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Connecticut Western Reserve

Connecticut's land claims in the West

The Connecticut Western Reserve was a portion of land claimed by the Northwest Territory until Ohio was admitted as a state. "Western Reserve" is referred to in numerous institutional names.


  • Location 1
  • History 2
    • Seeking Heritage Area designation 2.1
  • Architecture 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
    • Connecticut State Library (CSL) collection 6.1
    • Internet Archive 6.2
    • Special topics 6.3
    • Church history 6.4
  • External links 7


The Reserve encompassed all of the following Ohio counties: Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Erie and Huron (see Firelands), Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Trumbull; and portions of Ashland, Mahoning, Ottawa, Summit, and Wayne.[2][3]


Map of the Western Reserve in 1826

Although forced to surrender the Pennsylvania portion (Westmoreland County) of its sea-to-sea land grant following the Yankee-Pennamite Wars and the intercession of the federal government, Connecticut held fast to its claim to the lands between the 41st and 42nd-and-2-minutes parallels that lay west of the Pennsylvania border.

Within Ohio the claim was for a 120-mile (190 km) wide strip between Lake Erie and a line just south of present-day Youngstown, Akron, New London and Willard, about 3 miles (4.8 km) south of the present-day U.S. Highway 224. Beyond Ohio the claim included parts of what would become Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada and California. The east boundary of the reserve follows a true meridian along Ellicott's Line, the boundary with Pennsylvania. The west boundary veers more than four degrees from a meridian to maintain the 120-mile width, due to convergence.[4]

Following the American Revolutionary War, Connecticut, like several other states, gave up western land claims in exchange for federal assumption of its debt. From these concessions, the old Northwest Territory (also earlier known as the "Territory Northwest of the River Ohio") was organized. The deed of cession was issued on 13 September 1786.

Connecticut retained 3,366,921 acres (13,625.45 km2) in Ohio, which became the "Western Reserve".[4][5] In 1796 (or possibly 12 August,[6] 2 September,[4] or 5 September 1795[5]), Connecticut sold title to the land in the Western Reserve to the Connecticut Land Company for $1,200,000.[4][5][6]

The Land Company was a group of investors who were mostly from Suffield, Connecticut. There were initially eight in the group (or possibly 7[4][6] or 35[5]). They planned to divide the land and sell it to settlers from the east, particularly land-hungry younger men from New England.

But, the Indian title to the Reserve had not been extinguished. Clear title was obtained east of the Cuyahoga River by the Greenville Treaty in 1795,[7] and west of the river in the Treaty of Fort Industry in 1805.[8] The western end of the reserve included the 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) Firelands or "Sufferers Lands," reserved for residents of several New England towns which had been destroyed by British-set fires during the Revolutionary War.

The next year, the Land Company sent surveyors led by Moses Cleaveland to the Reserve to divide the land into townships. The townships laid out in this survey were squares 5 miles (8.0 km) on each side (25 square miles (65 km2)) Elsewhere in Ohio, most townships are 6 miles (9.7 km) on each side (36 square miles (93 km2)), following the guidelines of the US Land Ordinance of 1785. Cleaveland's team also founded the city of Cleveland, which became the largest city in the region. (The first "a" was dropped by a printer early in the settlement's existence, as Cleveland takes less space on a printed page than Cleaveland.)

The territory was originally named "New Connecticut", which was later discarded in favor of "Western Reserve." Over the next few years, settlers trickled in. Youngstown was founded in 1796, Warren in 1798, Hudson in 1799, Ravenna also in 1799, Ashtabula in 1803, and Stow in 1804.

In 1800, Connecticut finally ceded sovereignty over the Western Reserve. The United States absorbed it into the Trumbull County in the boundaries of the Reserve. As the former county seat of the Reserve, Warren identifies as "the historical capital of the Western Reserve." Later, several more counties were carved out of the territory. The name "Western Reserve" survives in the area in various institutions such as the "Western Reserve Historical Society" and the well-known academic institution Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio. (see Western Reserve).

