Ohio History Journal

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
  • 11
  • 12
  • 13
  • 14
  • 15
  • 16
  • 17
  • 18
  • 19




A British View of the Ohio

Backwoods: The Letters of James

Martin, 1821-1836


Although the British formed a sizeable minority of the early farm

settlers in Ohio, very little is known about them.1 A few accounts ex-

ist of particular British, notably Welsh and Scots, "colonies," but

with no language barrier to separate them from the broad tide of

American settlers moving across the Appalachians in the early nine-

teenth century, the British were largely absorbed into that stream

and left behind few tangible records.2

The paucity of evidence about British settlers and their impres-

sions of the Ohio farm frontier gives some significance to a collection

of letters written between 1821 and 1836 by James Martin, an immi-

grant from London who settled to farm near Bucyrus, Crawford

County.3 Not only are these letters of some interest in providing first-

hand accounts of the perils of the Atlantic crossing, of the toil of the



Brian P. Birch is Senior Lecturer in Geography at Southampton University, England.


1. There are no texts specifically on British farm settlers in Ohio although some ref-

erence can be found to them in Mary L. Ziebold, "Immigrant Groups in Northwestern

Ohio to 1860", Northwest Ohio Quarterly, 17 (April-July, 1945), 62-71.

2. Studies of a Welsh and a Scottish group settlement in Ohio include Stephen R.

Williams, The Saga of Paddy's Run (Oxford, 1972), and Andrew Gibb, "A Scottish

Venture in the United States: the Glasgow Ohio Company, 1824," Scottish Historical

Review (forthcoming). Some information on George Courtauld's 1818 Englishtown set-

tlement in Athens County can be found in Charles M. Walker, History of Athens Coun-

ty, Ohio (Cincinnati, 1869), 544. Studies of individual British immigrants to the state

include James H. Rodabaugh, "From England to Ohio, 1830-1832: The Journal of

Thomas K. Wharton," Ohio Historical Quarterly, 65 (January, 1956), 1-27, 111-51. The

archives of the Ohio Historical Society contain a few sets of letters written by British

settlers in Ohio; for example, the letters of Scottish immigrant Charles Rose written in

1822 and 1830 from Wellsville, Columbiana County, Ohio.

3. The letters of James Martin to Mrs. Caroline Monro and Mordaunt Martin Mon-

ro, 1815-1836. Greater London Record Office, 40 Northampton Road, London EC1R

OAB, Item No. GLRO Acc. 1063/130-150, twenty-one parts. Because these letters were

taken into the archive under local government amalgamation, no record exists of their

date or form of deposition, but they are quoted here with the permission of the Great-

er London Council, the governmental authority for the metropolis.