Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan
|Dallas Bogan on 29 September 2004|
|The following is taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."|
|Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan|
All the lands of Warren county east of the Little Miami are a part of the
Virginia Military Reservation. This large tract of the public lands comprised
all the territory between the Little Miami and the Scioto and consisted of four
million acres. In this immense district are eight entire counties and parts
of fourteen others. The Virginia Military Lands make up two-fifths of Warren,
three-fourths of Greene, one-sixth of Clark and one township (Anderson) in Hamilton
For the benefit of my younger readers I will explain why this district was so named. At the time of the revolution Virginia claimed the right to the soil and jurisdiction over the vast area northwest of the Ohio granted by King James in 1609, but in 1784 the state relinquished to the general government all her claims to this immense region excepting only the lands between the Little Miami and the Scioto which were reserved to satisfy the land warrants granted by the state for services in the revolutionary war.
There are two kinds of military lands in Ohio, United States Military and Virginia Military. The former were for satisfying the land warrants of the United States, the latter for the satisfying the land warrants of Virginia.
The titles to the lands east of the Little Miami rest upon land warrants issued by the commonwealth of Virginia. In 1779 that state promised to her revolutionary soldiers at the end of the war the following named quantities of land; a private, 200 acres; a non-commissioned officer, 400; a subltern, 2,000; a captain, 3,000; a lieutenant colonel, 4,500; a colonel, 5,000; a brigadier general, 10,000; a major general, 15,000.
An office for the location of land warrants between the Little Miami and the Scioto was opened by Gen. R.C. Anderson, principal surveyor, on August 1, 1787. Before this John O'Bannon and Arthur Fox, two surveyors from Kentucky had explored the reservation for the purpose of obtaining a knowledge of the situation of the best lands. A large number of entries were made the first day the books were opened mostly near the Ohio, but on that day one entry of land within the present limits of Warren county was made, viz: Read-Clement Read's entry of 1,333 acres (No 399).
This entry is interesting as it was the first made in what is now Warren county and the man who made it had the pick of all the lands in this county on the east side of the Little Miami. The land chosen extends along the river about a mile and a half above Corwin. In describing the land, its estimated distance below Old Chillicothe in Greene county is given and reference is made to the road cut by Gen. George Rogers Clark in his expedition against the Indians in 1780 and also to an old sugar camp of the Indians on the land entered. I copy from the records the words of the entry:
"August 1, 1787-Clement Read (heir) enters 1,333 acres of land, part of Military Warrant No. 46, on the east side of the Little Miami river, supposed to be about fourteen miles below Old Chillicothe town: beginning 400 poles below the first old sugar camp above where Clark's old war road crosses the river, to run up the river 550 poles when reduced to a straight line, thence at right angles for quantity."
This land remained unsurveyed for more than seven years. In November, 1794, it was surveyed by Nathaniel Massie. One of the chain carriers in surveying this land was John McDonald, who afterward wrote a biography of Gen. Massie and gave a vivid description of the dangers and hardships of the early surveying parties.
The first surveys in the district were made by John O'Bannon
but he confined his early work chiefly to lands lying within a few miles of
the Ohio. Only three tracts surveyed by him lie within Warren county, the earliest
of which was made in March, 1792. In the month of October of the same year Massie
surveyed 30,000 acres in this county chiefly on Caesar's Creek. All the surveys
of Massie township were made by Gen. Massie.
Of the many thousand surveys between the Little Miami and Scioto, 122 lie within Warren county, a few of which were made as late as 1831 or 1832 and were for small tracts, sometimes for narrow strips of only ten or fifteen acres lying between larger surveys. Of the surveys in Warren County Nathaniel Massie made 57; Gen. Wm. Lytle, 38; James Galloway, Jr., 6; John O'Bannon, 3; Duncan McArthur, 1; and the remaining 17 were made by various surveyors generally at a later date.
General Massie who had made the first settlement in the Virginia Military District at Manchester in 1790, and afterward founded Chillicothe, was the most extensive surveyor in the district. In his surveying parties he sometimes had twenty-four men who lived almost exclusively on bread made from flour carried on their pack-horses and meat obtained by their hunters, but sometimes they were compelled to live on bread without meat or meat without bread. The winters were generally selected for the surveying trips as the Indians were then in their winter quarters. In 1793 Massie employed a young man named Duncan McArthur as one of his chain carriers and McArthur afterward became a surveyor and one of the most prominent public men in Ohio. Both Massie and McArthur died possessed of large land estates.
