Who Owns the Land?
BEFORE THE second wave of Indians on the Cuyahoga, the first wave of white settlers arrived.
Although Brady’s leap is only an episode, it is part of the buildup to the major Indian war which was brewing. That story of Tecumseh’s rising confederation built around the Wyandots, Shawnees, Miamis, and Delawares is not part of the Cuyahoga story except that, when it came to climax in the Battle of Fallen Timbers against General Anthony Wayne, in western Ohio, the Greenville Treaty resulted.
That treaty established the western boundary of the United States as a line from the mouth of the Cuyahoga upstream to the big bend, south across Portage Path to the head of the Tuscarawas to Fort Laurens, then southwest slaunchwise across Ohio to Greenville, and southwest across the bottom of Indiana country.
But this treaty directly affected settlement of the Cuyahoga valley in this way. With the Indian title to eastern Ohio now extinguished, the area was finally available for white settlement. And the settlement of the Cuyahoga frontier was unique.
Connecticut people traveling northern Ohio are always startled to find themselves home. The towns and streets have Connecticut names. The houses have Connecticut architecture. The towns have Connecticut-type governments. The phone books are filled with grand old Connecticut names. The reason for that is one of the most interesting land stories in American history.
In its simplest statement, Cuyahoga country and northeast Ohio were settled as they were because Connecticut men wanted good schools - in Connecticut. Even today they owe their good schools to the Cuyahoga.
East of the Alleghenies, the random shapes of the towns and farms and meandering roads reflected colonists beating paths to where they needed to go and shaping their farms to hug the streams and shun rocky hills.
Some of the Ohio frontier was also settled in a scatter pattern as Revolutionary War bounty land warrant holders found their way across the Alleghenies into the Ohio country and settled where they wanted.
However, the Cuyahoga country was settled with graph paper calculation by plotting Connecticut men. It was a three-million acre real estate venture, which began with Connecticut’s conviction that she owned what is now northern Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah and Nevada. And she had very able attorneys who partially proved it.
They referred back to their charter. On March 19, 1631, Earl Robert conveyed for Charles I to Viscount Say and Sele the patent of Connecticut. The document the King signed said that Connecticut would begin at the western boundary of Providence Plantations (Rhode Island); its south and north boundaries would be the 41st and the 42nd parallels.
Not knowing a good landmark for Connecticut’s western boundary, and not believing the continent could be very wide anyway, he wrote with a flourish that Connecticut would then extend west to “the great south sea.”
Connecticut attorneys naturally interpreted “the great south sea” as the Pacific Ocean. So Connecticut came out in their view as a strip of land about 67 miles deep, but 3,000 miles wide.
Other colonies had equally pretentious claims. Naturally these claims all overlapped.
After the Revolution when the young Republic was trying to organize itself, it became important to get settlers onto those lands to hold them. But whose settlers? Who owned the land?
Each colony or state expected to start by granting lands in its western parts to its Revolutionary War veterans as payment for service.
Virginia began this practice immediately. Hence the conflict came quickly to a legal boil.
The small landlocked states, which had no such claims to western lands (Maryland, Rhode Island, New Jersey), maintained that the war was won by the common blood and that the lands thus won belonged to the Republic, not merely to the large states.
The colonies’ lawyers were holding up America.
Finally Virginia, with some practicality and a lot of patriotism, gave up her western claims. New York followed. Pennsylvania was not so gracious, and she and Connecticut came to gunfire and bloodshed over it. But Pennsylvania finally ceded.
Connecticut was the holdout, and she was able to drive a hard bargain for two reasons. First, the nation was eager to get on with it, and willing to stretch a point. Second, Connecticut had great sympathy on her side because of the brutal massacre of Connecticut men by Pennsylvanians in a land war.
On September 14, 1786, Connecticut therefore drove her bargain. She finally ceded her claims through Pennsylvania, then her western claims beyond Lake Erie to the Pacific; but reserved to herself a 120-mile strip of her original claim from the Pennsylvania border west between the 41st and 42nd parallels along the south shore of Lake Erie.
