The Settlement of the Western Reserve
Honorable James A. Garfield
"Connecticut claimed a strip of land westward from Narragansett River to the Mississippi, between the parallel of 41 degrees and 42 degrees, 2 minutes; but that portion of her claim which crossed the territory of New York and Pennsylvania has been extinguished by adjustment. Her claim to the territory west of Pennsylvania was unsettled until September 14th, 1786, when she ceded it all to the United States, except that portion lying between the parallels above mentioned, and a line one hundred and twenty miles west of the western line of Pennsylvania and parallel with it. This tract of country was about the size of the present state and was called "New Connecticut."
"In May, 1792, the Legislature of Connecticut granted to those of her citizens whose property had been burned or otherwise spoliated by the British, during the War of the Revolution, half a million of acres from the west end of the Reserve. These were called "The Fire Lands.'
"On the 5th of September, 1795, Connecticut executed a deed to John Caldwell, Jonathan Brace and John Morgan, trustees for the Conn. Land Co., for three million acres of the Reserve, lying west of Pennsylvania, for one million two hundred thousand dollars, or at the rate of forty percent per acre. The state gave only a quit-claim deed, transferring only such title as she possessed, and leaving all the remaining Indian titles to the Reserve to be extinguished by the purchasers themselves. With the exception of a few hundred acres previously sold, in the neighborhood of the Salt Spring Tract, on the Mahoning, all titles to lands on the Reserve east of "The Fire Lands' rest upon this quitclaim deed of Connecticut to the three trustees, who were all living as late as 1886, and joined in making deeds to lands on the Reserve.
"Three days afterward, General Cleveland held a council with Paqua, Chief of the Massassaugas, whose village was at Conneaut Creek. The friendship of these Indians was purchased by a few trinkets and twenty-five dollars worth of whiskey.
"A cabin was erected on the bank of Conneaut Creek; and, in honor of the commissary of the expedition, was call 'Stow Castle.' At this time, the white inhabitants west of the Genesee River, and along the coasts of the lakes, were as follows: The garrison at Niagara, two families at Lewiston, one at Buffalo, one at Cleveland, and one at Sandusky. There were no other families east of Detroit, and, with the exception of a few adventurers at Salt Springs, the interior of New Connecticut was an unbroken wilderness.
"The work of surveying was commenced at once. One party went southward on the Pennsylvania line to find the 41st parallel, and began the survey; another, under General Cleveland, coasted along the lake to the mouth of the Cuyahoga, which they reached on the 22d of July, and there laid the foundation of one of the chief cities of the Reserve. A large portion of the survey was made during that season, and the work was completed in the following year.
"By the close of the year 1800, there were thirty-two settlements on the Reserve, though as yet, no organization of government had been established. But the pioneers were a people who had been trained in the principles and practice of civil order; and these were transplanted in their new home. In New Connecticut there was but little of that lawlessness which so often characterizes the people of a new country. In many instances a township organization was completed and their minister chosen before the pioneers left home. Thus they planted the institutions and opinion of Old Connecticut in their new wilderness homes.
"There are townships on the Western Reserve which are more thoroughly New England in character and spirit than most of the towns of the New England of today.
Cut off as they were from the metropolitan life that has gradually been molding and changing the spirit of New England, they preserved here in the wilderness the characteristics of New England as it was when they left it at the beginning of the century. This has given to the people of the Western Reserve those strongly marked qualities which have always distinguished them.
"For a long time it was difficult to ascertain the political and legal status of the settlers on the Reserve. The State of Connecticut did not assume jurisdiction over its people, because that state had parted with her claim to the soil.
"On the same day that the trust deed was made, articles of association were signed by the proprietors, providing for the government of the company. The management of its affairs was entrusted to seven directors. They determined to extinguish the Indian title, and survey their land into townships five miles square. Moses Cleveland, one of the directors, made General Agent, while Augustus Porter was appointed Principal Surveyor and Seth Pease Astronomer and Surveyor. To these were added four assistant surveyors, a commissary, a physician, and thirty-seven other employees. This party assembled at Schenectady, New York in the spring of 1796 and prepared for their expedition.
"It is interesting to follow them on their journey to the Reserve. They ascended the Mohawk River in a bateau, passing through the locks of Little Falls, and from the present city of Rome took their boats and stores" across into Wood Creek. Passing down that stream, they crossed the Oneida Lake, down to Oswego to Lake Ontario. Casting along the Lake thence to Niagara, after encountering innumerable hardships, the party reached Buffalo on the 17th of June, where they met 'Red Jacket,' and the principal chiefs of the Six Nations and, on the 23d of that month completed a contract with those chiefs, by which they purchased all the rights of those Indians to the lands on the Reserve, for five hundred pounds, New York currency, to be paid in goods, to the Western Indians, and two beef cattle and one hundred gallons of whiskey to the Eastern Indians, besides gifts and provisions to all of them.
"Setting out from Buffalo on the 27th of June, they coasted along the shore of the lake, some of the party in boats and others marking along the banks. In the journal of Seth Pease, published in Whittlesey's 'History of Cleveland', I find the following:
'Monday, July 4th, 1796, - We that came by land arrived at the confines of New Connecticut and gave three cheers precisely at 5 o'clock p.m. We then proceeded to Conneaut, at five hours thirty minutes, our boats got on an hour after; we pitched our tents on the east side.'
"In the journal of General Cleveland is the following entry:
'On this creek (Conneaut, in New Connecticut Land) July 4th, 1796, under Gen.
Moses Cleveland, the surveyors and men sent by the Connecticut Reserve, and were the
first English people who took possession of it.'
