History Hale Farm & Village

Hale House


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During the late 18th century, New Englanders like Jonathan Hale, in search of better opportunities and economic gain in the western wilderness, dominated the early settlement of this region known as the Western Reserve. 


Map of western reserve

The Western Reserve was a vast tract of land that extended 120 miles west from the Pennsylvania boundary between the 41st parallel and the southern Lake Erie shore. Connecticut’s claim to this land was based on a charter granted to the colony by King Charles II, of England in 1662. The charter encompassed a swath of land stretching from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean.

After the American Revolution, most of the former colonies ceded claims to lands west of the Appalachians to the new national government. However, Connecticut retained a portion of its lands because of legal issues relating to overlapping land claims with New York and Pennsylvania. By successfully pursuing its claim, Connecticut reserved a potentially valuable 120 mile strip of land south of Lake Erie just for itself.


Congress accepted the “reservation” and recognized Connecticut’s “full right to the soil and the jurisdiction thereof.” The land was referred to by many names, including “New Connecticut,” “The Connecticut Reserve,” and the “Connecticut Western Reserve.” In Ohio, the land was referred to simply as the Western Reserve. In 1786, the Connecticut General Assembly directed the lands to be surveyed and sold. A committee was appointed to sell the entire Reserve, with proceeds to be placed in a special fund to support schools in Connecticut. However, the land could only be sold when Native American claims to it had been resolved. That would occur in 1795, under the Treaty of Greenville when Native Americans ceded their claim to lands east of the Cuyahoga River. Ten years later, they gave up claims to the remaining portion of the Reserve.


The Connecticut Land Company, a consortium of 35 purchasing groups representing 58 individuals purchased the largest portion of the Western Reserve for $1,200,000. In 1796 and 1797, a band of surveyors employed by the company laid out a pattern of east-west (ranges) and north-south (townships) lines that crisscrossed the land at five-mile intervals from the Pennsylvania line to the Cuyahoga River. The land company’s sole intent was to sell the land to individuals for settlement and speculation. With land available at $1.00 to 2.50 per acre, even a poor man with a small down payment and little credit could purchase a subsistence farm in the Western Reserve.


In 1807, surveyors Rial McArthur and Robert Warden conducted a detailed survey of Township 3, Range 12 of the Western Reserve, land that would become Bath Township and the home of three generations of Hales in the Cuyahoga Valley.


Jonathan Hale, a native of Glastonbury, Connecticut, purchased 500 acres of land in the Western Reserve from Connecticut Land Company shareholder Thomas Bull. On June 12, 1810 with a team of horses, a wagon, and a few personal belongings, he set out for Ohio. When he left Glastonbury for this new land, sight unseen, he left behind the rich bottom lands of the Connecticut River, ploughed fields, pastures, and the hilly woodlands of his family farm that had been home to five generations of Hales. On the farm, the Hales grew rye, wheat, corn, flax, tobacco, turnips, and apples. The Glastonbury farm also produced eggs, chickens, pork, beef, and veal, as well as two unusual crops made possible by the river and its rich bottom lands – onions and fish. 

The 646 mile journey to “New Connecticut” took 28 days and cost Hale about $50. When he arrived, a squatter had built a log cabin in a clearing on his property, a common practice on the frontier. According to family history, Jonathan traded the squatter his horses and wagon for the cabin and cleared land. Hale was not alone in the wilderness – his brother-in-law, Jason Hammond, purchased land to the south of his property, and his cousin, Elijah Hale, settled west of the valley on Ira Road. 

Hale’s first wife, Mercy, and their children came later that year, after receiving a series of letters from Jonathan offering advice and directions about what to bring with them to the Reserve. Overall, migration to the Reserve was slow during this period given the War of 1812 and the continued threat of Indian resistance to settlement.

Yet, propaganda that the Western Reserve was an “Eden,” the “Fabled region of the West,” the “Garden of America,” and the “Land of milk and honey“ enticed New Englanders to brave the wilderness for the fertile, level soil of the Western Reserve. There was a belief that a “poor man of Connecticut could become a man of property, a landed gentleman secure and at ease on his own acres” in the Western Reserve.


When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, Lake Erie surpassed the Ohio River as a route of westward expansion and ships on the lake carried migrants from New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey into northern Ohio and the upper Midwest. The completion of the Ohio Canal from the Cleveland terminus to Akron in 1827 opened up the interior of the Western Reserve and had a profound impact on the nature and volume of people and goods moving through Ohio. With transportation systems in place, migration to northern Ohio boomed during the 1830s.



