Ohio History Journal






It is probable that the people who read this article will all

know that the State of Ohio was not always divided into the

number of counties there now are, and that to evolve the present

map, a long period of time and many mutations of county outlines

were necessary. But few people, however, know the extent of

the evolution that has been going on, in bringing Ohio counties

within their present environments. From the erection of the first

county, in 1788, the number has been made to grow each year,

by cutting down the size of those previously formed, until, by the

limits of the constitution of 1851, requiring each of them to con-

tain four hundred square miles, it is scarcely possible to now find

a locality where the existing counties could let territory enough

go to form a new one.

The importance of the county as a political unit varies in

different parts of the United States. In New England it takes

a secondary rank, that of the townships being first. In the

Southern States the position is reversed, the county, or parish

as it is called, being the leading agency for local government.

In the State of Ohio, as also in the other Western States, the

county and the township each has its special features in the frame

of government, and they do not vary much in their importance.

The structure of government here existing is of such a character,

that it may be appropriately called a mixed or dual system, as

it properly has a double unit in the township and county, for each

of these divisions has its primary functions to perform, and neither

outranks the other to any great extent. Each is a unit in making

up the united whole represented collectively in the State govern-


As it is possible that there may be some who, in this day of

our fully formed State and perfected plan of government, may

not be aware that the soil of Ohio was once a part of a territory

of the United States, as Alaska, Utah and Oklahoma are now


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The Evolution of Ohio Counties.         327


territories, it is proper to refer to the fact, that at one time it was

in an unorganized civil condition, and that, later, its first chief

magistrate was a territorial governor, appointed by the author-

ities at Washington, as the governors of Western territories are

now selected. The country embracing what are now the States

of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin, first came

to be known as a part of our nation, under the name of the North-

west Territory, and provision for its government was made by

Congress, through a law known as the Ordinance of 1787. Ar-

thur St. Clair was appointed as the first governor of the Territory,

and through his action the first counties were established.

Historically speaking, county government here came into

existence before that of townships. Counties were organized

for the purpose of establishing court districts, and county areas

were defined about as soon as the work of governing the Territory

began. The first law for this domain was for the purpose of reg-

ulating the militia, and the second for organizing the courts.

Those providing for the officers and affairs of townships came


In their original creation and formation, county and town-

ship divisions were independent of each other, the townships not

being required to first exist as a basic factor in forming the coun-

ties, nor the county to be, as it now appears, the aggregation of

a number of pre-existing townships. County lines were not, at

first, concurrent with township lines, and it was often necessary

for the county area to be made up without regard to the confines

of townships, because, in some cases, counties were created before

the township surveys had been commenced. The Ordinance of

1787 was preceded by what was known as the Ordinance of 1785,

sometimes called the Land Ordinance. This made provision

for the survey of the western lands, and their division into town-

ships. This however, was for the purpose of getting them into

farms, and making them ready for market and occupancy, and

not for government. The Ordinance of 1785 applied only to

government lands, and made provision that they should be sur-

veyed into townships six miles square, but no rule was ever en-

acted for laying out the tracts disposed of by the government to

land companies. Their proprietors cut them up into farms to

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suit their own liking, and into sections of various size and form.

The United States thus lost control over the manner of running

township lines, and what is now regarded as our primary civil

division was not laid out with a view of its becoming a factor in

a higher county area, or a unit in a county organism.

St. Clair was authorized, by the Ordinance of 1787, to lay out

the territory into counties and townships, but there is no record

of his ever having interfered with the freedom of land owners to

form townships. Counties, however, were never allowed to

emerge in the irregular manner that townships did. Their larger

functions, and their nearer relation to the central government

of the State, made it necessary for the ruling power to assume

control of their erection, and alteration, when required, and from

the earliest period of our civil existence, counties have been

brought into existence by the will of the government, executed

through its executive or legislative department. In the progress

of our State from an ungoverned wilderness to a fully organized

and practically self-governed commonwealth, the edict of the rul-

ing power has always directed the course and length of county


With these remarks concerning the nature and historical

relation of townships and counties, we now proceed to give some-

thing of the details of the evolution of the early Ohio counties.

The Ordinance of 1787 prescribing the manner that the

Northwest Territory should be governed, provided that "for the

execution of process, civil and criminal, the governor shall make

proper divisions thereof; and he shall proceed from time to time,

as circumstances may require, to lay out the parts of the district

in which the Indian titles have been extinguished, into counties

and townships, subject however, to such alterations as may there-

after be made by the legislature."



St. Clair was appointed governor of the Territory, October 5,

1787, and arrived at Marietta, July 9, 1788. His first act toward

carrying out the provisions of the Ordinance, as to the establish-

ment of local government, was to erect the county of Wash-

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ington. He issued an order defining its boundaries, July 27, 1788.