The Republic agreed to this. And the land came to be called the Connecticut Western Reserve, or New Connecticut. With that settled, the United States established a government over the territory north and west of the Ohio River, seated at Cincinnati, the Northwest territory.
But now what of the 120-mile strip along Lake Erie containing the Cuyahoga?
Connecticut’s plan was to sell the land and use the money as the investment capital for a public school system which was to be supported on the annual yield from that money. She tried two methods of selling the land which did not work. But finally in 1795, the General Assembly in Hartford appointed a committee of eight men, representing each Connecticut county, and empowered them to sell the land at a certain price.
It was estimated that the Reserve contained in excess of three-million acres, not counting a half million set aside for the Connecticut fire victims. (During the Revolutionary War, British raiding parties inflicted severe damage on several towns in Connecticut, burning and pillaging. In 1792, the legislature of Connecticut granted to the sufferers, their heirs, and assigns 500,000 acres, consisting of ranges 20, 21, 22, 23, and 24 of the Connecticut Western Reserve, in Erie and Huron counties.) Connecticut insisted that the three-million acres produce one-million dollars in revenue, an average price of 33 cents per acre. But the Assembly insisted that the committee sell the entire tract before they could issue papers on a single acre of it.
Anything the buyers of the land could make on it over and above what they paid was fine with Connecticut. She eschewed later high profit in favor of a quick million for seed money to start her “perpetual school fund,” the interest from which would be used only for schools.
Now action was fast. By September 2, 1795, the eight-man committee had sold the land for $1,200,000. But they had not sold it in small plots.
Thirty-five Connecticut men had banded together to buy the entire three-million acres. They did not pay cash, but they gave bond and a mortgage against the property. Some of the 35, however, were representing not only themselves but others, so that actually 57 men were involved in the purchase.
The names of the 35 are of interest, because you may enjoy seeing them appear later on the land as towns, rivers, roads - and in Cuyahoga country history as judges, legislators, soldiers, and governors.
These men did not plan to work together after the purchase was complete. Each intended to develop and resell his own portion. But before they could do that, it was necessary to give each man his land. And when land is being divided from a map, it is not assigned simply in appropriate areas; the quality of the land is what counts.
A system for distributing the land fairly was necessary. And before a system could be invented, someone would have to go west and explore, classify, and measure the lands, and someone must go out and move from the tract the Indians not party to or not acknowledging the Greenville Treaty. Connecticut had sold it to the 35 purchasers on an as is basis.
These buyers chose seven of their number as directors. The directors in turn appointed General Moses Cleaveland of Canterbury, Connecticut, as superintendent of an exploration and surveying party; Augustus Porter, deputy superintendent and principal surveyor; Theodore Shepard, physician; Joshua Stow, commissary; Seth Pease, astronomer-surveyor; and Amos Spafford, John Holley, Richard Stoddard and Moses Warren, surveyors.
These men in turn hired some 37 men for boatmen, chainmen, packmen, polemen, blacksmith, cooks, axemen and general labor.
They were to measure off the Reserve into townships five miles square in vertical ranges surveyed beginning at Pennsylvania’s west border and numbered east to west from one to 24.
While Cleaveland led the party west, Seth Pease, the astronomer-surveyor, traveled to Philadelphia to purchase special instruments and get instructions from the distinguished astronomer, David Rittenhouse. Pease had done considerable surveying for the large land jobber, Oliver Phelps, who was also a director of the Connecticut Land Company and its largest shareholder. He had invested $168,185. But surveying in New England, Pease had been working with existing boundary lines and corners, while out in the Connecticut Western Reserve there was not a mark on the land save a square line of blazes outlining the salt lands purchased by Moses Warren, and those marks related to nothing. So Pease might have to start with the stars.
If the party was fortunate, they might find the western boundary of Pennsylvania well marked. But they would have to check it, and there was talk that Mr. Ludlow, who had laid it off many years before, had favored the Penns some.
The 68-day trip west was interesting, but we’ll forego it and pick up the party at the mouth of the Conneaut River, just west of the Pennsylvania line.
In 1796, there was no settlement at Buffalo or Black Rock, nor any between the mouth of the Cuyahoga and the Ohio River. Erie was the nearest settlement to the mouth of the Cuyahoga.
