The company was formed, consisting principally of officers of the Revolutionary army and other wealthy and influential citizens of New Jersey. However, the benefits of the contract were not confined exclusively to the company. The public at large were invited to participate, and every person who chose might become an associate, and take as much land at first cost as they could pay for. John Cleves SYMMES then submitted a proposition to Congress, dated at the city of New York, on the 29th day of August, 1787, to purchase for himself and his associates all the land lying between the Miami Rivers, south of a line drawn due west from the western termination of the northern boundary line of the Ohio Company's purchase, made by Messrs. SARGENT and CUTLER, on the same terms as the grant made to that company, excepting only, that instead of two townships for the site of a university, one only might be assigned for the benefit of an academy. The probable expectation of Mr. SYMMES, and also of the Congress of the United States, at the time, was that the boundaries designated in his petition would include about one million of acres of land. But the geography of the country being then imperfectly known, subsequent surveyors have ascertained that a parallel of latitude extending due west from the northern boundary line of the Ohio company's purchase would pass several miles south of Dayton, and would not include more than half a million of acres. On the application of Mr. SYMMES the Congress of the United States, on the 2d day of October 1787, made an order that the petition and proposals of John Cleves SYMMES should be referred to the Board of Treasury to take order thereon.
The treasury board seems to have assented to the proposals of Mr. SYMMES, and made an agreement with him for the sale of the tracts of land mentioned in his petition. However, no specific written contract appears to have been executed at the time, except the petition of Mr. SYMMES and the order made thereon. The conditions of the contract appears to have been that the tract of land should be surveyed by the geographer of the United States, (Thomas HUTCHINS was geographer of the United States; however, he went out of office in 1790, and no other was selected until Rufus PUTNAM was appointed surveyor general of the United States in 1796.) and the contents ascertained. Mr. SYMMES and his associates were to lay off the tract into townships of six miles square, and sections of one mile square, according to the land ordinance of the 20th of May, 1785: Section No. 16, in each township, was given for the support of public schools; section No. 29 for the purposes of religion; and sections Nos. 8, 11, and 26 in each township were reserved by Congress for future disposition. Also, one complete township was given for the purpose of an academy or college, to be laid off by the purchasers as nearly opposite to the mouth of Licking River as an entire township could be found eligible -- in point of soil and situation, to be applied to the intended object by the Legislature of the State. The price of the land was to be two-thirds of a dollar per acre, and Mr. SYMMES at the time paid into the treasury the sum of $82,198 on account of the purchase money, the principal part of which was advanced by his associates.
On the 25th of November, 1787, John Cleves SYMMES published his "Terms of Sale and Settlement of Miami Lands," addressed to the public, and had one thousand copies of them printed in small pamphlet form at Trenton, New Jersey, and distributed among the people. The plan, as laid down in the pamphlet, stated distinctly-the interest which Mr. SYMMES was to have in the contract. He reserved for his own use and benefit the entire township lying lowest down in the point of land, formed by the Ohio and Miami Rivers, and the three fractional parts of townships which might lie northwest and southwest between such entire township and the waters of the Ohio and Great Miami, estimated to contain about forty thousand acres of land. He engaged to pay for this land himself, and lay out a handsome town plat thereon, with eligible streets, and lots of sixty feet front and rear, and one hundred and twenty feet deep, every other lot of which was to be given freely to any person who should first apply for the same. Lot number one to be retained, and lot number two to be given away, and thus, alternately, throughout the town, upon condition that the person so applying for and accepting of a lot or lots should build a house or cabin on each lot so given, within two years after the date of the first payment made to the treasury board, and occupy the same by keeping some family therein for the first three years after building. And every person who should accept a town lot should have the privilege of cutting on the proprietor's land adjacent as much timber for building as he should need during the term of three years from the time when he first began to build on his lot.
Mr. SYMMES's associates consented that he should hold and dispose of this tract of land for his own benefit. They had the privilege of selecting as much of the residue of the purchase as they saw proper, and the community at large were invited to become associates, and to locate as much of the lands as they desired at the contract price. To induce them to do so without loss of time, it was stated that after the first day of May, 1788, the price of the land would be one dollar per acre, and after the first of November, thence following, the price would be still further increased as the settlement of the country would justify. It was, however, expressly stipulated that all money received above the original price should be applied towards the making of roads and bridges in the purchase.
It was also stipulated that a register should be appointed to superintend the locations and sales of the lands, and to receive and apply the surplus money for the purposes designated. This stipulation, however, was never fulfilled. Mr. SYMMES acted as register himself, and received all moneys paid, as well after as before the augmentation of the price.
It was also stipulated in the terms of sale and settlement that every purchaser of a section or quarter section which he might have located, if it could be done with safety, must continue such settlement and improvement, or live in the country in some station of defense for seven years, unless succeeded by others who should supply his place. Persons failing to comply with these terms were to forfeit the one-sixth part of each tract, to be taken off in a square at the north-east corner of the section or quarter section, which should revert to the register for the time being, in trust, so far as to authorize him to grant to any volunteer settler who should first make application to the register therefor previous to any settlement being made thereon by the proprietor or some for him, upon condition, however, that such volunteer settler should immediately proceed to make an improvement on the land, and continue his settlement or live in some station in the country for defense, as required of the proprietor or first locator. And after seven years' occupancy by the volunteer settler he was entitled to receive a deed from the register for the one-sixth part of the tract so forfeited, without any charge except the fee of one-third of a dollar to the register for making the deed.
