CAPTAIN ALVA BRADLEY. Ninety years ago a boy named Alva Bradley left the pioneer homestead which he had assisted
his father in clearing near Brownhelm in Lorain County to become a sailor on the Great Lakes. In following years
he did all the duties of an apprentice and common seaman, then sailed boats as a master, was captain and part owner
of a number of well known boats on Lake Erie, and in later years owned a fleet of lake boats that carried much
of the commerce on the great inland seas. All these interests and activities made Capt. Alva Bradley for many years
one of the leaders in the transportation interests centering at Cleveland.
Capt. Alva Bradley was born at Ellington, Connecticut, November 27, 1814, of New England ancestry and of the dauntless
spirit of New England pioneers. His father, Leonard Bradley, born also at Ellington, November 4, 1792, came out
to the Western Reserve of Ohio, located lands at Brownhelm and two years later went back to Connecticut, where
he married Roxanna Thrall, daughter of William Thrall. In 1823 the Bradley family gave up their home in New England
and started for the New Connecticut of Ohio. After a wagon journey to Albany, New York, they continued along the
route of the Erie Canal, not yet completed, to Buffalo, and then by sailing vessel to Cleveland. Alva Bradley was
then nine years old. He was the first of four children. His mother died in 1858. Leonard Bradley remained on the
old homestead at Brownhelm until his death on May 3, 1875. He was a whig, an enthusiastic republican when that
party was organized, and held such offices as township trustee.
Alva Bradley acquired a common school education, but spent most of his time after coming to Ohio in the strenuous
labor of making a farm out of the woods. After his early experiences as a Great Lakes sailor and master he became
associated with Capt. A. Cobb at Vermilion, as shipbuilders and owners. This firm constructed the Indiana, one
of the first propellers operated on the Great Lakes, and sailed by Captain Bradley. After about fifteen years as
sailor and master he retired from the lakes to take active charge of the ship yards at Vermilion. During the years
from 1853 to 1867 he built some of the largest boats then on the Great Lakes. In 1868 his ship yard was moved to
Cleveland, and he continued to build lake vessels every season until 1882. At the time of his death he owned a
large fleet, and so extensive was his business that he carried his own insurance.
Capt. Alva Bradley was a man of simple, matter of fact character. His office was always exceedingly plain. For
several years it was on Water Street and later in the Merchants National Bank Building at the corner of Superior
and Bank streets. He was noted for the regularity of his habits. Like many old sailors he was a man of few words,
though in his personal relations he was not by any means stern and had a reserve fund of quiet but wearing geniality.
One who knew him says that he had about "the brightest pair of eyes that ever twinkled in a man's head."
He began life without a dollar, and was rated as one of the wealthy men of the city when he passed away at his
home on Euclid Avenue, November.28, 1885, just one day after his seventy first birthday.
In 1851 Capt. Alva Bradley married Helen M. Burgess, of Milan, Ohio, who died August 26, 1896. She was the mother
of four children, the three daughters being Mrs. Norman S. Keller, Mrs. C. E. Grover and Mrs. C. F. Morehouse,
and the son, Morris A., whose career is given in the following sketch:
MORRIS A. BRADLEY is the only son of the late Capt. Alva Bradley and for more than forty years has been identified
with the management of the business founded and built up by his honored father. Morris Bradley has been described
as in many ways the counterpart of his father, especially in his position of quiet unostentatious manners and rugged
Born at Cleveland, August 15, 1859, he was educated in the public and private schools, later in Hiram College,
and for a time was an employe of the wholesale hardware house of Lockwood, Taylor and Company. In 1880 he became
the business associate of his father, and when the latter died five years later, he assumed management of the estate.
For a number of years he has been one of the largest owners of real estate in Cleveland, and has erected a number
of large buildings in the business district. He continued his father's business as a boat builder, and at one time
owned a fleet of twenty six boats on the Great Lakes. In recent years Mr. Bradley has been president of the Cleveland
and Buffalo Transportation Company, president of the United States Coal Company, and owner of the Bradley Electrical
Mr. Bradley is a member of the University School Corporation, Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, the Country Club,
the Roadside Club, City Club, Civic League and the Union Club. His church affiliation is with the First Unitarian
Church of Cleveland. One of his favorite recreations has been horsemanship, and he is a member of the Gentlemen's
On May 10, 1883, he married Miss Anna A. Leininger, daughter of C. C. Leininger, of Cleveland. Mrs. Bradley was
born and educated in New York City. Their five children, all born in Cleveland and liberally educated here and
elsewhere, were: Alva, Charles L. Helen M., Eleanor and Catherine A. The daughter Helen married Malcom B. Vilas
of Cleveland. Both sons are graduates of the University School of Cleveland, finished their education in Cornell
University and are active business men of Cleveland. Alva is now with his father.
The son Charles L. was born October 22, 1885, and after finishing his university career, was associated in business
with his father until 1919, since which date he has been one of the active vice presidents of the Union Trust Company.
He married Gertrude Baker, daughter of George H. Baker, and they have two daughters, Mary Agnes and Alva.
A History of Cuyahoga County
and the City of Cleveland
By: William R. Coates
The American Historical Society
Chicago and New York, 1924
Cuyahoga County, Ohio Biographies
Names A to G
Names H to P
Names Q to Z
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