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SYMMES LAND SPECULATION


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Transcription contributed by Martie Callihan 24 November 2004

Sources:
The History of Warren County Ohio
Part III. The History of Warren County by Josiah Morrow
Chapter III. Explorations - Surveys - Land Grants
(Chicago, IL: W. H. Beers Co, 1882; reprint, Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, 1992)

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No attempts were made to establish permanent settlements in the Miami country until after the Revolutionary war, and after Virginia had generously ceded her Western territory to the General Government in 1784. The projector of the plan for the purchase and settlement of the lands between the Miamis, was an ex-Member of Congress and Chief Justice of the State of New Jersey- John Cleves Symmes.

This is not the place to give the history of Symmes' Purchase, although the earlier settlers of this county derived their titles from Judge Symmes. The whole history of that grand but unfortunate land speculation is fully narrated in Judge Burnet's excellent "Notes on the Northwestern Territory." It is sufficient for our purpose that Symmes proposed to Congress to purchase a tract between the Miamis, supposed to contain 2,000,000 acres; that when his contract was made with Congress, the amount was reduced to 1,000,000; that it was afterward found that there were but 600,000 acres between the two rivers up as far as the head-waters of the Little Miami; that Symmes having paid for only half that quantity, received a deed for a tract of 311,682 acres, being the number of acres including school and ministerial lands and other reservations, for which he had made payment The northern boundary of Symmes' patent is an east-and-west line, passing from a point on the Little Miami a short distance below Freeport to the Great Miami about three miles below Middletown.

Symmes published a pamphlet at Trenton, N. J., November 26, 1787, giving the terms of sale and settlement of the Miami lands. As the lands about the Muskingum had been purchased by a New England Company, Symmes' Pur-

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chase was intended chiefly for the accommodation for the inhabitants of the States west of the Connecticut River. The price of the lands of this purchase was 66 2/3 cents per acre, payable in certificates of debts of the Government and in land-warrants. But as the certificates of debts due from the United States were then worth only one fourth of their face, the specie price at which Congress sold all the land from Cincinnati to Hamilton and Lebanon now the most valuable tract in the State was about 17 cents per acre. The lands were sold to settlers in quantities of not less than 160 acres, and the purchaser was bound to begin improvements within two years or to forfeit one sixth part of his purchase, which might be given by Symmes to any one who would settle thereon and remain seven years. One penny or the ninetieth of a dollar per acre was to be paid at the time of purchasing the land-warrant to defray the expense of surveying the tract; and one farthing, or the one three hundred and sixtieth of a dollar per acre to defray the expenses of printing the land-warrant and registering the entries. Such were the terms under which some of our fathers contracted for our homes.

Ministers of the Gospel were cordially invited in Symmes' pamphlet to settle in the new country, and were offered the free use of Section 29, set apart in every township for the support of the Gospel. Schoolmasters were offered the free use of Section 16, reserved for the benefit of schools. The policy of setting apart public lands for the support of religion was discontinued by Congress after the adoption of the National Constitution; but the reservation of one section in every township for the support of schools has been continued till the present time in the sale of all the public lands. We thus have in Warren County the anomaly of the churches in one fourth of the county receiving out of a provision of the old Federal Congress a bounty of from $1 to $2 annually for each church member; while in three fourths of the county ministerial lands are unknown, and religion is supported only by voluntary contributions. And an experience of more than three quarters of a century has taught us that the donation of public lands for the support of religion, however well intended, was not wisely made.


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