The plan was well calculated to hasten the settlement of the country, and appears to be founded on justice and propriety, as it was no more than reasonable that those who became the owners of the soil should in some way contribute to the defense of the country by personal service or by some other person for them. The difficulty of first opening and making roads in a new country, covered with a dense forest, is a heavy tax on the first settlers, to which the owners of the land ought all to contribute; hence, the justice of the measure, that those who failed to aid in the settlement and defense of the country should forfeit a part of their land to those who underwent the original dangers and hardships. The settlement of one family on the forfeited sixth part of a section would, in reality, make the remainder of the tract of more value than otherwise the whole would have been in a wilderness.
Many non-residents who purchased land from Mr. SYMMES failed to comply with the terms of sale and settlement, and consequently forfeited a sixth part of their land, which, as the country began to be settled, was soon occupied by volunteer settlers. Hence many of the titles to land in the Miami purchase are derived from that source.
Early in the Summer of 1788 Judge SYMMES, in company with a number of families, set out from New Jersey for the Western country to commence a settlement on his purchase. The contract not having been finally closed with him by written agreement, Congress, on learning that fact, and recollecting certain statements which had recently been made in sense of the public prints of the day on the subject of Western lands, became alarmed. They considered it probable that the object of Judge SYMMES was to get possession of the land he proposed to purchase, and then set them at defiance. Under that impression a resolution was offered in Congress ordering Colonel HARMAR, who was then stationed with his regiment at Fort McIntosh, at the mouth of Beaver, thirty miles below Pittsburg, to distress him, directing the expense to be paid out of the money deposited by Mr. SYMMES on his purchase, and the remainder of the sum to be returned to him. Fortunately, Dr. Elias BOUDINOT and General Jonathan DAYTON, two of his associates, were in Congress at the time, and were enabled to make such explanations as induced a withdrawal of the resolution. They immediately dispatched a messenger after Mr. SYMMES, who found him at Pittsburg. To remedy the difficulty he executed a power of attorney, dated the 10th day of August, 1788, to Jonathan DAYTON and Daniel MARSH, two of his associates, authorizing them to close the contract in such form as they might think proper. The messenger returned to New York with the document, and Mr. SYMMES proceeded to the Miami country.
As soon as the agents received the letter of attorney they consulted with the associates, and on their advice prepared and executed a contract of three parts, bearing date the 15th of October, 1788, between the commissioners of the Board of Treasury of the first part, Jonathan DAYTON and Daniel MARSH of the second part, and John Cleves SYMMES and his associates of the third part, for the purchase of all that certain tract or parcel of land situate and being in the Western country adjoining to the Ohio River; beginning on the bank of the same river, at a point exactly twenty miles distant along the several courses of the same, from the place where the great river Miami enters itself into the said river Ohio by the several courses thereof to the said Great Miami River; thence up the said river Miami, along the several courses thereof to a place from whence a line drawn due east will intersect a line drawn from the place of beginning aforesaid, parallel with the general course of the Miami River, so as to include one million of acres within those lines and the said rivers.
The price of the land was two-thirds of a dollar per acre, one-seventh part of which was payable in United States military land warrants, and the residue in gold or silver, or certificates of debt due from the United States, not including interest, for which new certificates or indents were to be issued. The sum of $82,198 having already been paid into the treasury by Mr. SYMMES, a further payment of $82,198 was required to be paid within one month from the time the geographer or some other person authorized by the United States should survey and mark the boundary lines of the whole tract, and return a map of it to the Board of Treasury, the residue of the purchase money to be paid in six semi-annual installments, and on the payment of each installment a patent was to issue for a proportionate quantity of land. The contract contains a provision that if Judge SYMMES and his associates should fail to perform the condition of the contract it should inure to the benefit of Jonathan DAYTON, Daniel MARSH, and their associates, who covenanted, in that case, to perform it for themselves.
The certificates of debt of the United States were then selling at about twenty-five cents for a dollar. As the contract authorized one-seventh of each installment to be paid in military land warrants, General DAYTON was appointed to receive them. A sufficient quantity of those warrants having been put into his hands to cover a range of townships, the third entire range was set apart for that purpose, and afterwards, on the thirtieth day of October, 1794, a deed of conveyance was made by Judge SYMMES to General DAYTON, in trust for the owners of the warrants. From that circumstance it obtained the name of the military range. In this range the township of Hamilton is situated. A map of the country was made by Judge SYMMES, as accurately as it could be expected to be drawn before an actual survey. It was laid off into ranges of six miles wide, extending from the Great Miami River to the Little Miami River, and numbered from south to north. Two fractional ranges, however, adjoin the Ohio River, lying south of the first entire range. Each range is divided into townships of six miles square, and numbered from west to east, commencing at the Great Miami River. Each township is subdivided into thirty-six sections of one mile square, and numbered from south to north, beginning at the southeast corner of the township.
