OHIO COUNTY INFO: History of the Western Reserve

Connecticut Stretches Westward

Chapter II, History of The Western Reserve, by Harriet Taylor Upton, 1902

The Connecticut constitution was drawn up in 1639 by the men of the three settlements or towns, Hartford, Wethersfield, and Windsor. It provided for a government by the people and did not mention king or parliament. Other towns later organized under the title of New Haven. It was in this colony that the laws were so strict as to be called the "Blue Laws," although these laws did not compare in severity with many laws of Old England. On April 23, 1662, Charles II confirmed all Connecticut charters and deeds, and because he hated the New Haven colony (it had defied him and denied him certain requests) he turned it in as Connecticut under this charter. The conveyance gave to Connecticut "all of the territory of the present state and all of the lands west of it, to the extent and breadth, from sea to sea." This really gave to Connecticut aside from the home state, the upper third of Pennsylvania, about one-third of Ohio, and parts of what has become Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada, and California.

England Demands Connecticut's Charter

Connecticut became prosperous and tranquillity seemed near when Andros, the governor of Massachusetts, appeared in the state and demanded their charter. The question of releasing this valuable document was considered for hours, eloquent arguments were made, the hardships of early settlers were depicted, but even when night fell the governor was still demanding. No Tungsten burner lighted the room in which the council was held, but the best of the time - the tallow dip - was there. Suddenly there was a darkness. When the dips were set sputtering again the charter could not be found. Some patriot, or patriots, had spirited it away and had hid it in the hollow of an oak tree where it remained till Massachusetts rebelled against Andros, when it was triumphantly produced. On Sundays, on Thanksgiving, and on Fourth of July, when the early settlers of New Connecticut had time to think or to hear orations, their hearts swelled with graditude as they recalled that the charter which gave them the land upon which they had built their homes had been preserved to them by Yankee wit and courage, and the "Charter Oak" was ever held in reverence.
Modern historians are cruel. Not only do they declare that there was no William Tell, no apple, no arrow; but that Pocahontas did not leap forth from the darkness and save the life of John Smith. They say she was a wise, beautiful, gentle, loving Indian girl doing many good deeds for white people and her own, and who in turn was loved for her devotion and her bravery. Pshaw! that picture does not replace the other. Too many women have been good, wise and devoted to this great country, in the beginning, later and at this minute, to have "special mention." It is the beautiful Indian in red skirt, beaded waist and tiny moccasins standing defiant that we love to think about. The cruel historian hatefully insinuates that the hollow oak may have held nuts, leaves, dead branches, toads, squirrels, but no parchment - no paper upon which the chesty king in 1662 had placed his name and seal; anyway oak or not, they do not declare there was no charter, for which we are profoundly thankful.

Connecticut in Pennsylvania

Connecticut's far western land held out hope for the home folks and land companies were formed to establish settlements in northern Pennsylvania, then more or less of a wilderness. When the companies were ready, men and women set out to make new homes in the beautiful valley of the Wyoming. They sought property and liberty, but they found others ahead of them who wanted the same things. Seven times did the Connecticut emigrants attempt to make a settlement. Each time they were driven out by whites and Indians, and twice massacred. The life of a pioneer is a hard life at best, but for ment and women to be cold, hungry, lonely and fearful most of the time, as they struggled for existence, and to be killed at the end, seems useless when we know how the fertile land, plenty of it for themselves, their children, and their children's children, stretched out invitingly before them. To them it seemed as inaccessible as does Mars to us, no telescope discerned its canals.
Sometimes husbands settled their families in this valley and went out to fight or to hunt, and the women did the work of both, their children hanging to their skirts. They listened as they labored for the whoops of the dreaded red man.
So busy were these frontiersmen during the Revolutionary War that they neglected the warnings of wives at home, and when at last, they reluctantly returned, they found themselves wholly unprepared for what awaited them. They proceeded immediately to construct fortresses, while the women engaged in the manly occupation of making the powder. To us they seem to have been a fool-hardy lot for instead of keeping within the barricades about three hundred of them marched boldly forth to meet twelve hundred Indians, Tories and British. One hundred and sixty were killed outright, while one hundred and forty escaped, nearly all to be recaptured and tomahawked or tortured to death. Some were pinned down with pitchforks onto blazing logs, or were made to run through crackling fires till they fell fainting and were burned to death. One hundred and fifty widows and nearly six hundred orphans were made that day. When women realized what was happening they seized their children and started for the east, through the "Dismal Swamp." In one of these groups there were nearly one hundred women and children and only one man. Alfred Mathews in "Ohio and Her Western Reserve" says: "All were without food, many scarcely clothed, but they pressed on, weak, trembling and growing constantly worse from this unaccustomed labor through the thicket, mire and ooze. One by one the weakest gave out. Some wandered from the path and were lost; some fell from exhaustion, some from wounds received in battle, but the majority maintained life in some miraculous way and pressed on. The only manna in that wilderness was whortleberries, and these they plucked and eagerly devoured, without pausing. Children were born and children died in that fearful forced march. One babe that came into the world in this scene of terror and travail was carried alive to the settlements. At least one which died was left upon the ground, while the agonized mother went on. There was not time nor were there means to make even a shallow grave. One women bore her dead babe in her arms twenty miles rather than abandon its little body to the beasts."

