|Early Ohio: A Brief History, Part 2 -- From the Ordinance of 1787 to the State of Ohio.|
by Henry Howe.
With the termination of Indian title to a large part of the territory within the limits of Ohio, it was necessary for the United States Congress to pass legislation authorizing settlement. Based on the treaties just made with the Indians, and as enacted by Congress, all citizens of the United States were prohibited settling on the lands of the Indians, as well as on those of the United States -- prior to Congressional authorization. Subsequently, ordinances were made by Congress for the government of the Northwest Territory, and for the survey and sale of portions of lands to which the Indian title had been given up.
The most important of these ordinances -- the Ordinance of 1787 -- was adapted by Congress on 13 July 1787. For three years, various plans for the government of the territory had been brought forward. On 11 July, a committee, of which Natan Dane of Massachusetts was chairman, reported an ordinance for the government for the territory of the United States northwest of the Ohio River. On the 12th, a clause forbidding slavery in the territory was added as an amendment; and the next day the bill became law.
In May 1785, Congress already had passed an ordinance that defined how these lands were to be sold. Under that ordinance, the first seven ranges, bounded on the east by Pennsylvania, and on the south by the Ohio River, were surveyed. In 1787, sales of some of these were made at New York, with proceeds amounting to $72,974; and in 1798, sales of other parts of this area were made at Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. The sales made at Pittsburgh amounted to $43,446, and at Philadelphia, $5,120. A portion of these lands were located under United States military land warrants. No further sales were made in that area until the Land Office was opened at Steubenville, Ohio, in July 1801.
On 27 October 1787, a written contract was entered into between the Board of Treasury for the United States of America -- party of the first part -- and Manassah Cutler and Winthrop Sargeant, as agents for the directors of the New England Ohio Company of associates -- parties of the second part. This 1787 contract sold a tract of land to the New England Ohio Company. The tract is defined as: bounded by the Ohio River, from the mouth of the Scioto River to the intersection of the western boundary of the seventh range of townships then being surveyed; and from there by said boundary to the northern boundary of the tenth township from the Ohio River; from there due west to the Scioto River; and from there along the Scioto River to the beginning. These boundaries were later adjusted in 1792. In the spring of 1788, settlement of this purchase began at Marietta, Ohio, at the mouth of the Muskingum River. This was the first settlement formed within the limits of Ohio.
In April 1785, four families from Redstone, Pennsylvania, had attempted to establish a settlement within the boundary of Ohio at the mouth of the Scioto River, on the current site of Portsmouth; but difficulties with the Indians caused the settlement to be abandoned.
In October 1787, Congress appointed Gen. Arthur St. Clair, a former officer of the Revolutionary War, to be Governor of the territory. Winthrop Sargeant was appointed Secretary; and the Hon. Samuel Holden Parsons and James Mitchell Varnum were appointed Judges, in, and over the territory. The territorial government was organized, and various laws were made or adopted by the Governor and Judges Parsons and Varnum. In 1788 John Cleves Symmes was also appointed judge. The first county was established by proclamation of the Governor. This county was Washington, which extended west to the Scioto River, and north to Lake Erie, covering about half the territory within the current state.
On 15 October 1788, John Cleves Symmes, in behalf of himself and his associates, contracted with the Board of Treasury for the purchase of a large tract of land situated between the Great and Little Miami rivers. The first settlement within the limits of that purchase, and the second in Ohio, was started in November 1788, at Columbia -- at the mouth of the Little Miami, five miles above the site of Cincinnati.
"A short time after the settlement at Marietta had commenced, an association was formed under the name of the Scioto Land Company. A contract was made for the purchase of a part of the lands included in the Ohio Company's purchases. Plats and descriptions of the land contracted for, were, however, made out, and Joel Barlow was sent as an agent to Europe to make sales of the lands for the benefit of the company; and sales were effected of parts thereof to companies and individuals in France. On 19 February 1791, two hundred and eighteen of these purchasers left Havre de Grace, in France, and arrived in Alexandria, D.C., on 3 May 1792. During their passage, two were added to their number. On their arrival, they were told that the Scioto Company owned no land. The agent insisted that they did, and promised to secure to them good titles thereto, which he did, at Winchester, Brownsville, and Charleston (now Wellsburg). When they arrived at Marietta, about fifty of them landed. The rest of the company proceeded to Gallipolis, which was laid out about that time, and were assured by the agent that the place lay within their purchase. Every effort to secure titles to the lands they had purchased having failed, an application was made to Congress, and in June 1798, a grant was made to them of a tract of land on the Ohio River, above the mouth of the Scioto river, which is called the 'French Grant.'"