*** We gave three cheers and christened the place Fort Independence, and, after many difficulties, perplexities and hardships were surmounted and we were on the good promised land, felt that a just tribute of respect to the day ought to be paid. There were, in all, including women and children, fifty in number. The men, under Capt. Tinker, ranged themselves on the beach and fired a Federal salute of fifteen rounds and then the sixteenth in honor of New Connecticut. Drank several toasts.
*** Closed with three cheers. Drank several pails of grog. Supped and retired in good order.'
"By a proclamation of Gov. Sinclair in 1788, Washington County had been organized, having its limits extended westward to the Scioto and northward to the mouth of the Cuyahoga, with Marietta as the county seat. These limits included a portion of the Western Reserve. But the Connecticut settlers did not consider this a practical government and most of them doubted its legality.
"By the end of the century, seven counties, Washington, Hamilton, Ross, Wayne, Adams, Jefferson, and Knox, had been created, but none of them were of any practical service to the settlers on the Reserve. No magistrate had been appointed for that portion of the country; no civil process was established; and no mode existed of making legal conveyances.
"But, in the year 1800, the State of Connecticut, by act of her legislature, transferred to the National Government, all her claim to civil jurisdiction. Congress assumed the political control and the President conveyed by patent the fee of the soil to the government of the state for the use of the grantees and the parties claiming under them. Whereupon, in pursuance of this authority, on the 22d of September, 1800, Gov. St. Clair issued a proclamation establishing the County of Trumbull, to include within its boundaries the 'Fire Lands' and adjacent islands, and ordered an election to be held at Warren, its county seat, on the second Tuesday of October. At that election, forty-two votes were cast, of which Gen. Edward Pain received thirty-eight and was thus elected a member of the Territorial Legislature. All the early deeds on the Reserve are preserved in the records of Trumbull County.
"A treaty was held near Sandusky on the 4th day of July between the commissioners of the Connecticut Land Company and the Indians, by which all the lands in the Reserve west of Cuyahoga, belonging to the Indians, were ceded to the Connecticut Company.
"Geauga was the second county of the Reserve. It was created by an act of the legislature December 31st, 1805; and by a subsequent act, its boundaries were made to include the present territory of Cuyahoga County, as far west as the 14th range.
Portage County was established on the 10th of February 1807, and, on the 15th of June 1810, the act establishing Cuyahoga County went into operation. By this act all of Geauga west of the Ninth Range was made a part of Cuyahoga County. Ashtabula County was established on the 22nd of January, 1811.
"A considerable number of Indians remained on the Western Reserve until the breaking out of the War of 1812. Most of the Canadian tribes took up arms against the United States in that struggle, and a portion of the Indians of the Western Reserve joined their Canadian brethren. At the close of that war, occasional bands of these Indians returned to their old haunts on the Cuyahoga and the Mahoning; but the inhabitants of the Reserve soon made them understand that they were unwelcome visitors, after the part they had taken against us. Thus the War of 1812 substantially cleared the Reserve of its Indian inhabitants.
"In this brief survey I have attempted to indicate the general character of the leading events connected with the discovery and settlement of our country. I cannot on this occasion further pursue the history of the settlement and building up of the counties and townships of the Western Reserve. I have already noticed the peculiar character of the people who converted this wilderness into the land of happy homes which we now behold on every hand. But I desire to call attention of the young men and women who hear me to the duty they owe to themselves and their ancestors to study carefully and reverently the history of the great work which has been accomplished in this new Connecticut.
"The pioneers who first broke ground here accomplished a work unlike that which will fall to the lot of any succeeding generation. The hardships they endured, the obstacles they encountered, the life they led, the peculiar qualities needed for success in their undertakings, and the traits of character developed by their work stand out alone in our history. The generation that knew these first pioneers is fast passing away. But there are sitting in the audience today a few men and women whose memories date back to the birth of the Western Reserve. Here sits a gentleman near me, who is older than the Western Reserve. He remembers a time when the axe of the Connecticut pioneer had never awakened the echoes of the wilderness of the Reserve. How strange and wonderful a transformation has taken place since he was a child! It is our sacred duty to rescue from oblivion the stirring recollections of such men, and preserve them as memorials of the past, as lessons for our own inspiration, and for the instruction of those who shall come after us.
"The materials for a history of this Reserve are rich and abundant. Its pioneers were not ignorant and thoughtless adventurers, but men of established character, whose opinions and civil and religious liberty had grown with their growth, and become the settled convictions of their mature years. Both here and in Connecticut, the family records, journals, and letters which are preserved in hundreds of families, if brought out and arranged in order, would throw a flood of light on every page of our history. Even the brief notice which informed the citizens of this county that a meeting was to be held here today to organize a Pioneer Society has called this great audience together; and they have brought with them many rich historical memorials. They have shown us implements of industry which the pioneers brought in with them, many of which have been superseded by the superior mechanical contrivances of our time. Some of these implements are symbols of the spirit and character of the pioneers of the Reserve, here is a broad-axe brought from Connecticut by John Ford, father of a late governor of Ohio; and we are told that the first work done with this axe, by that sturdy old pioneer, after he had finished a few cabins for the families that came with him, was to hew out the timbers for an academy - the Burton Academy, to which so many of our older men owe the foundation of their education, and from which sprang the Western Reserve College.
“These pioneers knew well that the three great forces which constitute the strength and glory of a free government are - the family, the school, and the church. These three they planted here, and they nourished and cherished them with an energy and devotion scarcely equaled in any other quarter of the world. On this height were planted in the wilderness the symbols of this trinity of powers; and here let us hope may be maintained forever the ancient faith of our fathers in the sanctity of the home, the intelligence of the school, the faithfulness of church. Where these three combine in prosperous union, the safety and prosperity of the nation is assured. The glory of our country can never be dimmed while these three lights are kept shining with undimmed luster."
February, 1874, Western Reserve Chronicle