The map Cleaveland was using was made by John Heckwelder, Indian missionary. It was quite accurate in relating the Cuyahoga to Lake Erie and shaping the shoreline. Otherwise it was nearly blank. In the pamphlet which included the map, Heckwelder had written, “Cujahaga will hereafter be a place of great importance.”
Historians dismiss Moses Cleaveland kindly but lightly. He made no ringing pronouncements, fought no wars, and once a city had been named for him, went back to Connecticut and stayed. But historians, accustomed to documenting the action of soldiers and statesmen, are not always accustomed to evaluating a superb executive. Cleaveland was that.
His assignment was not to settle in the west, but to survey 120 miles of it accurately, then bring his men home safely. Few have noticed that in doing these jobs for the Connecticut Land Company, Cleaveland was also required to extinguish the Indian titles as he proceeded. He performed that major and very ticklish chore smoothly and at a good price, gaining not only title but good relations. If it may be said that his deal with the Indians was a little too canny for good grace, it must be added that he stuck strictly to the terms and boundaries and forced all other white men to do likewise.
He faced a strike on the part of his crew, and handled it in a way to give advantage to the men without damaging the Connecticut Land Company.
Moses Cleaveland graduated from Yale in law and after two years accepted a captaincy in the sappers and miners in the Army of the United States. He resigned to enter the Connecticut legislature and was later appointed general officer in the Fifth U.S Brigade.
Cleaveland was a heavily muscled block of a man, so dark in complexion that he was frequently taken for Indian by Indians, especially when dressed in his usually forest-stained clothes.
When General Cleaveland had made his very satisfactory bargain with the Indians at Conneaut, the surveyors set out to find the west boundary of Pennsylvania. It was not hard. The boundary monuments were well preserved; and because the Penns had cut such a wide path through the timber on the border, even the second growth identified it clearly. Obviously from the diaries of the surveyors, they were quite thrilled to locate the first marker. The plan was to move south on this boundary to the 41st parallel, then run their own southern boundary west from it for 120 miles.
Seth Pease, the party’s astronomer, responsible for the instruments, made use of the trip south over the Pennsylvania border to check the variation in his compasses.
At the 41st parallel, the party ran the Western Reserve’s south line, not the full 120 miles, just far enough to give them a line from which to get started on a few vertical range lines. They split into four crews, then drove these range lines north to the lake, but they became concerned about the disparity in their compasses. Were they converging seriously as they went north? They wouldn’t know until they ran their parallels, which would slice the ranges into square townships.
While the surveyors worried about this, Moses Cleaveland, who had made good use of his limited manpower, left a supply installation at Conneaut (Elijah Gunn, Joshua Stow) while he took the rest of the party west along the coastline by boat to find the Cuyahoga River.
He had several reasons. First, he anticipated that he should establish the headquarters for the region on its banks. Second, Cuyahoga was about in the middle of his 120-mile Western Reserve; third, it was officially the western boundary of the entire United States. He should demonstrate to the Indians that would go to the east bank of it exactly, and would not cross it. And so he established his storehouse for supplies on the east bank. Job Stiles was in charge of it. And while exploring the Cuyahoga valley and establishing a headquarters, Cleaveland planned the area.
The four crews completed running the four vertical ranges and began now to run parallels to slice the ranges into townships exactly five miles square.
However, as the surveyors cut their way through the forest, running the horizontals, they found the tops of the townships were not exactly five miles wide. Those compass variations which had worried Pease and Holley were making the north-south lines converge and diverge. Now these small differences in the size of townships at the south end of this wide land would not be serious, of course; but as the surveyors worked their way north to Lake Erie, the differences would increase. How bad would they be at the tops?
They continued the survey.
Back in Connecticut there was a growing interest in inaccuracy. The Heckwelder map of the Cuyahoga country, now being used by Moses Cleaveland, showed about three-million acres in the Western Reserve.