The Legislature of Connecticut, in May 1795, appointed a committee to receive proposals and make sale of the lands it had reserved in Ohio. This committee sold the lands to various citizens of Connecticut and other states, and, in September 1795, conveyed deeds to several purchasers. The purchasers subsequently surveyed the area lying east of the Cuyahoga River -- creating townships five miles square. Land in the townships was distributed to purchasers, and settlements began to form in many of the townships. By 21 March 1800, about one thousand inhabitants occupied these townships. A number of mills had been built, and roads totaling 700 miles had been cut out in various directions.
During the Revolutionary War, as an aid in recruiting soldiers, land grants had been promised those who served in the war. The location of the lands appropriate for satisfying military land bounty warrants began on 13 March 1800. Also, as a result of the war, there were numerous Canadian and Nova Scotia refugees. Land was distributed to these refugees beginning 13 February 1802. The lands east of the Scioto River, south of the military bounty lands, and west of the fifteenth range of townships, were first brought into market, and offered for sale, by the United States on the first Monday of May 1801.
The state of Virginia, at an early stage of the Revolutionary War, had raised two categories of troops -- State and Continental. It had promised land bounties to both these categories. Lands within the original limits of Virginia's colonial charter -- situated both northwest of the Ohio River as well as southeast of the Ohio -- along the Cumberland River, and between the Green and Tennessee rivers -- were appropriated for these military bounties. Upon the recommendation of Congress, Virginia ceded her lands north of the Ohio River to the United States -- on certain conditions, one of which was that if lands south of Ohio River were not sufficient for the bounties to its troops, the deficiency would be made up from lands north of the Ohio River -- land located between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers.
In 1783, the Legislature of Virginia authorized the appointment of superintendents to regulate the survey of the promised bounty lands. Richard C. Anderson was appointed principal surveyor of the lands for the Continental troops. An office for the reception of locations and surveys was opened at Louisville, Kentucky, on 1 August 1784. On 1 August 1787, an office for this purpose was established on the north side of the Ohio.
On 9 January 1789, a treaty was made at Fort Harmar, between Governor St. Clair and the Sachems and warriors of the Wyandot, Chippewa, Potawatomie, and Sac nations, in which the treaty at Fort McIntosh was renewed and confirmed. It did not, however, produce favorable results. The Indians became increasingly hostile, and were seen hovering round the infant settlements near the mouth of the Muskingum River and between the Miamies -- and nine persons were killed within the bounds of Symmes' purchase. The new settlers became alarmed and erected block-houses in each of the new settlements. In June 1789, Major Doughty, with 140 men from Fort Harmar, began building Fort Washington on a spot now within the present limits of Cincinnati. A few months later, Gen. Harmar arrived with 300 men, and took command of the fort.
Negotiations with the Indians failed to establish peace. Hence, Gen. Harmar was directed to attack their towns. In accordance with his instructions he marched from Cincinnati, in September 1790, with 1,300 men -- of whom less than one-fourth were regulars. When near the Indian villages, in the vicinity of what is now Fort Wayne, an advanced detachment of 310 -- consisting chiefly of militia -- fell into an ambush and suffered severe losses. Gen. Harmar, however, succeeded in burning the Indian villages and destroying their standing corn crop.
Having achieved these results, the army began its march back to Cincinnati. They had not gone far when Harmar received news that the Indians had returned to their ruined towns. He immediately detached about one-third of his remaining force -- under the command of Col. Hardin -- with orders to bring the Indians "to an engagement." Col. Hardin succeeded in this early the next morning. The Indians fought with great fury, and the militia and the regulars alike fought bravely. More than one hundred of the militia, and all the regulars except nine, were killed; and the rest were driven back to the main body. Dispirited by this severe defeat, Harmar immediately marched to Cincinnati. The expedition totally failed to achieve its purpose -- intimidation of the Indians.