In the Fall of 1788 or early part of the Winter, Judge SYMMES employed thirteen surveyors to lay out and subdivide the country into townships and sections as required by his contract He directed Israel LUDLOW, one of his surveyors, in whom he had most confidence, to begin at a point as far south as he could discover in the most southerly bend of land on the bank of the Ohio River, between the Miami Rivers, and run a meridian or north line from the bank of the Ohio River six miles north, and monument the line of termination. He was further instructed by Judge SYMMES to survey or run a due west line from the point where the meridian of six miles terminated to the Great Miami River, and also a due east line to the Little Miami River, and to graduate this line into mile distances, set stakes and monuments, and mark trees at each mile along this base or first east and west line for corners of sections. This was called the base line. It is the line running east and west, three miles north of the old corporation-line of the city of Cincinnati, and passing on the south side of Cumminsville. Agreeably to Judge SYMMES's instructions, Israel LUDLOW commenced at a point on the Ohio, about four miles below Cincinnati, and ran a meridian line six miles north and monumented the termination of the six miles. The point of termination is the corner of sections Nos. 3, 4, 9, 10 in town two of the second fractional range, about half a mile north-east of Cheviot, Green Township, Hamilton County. The line run from the Ohio River was called the first meridian, and was extended by Mr. LUDLOW until it struck the Great Miami River between two and three miles below the town of Hamilton. The surveyors were then directed to commence each at a stake or corner made on their base line, and to survey and run meridian lines according to the magnetic needle, fifteen miles north from the base line, and set stakes and mark trees at the termination of each mile as corners to sections. The east and west lines of the sections were not run by Judge SYMMES's surveyors, but were left open to be run by those who might purchase the land. At the termination of the fifteen miles from the base line, the third or military range commenced, which Judge SYMMES said belonged solely to the military gentlemen, and that he had no right to interfere in the survey of that range. A line was run north from the termination of the fifteen miles, six miles across the third range, without marking or making corners, and then an east and west line was run from the Great Miami to the Little Miami Rivers, and graduated into mile distances, and corners established as on the first base line. This formed the south boundary of the fourth range, where the lands of Judge SYMMES recommenced, to which the several surveyors were directed to repair and continue their surveys north in the same manner they had done from the first base line. On reaching about one mile north of the sixth range it was discovered that, in consequence of hilly ground or inaccuracies in chaining, the stakes set as corners for sections did not correspond with each other on a due east and west line; hence a correction was made by running another east and west line from one river to the other, from which they commenced their surveys anew, and continued to move on, laying out the country into townships and sections for about thirty miles north of where the town of Dayton now is. This plan of laying out the country without closing the survey of sections by running east and west lines to connect the survey, it will be perceived, was readily subject to great inaccuracy. Hence, scarcely two sections in the purchase could be found of the same shape and contents. This now is particularly noticeable in the townships of Fairfield and Union. One surveyor might pass over level ground and his chain-carriers measure correctly; another might have to pass over rough, hilly ground, or his chain-carriers might be careless, and measure inaccurately or make mistakes.
The surveys were made in the Winter of 1788-89, which was very severe and cold, and the Indians being hostile, none knew at what moment they might be fired on from some ambuscade by the lurking foe. Hence, it is not at all surprising that, after running a few miles, the stakes set would not correspond with each other on a due east and west line. In some instances the corner of a section is more than a quarter of a mile north or south of the corresponding corner on the other side of the section. Indeed, it is uncertain if there is a single section in the purchase the corresponding corners of which are on the same east and west line.
Some few years afterwards, as the country became settled, these irregularities were discovered, and found to be embarrassing, and were loudly complained of. To remedy the difficulty, Judge SYMMES, four or five years afterwards, after many of the sections had been improved, got Israel LUDLOW and John DUNLAP, two of his surveyors, carefully to remeasure the meridian line which forms the eastern boundary of the section on which the city of Cincinnati is laid out, and set up new stakes and make new corners at the end of each mile. This he declared to be the standard line, and the new corners made according to the remeasurement to be the true corners of the sections. This line is about five miles east of the town of Hamilton, and is the meridian which passes through the town of Springdale, and the line between Fairfield and Union Townships, in Butler County. Judge SYMMES directed purchasers to run east and west lines from the new corners made on the standard line, and establish their corners at the points of intersection on the meridians. This plan, if persisted in, would have changed every original corner in the purchase, and rendered confusion more confounded.
A year or two afterwards a considerable portion of the country in the neighborhood of Springdale was resurveyed, according to Judge SYMMES's directions, from the standard line, and new corners made. Many persons claimed by the new corners as regulated from the standard line, others claimed to hold by the old corners, and consequently a number of law-suits were commenced. At length the difficulty was settled by a decision of the Supreme Court, confirming the old corners, on the ground that the original survey had been made, and returned to the Treasury Department under the authority of Congress as the contract required, and no power had been given to alter or change it.
It appears that John DUNLAP, one of Judge SYMMES's surveyors, who ran the meridian line between the first and second townships in the second entire range, when he struck what was formerly called the pond, below Hamilton, a little west of where the rendering factory was, believed he had struck the Great Miami River. In his field-notes Mr. DUNLAP says: "At seventy chains struck Miami. It runs south 420 west, a fine, high bank on this side that can't overflow; the bottom good. On the other side of the river there is a large prairie. Marked a black oak on the bank of the river, and made an offset of seven chains east, and then ran north ten chains up the river (east up the pond, however); thence from the river east eighty chains to my stake, No. 20, along the south side of the military range."
