Ohio History Journal






It is well known that Virginia claimed most of the terri-

tory northwest of the Ohio river, by reason of the grants made

by the sovereign of England to the colonists. In 1784 in accord-

ance with a formal request made by Congress in 1780, Virginia

ceded to the United States all her claims to the territory, re-

serving only the lands between the Scioto and the little Miami

rivers. This tract is usually called the Virginia Military Dis-

trict. It was reserved for the purpose of paying the Virginia

soldiers who had served in the revolutionary war.

The two rivers flow from different sources, and it was neces-

sary to draw a line from the head of one stream to the head of

the other. In 1800 an act of Congress directed the Surveyor

General to cause the line to be run from the source of the Little

Miami to the source of the Scioto. The line was run by one of

the surveyors, named Ludlow, whence the name of the line. For

twenty feet on each side the trees were cut down. The source of

the Miami thus determined is two or three miles eastwardly from

South Charleston, in the southeast part of Clark County. The

line runs northwesterly through the counties of Clark, Cham-

paign, and Logan, about forty miles, to the old Indian Boundary

Line as fixed by Wayne's treaty in 1795. In 1804 this line, to-

gether with its future extension beyond the Indian Boundary to

the Scioto, was declared to be the western line of the Virginia

Military District, provided Virginia would agree to it within two

years. Virginia objected. The land west of the Ludlow line had

been by this time, or shortly afterward, surveyed into Townships

and Sections as Congress lands. By reason of Virginia's ob-

jection, an act was passed in 1812, ordering a new survey of the

dividing line. The commissioners of the United States and of

Virginia met at Xenia in October of that year, and a new line

was run, called the Roberts Line. It began where Ludlow's Line


The Ludlow Line

The Ludlow Line.                  279


did, and fell slightly west of the first line, striking the Indian

Boundary about four miles west of the Ludlow Line. The Vir-

ginia Commissioners wished to draw the line from the source of

the Scioto to the mouth of the Little Miami. Such a line does

not in any sense comport with the limits of the reserved tract,

i. e., the lands between the aforesaid rivers. The Roberts line

was extended ten or twelve mile beyond the Indian Boundary to

a point taken to be the source of the Scioto -a point difficult to

fix definitely by reason of the large extent of swampy land,

wherein half a dozen places might well be called the "source of

the Scioto." Between the two lines was a tract of seventy-five

or eighty square miles of good land. After 1812 Virginia land

warrants began to be located on this strip in defiance of the sur-

vey above named. Of course trouble was brewing. Men, who

had bought the land, and paid for it, did not propose to give it

up peaceably. An act of Congress in 1807 had forbidden the

location of warrants on land already surveyed. But this prohi-

bition seems to have been disregarded, for similar acts were

passed in 1810, 1814, 1818, and 1823. An act of 1818, however,

had declared that the Roberts line beyond the Indian Boundary

should be deemed the western boundary of the Military Tract.

The act of 1812 ordering the second survey did not base its

validity on its acceptance by Virginia, but implied that it should

be final. It is a plain inference that the Virginia lands extended

to the Roberts line; but the United States had already sold most

of the disputed territory. In order to settle the question defi-

nitely a case was made up and decided by the Supreme Court of

the United States in 1824. This declared in favor of the Roberts

line. This decision naturally put all the disputed territory under

the control of Virginia, and also placed the United States in the

position of having sold and received money for lands which be-

longed to other parties.

Land speculators bought up old land warrants and sought

to lay them on land long held and cultivated; or to exact from the

farmers large sums of money in order to quiet their titles. With

a view to settle these controversies, Congress passed an act on

May 26, 1824, authorizing the President "to ascertain the num-

ber of acres, and  . . . the value thereof, exclusive of im-

280 Ohio Arch

280      Ohio Arch. and Hist. Society Publications.


provements, of all such lands, lying between Ludlow's and Rob-

erts's lines . . . and on what terms the holders, (of military

warrants) will relinquish the same to the United States." It

was done. But the excitement lasted eight or ten years longer,

as I can distinctly remember the threatening language used by

farmers against those who had tried to take away their lands--

especially against one who held many warrants. With this man

I became well acquainted fifteen or twenty years afterwards, and

I well remember the sum which it was claimed had been paid him.

Although the Court declared that the Roberts line was the

true one, events so turned out that the Ludlow line became the

real boundary, all the land to the westward of it as far north as

the Indian Boundary being reckoned as Congress land. Beyond

the Indian Boundary, the Roberts line holds good, as any large

map of Ohio shows.

Hinsdale in his history of the old "North West," p. 282,

says that the line from the source of the Scioto to the mouth of

the Little Miami is the "Ludlow line."

Such an error is unpardonable in a writer of history. Still

such are continually made. Justin Winsor, in his Critical and

Narrative History of The United States, puts Fort Ancient

among the forts built to resist Indian incursions, see Vol. 7, p.

455. Schouler in his History of The United States and Rufus

King's History of Ohio both show errors nearly as bad. How

far can printed history be relied on?