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 house 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
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.