Putting the Clevelands in their places.
From the "stern and rock-bound coast" of Maine, across the White Mountains of New Hampshire, up and down the Valley of the Connecticut River, and on across the Green Mountains of Vermont, I have followed and written of the lives of makers in my New England. It is therefore that with some considerable surprise, I find myself in the hills of southwestern Ohio.

In looking into the life and endeavors of Hiram Todd Dewey, who emigrated from Vermont in about 1831, I received from the Warren County Historical Society Museum in Lebanon, Ohio, some photocopies of a newspaper microfilm concerning an unattributed tower clock I was researching, suspecting (and hoping) that it might have been made by Dewey. Barely legible amongst the scratches and dust motes on the microfilm for Thursday, 28 April, 1892, was this rather startling story (quoted verbatim et literatim) that sent me off on another tangent:

"The following article is by Frank B. Gesmer in a recent issue of the Cincinatti POST. Let us hear about some of the old and historical clocks in Warren County. The (Lebanon, Ohio) [Western] STAR would like its readers to send in any information they have about clocks old or curious.


The clocks to which I refer in this locality not not become famous until Grover Cleveland was nominated and elected president. Then they were in demand all over the country, because they were made by Cleveland's father and his two brothers.1 The rudely written inscription:

Cleveland signature

1. Grover Cleveland's father was Richard Falley Cleveland, a Presbyterian clergyman in Caldwell, New Jersey, who died in 1853. Grover Cleveland was born 18 March, 1837. The writer seems to have Grover's father confused with the second Rev. Aaron Cleveland, father of William Cleveland, who in turn was Grover's grandfather.


can be read on the inner back of the case. Jeremiah Cleveland was an uncle2 of Grover who became president some years ago (1885 - 1889; 1893 - 1897). When Aaron Cleveland, father of the president, was a young man he learned the trade of a watch and clock maker in Philadelphia3 afterwards giving it up to become a preacher. His two brothers, Jeremiah and Stephen Cleveland learned cabinet and clock case making buying the works from Aaron. They came to Ohio about fifty years ago (please note the chronology---that would be about 1842), after vainly trying to persuade their brother to go4 with them. Stephen Cleveland was more ambitious than Jerry. For a time they made clocks on Lucy's Run near Batavia as if lovers needed a clock or noted the flight of time.5 Stephen went to Cincinatti and for many years was proprietor of a drugstore in the neighborhood of Pearl and Broadway. As is not generally known, President Cleveland was named for this uncle, Stephen Grover,6 but for reasons best known to himself he dropped the 'Stephen'.7 Brother Jerry fell in love with

2. Granduncle. Jeremiah was half-brother to William Cleveland, the President's grandfather.

3. There is no apparent record of anyone named Cleveland working in Philadelphia---ever. Grover Cleveland's great great-grandfather, Aaron Cleveland (William [the Norwich clockmaker] Cleveland's grandfather) died in Philadelphia in 1757, at the home of Benjamin Franklin. His son, Aaron, apprenticed as a hatter in Haddam, CT, and later worked as "journeyman employed by Jeremiah Clement at Norwich." He later ran his own business---as a hatter---in Norwich. The author may be referring to Aaron Porter Cleveland, son of the above-mentioned hatter.

4. Again, the writer seems to have this confused with the following from a Grover Cleveland biography: "When the Civil War began, the three Cleveland brothers drew lots to see who should remain at home to support their mother; the lot fell to Grover, and when he was drafted he hired a substitute." However, the Cleveland Genealogy states that these three half-brothers of the Norwich William Cleveland moved to Ohio.

5. The significance of this statement is not readily apparent. Was Lucy's Run the local lover's lane? Perhaps some member residing in the Batavia area could enlighten us.

6. Grover Cleveland was named after the Rev. Stephen Grover, who had been the minister (and Grover's father's mentor) at the First Presbyterian Church in Caldwell, New Jersey, where Cleveland was born. "this uncle" was actually named Stephen Blythe Cleveland.

7. The author has noticed that there is a propensity---of nearly epidemic proportions---amongst the legal (and its close relative, the political) fraternity to either use the first initial and the middle name, or to drop the first name entirely. Some authorities aver that a wistful yearning for a more dignified image is the basis for this syndrome.


