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"Ohio Lands - A Short History"
Part 3

Symmes Purchase.The Symmes Purchase, often called the Miami Purchase, is located in the southwestern corner of the state. It begins at the Ohio River, and runs approximately 24 miles northward, between the Great Miami and Little Miami Rivers. The total land area is 311,682 acres including reserves.

John Cleves Symmes and his associates originally contracted for one million acres from the Board of Treasury in 1788. However, in 1792, Congress modified this contract, with Symmes� consent, because Congress did not want Symmes� tract to interfere with the boundary line established by the Treaty of Fort Harmar.

On September 30, 1794, President George Washington signed the U.S. Patent (deed) conveying to Symmes 248,250 acres plus a surveying township (23,040 acres), in trust, for an academy. The Patent reserved Fort Washington (15 acres); one square mile near the mouth of the Great Miami; and in each township the following sections: Section 16 (for schools); Section 29 (for religion); Sections 8, 11, and 26 (for Congress� future use). Symmes paid $70,455 in public securities for 105,683 acres and used military bounty land warrants, totalling 95,250 acres, to acquire the remaining 142,857 acres. Because Congress allowed one-third of a dollar off for bad lands and incidental charges, Symmes actually paid two-thirds of dollar per acre.

John Cleves Symmes conveyed the entire 3rd Range of Townships, in trust, to Jonathan Dayton. Symmes did this because Dayton had acquired military bounty warrants from soldiers who desired to settle in the western country, but could not afford a cash payment. This entire 3rd Range is often called the Military Range in the records of Butler and Warren counties.

Symmes sold land beyond the lands eventually covered by his U.S. Patent. Technically, these settlers were squatters on unsurveyed federal land. To correct this situation, Congress passed relief acts on March 2, 1799, and March 3, 1801, which gave these settlers the first right to buy this land from the federal government. This was the first time the right of pre-emption was granted by Congress. Later, in 1841, Congress passed a general pre-emption act, which lead to fraud and settlement before land could be surveyed.

Symmes Purchase was privately surveyed. It is the only original land survey in the United States that has ranges running south to north, fractional ranges, and townships running west to east. Section numbering is according to the Land Ordinance of May 20, 1785. The federal surveys, above the Symmes Purchase, continued Symmes� unique and unorthodox numbering of ranges and townships so the Between the Miami Rivers (M.Rs.) Survey would be consistent.

Congress Lands First Meridian Survey

Federal Land Offices and Sales in Ohio.William Henry Harrison, the Northwest Territory�s first delegate to Congress, introduced the legislation that became the act of May 10, 1800. This Act opened the frontier to a land office business.

The Act of May 10, 1800 established federal land offices in Steubenville, Cincinnati, Chillicothe, and Marietta; permitted land to be purchased on credit; made the public auction of land the prime sales method, but did permit private entry if the land had not been sold at auction; made 320 acres the minimum which could be purchased; created the positions of receiver of public monies and register to run each land office; permitted the Surveyor General to lease reserved sections for up to seven years on condition that the lessee make improvements; and provided the right of preemption for anyone erecting a grist mill. The first Federal Land Office opened in Steubenville in July 1800.

The credit provisions were one of the most important aspects of the Act of May 10, 1800. It provided that the entryman (buyer), would make a deposit of five percent of the purchase price, including surveying fees, on the day of the sale. Within 40 days the entryman had to pay an additional twenty percent of the purchase money. Additional payments of twenty-five percent of the purchase price were to be made within two, three, and four years after the day of sale. Interest of six percent a year was charged for the last three payments.

Any tract not completely paid for within one year after the date of the last payment would be advertised for sale by the register of the land office. He would then sell it at public vendue for not less than the whole arrears due. If not sold, or the arrears paid, then the land would revert to the United States. A discount of eight percent per year was allowed for prepayment of any of the last three payments. An entryman (purchaser), who fully paid for his tract on the day of sale, thus could buy $2 an acre land for $1.64 an acre.

Federal land sales were brisk under the Act May 10, 1800. The 1800-1801 combined sales of the four Ohio land offices was 398,647 acres, purchased for $834,888. By June 30, 1820, Ohio land offices had sold 8,848,152 acres of land for $17,226,186. These figures may be misleading because the Panic of 1819 strangled the western economy. Defaults under the credit system were common in the barter society of the frontier. Of the total number of acres sold by the federal government, July 1800-July 30, 1820, over twenty-nine percent of the acres were resold due to defaults.

The Act of April 24, 1820 abolished the credit system effective July 1, 1820, fixed the price of public lands at $1.25 per acre, and set the minimum purchase at 80 acres. Under the cash system established by this Act, 94,182 entries for land were made in Ohio from July 1, 1820, to the closing of the Chillicothe Land Office in 1876.

Once the entryman (purchaser) paid for his land, a final certificate (or certificate of location, if land scrip was used), was issued by the register of the land office. This final certificate (or certificate of location), was sent to Washington D.C., for a U.S. Patent to be issued. Delays in issuing the U.S. Patent often occurred because the accounts and records had to be verified, a time-consuming task, and the president had to sign each U.S. Patent prior to March 3, 1833.

U.S. Patents were returned to the originating land office for delivery to the patentee (owner). Some patentees did not record their U.S. Patents, while others failed to pick them up at all. When the Chillicothe Land Office was preparing to close in 1876, thousands of U.S. Patents were found and returned to the General Land Office in Washington.

