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Wednesday, 12 February 2014 05:06


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Northwest Territory [Click for larger image]Northwest TerritoryAs explained in the Discussion #4 blog entry on this site, the land entry process in the State of Ohio was similar to that of Pennsylvania.  Documenting that statement is difficult as there has not been a compilation, at least that could be freely found online, explaining the process for Ohio.  The material presented here will deal with the Northwest Territory, thus the map to the right.

And before you, the reader, make an attempt to locate this map online, it does not exist.  It is a derivative of “North America, Published the 12th. of August 1804” by R. Wilkinson of London.  The map entire can be viewed online as part of The David Rumsey Map Collection, a site well worth a visit.  The aforementioned map was heavily modified overlaying with imaging techniques that portion germane to the Northwest Territory.

The one book pertaining to the subject of Federal land at the turn of the 19th Century, and differing in the normal low visual quality online at Archive.Org, is the book “Subdivisions of the Public Lands, Described and Illustrated with Diagrams and Maps” by Jerome Silliman Higgins (1843-1905).  The book was printed in 1887 by Higgins & Co. of St. Louis, Missouri.  Unfortunately the book does not offer any clues as to the land acquisition process in Ohio, nor for that matter any other state.

Another book, actually a series of them, is that by Ellen T. ‘Thomas’ Berry (1924-2011), and her husband David A. Berry (1922-2001) offers a plethora of information, but not the process.  Their Early Ohio Settlers books, three in all, are a must have for Ohio researchers.  The primary one to be used in this entrèe is “Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in Southwestern Ohio, 1800-1840”, a 372-page compilation covering most of southwestern Ohio and that section of Indiana called “The Gore”, printed in 1986.  The other two books are “Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in Southeastern Ohio, 1800-1840” (1984) and “Early Ohio Settlers: Purchasers of Land in East and East Central Ohio, 1800-1840” (1989).

The authors, in the Southwestern Ohio book list in one long table the names of the warrantee, the date of the warrant, where they resided at the time of warrant issuance, and the range, township and section of the entered land.  It is laid out in a similar fashion as what is displayed on the United States Bureau of Land Management web site.  The Federal government site is surely useful, and free, but having a printed book in hand is far more satisfying. A book has warmth and charm permitting easier exploration while an Internet site must be learned and, at times, can be daunting as it forces a correct spelling of a name for the search engine.

That being said, if the user knows how the BLM site works, it can be searched using the range, township and section numbers.  Do not worry about using the east, west, north and south selectors.  Do, if possible, use the meridian (survey) drop down as it will aid in limiting the areas searched.  More later as to the Southwestern Ohio and Eastern Indiana land surveys.

In this, article dealing primarily with the records of the Cincinnati Land Office of Ohio, Mrs. Berry states that after the final payment the Land Office issued a certificate listing the payments along with a certificate number.  This certificate was forwarded to the Federal government who issued a deed.  In Pennsylvania and elsewhere it is called a patent, with the deed needing to be recorded in the county.  It should be noted that not always was this deed recorded as there are exceptions to the rule.

Cincinnati was the terminus of several migration trails and the federal land office there served southwestern Ohio and eastern Indiana. The records, therefore, are particularly valuable to researchers. In the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, the Ohio River was used by pioneers pushing westward across Pennsylvania into the new Northwest Territory. Later, the Ohio River became the dividing line between slavery and non-slavery states. Anti-slavery settlers from the Carolinas and from Tennessee crossed the Ohio River at several points, but Cincinnati was a major gateway to land guaranteed free from slavery by the Ordinance of 1787. In fact, the Cincinnati area represents a microcosm of history, a history so complex that a brief discussion of the situation is necessary to enable the researcher to use these records to the best advantage.

Ellen T. Berry

It is fortunate for those using land records in Ohio, and westward, that the Northwest Territory was subdivided into a grid system as put forth by the delegate of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson.  A search of the Internet offers a myriad of material on this subject so it will not be part of this dialogue.

In Ohio there were four Federal land offices with some serving multiple “surveys”, or meridians as they are also related as. These offices were located in Chillicothe, Cincinnati, Marietta and Steubenville.  This excludes those that were served by other agencies, such as the Virginia Military District, the Western Reserve, and the Ohio Company grants, and others. As Mrs. Berry states:

Of the four land offices first established, the business of the Cincinnati office was the most complex.  The land to be sold in the Cincinnati District was covered by five different surveys, two of which were for land in the eastern and southeastern part of the present state of Indiana… the First Principal Meridian… Between the Miamis… the Symmes Purchase… the Second Principal Meridian…, and East and North of the Second Principal Meridian.