Lizzie Robinson and decided to stay in Clermont county, where he died in 1837.8 He was not a rich man at his death, as his pay for timepieces was too often in the shape of wheat, heifers, calves, colts, cordwood or day's labor, so that he did not have much money to hoard up. His son Aaron B. Cleveland,9 named for the President's father, was a gauger10 under the administration of his distinguished cousin. When these Cleveland11 clocks were first discovered after Cleveland's prominence, Governor Proctor Knott, of Kentucky, bought a very fine one, had it polished up inside and out to be a present for the President,12 who was glad to receive such a relic of his own family.

Uncle Jerry Cleveland repaired several times a famous old family clock owned by James B. Wallace of Milford, Ohio. The clock had been in the Norris family 156 years13 before Wallace received it. It came from Epping, New Hampshire, and during the French and Indian war the Norris cabin was attacked and ransacked by the savages. Two babies were hastily hustled into the clock and the door closed. They survived while their parents were being tomahawked or carried into captivity. They were found afterwards, and lived to be old men.14

8. There is an obvious conflict in dates. 1892 minus "they came here about 50 years ago" equates to 1842, and Jeremiah "died in 1837". (Jeremiah actually died in 1836.) The Cleveland Genealogy records that Lizzie was Elizabeth Robinson, whom Jeremiah married 19 October, 1819, in Batavia, Ohio. It is a bit difficult to believe that Jeremiah married and died in Ohio before he got there.

9. Stephen never had a son named Aaron. He did have a son named Anthony Benezet C., named after his brother, Dr. Anthony Benezet C., a physician who practiced in Dedham, Massachusetts, Cincinatti, Ohio, and later in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. President Cleveland's father's name was Richard Falley Cleveland.

10. Literally, "one who gauges." A term often applied to an official who measures the contents of casks of liquor, etc., to be taxed, hence: a collector of excise taxes

11. For some reason, I can't put the 'Columbus Clock', another Ohio creation, out of my mind. The Columbus Clock was a copy of a very early wall clock, that bears the date 1492 on its face. Many people took the date as genuine.

12. Cleveland's official biography states that he was given a watch signed by his grandfather, William Cleveland, but says nothing about a clock. In modern times, I suspect that this would somehow have been blown up into a 'Clockgate' scandal, to accompany the scandal attached to an alleged illegitimate daughter.  George F. Parker, the author of Recollections of Grover Cleveland, wrote that the President cared little for any sort of genealogical data---it usually went into the trash.

13. Now, let's see---Jerry died in 1836. 1836 minus 156 is 1680, which date is a bit early for clockmakers in America---there was little clockmaking activity before 1726. Epping was settled in 1741, per John J. Tilton's History of Epping, New Hampshire, 1741-1941.

14. I've concocted some wild stories in my time, but I can't top this one. I can't resist: Were their nicknames 'Tick' and 'Tock'?


There is another old clock in the Trant homestead near Feesburg (named after a gauger?) which has a history. For seventy years it has been in the family and it looked on one night when Tom Hamer, afterwards famous as a congressman and soldier, courted pretty Mary Trout and was refused in favor of a more handsome young farmer.  A cousin of General Grant has the identical old family clock which was ticking away in the old Point Pleasant college15 when the future great general and President was born.  The case of this clock was made by Jerry Cleveland in about 1820.16 Warren, Brown, Adams, and Clermont [counties] are full of clocks of the grandfather variety, all of them having attached some interesting family history or romance."


The above naturally made my curiosity bump itch, and various references were consulted. Was there really a clock or a clock case manufactory in Southern Ohio run by the Brothers Cleveland? No idea, these many months later. If these clocks were actually as famous as they are represented to be, why have none ever surfaced? There isn't one in the Grover Cleveland Birthplace in Caldwell, New Jersey. There is a distinct suspicion that the writer of this article noticed a clock with the Cleveland name written on the backboard---perhaps Jerry cleaned the clock or made the case?---and

15. I suspect a typographical error; the word should be 'cottage'. Ulysses Simpson (originally Hiram Ulysses) Grant was born 27 April, 1822, in Point Pleasant, Ohio.

16. That is a verbatim quote.  How the writer managed to get his dates and genealogy in such a twist just boggles the mind.


imagination did the rest, regardless that the writer seems to know a great deal of (distorted) detail about the history of the Cleveland family.