They were as follows:

"Beginning on the bank of the Ohio river, where the western

boundary line of Pennsylvania crosses it, and running with that

line to Lake Erie; thence along the southern shore of said lake,

to the mouth of Cuyahoga river; thence up said river to the

portage, between it and the Tuscarawas branch of the Muskin-

gum; thence down that branch to the forks, at the crossing place

above Fort Lawrence (Laurens); thence with a line to be drawn

westerly to the portage, on that branch of the Big Miami on

which the fort stood that was taken by the French in 1752 (Lora-

mie's Store), until it meets the road from the lower Shawnee

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330       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


town to Sandusky; thence south to the Scioto river; thence with

that river to the mouth, and thence up the Ohio river to the place

of beginning."

It will be seen that this county comprised a large part of the

eastern and northern portions of what is now the State of Ohio.

It received its name in honor of President Washington. St.

Clair not only exercised the right to lay off the counties, but to

designate the place that the county business should be transacted.

He named Marietta as the chief town of Washington county.



The next county formed by St. Clair was Hamilton. His

edict brought it into existence January 2, 1790. Its boundaries

were as follows:

"Beginning on the bank of the Ohio river, at the confluence

of the Little Miami, and down the said Ohio river to the mouth

of the Big Miami, and up said Miami to the standing stone forks

or branch of said river, and thence with a line to be drawn due

east, to the Little Miami, and down said Little Miami to the

place of beginning."

It will be seen that this county at first contained only a small

strip between the two Miami rivers. It was subsequently en-

larged, as will be shown farther on. It received its name from

Gen. Alexander Hamilton. Its place of holding court was fixed

by St. Clair, at Cincinnati.



The next county to be set off, was that of St. Clair, in that

part of the territory now included in Illinois. It was proclaimed

April 27, 1797, and was bounded as follows:

"Beginning at the mouth of the little Michilmacinack river,

running thence southerly in a direct line to the mouth of the

little river above Fort Massac, on the Ohio river; thence with

the Ohio to its junction with the Mississippi; thence up the Mis-

sissippi to the mouth of the Illinois river, and so up the Illinois

river to the place of beginning."

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St. Clair divided the county bearing his name into three

judicial districts, viz: Cahokia, Prairie du Rocher, and Kaskaskia,

in which terms of court were to be held the same as if they were

separate counties.


On the 20th of June, 1790, St. Clair set off the county of

Knox, most of which is now in the state of Indiana, with bound-

aries as follows:

"Beginning at the standing stone forks of the Great Miami

river and down the said river to the confluence with the Ohio

river, thence with the Ohio to the small stream or rivulet above

Fort Massac; thence with the eastern boundary line of St. Clair

county to the mouth of Little Michilmacinack; thence up the Il-

linois river to the forks or confluence of the Theokiki and Chi-

cago; thence by a line to be drawn due north to the boundary

line of the territory of the United States, and so far easterly upon

said boundary line as that a due south line may be drawn to the

place of beginning."



February 11, 1792, St. Clair issued a proclamation, setting

forth the new county provision of the Ordinance of 1787, by

which it was provided that new counties should be laid out as

fast as the Indian titles were extinguished. There was a portion

of the Territory lying between the Scioto and the Little Miami,

which had not yet been included in a county. This, he said,

on account of the scattered nature of the settlements, did not

justify the erection of a new county, and he added it to the county

of Hamilton. The boundaries of this county were then as fol-


"Beginning at the confluence of the Scioto with the Ohio

river, and up the Scioto with the courses thereof to the upper

part of the old lower Shawnee town upon said river; thence by

and with a line to be drawn due north to the territorial boundary

line, and westerly along said boundary line to the eastern bound-

ary of the county of Knox, and down along the said eastern

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332       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.

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The Evolution of Ohio Counties.        333


boundary of Knox county by a due south line to the standing

stone forks of the Great Miami river, and with the said Miami

to its confluence of the Ohio river; thence up the Ohio river

to its place of beginning."



On the 15th day of October, 1795, St. Clair issued a procla-

mation reciting that the separation of the county of St. Clair into

districts had not given that ease and facility to the administration

of justice which was expected, and it became necessary that it

be divided, and a new county erected. The territory south of a

line running due east from what was known as the Cove Spring,

to the Knox county line, was made the county of Randolph.



There was a wide stretch of country on the north part of

the Territory that was yet outside of any of the organized counties.