From this it is evident he struck the pond and not the river, the ground corresponding with his notes and the prairie mentioned, as on the other side of the river is the prairie, lying between the pond and river. In fact, in 1809, on making a survey to identify the line in relation to a law-suit the small black oak-tree, then lying down, was found at the place with the original marks on it, as described in the field-notes.
In the month of June, 1790, Jonathan DAYTON, who claimed the third range in trust for certain military gentlemen who had deposited military land warrants with him in payment for the land, appointed Israel LUDLOW and John S. GANO as surveyors to subdivide that range into townships and sections. Previous to beginning the survey, GANO, LUDLOW, and Judge SYMMES had a consultation together concerning the mode of ascertaining the southern boundary of the range; the result of which consultation was to commence at the intersection of the base and standard lines, and run north with the standard lines fifteen miles, and from that point run an east and west line for the southern boundary of the military range. GANO and LUDLOW then proceeded to measure fifteen miles on the standard lines, and ran an east and west line from the Great Miami to the Little Miami River as the south boundary of the military range, and surveyed and laid off the range into townships and sections from that line. This survey was made in the latter part of 1790.
From the point on the standard line where the fifteen miles from the base line terminated, LUDLOW ran a due west line to the Great Miami River. This line passes south of the corners made by Judge SYMMES's surveyors, in some instances, a considerable distance. A line was also run due east from the standard line to the Little Miami River. As this line interfered with the stakes originally set on the meridians by Judge SYMMES's surveyors, it gave rise to several law-suits. In a case between BRUCE and SUYDAM, as to the line between the sections adjoining the Great Miami River, below Hamilton, the Supreme Court, after a long, protracted suit, decided in favor of the north line. In another suit, which was litigated for several years, between PHILLIPS and AYRES, as to a line five or six miles east of Hamilton, the decision was in favor of the south line. In this case the Supreme Court decided that there was an original authority given to General DAYTON to survey, and consequently to run the boundaries of his range. Some cases of dispute have been settled by compromise and others long remained in litigation undecided. For some four or five miles contiguous to the Great Miami River the settlers hold to the north line, under a plea that so much of the line had been previously run by DUNLAP under the authority of Judge SYMMES, and can not, therefore, be changed by a second line.
It having been ascertained that some of the sections contained more than six hundred and forty acres, and that others were deficient in quantity, but that the entire survey contained the full quantity of land required to fill the sections, several years after, Judge SYMMES, in order to do justice to all, established a rule that where there was a deficiency in a section, he engaged to refund the purchase money at the rate of four dollars per acre, and where there was a surplus he exacted payment at the same rate. Whether he had a legal right to establish such a rule or not, it seemed to be equitable, and many of the purchasers acquiesced in the arrangement.
The original proposition made by Judge SYMMES to Congress was to purchase all the lands lying between the Miami Rivers; to which proposition he believed the Board of Treasury had assented. The written contract, however, made by his agents on the 15th day of October, 1788, established the eastern boundary, commencing at a point on the Ohio River twenty miles distant from the mouth of the Great Miami River by the several courses of the Ohio (this point would be opposite Main Street, in the city of Cincinnati), and from thence running northwardly, parallel with the general courses of the Great Miami River for quantity. Mr. SYMMES had sold the principal part of the land lying between that boundary and the Little Miami River. In order to obtain relief from these embarrassing difficulties, he repaired to Philadelphia, then the seat of government, in the Spring of the year 1792, and in the first place petitioned Congress to alter his contract in such manner that it might extend from the Great Miami River to the Little Miami River. In pursuance of his application, Congress passed a law, dated the twelfth day of April, 1792, entitled, "An act for ascertaining the bounds of a tract of land purchased by John Cleves SYMMES;" which law "authorized the President of the United States, at the request of John Cleves SYMMES, to alter the contract made between him and the Board of Treasury" in such manner that the said tract of land may extend from the mouth of the Great Miami to the mouth of the Little Miami, and be bounded by the river Ohio on the south, by the Great Miami on the west, by the Little Miami on the east, and by a parallel of latitude on the north extending from the Great Miami to the Little Miami, so as to comprehend the proposed quantity of one million of acres. (Laws of the United States, Vol. II page 270.) However, as a condition for granting this indulgence Mr. SYMMES was required to relinquish to the United States fifteen acres of land in Cincinnati contiguous to Fort Washington for the accommodation of the garrison at that fort. This was done in the same instrument of writing which ratified the alteration. By this alteration of the contract a large number of meritorious persons, who had purchased of Judge SYMMES, were secured in their lands and their improvements.
This object being secured, Mr. SYMMES immediately presented another petition to Congress, praying for the passage of a law authorizing the President of the United States to convey to him by letters patent as much of the land contained in his contract as he might then be able to pay for. A law was passed to that effect, on the 5th of May, 1792, entitled, "An act authorizing the grant and conveyance of certain lands to John Cleves SYMMES and his associates," which empowered the President to issue letters patent, under the seal of the United States, to John Cleves SYMMES and his associates, their heirs and assigns, in fee simple, for such number of acres of land as the payments then made by them, on their contract of the 15th of October, 1788, would pay for, estimating the land at two-thirds of a dollar per acre, making the several reservations specified in the contract and in the law of the 12th of April, 1792.