In trying to understand just what was going on, I looked through many different sources to untangle this riddle. In refutation of the statement above that an Aaron Cleveland apprenticed as a watch and clockmaker in Philadelphia, James Whisker in Pennsylvania Clockmakers, Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts, has no notes on any Cleveland in Philadelphia, nor anywhere in Pennsylvania; nor does George Eckhardt in Pennsylvania Clocks and Clockmakers.  Maurice Brix has no Clevelands in his List of Philadelphia Silversmiths and Allied Artificiers.  The Cleveland Genealogy lists no clock or watchmakers named Aaron. Henry N. Flynt and Martha Gandy Fales list an Aaron Porter Cleveland (Lineal Number [hereafter LN] 1111) as a silversmith in Norwich, Connecticut, in The Heritage Foundation Collection of Silver, with Biographical Sketches of New England Silversmiths, 1625-1825,  (but have his ancestry wrong).  John J. Fredyma names him 'clockmaker' in A Directory of Connecticut Silversmiths, without substantiating reference, but I suspect, taken from Flynt & Fales.  The Cleveland Genealogy names him bookkeeper and importer and jobber of hardware who lived and died in Boston, without reference to an apprenticeship to a clockmaker or a silversmith, or any work in either of those trades.

Penrose R. Hoopes wrote in Connecticut Clockmakers of the Eighteenth Century:
"William Cleveland 1770 - 1837 was born in Norwich, Connecticut, to Rev. Aaron & Abiah (Hyde) Cleveland. His grandson, Grover Cleveland, was a president of the United States."
So far, so good---Mr. Hoopes has his data correct.

James Gibbs wrote (quoted from Brooks Palmer's The Book of the American Clock [abbreviated BAC or B.A.C.] ) in Buckeye Horology:
"William Cleveland, 1770 - 1837, born Norwich, Conn., was apprentice of Thomas Harland, formed a partnership with John Trott in New London, Conn. Trott & Cleveland advertised watches and clocks but dissolved in


1796. Cleveland reported at work in Salem, Ohio, around 1808. Later in Putnam, now part of Zanesville. Was grandfather of President Grover Cleveland."
Gibbs17 does not mention an Aaron, nor a Stephen, nor a Jeremiah. So far, not too good, but in a way it's encouraging. This seems to be a combination of the article above and Palmer as modified by Gibbs, who was writing of Columbiana County, Ohio, makers. Columbiana County is located in the northeast of Ohio, a long way from the Cincinatti area. Gibbs goes on to mention a "Francis Cleveland, Zanesville, advertised 1815 as clockmaker. (B.A.C.)"; and later, of makers in Zanesville: "In 1815 Francis Cleveland and John Bliss were in the watch and jewelry business on Main Street. Their apprentice was Charles Hill who later opened a shop of his own and, in turn, trained A. C. Ross." Francis (LN 3213) was the son of the Norwich William Cleveland (LN 1107), and very likely apprenticed with his father. Zanesville is in eastern central Ohio. Salem is off to the northeast in Columbiana County, but this is an obvious mistake for Salem, Massachusetts.18 The Cleveland Genealogy notes that William Cleveland's (LN 1107) sixth child was born in Norwich in May 1809. Barring a miracle, that alone would seem to preclude his having been working in Salem, Ohio, in 1808.

"Oh, what a tangled web we weave..." The author of the article quoted above writes that Aaron Cleveland, the father of Stephen, Jeremiah and Francis, was a clockmaker. He wasn't---of the four Aarons encountered in this genealogical line, two were clergymen, one of those two was a merchant in Norwich until he was 54, and one (Aaron Porter C. [LN 1111], a purported silversmith) was the brother of William (LN 1107) and half-brother to Jeremiah, et. al. Several scholars have claimed that Jabez

17. This is total hash and a classic case of "Fiddle the facts until they fit."  William Cleveland went to Salem, Massachusetts, in about 1798, returned to Norwich in 1804, and died in Black Rock, New York, in 1837.

18. See various comments by Hoopes, Fredyma, and Flynt & Fales on the construction of biographical data. The search for makers in a certain area sometimes takes on a life of its own, and unless one is extremely careful, mistakes result.


