WHAT: Purpose of the Project: The purpose of the project is to relocate and restore the landmarked Spring Hill “Deed” House located on the historic Ebenezer Sheldon homestead. Built circa 1805, it is potentially the oldest standing structure in Aurora. Over the years the structure was used as a law office from which Sheldon completed land transactions. The structure is designated a historic structure by the City of Aurora’s Landmark Commission.
HOW: Collaborative Project: The AHS is working in collaboration with the City of Aurora to move the structure to the city owned triangle located on East Pioneer Trail across from the Aurora Memorial Library. The “triangle” is strategically located in the center of town which is increasingly becoming a vibrant cultural and commercial area.
Tim Holder, Mike Thal, and Karen Walter are working with the City to develop a lease agreement that will outline the responsibilities of both parties.
WHY?: Visitor Center: The Aurora Historical Society intends to use the Deed House as a visitor center/museum from which individuals will be introduced to the history of Aurora and its role in the development of the Ohio Western Reserve. The visitor center will be the starting point for walking tours of Aurora’s historic areas: Town Center Historic District; Train Station District; The Aurora Cemetery. In addition, visitors will be directed to the Aurora Historical Society Museum located on the lower level of the Aurora Memorial Library.
Historical Background & Significance of the Deed House
The vast wilderness of northeastern Ohio was part of what was officially known as the Western Reserve of Connecticut. Connecticut’s claim to the “reserve” was historically based on its original colonial charter granted under the authority of England’s monarchy and parliament. Following the American Revolution, the conflicting colonial claims to the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains were relinquished to the newly formed American government. The lands of the “Northwest Territory” which covered the area between the Ohio River on the east, the Mississippi on the west, and the Great Lakes to the north were surveyed and divided into townships under the provisions of the Land Ordinance of 1785. The land was sold to speculators who in turn sold it to settlers. Two years later the Northwest Ordinance of 1787 established the process in which the territories carved out of the region became states. Both ordinances were instrumental in bringing about the orderly settlement of the vast region of what later became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and part of Wisconsin.
In June, 1796, the Connecticut Land Company sent a surveying party under the direction of Moses Cleaveland into the Western Reserve to divide it into townships. Overwhelmed with the task a second party was sent out the following spring to assist in the surveying. It was this second party which mapped out what came to be known as Portage County. The township that came to be named Aurora was township 5 in the 9th range. Three brothers, David, Ebenezer, and Fidelio King purchased the township in a lottery. Ebenezer Sheldon, Gideon Granger and John Leavett were also interested partners. The partnership came to be known as the Big Beaver Land Company which also had control of the adjacent township which came to be called Mantua.
Early in 1799, Capt. Ebenezer Sheldon, Esquire. left West Suffield, Connecticut and headed for the Western Reserve. In May of that year Sheldon was joined by Elias Harmon and his bride, the adopted daughter of Martin Sheldon, Ebenezer’s father. Together they built a small log cabin along a tributary of the Chagrin River located on the south side of East Pioneer Trail just east of where the Sheldon’s would later build their first frame home. The Harmon’s soon moved to Mantua while Sheldon returned to Connecticut in the fall of 1799 to prepare his family for a move to Aurora in May, 1800.
Sheldon had the responsibility for handling the land transactions for the Big Beaver Land Company. As settlers from Connecticut and Massachusetts began to move into the area Sheldon erected a “deed house” from which to conduct his business. It is believed that the structure was built circa 1805 and is the oldest existing building in Aurora. This building is one of only a few that survive to today.
This land company constituted not only Portage County, but also Summit and parts of Trumbell and Ashtabula counties, making it a very important center of land purchases. The deed house, therefore is a very significant historical landmark, and one that clearly should be preserved.