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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Early Counties In Ohio Looked Different In Those Days

Dallas Bogan on 10 August 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

We are all familiar with the existence of Warren and surrounding counties, but they were not always situated in the fashion that we know them today.
The lands of the Northwest Territory, before peace with the Indians, were a vast unclaimed, unorganized region. The Indians, most of whom were nomadic, owned no ground, only homesteaded it.
The Ordinance of 1787 authorized the laying out into counties the lands the Indians had given up. The territory involved soon became the states of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the part east of the Mississippi.
Arthur St. Clair was the organizer of the counties, his position being the Governor of the Northwest Territory. He arrived at Marietta, July 9, 1788, and one of his first acts was to establish a Government and to create a county and name it in honor of President Washington.
Washington County was the first to be organized. It embodied the eastern third of Ohio, extending from the Scioto to the Pennsylvania border and from the Ohio to the Lake, and along the Lake from Pennsylvania to the Cuyahoga. Marietta was selected as the site for the holding of courts.
Hamilton County, on January 2, 1790, was the second county formed, with Cincinnati as its seat of justice. It was originally established as lands between the Miamis, but in 1792 it was conceived to be even larger than Washington County. It extended from the Great Miami to the Scioto and from the Ohio to Lake Huron and encompassed the greater part of the western half of Ohio and a large part of eastern Michigan.
The third county established was St. Clair on the Mississippi, which embraced a large section of Illinois.
The fourth county authorized was Knox which included a large portion of what is now Indiana.
Peace with the Indians allowed the settlements to move up into the Miamis. At this time Hamilton County was apportioned into twelve townships, five of which were: Cincinnati, Columbia, Deerfield, Franklin and Dayton. Deerfield Township embraced the greater percentage of what is now Warren County.
The Old Commonwealth of Virginia claimed that her southern boundary stretched to the Mississippi and that the extended region on both sides of the Ohio and south of the Great Lakes was a part of Virginia.
On December 6, 1776, the Assembly of Virginia organized Kentucky County, which consisted of the territory now included in the State of that name. Harrodsburg was selected as the county seat.
In 1780, this large county was divided into three separate counties, Jefferson, Lincoln and Fayette. Kentucky continued to be under Virginia domain until 1792 when it was admitted into the Union.
Illinois County was formed in October, 1778, when the House of Burgesses stated that "all citizens of the Commonwealth of Virginia who are already settled or shall hereafter settle on the Western side of the Ohio, shall be included in a distinct county which shall be called Illinois County."
The boundary lines of Illinois County were bordered on the east by Pennsylvania, on the southeast and south of the Ohio River, on the west by the Mississippi River and on the north by the Great Lakes.
This vast land expanse comprised all the territory afterward named the Territory Northwest of the Ohio River.
Of course Illinois and Kentucky Counties are no longer in existence. There is still an older, and, at one time, larger county still in existence, Botetourt County in Virginia. It is situated on the west side of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
It was probably the largest county ever formed. It ranged from the Blue Ridge Mountains on the East to the Mississippi on the West, and from the southern boundary line of Virginia and Kentucky to south of the Great Lakes.
It embraced the present States of West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota.
Fincastle, a small village then as now, was the county seat of the vast County of Botetourt. It lies near the great highway systems, but is hardly noticed.
The courthouse holds original deeds pertaining to all the aforementioned States. While visiting Fincastle one time, it was mentioned to the writer that the Courthouse still holds a copy of the original layout of Chicago.

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This page created 10 August 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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