrin River Reservation is today. One such picnic must have had over 1,000 people in attendance. He had also worked for Gene Walker at the Eastlake Drive-In. On Sundays they were allowed to bring their families for free. Mainly he helped with directing the traffic in and out at closing.

John Russ enjoys living in Eastlake. He feels that the city is making changes that are in the right direction. He only wishes that he didn't have to pay to have his garbage picked up.

This article is brought to you by the Eastlake Historical Society.


Ellie Wiley

By Jackie Pacholke

Ellie Wiley


Eleanor Wiley, known as "Ellie" to her friends, faithfully volunteers weekly at the Eastlake Senior Citizens Center, located in the old Taft Elementary School building. She volunteers five times a week in the exercise room. Someone has to monitor the room in order for the citizens to use the equipment. This is for safety reasons. They must have a note from a doctor giving them the OK to exercise, plus pay $12. Ellie enjoys this position. She likes talking to the room's daily participants. She has made many friendships while volunteering. She arranges a week in advance for Laketran to transport her to and from the center. The center helps to offset the expense of using Laketran. They pay $1.50 for the $2.50 trip. This helps the elderly who are on a fixed income.

In 1948, Ellie would ride a greyhound bus from Cleveland out to 343rd Street to visit her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Grose. Her parents would ride the same bus route back into Cleveland to shop. Ellie didn't get her driver's license until she was in her 30s. Now, as she points to her walker, she says she is driving a "Jaguar." On her trip she noticed a tunnel going under the boulevard that would take one to the Willowick Library. At this time the library was located north of Lakeshore. She also would see a golf course, where Shoregate is located today. This is evident by some of the street names still in Willowick: High Tee, Divot, Bunker, Eagle Street, Fairway Drive.

She married John Grieger on February 11, 1950. He was a house carpenter and also a volunteer fireman. The wives of the firemen would hold meetings in a room provided by Lloyd Culp. He owned a bar located in the bend of Lakeshore near Willowick Drive. The women's group was called The Eastlake Flames. They would hold fundraisers like bake sales and collect food and clothing. These provisions would be given to fire victims. The women would make sandwiches and coffee to take to the firemen when they were putting out fires that were taking a long time to extinguish. They raised enough money to purchase a fire bell engraved with the names of the volunteers. Once a year, the fire department would have a clambake down in the Chagrin Harbor in their party room. The white fire truck was housed underneath an awning structure that was located where the Sears store is today. She thinks it is wonderful how the traffic lights adjust to the emergency sirens and give the emergency vehicles the right of way.

Mrs. Wiley worked in the Willoughby-Eastlake Schools cafeteria for 30 years. The food was prepared in the North and South high schools and then filtered out to the other schools. During her work period the workers would peel the potatoes and make their own hamburgers. There was not as much prefabricated food like there is today. She said that the apple crisp was always a popular dish.

Ellie's second husband was a bricklayer. She met him because he was her neighbor's brother. His name was Charles "Ed" Wiley. He was from West Virginia. They married August 10, 1979. The couple settled on Stevens Boulevard. She remembers how they would scrape the dirt roads, put oil on them, and then covered them with sand.

Mrs. Wiley has had open heart surgery and been given a pacemaker. Instead of exercise she enjoys reading a good mystery. She also enjoys collecting salt and pepper shakers. She has some very unusual ones: lawnmowers, washer and dryer, sewing machines and even some that look like tombstones.

This article is written courtesy of the Eastlake Historical Society. If you know of someone 80 years old or older who has lived in Eastlake for 50 years or more please contact The Eastlake Historical society through City Hall. We would love to include them in our article series.

Louis Bencina

By Jackie Pacholke

Louis Bencina

Louis Bencina and his new bride bought a pre-built home on Grover in 1955. The street got its name because it was part of the Grover farm located off of Roberts Road, just east of Route 91. Because of the construction of Route 91 the street is now a dead end. You can see it through the fence that blocks its entrance to 91. The street is now called East 355th Street, but Mr. Bencina has written Grover for so long that much of his mail still comes that way.