The State of Ohio Archives has a card index of about 175,000 cards, some are duplicates, arranged by the surname, then given name of the entryman, who acquired federal public lands in Ohio. It also has the Federal Tract and Entry Books, which are arranged by surveying range, township, section, and part of section. These give the name of the entryman (purchaser), quantity of acres entered, and date of entry. Sometimes additional information is given such as purchase price, state or county of residence at the time of entry, the final certificate number and federal land office where the land was sold. The current county and civil township are not given in the tract and entry books, but can be determined by using the range, township, section, part of section, and original survey name, with a map showing Ohio�s original land subdivisions.

The State Auditor�s office has more than 300 cu. ft. of land records in the State of Ohio Archives. Most are not indexed. Card indexes exist for the Federal Tract and Entry books. Inquiries should be sent to the State of Ohio Archives, Ohio Historical Center, 1982 Velma Avenue, Columbus, Ohio 43211-2497.

Between the Miamis







$1.00 per acre

Specie, loan-office or debt certificates

640 Acres


$2.00 per acre

One half down, one half due in one year

640 Acres


$2.00 per acre

One quarter cash, remainder to be paid in three annual installments

320 Acres


$2.00 per acre

One quarter cash; remainder to be paid in three annual installments

160 Acres


$1.25 per acre


80 Acres


Land Scrip

Acceptable in lieu of cash

None Listed


$1.25 per acre

Cash, Land Scrip

40 Acres


$1.25 per acre

Squatters who built homes and improved land could purchase one-quarter section before it was offered for public sale

160 Acres


$1.00 per acre-12 1/2 cents per acre

Land not sold for 10 years to be offered at $1.00 per acre; if not sold for 30 years, land could be disposed of at 12 1/2 cents per acre

40-320 Acres


$10 (filing fee)

Title could be obtained after 5 years residence under Homestead Act

160 Acres

*1800-1862 Initial Sale by Public Auction

United States Military District.The United States Military District, Lands or Survey (USMD) was established by a Congressional Act on June 1, 1796, to satisfy the September 16, 1776, and August 12, 1780, resolutions of Congress, which granted bounty land to Continental Army officers and soldiers. These resolutions offered the following land bounties: noncommissioned officer or soldier, 100 acres, Ensign, 150 acres; Lieutenant, 200 acres; Captain, 300 acres; Major, 400 acres; Lieutenant Colonel, 450 acres; Colonel, 500 acres, Brigadier General, 850 acres; and Major General, 1,100 acres.

The USMD contains about 2,560,000 acres. It is bounded on the north by the Greenville Treaty Line, on the east by the Seven Ranges, on the south by the Refugee Tract and Congress Lands, and on the west by the Scioto River. These lands are found in Franklin, Delaware, Knox, Licking, Morrow, Noble, Marion, Holmes, Coshocton, Muskingum, Tuscarawas and Guernsey counties.

The survey of the USMD began in March, 1797, according to the provisions of the Act of June 1, 1796. This called for dividing the land into surveying townships five miles square (16,000 acres), and then subdividing the townships into quarter-townships containing 4,000 acres each. The ranges are numbered east to west with the 1st range starting at the west line of Range 7 in the Old Seven Ranges. Townships are numbered northward from the base line, which is the south line of the tract. Quarter-townships are numbered 1 to 4 counterclockwise. The quarter-townships were subdivided by their original proprietors in whatever manner they wanted.

In 1800, 50 quarter-townships, and all the fractional quarter townships not already taken, were to be divided into 100 acre lots. On April 26, 1802, Congress authorized some fractional townships to be divided into 50-acre lots. The Act of March 3, 1803, provided that all remaining lands not covered by warrants, or previously subdivided, should be surveyed into sections, one mile square, and sold on the same terms as any other public lands.

This confusing original land survey was Congress� attempt to honor the military land bounty warrants issued under the Act of July 9, 1788. No one person had a 4,000 acre warrant, so warrants had to be pooled.

The pooling of warrants lead to warrants being bought up in the East. Out of the 1,043,460 acres claimed by land warrant, 569,542 acres were patented by 22 persons. A drawing determined the actual location of the 262 quarter-townships claimed by military warrants. Absentee patentees (owners) often sold their land without ever having seen it, and without regard to any attachment or sale by Ohio officials for delinquent taxes.

The final division of the unclaimed 4,000 acres quarter-townships into 640-acre sections, only four years after the final township surveys were run, shows the general lack of interest the Revolutionary War veterans had in this free land.

By 1823, the United States government had issued 10,958 warrants, totalling 1,549,350 acres for Revolutionary War service and more were issued under various laws thereafter. These warrants could only be used in the USMD, with an exception being made for by the Ohio Company and John Cleves Symmes. The warrant holders, who held onto their warrants, finally received relief by the Act of May 30, 1830. By this act, they could exchange their warrants for land scrip issued in 80-acre amounts, good for $1.25 an acre land anywhere on the public domain, available for private entry. This act, and the seven other warrant exchange acts, caused over 12,138,840 acres of land scrip to be issued. Researchers will find that land scrip could be bought cheaply, depending on market conditions. Its use in a land transaction does not infer the holder was entitled to it by military-service. Veterans often sold their land scrip to land jobbers, thus producing a dead-end situation for family researchers.

US Military District divided into 5 mile townships

Copyright 1994 by the Ohio Auditor of State All Rights Reserved.
FOR FREE DISTRIBUTION ONLY. Researched and written by
Thomas Aquinas Burke, Internet Address F491.3 B86 1994 977.1
Eighth Edition - September 1996

"Ohio Lands - A Short History"
ReTyped & Graphics Rescanned December 1997
by Maggie Stewart-Zimmerman
Email at Maggie Stewart

This booklet is available on the Auditor of State home page under
Publications at: http://www.auditor.state.oh.us/

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