The Ordinance of 1787

One of the last and greatest acts of the Congress of Confederation was the passing of the famous charter of Freedom, more commonly known as the Charter of 1787. Of it Daniel Webster said, "I doubt whether one single law of any law giver, ancient or modern, has produced effects of more distinct, marked or lasting character than the ordinance of 1787."
This ordinance provided for the government of the Northwest territory and has been the foundation of the laws governing all of our territories since. It prohibited negro slavery in that territory, provided for reglious freedeom for all settlers of that region and for schools, stating that "the means of education shall forever be encouraged."
A court, organized by congress under the Articles of Confederation entered into by the states during the Revolution, sat at Trenton, New Jersey, in 1787, to consider the dispute between Connecticut and Pennsylvania as to boundary. A decision was rendered for Pennsylvania.
When the author was a young girl she accompanied her father as he went from county seat to county seat in the dual capacity of common pleas and circuit judge. Being thus thrown for weeks together with judges and lawyers, she soon learned, to her surprise, that printed, high judicial decisions were not always so clearly and firmly worded as to make differences of opinion among lawyers and judges impossible, and further, that conditions and circumstances, personal and political, entered into decisions in many cases.

Saves Her Western Reserve

The ruling in regard to the right of Connecticut to the western lands is a fair sample. This state had charters for land in New York, but Charles had also given the same land to New York. His geography was as shady as was the spelling of our first president. New York and Connecticut began to settle their differences in 1683 and finished in 1733. In 1787, Connecticut was possessed of her charter shorn of all east of the western Pennsylvania line. This Western land was still hers. She was Yankee and did not let go. Her chance was here and she took it. When the general government was begging the states to relinquish their titles, Connecticut conquettishly or mulishly, held back. At last she agreed, reserving for herself the portion of land which was bordered on the north by the lake, east by the Pennsylvania line, south by the 41st parallel, and on the west by a line a hundred and twenty miles west of the Pennsylvania west line. That this request was granted rather strengthens the thought that the judges knew the early decision had been unfair and that amends ought to be made. Otherwise why should Connecticut be the exception to all the other states?
Connecticut, after all this trouble and uncertainty of years, was at last victorious and she possessed the thing, or part of the thing, for she she had contended.
The stories of states are not unlike the stories of people. Connecticut was barely relieved of a great anxiety - that of a possible loss of her land - before she was beset by another one. She owned the land, but what should she do with it. An unbroken wilderness, hundreds of miles away, was not money in the purse. She had seen the Indians driven farther and farther away, she had had a peculiar experience herself of owning and being deprived of, she had seen reversal of decisions, beside she realized the approaching power of central government and knew that individual communities might have to suffer for the good of the whole. She said to herself, "If I am not to be undone even at this late day, I myself must be up and doing."

