Conquest of the Old Northwest - James Baldwin

The United States in Full Possession

I. The Surrender of the Lake Posts

The war thus happily brought to an end had been in progress seven years. It had cost much treasure and many lives. More than fifteen hundred men, women, and children in Kentucky alone had been massacred or carried into captivity, and the number of sufferers on the north side was proportionately greater. The Indians had lost much more than the whites. The bravest of their warriors had been slain, their villages had been burned, their fields had been destroyed; they were utterly broken and dispirited. For sixteen years there was no further uprising among them, and there was peace throughout the Northwest.

The British officers and the English traders at Detroit had all along hoped that the Indians would succeed in their struggle for the Northwest. Although not daring to take any active part in the war, they had constantly encouraged the savages to keep on fighting. Even after the great defeat at Fallen Timbers, the lieutenant governor of Upper Canada held a council with the chiefs on the Maumee, and tried to persuade them not to make peace.

"All the country north of the Ohio belongs by right to you," he said, "and you must not give it up. I myself will see the great man at Quebec; and we will tell the king, our father, about your grievances, and he will permit us to help you. In the spring our soldiers will come to your aid, and we will drive the Americans out of your hunting grounds."

But the Indians had listened too often to such words as these. Year after year they had been deceived with false promises of help from the British. They turned away silently, and resolved to seek peace.

The treaty which was made at Greenville was a death-blow to the hopes of the English at Detroit. They had hitherto interposed the Indians as a kind of wall between themselves and the Americans. By this means they had been able for thirteen years to hold unlawful possession of the lake posts and control the profitable fur trade of the Northwest. They now clearly saw that the time *as near at hand when they must retire from American territory.

That time came even sooner than they expected. Through the efforts of John Jay, our minister to England, a new treaty was made with Great Britain, in which it was stipulated that all posts and places in the United States that were then held by the British should be absolutely evacuated on the first day of June, 1796.

Even after this there were some delays on the part of the officers in charge of these posts. But on the 11th of July, the British having taken their leave, the stars and stripes were hoisted over the fort at Detroit and all the settlements in the lake regions became American. The entire Northwest was at last under the full control of the American people, and, with the exception of a small portion, was under the direct jurisdiction of the Federal government.

II. "New Connecticut"

While the Indian war was in progress the state of Connecticut did not forget the strip of land which she still claimed on the southern shore of Lake Erie, and which is known in history as the Western Reserve. About the time that the unfortunate St. Clair was giving up his commission, she made a free gift of a portion of it to such of her inhabitants as had suffered severely from the ravages of the British during the Revolution.

This portion included a tract of five hundred thousand acres lying across the western end of the Reserve and bounded on the north by the lake shore; and the land was to be divided among the sufferers in proportion to the amount of their losses. The tract was at first called "The Sufferers' Lands," but soon acquired the title by which that portion of Ohio is still known, "The Fire Lands." It was not until sixteen years later that these lands were divided into plots, and settlers began to occupy them.

[Illustration] from Conquest of the Old Northwest by James Baldwin

In 1795 the remaining part of the great Reserve was sold by order of the general assembly of Connecticut. No surveys or measurements were made, but it was purchased as a whole by thirty-five land speculators, who agreed to pay for it the sum of twelve hundred thousand dollars. The money thus received by the state was set apart as a perpetual investment for the support of the common schools. It is interesting to remember that no small part of the present school fund of Connecticut was thus derived from the sale of lands in the Old Northwest, to which she had no better claim than that based upon an ancient charter given to her in ignorance by King Charles II.

The thirty-five purchasers of the Western Reserve soon afterward sent out a company of fifty surveyors, who were to lay off the tract into townships each five miles square, and divide the townships into sections of a size convenient for the purposes of intending settlers. It was on the 4th of July when these surveyors with several others reached the mouth of Conneaut Creek, on the shore of Lake Erie. They decided to make this place their headquarters, and named it, in honor of the day, the "Port of Independence." Speeches were made and toasts were offered, and the settlement of the Western Reserve was begun.

Three weeks later, General Moses Cleaveland, the leader of the surveying company, went farther west and landed at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River. There, with a few others, he started a new settlement a settlement which prospered and finally developed into the enterprising city known by his name. When the surveyors had completed their work, they found that the purchasers of the Reserve were entitled, not to four millions of acres, as they had supposed, but to something less than three millions. For all political purposes this tract was still under the jurisdiction of Connecticut, although some of the purchasers supposed that they were now independent of any state and might set up a separate government of their own. They proposed to establish here the "State of New Connecticut," to be governed by the company, much in the same manner as the colony of Virginia had been governed by a company in England. But Congress, as well as the state of Connecticut, had something to say about this; and so, in 1800, the latter made a formal transfer to the Federal government of all jurisdiction whatsoever over the territory in question.

After seventeen years of waiting the United States was at last in complete possession of the Northwest.