The third section of this act also stipulated that the President should convey to John Cleves SYMMES and his associates, in trust, for the purpose of establishing an academy and other public schools and seminaries of learning, one complete township, in conformity to an order of Congress, of the 2d of October, 1787, made in consequence of the application of Mr. SYMMES for the purchase of the tract of land.
According to the law of the 12th of April, 1792, before any alteration could be made in the contract with Mr. SYMMES it was necessary that he should make such a request, and we find that he did, by a certain instrument of writing bearing date twenty-ninth day of September, 1794, which he signed and delivered to the President, requesting that the contract made between the Board of Treasury and himself and associates might be modified and altered in accordance with the stipulations of the act entitled "An act for ascertaining the bounds of a tract of land purchased by John Cleves SYMMES." (Land Law, Vol. I, page 374.)
On the reception of this document, George WASHINGTON, then the President of the United States, by letters patent under his hand, and the seal of the United States, dated at Philadelphia, on the 30th of September, 1794, declared the contract made with John Cleves SYMMES and his associates to be altered and modified as requested by Mr. SYMMES, and in the manner set forth in the law of Congress authorizing the alteration. (Land Law, Vol. I, page 376)
On a settlement made with John Cleves SYMMES, at the Treasury Department, it was ascertained that two hundred and forty-eight thousand five hundred and forty acres had been paid for, but, in consequence of the reservation of the college township, fifteen acres contiguous to Fort Washington, and other reserved sections within the limits of the grant, the boundaries of the whole tract, as required to be conveyed to him, would contain three hundred and eleven thousand six hundred and eighty-two acres. The draft of a patent was made by Alexander Hamilton, the Secretary of the Treasury.
When it was presented to Mr. SYMMES he objected to it because it conveyed the land to him and his associates and not to himself alone and insisted on having it altered The Secretary refused to change it, and an appeal was made to the President who, after a careful examination of the subject decided the patent was in strict conformity with the contract of Mr. SYMMES and his associates, and the act of Congress on which it issued. He therefore refused to interfere, and Judge SYMMES was obliged to accept it in the manner it had been drawn. The patent is signed by George WASHINGTON, the President, under the seal of the United States, and dated the thirtieth day of September, 1794. It conveyed to John Cleves SYMMES and his associates, their heirs and assigns, "all that tract of land beginning at the mouth of the Great Miami River, and extending from thence along the river Ohio to the mouth of the Little Miami River, bounded on the south by the river Ohio, on the west by the Great Miami River, on the east by the Little Miami River, and on the north by a parallel of latitude to be run from the Great Miami River to the Little Miami River, so as to comprehend the quantity of three hundred and eleven thousand six hundred and eighty-two acres of land;" reserving, however, out of the tract the quantity of fifteen acres of land for the accommodation of the garrison at Fort Washington; a tract equal to one square mile near the mouth of the Great Miami River, to be reserved in the event of certain contingencies afterwards to take place; and also reserving out of each township section numbered sixteen for the support of public schools, section numbered twenty-nine for the purpose of religion, and sections numbered eight, eleven, and twenty-six for such purposes as Congress might thereafter direct. It was further stipulated in the patent that one complete township of land of six miles square to be located as near the center as might be in the tract of land granted, should be held in trust for the purpose of erecting and establishing therein an academy and other public schools and seminaries of learning, and for supporting them.
The northern boundary of the tract was required to be surveyed and marked by Judge SYMMES or his associates from certain points on the Great and Little Miami Rivers, to be fixed and established by Israel LUDLOW, according to a survey made. by him of the courses of those rivers, under the direction of the Department of the Treasury; a certificate of which survey, dated the twenty-fourth day of March, 1794, was then on file in the Treasury Department. This line, commonly called the patent line, commences on the Great Miami River, a few rods north of the mouth of Dick's Creek, below Amanda, in Butler County, and runs east through the first tier of sections in the fourth range, about one-third of a mile north of the northern boundary of the third or military range.
Judge SYMMES, having obtained his patent, returned to the Miami country and commenced the issuing of deeds to those to whom he had sold land. Prior to that time they had no other evidence of title than an agreement or warrant delivered to them by Judge SYMMES when they respectively purchased. On the thirtieth day of October, 1794, John Cleves SYMMES made a deed to Jonathan DAYTON for the whole of the entire range, containing, according to the calculations of Israel LUDLOW, sixty-four thousand three hundred and forty-five acres and a half, exclusive of sections numbered 8, 11, 16, 26, and 29 which has been reserved in each township according to the contract made with Mr. SYMMES. The consideration is stated in the deed to have been $42,897 of military land warrants paid into the treasury of the United States.
The contract entered into between the Board of Treasury and John Cleves SYMMES by his agents, on the 15th of October, 1788, stipulated that the geographer, or some other person authorized by the United States, should survey and mark the boundary lines of the whole land contracted for, and return a map of it to the Treasury Department and likewise a copy to Judge SYMMES. Mr. SYMMES bound himself to pay at the rate of two-thirds of a dollar per acre for the land after deducting the several reservations specified in the contract -- $82,198 having been paid before that time. The further sum of $82,198 was to be paid within one month after the survey and map of the purchase should be made and delivered. The remainder of the purchase money was divided into six installments, to be paid semi-annually, so that the last payment would become due three years from the time the plat or map should have been delivered. Some time in the year 1788 or 1789 Israel LUDLOW made a survey of the course of the Ohio River and of the Great Miami and Little Miami Rivers, for some considerable distance north from the Ohio River; but the survey of the boundaries according to the written contract, never was made. Thomas HUTCHINS was, at that time, the geographer of the United States, but went out of office in 1790, and no other person was appointed in that department until 1796, when Rufus PUTNAM was appointed surveyor-general. The government claimed that the last installment of the purchase money had become due from Mr. SYMMES previous to May, 1792, and as only two installments had then been paid, that the contract was liable to forfeiture.
