THE CONNECTICUT WESTERN RESERVE
For us today it’s hard to think about a time when Ohio didn’t exist, and this section of the state was a part of the state of Connecticut, but such was the case until the Continental Congress passed legislation that ordered the original states to divest themselves of their holdings outside of their state boundaries. That was when the great move westward began.
To handle the sales of land, the Connecticut Land Company was formed, and it was to this group that John Young and Nathaniel Dabney went.
While the territory had been mapped, no one really knew what this area held, and the fact that it was inhabited by Indians who had fought on the side of the French during the French and Indian War, the value was set low enough to encourage sales, but high enough to make a profit for the Land Company.
THE WESTERN RESERVE
The basis for this chapter is the work of F.E. Hutchins, Esq., which is the text of an address to The Women’s Friendly Union, April 15, 1898 in Warren, and later published by the Ohio State Archeological and Historical Society (VOL. VII).
Rather than try to piece together the fragments written by the more recent historians, we will divert from the use of newspaper articles, to deliver the address, for we believe that if the Society thought it to be trustworthy enough to preserve, it is the most reliable authority.
THE WESTERN RESERVE
IT PLAYED AN IMPORTANT PART IN
THE HISTORY OF OHIO AND THE NATION
By F. E. Hutchins, Esq.
The Connecticut Western reserve, or as it is commonly called, “The Western Reserve”, has from the beginning played an important part not only in the affairs of the State of Ohio, but also in those of the United States. While there is a very good general idea of what this “reserve” now is, especially among its own people and those of the state, but little is generally known of its origin, history, settlement, and the reason for its name. The subject is much too extensive to be treated except in the most general way, upon such an occasion as this.
It had its origin in the most prolific source of controversies among men and nations - a dispute as to boundary - and was the result of that which it adopted as in this case, would prevent much of war and litigation - a compromise.
From the first settlement of this country by the early Pilgrims, the British sovereigns, from “Good Queen Bess”, down to the time of our revolution, had made extensive grants of land in this country to the different colonies, and provinces here, and to favorites of the Crown, and some payment of debts and obligations, notably, so far as this talk is concerned, to Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Maryland and Virginia, and to Lord Baltimore and William Penn.
Bears Den in Mill Creek Park
Some of these grants extended clear across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific, while others had definite extent and boundaries, frequently conflicting with the overlapping upon each other, so that under these grants, different provinces and different persons claimed the same land. And as none any other title than from the British Crown, indefinite confusions and disputes ensued. These disputes became so fierce as to result in armed hostilities and in the shedding of blood. They were many times before the Colonial Congress, and they delayed the acceptance of the Articles of Confederation, which were not finally accepted by the Thirteen Colonies until 1777, Maryland being the last to come in.
Many of the most distinguished citizens and statesmen of that time took part in the endeavor to adjust these disputes and settle these conflicting claims, and their efforts were finally crowned with success, resulting in the cession and surrender of these disputed claims and lands to the general Government for the benefit of all the states.
[Non-pertinent material omitted.]
But to return to our history of the Reserve. As I have said, the States having claims to the western territory surrendered the same to the general Government. Connecticut in doing so by her deed of cession of September 14, 1786, reserved a tract of land bounded north by the forty-first parallel north latitude and west by a line parallel with one hundred and twenty miles west from the Pennsylvania line.
Practically the northern line is Lake Erie, so that this territory is bounded north by Lake Erie, east by Pennsylvania, south by forty-one degrees north latitude, and west by a line parallel with one hundred and twenty miles west of the Pennsylvania line. And this is the “Connecticut Western Reserve,” and so called because Connecticut, in surrendering her claims to western lands, reserved to herself this territory and did not grant it by her deed of cession.
By reference to your maps you will see that this forty-first parallel of north latitude - the southern boundary of the reserve - passes through the northern part of Mahoning and Summit counties, two-thirds of Mahoning, Portage, Geauga, Lake and Cuyahoga, and the most of Summit, Medina, Lorain and Huron counties.
Lanterman Falls in Mill Creek Park
During the Revolutionary War, many people of Connecticut had seriously suffered, chiefly from fire, from the incursions of the British troops, and the State being poorly able to compensate them in money decided to do so in land. Accordingly the General Assembly of that state appointed a committee to determine the names and losses of these sufferers. The number was thus determined to be 1,870, and the aggregate of the losses calculated, and on may 11, 1792, the State quit-claim for the benefit of those sufferers its title to 500,000 acres of land lying across the west end of the Western Reserve, embracing what are now the counties of Erie and Huron. And this tract has ever since been known as “The Fire Lands.” After the cession of her western claims to the general government and the use of the Fire Lands portion of the Reserve to pay her debts to some of her people, it became a serious question with Connecticut what to do with the remainder of the Western Reserve. It was not exactly like a “White Elephant” on her lands, for it cost her nothing, but it was quite like one in the respect that she had no use for it and could not sell it. She tried to sell it and failed. It was a long way off from Connecticut, was a wilderness scarcely known, and was inhabited only by savages, who claimed and had an older and better title than she had. Besides, her own title was liable to serious objections and was in great danger of being superseded by their better title of the United States, derived either from the cessions from the other states claiming the same territory, or, if they had no title, from the treaty of peace with Great Britain which ceded to the United States all her claims to this territory. There was another reason, to be mentioned later, why Connecticut found it difficult to sell the Western Reserve, but finally in September, 1795, she sold the whole remaining tract, without measurement, to thirty-five persons for $1,200,000. This, the largest land sale ever made in Ohio, was purely a matter of speculation.