But there was extant another map of the area made by an explorer named Lewis Evans in 1755. This was a much more exciting map - a more promotional map. It placed the Cuyahoga River with accuracy, the Portage, the Tuscarawas. It showed the now famous salt spring near Youngstown. Perhaps then, Lewis Evans’s map was equally accurate in other matters. And Mr. Evans’s map showed Lake Erie running more nearly east-west. It had less of a southwest slant to it, and this meant less water and more land. Possibly there were a lot more than three-million acres in the Western Reserve. Suddenly the men of the Connecticut Land Company back east became keenly interested in map collecting.
They found another map by a man named Henry Popple, made about 1730. It shows Lake Erie much larger, but again set squarely east-west in the continent and not cutting an enormous bay out of the Western Reserve.
So while the Moses Cleaveland surveying party was rapidly becoming heartsick in the west from ague, hunger, dysentery, and low pay, and men were beginning to wonder why they had accepted this work at three dollars a week, the 57 stock-holders in the Connecticut Land Company were impatient for the men to return with the completed survey. And a small splinter group of these 57 were getting a special flinty-eyed look of greed. They began to feel they had bought far more than three-million acres.
Then they unrolled an old map made by Thomas Hutchins, a highly regarded surveyor, later to become the national geographer. His map was believed to be quite accurate; and, as they studied it, they found again that Lake Erie did not tilt so sharply as Heckwelder had mapped it. They began to believe there was not only land in excess of three-million acres, but vastly in excess.
The members of the Connecticut Land Company were largely men with land sense, but one among them was an experienced professional land developer, Oliver Phelps. He had operated on a large scale in New England and on the Genesee in New York State. And as the largest single shareholder in the Connecticut Land Company, he believed in it. Further, he believed in the existence of the excess land in the Reserve.
Oliver Phelps and a handful of others including General Hull, the same Hull of the brilliant Revolutionary War record (later to be dimmed by his surrender of Detroit in 1812), formed the Excess Company.
The Excess Company offered the Connecticut Land Company for a fixed price all land which might be found in the Reserve in excess of the three-million acres and the Firelands.
This proposal came before the three-man executive committee of the board of directors and was accepted by them, as might be expected, with Oliver Phelps being on the approving committee. With the proposal accepted, and with the powerful real estate name of Phelps connected with it, Excess Company stock was in big demand.
Pressure to cross the Indian line and explore the excess hit the surveyors who were slowing down from sickness and disappointment. Fighting fever and hunger, they felt little loyalty to men in the east who were in a hurry to know how much excess land they had bought.
General Moses Cleaveland had held scrupulously to his promise to the Indians not to cross the Cuyahoga, but now his company wanted to push a survey west to the 120-mile limit in order to discover the shape of the shore line and the amount of excess land they owned.
Therefore, Augustus Porter, second in command of the survey party, hastened his survey of the fourth range line from the 41st parallel to the lake, and then was excused from running the parallels to create the townships. He hurried to the stone marker at the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and began his traverse of the lake front, planning to go all the way to the end of the 120 miles - to make an accurate shoreline map which would show the quantity of excess land.
As Porter and his crew began this trek west, other crews were suddenly becoming disturbed about the unparallel deviation in their north-south lines. They were not so worried about it as they had been before, because they now had larger worries. Men were sick so frequently that the surveyors could not field full crews; some were dying. It was necessary to take men off the surveying to care for the sick. So these crews dragged themselves through the forest. Running a line, which once took a day, now took four.
At this point the seldom chronicled executive ability of Moses Cleaveland came into play.
He deployed his men with great care to replace the sick, and to try not to overwork those who were able to drag themselves around. He tried to get medicine. He obtained assistance for overworked Dr. Shepard. And he kept his eye on the calendar to be sure he could get the group out of the area before snowfall.
The men who were running the horizontals consecutively from south to north now skipped a few and moved north to see how much actual convergence there was in the meridians because of compass variations.
To their surprise, they found the variations which were a matter of feet just 67 miles south on the south line had now grown to variations of a half mile and more. Some townships were only four and a half miles wide at the top while others were five and a half miles. This meant that some of the northern farms were going to be very pie-shaped, and there would be work for attorneys for a hundred years to come.
But the men were tired, and they continued the survey, leaving the slanting lines behind them. They were working as long as they could stay on their feet, but now they were grumbling.
