CHAPTER VII

CONNECTICUT WESTERN RESERVE

Derivation of Title

The Colony of Connecticut claimed title to the lands between the forty-first parallel and the parallel of forty-two degrees two minutes north of the equator, and extending west from Pennsylvania one hundred and twenty miles , by virtue of grants from King James to the Plymouth Council in November, 1630; from the Plymouth Company to the Earl of Warwick in the same year; and from the Earl to Viscount Say and Seal, and others march 19, 1631. The last grant was confirmed by King Charles II, April 25, 1662, and upon this confirmation chiefly rested Connecticut's title to the Ohio land in question.

Connecticut's southernmost point today is very nearly on the forty-first parallel of latitude north of the equator. By the King Charles charter of 1662 she was to have a strip from sea to sea bounded on the north by Massachusetts and on the south approximately by the forty-first parallel as suggested in Plate 3. This parallel was intended to form the south boundary of the Connecticut Western Reserve in Ohio according to acts of the Colony listed on page 19 preceding. Connecticut's first deed of cession to Congress in which the Reserve was kept by the State was executed September 13, 1786, and accepted by Congress next day. Connecticut had, in 1782, lost her claim to the Wyoming lands in northeastern Pennsylvania,1 but Congress yielded her the soil rights, and until 1800 also jurisdiction to the strip of land in Ohio stretching westward 120 miles from Pennsylvania, and northward from the forty-first parallel to the international boundary as shown by Plate 16.

The soil rights to the Western Reserve was confirmed to Connecticut in pursuance of an act of Congress passed April 28, 1800, by the issuance of a patent signed by President Adams March 2, 1801, which is on record in the office of the Secretary of State of Connecticut at Hartford in "State Records for Deeds, Patents of Land, etc., No. 5" , page 197. At that time jurisdiction over the Reserve passed to the United States.

-----

1See page 105 Bulletin 689, by E.M. Douglas, U.S. Geological Survey, 1923. This interesting publication gives an account of the boundaries of all states in the Union. It is well illustrated with maps and citations from legal documents, and may be had from the Superintendent of Documents, Washington, D.C.

79

 

80

ORIGINAL OHIO LAND SUBDIVISIONS

Boundaries of the Reserve

On the large map accompanying this volume, and on Plate 16, it will be noticed that the south boundary of the Reserve does not exactly coincide with the 41st parallel as was intended. This is another case of "substantial performance." At the time the line was run the instruments were crude, the country wooded or swampy, and the company surveyors not experienced in precise surveying. The line as run by the Company surveyor, Seth Pease, was accepted by President Jefferson as conforming to the proper latitude, and tho somewhat erroneously located, has gained its residence.

The west boundary of the Reserve was still more erroneously located. It depended upon the location of its southern end for a starting point. This was to be a point 120 miles west of Pennsylvania, from which point the boundary was to run north parallel to the Pennsylvania line. The latter requirement, not italicised in the original documents, is ambiguous. There was a difference between the Company measurement of the 120 miles along the southern border, and that of the United States surveyors. Modern measurement, scaled from the topographic sheets, shows that the southern boundary line, as it has gained its residence, is slightly more than 120 miles long, and that the western boundary departs considerably to the west (going north) from a meridian thru the starting point. These facts, shown clearly on the contour maps of the Ohoi8 Cooperative Topographic Survey, are also shown on the large map accompanying his volume.

Fire Lands

Near the close of the Revolution the enemy, assisted by Benedict Arnold, ravaged the coast of his home state, Connecticut, burning and destroying property chiefly in the towns of New Haven, Greenwich, Norwalk, Fairfield, and New London. Upon petition of these "Sufferers" to the State Legislature, Connecticut, May 10, 1792, set aside, as compensation for their losses, 500,000 acres at the west end of the Reserve. These lands were therefore designated as Sufferers' Lands, and are commonly known in Ohio as Fire Lands. The tract embraces the westernmost five ranges in the Reserve, an area almost covered by Erie and Huron Counties of today. Each Sufferer filed his claim for damages which was reported on by a Connecticut Legislative committee. A Connecticut law of 1795 required that the deed for the land given to each sufferer be recorded in the town where he originally suffered the loss. As an additional record, the names and amounts due each of the more than 1800 sufferers are printed in Ohio Land Laws for 1825.2

-----

2Reference No. 8 in Chapter XI following.