When Congress passed the law in 1792 relative to SYMMES's purchase, it was understood by them that the arrangements then made terminated the contract of 1788 but as no formal release was taken from Judge SYMMES he considered his contract still in existence, and felt that he could rely on a further fulfillment of it on the part of Congress. As the northern boundary line of the patent extended only a short distance into the fourth range, a large quantity of land previously sold by Mr. SYMMES was not covered by it. In addition to this, on his return from Philadelphia he continued his sales, and disposed of the land within every part of his contract to any person who made application in the same manner that had been done before.
In this way the largest portion of the tract originally purchased had passed from Mr. SYMMES and was claimed by others, many of whom were residing on and improving the land. The towns of Middletown, Franklin, and Dayton had been laid out and settled; mills had been erected, houses built, and orchards planted. In fact, for miles north of the patent line the country was as thickly settled and as well improved as it generally was within the patent. In the mean time Judge SYMMES's right began to be questioned by the settlers. Various rumors on that subject were afloat, and the purchasers became uneasy. They began to fear for their safety, and insisted that Mr. SYMMES should take measures for their security. They had paid large sums of money in the purchase and improvement of their farms, and began to feel as though it had all been lost. Some of them proposed to make a direct application to Congress for relief. Mr. SYMMES dissuaded them from that measure, as it might tend to defeat the claim which he still insisted on for the fulfillment of his contract. Finding that he could pacify them no longer, he concluded to make another application to Congress, and in the Fall of the year 1796 went to Philadelphia. He took with him about one hundred thousand dollars in money to pay to the government, and induce them to recognize the obligation of his contract, and spent the Winter there in fruitless attempts to induce them to receive the money.
The government assumed the ground that the arrangement made in 1792 was a final adjustment of all his claims; that the whole contract might, at that time have been declared forfeited, and that their recognition of it to the extent to which he was able to make payment at the time was rather a matter of favor than of strict right. They alleged that a formal release from him was unnecessary, as the forfeiture of the contract was apparent on its face. Finding that there was not the most distant hope of success, Mr. SYMMES abandoned his claim in despair, leaving the purchasers whose lands were not covered by his patent to seek the best remedy in their power. The situation of those individuals was truly distressing. Many of them had paid for their lands in full; all of them had paid more or less, and most of them had expended considerable sums of money and several years of labor in improving them. In this situation they found themselves completely in the power of the government, and liable to be driven out at any moment. They presented their case to Congress, and prayed relief. In 1799 an act was passed in their favor, entitled "An act giving the right of pre-emption to certain persons who have contracted with John Cleves SYMMES or his associates for lands between the Miami Rivers."
This law secured to all persons who had made written contracts with Judge SYMMES prior to the first day of April, 1799, and whose lands were not comprehended in his patent, a preference over all others at two dollars per acre. In 1801 an amendatory law was passed, extending the right of pre-emption to all who had purchased and made written contracts previous to the first day of January, 1800.
In October, 1801, Thomas JEFFERSON, President of the United States; appointed John REILY and William GOFORTH commissioners, to act in conjunction with the receiver of public moneys in Cincinnati, for the purpose of ascertaining the right of persons claiming the benefit of these pre-emption laws. The commissioners immediately opened an office in Cincinnati, and gave notice to all those claiming the benefit of the pre-emption laws to exhibit their claims for allowance.
This commission extended only for one year; but at the expiration of the first year it was continued for a second year, and John REILY and Dr. John SELMAN were appointed commissioners to act with James FINDLAY, receiver of public moneys. After the expiration of the second year the duties of this commission were transferred to the register and receiver of public moneys at Cincinnati, and continued from year to year, till all the purchasers were able to complete their payments and secure their titles.
By the operation of these just and salutary laws more than five hundred meritorious families were not only saved from ruin, but made independent and happy. The extension of the right of pre-emption by the law of 1801 to all who had purchased prior to the 1st of January, 1800, enabled every purchaser to save himself, and the extension of credit which Congress gave from time to time, by subsequent laws, was so liberal that many of them were enabled to raise their installments as they became due from the products of their farms. Their descendants are now enjoying the fruits of their labors in comfort and affluence.