Louis was the only child of Slovenian immigrants Frank and Gertrude Bencina. When he was born in Cleveland on January 8, 1930 his birth certificate was misprinted spelling his last name Bencina. He has kept it spelled that way ever since. His father died when he was seven and his mother remarried to George Skiljan. They had no children.

Growing up around 62nd Street he graduated from East Tech High School in 1949. He was drafted into the Army during the Korean War and served from 1951 to 1953 in the 501st Engineers. They were a complement to the 32nd that served as a supply group.

In 1955 he married Jeanne M. Baczara. She was a divorcee who had a daughter named Diane that Louis adopted. They moved to Grover at this time. Jeanne was well known for her decorated wedding cakes. They had three children. Lynnanne was in the first class at George Washington Elementary School. She is married to Chris Boulton and they reside in Eastlake. Jeanne and Louis had two sons, Richard and Doug. Doug also resides in Eastlake. Jeanne passed away August 8, 1970.

Until he was laid off, Louis Bencina worked for TRW as an assembler. He then went on to work as a stocker for Kroger grocery stores. He worked at the store by East 222nd and the store on Vine Street in Willowick. He recounted how the store used to give out yellow stamps to shoppers based on how much they spent. People would save the stamps and place them in booklets. These books could be traded in at a stamp exchange store for things like table lamps, knick-knacks, sporting equipment and such. Later on May Compay would let you cash them in for money vouchers that you could use at their stores. Workers from Kroger would get together to bowl on a league at the Vine Lanes Bowling Alley. This was located where the Sears store is today. Here he met his second wife, Dorothy Rojec. They were married by the mayor of Willowick in 1971. She had been married before and entered the marriage already having five children. Together they had a daughter named Andrea. Dorothy passed away in 2008. His step-daughter, Martha, was present during the interview. She could attest to what a wonderful father Mr. Bencina was to all of his children. She never thought of him as anything but her father.

The home on Grover was a good place to raise children. A street resident named Mr. Turner would flood an empty lot and turn it into an ice rink in the winter. In the summer the kids would ride mini-bikes up and down the street. The street was so friendly that Mr. Bencina would go outside to cut the grass and it would take him four hours to get his small lot done. He was forever stopping to visit with neighbors who would stop by, many bringing a beer to help cool off in the heat of the summer. Before the community had organized firework displays, Mr. Bencina and Ed and Al Zyck would put on their own Fourth of July fireworks celebration. Many displays were for ground viewing. The Boy Scouts would often help with this endeavor.

Sometimes on Friday nights Lou would bring home Biagio pizzas as a special treat for the children. The Bencinas would have company over every other week for some serious pinochle card playing. This consisted mostly of the family and the "out-laws." He and his wife liked to listen to and dance to polka music. The Twilight Gardens was a fun place to do this. They also listened to the polka tunes on WELW radio and could find such things on the" Lawrence Welk" and "Polka Varieties" TV shows.

Louis Bencina retired from working at Victor Browning in 1992 after 29 years of service. Nowadays he enjoys growing a vegetable garden. It hasn't had the best of success because the deer population is so great in his area that they keep beating him to his produce.

Around Easter time he enjoyed eating paczki or "Pounchky." This was a holeless donut smothered in powered sugar. They would take the children to community Easter egg hunts and give them chocolate peanut butter eggs which were their favorite.

Louis is a member of St. Justin Church. He is a Democrat who believes you have no reason to complain if you don't vote. He enjoys cutting coupons to help save money on his monthly expenses. He has had open heart surgery three times: 1996, 2001 and 2002. This only child has grown a family into 66 members. He has raised 10 children, two now deceased: Father John, a priest from Mayfield who died in 2006, and a son Ron who passed in 1999. He has 21 grandchildren and 35 great grandchildren.

This article is sponsored by the Eastlake Historical Society.


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