Amherst, Ohio

“The Sandstone Center of the World”

Historic Narrative

Amherst traces its roots back to as early as 1811, when the founding father, Jacob Shupe, purchased certain tracts of land on April 23, 1811 from Calvin and Martha Austin and made the first clearing in Amherst.  Shupe also purchased property from Elijah and Maryann Boardman, where he would construct the first sawmill (1811) and gristmill (by 1813) in Lorain County; first distillery (1815) in Amherst; and one of the fist frame houses in Lorain County, Ohio (first in Amherst).  His farm contained several hundred acres of land.  Mr. Shupe actually began industry in the Amherst and Lorain County area utilizing the important Beaver Creek waterway.  His business acumen and dedication allowed for this area to further develop and for other settlers to make their homes here.

Beaver Court, originally called Blackmore Street, centrally located, quickly became a bustling town center.  The original post office, doctor’s office, stores, a tavern, blacksmith, and brewery flourished as a part of this early Amherst downtown area.  Land for the Town Hall, centrally located within this quaint town center, was donated by philanthropist, Justice of the Peace, first Amherst-area postmaster, and first Lorain County Sheriff, Josiah Harris.  In 1884, the Town Hall was built on this original town square and assembled from Amherst Sandstone.  Harris is referred to as the founder of the downtown Amherst area; Shupe is known as the first settler and founder of Amherst as a whole.

Other settlers made their way through the wilderness.  In 1822, Joseph Quigley purchased land from Jacob Shupe, which contained a sandstone quarry.  First erecting a log cabin, he later constructed a home of Amherst’s fine sandstone in 1832.  This Berea sandstone was the main economy for early Amherst.  As one studies much of the older buildings and their architecture, including the Town Hall, old Post Office, and the Amherst Public Library, it is only right that the city is often still referred to as the “Sandstone Center of the World.”

Floor joist in Shupe House basement – literally a tree with the bark still on affixed to it

Information Concerning Jacob Shupe and Historical Significance of the Shupe Property:

Mr. Shupe was born in Bedminster Township, Bucks County, Pennsylvania on January 12, 1778 and died June 9, 1832.  He was killed after a timber fell on him in his saw mill, while making an extension to the mill.  In 1811 Jacob Shupe and his wife Catherine, came from Pennsylvania to the wilderness that would become Amherst.  Catherine was born in Pennsylvania on March 30, 1780.  Catherine lived remarkably long for the time – she was almost ninety-one years old when she passed away on February 28, 1871.  She was living with her son Isaac at that time.  The Shupes raised eleven children at the Homestead.  Isaac was the youngest son and married Minerva Richmond.  (He permanently settled on lot number twenty-five, which comprised of a forty-five acre farm.  Isaac died in 1896.)  His home still stands in Amherst, off of Elyria Avenue.

Mr. Jacob Shupe participated in and began many “firsts” in the Amherst and the Lorain County, Ohio areas.  As it is described in the book A Biographical History of Lorain County 1879: indexed, Jacob Shupe was “the first settler in the territory now in the bounds of Amherst township…He came to Black River in 1810, and a year later moved to a point on Beaver Creek about a mile and a half north of the present village of North Amherst … he made the first clearing in the township (1811).”  This point of settlement on Beaver Creek that contains his frame home still standing today and is used as the primary residence on the property.

“He built … the first mill in the county of Lorain.” (This is referring to the sawmill, in 1811)  And “The first saw mill, the first grist mill, and the first distillery were built by Jacob Shupe.”  These mills that Mr. Shupe started were an integral factor of importance in their time.  Before Shupe’s mills, settlers in the Black River area had to either travel with their grist to Chagrin Falls (forty-eight miles away) or to the Huron River (thirty miles away); these journeys are said to have taken a duration of three days.  Mr. Shupe shortened these settler’s trips and left a legacy for other settlers to follow in his tracks by starting these mills.  Mr. Shupe actually began industry in the Amherst and Lorain County area.

The publication goes on to state, “Mr. Shupe was the father of eleven children…The first [white] child born in the township was Betsey, daughter of Jacob Shupe.”  Therefore, Mr. Shupe was the father of the first white born child in Amherst (Betsy Elizabeth).  The Shupe family comprised of eleven children in total.  As well as being the father of the first child born in the Township, Jacob Shupe participated in the first funeral and burial in Amherst.  The book continues to say, “…upon the occasion of the first burial in the township.  A very young child of the Webb’s sickened and died soon after they settled in the place.  They were living at the time near Jacob Shupe’s, in the northern part of the township, but owned land in the southern part, upon which they intended to take up their permanent residence, and naturally desired that the child should be buried there.  The distance to the Webb clearing was four miles.  Old man Shupe took the child in its tiny coffin, in front of him, upon his horse, and followed the trail through the woods to the place of burial…”

Other important “firsts” that Mr. Shupe is known for include; “It is probable, too, that by his hand was sowed the first wheat that turned to gold under the summer’s sun in Amherst.”  And, “The first log house was built by Jacob Shupe, and he undoubtedly built the first frame house.”  The cabin is no longer in existence; but, the frame home continues to stand today.  This is where the Nahorn family resides today.  The house was completed just after Shupe’s sawmill was finished.