[81]

Plate 16

 

[82]

[page blank]

ORIGINAL OHIO LAND SUBDIVISIONS

83

The Fire Lands were set aside before any subdivision of the Reserve was begun, in fact before the Indian title had been acquired. The Fort Industry treaty gave this title in 1805, and afterwards the tract was cut up into the township and range system used in the balance of the Reserve. However, the subdivision within the townships themselves in the Fire Lands is entirely different from that in the rest of the Reserve. Each township was subdivided into four quarter, numbered counterclockwise, beginning with "quarter-town" No. 1 in the southeast corner as shown in Plate 16.

Connecticut Land company

September 2, 1795, Connecticut sold "3,000,000 acres" off the easterly end of the Reserve, that part east of the Fire Lands, to Joseph Howland, Oliver Phelps, Moses Cleveland, [sic] and forty-five other members of the "Connecticut Land Company" for $1,200,000. The deeds for the foregoing are recorded in the office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut in "State Records for Deeds, Patents of Land, etc., No. 5", pages 1 to 69 inclusive. Copies thereof are on record in Trumbull County, Ohio, in "Western Reserve Draft-Book," pages 5 to 73 inclusive.

Joseph Howard and his associates, as members of the Connecticut Land Company, on September 5th, 1795, joined in a deed of trust to John Caldwell, John Morgan, Jonathan Brace, and their heirs and assigns as trustees, conveying to them the whole of the "3,000,000 acres," with poser to survey, plat, and sell said lands. This deed is on record in the office of the Secretary of the State of Connecticut "State Records for Deeds, Patents of Land, etc., No. 5", in "Western Reserve Draft-Book," page 75, at Warren, Ohio; and in Records of Deeds, Vol. F., page 13, at Youngstown. Upon quit claim deeds from theses trustees depend land titles in the eastern 19 ranges of the Reserve.

Thus on the side of the white man, title to the Reserve east of the Fire Lands came down from the Crown, thru Colony, State, and Congress to the Connecticut Land Company. The claims of the Indians to the region had, however, to be extinguished. The Wyandots, Delawares, Chippewas, and Ottawas at Fort McIntosh in January, 1785, had surrendered all lands east of the Cuyahoga river, which runs about midway thru the Reserve. But his treaty was not respected and it was not until 1795 that the river was made an effective boundary by the treaty of Greenville. Even this treaty did not extinguish the Indian claim to lands west of the river, and it was not until the treaty of Fort Industry in 1805 that Connecticut people came into undisputed possession of the soil rights to the whole Reserve. (See page 127 of Chapter IX following.)

84

ORIGINAL OHIO LAND SUBDIVISIONS

Method of Subdivision

The officers of the Land Company decided on a method of subdividing their property on the second Tuesday in April, 1796. The plan adopted was that of dividing the region east of the Cuyahoga river into townships 5 miles square. This marked a departure from any method of land subdivision previously used in the country. Six-mile townships had been earlier proposed by Connecticut officials but were abandoned by the purchasers in favor of the smaller unit, perhaps because the smaller townships were more easily sold entire (as many of them were), perhaps because Congress at the time was considering the use of 5-mile townships for its military bounty lands.

The Pennsylvania line was made the base meridian from which to number townships northward toward Lake Erie as shown in Plate 16. Surveys began in 1796 and by the end of t1797 all the Reserve east of the Cuyahoga was surveyed into 5-mile townships except some land along Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga river, which formed irregular-shaped townships. Many of the townships were sold entire, the purchaser subdividing his property to suit himself. General Moses Cleveland, [sic] agent for the Company, reached the mouth of the Cuyahoga in 1796 to superintend the work of subdivision. The little settlement made there was the foundation of the city of Cleveland.

Altho lands west of the Cuyahoga were not subdivided until after the Indian title was extinguished in 1805, the Company continued the use of the 5-mile townships on west of the river to that part of the Reserve known as the Fire Lands. Thus the 5-mile township was used as the basis for subdividing the entire Reserve.

Irregular Subdivision of Townships

As a result of the inaccurate boundary surveys and still more inaccurate and irregular interior surveys, there is much variation in the size and shape of the "5-mile square" townships within the Reserve. Plate 16 shows how the townships in Range XIX vary in size from each other and from townships in other ranges. Also it shows how townships numbered 3 in the half-dozen ranges east of the Fire Lands are all smaller than intended in their north and south dimensions.

But aside from such inaccuracies as the above, many irregularities in the shapes of the surveyed townships along Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga river may be seen on the large map of this volume, and are indicated also in Plate 16. Thus in Range X, original surveyed townships 9 and 10 are radically different in shape and size. Township 7 in Range XIII has the Cuyahoga river for one boundary. Township 8 in Range XII is similarly

 

[85]

Plate 17

 

[86]

Plate 18

ORIGINAL OHIO LAND SUBDIVISIONS

87

irregular, or even more so. The shapes of townships 6 in Ranges XX to t XXII, and their arbitrary subdivision, will be noted. So also in the remaining ranges of the Fire Lands, the subdivisions of the northernmost townships, north of Sandusky Bay, were similarly arbitrary, too much so to be shown in detail on the maps of this volume.