Meanwhile Augustus Porter pressed his traverse vigorously. He had reached the mouth of the Cuyahoga, and he was disappointed. He had positively established that there was a slashing southwest angle to the Lake Erie shore. There was no excess this far. But perhaps west of the Cuyahoga the shoreline would sweep north again.
Cleaveland’s agreement with the Five Nations Indians prescribed that surveyors would not cross the river. But Porter crossed the Cuyahoga and pushed his line along the lake shore heading for Sandusky Bay, to the point where his calculated westings told him he was due north of the west end of the 120-mile length of the Connecticut Western Reserve.
He almost reached that end. His later report to the directors explained that he “was not able to run the west line completely, on account of the Indian title not being extinguished!” But he explained that he came close enough that by a simple map exercise he could calculate the acreage at 3,450,753 acres, including the Firelands which did not belong to the Connecticut Land Company.
Instead of reporting an excess, he was therefore reporting a shortage. We can see the man trying to come at least back up to the starting point, like any businessman at the end of a bad quarter. He added that “this figure does not include the islands of Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay, supposed to exceed the islands in quantity about 30,000 acres.”
Word filtered back to the Excess Company. They refused to believe it. “Why, the errors in Porter’s survey are massive! We already know the compasses are not agreeing by what’s happening east of the Cuyahoga.”
“They say the men are getting very careless from fatigue. They don’t stretch the chain tight, and in offsetting around the swamps, I hear they are just making the offsets by eye.”
The Excess Company challenged the survey even before the report was officially made to them. They requested a mathematics professor from Yale to be ready to audit the field notes of the surveyors.
While irritation was setting in at home in Connecticut, out on the survey outrage was setting in. These men had not signed on to write a piece of frontier history; they signed up only for wages.
But new land forced men to heroism or death. The ague-fever that went with opening up new land out there was called Cuyahoga fever. And it was still thinning the ranks. It made the crews truculent.
Cleaveland saw that he was not going to finish by snow-fall, and that he would not be able to keep these men alive through the winter. He decided on expediency: he would complete the survey on those six townships which were not to be parceled out among stockholders but were reserved to the Connecticut Land Company which would sell them to raise funds to continue the surveying.
While Porter continued his study of the lake shoreline, Pease, Spafford, and Stoddard were to run the short laterals in the northeast corner, while Holley’s crew brought north more range lines. The men were eating rattlesnake, bear, muskrat, rabbit.
Cleaveland was trying to get the headquarters city survey complete. The men were trying to go home. So there came a day when 18 of them approached Cleaveland with an ultimatum: more money - or they would pull out for Connecticut.
Cleaveland’s leadership was tested severely. He had no more allowable budget, but the Connecticut Land Company did have land to burn. Cleaveland therefore selected one township near the heart of the Western Reserve. He pointed to it on the map, and talked to the men about the hordes of immigrants who would follow to buy land; about the city which would grow at the mouth of the Cuyahoga, which “I believe will grow to nearly the size of Old Windham, Connecticut.”
He told the men that the Connecticut Land Company would grant in fee simple one equal share in this township to each member of the crew who would agree to the following:
- By 1797 (the following year) there must be 11 people resident in the township.
- In 1798 they must settle 18 more families on it, each to clear five acres.
- In 1799 there must be 12 more families who must each have eight acres in wheat.
- In 1800, 41 families must be in the township.
Forty-one of the men signed these articles, seven abstained. The signers divided the township with survey lines; and, being surveyors, they named the township in honor of the father of geometry - Euclid.
The 41 proprietors of Euclid then met to draw lots to see which of them would settle here according to contract in the years 1797, 1798, and 1799. None volunteered. The 11 who won (or lost) the draw were: Seth Pease, who established a distinguished and useful family in the Reserve; Theodore Shepard, the physician; Amzi Atwater, assistant explorer, who would live until 1851 and be the last survivor of the survey party; Elisha Ayer; Tim Dunham; Sam’l Forbes; Sam’l Hungerford; Wareham Shepard, packman and best friend of Atwater; Sam’l Agnew, and two others not yet identified.