The problem often occurs in that the terms Mrs. Berry utilizes for the names of the surveys is confusing, with there being other perhaps more commonly known names for the surveys.  The fault is not with her, but more with historical misnomers.

Those familiar with deeds in Montgomery county, Ohio, and likely other counties in this tract, are familiar with the phrase “meridian line drawn from the mouth of the Great Miami River”.  The Bureau of Land Management calls this survey the “West of the Greater Miami” meridian.  Another alliterative term is “East of the First Principal Meridian”. The First Principal Meridian represents the border between Ohio and Indiana, including that strip in Indiana called “The Gore” even though it lies west of the state line. The aforementioned Subdivisions… book makes no mention of the Gore tract by name, except in passing when referring to the First Principal Meridian.

Ohio & Indiana Surveys [Click for larger image]Ohio & Indiana SurveysThe counties involved, north to south are Hamilton (part), Butler (part), Montgomery (part), Preble, Miami (part), Darke, Mercer (part), and Shelby (part), all in Ohio; and Switzerland (part), Dearborn (part), Franklin (part), Union (part), Wayne (part), and Randolph (part), all in Indiana.  It is also possible that a small portion of Jay county, Indiana, may be included.  Again, my thanks are extended to the staff of The David Rumsey Collection for the map to the right, a derivative created by myself for visual display of the surveys, or meridians, administered by the Cincinnati Land Office.

Now to the final comments made in the lengthy Discussion #4 blog entry, and this lengthy article as well.  I have been offering a commentary on the land acquisition process from the government, be it the Penn family or afterwards the State of Pennsylvania, and alluded to the process in the early 1800's, of lands of the Northwest Territory.

After an in-depth effort to locate a clearly described publication giving this information, the search failed miserably.  That is not to say that there is not likely a publication offering insights into the process, only that if so it is not online in a freely available format.  It would be safe to say that the process is as described in the records of Pennsylvania with one over-riding caveat.  The lands of the Northwest Territory as they became available were already surveyed.

Without going into any great detail, the surveyors had already accomplished the task of surveying with markers, theoretically, being in place.  These markers are best described in the above referenced “Subdivisions of the Public Lands, Described and Illustrated with Diagrams and Maps”, beginning on page 41.  However, this is generally for lands west of Ohio and at times even further west.  In this writer's historical travels, having dealt with hundreds of deeds for Montgomery county, Ohio, there has never been mention made of surveyor's markers.  The corners are always referenced as being corner to John Smith's land, witness a white oak 13" diameter bearing so-and-so degrees and so-and-so chains distant.

How the masses would become aware that a specific tract of land was available is this author's pure conjecture.  We know that many future Ohio settlers obtained warrants while still residing in the eastern provinces.  There are only two logical methods by which the availability of a specific tract would be made known: either by word of mouth by someone settled there already or by notice being made in publications in the east.  Since few newspapers exist from this time, and abstracted books dealing mainly with genealogical contents, it would be of interest to see if the latter is true or not.

The Cincinnati Land Office, and one in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, was in existence by at least May 18, 1796, as mentioned in Section 4 of “An Act providing for the Sale of the Lands of the United States, in the Territory Northwest of the River Ohio, and above the Mouth of Kentucky River”.  Section 5 of that act sets forth the following, answering the question of how a person would become aware of available lands:

Sec. 4. Be it further enacted, That the Secretary of the Treasury, after receiving the aforesaid plats, shall forthwith give notice, in one newspaper in each of the United States, and of the territories northwest and south of the river Ohio, of the times of sale; which shall, in no case, be less than two months from the date of the notice; and the sales at the different places shall not commence, within less than one month of each other: And when the governor of the western territory, or Secretary of the Treasury, shall find it necessary to adjourn, or suspend the sales under their direction, respectively, for more than three days, at any one time, notice shall be given in the public newspapers, of such suspension, and at what time the sales will re-commence.

Since the text of this act was difficult to locate, it has been reproduced and is available here.  The reader will please note that the Internet page has been created following the same two-column format as in the original book.

However the settler became aware of a specific tract, he would enter into a contract (a warrant) with the Federal Government.  The cost and acreage would vary depending on when the warrant was obtained.  As the surveys of note were, generally speaking, not available prior to 1800, only the information after that shall be discussed.

On May 10, 1800 legislation was introduced by William Henry Harrison (1773-1841), later the ninth president, for lands in the Northwest Territory. It set forth that an “entryman”, normally called a warrantee, could purchase a 320-acre tract at the rate of $2.00 per acre.  Though the legislation stipulated that the payment schedule was to be one-fourth down with three yearly payments, often the payments made would vary with some land being fully paid at the time of the warrant and others being anywhere in between.  This is represented in many, many variants within the Land Entry Books of the Cincinnati Land Office.