Irregularities in shapes and sizes, such as those just mentioned, might explain the absence of a regular method of subdividing the interiors of townships uniformly thruout the Reserve, but great irregularity also exists within the townships that are actually five miles square. Most of the subdividing was left for the purchaser of each township, consequently so great a variety exists that no attempt has been made to show them on the red-line map of his volume. A couple of townships, selected at random -- numbers 11 and 12 in Range VI -- are shown in Plate 17.

Some of the 5-mile townships were cut up into sections one mile square. Others were laid out into "tracts," and each tract cut up into "lots" as shown in Plate 17. Each township with its special subdivision and the local errors in staking out the subdivision on the ground thus constitutes a separate problem in real estate history. A small volume could be written on almost any township in the Reserve. Thus Tallmadge Township, township 2 in Range X, was laid out twice, the first time in sections a mile square. The second purchaser, David Bacon, resubdivided the township in November, 1806, into 16 lots, each a mile-and-a-quarter square, containing 1000 acres each. Roads were planned along the sides of each lot, and radial roads from the four corners of the township to its center where Bacon located a town which he intended to be a model settlement and future city. The 1000-acre-lot subdivisions are those legally recognized today, altho topographic conditions modified the locations of the roads and affected the sizes of the lots. It is interesting to note that a hundred years of subsequent industrial growth has placed at two of the corners larger cities than the original little town of Tallmadge at the center of the township.

Such examples as these illustrate the variety and originality of some of the subdivision within townships in the Connecticut Western Reserve. Originality did not stop with land subdivision. Delia Bacon, a descendant of the original founder of Tallmadge, claiming descent from Lord Francis Bacon of England, in 1856 started the rumor that Bacon wrote the work attributed to Shakespeare. This idea was taken up by Ignatius Donnelly, became quite popular and has had wide vogue in the United States.

Records of Surveys

The State Auditor has no records of the subdivisions in the Connecticut Western Reserve. The whole Reserve was known as Trumbull

88

ORIGINAL OHIO LAND SUBDIVISIONS

County at the time Ohio was admitted to the Union. Warren was its county seat then, as it is now of present Trumbull County. At Warren was the western headquarters of the Connecticut Land Company of which Ephraim Root was clerk. Originals or copies of such of his papers as could be furnished by Connecticut, in response to resolution of the Ohio Legislature in 1843, are on record at Warren in the draft book mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. Since the Company sold many townships entire, notes of interior subdivision for such townships are missing from the records at Warren. The Western Reserve Historical Society at Cleveland has many such private notes, and is a chief source of information today concerning land lines in the Reserve.

The Fire Lands were not subject to the operations of the Connecticut Land Company. The sufferers were incorporated under acts of the Connecticut legislature in 1796 and 1797, and under act of the Ohio legislature, April 15, 1803. By the Ohio legislature, February 20, 1812, it was enacted that:

 

"WHERAS it is further represented by said directors that in transacting the business of said company under the provisions of the act aforesaid, [Act of April 15, 1803] they have caused their clerk to make and keep a true entry and a record of all the votes and doings of the directors, agreeably to the requirements of said act, and that said company have in consequence thereof, two record books, one of which contains the votes and proceedings of the directors, and a record of the field minutes of the survey of said land, and the other, a complete partition of the whole of said half million of acres, both which record books are certified to be the records of said company by Isaac Mills, esq. their clerk, and deposited in the hands of the recorder of Huron county, where the directors of said company pray they may be and remain as part of the records of said county -- THEREFORE -- the record books, aforesaid, containing the votes and proceedings of the directors of said company, and records of the field minutes for the survey of said half million of acres, and the records of partition thereof shall be kept by the recorder of Huron county and his successors in office.

According to the Connecticut State Librarian the following documents are in the office of the Secretary of State of Connecticut: Western Reserve Deeds, 1800-1807; Connecticut Land Company, Register of Certificates; Connecticut Land Company, Mortgages of Scrip 1796-1800; Register of Transfers 1795-1807 (Deeds). The original proceedings of the Connecticut Land Company belong to the Litchfield Historical Society, Litchfield, Connecticut. A photostat copy is in the Connecticut State Library.


BACK to home page


Last updated May 31, 1998