Baldwin succeeded William Cleveland in Salem, Massachusetts, implying that the William whom he "succeeded" was the Norwich William (LN 1107). He didn't--but there were two William Clevelands. To untangle that, we have to remember that according to the Cleveland Genealogy William Cleveland (LN 359), son of the above mentioned Aaron (LN 120), lived in Salem, as a ship owner, watchmaker,19 merchant, and Excise Collector for Essex County and remained in Salem from 1783 to his death in 1815. He was also the uncle of the Norwich William Cleveland (LN 1107). This Norwich William Cleveland married in 1793, and soon after set up business in Worthington, Massachusetts, where his first child was born in December of 1796. He then moved to Salem, where his second child was born in September of 1798. He was back in Norwich by February of 1804, where his fifth child was born, and in 1805 was appointed to appraise Joseph Carpenter's shop and settle his estate. It's a bit hard to believe that this William Cleveland's (LN 1107) uncle, also named William (LN 359), apprenticed with Thomas Harland at the age of 23, as Mrs. N. Hudson Moore claims in The Old Clock Book---Harland wasn't even in this country in 1767. Further, it was this Norwich William's half-brothers, Stephen (LN 1115) and Jeremiah (LN 1116),20 and Francis (LN 1118) who all emigrated to Ohio in 1819. Stephen and Jeremiah pursued various careers; respectively, (alleged clockmaker and) pharmacist, and (alleged handyman, clockmaker and) cabinetmaker. Francis died in Cincinatti, aged 24. The Cleveland Genealogy states that Jeremiah was trained as a cabinetmaker in Hartford, Connecticut, moved to Batavia, Ohio, and "made and sold every kind of furniture of that time.", so he may well have put his name in a clock case of his manufacture.

19. Dr. Anthony Benezet Cleveland (LN 1114) resided first at Salem, Mass. where he was taught watch-making by his uncle William Cleveland (LN 359). He became Professor of Physics in the Maryland University, Baltimore. His sensitive nature forced him to relinquish his profession. He prepared for teaching with Dr. Cox, and afterward established and conducted many years in Baltimore a school for young ladies, which in a short time became a flourishing institution. On account of failing health, he was obliged to relinquish his labors in 1845. He studied medicine and became a practicing physician of Dedham, Mass.(lived on Federal Hill), of Cincinnati, O., of Boston, and Cambridge. Member, Aug., 1859, of the American Assoc. for the Advancement of Science, of Mass. Cleveland Genealogy.

20. This son, Jeremiah Clement Cleveland, was named after his father's master, with whom the Rev. Aaron Cleveland apprenticed as a hatter.


The Francis Cleveland (LN 3212) who worked in the Zanesville (and "Putnam")21 "watch and jewelry business" was the son of the Norwich William Cleveland (LN 1107)---who was never in Salem, Ohio. Jabez Baldwin, who is alleged to have both apprenticed with and succeeded the Salem William Cleveland (LN 359), and even more carelessly---to have apprenticed with Thomas Harland---apprenticed with his brother, Jedidiah, in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he is mentioned in his brother's account books as late as 1798. He isn't recorded in Salem, Massachusetts, until 1802, when he opened his shop, and where he married in 1804, at the age of 26.

There is one more horological Cleveland worthy of mention. The BULLETIN Master Index has but one entry on:


and that entry refers to a mere listing of makers in New Jersey.

William E. Drost in Clocks and Watches of New Jersey, has little to say of Benjamin Cleveland (1767 - 1837), other than that he came from Southold, L.I., and advertised in Newark in 1792. His account (essentially a quote of the Cleveland Genealogy entry) agrees with that of Carl M. Williams' Silversmiths of New Jersey, 1700 - 1825.

Palmer's BAC entry:
"Benjamin Horton (sic) Cleveland, Newark, NJ. 1767-1837. C. Son of Joseph and Mary Horton Cleveland. Marr. Mary Gardner (sic) 1789. Shop mentioned 1792 in Wood's Gay (sic) east side Broadway (sic) near Market. Dial, "B. CLEVELAND, Newark."
provides more or less accurate information.  (Gardner should be Gardiner, "Wood's Gay" should more properly be Woods Gazette, a newspaper wherein Cleveland advertised in 1792, and Broadway should be Broad Street.)

21. Putnam is a county in western Ohio. The Cleveland Genealogy records Francis in Portsmouth, Ohio, in 1834, where he married his second wife, and where he lived out his life.


The Cleveland Genealogy has this to say of Benjamin (LN 330) Norton (note the corrected spelling of the middle name---he was named after an uncle) Cleveland:
"Born in Southold [Long Island, New York] 10 June, 1767, died in Newark 20 December, 1837, aged 70..."
and goes on to mention that he married twice, and had 11 children by these two wives.
"[He] removed from Southold about 1790 to Newark, where he was a real estate owner and well known. Was a manufacturer of clocks, watches, and silverware and carried on the business many years. His store was on the east side of Broad (not Broadway) Street about 4 doors north of Market Street. Articles of his still exist. We have in our possession a number of beautiful spoons of varied designs, each stamped with the name of the maker in raised letters: B. Cleveland. A tall regulator clock with "B. Cleveland New Ark" painted on the face now stands in the hall of the homestead of N. H. Cleveland (LN 3056) in Southold, New York."
Williams mentions that this clock was still standing in the N. H. Cleveland house in 1899.

