This page is part of the Warren County Ohio GenWeb project
You are our [an error occurred while processing this directive] visitor since 15 March 2005 -- thanks for stopping by!
Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Original Ohio Land Surveys

Dallas Bogan on 4 Oct 2004
The following is is an original article written by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

A simple survey system was set up in which the pioneer could effortlessly locate his farm. (Ohio was the first in the world to use this system.) An approach could now be exercised concerning land claims and the opening up of communities.
Jeremiah Morrow, from Warren County, is credited with his most outstanding work in Congress in his relationship to public lands, in which he served for a long period of time as chairman. Mr. Morrow was credited by Judge Joshua Collett (also from Warren County) as a proven land laws expert. He speaks highly of him by writing:
"He may, with propriety, be called the father of the land system of the United States. Being chairman of the committee on public lands he originated the land system and drew all the laws on the subject. No man ever possessed the confidence of the national legislature in regard to his public duties in a higher degree."
The procedure of land divisions and measurement called the "rectangular system" was first heard of in the report of a committee of the Continental Congress, May 7, 1784, chaired by Thomas Jefferson. The Ordinance was not passed until about a year later. This was the first time the words "section" and "township" were used in reference to land measurement.
It was the most convenient and simple land division technique in the world. By this method, roads were basically run on straight lines; even farm fences were run on a more consistent pattern.
To whom this method is credited is not known, but it was first used in the United States. Its first use was in Ohio when the tract called the "Seven Ranges" was laid out. Its location was in the eastern part along the Ohio River. The work began in 1786.
Costs of surveying the public lands was interesting. The first Ordinance allowed the surveyor $2 per mile for every mile in length he should run, including the wages of chain carriers, markers, and all other expenses.
The Acts of 1796 and 1800 established a fee not to exceed $3 per mile for the same work. The price varied, however, from $3 to $20 per mile due to circumstances involving topographical features as in wooded or swampy outland.
Highest prices for surveying were paid for state and territorial boundary lines, which sometimes ran as high as $75 per linear mile.
Top prices of the cost of surveying a complete township of Government land in 1883 were placed from $600 to $768. There are over 23,000 acres in a township and the costs to the Government were about 2 1/2 cents per acre to survey the public land.

Connecticut's Land

Possibly because of the Ohio River traffic, colonization in the northeastern part of the State lagged behind for a short time, but was quickly advancing. The Connecticut colony had, in 1662, been granted a portion of land by King Charles II due westward from Providence Plantations to the Pacific Ocean. The land, having never been surveyed, was almost unknown to the King, as well as the Connecticut colonists.
Investigations inquiring into the lands wound up in disputes as to just where its boundaries were. It was found that much of the land lay in Pennsylvania and New York State and had been previously colonized.
The conflict between Virginia and the claims of the Connecticut colonists as to which Ohio lands belonged to whom, had to be settled by the Federal Government. It was compromised by the parties that the United States had full jurisdiction over the matter.
Through court litigation, Connecticut was given exclusive rights to approximately 3,366,000 acres lying north of the 41st parallel, west of the Pennsylvania line, as far as the eastern borders of Sandusky and Seneca Counties.
Lake Erie marked the northern border. Thus the area that was granted Connecticut comprised the present counties of Ashtabula, Lake, Geauga, Cuyahoga, Lorain, Erie, Trumbull, and portions of the counties of Huron, Medina, Portage, Summit, Ottawa, Ashland and Mahoning.
"The Firelands," 500,000 acres of Ohio land, were given in 1792 by the State of Connecticut as compensation to certain sufferers who had sustained property losses during the Revolution by fires at the hands of the British. The counties of Erie and Huron, and a fraction of Ottawa benefited from this gift. The towns of New London, Fairfield and Norwalk were mostly affected.
The remainder of the Western Reserve land was sold by Connecticut for monies to be used in her own public schools.

The Ohio Company Purchase

The Ohio Company's Purchase was a tract of land about 1,500,000 acres lying along the Ohio River. Manasseh Cutler and Winthrop Sargeant, who hailed from the neighborhood of Salem, Massachusetts, purchased this tract from the Federal Government July 24, 1787. They were agents for Rufus Putnam of the Ohio Company.
The Ohio Company had been founded in Massachusetts for the purpose of a settlement in Ohio. Its first purchase consisted of about 750,000 acres, which was paid for by the time of the purchase on July 23, 1787.
The second purchase was for 214,285 acres and was paid for principally by army bounty warrants on May 10, 1792. This tract of land is the most hilly and sterile of any tract of similar size in the State.

