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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

First Elections In The Northwest Territory

Dallas Bogan on 7 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Did the pioneers of the Northwest Territory have a say-so in the election of their own officers? How were these first elections conducted?
Arthur St. Clair was appointed Governor of the Northwest Territory by the United States Government, and was given authority to lay out new counties and appoint public officers. Included in this authority was the appointment of Judges of Courts and Justices of the Peace.
The Governor and the three Judges of the Supreme Court made the first laws in the Territory. These laws were set-up primarily from the legislative body of Pennsylvania.
In 1798, when the Territory reached a population of 5,000 white males, citizens were authorized to elect Representatives to a Territorial Legislature.
The first general election of the Northwest Territory was held the third Monday of December 1798. Twenty-two members of the House of Representatives were elected.
Hamilton County was the second county of the Northwest Territory, it being formed by Gov. St. Clair, January 2, 1790.
Hamilton County's election was held in Cincinnati and was under the authority of the sheriff. The five Representatives that were elected were: William McMillan, 417; William Goforth, 357; Robert Benham, 303; John Smith, 228; and John Ludlow, 190.
All these appointees lived in the area of Columbia or Cincinnati. Robert Benham, however, moved to the Warren County area within two or three years and died near Lebanon in 1809.
The Ordinance of 1787 said in certain terms that the Governor should own 1000 acres in the Territory; the Secretary and three Judges, 500 each; the five members of the Legislative Council or Upper House, 500 each; members of the Lower House, 200 each.
A requirement of the territorial law was that a male inhabitant could not vote or hold office unless he met certain terms. In order to be a voter, a man was required to have a freehold (the holder of a piece of land for life with the right to pass it on by inheritance) of fifty acres in the Territory.
Citizens who had made improvements on their town lots seemingly were discriminated against. Many of these lots were more valuable than some lands of fifty acres or more.
The first Legislature of December 6, 1799, conceded that resident owners of less than fifty acres, with improvements that had a monetary value of at least $100, should have the right to vote. The election of the second Territorial Legislature was held on the second Tuesday of October 1800, the location being at the place of holding courts in each county.
Hamilton County at that time extended up into the Miami Country as far as Dayton and Xenia. All the electors were to gather in Cincinnati in order to vote.
The election continued for three days. Ballots were not used; each voter was asked to speak audibly to the judges and call out his chosen person's name.
Many from Hamilton County were elected. Party nominations were omitted. Thirty-five persons had been announced in The Western Spy and 25 received votes.
Jeremiah Morrow and Francis Dunlevy were the first Representatives elected from the soon-to-be County of Warren. (Warren was not made a county until May 1, 1803.)
They were elected to the Second Territorial Legislature from Hamilton County and took their seats in the Legislature at Chillicothe November 23, 1801. Morrow at this time was a farmer near the Little Miami River, and Dunlevy was a schoolteacher who lived west of the present site of Lebanon.
Morrow and Dunlevy were two of the ten delegates from Hamilton County to the convention that structured the first Constitution of Ohio in October 1802.
In January 1803, they were elected two of the four Senators from Hamilton County in the first State Legislature.
The first election under the Constitution of 1802 was held the second Tuesday of January 1803. Officers elected were a Governor, members of the Legislature, sheriffs and coroners.
Jeremiah Morrow and Francis Dunlevy were elected Senators, John Bigger, Ephriam Kibbey and William James were elected Representatives. Each were residents of present Warren County.
Early history finds that more men were elected for high office from Warren County than bordering counties, although Hamilton County had a greater population.

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This page created 7 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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