This area of Ohio became a center of resource development, industrialization through the mid-20th century, education and cultural development, with major institutions founded. It was a center of the steel industry, dependent on iron ore shipped from Minnesota, as well as shipping of Great Lakes products to the east. Railroads took over some of the transportation from the lake ships. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these cities attracted hundreds of thousands of European immigrants and migrants (both black and white) from the rural South to its industrial jobs. With restructuring of industry, and the relocation of many jobs overseas, local and regional jurisdictions have struggled to create transitions to new businesses and economies.

Seeking Heritage Area designation

At the request of Congress in 2011, the National Park Service prepared a feasibility study for declaring the 14-county region of the Western Reserve as a National Heritage Area. This is a means to encourage broad-based preservation of such historical sites and buildings which are related to a large historical theme. Such assessment and designation has been significant for recognizing assets, and encouraging new development and businesses, including heritage tourism, often related to adaptive re-use of waterways, and buildings, as well as totally new endeavors. 49 National Heritage Areas have been designated in the United States, including two in Ohio: the Ohio Canal of the Ohio and Erie Canal and the National Aviation Heritage Area. The NPS study coordinator said that while the region had the historic assets, and there was considerable public support for such a designation, the Western Reserve lacked "a definitive coordinating entity or supporting group," which is required to gain Congressional approval.[9] If such a body developed in the future, federal designation might be sought.


The settlers in northern Ohio repeated the style of structures and development of towns from what they were familiar with in New England: many buildings in the new settlements were designed in the Federal and Greek Revival styles. Towns such as Aurora, Bath, Canfield, Chagrin Falls, Gates Mills, Hudson, Medina, Milan, Norwalk, Oberlin, Painesville, Poland, and Tallmadge exemplify the expression of these styles and traditional New England town planning. For instance, Cleveland's Public Square reflects the traditional New England central town green.

See also


  1. ^ What is the Western Reserve. (2013-07-13). Retrieved on 2013-07-24.
  2. ^ "Western Reserve History". Retrieved 2014-01-14. 
  3. ^ "Finding aid for the Ashland and Wayne County, Ohio Deeds". Retrieved 2014-01-14. 
  4. ^ a b c d e Knepper, George W (2002). The Official Ohio Lands Book (PDF). Auditor of the State of Ohio. pp. 23–26. 
  5. ^ a b c d Upton, Harriet Taylor (1910). Cutler, Harry Gardner, ed. History of the Western Reserve 1. New York: Lewis Publishing Company. pp. 10–11. 
  6. ^ a b c Peters, William E. (1918). Ohio Lands and Their Subdivision. W.E. Peters. p. 153. 
  7. ^ Stat. 49 - Text of Treaty of Greenville Library of Congress
  8. ^ Stat. 87 - Text of Treaty of Fort Industry Library of Congress
  9. ^ "Western Reserve loses bid as heritage area", Akron Beacon Journal, June 18, 2011, retrieved November 29, 2012
  • Hatcher, Harlan, Western Reserve: The Story of New Connecticut in Ohio, Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1949. (2nd edition, Cleveland: World Publishing, 1966). (2nd edition paperback, Kent State University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-87338-449-0).
  • History of the Western ReserveTaylor Upton, Harriet, , New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1910, ISBN 978-0-8328-5091-2 (1996 edition).
  • Ohio Historical Society -- Connecticut Western Reserve

Further reading

Connecticut State Library (CSL) collection

  • The Public Records of the State of Connecticut [HistRef ConnDoc G25 1776-]. This multi-volume set contains the record of transactions of the Connecticut General Assembly. Each volume covers a given time period and has an index. Researchers interested in the Western Lands should consult these volumes to gain knowledge of the legislative actions and petitions granted by the Connecticut General Assembly.
  • Burke, Thomas Aquinas. Ohio Lands: A Short History. [Columbus, OH]: Auditor of State, c1997 [CSL call number HistRef HD 243 .O3 B87 1997].
  • Cherry, Peter Peterson. The Western Reserve and Early Ohio. Akron, OH: R. L. Fouse, 1921 [CSL call number F 495 .C52].
  • Fedor, Ferenz. The Yankee Migration to the Firelands. s.l.: Fedor, 1976? [CSL call number F 497 .W5 F43 1976].
  • Mathews, Alfred. Ohio and Her Western Reserve, With a Story of Three States Leading to the Latter, From Connecticut, by Way of Wyoming, Its Indian Wars and Massacre. New York: D. Appleton, 1902 [CSL call number F 491 .M42].
  • Mills, William Stowell. The Story of the Western Reserve of Connecticut. New York: Printed for the author by Brown & Wilson Press [ca. 1900] [CSL call number F 497 .W5 M6].
  • Peters, William E. Ohio Lands and Their Subdivision. Athens, OH: W. E. Peters, 1918 [CSL call number F 497 .W5 P47 1918].
  • Rice, Harvey. Pioneers of the Western Reserve. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1883 [CSL call number: F 497 .W5 R5 1883].
  • Upton, Harriet Taylor. History of the Western Reserve. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1910 [CSL call number: F 497 .W5 U7]. Volume 1, online Volume 2, online
  • Wickham, Gertrude Van Rensselaer. Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve. [s.l.]: Whipporwill, [197- ] [CSL call number F 497 .W5 W63 1970z].