Moses Cleaveland satisfied the men, and while it is true he was giving away his employer’s assets, he was trying to gain for the company a built-in population. He served both employers and employees well.
On Monday, October 17, 1796, John Holley wrote in his journal, “Finished surveying in New Connecticut; weather rainy.” Tuesday, October 18, 1796, he wrote, “We left Cuyahoga at 3:00 o’clock 17 minutes for HOME. We left at Cuyahoga Job Stiles and wife and Joseph Landon with provisions for winter.” They rowed about seven and a half miles and camped for the night.
On the Reserve at Cleaveland, the general left Job and Tabitha Stiles and Edward Paine in charge of stores in a cabin on lot 53. At Conneaut, he left Elijah Gunn and wife and the Kingsbury family. At Sandusky was a French trader.
These were the only white men left on the Reserve as silent winter hardened in.
Deserving to return to Hartford and a hero’s welcome, the managers of the survey party instead stepped into a meeting of disappointed stockholders. They appointed a committee to inquire why the costs of the survey were running so high; another to inquire into the conduct of the directors.
They challenged Augustus Porter’s field notes of survey and had them gone over by the Yale professor who could find no error in his total of 3,450,753 acres including the half million acres of the Firelands.
While these business matters went on in Hartford, Connecticut, those left on the Reserve faced a brutal winter.
The Stileses and Edward Paine at the mouth of the Cuyahoga were able to survive fairly well because they had the company rations stored there. Besides, they were assisted with game by Ogontz, the Ottawa; Sagamaw, a Chippewa, and Seneca.
But at Conneaut where the Kingsburys were holding the land, snow fell early and the winter froze in hard. James Kingsbury had come onto the Reserve as the first frontiersman with intent to settle. Initially, he had nothing to do with the Land Company. He and his wife, Eunice, came from Alsted, New Hampshire, with their children, Abigail, Amos, and Almon, an infant. They came to have a very large part in the Cuyahoga story.
Kingsbury was a colonel of militia in New Hampshire, but pining for action. There being none, he packed up his family in an ox-drawn wagon and moved west for the frontier. The young family reached Buffalo Creek in New York just as General Cleaveland was coming through to catch up with his surveying party. He urged Kingsbury to join him, help with the work, and buy land later when he had seen all the survey and picked his favorite spot.
Kingsbury worked with the survey crew in matters of supply and when the crew went home in the fall, his assignment was to remain at Conneaut in charge of some stores. But because the winter set in so fast and hard, it drove game into hiding, and it was necessary to kill for food one of the cattle left by the survey party.
For an unknown reason, Kingsbury had to return to New Hampshire in November. He went on horseback, expecting the trip to take perhaps six weeks. But when he arrived in New Hampshire, he was laid low by the fever. As soon as he could ride he started his return. He reached Buffalo creek on December 3, and next day resumed his journey in a driving horizontal snow.
At Conneaut, meanwhile, his wife was flat on a pallet bunk, extremely ill. She had birthed a baby and the other children were trying to feed the family at her direction. They had been put to such extremes as digging out kernels of corn which had fallen between the floor puncheons and scraping aside snow to see if underneath could be found anything edible.
The mother’s fever deprived the baby of its food, and the older children frantically tried to find twigs to feed the remaining cow so that the baby might have milk. It was crying constantly with starvation.
James Kingsbury fought his way through the snow from the east. It fell for three weeks and in many places drifted chin deep. With the aid of an Indian, he moved forward each day.
At some time on the journey his horse died. He sighted the cabin in Conneaut on the 24 of December.
Inside the cabin, his children told him the worst of it, Mrs. Kingsbury being hardly able to speak. The returned traveler took a hand sled and started on foot for Erie for a bushel of wheat. He was able to get all the way to Erie and back before anyone in the cabin died. They cracked the wheat and boiled it, but the infant died.
As they carried the child from the house in its coffin, the mother fell back on the bed and remained scarcely conscious for two weeks.
But Kingsbury was able to kill a pigeon for rations. The weather broke shortly and it looked as though the rest of the Kingsbury family could survive until the arrival of the second survey party.