The Western Reserve

Howe tells us that when General Moses Cleaveland surveyed the Western Reserve in 1796, there were but two families of settlers on the entire lake shore region of northern Ohio, one at Cleveland and the other at Sandusky.
By the close of the year 1800, there were but thirty- two settlements on the Reserve. No form of government had yet been formed, but the traditional foundations of old Connecticut had been instilled into their wilderness homes. A beginning was made in 1796 when the first surveying party of the Reserve laid out a city that was named in honor of the land company's agent, General Moses Cleaveland.
Youngstown was founded in the same year by the building of a log cabin by Colonel James Hillman.
One by one the Reserve embraced the small settlements, mostly colonists from Connecticut.
The War of 1812 stagnated what would have been a steady growth to the Northwest Territory. An embargo on trade between the United States, England and France caused businesses to falter. The Easterners were unable to sell their farms, and therefore had no capital in which to invest in the new country.
The Indians once again became hostile and demonstrations were at an all-time high since the signing of the Peace Treaty at Greenville.
With the War of 1812, or the Second War for Independence over, trade once again rebounded.
The cold summer of 1816 in New England, with severe frosts in every month, prematurely signaled to the population that they were destined to become a part of the Frigid Zone. Reports of the mildness in the Ohio country caused many a New Englander to migrate to "New Connecticut." A constant flow of migrants (1817-18) began their westerly journey that lasted for many years.
New towns such as New Lyme, New London, Norwalk, Litchfield, Hartford, and so on, sprung up, thus denoting their Connecticut origin.
General Garfield stated in his speech of 1873, that the Western Reserve townships are "more thoroughly New England in character and spirit than most of the towns of New England today."

Symmes Purchase

Virginia, in 1784, gave up her rights of the western territory to the General Government. This opened up the lands for future purchases.
John Cleves Symmes, an ex-member of Congress and Chief Justice of the State of New Jersey, applied for purchase rights of the lands between the two Miami Rivers. This tract originally called for a total of 2,000,000 acres, but when his contract was made to Congress, this amount was reduced to 1,000,000 acres.
It was then found that there were only approximately 600,000 acres from the head of the Miami Rivers to the mouth. The monetary exchange was only for about half of that acreage; consequently Symmes received a deed for only 311,682 acres.
The northern boundary of Symmes Purchase runs along an east/west line, passing from a point on the Little Miami River, a short distance from Freeport (Oregon/ Oregonia), to the Great Miami River, about three miles below downtown Middletown. The line north of this was later called Congress Lands and sold for $2.00 per acre and Symmes bought the line below this for 66 2/3 cents per acre. This acquisition was called the Symmes Purchase.
The price to be paid for this tract was two-thirds of a dollar (66 2/3 cents) per acre, payable in certificates of debt due from the United States. How the price came to be fixed at 66 2/3 cents per acre is explained by the fact that the Government estimated the value of the lands at one dollar per acre, but as they were to be sold in very large tracts, one-third of the price was to be deducted for poor land and land covered by water. The Symmes Purchase contained more good land than any other tract of the same scope in the State.
In the prospectus of the terms of the sale and settlement of his purchase, issued at Trenton N.J., November 25, 1787, Symmes announced that after May 1, 1788, the price of land would be $1.00 an acre, and, after November 1, 1788, still higher.
Symmes exceeded his patent authority by selling lands that he had no deeds to. His unauthorized sales extended past the line that was surveyed one-mile (east/west) north of Lebanon. Waynesville, Franklin and Dayton were included in this area.

Virginia Military Lands

The Virginia Military Lands comprised a tract lying between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers. Auglaize, Hardin and Marion counties bound it on the south by the Ohio River, and on the north. This tract contained about 4,000,204 acres.
After the Revolution, Virginia agreed to relinquish all her claims to the land northwest of the Ohio River in favor of the central United States Government.
However, Virginia was allowed to retain a portion of this territory, known as the Virginia Military District, to satisfy the claims of those soldiers who had fought during the Revolution.

FOOTNOTES: [a place to add additional information that you might want to submit]


NOTICE: All documents and electronic images placed on the Warren County OHGenWeb site remain the property of the contributors, who retain publication rights in accordance with US Copyright Laws and Regulations. These documents may be used by anyone for their personal research. Persons or organizations desiring to use this material, must obtain the written consent of the submitter, or their legal representative, and contact the listed Warren County OHGenWeb coordinator with proof of this consent.

This page created 4 Oct 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
© 2004 Arne H Trelvik  All rights reserved