Since the Indians continued hostile, a new army, superior to the former, was raised at Cincinnati under the command of Gov. St. Clair. The regular force amounted to 2,300 men; and the militia numbered about 600. With this army, St. Clair marched towards the Indian towns on the Maumee River.
Two forts, Hamilton and Jefferson, were established and garrisoned on the route, about forty miles from each other. Misfortune attended the expedition almost from the start. Soon after leaving Fort Jefferson, a considerable portion of the militia deserted in a body. The first regiment, under Major Hamtramck, was ordered to pursue them and to secure the advancing convoys of supplies and provisions, which it was feared they planned to plunder. Thus weakened by desertion and division, St. Clair's remaining troops approached the Indian villages.
On 3 November 1791, at what is now the line of Darke and Mercer counties, St. Clair halted his advance, intending to throw up some temporary fortification for the protection of baggage and to await the return of the absent regiment. On the following morning, however, about half an hour before sunrise, the American army was attacked with great fury by the whole disposable force of the northwest tribes. The Americans were totally defeated. Gen. Butler and upwards of six hundred men were killed. Indian outrages of every kind spread and increased in frequency, causing white emigration into the region to decline dramatically.
President Washington now urged forward the vigorous prosecution of the war for the protection of the Northwest Territory. However, various obstacles retarded the enlistment and organization of a new army. Finally, in the spring of 1794 the American army assembled at Greenville, in Darke County, under the command of Gen. Anthony Wayne, a bold, energetic, and experienced officer of the Revolution. His force consisted of about two thousand regular troops, and fifteen hundred mounted volunteers from Kentucky.
The Indians had collected their force, amounting to about two thousand men, near a British fort, which had been erected since the Treaty of 1783 -- in violation of its obligations -- at the foot of the rapids of the Maumee River. On 20 August 1794, Gen. Wayne encountered the enemy, and after a short and deadly conflict, the Indians fled in the greatest confusion. The Indians fled to the protection of the guns at the British fort. After destroying all the houses and cornfields above and below the British fort on the Maumee, the victorious army returned to the mouth of the Au Glaize River, where Wayne erected Fort Defiance. Prior to this action, various fruitless attempts had been made to bring the Indians to peace. Some of the messengers that had been sent among the Indians for that object had been murdered.
The victory of Gen. Wayne did not at first force the Indians to submission. Their country was laid waste, and forts were erected in the heart of their territory before they could be entirely subdued. At length, however, they became thoroughly convinced of their inability to resist the American arms and sued for peace. A grand council was held at Greenville, where eleven of the most powerful northwestern tribes were represented, to whom Gen. Wayne dictated the terms of pacification.
The boundary established by the treaty at Fort McIntosh was confirmed and extended westward from Loramie's to Fort Recovery, and then southwest to the mouth of the Kentucky River. The Indians agreed to acknowledge the United States as their sole protector, and never to sell their lands to any other power. Based on these and other conditions, the United States received the Indian nations into its protection. A large quantity of goods was delivered to the Indians on the spot, and perpetual annuities, payable partly in merchandise, were promised to each tribe that became a party to the treaty.
While the war with the Indians continued, settlement in the west slowed considerably. The next county that was established after that of Washington, in 1788, was Hamilton, which was established in 1790. It encompassed the country between the Miami rivers, extending northward from the Ohio River to a line drawn due east from the Standing Stone forks of the Great Miami. The settlement opposite the Licking River, at this time, was named Cincinnati.
During this period there was no fixed seat of government. The laws were passed whenever they seemed to be needed, and promulgated at any place where the territorial legislators happened to be assembled. In 1789 the first Congress passed an act recognizing the binding force of the Ordinance of 1787, and adapting its provisions to the federal constitution. At this time, the judges appointed by the President constituted the supreme court of the territory. Lower courts were the county court, courts of common pleas, and the general quarter sessions of the peace. Single judges of the common pleas, and single justices of the quarter sessions were also granted certain civil and criminal powers to be exercised out of court.
In 1795 the governor and judges undertook to revise the territorial laws, and to establish a system of statutory jurisprudence by adopting selected laws of the original states and bringing them into conformance with the Ordinance. For this purpose they assembled in Cincinnati in June and continued in session until the latter part of August. The general court was fixed at Cincinnati and Marietta; other courts were established, and laws and regulations were adopted for various purposes.