The second survey party was under the leadership of Reverend Seth Hart, but Seth Pease was in charge of the outfitting and launching and most of the work.
He moved out of Suffield, Connecticut, April 3, and headed for Schenectady, New York. On June 1 Pease recorded in his journal, “Entered Cuyahoga mouth at 3 hrs. 22 minutes p.m. Found Mr. Stiles and Mrs. Stiles well, also Mrs. Gunn.”
The work in Cleaveland started with news of a death in the party. David Eldridge drowned in attempting to swim his horse across the Grand River.
Seth Pease, a young man, began in an organized manner. He checked the supplies left from last year, set men to planting a large garden to avoid the hunger previously experienced, and organized the men into crews, each headed by a surveyor, and he kept all assignments clear.
He kept a mental accounting of supplies and where to put them so that, if teams were on schedule, they would run right into the replacements. And he made provision for taking good care of the horses: Hannah, Mary Ester, the Morton Mare, and the Stow Horse.
The young man was outranked in years and prestige by most of his crew who were older and included several captains and majors. But he ran the detail with a strangely charming combination of firmness, formality, and respect, which comes through in his steady stream of written directives distributed by runners.
You will proceed up the river to our headquarters, though I am at a loss at present where it will be fixed, but you may take the line between 10th and 11th ranges, and I will give you notice on that line at the nearest corner. We shall go as far as possible with our boats. If you should not arrive here [Cleveland] so as to be there in about 30 days, I think you had better not go up river, unless you receive another line from your humble servant,
Mr. Tinker ... I wish you to return and bring another boatload of stores as soon as possible. You will take four hands, and have such men return as are best pleased with the business of boating. I wish you a prosperous voyage.
As the work progressed, Pease himself took charge of one survey party. Thus his headquarters was always in motion. Yet even as he worked his own line, he had an amazing picture in his mind of what was progressing on all other parts of the survey; and as he moved, he not only directed the surveying, but also the supplying of crews. He made arrangements for the Kingsburys to be brought down from Conneaut to Cleaveland, and for the supplies to be leapfrogged ahead of the crews.
While his mind oversaw these broad aspects of the work, he had an eye for small details (“Warren’s crew left a frying pan on the west bank”), and for the technical precision of the survey, worrying constantly about the precision of the compasses.
The south line was run as follows: from the Pennsylvania line to the fifth mile, one degree, twenty minutes; should have been one degree, twenty-five minutes. From the fifth mile to the ninth miles, one degree, twenty minutes, should have been one degree thirty-three minutes. From ninth to thirteenth, I expect was very near the truth. From thirteenth to fifteenth miles, two degrees, two minutes, ought to have been one degree, fifty.
From observations made on the various compasses, I find I cannot reduce them to a common standard, being differently affected at different places. Of two compasses on the Cuyahoga River twenty miles south of the lake, one needle was to the left of the other ten minutes. At Cleaveland the one which was to the left stood fifteen minutes to the right, though they were not compared precisely at the same hour of the day. The magnetic needle is not always parallel to itself at the same place, which renders the compass inaccurate for long lines. The variation is so irregular that it admits of no calculation, and must be determined by observations upon the heavenly bodies.
The compasses were a constant worry to the surveyors. The more predictable compasses became favorites, and when the surveyors handling these fell sick, other surveyors borrowed their compasses. Ultimately the fever and ague struck this second surveying party and hard. But Pease kept the job going.
Upon his arrival, in his systematic way, he had constructed on lots 97 and 98 at Cleaveland a cemetery, and it was soon in use. But some casualties never made it to the central cemetery and their graves are scattered across the Reserve. For example, when all the lower lines were run except the fifth, sixth, and seventh meridians, Redfield was ordered to the seventh, Stoddard the sixth, Shepard and Atwater to the fifth, the west line of Trumbull and Ashtabula.
Stoddard was lame so Atwater took his compass and shifted over to the sixth. He ran the line ten miles when he met Stoddard, recovered enough to take over, and saying that Shepard was sick and needed relief at the northeast corner of Palmyra.