Connecticut's "White Elephant"

The Connecticut legislature in 1786 appointed a committee of three to dispose of its far western land. The price was placed at fifty cents per acre and the territory was to be divided into townships six miles square. The general assembly agreed to make a grant of a township to each purchaser, his heirs and assigns, and to reserve five hundred acres of good land in township for the support of the "Gospel minister," five hudred acres for "the support of the schools forever," and two hundred and forty acres in "fee simple to first Gospel minister who shall settle in such town."
It also was agreed to survey the tract into tiers and ranges, No. 1 to be what is now the northeastern corner of Ashtabula county. The legislature of the following year although substantially ratifying this agreement, made a few minor changes such as placing No. 1 township at the southeast corner, Poland, and making the township five miles square. In 1788 Judge Samuel Parsons bought the Salt Springs tract. This was the first land sold by the commissioners. The deed is recorded in Warren. There had been no survey, but the tiers and townships of this tract are usually spoken of as if surveyed.

The "Fire Lands"

During the war of the Revolution the British destroyed property belonging to the Connecticut land owners and they demanded reimbursement from the legislature. This claim was considered by that body in 1791 and in 1792, and the 500,000 acres set off for these sufferers, or their heirs, was known at first as "The Sufferers' Land," and later as "Fire Lands." Most of the property destroyed had been burned.
The shrewdness of Connecticut is seen even in this transaction. She gave to those needing and deserving help, as men usually give alms, that is, she gave that for which she cared least, the land that was farthest away. Neither did she include the islands lying near and belonging properly to the territory. Every emigrant as he journeyed to his new home in the "Fire Lands" helped to make a roadway for the later settlers, and every acre cleared and every cabin erected on these "Fire Lands" added to the value of the land to the east awaiting purchasers.
Thus, the present counties of Huron and Erie, although belonging to the Western Reserve, brought no substantial gain, uless cancelling moral obligations be considered substantial gain. Few men so considered it in these days.

Selling the Reserve

In 1795, Connecticut having grown desperate over her "White Elephant" determined to dispose of it. After formally resolving to sell it, the legislature selected a committee of eight, one from each county, to transact the business. They were John Treadwell, Hartford county; James Wadsworth, New Haven county; Marvin Wait, New London county; William Edmonds, Fairfield; Thomas Grosvenor, Windham; Aaron Austin, Litchfield; Elijah Hubbard, Middlesex; and Sylvester Gilbert, of Tolland county. It will be seen that the names of these men and these towns were used in many ways in New Connecticut, as were also the names of the purchasers. At this time, several individuals wished to buy land themselves or their friends, but the land company feared that some of them who were not from Connecticut were not financially responsible, while the price others offered was not sufficient. Among the later were Zepheniah Swift, author of Swift's Digest, ex-chief justice of Connecticut. He offered a million dollars for the whole tract. This however, was not entirely individual, some of his friends were interested with him.
The selected, after careful consideration sold the tract September 5th, to the following persons for the following amounts:

Joseph Howland and Daniel L Coit


Eliam Morgan and Daniel L Coit


Caleb Atwater


Daniel Holbrook


Joseph Williams


William Law


William Judd


Elisha Hyde and Uriah Tracy


James Johnston


Samuel Mather, Jr.


Ephraim Kirby, Elijah Boardman, Urial Holmes, Jr.


Solomon Griswold


Oliver Phelps and Gideon Granger, Jr.


William Hart


Henry Champion, 2nd


Asher Miller


Robert C Johnson


Ephraim Root


Nehemiah Hubbard, Jr.


Solomon Cowles


Oliver Phelps


Ashael Hathaway


John Caldwell and Pelig Sanford


Timothy Burr


Luther Loomis and Ebenezer King, Jr.


William Lyman, John Stoddard, and David King


Moses Cleaveland


Samuel P Lord


Roger Newbury, Enoch Perkins and Jonathan Brace


Ephraim Starr


Sylvanus Griswold


Jozeb Stocking and Joshua Stow


Titus Street


James Ball, Aaron Omstead and John Wiles


Pierpont Edwards



Amounting to


The early diaries show some little differences in names and amounts, the total always remaining the same, but the above is from a "Book of Drafts" in the recorder's office, at Warren. It was prepared by Hon. T. D. Webb, and given out by Joseph Perkins of Cleveland. Both men were accurate and painstaking.

