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As stated in a previous chapter the French traders were the first settlers of Ohio and the Northwest. In the course of eighty or a hundred years they lapsed into a state of semi-barbarism, not much above the average Indian. The number of this degenerate class was much greater than most people seem to apprehend. They were found by the commissioners sent out to make treaties, in considerable numbers in nearly every town in the Ohio territory. It is not to be understood, however, that the preceding remark should be applied to all the French traders. Many of them were shrewd, intelligent men, more intent upon driving profitable trades, than in the elevation of the social and moral condition of their countryment and their descendants.
In addition to the French settlers, a contraband population, chiefly from Virginia and Western Pennsylvania, went in, during the Revolution, and took possession of lands in Ohio territory bordering on the Ohio river. To pacify the Indians and secure their good will, many of them married women held in captivity by the Indians, and not a few married Indian squaws. It was a compromise in the first instance, but later was discovered by the Indians to be a fraud. These innovations were considered so serious by the Indians that complaint was made by them to General Brodhead in 1778, "who reported to General Washington that he had sent troops from Pittsburg to drive off a land company who were trespassing upon the Indians somewhere opposite to Wheeling. The officer detached upon this duty reported that he had found settlements from Fort McIntosh down to the Muskingum, and extending thirty miles up the streams on the west side, of the Ohio. He evidently did not execute his orders, as these people were still the chief subjects of complaint of the Indians at the treaty of Fort McIntosh in 1785. Nor was their enterprise exclusively confined to stealing land. Some of them appropriated the salt springs (Mahoning county) which had long been used by the Indians." Numerous attempts were made to expel the invaders, but all failed of execution.
"The Revolutionary War had hardly closed before thousands of the disabled soldiers and officers were looking anxiously to the western lands for new homes, or for means of repairing their shattered fortunes." But it was not until 1784 that the dispute between the states of New York, Massachusetts, Virginia and the General Government with regard to the ownership of certain lands in the Ohio territory were settled. As soon as these states ceded their titles to the general government, offices were opend for the sale of lands in central and southern Ohio. In 1800 Connecticut, also, ceded her title to the Fire Lands in the northern portion of the state, by which all the lands of the Northwest Territory passed under the control of the General Government.
"On the 13th of July, 1787, Congress assumed jurisdiction over the territory, and passed an ordinance for its government, by the provisions of which, the territory was to be governed by a Governor, a Secretary, and three Judges. The President appointed these officers, and they were to make the laws and execute them. This form of defective government was to continue until the Northwest Territory contained five thousand free white male inhabitants over twenty-one years of age, when the people were authorized to elect a legislature or general assembly."
On the 27th of October, 1787, Manasseh Cutler and Winthrop Sargeant, as agents of the "Ohio Company Associates," entered into a contract with the board of treasury for the purchase of one million five hundred thousand acres of land (which was afterward reduced by consent of the parties to 964,280 acres), lying within the bounds of the tract which was offered for sale by the act of Congress, of the 23d of July, 1787. The lands were conveyed by letters patent on the 29th of October, 1787, under the seal of the United States, to Rufus Putnam, Manasseh Cutler, Robert Oliver, and Griffin Green, in trust for the persons composing the "Ohio Company of Associates."
In April, 1792, a patent was also granted to John Cleves Symmes for 311,682 acres, adjoining the Ohio river, and situated between the Miami rivers.