Atwater took over Shepard’s line and the crew. Miner Bicknell was in that crew. When they had run the line seven miles between Braceville and Windham, Bicknell became too sick to ride a horse and he could not walk. They were far from headquarters, had no medicine and not enough men in condition to carry Bicknell. Therefore, they constructed a stretcher of saplings and a blanket, slung it between two horses walking single file, and lashed the stretcher handles to the saddles with bark.
Atwater left Shepard with one man to run the line while he led the horses for Cleaveland, taking one able-bodied man with him. He traveled along the third parallel. Progress was so slow he sent the other man ahead to order a boat to come upriver from Cleaveland and meet them at the south line of Independence.
Bicknell had a high fever all the way. Atwater reached the boat meeting place after conveying Bicknell 50 miles. The boat arrived in the morning with Dr. Shepard aboard, but Bicknell died two hours after the meeting. Atwater wanted the body sent north to Cleaveland for burial, but the boatmen refused, fearing the disease.
Atwater was exhausted and so shaken at losing the man he had brought so carefully north that he now hastened back over his trail to rejoin Shepard, whom he had left in poor health. He found that Shepard had pushed the line to the northeast corner of Portage County and was in good health. Atwater pitched in with Shepard and they ran the line to the lake.
This completed the survey of the Western Reserve on the east side of the Cuyahoga.
Sickness accelerated toward late summer and boatloads men were sent east in early fall. Several of the surveyors took their pay and went home on foot. With his eye on the weather which could immobilize the party for the winter, Pease pressed the surveying of the best towns into lots so that the Land Company could sell off its reserved townships and earn income.
On October 3, 1797, Seth Pease loaded the remaining boats with sick men and horses and “left the mouth of the Cuyahoga at about l0-˝ a.m. Wind fair.”
In Hartford, Connecticut, Pease turned in his report of sickness and casualties. But the Land Company stockholders as usual were more interested in results and were eager for action. They wanted to know which townships he was recommending the company retain for sale; and they were eager to get on with the drawing by which the stockholders would receive their lands in New Connecticut. Pease and Hart had other recommendations, however, for the company’s consideration and on these they wanted action:
Action on donating one city lot to Tabitha Cumi Stiles, wife of Job Stiles, and one ten-acre lot and one 100-acre lot in compensation for her winter’s work. Approved.
Action on donating a 100-acre lot to Ann Gunn, wife of Elijah, for her winter’s work. Approved.
Red Jacket and Farmer’s Brother, Indians, to be voted a double douceur of $15 for expenses incurred in helping surveyors. Approved.
There was a donation lot for James Kingsbury, and then the stockholders went on to tax themselves another $20 a share to meet commitments.
They approved a donation of one city lot to Nathaniel Doan if he would move onto the Reserve at Cleaveland and establish a blacksmith shop.
The towns selected by the surveyors to be recommended to the Land Company as the most valuable were Nos. 5, 6, and 7 in Range 11, and No. 11 in Range 7. They became Northfield, Bedford, Warrensville, and Perry. This recommendation was part of the information needed by the Land Company in setting up the drawing.
The townships the Land Company reserved for sale by the company were: Madison, Mentor, Willoughby, Euclid, and Cleaveland. It could include Euclid because the Euclid surveyors broke their bargain. Only two of them showed up to settle the ground under the rules established at the time of General Cleaveland’s strike negotiation.
Now began the complex and arcane procedures for distributing the land fairly. Because the value of the land was uneven, parcels of land were classified as to value, on report from the surveyors, and coded by number on a map. These numbers were then placed on corresponding slips of paper and placed in three boxes for the drawing. A stockholder drew some slips from each of the three boxes - first, second and third class land. How many slips he drew from each box depended upon the number of shares he held.
This meant that his lands would be scattered around, but it insured that each shareholder drew some of the bad and some of the good. There was a separate drawing for the lands in those four towns of extra fine land.
And there would be still four other drafts as the survey later pushed west across the Cuyahoga, and again when the Firelands sufferers took up their half million acres at the western end of the Reserve.
Action was possible because General Cleaveland and Seth Pease had laid a five-mile grid over the three-million-acre forest, marked by blazes, posts . . . and a few wooden crosses.
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