Jacob Shupe log house at Indian Ridge Museum. This structure is no longer in existence.

The Greek Revival wood frame house, c.1812, still retains many original aspects such as over 70% of the original poplar lap siding, original shell and foundation, and original floors and floor joists.  Many of the original floor joists still have the tree bark on them as they are halves of trees that were hand-planed on only one side.  Restoration and continued stabilization efforts at the Homestead are ongoing.

Jacob Shupe’s original headstone at the New Indian Ridge Museum. This was placed beside his grave at the Cleveland Street in Amherst. It was removed when his wife passed away so that he and his wife could share the same monument. This original stone was given to his son, Isaac who also lived in Amherst. The stone has been restored by local stone mason Ben Chriss. It is a grey sandstone about 250-300 million years old.

Although the only remaining physical history of Mr. Jacob Shupe’s hard work is the frame home that he constructed and the site he settled in Amherst, Mr. Shupe left an impressive legacy of “firsts” behind.  These first events enabled the other early settlers of Amherst to prosper and continue what Mr. Shupe worked so hard to establish, but died too soon to see the realization of his dreams and work.

Sandstone blocks comprise the foundation of the Shupe House. These were all hand cut from local Amherst, Ohio quarries.

The legacy that Mr. Shupe left behind to aid the early Amherst settlers with a firm foundation and the firsts that he worked hard to institute should be recognized through the site “where it all started”: where Mr. Shupe settled in Amherst; where his ideas commenced about beginning industry; and where he constructed the first frame home.

The Nahorn family permanently preserves fifteen acres of the original several hundred acres farm.

Shupe Homestead – oldest house in Amherst. Many original aspects remain, including the post-and-beam structure, poplar siding, floors, and other aspects. Over 200 years later, its use today remains as a private residence.

Recognitions and Designations:

Bill Bird, Executive Director of the Lorain County Historical Society presents Col. Nahorn with the Lorain County Preservation Network’s plaque recognizing the history of the Jacob Shupe Homestead.

The Shupe Homestead property has been designated an Amherst Historical Landmark by the Amherst Historical Society.  The Lorain County Historical Society in conjunction with the Lorain County Preservation Network has designated the property as a Lorain County Historic Landmark.  The land has also been placed on the Ohio Historic Inventory of historic properties.  The property is also listed with the National Wildlife Federation as a certified wildlife habitat.  In September 2008, the historic and ecologically significant property was permanently protected through the donation of a land conservation easement to the Western Reserve Land Conservancy by the Nahorn family.

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The Shupe House – the first frame house in Amherst, Ohio – and its history relative to other early houses and settlers’ arrivals.

Jacob Shupe came to Black River Township (now Russia Township before it was detached from Amherst/Black River in 1825) in 1810 where he constructed a small, crude log cabin.   A year later he moved to a point on Beaver Creek about a mile and a half north of the present-day City of Amherst on what would become Cooper Foster Park Road.  In 1811 he permanently settled here, probably constructing a second log cabin at this site.  In 1811 he built the first mill (sawmill) in Lorain County, powered by the flowing water of Beaver Creek.  His sawmill was expanded with a gristmill in 1813, and they were located in the same building being powered off of the same water wheel.  In 1815 he constructed his distillery.

Not long after his mills were finished, construction of his frame house began, around 1811.  It was first taxed in Lorain County in 1826.  (Importantly, it also appears on the 1819 Huron County tax list, as Lorain County was a part of Huron County before Lorain County was carved from Huron, Cuyahoga, and Medina Counties).  Houses in Lorain County were first recorded and taxed in 1826.  For example, the 1827 records state that Shupe had a house of wood being taxed at $250.  This is an average value, when compared with other houses of the time.  The Shupe frame house, which was the first to have been built in Amherst, is one of the oldest of its kind still standing in Lorain County.  It is post-and-beam construction and is of the early Greek Revival style.

Written histories state that Mr. Shupe did in fact build the first frame house in Amherst.  Chiliab Smith (arrived about 1815) also constructed an early frame house in the area.  Frederick Onstine, another early settler, returned to America to serve this country after having moved to Canada during the war of 1812.  Particularly, he came to Amherst c.1817.  Through tax records, we understand that Onstine built a log structure before the frame house.    The Onstine family story is fascinating, as their patriotism to America led them to support their country during the conflict with the British at the time of the War of 1812.  The family was later rewarded as the U.S. government gave them lands here in the Western Reserve.  Please contact the Museum directly via our contact page to learn more about the Shupe and Onstine family stories. 

Please direct any inquiries regarding this history, to the New Indian Ridge Museum offices.

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 Col. Nahorn stands beside an original runnerstone mill buhr from Jacob Shupe’s grist mill c.1813.  The mill was located across the road from the Shupe Homestead.  It stood as a monument at the Central School in Amherst from 1934 – 2013 when it was moved back to the Shupe Homestead, where the New Indian Ridge Museum is located.  The sandstone base is from the Cleveland Quarries, and the sandstone slab upon which it sits was salvaged by the Nahorns from a local barn.  Thanks to Sprenger Health Care for donating this important local artifact for preservation locally.  Special thank you to Wendy Dolyk for her aid in securing the piece.  The handmade bricks that surround this display originally comprised the historic Capt. Flint House c. 1860.