On March 26, 1804, the minimum acreage was reduced to 160-acres, same price and payments.  On April 24, 1820 Congress further reduced this to 80-acres at $1.25 per acre but abolished the credit system — the full purchase price being due at the time of the warrant.  In later years, 1830, 1832, 1841, 1855, and 1862, the purchase acreage, cost and fee schedules were further changed.  And there is online, available to one and all, an interesting exposé on the topic.  “A History of the Rectangular Survey System” (1983), penned by C. Albert White and published by the Bureau of Land Management, which offers valuable information.  If one can tread through the entirety of it.

It is only within the content of White's work that, seemingly, the process of warrant, survey and patent is delineated for the Northwest Territory.  Or at least for the area of interest, southwestern Ohio.  Though not clearly spelled out, the wording implies that it was the responsibility of the warrantee to have the survey of his tract made and returned.  This is odd in that the region had already been surveyed by the government when it was laid out in ranges, sections and townships.  Why would a person entering the land also be forced to pay for a survey?  Could it be that this requirement was to reduce the chances of multiple people entering the same land?  This is possible, and it is left to the reader to further explore the possibility.

It has been observed that while the federal surveys do exist, at least for Illinois, these have not been placed online for Ohio. Perhaps in the future they will become available as often there is additional information in them.

Finally, after weeks of diligent work and somewhat soulfully salubrious writing, we come to the purpose of this effort.

Recently while continuing the research of Elder Daniel Miller (1755-1822), and lest the reader may have forgotten about him; the reference is to the German Baptist Brethren church minister and elder. And ancestor and progenitor of many of that faith the land entry for his Darke county, Ohio land, was needed.  He obtained this 160-acre tract from the government in 1816 for $320.00 — in four installments.  His immediate neighbor was another Brethren church member and elder, John Cable (1787-1863).

The original records of the Cincinnati Land Office are in the State Archives at the Ohio Historical Center, Columbus, Ohio.  Thirteen volumes out of a total of one hundred fifty-one volumes were used in compiling this work.  Twelve volumes, labeled Series 395, cover the years 1800 through 1819 and are the original Books of Entries showing the sales of land under the credit system; the thirteenth original volume, Series 409, covers the years 1820 through 1840 and is the Book of Entries for the cash sales of these years.  The remaining volumes in the Cincinnati Land Office group are ledgers and journals, account and sales books, and receipt and survey records, along with relinquishments, letters of inquiry and other extraneous material.  A few of the Books of Entries contain partial indexes, but the collection is virtually unusable unless an exact purchase date is known…

Ellen T. Berry

How is this known?  Because fortunately for those of this computer age the Church of Latter Day Saints filmed the land entry books for the State of Ohio.  The reader should be careful though as the LDS has erroneously mislabeled the series as “Tract Books”.  The proper term is that as used throughout this material, “Land Entry Books”.  As Mrs. Berry states, the books are unusable if you are trying to locate a record for an ancestor.  The text wherein she comments about the survey books has been high-lighted within her words.

The books are not laid out with any rhyme or reason.  Logically one would presume that the books would be laid out with some semblance of order — the reader soon discovers this is not so and will likely give up in frustration.  Additionally, Mrs. Berry was incorrect when she states that there were thirteen volumes.  There are actually thirty volumes.  Some volumes such as Volumes 1 thru 14, have an “additional” volume.  Volumes 15 and 16 are likely the Series 409 she refers to though it was not explored.

So, and with a lot of fortitude, an effort was made to resolve the indexing problem.  The staff here at BrethrenArchives.Com took one volume and took the land entry page and matched it to the corresponding Bureau of Land Management patent.

All-in-all the project involved nearly 600 image and PDF files, a lot of specialized HTML coding paid for by this writer, and text entry.  But the exercise of the mind was worth the effort with the results speaking for themselves.  A word of caution for whomever discovers the online document describing the records in the unnamed Land Entry Book.  You will not be able to access the cross-linked land entry record / patent record.  This content is accessible only to supporters.

Click HereLand Entry BookClick Here

Finalizing this project it can be accessed via the link to the left.

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A. Wayne Webb

A long time historian of the German Baptist Brethren church, and its more modern derivative bodies, Mr. Webb has moved on to become a recognized authority in digitally archiving manuscripts, both published works as well as singular documents.  He served as the Editor of Brethren Roots, 2002 to 2008, as published by The Fellowship of Brethren Genealogists.  To that end he has created and maintains a series of Internet web sites devoted to his passion, German Baptist Brethren history.