Ohio History Journal

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Cleveland's Johnson: First Term

Cleveland's Johnson: First Term





BACK IN THE EIGHTEEN FORTIES a number of railroads had pur-

chased from the city of Cleveland a strip of lakefront land one

hundred and fifty feet wide between East Ninth Street and the

Cuyahoga River. In the decades that followed, a valuable area of

"made land" was built up on the lake side of the original strip.

The Union Depot, erected in Civil War times, and the adjacent

railroad yards were located on this "made land." In 1893 Law

Director James S. Lawrence filed suit to regain this land for the

city. Lawrence received little backing, and after fighting alone for

several years, abandoned the struggle. At this point the railroads

moved to secure perpetual rights to the disputed ground.1

Late in Mayor John Farley's administration (1899-1901), a pro-

posal went before city council in which the city disavowed any and

all claims to the valuable lakefront, in return for which it would

receive a negligible strip of land at the mouth of the Cuyahoga.

While the general public showed little interest in the matter, the

chamber of commerce campaigned actively for the ordinance. On

March 20, 1901, two days after council passed the measure, 12 to 10,

Tom L. Johnson, then a "private citizen and taxpayer," requested

Law Director Thomas Hogsett to enjoin Farley from carrying out

the lakefront ordinance.2

When Hogsett delayed, Johnson himself filed for a temporary


*Eugene C. Murdock is assistant professor of history at Marietta College.

This is the fifth in a series of articles by Dr. Murdock on Tom L. Johnson to be

published in the Quarterly. Preceding ones are: "Cleveland's Johnson" (October 1953),

"Cleveland's Johnson: At Home" (October 1954), "Cleveland's Johnson: Elected

Mayor" (January 1956), and "Cleveland's Johnson: The Cabinet" (October 1957).

1 Tom L. Johnson, My Story, edited by Elizabeth J. Hauser (New York, 1911),

113. A good history of the case appears on the editorial page of the Cleveland Plain

Dealer, February 7, 1901.

2 Plain Dealer, March 19, 21, 1901; Council Proceedings, 1900-1901, 470-475.

Taxpayers were required to file such suits through the law director, and only if the

law director failed to act could they proceed through a private attorney.