Born in the Western Reserve

Born in the Western Reserve
Lucretia Garfield: First Ladies' Lives

Skill: Elementary School
Time Required: Three to four class periods


Lucretia Rudolph Garfield (called Crete by her family and friends), was born in Garrettsville, Ohio, not far from Hiram, where she was to meet her husband, James A. Garfield.  The villages of Garrettsville and Hiram are in Portage County, Ohio, one of eleven counties in Northeast Ohio that belong to what is still called the Western Reserve.


Students who participate in this activity will research the history of the Western Reserve (originally, the Connecticut Western Reserve), compiling a set of maps and brief histories of the nine counties and two partial counties that make up the area, and preparing reports on their research.

Materials Required:

Access to the Internet; paper and art supplies; a large U.S. map; an Atlas containing a map of Ohio.


Divide the class into ten small groups of two or three students.  Introduce students to the lesson by showing them a large map of the United States and asking them to find Ohio. Then, showing them a map of Ohio (perhaps from the Atlas), mention that seven Presidents were from Ohio, as were many of their wives.  Assign nine groups one of the nine full counties in the Western Reserve, and the tenth group the two partial counties as well as the Western Reserve as a whole.
Then, using the web sites listed below, as well as any books or additional web sites, ask each group to do the following: 
  • Draw a map of the county (or partial county)
  • Include on the map major towns and cities, rivers, lakes, etc.
  • Also include symbols (of their own design) for major economic information (e.g., agricultural products, manufacturing, types of commercial enterprises)
  • Write a brief history of the county, including commentary on any leading citizens in its history

When these maps and written histories are completed, have students create posters for each county, with their maps, histories, and any other pictures or memorabilia they have found that will help to describe their county. The tenth group should make one poster dedicated to an overview of the Western Reserve as a whole, and another poster showing the two partial counties included in the territory.
When all posters are completed, mount them in the classroom and ask each group to take turns reporting the results of their research.

Extending the Lesson:

This lesson can be extended in several ways.  First, students could do the same kind of research and reporting on any area of the country that has a recognizable “name” and territory.  Second, students could mount their posters in the hallway outside their classroom, thus sharing their research with the whole school.  Finally, using the last website, students could research the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (now, Hiram College), where both Lucretia and James Garfield were students, and where James was once a teacher and principal.

Sources & Resources:

Earl R. Hoover. Cradle of Greatness: National and World Achievements of Ohio’s Western Reserve. New Cleveland Campaign, 1979.
            The Connecticut Western Reserve
            The Western Reserve Historical Society
            The Evolution of Ohio
            Ohio History Central
            Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (Hiram College)

This lesson was developed by Averil McClelland, Kent State University.