George Peake: The First Black Settler in Cuyahoga County

by Devyn Giannetti , Communications Specialist, Department of Communications

Dr. Judy Cetina, Archivist, reviewing compiled records at the County Archives.February is Black History Month, and during this month we take time to learn about those who have left a lasting legacy in our communities.

To help tell these stories, we visited the Cuyahoga County Archives, located at 3951 Perkins Avenue in Cleveland. The County Archives contains tens of thousands of records like deeds, property records, marriage certificates and so much more.

We met with Dr. Judy Cetina, Archivist, to learn about just a few of the many Black residents who have been transformational to the history of Cuyahoga County.

George Peake (variantly spelled Peek and Peak) is the first known Black settler in the Cleveland area. Not a lot is known about Peake, but what little is known paints a very unique picture.

Peake was a native of Maryland but also spent some time in Pennsylvania before coming to Cleveland. He was a solider in the French and Indian War and a soldier in the British army.

A newspaper account of the first Black settler in Cuyahoga County George Peake, in the book “Black Americans in Cleveland” by Russell H. Davis.Peake arrived in Cuyahoga County in 1809, and in April he crossed the Cuyahoga River with his two sons and traveled about a mile south of the mouth of Rocky River to what is now known as Lakewood. This made him the first traveler on Cleveland-Rockport Road which was the first part of a state highway from the Cuyahoga River to the Huron River.

In December of 1811, Peake bought 103.5 acres of land in Rockport Township, what is now known as Rocky River. A few years later in 1816 he divided his farm and deeded it to his three sons, Henry, Joseph and James.

Peake came into recognition in his community for the creation of an improved hand mill that saved on labor costs and enhanced the quality of ground meal. This was considered a distinct contribution to the community.

George Peake died in September 1827 at the age of 105—an extraordinarily old age both now and then! Unfortunately, it is unknown where he was laid to rest as many believe that such an important man’s grave should be recognized.

A trip to the County Archives allowed us to piece together records that helped tell the story of George Peake and his contributions to Cuyahoga County.

This piece will be part of an ongoing series for Black History Month—stay tuned to learn more about these important former residents.

Records that helped tell this story include the book “Black Americans in Cleveland” by Russell H. Davis.

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