The population of the territory now continued to increase and extend. From Marietta, settlers spread into the adjoining country. The Virginia military reservation drew a considerable number of revolutionary veterans, and others, from that state. The region between the Miami rivers, from the Ohio River far up toward the sources of the Mad River, became checkered with farms, and showed the presence of an active and prosperous population.
The neighborhood of Detroit became populous, and Connecticut, by grants of land within the tract reserved in her deed of cession [the Western Reserve], interested many of her hardy citizens to seek a home on the borders of Lake Erie. In 1796 Wayne County was established, including all the northwestern part of Ohio, a large tract in the northeastern part of Indiana, and the whole territory of Michigan.
In July 1797, Adams County was erected, encompassing a large tract lying on both sides of the Scioto River, and extending northward to Wayne County. Other counties subsequently were formed out of those already established. Before the end of the year 1798 the Northwest Territory contained a population of five thousand free, adult male inhabitants, and eight organized counties.
The people were now entitled, under the Ordinance of 1787, to a change in their form of government. That instrument provided that whenever there were five thousand free, adult males in the territory, the people should be authorized to elect representatives to a territorial legislature. These representatives, when chosen, were to nominate ten freeholders of 500 acres and the president was to appoint five, who were to constitute the legislative council. Representatives were to serve two, and councilmen five years.
The first meeting of the territorial legislature was scheduled for 16 September 1799, but it was not until the 24th of the same month that the two houses were organized for business. On that date they were addressed by Gov. St. Clair. An act was passed to confirm and give force to those laws enacted by the governor and judges, whose validity had been doubted. This act, as well as every other which originated in the council, was prepared and brought forward by Jacob Burnet, later a distinguished judge and senator. Burnet's efforts at this session provided the territory with some of its most beneficial laws. The number of acts passed and approved by the governor was thirty-seven. William H. Harrison, then secretary of the Territory, was elected as delegate to Congress, receiving eleven of twenty-one votes.
Within a few months after the close of this session, Connecticut ceded to the United States her claim of jurisdiction over the northeastern part of the territory [the Western Reserve]. The President subsequently conveyed the area, by patent, to the governor of the territory, "for the use of grantees and purchasers claiming under her." This tract, in the summer of 1800, was organized into a new county by the name of Trumbull. The same United States Congress that made a final arrangement with Connecticut, in 1801 passed an act dividing the Northwestern Territory into two governments, defined by a line drawn from the mouth of the Kentucky River to Fort Recovery, and from there northward to the territorial line. East of this line, the government that was already established, was continued. West of it another, substantially similar territory, was established. This act fixed the seat of the eastern government at Chillicothe -- subject, however, to be relocated at the pleasure of the legislature.
On 30 April 1802, Congress passed an act authorizing the call of a convention to form a state constitution. This convention assembled at Chillicothe on 1 November 1802, and on the 29th of the same month a constitution for state government was ratified and signed by the members of the convention. It was never referred to the people for their approval, but became the fundamental law of the state by the act of the convention delegates alone. By this act, Ohio became one of the states of the Federal Union.
Besides framing the constitution, the convention had another duty to perform. The act of Congress that provided for the admission of the new state into the Union, offered certain propositions to the people. These were, first, that section sixteen in each township, or, where that section had been disposed of, other contiguous and equivalent lands, should be granted to the inhabitants for the use of schools; second, that thirty-eight sections of land where salt-springs had been found -- of which one was on the Scioto River, one on the Muskingum River, and one in the United States military tract -- should be granted to the state, never, however, to be sold or leased for a longer term than ten years; and third, that one-twentieth of the proceeds of public lands sold within the state, should be applied to the construction of roads from the Atlantic, to and through the state of Ohio. These propositions were offered on the condition that the convention should provide, by ordinance, that all lands sold by the United States after 30 June 1802, should be exempt from taxation by the state for five years after sale.
The Ordinance of 1785 had already provided for the appropriation of section sixteen to the support of schools in every township sold by the United States; and this appropriation thus became a condition of the sale and settlement of the western country. It was a consideration offered to encourage purchases of public lands at a time when the United States treasury was virtually empty, and this source of revenue was heavily relied upon. It extended to every township of land within the territory, except those in the Virginia military reservation, and wherever the reserved section had been sold. In such cases, after the passage of the Ordinance, Congress was required to make other equivalent provision for the same purpose.