On the 15th day of August, 1796, Wayne county was organized,

with boundaries as follows:

"Beginning at the mouth of Cuyahoga river, upon Lake Erie,

and with the said river to the portage, between it and the Tus-

carawas branch of the Muskingum; thence down the said branch

to the forks, at the carrying place above Fort Lawrence (Laurens);

thence by a west line, to the eastern boundary of Hamilton county,

(which is a due north line from the lower Shawnee town upon

the Scioto river); thence by a line west-northerly to the southern

part of the portage, between the Miamis of the Ohio and the

St. Marys river; thence by a line also west-northerly, to the

southwestern part of the portage, between the Wabash and the

Miamis of Lake Erie, where Fort Wayne now stands; thence

by a line west-northerly, to the most southern part of Lake Mich-

igan; thence along the western shores of the same, to the north-

west part thereof, (including the lands upon the streams empty-

ing into said lake); thence by a due north line to the territorial

boundary in Lake Superior, and through the said boundary

through lakes Huron, Sinclair, and Erie, to the mouth of the

Cuyahoga river, the place of beginning."

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334      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


This, as will be seen, cut off the northern portion of the coun-

ties of Knox and Hamilton. The Northwest Territory was now

divided into the six counties of Washington, Hamilton, Knox,

St. Clair, Randolph and Wayne.


In order to establish more counties, as the existing ones

embraced all of the Territory, it was now necessary to make a di-

vision of some of those that had already been erected. The first

separation to be made was for the purpose of creating Adams

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The Evolution of Ohio Counties.        335


county. Hamilton county was large, and could well be divided.

So, July 10, 1797, a county, called Adams, was taken off its east

side, with boundaries as follows:

"Beginning at the Ohio river at the upper boundary of that

tract of 24,000 acres of land, granted unto the French inhabitants

of Gallipolis * * * thence down the said Ohio river, to the

mouth of Elk river, (generally known as Eagle creek) and up

with the principal water of the said Elk river or Eagle creek,

to its source or head; thence by a due north line, to the southern

boundary of Wayne county, and easterly along said boundary,

so far that a due south line shall meet the interior point of the

upper boundary of the aforesaid tract of land of 24,000 acres,

and with the said boundary to the place of begining."

This county was named in honor of President Adams. Con-

cerning its county seat, Howe, in his Historical Collections, says:

"The first court in this county was held in Manchester.

Winthrop Sargent, the secretary of the teritory, acting in the

absence of the governor, appointed commissioners, who located

the county seat at an out of the way place, a few miles above the

mouth of Brush Creek, which they called Adamsville. The lo-

cality was soon named, in derision, Scant. At the next session

of the court its members became divided, and part sat at Adams-

ville, and part Manchester. The governor, on his return to the

territory, finding the people in great confusion, and much bick-

ering between them, removed the seat of justice to the mouth of

Brush creek, where the first court was held in 1798. Here a town

was laid out, by Noble Grimes, under the name of Washington.

A large court-house was built, with a jail in the lower story, and

the governor appointed two more of the Scant party judges,

which gave them a majority. In 1800, Charles William Byrd,

secretary of the territory, in the absence of the governor, ap-

pointed two more of the Manchester party judges, which balanced

the parties, and the contest was maintained until West Union

became the county seat."

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336      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.




The next county to be divided was that of Washington. In

1786 the Seven Ranges had been surveyed and July 29, 1797, a

portion of the northern part of the pioneer county was eliminated,

and made into the county of Jefferson. The boundaries of the

new county were as follows:

"Beginning upon the bank of the Ohio river, where the west-

ern boundary of Pennsylvania crosses it, and down the said river

to the southern boundary of the fourth township in the third

range, (of those townships that were surveyed in conformity to

the ordinance of Congress of the 20th of May, 1785), and with

the said southern boundary west, to the S. W. corner of the sixth

township in the fifth range; thence north, along the western

boundary of said fifth range to the termination thereof; thence

due west to the Muskingum river, and up the same to and with

the portage, between it and the Cuyahoga river; thence down

Cuyahoga, to Lake Erie; thence easterly along the shores of

the lake, to the western boundary of Pennsylvania, and south

with the same to the place of beginning."

The county received its name from President Jefferson. Some

idea of its original size may be known from the fact that, when

established, it included within its boundaries what are now the

cities of Cleveland, Akron, Canton, Warren, Steubenville, and

Youngstown. Its county seat has always been at Steubenville.



The next act in the work of dividing the Territory into coun-

ties, was changing the boundaries of the counties of Hamilton,

Wayne, and Knox. In 1795, General Wayne had made a treaty

with the Indians, at Greenville, by which the line of the lands of

the United States had been extended from Loramie's, westward

to Fort Recovery, and thence southward to the mouth of the

Kentucky river. The boundary of Hamilton county was extended

westward, June 22, 1798, to make it correspond with this change

in the boundary of the government territory. The line between

Hamilton and Knox counties then became:

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The Evolution of Ohio Counties.        337


"The western boundary of the county of Hamilton shall be-

gin at the spot, on the bank of the Ohio river, where the general

boundary line of the United States and the Indian tribes, estab-

lished at Greenville the third day of August, 1795, intersects the

bank of that river, and run with that general boundary line to

Fort Recovery, and from thence by a line to be drawn due north

from Fort Recovery, until it intersects the southern boundary

line of the county of Wayne, and from thence to the southern

boundary of the county of Wayne, shall also be the eastern bound-

ary of the county of Knox."