John Cleves SYMMES, early in life, was employed as a teacher and land surveyor, but soon after attaining his majority removed to New Jersey, where he became active among those who were engaged in opposing the pretensions of Great Britain. He became a member of the Committee of Safety for Sussex County, and acted as chairman in 1774, and the year after was colonel of one of the regiments of militia which were then raised. When HOWE and his army landed on Long Island, Colonel SYMMES's regiment was actively employed in aiding to erect works of defense against the British, and afterwards took part in the battle of Long Island and the subsequent retreat. In this engagement, however, SYMMES did not participate. He had been elected a delegate to the State convention of New Jersey, which met at Burlington on the 10th of June, and was a member of the committee which drafted a constitution At the end of 1776 he was sent up to Ticonderoga, having been delegated by the Legislature of his State to make a new arrangement of the officers of the New Jersey regiment stationed in the Northern Department. On returning home he joined the command of Colonel Jacob FORD. "On the 14th December, while quartered at Chatham, and charged with the duty of covering the retreat of WASHINGTON through New Jersey, Colonel FORD received intelligence that eight hundred British troops, commanded by General LESLIE, had advanced to Springfield, four miles, from Chatham. He ordered Colonel SYMMES to proceed to Springfield and check the approach of the enemy, if possible. Accordingly, Colonel SYMMES, with a detachment of the brigade, marched to that village, and attacked the British in the evening. This was the first check LESLIE met with after leaving Elizabeth; but others soon followed, and his further progress in that direction was effectually stopped." (EDSALL's Address, Sussex Centenary, p.63.)
In 1776 he was appointed to the command of the forts which extended along the northwest frontier of New Jersey as a protection against the Indians. Sussex County was at that time in a very exposed condition. He aided General DICKINSON in the attack which was made upon the British in Staten Island. His duty called him to Redbank Fort when the English sailed up the Delaware and attacked Redbank and Mifflin Forts, the latter of which they took. He served with distinction at the battle of Monmouth, and was in the battle of Short Hills. During the possession of Long Island by the enemy it was much exposed to forays by the Americans, and in these predatory attacks Colonel SYMMES took a prominent part. He made five descents at different times, and at one time captured a schooner and made ten men prisoners. This he did with the assistance of only four men. One of the younger sons of George the Third -- Prince William Henry, who was a midshipman -- was, towards the end of the war, quartered in New York, and several schemes were formed for his capture. Colonel SYMMES was offered a command by General WASHINGTON for the purpose of making a prisoner of the young prince, but declined; and the tender was then made to Colonel HUMPHREYS, who accepted. The enterprise, however, came to nothing. The reputation Colonel SYMMES gained in a military way he did not lose in civil life. He was six years a member of the council, one year lieutenant-governor, and twelve years a judge of the Supreme Court of New Jersey, becoming chief justice. After the conclusion of the war he was a member of the Continental Congress, serving in this capacity two years. The fever of land speculation took possession of many of our best men after the peace allowed them to begin settlements, and Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Western New York, and Pennsylvania were the seat of the chief operations. Judge SYMMES, at the same time as the agents of the Ohio Company, made application for a tract of land in Ohio, and was finally granted it. He was made a judge of the Northwest Territory by Congress, February 19, 1788, and soon afterwards removed to the Ohio Valley, where he spent the remainder of his days. In 1789 he located himself at North Bend, below Cincinnati, where for years he dispensed an elegant and profuse hospitality. He contributed much by his public spirit to the settling of the whole region.
When Judge SYMMES came West he led a party of immigrants. The first detachment which came out was led by Major Benjamin STITES and settled at Columbia, five miles east of the center of the present city of Cincinnati; the second was conducted by Matthias DENMAN and Robert PATTERSON, which stopped at Cincinnati; and the third was that of Judge SYMMES. We give from BURNET's "Notes" an account of this expedition;
"The third party of adventurers to the Miami purchase were under the immediate care and direction of Judge SYMMES They left Limestone on the 29th of January, 1789, and on their passage down the river were obstructed, delayed, and exposed to imminent danger from floating ice, which covered the river. They, however, reached the Bend, the place of their destination, in safety, early in February The first object of the judge was to found a city at that place which had received the name of North Bend, from the fact that it was the most northern bend in the Ohio River below the mouth of the Great Kanawha.
"The water-craft used in descending the Ohio in those primitive times were flat-boats made of green oak plank, fastened by wooden pins to a frame of timber, and caulked with tow or any other pliant substance that could be procured. Boats similarly constructed, on the Northern waters, were then called arks; but on the Western rivers they were denominated Kentucky boats. The materials of which they were composed were found to be of great utility in the construction of temporary buildings for safety, and for protection from the inclemency of the weather, after they had arrived at their destination.
"At the earnest solicitation of the judge, General HARMAR sent Captain KEARSEY, with forty-eight rank and file, to protect the improvements just commencing in the Miami country. This detachment reached Limestone in December 1788; and in a few days after, Captain KEARSEY sent a part of his command in advance, as a guard, to protect the pioneers under Major STITES at the Little Miami where they arrived soon after. Mr. SYMMES and his party, accompanied by Captain KEARSEY, landed at Columbia, on their passage down the river, and the detachment previously sent to that place joined their company. They then proceeded to the Bend, and landed about the 1st or 2d of February. When they left Limestone it was the purpose of Captain KEARSEY to occupy the fort built at the mouth of the Miami by a detachment of United States troops, who afterwards descended the river to the Falls.
"That purpose was defeated by the flood in the river, which had spread over the low grounds and rendered it difficult to reach the fort. Captain KEARSEY, however, was anxious to make the attempt; but the judge would not consent to it. He was, of course, much disappointed and greatly displeased. When he set out on the expedition, expecting to find a fort ready built to receive him, he did not provide the implements necessary to construct one. Thus disappointed and displeased, he resolved that he would not attempt to construct a new work, but would leave the Bend and join the garrison at Louisville.