In 1802, therefore, many persons felt the reservation of section sixteen could not be made the object of a new bargain between the United States and the state; and many others felt that the salt reservations and the twentieth of the proceeds of the public lands were very inadequate equivalents for the proposed surrender of the right to tax. The convention, however, decided to accept the propositions of Congress, if these provisions could be modified as follows: The state would be given, for the use of schools, section sixteen in each township sold by the United States as well as three other tracts of land -- these three tracts would be equal in quantity, respectively, to one thirty-sixth of the Virginia reservation, of the United States military tract, and of Connecticut's Western Reserve. Furthermore, it sought three percent of the proceeds of the public lands sold within the state, to be applied under the direction of the legislature, to roads IN Ohio. Congress accepted the proposed modifications, and thus completed the agreement.
The first General Assembly under the state constitution met at Chillicothe on 1 March 1803. The legislature enacted various laws and created eight new counties, namely: Gallia, Scioto, Franklin, Columbiana, Butler, Warren, Greene, and Montgomery. The first state officers elected by the assembly were: Michael Baldwin, Speaker of the House of Representatives; Nathaniel Massie, Speaker of the Senate; William Creighton, Jr., Secretary of State; Col. Thomas Gibson, Auditor; William McFarland, Treasurer; Return J. Meigs, Jr., Samuel Huntington, and William Sprigg, Judges of the Supreme Court; Francis Dunlavy, Wyllys Silliman, and Calvin Pease, Judges of the District Courts.
The second General Assembly convened in December 1803. At this session, the militia law was thoroughly revised and a law was passed to enable aliens to enjoy the same proprietary rights in Ohio as native citizens. At this session, also, the revenue system of the state was simplified and improved, and acts were passed providing for the incorporation of townships and for the establishment of boards of commissioners for counties.
In 1805, by a treaty with the Indians at Fort Industry (at the site of Toledo), the United States acquired, for the use of the grantees of Connecticut, all that part of the western reserve which lies west of the Cuyahoga River. By subsequent treaties, all the country watered by the Maumee and the Sandusky rivers were acquired, and Indian title to lands in Ohio came to an end. [footnote 1]
During 1805 the conspiracy of Aaron Burr began to agitate the western country. The precise scope of the conspiracy is still the subject of research and scholarship. The immediate object, probably, was to seize New Orleans and invade Mexico. The ulterior purpose may have been to detach the West from the American Union. In December 1806, in response to a confidential message from the Governor and founded on the testimony of an agent of the United States Government assigned to watch the actions of Burr, the legislature passed an act authorizing the arrest of persons engaged in an unlawful enterprise, and the seizure of their goods. Under this act, ten boats, with a considerable quantity of arms, ammunition, and provisions -- belonging to Burr's expedition -- were seized. This was a fatal blow to the project.
Footnote 1: Indian Treaties. The Western Reserve tract west of the Cuyahoga river was secured by a treaty formed at Fort Industry (Toledo) in 1805. The lands west of Huron and Richland counties and north of the Indian boundary line [that is, the Greenville treaty line established by Gen. Wayne in August 1795] to the western limits of Ohio, were purchased by the United States in 1818 by a treaty made at St. Mary's; Lewis Cass and Duncan McArthur were the U.S. commissioners who negotiated this treaty. The lands ceded by this treaty were called the "New Purchase." By the terms of the treaty certain tracts or reservations were made within the purchased tract to the Wyandots, Delawares, Senecas, etc. These reservations were subsequently ceded to the United States -- the last by the Wyandots in 1842, they then being the only Indians remaining in the state. The next year they moved to Kansas, and at that time numbered about 700 persons.
See the first entry in this series: Early Ohio: A Brief History, Part 1 -- Discovery, Exploration, and First Settlement by Europeans.
This entry is adapted from Henry Howe's HISTORICAL COLLECTIONS OF OHIO (2 vols., 1907). The book has been reedited, updated, and restructured for inclusion in the Pierian Press Fulltext eBooks database, and is included on the Stratton House Inn Web site by special permission. This entry is licensed for use ONLY on this Web site. This entry may not be copied or downloaded, but may be used for educational purposes and personal pleasure under fair-use provisions via this Web site. Please note that the Stratton House Inn iteration of this entry does NOT include the subject headings assigned the entry for use in the Fulltext eBooks database.
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