Ohio History Journal

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edited and translated by

edited and translated by


Prospects for the Gallipolis Settlement:

French Diplomatic Dispatches




More than two centuries have passed since Gallipolis, Ohio ("City of the

Gauls"), was founded by French settlers. It was on October 17, 1790, that a

group of French immigrants first set foot on the banks of the Ohio and found

some eighty log huts awaiting them. As colonists of the Scioto Company,

they had arrived in Alexandria, Virginia, and in other ports during the course

of the year 1790. Their exact number is unknown, although they are often re-

ferred to as the "French Five Hundred."1

Their story begins with the formation of the Ohio Company and the Scioto

Company, established by Congress in 1787 to purchase and settle lands along

the Ohio River. The Scioto Company, hoping to sell lands to Europeans, sent

Joel Barlow (1754-1812), a poet and Yale graduate, to Paris the following

year. He took with him a booklet by the Reverend Manasseh Cutler, of

Massachusetts, entitled A Prospectusfor the Establishment of the Rivers Ohio

and Scioto in America, published in Salem in 1787, which described in glow-

ing terms the lands which were for sale; Barlow had the work translated, and

the French version was published in Paris in 1789.

Since Barlow was not very successful in his recruitment efforts, he em-

ployed an Englishman, William Playfair, as his assistant, and together they

organized a company known as the "Societe du Scioto."2 The titles to the




Phillip J. Wolfe is Associate Professor of Modern Languages at Allegheny College,

Meadville, Pennsylvania, and Warren J. Wolfe is Professor Emeritus of Romance Languages at

Bowling Green State University, Bowling Green, Ohio.



1. On the settlement of Gallipolis, one should consult the recent publication written for the bi-

centennial anniversary of that city: Gallipolis, Ohio: A Pictorial History, 1790-1990, by

Henrietta C. Evans, John E. Lester, and Mary P. Wood (Charleston, West Virginia, 1990), espe-

cially ix-xiv, 1-15. For a more vivid account of the lives of the Gallipolis settlers, one may read

The French Five Hundred, by William G. Sibley (Gallipolis, 1933; reprinted by The Ohio

Historical Society in 1968).

2. Details of the transactions of the Ohio and the Scioto Companies, as well as the French

Society of the Scioto, are to be found in an article by Daniel J. Ryan, "The Scioto Company and

its Purchase," Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications, III (1891), (2nd ed., 1895), 109-

39. This publication, featuring addresses and articles prepared at the time of the first centennial

celebrations, also contains an English translation of the French edition of Cutler's pamphlet (pp.