"In pursuance of that resolution, he embarked early in March, and descended the river with his command. The judge immediately wrote to Major WILLIS, commandant of the garrison at the Falls, complaining of the conduct of Captain KEARSEY, representing the exposed situation of the Miami settlement, stating the indications of hostility manifested by the Indians, and requesting a guard to be sent to the Bend. This request was promptly granted, and before the close of the mouth Ensign LUCE arrived with seventeen or eighteen soldiers, which, for the time, removed the apprehensions of the pioneers at that place. It was not long, however, before the Indians made an attack on them, in which they killed one soldier and wounded four or five other persons, including Major J. R. MILLS, an emigrant from Elizabethtown, New Jersey, who was a surveyor and an intelligent and highly respected citizen. Although he recovered from his wounds, he felt their disabling effects to the day of his death.
"The surface of the ground where the judge and his party had landed was above the reach of the water and sufficiently level to admit of a convenient settlement He therefore determined, for the immediate accommodation of his party, to lay out a village at that place, and to suspend, for the present, the execution of his purpose as to the city of which he had given notice, until satisfactory information could be obtained in regard to the comparative advantages of different places in the vicinity. The determination, however, of laying out such a city was not abandoned, but was executed in the succeeding year on a magnificent scale. It included the village, and extended from the Ohio across the peninsula to the Miami River. This city -- which was certainly a beautiful one, on paper -- was called Symmes, and for a time was a subject of conversation and of criticism; but it soon ceased to be remembered -- even its name was forgotten -- and the settlement continued to be called North Bend. Since then, that village has been distinguished as the residence and the home of the soldier and statesman, William Henry HARRISON, whose remains now repose in a humble vault on one of its beautiful hills.
"In conformity with a stipulation made at Limestone, every individual belonging to the party received a donation lot, which he was required to improve as the condition of obtaining a title. As the number of these adventurers increased in consequence of the protection afforded by the military, the judge was induced to lay out another village, six or seven miles higher up the river, which he called South Bend, where he disposed of some donation lots; but that project failed, and in a few years the village was deserted, and converted into a farm.
"During these transactions the judge was visited by a number of Indians from a camp in the neighborhood of STITES's settlement. One of them, a Shawnee chief, had many complaints to make of frauds practiced on them by white traders, who fortunately had no connection with the pioneers. After several conversations and some small presents, he professed to be satisfied with the explanation he had received, and gave assurances that the Indians would trade with the white men as friends.
"In one of their interviews the judge told him he had been commissioned and sent out to their country by the thirteen fires, in the spirit of friendship and kindness, and that he was instructed to treat them as friends and as brothers. In proof of this he showed them the flag of the Union, with its stars and stripes, and also his commission, having the great seal of the United States attached to it; exhibiting the American eagle, with the olive-branch in one claw, emblematical of peace, and the instrument of war and death in the other. He explained the meaning of those symbols to their satisfaction, though at first the chief seemed to think they were not very striking emblems either of peace or friendship; but before he departed from the Bend he gave assurances of the most friendly character. Yet, when they left their camp to return to their towns, they carried off a number of horses belonging to the Columbia settlement, to compensate for the injuries done them by wandering traders who had no part or lot with the pioneers. These depredations having been repeated, a party was sent out in pursuit, who followed the trail of the Indians a considerable distance, when they discovered fresh signs, and sent Captain FINN, one of the party, in advance, to reconnoiter. He had not proceeded far before he was surprised, taken prisoner, and carried to the Indian camp. Not liking the movements he saw going on, which seemed to indicate personal violence in regard to himself, and having great confidence in his activity and strength, at a favorable moment he sprang from the camp, made his escape, and joined his party. The Indians, fearing an ambuscade, did not pursue. The party possessed themselves of some horses belonging to the Indians, and returned to Columbia. In a few days the Indians brought in Captain FINN's rifle, and begged Major STITES to restore their horses, alleging that they were innocent of the depredations laid to their charge. After some further explanations, the matter was amicably settled, and the horses were given up."
Judge SYMMES was three times married. His first wife was Ann TUTHILL; the second was Mrs. HALSEY, and the third Susanna, daughter of William LIVINGSTON, governor of New Jersey, and at the outbreak of the war of the Revolution better and more widely known than almost any of the other defenders of our liberties as derived from our ancestors. He had two daughters -- Maria, who married Major Peyton SHORT, of Kentucky; and Anna, who married William Henry HARRISON, afterwards President of the United States.
Judge SYMMES was of a large, majestic figure, of pleasant manners and great benevolence. He was well liked by the Indians. At the treaty of Greenville he was told that in the war he was frequently the object of the aim of the enemies of the white men, but that when he was recognized they refrained from pulling the trigger. He died at Cincinnati, February 26, 1814, in the seventy-second year of his age, and was buried with military honors on a hill near his late residence at North Bend. It is only a little distance from the tomb of his illustrious son-in-law, General HARRISON. On the flat tablet which covers the grave is the following inscription:
The residence of Judge SYMMES stood about a mile northwest of the present railway station-house at North Bend, at the foot of the hill dividing the Ohio from the Great Miami River. It was destroyed by fire, March, 1811, during the owner's temporary absence, when all of his valuable papers were burned. The fire was supposed to have been the work of an individual who had become angry at Judge SYMMES because the latter had refused to vote for him as a justice of the peace.