The upshot of all this genealogical and horological wandering is that the relationships by blood and horology of these various Clevelands---the various Aarons, the two Williams, the two Francises, and the alleged clockmakers of Batavia, Ohio---have been unravelled and put in their proper horological places, and that various other errors have been corrected or pointed out in this journey through New England, Ohio, and New Jersey. It may be safe to say that the addition of Jeremiah Cleveland as a casemaker in Ohio adds to the known workers in horology in that state.


I would like to extend my special thanks to Mr. Robert Jaccaud, Humanities and Social Sciences Bibliographer for Dartmouth College, and Mr. Thomas Fitzgerald, a Cleveland descendant who also works on clocks, for their invaluable help in assembling and unravelling the genealogical records of the Cleveland family.

And my thanks to Mr. Paul V. Heffner, Star Fellow NAWCC; and Ms. Sharon Farrell, Interpreter for the Grover Cleveland Birthplace; for their help in providing and confirming various items of interesting information.

Author's footnote: In visiting the Grover Cleveland Birthplace in Caldwell, New Jersey, I noted that neither of the tall clocks on display were made by a Cleveland, so the above tale of the presentation of a clock by the governor of Kentucky is likely somewhat apocryphal. The spoon bearing William Cleveland's touchmark that was given to his great grand-daughter Ruth (recorded in an article in the New York SUN of 6 February, 1893), is not apparent either, nor is there any trace of the watch "signed by William Cleveland" given to the then President.


Cleveland tree

Figure 1. The Cleveland family tree, with an emphasis on those mentioned in this article.



BALDWIN, Jedediah, Account Books and Ledgers, 1793-1811:  Special Collections of Baker Library, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire.

BRIX, Maurice, List of Philadelphia Silversmiths and Allied Artificiers; From 1682 to 1850Privately printed, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1920

CLEVELAND, Edmund Janes, and Horace Gillette, The genealogy of the Cleveland and Cleaveland families.  An attempt to trace, in both the male and female lines, the posterity of Moses Cleveland ... [and] of Alexander Cleveland ... with numerous biographical sketches; and containing ancestries of many of the husbands and wives, also a bibliography of the Cleveland family and a genealogical account of Edward Winn of Woburn, and of other Winn families. Printed for the subscribers by the Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company, Hartford, Connecticut. 1899

DROST, William E., Clocks and Watches of New Jersey.  Engineering Publishers, Elizabeth, New Jersey. 1966

ECKHARDT, George H., Pennsylvania Clocks and Clockmakers.  The Devin-Adair Company, New York. 1955

FLYNT, Henry N. & FALES, Martha Gandy, The Heritage Foundation Collection of Silver, with Biographical Sketches of New England Silversmiths, 1625-1825.  The Heritage Foundation, Old Deerfield, Massachusetts. 1968

FREDYMA, John J., A Directory of Connecticut Silversmiths and their Marks.  Privately printed by the author, Hanover, New Hampshire. 1972

FREDYMA, Paul J. & Marie-Louise, A Directory of Massachusetts Silversmiths and their Marks.  Privately printed by the authors, Hanover, New Hampshire. 1972

GIBBS, James W. Buckeye Horology.  The Art Crafters Printing Company, Columbia, Pennsylvania. 1971

HOOPES, Penrose R. Connecticut Clockmakers of the Eighteenth Century.  Dover Publications, New York. 1974

McELROY, Robert McNutt, Grover Cleveland, the man and the statesman; an authorized biography.  Harper & Brothers, New York. 1923

MOORE, Mrs. N. Hudson, The Old Clock Book.  Tudor Publishing Company, New York. 1911

PALMER, Brooks W. The Book of American Clocks.  The Macmillan Company, New York. 1967

PARKER, George F., Recollections of Grover Cleveland.  The Century Company, New York. 1911

TILTON, John J., History of Epping, New Hampshire, 1741-1941.  [n.p.] 1941

The Western STAR, Lebanon, Ohio. 28 April, 1892.

WHISKER, James Biser, Pennsylvania Clockmakers, Watchmakers, and Allied Crafts.  Adams Brown Company, Cranbury, New Jersey. 1990

WILLIAMS, Carl M., Silversmiths of New Jersey; 1700 - 1825.  George S. McManus Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1949

ZEA, Philip, Clockmaking and Society at the River and the Bay‹Jedidiah and Jabez Baldwin, 1790-1820.  Dublin Seminar for New England Folklife; Annual proceedings. Boston University, Boston. 1981

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