The Connecticut Land Company

These then were the men who formed themselves into the Connecticut Land Company. So careful were they as to the letter of the law, so exacting as to the carrying out of their obligation, and such personal standing had they, that, whereas in tracing titles in most places in the United States one must go back to the grants made by the rules of the old world, in northeastern Ohio it is sufficient to go back only to the Connecticut Land Company.
In the beginning this territory was supposed to contain four million acres, but it was found later that early maps and sketches had been defective; that Lake Erie made a decided southern dip so that part of the land proved to be water with some air thrown in.
Below is a table prepared by Judge Frederick Kinsman, who was very accurate in all statements.

Quantity of Land in the Connecticut Western Reserve by Survey

Connecticut Land Company, land east of the Cuyahoga River, etc


Land west of the Cuyahoga River, exclusive of surplus islands


Surplus land (so called)


Islands Cunningham or Kelley's


Islands Bass or Bay No. 1


Islands Bass or Bay No. 2


Islands Bass or Bay No. 3


Islands Bass or Bay No. 4


Islands Bass or Bay No. 5





Amount of Connecticut Land Company land in acres


Parson's or "Salt Spring Tract" in acres


Sufferers' or Fire Lands,




Total number of acres in the Connecticut Western Reserve


The $1,200,000 received in payment was placed in Connecticut in its school fund and has always there remained.
Connecticut having obtained her western land by grant, having retained it by diplomacy and persistence, and having sold it to her satisfaction, watched with pride its development. Even at this writing a large part of the Western Reserve, particularly the eastern section, is quite as much like New England as Connecticut itself.

The Reserve of the Present

The width of the Western Reserve is the same as the widest part of Connecticut; that is, seventy-one and a half miles. It is nearly six per cent greater than the state of Connecticut.
When all the lines were drawn and the townships laid out, the Reserve did not divide into full and exact counties. Three townships of Ashland county are north of the forty-first parallel - Ruggles, Troy and Sullivan. This county is a large and prosperous one, but, as so much of it lies outside the Reserve, little in connection with it appears in this history.
The township of Danbury and part of the Islands belonging to Ottawa county lie east of the west line of the Fire Lands, and are a part of the country of which we are writing. The Southern tier of townships of Mahoning county are below the southern boundary of the Reserve, and they do not figure in this history. They are Springfield, Beaver, Green, Goshen and Smith.

