Ohio History Journal

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Nouvelles du Scioto:

The Story of a Fraud





The original settlement of what is now southern Ohio, at the end of the eighteenth

century, was marred by scandalous treatment of the French immigrants by the

promoters of the Scioto Land Company. Through its agency in Paris the com-

pany, using misleading information, sold land to Frenchmen eager to settle in

America. The Parisians suffered considerable physical hardship on their voyage,

to say nothing of the mental anguish in discovering when they disembarked that

they had been badly deceived. One of them, a young man who calls himself simply

D'Allemagne, published an account of his adventures when he returned home to

France, and it is this booklet which is here translated.1

Our primary interest in the booklet is to derive an understanding of the life

and hardships encountered by these first French settlers on their way from their

homeland to Ohio. We also get a glimpse of the French character and social

organization of the time. With typical Gallic insight into human nature, Monsieur

D'Allemagne analyses his fellow immigrants and himself, sparing no one's feelings,

least of all his own. He becomes very much alive for us: an intelligent young man,

discontented with the quiet and comfort of home, seeking fortune and adventure


The story of the French settlers in the Ohio country began when arrangements

for the habitation of the Northwest Territory were made. By 1783 it had become

clear that Congress would definitely come into possession of the disputed western

lands, certainly those north of the Ohio River, and probably all west of the Alle-

ghenies. Provision was made for their sale and settlement by the Land Ordinance

of 1785. The minimum purchase provided by the law was $640 for 640 acres--too

expensive for the average settler. As a consequence, most of the sales were made

to private land companies for resale in smaller lots. In October 1787, the Ohio

Company purchased from the United States government one and a half million

acres of land in what is now southern Ohio.2 At the same time a second contract

was signed, giving purchasing rights for an additional five million acres to the

1. D'Allemagne, Nouvelles du Scioto, ou Relation Fidele du voyage et des infortunes d'un parisien

qui arrive de ces pays-la, ou il etoit alle pour s'etablir (Paris, Chez Lenoir et Leboucher, Imprimeurs, rue

des Mauvais-Garcons, Faubourg S. Germain, au Cafe la Fayette; aout, 1790). Only one copy of this

booklet still exists, and that is in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris. There is, however, a photocopy of

this text in the Genealogy Section of the New York Public Library, 42nd Street branch.

2. Payson Jackson Treat, The National Land System, 1785-1820 (New York, 1967), 35-37, 50-51.


Mr. Yeager is assistant professor of French at Rutgers University.