Ohio History Journal

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The Western Reserve and

The Western Reserve and

The Frontier Thesis






IT IS GENERALLY CONCEDED that Frederick Jackson

Turner's frontier thesis was predicated upon a kind of geo-

graphical determinism--that, somehow, in crossing the Ap-

palachian "barrier," old habits of thought and older customs

and institutions suddenly withered away in the purer air of

the new country.1 Whether this thesis applied generally may

be debated; but it surely did not apply in western New York

and in Connecticut's Western Reserve.

This Western Reserve was, for almost a hundred years,

one of the unique sections of the United States. The area,

comprising a dozen present-day counties of northeastern

Ohio, still presents a curious geographical entity. At about

the turn of the eighteenth century an extension of Connecti-

cut's social, political, and educational structure occurred

within this region. Modified only slightly by the frontier, the

"Reserve" and the Lake Erie section of New York state

became "more like New England than New England itself."

Although it is partially obscured by events of recent date,

even today the visitor may trace Connecticut in the place

names, in the white-walled, pillared town halls of the New

England system of local government, and in the architecture

of the Congregational-Puritan churches.

What can be learned from the settlement of Connecticut's


* Kenneth V. Lottick is an associate professor of education at Montana State


1 Frederick Jackson Turner, The Frontier in American History (New York,