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Briggs House

c. 1836

The Western Reserve was sparsely populated until the War of 1812. Word reached America in January of 1815 that the Treaty of Ghent had ended hostilities with England and Lake Erie was no longer a war zone. In June 1815, David Stearns of Vermont became the first permanent white settler in what is today North Olmsted. (The site of his farm is marked with a plaque on the north side of Lorain Road, just west of Stearns Road.) Traveling for the first time through the region known as Butternut Ridge, Stearns saw "one vast field of wild flowers in full bloom, and so high that we could just see over them nicely when on our horses." Stearns' closest neighbor was James Geer who lived in the southwestern corner of the township. They spent the Fourth of July in 1816 clearing a two-mile trail from the Stearns farm to River Road (Columbia Road) on the western edge of Rocky River Valley. This crude path in the wilderness was the origin of Butternut Ridge Road which eventually extended into Lorain County.

A year later, the Briggs family arrived from Guilford, Vermont with their six children, Thomas and Abiah Briggs settled on land east of the Stearns homestead. Briggs would serve with Stearns as an officer in Lenox Township which became Olmsted Township in 1830. Treasurer in 1828, Briggs and Postmaster Elias Frost in 1831 were overseers for the poor. In 1836 and 1843, Amos Briggs, a son, held the same position in the township.

A carpenter from Troy, New York, John Ames came to Olmsted in 1834. Two years later, Thomas Briggs hired him to build a new home to replace his cabin. Ames used the Greek Revival style which was popular in the nation during the early 19th Century. (Americans saw the style as symbolic of the ancient Athenian roots of their democracy.) Characteristics of the Greek Revival in the Briggs House include a symmetrical design, low-pitched gabled roof and front porch with columns. Typically in northern Ohio the house's front was the gabled end with a roof line which formed a classical pediment. Ames built another Greek Revival house that survives today on Butternut Ridge Road. Variations of the style can be seen in two other structures which Ames helped to build: the Universalist Church on Porter Road in North Olmsted and the Barton Road Church.

The Briggs House remained in the family for over 130 years until being given to the society and moved to Frostville in 1969. Olmsted Historical Society members, Marion (Elliot) Crider and her brother, Will Elliot, are descendants of Thomas Briggs. Another member, Harry Crider, courted Marion while she lived in the house.  The Criders made generous donations to restore the Barton Road Church.

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