Internet Archive

  • Cleveland Centennial Commission. Woman's Dept (1896). Album of the Western Reserve Centennial. Cleveland, Ohio: Edwin H. Clark and Co. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Cleveland Centennial Commission (1896). Official report of the centennial celebration of the founding of the city of Cleveland and the settlement of the Western Reserve. Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Printing & Publishing Co. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Kirtland, Turhand. Diary of Turhand Kirtland from 1798-1800. While surveying and laying out the Western Reserve for the Connecticut Land Company. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Hawley, Zerah (1822). A journal of a tour through Connecticut, Massachusetts, New-York, the north part of Pennsylvania and Ohio, including a year's residence in that part of the state of Ohio, styled New Connecticut, or Western Reserve; in which is given, a description of the country, climate, soil, productions, animals, buildings, manners of the people, state of society, population, & c, from actual and careful Observation. New Haven: S. Converse. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Rice, Harvey (1881). Incidents of Pioneer Life in the Early Settlement of the Connecticut Western Reserve. Cleveland, Ohio: Cobb, Andrews & Co. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Rice, Harvey (1885). Sketches of Western Reserve life : Rice, Harvey, 1800-1891 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive. Cleveland, Ohio: William W. Williams. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • The Western Reserve register for 1852 : containing lists of the officers of the general governments and of the officers and institutions on the reserve. Hudson, Ohio: Sawyer, Ingersoll and Company. 1852. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Western Reserve Historical Society (1916). The Connecticut Land Company and accompanying papers. Cleveland, Ohio. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Wing, George Clary (1916). Early Years on the Western Reserve: With Extracts from Letters of Ephraim Brown and Family, 1805-1845. Cleveland, Ohio: Arthur H. Clark Company. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 

Special topics

  • Cochran, W.C. (1920). The Western Reserve and the fugitive slave law: a prelude to the Civil War. Collections, The Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland, Ohio. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Ford, Seabury (1850-01-30), Special message of the governor, in relation to Western Reserve school lands, Executive Office of the Governor of Ohio, retrieved 2013-06-08 
  • Hinsdale, Burke Aaron (1896). The History of Popular Education on the Western Reserve. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Levinson, Burton E (1900). The Western Reserve : its Hebrew influence. Cincinnati, Ohio: American Jewish Archives. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Western Reserve Historical Society Selected Manuscripts. Volume 69-86, 78, online Volume 85, online

Church history

  • Hayden, Amos Sutton (1875). Early history of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio; with biographical sketches of the principal agents in their religious movement. Cincinnati, Ohio: Chase & Hall. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Kaiser, Peter Henry (1894). The Moravians on the Cuyahoga : address delivered before the Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland, Ohio: Mount & Co. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Kennedy, William Sloane (1856). The plan of union: or a history of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches of the Western Reserve; with biographical sketches of the early missionaries. Hudson, Ohio: Pentagon Steam Press. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 
  • Wood, James (1837). Facts and observations concerning the organization and state of the churches in the three synods of western New-York and the Synod of Western Reserve. Saratoga Springs, NY: G.M. Davison. Retrieved 2013-06-08. 

External links

  • The Western Reserve Heritage Feasibility Study
  • Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio
  • Research Guide to Connecticut's "Western Lands" or "Western Reserve"
  • Connecticut Western Reserve article on h2g2
  • Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
  • History of the Western Reserve
  • Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve
  • Firelands Historical Society
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