This sign is located at N41 51.479 W80 57.733.
Lumber built the village:
Solomon Fitch was an early settler of Geneva Township and owned land in what is now Geneva-on-the-Lake.
A recollection written in a letter by G.W. Putnam, shares these details:
“I have been requested to write in this book some of my personal recollections and items of interest which old timers gave me when I was a young boy in regard to the early history of the vicinity now Geneva-0n-the-Lake. A man by the name of Solomon Fitch I think the first settler in the vicinity. His log house was situated about 1,500 feet south of the creek and a short distance east of the present highway. He owned several hundred acres of land from the lake south about one mile. This land he sold in blocks from 60 to 200 acres each.
“One block of 100 acres down on the shore was deeded to his son, Thomas Makepeace Fitch, who built the house now known as Grand View in 1826 and later owned by Mrs. Jennie Gregory. Some years previous to this, a lumber industry was established here and the farm was known as Fitches Landing.
“There was much heavy timber in this vicinity at the time. Whitewood an oak were the principal timbers. The former for building and the oak for barrel staves and for ship timbers as all ships were built of oak before steel was used.
“The timber for staves was sawed into bolts in stave length, then rived out and shipped in the rough to cooper shops where they were made into barrels (whiskey and pork barrels principally)A. There was a certain type of boat called stave boats which were built special for carrying staves. They would anchor close to shore and would be loaded from row boats.
“Another industry was burning lime. The limestone was brought down from Kelley’s Island on what were known as stone scows. The lime kilns were located the creek bank and, as the stone had to be handled several times, imagine if you can a sack of lime would cost today if manufactured by such methods. I know where three of these kilns were located and, if anyone who reads this is interested, I can show you traces of the kilns and explain about it or most anything you wish to know about the early history, as I am the only still living who can tell you.
“The timber was cut off which undid the lumber business. T.M. Fitch sold out the 100-acre block and it changed hands several times and finally was owned by two men: B.Y. Messinger and Daniel Maltby. This was a family affair as Mrs. Messinger was Maltby’s sister.
“In the early 1860s we lived in Pennsylvania about 10 miles south of Bradford. There was a coal mine opened there. My dad was both carpenter and wagon maker by trade and owned a 40-acre farm. He secured a very good position with the coal company as he had charge of all carpenter and wagon work. My father and many of his neighbors sold their farm during the coal boom. One of our near neighbors, the Clark family, were in some manner related to the Maltby family, who owned the Fitch 100-acre block on the shore. They came here early in the spring of 1865 and purchased the 40 acres on the east side of the former Fitch property (later the Slocum property).
“The mining company was about due for a failure so in the latter part of August 1865 my dad came here and purchased 30 acres adjoining the Clark 40 acres. This included the farm buildings and dad came home and back on the job. The following spring the mining company failed. Dad moved his family to our new home, arriving here April 1, 1866. I was in my eighth year at the time and lived at home the following 12 years and have been in touch with the vicinity to the present time so have seen all the changes, including the birthday of Geneva-on-the-Lake, which was July 4th, 1869.”
Born June 10, 1875, in Massachusetts, Solomon Fitch was a son of Deacon Joseph Fitch, a “minute man” soldier in the Revolutionary War. Deacon Fitch lived to be 100 years old and is buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Geneva.
Thomas Makepeace Fitch, son of Solomon and Mary, was born 1809 and died 1895. He was described as a “tall, rawboned, red-headed Scotchman with a fiery temper.” He married Mary Tuttle (1813-1900), reputed to be a descendant of the only daughter of Gov. Bradford of Massachusetts. The couple had but one son, who died in infancy, and seven daughters.
Col. George Turner
Turner was Fitch’s neighbor and a Connecticut native. “He was a man of charming manners and personal appearance, accomplished in music, penmanship and drawing,” according to Virgil Bogue’s story in the Ashtabula County Historical Society Quarterly Bulletin, Sept. 15, 1962. “He was appointed Colonel of the third Regiment, State Militia, and was well known for his cocked hat, elaborate uniform, epaulettes and sash worn by him on general training days. He was a skilled mechanic and inventive genius, quick to observe natural resources.”
His farm was along Indian Creek, at the east side of the village. He built a dam and erected a sawmill on the creek circa 1825. The first steam mill was later built here. The mill made products for home construction; surplus was shipped out on flat boats that met up with sailing ships anchored near shore.
Turner and T.M. Fitch went into business together and built a 30-ton ship, the Geneva, which was used to haul stone and limestone from the Sandusky Bay islands to Fitch’s Landing.
“While only a sloop, it was a brave little vessel and did valiant and profitable service for its owners,” wrote Bogue. “This was undoubtedly the first boat built for commercial purposes on the shores of Lake Erie at Geneva, but not by any means the last. Col. Turner’s two sons, Mathew and Horatio, were growing to manhood and each learning the art of seamanship on the Great Lakes and looking forward to something more than the command of a sloop.
“In 1846-47, Col. Turner, in partnership with Eliakim Roberts, a capitalist, and James Mills, a merchant, both of Unionville — then a thriving village with a promising future — built a schooner named the Philena Mills. She was laid on the flats east of Indian Creek and at its mouth where there was amble room for sheds and vessel, but which was claimed many years ago by the encroaching waters of Lake Erie. The Philena Mills was a schooner of 270 tons burthen and then one of the largest and finest sailing vessels on the Lakes. Col Turner’s eldest son, Horatio Nelson, command her.”
Mathew Turner would become one of the greatest sea captains of the 19th century. He engaged in the fur trade form San Francisco to the Amoor River, discovered the cod fisheries off the coast of Kamscatkia and reported it to the Russian government. He became famous as a builder of fast sailing yachts and coast-trading vessels. He established a trading post at Tahita, which he maintained for several years and brought tropical fruits, shells and coals to San Francisco. He died in San Francisco.
The house that Thomas Makepeace Fitch built for his family, using poplar and other lumber from the township, still stands and is the headquarters of the Ashtabula County Historical Society and the Jennie Munger Gregory Museum.