A Virginia statute fixing the fees of the surveyors provided that they should be paid in tobacco. The fee for surveying and platting one thousand acres was 320 pounds of tobacco. But as the risk of making the early surveys was great and it was desirable to get possession of the best lands, the owners of the land warrants often agreed to give a large share of the land for the surveying. One-fourth, one-third and sometimes one-half of the land acquired was given the surveyors. If the owner preferred paying in money ten pounds in Virginia currency was the usual price for surveying 1,000 acres exclusive of the chainmen's pay.
No part of this vast tract was ever laid out into regular townships or sections.
Lands to satisfy the land warrants were located in various geometrical figures
and with boundary lines running without regard to the points of the compass.
The owner of a warrant was permitted to locate it in such shape and in such
place in the district as suited him, provided only the land had not been previously
located. The only limitation upon the shape I have found was a Virginia law
which required the breadth of a survey to be at least the one-third of its length,
unless the breadth was restricted by mountains, water courses or previous location.
Usually the locations are described as lying upon the waters of some stream,
as the Little Miami, the O'Bannon, Todd's Fork, Caesar's Creek, etc.
In consequence of the want of a system in the surveys, there were interferences and encroachments of the land entries. Sometimes one survey would overlap another and sometimes there would be a strip of land between two surveys which it was intended should adjoin and this strip would become the subject of controversy and litigation. The most profitable practice of the early lawyers of Lebanon came from lawsuits concerning lands east of the Little Miami. Probably twice as much litigation arose in this district as in any other in the state. But time and the statute of limitations have cured the defects and made land titles in this district are as secure as in any other.
The fact that the tracts in this district were usually large and that they
remained long in the possession of non-residents and the owners had no agents
in the neighborhood of their lands to negotiate for their sale prevented the
rapid settlement of the county. Lands on the west side of the Little Miami were
much more rapidly settled and improved than those on the east side.
Most persons holding the Virginia land warrants never saw the land which was located upon them. Most of the surveys were large, calling often for more than a thousand acres and sometimes for three or four thousand. Large as were the amounts called for by the warrants, the surveys invariably overran the amount called for. Rev. James Smith purchased in Virginia a survey at the mouth of Caesar's Creek which called for 1,666 acres, but it was found to contain 2,000. Benjamin Butterworth bought a survey between Fosters and Loveland for 1,000 acres and it was found to contain 1,500. The survey in which Bethel, Clermont county, is situated, calls for 4,000 acres, but in fact it contains over 6,000. Thus, the government was cheated out of many thousand acres by the carelessness or dishonesty of the surveyors.
Sometimes the holder of a warrant could have it located upon good land without cost, for the surveyor would agree to make the survey for the surplus over the amount called for in the warrant. Hon. Reader W. Clark tells of a preacher who was a land surveyor and about 1835 he made an agreement with a speculator who had got possession of a land warrant calling for one hundred acres. The surveyor agreed to make the survey for the surplus and he got for his share more than the warrant called for.
When the earlier surveys were made, the best lands were of little value and when the later ones were made, the best lands had generally been taken up, and in both cases the surveyor thought it right and proper to be certain that he got the full amount called for by the warrant. Hon. R.R. Clark, of Clermont county, is my authority for the statement that the surveys of Gen. William Lytle, more than those of any other surveyor, overran in quantity. Tradition says that Gen. Lytle made his surveys on horseback, and was exceedingly careless in his efforts to secure accuracy, but was always certain to get enough land.
The immense size of some of these surveys may not be at once apparent. We
have mentioned one calling for 4,000 acres and which in fact contains 6,000.
On the west side of the Little Miami an entire section of one square mile contains
640 acres and few of the early pioneers in Symmes Purchase bought more than
one section, most of them only one-half or one-quarter of a section. Thus in
a single survey of the Virginia Military Lands there was a surplus of 2,000
acres or more than three entire sections.
In the century which has elapsed since the first settlement of this district the immense surveys have been divided and sub-divided, and the smaller tracts have often been surveyed with more or less accuracy, but there has always been trouble in tracing titles in this region.
In the new system of indexes in the recorder's office, all the transfers of land in a single survey will be placed together in chronological order, and this will greatly facilitate the labor of examining the records.
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This page created 29 September 2004 and last updated
28 September, 2008
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