Under the act of Congress of July 13th, 1787, Arthur St. Clair was appointed governor of the Northwest Territory. Samuel H. Parsons, James M. Varnum and John Armstrong were appointed Judges. The latter not accepting the office, John Cleves Symmes was appointed in his place, and Winthrop Sargeant was apointed Secretary. A meeting of the stockholders was held in Boston in November and plans were made for founding a colony at the mouth of the Muskingum river. Early in December boat builders assembled at Sumrill's Ferry, a point on the Youghiogheny river, about thirty miles above Pittsburg. By the second of April a sufficient number of boats were constructed to carry the emigrants to the Muskingum country. "The 'Adventure Gallery,' as it was then called, was forty-five feet long, and twelve feet in width, with the curved bow of a galley, and her heavy planks surmounted by a deck roof — a heavy, cumbersome craft, but snug enough to float down stream. She was afterward rechristened the Mayflower, with a propriety which will not be questioned, for New England was now, in her turn, going westward to plant the first colony in a wilderness." On the second of April the fleet, of forty-seven colonists, under command of General Putnam, sailed down the Youghiogheny into the Monongahela, and out upon the broad Ohio, which was to bear them to their new home. "For five days and nights they floated down the beautiful river. Occasionally, a flock of wild turkeys in the underbrush, or a startled deer, drinking at the water's edge, would draw the fire of the riflemen from the boats; and now and then the dusky form of an Indian would be seen darting into the forest. But the emigrants met with no interruption."
On the seventh of April, 1788, about noon they arrived at their destination. The troops from Fort Harmar (a United States fort erected in 1785) assisted them in landing and guarded the settlers until the stockades and block houses were constructed. There was a welcome from the people of the fort, and from a party of Delaware Indians encamped at the mouth of the river. The Delawares, to the number of about seventy, and headed by Captain Pipe, an influential chief, had come to trade with the soldiers of the garrison. With their accustomed diplomacy the Indians offered a most affable greeting to the white men. By July the streets of a city had been laid out with great regularity, when the associates met to give a name to their new home. These Revolutionary officers and soldiers were not unmindful of our nation's obligations to France, in achieving our Independence. They named the new town Marietta, in honor of Marie Antoinette, the unhappy queen of Louis XVI.
While the Marietta colonists were making rapid developments around the mouth of the Muskingum, Judge Symmes was making vigorous movements for the settlement of his large purchase of 311,682 acres between the Miami rivers. From that time until 1803, colonies of emigrants followed each other and filled up the most desirable locations from Marietta to Cincinnati.
The settlement at the mouth of the Muskingum was made before the arrival in the territory of the governor and judges. The judges arrived in June, and on the ninth of July, 1788, Governor St. Clair reached Marietta. After a few days of repose, the governor, on the 18th of July, made his first appearance before the citizens of the territory. The first law enacted under the newly constituted government was entitled:
"A law for regulating and establishing the Militia in the Territory of the United States northwest of the River Ohio." The first public act of the governor, was creating the county of Washington. The establishment of courts, and the enactment of necessary laws followed in rapid succession.
The dilatory action of the Governmental Treasury Commission and other officials, so retarded the efforts of Judge Symmes to establish a colony at South Bend, that he was compelled to suspend operations for a time. About the time that he had completed arrangements to pilot a company of emigrants to South Bend, the Indians assumed a threatening attitude toward the settlements of Marietta and Cincinnati. In a letter to a friend, Symmes wrote, "they (the Indians) are perpetually doing mischief; a man a week, I believe, falls by their hands." Before 1789, two settlements had been made within the Symmes Purchase. "In the course of 1789, Fort Washington was erected by a detachment of troops under the command of Major John Doughty, on a portion of the ground which is now the site of Cincinnati; and a few friends settled on the rich bottom lands just below the mouth of the Little Miami river, where they laid the foundation of Columbia."
During the spring and summer of 1790, the menacing attitude of the Indians became very alarming.
As early as July, 1789, Judge Symmes wrote to the Hon. Jonathan Dayton, of Elizabethtown, "that he had sent Isaac Freeman into the Indian country. He returned safe, but brings such terrifying accounts of the warlike preparations making in the Indian towns, that it has raised fresh commotions in this village, and many families are preparing to go down to the falls. They say, 'We will not stay longer at a place like this, the very forlorn hope of the United States, and at the same time so intolerably neglected as we are.' One ensign and twelve soldiers in a little block house badly constructed, and not an axe, hoe, spade, or even tomahawk — the property of the United States — is furnished them. They feel themselves abandoned to destruction, and whether the danger they apprehend is real or imaginary, 'tis the same to them.'