The purchase was suppose to contain over 4,000,000 acres, and at just 4,000,000 acres. the original price of all the land in the Western Reserve, except the Fire Lands, was thirty cents an acre. But, because Lake Erie, the northern boundary, took toward the west, a more southernly trend than was supposed or shown by the old maps, the amount was in fact, less than three million acres. The fact that a mistake of over a million acres could be then condition of this part of the country, and how little was known of it.
This $1,200,000, with its accumulated interest, has for many years constituted the entire common school fund for the State of Connecticut. It could not have been put to better use.
The purchase was made upon credit, the purchasers given their several bonds for several sums aggregating $1,200,000, and afterwards generally secured their payments by mortgages. While the purchase was nominally made by thirty-five persons, there were fifty-eight interested in it. These organized themselves into what is known as “The Connecticut Land Company”, caused the purchase to be surveyed into townships five miles square, and subsequently divided it among the owners in proportion to the sum paid by each, of the sum of the $1,200,000 purchase price.
There is much interesting history connected with this part of the transaction, but the time or the occasion does not serve to state here; but there are a few facts connected with it that ought to be more generally known. Usually in tracing title to land in this country, and whenever that title is in dispute, it is necessary, in order to maintain it, to trace the title, in regular succession, either to a sovereign state or to the United States, the only recognized source of the title to lands. But on the Western Reserve, outside of the Fire Lands, it is necessary to trace it back only to the Connecticut Land Company. This is because by the act of its legislature, all the title that Connecticut had to this part of the Reserve passed to and vested in that company, so that if the state had title, this company had, and any title properly derived from it must be good and it is unnecessary to go back any further. And on the other hand, if Connecticut had no title originally, because of the better title in one or more states, yet these had conveyed their title to the General Government, and if none of them had title to the treaty of peace with Great Britain, and when later, as will be mentioned, it accepted governmental jurisdiction over the Reserve, it confirmed the title of Connecticut and of the Land Company. So that there is no place where there is better or more security for the land titles than on the Reserve, as they merge the title of all the claimant States of the United States, and of Great Britain. But even this, as in the case of most original land grabbers, takes no account of the better Indian title, of which I shall speak later.
Another matter of interest is the frequency with which the names of persons occur in the names of the townships on the Reserve. As I have said, the Connecticut Land Company apportioned its land in proportion to the sum paid by the original purchasers. In some cases, one paid for and took a whole township and called it after his name. Thus Cleveland was named for General Moses Cleveland, Warren for Moses Warren, one of the surveyors and proprietors; Youngstown for John Young, and many others in the same way.
Another matter of interest and of more importance is the way land is described on the Reserve, as to the township in which it lies, on deeds of conveyance. Originally, and to a great extent still, it is described as being in township number - of Range - west, in the Connecticut Western Reserve, and this is quite as accurate and certain without the name of the township or even the county as with it. As I have said, the southwest corner of the Western Reserve is the intersection of the western line of Pennsylvania with the forty-first parallel of north latitude. The surveyors laid off the Reserve into townships five miles square, beginning five miles west of this southern corner, and running north to the north boundary, Lake Erie. Other parallel lines, five miles apart, were run until the western boundary was reached. The space between these lines were called ranges. Thus, the first or the one next to the Pennsylvania line, was called Range One, the next, Range Two, and so on. Then lines were run traversaly, or east and west, five miles apart, beginning five miles north of the boundary line. The space between these lines were called townships, and were numbered consecutively from the southern lines, so that a township was accurately described by stating in what range it was west, and the number of township north. Thus Youngstown is Township Two of Range Two, for it is the second township north of the southern boundary and in the second range of townships west of the Pennsylvania line. Warren is township four because it is the fourth one north, and range four, because it is the fourth range of townships west of the Pennsylvania line.
[Non-pertinent material omitted.]
In his address, Mr. Hutchins referred to the erroneous 1797 date for the founding of Youngstown, but the 1796 date has since been accepted by the City of Youngstown, the Mahoning Valley Historical Society, and Mahoning County.
We must stress that intensive work was involved in researching the true date by the Historical Society, and that they have in their possession all of the material that went into that research, thus legally establishing the 1796 date once and for all times, and we have no intention of questioning it in order to satisfy the egos of those who still cling to the 1797 date.
The Wick-Schaff monograph states that John Young and his party arrived here on June 27, 1796, just one week before General Moses Cleveland and his party arrived at Conneaut on July 4th, 1796.
That same year, Young sold a parcel of land to Daniel Shehy, who took immediate possession and started to build his home, as that was one of the terms of the sale.