Some of the first settlers who arrived in what we know today as Brecksville came from Massachusetts on foot. Their imprint is still visible today as a memorial in Cleveland Metroparks Brecksville Reservation.
In 1811, Lemuel Bourne and his friend Walter Waite made the six-week trek to secure land, then spent a year to clear it and build a cabin. In 1812, they headed back to Massachusetts to convince their parents and families to join them. However, Lemuel had a greater incentive to return to Massachusetts: He was to wed Walter’s sister, Delia, who was waiting on him there!
With the good news of Ohio’s rich fertile land, the Bourne and Waite families started on their slow journey to the Western Reserve with three oxen and one horse. Experiencing great hardship, they had a layover in Honeyeye (Honeoye), New York where Delia and Lemuel were wed. Some of the Bourne and Waite family members journeyed no further and settled in Honeoye. Other family members joined them in Ohio later.
However, Benjamin and Zilpha Waite, Delia’s parents, along with many of her other siblings (14 in all) pushed on to Ohio and arrived on a piece of property in 1813 that is now located in Cleveland Metroparks - Brecksville Reservation.
Family Tree of Benjamin and Zilpha Waite - Courtesy of Brecksville Historical Association
The exact location of the first home and his gravesite is not known, but a memorial for Benjamin Waite is well marked along Highway 21 next to the Squire Rich Historic Home. Benjamin was only 18 years old when he served in the Revolutionary War in 1777. Although he only served for two months during two separate expeditions, his service is documented in the “Records of Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War.”
Benjamin Waite - Revolutionary War Memorial along Route 21 - Brecksville Reservation - 2015
The Daughters of the American Revolution provided the veteran marker in his honor, the Department of Defense provided the granite memorial, and to this day Cleveland Metroparks staff keeps the memorial site in honorable condition.
Benjamin died in less than a year after his arrival to Ohio, at the age of 54. However, with so many children, the Waite family name became well established in Brecksville and the Cleveland area. Zilpha and Benjamin’s son Chester served as Brecksville’s first doctor after he served in the War of 1812 as a surgeon. Other family members served as church leaders, teachers, justices of the peace, shoemakers and farmers in the first few generations.
According to the Brecksville Historical Association, descendents of the Waite family still meet for family reunions out at Hinckley Reservation and hoof it over to their patriarch’s Revolutionary War Memorial to visit the original homestead site in Brecksville each year.
Cleveland Metroparks and Brecksville Historical Association hope you come out and tour the Squire Rich Historic Home and take the short walk over to Benjamin Waite’s Memorial. Call ahead at 440-526-7165 for hours open to the public.