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Lake County, Ohio

Kirtland

   

Origins of Kirtland.
     The geologic history of Kirtland stretches back nearly 300 million years to a time when the region was covered by ocean water.  The bedrock is a silt shale of the Ohio shale group named Chagrin Shale.  Just above the Chagrin Shale is Cleveland Shale, a Devonian formation which is an important source of local fossils.  It is overlaid by Bedford Shale,  Berea Sandstone is the next layer and an important local building material used to construct the Kirtland Temple and other historic buildings.  The capstone is Sharon Conglomerate, a sandstone with embedded quartz pebbles.  About 10,000 years ago glaciers covered all of northern Ohio, so the landscape of the region is dominated by the effects of glaciation.
     After the founding of the United States, northern Ohio, was designated as the Western Reserve and sold to the Connecticut Land Company.  The area was first surveyed by Moses Cleaveland and his party in 1796.
     Kirtland is named for Turhand Kirtland, a principal of the Connecticut Land Company and judge in Trumbull County, the first political entity in Ohio that included Kirtland township.  Kirtland, a veteran of the Revolutionary War, demonstrated "both breadth of vision and integrity" in his fair dealings with the local Native Americans.  He was known for his bravery, resourcefulness and passion for justice.  Dr. Jared Kirtland, was the son of the former.  Dr. Kirtland helped to found a medical college in nearby Willoughby, and he compiled the first omithology of Ohio.  The bird Kirtland's Warbler is named for Jared Kirtland.  This rare species has been documented in the city during migration, but it does not nest in Ohio.
     Being less well suited to agriculture, the densely forested, clay soiled, high, hilly, land of Kirtland was settled later than surrounding townships: Mentor in 1798, and Chester in 1802.  Kirtland's first European settlers were the John Moore family, soon followed by the Crary family who came to Kirtland in 1811.  In 1893 Christopher Crary wrote a memoir of his life in Kirtland, which provided a great deal of material for Anne B. Prusha's 1982 history of Kirtland.

Headquarters of the Latter Day Saint movement.
     From 1831 to 1838, Kirtland was the headquarters for the Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, Jr. moved the church to Kirtland in 1831, even though it had been organized only a short time earlier in April 1830 in Palmyra, New York.  The church would change its name to "Church of the Latter Day Saints: in 1834, and after leaving Kirtland, to the "Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints".  The Saints built their first temple there, which is a historic landmark owned and operated by the Community of Christ, a group descended from the church attending the Kirtland Temple dedication in 1836 claimed to see multiple heavenly visions and appearances of heavenly beings, including deity.  For this and other reasons, Kirtland remains a place of importance to those of all Latter Day Saint denominations.  A majority of sections from the Doctrine and Covenants, considered modem revelations and canonical by most denominations within the Latter Day Saint movement, originated in Kirtland during the 1830s.
     Ownership of the Kirtland Temple was in a confused state and disputed for number of years but eventually it was declared by court action to be the property of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (now Community of Christ).  Today, besides giving tours, the Community of Christ church allows others to sue the temple for special meetings.

1838 to present.
     After the departure of the Latter Day Saints, and during the latter part of the 19th century, Kirtland's population diminished and life was typical of that of the region.  Crary recalls the last rattlesnakes being killed on Gildersleeve Mountain in the 1830's.  During this period all but a few stands of forest were cleared for agriculture, with corn and apples being the predominant crops.
     In the early 20th century, Kirtland School (now Kirtland Elementary) was built to consolidate 3 school houses.  One of the old school houes can still be found at the corner of Baldwin and Sperry in Kirtland Hills.
     Kirtland was small changes until after World War II when residential subdivisions were put in on farm land and in second growth forest that had grown over the past 80 years.  In 1960 a high school was built and in 1961, Gildersleeve Elementary was built along Chardon Rd. (US-6) to accommodate the increases in enrollment created by new families moving into the community.  In 1868 a middle school was completed for grades 6-8.
Also in 1968, the citizens of Kirtland voted in a special election to incorporate the township. James Naughton, was the first mayor of the village, which became a city when the 1970 census showed population exceeded 5000.
     The 1960s saw an influx and expansion of local businesses. A shopping center was built. This combined the hardware, drug store, grocery, barber shop, plus the local doctor and dentist in one building. By 1965, Interstate 90 was open allowing a quicker trip into Cleveland.
     Kirtland continued to grow in population slowly through the 1970s and 1980s.
     In April 1989, Jeffrey Lundgren, a religious extremist, coerced some in his cult into murdering a family of five and hiding their bodies in a pit dug inside a barn, demolished November 13, 2007, on Chardon Road (U.S. 6). Those of Lundgren's cult who participated in the murders have been sentenced to life in prison. Lundgren himself was executed on October 24, 2006.
     The Newel K. Whitney Store In the 1990s, as Kirtland became an increasingly popular tourist destination, the historic Kirtland area was created in the Kirtland flats along the East Branch of the Chagrin River. The buildings in this area preserve or replicate structures that were present in the 1830s. Historic Kirtland structures, many of which are related to early Mormon history, include the NK Whitney home (replica), Newel K. Whitney Store (original structure), a sawmill (replica), an ashery, the Sidney Rigdon home (original structure), and the John Johnson Inn. This area provides insight into what life was like during the period when Kirtland was the home of Joseph Smith, Brigham Young, and other founders of Mormonism. The Community of Christ and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints both operate visitor centers in Kirtland and give tours of the buildings and sites they own.
     In 2003, Schuppís farm and orchard, on Hobart Road, became inactive leaving Rockís farm on Chillicothe Road, the only active for-profit farm in the city. As of 2006, there are still active cattle and horse farming in the city and some commercial nursery activity. Sugaring still occurs, with at least 2 active sugar bushes other than the large scale Bicknell Sugar Bush at the Holden Arboretum.
     Kirtland, has been visited by two sitting Presidents of the United States, including in April 2005 for a political speech by President George W. Bush at the Lake Farm Park. President Bush also visited Kirtland in 2006 as part of emergency efforts associated with the Grand River flooding.
 

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