"While Mr. Freeman was at the Indian towns he was lodged at the house of Blue Jacket (then at Wapakoneta), and while there he saw the pack horses come to Blue Jacket's house loaded with five hundred weight of powder, and lead equivalent, with one hundred muskets; this share he saw deposited at the house of Blue Jacket. He says, the like quantity was sent them from Detroit to every chief through all their towns. Freeman saw the same dividend deposited at a second chief's house in the same town with Blue Jacket. On the arrival of these stores from Detroit, British colors were displayed on the house top of every chief, and a prisoner among the Indians who had the address to gain full credit with them, and attended their council house every day, found means to procure by artifice an opportunity of conversing with Freeman. He assured Freeman that the Indians were fully determined to rout these settlements altogether, that they would have attempted it before this time, but had not military stores, but these being then arrived, it would not be long before they would march; that they only waited the return of a Mr. Magee with two pieces of artillery from Sandusky or Detroit, and they would proceed without further delay down to the Ohio on their proposed expedition."
"The hostility of the Indians at this period, and the great uneasiness that they had manifested during the preceding years, are generally and justly attributed to the intrigues of the British agents in the northwest; and it therefore may be proper here to refer more particularly to the motives and ends of their policy, and the means by which they sought to effect it:
"Most of the tribes adhered to England during the Revolutionary struggle. When the war ceased, however, England made no provision for them, and transferred the Northwest to the United States, without stipulation as to the rights of the natives. The United States, regarding the lands of the hostile tribes, as conquered, and forfeited, proceeded to give peace to the savages, and to grant them portions of their own land. This produced discontent, and led to the general uprising of the Indians that followed."
The British government in justification of their continued occupation of the forts on the frontier, claimed that certain stipulations in the treaty of 1783, had not been complied with. They conceded that they had agreed, as speedily as possible, to evacuate all the northwestern posts, which lay within the boundaries of the United States; while, on the other hand, Congress had stipulated that no legal impediments should be thrown in the way to prevent the collection of debts due to British merchants before the declaration of war. Large importations had been made by American merchants, upon credit, in 1773 and 1774; and as all civil intercourse between the two countries had ceased until the return of peace, the British creditors were unable to collect their debts. Upon the final ratification of the treaty, they naturally became desirous of recovering their property, while their debtors as naturally were desirous of avoiding payment.
Congress had stipulated that no legal barrier should be thrown in the way; but, as is well known, Congress, under the old confederation, was much more prolific in "resolutions," or rather "recommendations," than acts. The states might or might not comply with them, as suited their convenience. Accordingly, when Congress recommended the payment of all debts to the state legislatures, the legislatures determined that it was inexpedient to comply. The British creditor complained to his government; the government remonstrated with Congress, upon so flagrant a breach of one of the articles of pacification; Congress appealed to the legislatures; the legislatures were deaf and obstinate, and there the matter rested. When the question was agitated, as to the evacuation of the posts, the British, in turn, became refractory, and determined to hold them until the acts of the state legislatures, preventing the legal collection of debts, were repealed. Many remonstrances were exchanged, but all to no purpose.
Up to this time (1789) there was no systematic or general movement of the Indians for the extirpation of the whites, as was alleged to be the object of their great confederacy of 1782. The irregular mode of living among the savages, forbade the accomplishment of such a design, if it had even been their settled purpose; the subsistence of themselves and families being principally derived from the chase, a species of provision which did not permit the laying up of extensive and permanent stores, if even their improvident mode of living had permitted the effort.
But when they found the settlers entrenching themselves in fort after fort, circumscribing their range, and cutting them entirely off from their hunting grounds south of the Ohio, there can be no doubt that a determined hostility sprung up in the minds of the savages, which all the exertions of the American Government failed to allay, and soon rendered it apparent that the two races could not live together in amity, where it was the policy of the one to reclaim the country from the hunter, and of the other to keep it a wilderness.
From "History of Western Ohio and Auglaize County with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Pioneers and Prominent Public Men" by C. W. Williamson, W.M. Linn, Pub, Columbus, 1905.