During their first 15 years in the Reserve, the Hales lived in a one-room log house while Jonathan and his sons produced bricks made with materials found on site. The home was completed in 1827, the year that the Erie Canal was completed across the state of New York and in which work was begun on the Ohio and Erie Canal, which would connect Cleveland on Lake Erie to Portsmouth on the Ohio River. The canal reached Akron in 1827, giving the Hales the opportunity to manufacture bricks for sale, using the Canal as the means to move the goods. 

Built by Jonathan Hale between 1825 and 1827, this three-story brick house was one of only two all-brick buildings in the Cuyahoga Valley at the time of its construction. Jonathan’s father and grandfather built his ancestral home in Glastonbury with bricks shaped and burned on site; therefore, it is not surprising that Jonathan brought that family tradition to the Western Reserve.

During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Charles Oviatt, or C.O. Hale and his wife, Pauline, reinvented the family farm settled 75 years earlier by C.O.’s grandfather, Jonathan Hale and his family. With a deep respect for the family tradition of farming in the valley, C.O.’s vision, entrepreneurial spirit, and considerable talent as a horticulturalist transformed the old family farm into a showplace of the Cuyahoga Valley. To finance the farm, C.O. and Pauline opened their home to guests and boarders. The Hale Inn became an important source of income for the Hales and a favorite getaway for city dwellers who longed for a refuge from Cleveland and Akron. 

For years, guests were drawn to the peace and isolation of the Hale Farm. The grounds of the Hale Inn were breathtaking, with gardens, hedgerows, pastureland, farm animals, flowers, beehives and an abundance of fruit trees, most notably apples.


Hale Farm & Village depicts rural life in the Western Reserve through the experiences of three generations of Hales, from pioneer Jonathan Hale’s arrival in 1810 through the bequest of the family farm to WRHS by his great granddaughter, Clara Belle Ritchie, in 1956. Her will directed WRHS to “establish The Hale Farm as a museum, open to the public to the end that the greatest number of persons may be informed as to the history and culture of the Western Reserve.”


When WRHS opened Hale Farm to the public in 1958, the Akron Beacon Journal invited readers to “leave the happy confusion and noise of Akron” for the peace, quiet and beauty of the Jonathan Hale Homestead Museum in what was known then as “Ira Valley.” 

Years later, Hale Farm & Village has a mission to provide unique, educational experiences that explore the history, culture and development of the Western Reserve as well as to perpetuate the hospitality of Pauline, C.O. and other members of the Hale family.

During its first decade of operation, the Hale Farm proved to be immensely popular. Visitors enjoyed tours of the Hale House and the demonstrations of early American crafts and trades, which had been introduced in the 1960s. WRHS decided to build on this popularity and created a master plan to expand the operation into an expansive outdoor living history museum, much in keeping with established outdoor museum models like the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan; Old Sturbridge Village in Sturbridge, Massachusetts; and Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia. Museum officials consulted with outdoor museums, who endorsed the WRHS plan to create an expansive farm and village museum in northeast Ohio.

Representatives from WRHS, including Mr. Siegfried Buerling, Hale Farm & Village’s longest serving Director (1959-1998), traveled east to study museum villages and towns throughout New England as well as village and town centers in the Western Reserve. Based on these studies and extensive historical research in the WRHS Archives, staff developed a concept for creating an early Western Reserve village on the open land across the road from the Hale House. 

To create the Village, WRHS launched a “Preservation through Relocation” program built on the concept of saving pre-Civil War era historic structures threatened by demolition by moving them from their original sites to Hale Farm. The relocated structures were restored to their original beauty and charm around a recreated village green, inspired by those still found in New England villages and towns, and throughout the Western Reserve. 

The guidelines for creating the Village were straightforward:

  • The Village plan was to reflect typical villages and town centers in the Western Reserve
  • Buildings were to come from within the boundaries of the Western Reserve 
  • No building was to be moved if it could be saved on its original site 
  • All buildings were either to be built before 1850 or stylistically fit into that period 
  • The buildings were to represent a variety of architectural styles and lifestyles.

The Village plan would greatly increase the scope of attractions and operations at Hale Farm. Largely as a result of this preservation initiative, WRHS became well respected within the emerging historic preservation movement. The carefully restored historic buildings, most built in the Greek Revival architectural style so typical of early building in the Western Reserve, were then used as spaces for the display and interpretation of WRHS’ vast collection of fine and decorative arts of the early to mid-19th century. In fact, the new Village became an extension gallery for the Society’s collections. The result was a museum experience like none other in Northeast Ohio. 


In 1973, The Hale Farm was listed on the National Register of Historic Places as the Jonathan Hale Homestead.

Western Reserve Historical Society is the oldest cultural institution in Northeast Ohio, the region's largest American history research center, and one of the leading genealogical research centers in the nation.

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Cleveland History Center
10825 East Boulevard
Cleveland, Ohio 44106 ↗

(216) 721-5722

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