Ohio History Journal

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Worthington, Ohio: James Kilbourn's

Episcopal Haven on the Western




One of the most significant developments to occur in this country in

the aftermath of the American Revolution was the settlement of the

old Northwest Territory beyond the Ohio River. Families from the

Atlantic states streamed west in ever-increasing droves, establishing

countless new communities in the region now occupied by the states

of Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Illinois. Among these new towns and

villages was Worthington, Ohio, an Episcopal haven founded by

James Kilbourn on the western frontier.

On the morning of September 23, 1786, a fifteen-year-old boy

walked away from his father's farm in the bleak "dead swamp

woods" section of central Connecticut hard by the east side of

Farmington Mountain. James Kilbourn's father, Josiah, had suffered

severe financial losses during the American Revolution.1 Economic

dislocation brought on by the events of eight years of war was

exacerbated by soil exhaustion and, in the case of Kilbourn, a

burgeoning family of seven children, six of whom lived at home.2 In





1. James Shepard, History of St. Mark's Church (New Britain, Connecticut, 1907),


2. Oscar Zeichner states that a "very high birth rate increased the population by

more than fifty thousand between 1762 and 1774, and made Connecticut the second

most densely populated colony in New England on the eve of the Revolution. At the

same time thousands of its inhabitants moved out of the colony at a phenomenal pace

in the hope of finding more and better land in other provinces." Oscar Zeichner, Con-

necticut's Years of Controversy, 1750-1776 (Chapel Hill, 1949), 144. Albert Laverne

Olson, Agricultural Economy and the Population in Eighteenth-Century Connecticut,

Tercentenary Commission of the State of Connecticut, Committee on Historical Publi-

cations XL (New Haven, 1935), 7-31; William T. Utter, Granville: The Story of an Ohio

Village (Granville, 1956), 23-25; The Heritage of Granby, 1786-1965: Its Founding and

History (n.p.: The Salmon Brook Historical Society, 1967), 161; Transactions of the

Society for Promoting Agriculture in the State of Connecticut, American Imprint

Series, Second Series, Evans no. 2081 (New Haven, 1802). In his diary, Joel Buttles, a

nigrant to Worthington in 1804 and an ardent student of agriculture, observed that in

he Granby, Connecticut area "the whole country is poor land, always poor but in

addition to that it has been worn out long ago"; The Papers of Joel Buttles, Archives of

he Trinity Episcopal Church, Columbus, Ohio.