What is a 'Moses Cleaveland tree' and how many are still in Northeast Ohio?

LAKEWOOD, Ohio -- On Thursday in Lakewood a Moses Cleaveland tree is being taken down because it's become a hazard.

At more than 200 years old the tree is currently being held up with wires and cables.

But what is a Moses Cleaveland tree?

First let's answer the obvious. No, we are not misspelling Cleaveland. Moses Cleaveland, the man who discovered Cleveland, had an 'A' in his name.

So what happened to the 'A'?

According to William Barrow, with the Cleveland Memory Project at Cleveland State University, we're not sure.

"Nobody really knows what happened to the A," Barrow said. "Best story is that a newspaper editor deliberately or accidentally dropped it, but that doesn't seem convincing."

Now back to Moses Cleaveland trees.

The idea is pretty simple.

Which trees in the Cleveland area are old enough to have witnessed the arrival of Moses Cleaveland when he discovered the area in 1796.

The designation of the of the trees however, didn't happen until 1946.

"In 1946, Arthur B. Williams, a Museum educator and a naturalist with the Cleveland Metroparks, decided to identify 150 trees which would have been standing when Moses Cleaveland discovered the city of Cleveland 150 years earlier," according to Wendy Wasman, a Librarian & Archivist with The Cleveland Museum of Natural History.

Williams was very deliberate about the 150 trees he chose.

"He wanted to make sure that the trees were located along highways, streets, park trails, or other places where they might easily be seen and appreciated by the public," Wasman said.

With the loss of another one in Lakewood the next question is how many are left?

"In 1971, 92 of the original trees were standing, but the Early Settlers Association then labeled additional trees. In 1984, a resurvey was done and only a handful of the original trees from 1946 were left, " Wasman said.

"It's always sad to lose one of these big trees - think of all the local history they witnessed!" Wasman said.

In fact the answer to how many are left is pretty unknown as well.

"Outside of a few random measurements conducted in 1984, there hasn't been a comprehensive analysis done since 1971," according to Colby Sattler, an Urban Forestry & Natural Resources Project manager with the Western Reserve Land Conservancy.

"Currently, groups, including the Cleveland Museum of Natural History, Western Reserve Land Conservancy, the Mayor's Office of Sustainability, Holden Forests & Gardens, and others are working to conduct an updated inventory.  There are special considerations for this given many trees are/were on private property, but we're currently devising a thorough strategy."

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