This study explores the differing perceptions of what the rural communities of Geauga and Lake Counties were and hoped to be during the nineteenth century, an age of rapid transformations in urbanization, industrialization, and commercialization. Basic to this study ...
This study explores the differing perceptions of what the rural communities of Geauga and Lake Counties were and hoped to be during the nineteenth century, an age of rapid transformations in urbanization, industrialization, and commercialization. Basic to this study are the two divergent visions of community in America s rural culture as illustrated by the history of Geauga and Lake Counties. While Geaugans focused their energies on creating institutions to promote a strong rural and agricultural economic base, Lake Countians moved away from their ties to such a traditional lifestyle and struggled to establish themselves as a regional force in transportation, tourism, and education. These patterns were apparent in the arguments over the creation of Lake County from the northernmost townships of Geauga and the development strategies adopted by the two communities. The focal point of the county split was the location of the seat of justice, an issue over which residents wrangled from the organization of Geauga County in 1806. As suggestions for relocating the county seat were adamantly opposed, leading citizens of the northern townships explored the possible division of Geauga County. Despite opposition, Lake County was created on March 20, 1840. The creation of this new county represented a choice made by the people of a community based on their vision of the nature of that community and the future they wished it to command. This would be understandable if the population of the two counties were markedly different, but the early settlement and development of Geauga and Lake Counties suggests a typically homogeneous New England culture transplanted into these two Western Reserve counties. aYet, the development focus and strategies of the two counties differed significantly throughout the nineteenth century. Neither county developed an exclusively agricultural nor exclusively commercial and industrial economic base, but Lake Countians adopted a pattern of boosterism with the ambition of establishing themselves as a regional economic force in their endeavors. Conversely, Geaugans targeted their primary efforts on their agricultural institutions and the quality of life within their own county. These divergent strategies, efforts to adjust to an age of rapid change, reveal the tensions in the communities of Geauga and Lake Counties and provide a fresh understanding of nineteenth-century rural culture