The Nature of New Connecticut

What was the nature of this new Connecticut? It is heavy with excellent timber, oak, elm, maple, hickory, walnut, beech, etc. It was bounded on one side by a great blue lake deep enough to carry the trans-atlantic steamers of today, and containing more fish in proportion to its size than any known body of water in the United States.
It had several navigable rivers and numerous creeks and rivulets. The climate was temperate, a little colder in winter perhaps than the home state and possibly warmer in the summer. The surface soil was a rich sandy loam in the northern portion, running a little heavier with clay at the southern part.
Within this territory was the fine sandstone for building purposes and excellent flagging for walks, as the towns of today will testify.
Bituminous coal (now nearly exhausted) of the finest quality lay waiting to be mined.
The soil was adapted to fruit growing and the very strip of land over which the Cleveland surveyors passed is now almost covered with vineyards. The maple tree stood ready for service and today, in the northeastern portion, is made the the finest mapel syrup in the world.
The woods abounded in game and the streams in fish.
The land in some places is low and wet, and, in others, flat and uninteresting, whle there were rolling, hilly spots with touches of exquisite scenery.
Nature had done well by this part of the world and now man was to demonstrate what he could do with such a foundation. "The folks back home" - the land company - had bought this territory as the boys trade marbles, "unsight, unseen." New Englanders knew nothing of the flat fertle middle west. Their country was stony one and to them trees meant fertility. The Western Reserve was a forest; that satisfied them.
Some writers of the New Connecticut history say that into this vast forest, into this wild region, through whose woods and over whose hills no white man's foot had passed, came the advance guard, the surveyors of the Connecticut Land Company.
This statement is exaggeration. White men were here when the first surveyor arrived, and had been here, as travelers, missionaries, solders and traders long before.
Possibly La Salle with his party, going east and west, in 1682-83, walked the shores of Lake Erie (French forts were at Niagara, Presque Isle (Erie), and at the mouth of the Maumee); it is more probable that he took the north shore, however, since the Indians of that region were his friends.
The journals, diaries, survey books, etc., which are now being brought to light, show that in many parts of the Reserve, timber was felled by a white man's ax at a very early day. In 1840 Colonel Charles Whittlesey, who wrote an early history of Cleveland, says he examined a stump of an oak tree, in Canfield, which was two feet ten inches in diameter and "about" seven inches from the center where marks of an ax, perfectly distinct, over which 160 layers of annual growth had accumulated." Mr. Whittlesey procured a portion of the tree extending from the outside to the center on which the ancient and modern marks of the ax are equally plain; the tools being about the same breadth and in equally good order. "The Canfield tree must be considered a good record as far back as 1660." This block may be seen not in the Western Reserve Historical Society, in Cleveland.
Mr. Jason Hubbell, of Newburg, reported the finding of like marks which he estimated to have been made in 1690.
Mr. Lapham, of Willoughby, felled a tree in 1848 which was seen by many people of that time and the stump of which was in 1867 standing near the railroad track one mile and a half west of Willoughby. This showed 400 rings outside the cut, indicating it to have been chopped in 1448 or forty-four years before Columbus' landing at San Salvador. Mr. Whittlesey says some trees form two terminal buds a year and if this were so it would bring the date about 1648 or near the time of the other marks.
The early surveyors and settlers were usually good woodsmen; while not expert with the ax themselves they appreciated the good work in others. Being able to make the cleanest cut in felling a tree in the early days of the last century called froth as much admiration as the management of a huge industrial plant, or the forming of a great trust. There was no chance, therefore, of these ax marks being confused with those of the Indians. The "squaw axes" given the Indians between 1608-20 had different length of bit and the marks the red men made were entirely different in character. In fact, no matter how much we may sympathize with the Indians in the loss of their hunting grounds and the destruction of their tribes, we must admit that they did not take kindly to agriculture or manual labor, and few, if any, ever excelled in these directions.
"In 1815," says Mills, "a human jawbone was found in a roadway which had been cut through a mound. Near the bones was an artificial tooth of metal which exactly fitted a cavity in the jaw."
Jesuits were among the Iroquois Indians in New York as early as 1656, but it does not seem, even if they penetrated as far as the Reserve, that they could have chopped so many trees, because the number found 200 years later was too great for travelers to have made. Just why the Norsemen landed on our New England coast, when they were there, how long they really staid, will never be known positively, neither will the time when the white men visited the Ohio Lake region be determined, how long they staid, why they came, when they left. But we know that they, like the Norsemen, were here.
A. T. Goodman in a tract of the Western Reserve Historical Society says: "The earliest known occupation of the territory embraced within the limits of the state of Ohio by any collective body of white men was by the French in 1680." From that time until the conquest of Canada by the French, French traders were scattered throughout the territory, building a post, station or store at almost every Indian town. English traders first made their appearance in the Ohio country in 1699-1700. From that time until 1745 we hear of them at various towns and stations. In 1745 they built a small fort or blockhouse among the Hurons on the north side of Sandusky Bay, near the extreme western edge of the Reserve.
For many years previous to the coming of the surveyors of the Connecticut Land Company, men who made a business of trading with the Indians, bring to them provisions, trinkets and whiskey, taking in exchange furs, hides, etc., were staying - one could hardly call it living - between Pittsburg and the mouth of the Cuyahoga. Some of those men had married squaws and had children. The traders who brought their wives with them did not remain long. The Indians preferred to trade with squaw men, as they were at least connected with the tribe, and the hardships attending a frontier life and lack of companionship were a double burden which white women were not willing to endure when there was no promise of home. Some of the diaries of the first settlers which the author has examined state that the travelers came upon a cabin in the lower part of the Reserve, and saw a white woman at work. She gave a cry of joy at the sight of men coming from civilization. With trembling lips and moist eyes she begged them to partake of refreshments, saying she had not seen the face of a white woman in three years.
The Moravians were now and then in northern Ohio, at Sandusky, on the Lake islands, and for about a year, 1787-1787, on the east side of the Cuyahoga river. They were forced to leave during hostilities.
The presence of the French inthe Northwest Territory was distressing to the English. The Frenchman, principally because he was an explorer and not a colonizer, attached himself to the Indians. He did not buy land for beads and spoil the hunting grounds. He was no menace to the roving red man, and hence became an ally, not an enemy.

