Early Settlers

The Western Reserve 1795-1809

Map of the Western Reserve
Map of the Western Reserve

The Connecticut government retained over 3 million acres in Ohio, known as "New Connecticut." Connecticut sold the eastern portion of New Connecticut to the Connecticut Land Company sight unseen for 40 cents per acre in 1795 to a syndicate of 35 purchasing groups representing 58 individuals. The name “New Connecticut” was discarded a year later in favor of the name “Western Reserve.”

Connecticut gave up all rights to govern the land, and the federal government did not provide any legal or military protection. The Connecticut Land Company was only concerned with selling land and left the development of the region up to its new inhabitants. The plan was to explore, survey, and divide the land into homestead plots for sale as soon as possible to settlers from the east.

General Moses Cleaveland, a fellow shareholder, was asked by the company directors to lead a survey of the tract and the location of their purchases. Cleaveland hired Joseph Hodge, a negro hunter, and trapper to guide a surveying expedition from Buffalo to Conneaut and set out in 1797 with a party of fifty, including six surveyors, a physician, a chaplain, a boatman, thirty-seven employees, and two women who accompanied their husbands.

Cleaveland’s survey party threatened to quit unless there were more profitable arrangements. They found their work tedious, the swamps dangerous, and the food scarce. Forty-one of them settled for equal shares in township No. 8. The township was called Euclid after the mathematician, patron saint of the surveyor’s art.

The year 1797 witnessed the arrival of the first settlers: Lorenzo Carter, Elijah Gun, Ezekial Hawley and James Kingsbury with their families. Hardships with struggles to provide food and shelter along with disease and danger, tested their New England resolve.

Joseph Burke, a native of Vermont who was a drummer boy in the Revolutionary War, became a permanent settler. David Dille, a Virginia company lieutenant from the Revolutionary War, built a log cabin on the west bank of Euclid Creek. Dille was an Indian fighter and an all-around frontiersman.

By 1800, about 1,000 people were living in the Western Reserve.

Daniel Lathrop Coit, a 47-year-old well-to-do merchant in Norwich, Connecticut, set out in 1801 on what would be the first of five trips to the Western Reserve so that he might be fully informed. His 700-mile journey on horseback through the mountains of Pennsylvania was not without peril. A letter to his wife stated, “We have taken possession of the ‘Land of Canaan.’ The worst Hittites and Jebusites are the woods and forests to be cleared – no wolves, bears or rattlesnakes.”

It became increasingly burdensome selling to desirable settlers, and even more difficult securing payments and receiving funds safely with the mails being slow and irregular. Slow land sales forced the company to offer settlers moderate rates, free bonus land, and other incentives. Not many of the original shareholders made profits.

Because of its lack of success in selling its land, The Company dissolved on January 5, 1809, because of the lack of progress in selling parcels. Proprietors divided among themselves all remaining property.