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Leonard Case


"Leonard Case, Cleveland. The late Leonard Case, Senior, was born July 29, 1786, in Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, near the Monongahela river. His father, Mesbach Case, was of Holland stock. The grandfather was one of four brothers who came to this country from Holland early in the last century. We know little of these brothers as individuals, only that they came from a nation that had fought the longest and bloodiest wars for religious and civil liberty against the Spanish inquisition, and had become the rival of Great Britain for the supremacy of the seas, and in planting colonies in America, Africa and the East Indies. These four Case brothers settled on Long Island and in Morris county, New Jersey, and one of them, Butler, moved into Westmoreland county, Pennsylvania, in 1778, where Mesbach, a farmer, the father of the subject of this sketch, met and married Magdalene Eckstein in 1780. On the maternal side there is more knowledge of the family history. Leonard Eckstein, the grandfather, was a native of Bavaria, and was born near the ancient city of Nuremberg, the old walled and castellated city founded in medieval times, about ninety miles from Munich. Some of the brothers of Leonard Eckstein were sculptors and carvers. One worked for Frederick the Great in Berlin and Potsdam, and others at The Hague in the Netherlands. In 1750 Leonard Eckstein landed in Philadelphia, pushed on to Virginia, married in Winchester and moved again into western Pennsylvania, where his daughter Magdalene and Mesbach Case were married. As the fruit of this union of the Holland and German stock eight children were born, Leonard being the oldest. In 1799 his father and mother went on an exploring expedition into Ohio, and on horseback came into the Connecticut Western Reserve, buying two hundred acres of land in the township of Warren, Trumbull county. Before returning they had raised a log cabin and cut away an acre of timber around it. The next spring, April 26, 1800, the family arrived on the spot, and with them came several of their Pennsylvania neighbors. There were not fifty people on the whole domain of the Connecticut Land Company. It was here they celebrated their first Fourth of July. Mr. Case in his narrative gives an account of the celebration, when even the musical instruments were made on the spot, the drum from the trunk of a hollow pepperidge tree with a fawn's skin stretched across the ends, and the fife from a large, strong stem of elder. Every settler, man and boy, had a gun. From April, 1800, to October, 1801, the lad (Leonard), upon whom the whole family leaned for the heaviest work on the farm and for hunting game (deer and bear), was in robust health and untiring strength. Suddenly he was prostrated with fever, in consequence of crossing the Mahoning river when overheated in pursuit of the cattle, resulting in ulcers, which made him a cripple for life, and he was never free from pain during the long years of his life. This sickness was prolonged, and it was not until the end of two years that he was able to get and about. He determined that he would not be dependent upon charity or the labor of others. He schooled himself in reading and writing, made instruments for drafting, and in order to get books and clothes bottomed all the chairs in the neighborhood, made riddles and sieves for the grain of the farmers, and finally found himself necessary to those around him. Then his handwriting attracted the attention of the clerk of the court at Warren, and in 1806 he was absorbing all that there was to know in the laws and land titles of the county. He was appointed clerk of the Supreme Court for Trumbull county in 1806, and had an opportunity to study and copy the records of the Connecticut Land Company in the recorder's office, and when he was employed by General Simon Perkins, who was the land agent of the company in 1807, he was made his confidential clerk. From that time until 1844, when General Perkins died, they were bound together in strong and true friendship. He studied law under the direction of John D. Edwards, who at that time held the office of recorder of Trumbull county, then comprising all of the Western Reserve. While studying law he made an abstract of the drafts of the Connecticut Land Company, showing from the records of that company all the original proprietors of the Reserve and the lands purchased by them, an abstract which was so correct that it became the standard beginning of all searches of land titles, and is still copied and used by all the abstractors and examiners of titles in all of the twelve counties of the Reserve. The war of 1812 found Mr. Case at Warren, having among his other duties that of the collection of non-resident taxes on the Western Reserve. Having to go to Chillicothe to make his settlements, he prepared for his journey to the State capital by making a careful disposition of all official matters, so that in case of misfortune to him there would be no difficulty in settling his affairs and no loss to his bail. The money belonging to the several townships was parceled out, enveloped and marked, in readiness to hand over to the several trustees. The parcels were then deposited with his friend, Mr. Edwards, with directions to pay over to the proper parties should he not return in time. The journey was made without mishap, but on his return he found that his friend had set out to join the army on the Maumee, and had died suddenly on the way. To the gratification of Mr. Case, however, the money was found untouched where he had left it. In 1816 Mr. Case received the appointment of cashier of the Commercial Bank of Lake Erie, just organized in Cleveland. He immediately removed to Cleveland and entered on the discharge of his duties. These did not occupy all of his time, so he practiced law and conducted the business of land agent. The bank was compelled to suspend operations, but later was revived with Mr. Case as president. He earnestly devoted himself to the practice of law. He had a natural taste for the investigations of titles and the history of the earlier land transactions. He had ample scope to gratify his taste, and his agency for the Connecticut Land Company from 1827 to 1855 enabled him still further to prosecute his researches. His strong memory retained the facts acquired until he became complete master of the whole history of titles derived from the Connecticut Land Company. From his earliest connections with Cleveland Mr. Case took a lively interest in the affairs of the village, the improvement of the streets, the maintenance and enlargement of the schools and the extension of religious influences. To him Cleveland is indebted for the name of "Forest City" more than to any one man. It was his thoughtfulness and public spirit that the work of planting shade trees was commenced. From 1821 to 1825 he was president of the village. When Cuyahoga county was created he was the first auditor. From 1824 to 1827 he was a member of the State legislature, where he was distinguished by his persistent labors in behalf of the canals. He organized and drafted the first bill providing for raising taxes on lands according to the value. They had been before that time taxed so much per acre without regard to their value. This change in the method of raising taxes has been continued. Out of his experience and practical sense he was enabled to furnish a system of checks for the systematic estimates and auditing of accounts on the great public works then set on foot, which was adopted, and proved a safeguard against frauds, jobbery and defalcation. He headed the subscription to the stock of the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad Company with the sum of $5,000, and was largely influential in the organization of this first railroad project for Cleveland. One of his rules from which he never deviated was not to contract a debt beyond his ability to pay within two years, without depending upon a sale of property. His opportunities of buying in the earlier days were, of course, unlimited, but he never refused to sell lands, and never placed any obstacle to their settlement and improvement by keeping large tracts out of the market. He married at Stow, Portage county, September 28, 1817, Elizabeth Gaylord, a native of Middletown, Connecticut. His son, William was born August 10, 1818, afterwards mayor of Cleveland, and Leonard, June 27, 1820. There were other great men in Cleveland in those days, but Leonard Case, although feeble physically, was a tower of strength; broad, square and lofty in wisdom, character and financial stability. He was looked upon as the source of all wisdom on all Ohio land laws, most of which he had helped to make. There was not a man, woman or child that did not feel at liberty to approach and shake his friendly hand. A sufferer of physical pain from his boyhood days, he was never known to complain. Both of his sons were quick and diligent in their studies. William devoted himself to looking after the interests of his father. Leonard entered Yale and graduated with honors in the class of 1842. He afterwards read law, but literature was more to his liking. It was the second son that by deeds of trust to valuable real estate founded the "School of Applies Science" in Cleveland, which will ever stand as a worthy monument to both father and son. Leonard Case, Senior, died December 7, 1864, in his seventy-ninth year." [George Irving Reed (ed.), 2 Bench and Bar of Ohio: A Compendium of History and Biography 160-162 (1897)]

[Leonord Case's son, also named Leonard, was a lawyer and a poet. See: Leonard Case]