Clark and the Northwest

Just here the author wishes to introduce an interesting bit of history which applies only indirectly to the Western Reserve. James A. Garfield, when a representative in Congress, made an address for the Historical Society at Burton, Geauga county, in which he said:
"The cession of that great territory under the treaty of 1783 was due mainly to the foresight, the courage and the endurance of one man, who never received from his country any adequate recognition for this great service. That man was George Rogers Clark; and it is worth your while to consider the work he accomplished. Born in Virginia, he was in early life a surveyor, and afterwards, served in Lord Dunmore's War. In 1776 he settled in Kentucky, and was in fact the founder of that commonwealth. As the War of the Revolution progressed, he saw that the pioneers west of the Alleghanies were threatened by two formidable dangers; first by the Indians, many of whom had joined the standard of Great Britain; and, second, by the success of the war itself. For, should the colonies obtain their independence while the British held possession of the Mississippi valley, the Alleghanies would be the western boudary of the new republic, and the pioneers of the west would remain subject to Great Britain."
"Inspired by these views, he made two journeys to Virginia to represent the case to the authorities of that colony. Failing to impress the house of burgesses with the importance of warding off these dangers, he appealed to the governor, Patrick Henry, and received from him authority to enlist seven companies to go to Kentucky, subject to his orders, and serve for three months after their arrival in the west. This was a public commission."
"Another document, bearing date Williamsburg, January 2, 1778, was a great commission, which authorized him, in the name of Virginia, to capture the military posts held by the British in the northwest. Armed with this authority, he proceeded to Pittsburgh, where he obtained ammunition, and floated it down the river to Kentucky, succeeded in enlisting seven companies of pioneers, and in the month of June 1778, commended his march through the untrodden wilderness to the region of the Illinois. With a daring that is scarcely equaled in the annals of war, he captured the garrison of Kaskaskia, Saint Vincent and Cahokia, and sent his prisoners to the governor of Virginia, and by his energy and skill won over the French inhabitants of that region to the American cause." "In October, 1778, the house of burgesses passed an act declaring that "all the citizens of the commonwealth of Virginia, who are already settled there, or shall hereafter be settled on the west side of the Ohio, shall be included in the District of Kentucky, which shall be called Illinois County." In other words, George Rogers Clark conquered the Territory of the Northwest in the name of Virginia, and the flag of the republic covered it at the close of the war."
"In negociating the treaty of peace at Paris, in 1783, the British commissioners insisted on the Ohio river as the northwestern boundary of the United States; and it was found that the only tenable ground on which the American commissioners relied to sustain our claim to the Lakes and the Mississippi as the boundary was the fact that George Rogers Clark had conquered the country, and Virginia was in undisputed possession of it at the cessation of the hostilities."
"In his 'Notes on the Early Settlement of the Northwest Territory,' Judge Burnet says: 'That fact (the capture of the British posts) was confirmed and admitted, and was the chief ground on which the British commissioners reluctantly abandoned their claim.'"
"It is a strain upon the honor of our country that such a man - the leader of pioneers who made the first lodgment on the site now occupied by Louisville, who was in fact the founder of the state of Kentucky, and who by his personal foresight and energy gave nine great states to the republic - was allowed to sink under the load of debt incurred for the honor and glory of his country."

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