Hamilton county in this way got a part of Knox county,

and a part of what is now Indiana.



Ross next came into the family of Ohio counties. Nathaniel

Massie, a surveyor in the employ of Virginia, had laid out the

town of Manchester, in 1790, and induced people to emigrate

to it. Massie had become a large land owner, and circulated

glowing descriptions of the country along the Scioto, with the

hope of inducing settlements. Robert J. Finley, and a Presby-

terian congregation from Kentucky, were attracted, and a set-

tlement was made at the mouth of Paint creek. Chillicothe was

laid out in August, 1796, by Col. Massie. The opening of Zane's

Trace, soon afterwards, diverted much of the westward travel,

which before this time had been in boats down the Ohio, and

brought it overland through this region. Other settlements

sprung up, and with the increase in settlers, demands were put

forward for a division of Adams county. St. Clair recognized

the need of the new county, and, August 20, 1798, issued a pro-

clamation for it, in which the boundaries were fixed as follows:

"Beginning at the forty-second mile tree, on the line of the

original grant of land by the United States to the Ohio com-

pany * * * and running from thence west until it shall in-

tersect a line to be drawn due north from the mouth of Elk river

(commonly called Eagle creek), and from the point of intersec-

tion running north, to the south boundary of the county of Wayne,

and from thence easterly with the said boundary of Wayne, until

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a north line to be drawn from the place of beginning, shall in-

tersect the same; and if it should be found that a north line to be

drawn from the place of beginning, will not intersect the said

southern boundary of Wayne, then an east line is to be drawn

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from the eastern termination of the said boundary, until it shall

intersect the aforesaid north line to be drawn from the place of


Among the early settlers in this region were a number from

Pennsylvania, among whom were, Dr. Edward Tiffin who after-

wards became the first governor of the state, and Mr. Thomas

Worthington, who became governor of the state and United

States Senator. The county received its name from Hon. James

Ross, of Allegheny county, Pa., who was at that time the unsuc-

cessful candidate of the Federal party for the office of governor

of that state. St. Clair was an ardent Federalist, and had been

a member of Congress from Pennsylvania. Chillicothe was made

the seat of justice. In 1800 it became the capital of the North-

west Territory. The sessions of the territorial legislature were

held there, in 1801, and the convention which framed the first

constitution of Ohio met there, in 1802. It was the state capital

from that time until 1816, except during the years 1810-1812.

August 20, 1798, a strip was taken off the east side of Ham-

ilton county, and added to Adams. The west line of Adams was

made to commence on the Ohio, at the mouth of Eagle creek,

and run due north until it intersected the southern boundary of

Ross, instead of following up the river to its head, as in the orig-

inal boundaries.



This list of nine counties comprised what had been erected

when, in pursuance of the proclamation from St. Clair, a terri-

torial legislature was elected, in December, 1788. This procla-

mation was in obedience to the requirements of the Ordinance

of 1787, as follows:

"So soon as there shall be five thousand free male inhabit-

ants, of full age, in the district, upon giving proof thereof to the

governor, they shall receive authority, with time and place, to

elect representatives from their counties or townships, to repre-

sent them in the General Assembly; provided that for every five

hundred free male inhabitants there shall be one representative,

and so on progressively with the number of free male inhabitants,

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340       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


shall the right of representation increase, until the number of

representatives shall amount to twenty-five, after which the num-

ber and proportion of representatives shall be regulated by the

Legislature; provided, that no person be eligible or qualified to

act as a representative, unless he shall have been a citizen of one

of the United States three years, and be a resident in the district,

or unless he shall have resided in the district three years, and in

either case shall likewise hold in his own right, in fee simple,

two hundred acres of land within the same; provided also, that

a freehold in fifty acres of land in the district, having been a cit-

izen in one of the states, and being resident in the district, or the

like freehold and two years' residence in the district, shall be

necessary to qualify the man as an elector of a representative."

Some idea of the population of the territory, at that time, may

be formed from the representation the different counties obtained

in the Territorial Legislature. Washington had two, Hamilton

seven, Ross four, Adams two, Wayne three, and St. Clair, Ran-

dolph, Knox and Jefferson one each. New Connecticut was a

part of the territory, governed under the laws of Connecticut,

and would have been entitled to a representation, but had none,

because, as St. Clair said, he did not know of population enough

in the district to entitle it to a member.

The legislature met at the appointed place, February 4, 1799.

Before this time the people of several localities in the territory

had been clamorous for the erection of new counties, but their

desires had been refused by St. Clair. The territorial legislature

having met, the matter now came before that body, and was a

disturbing element between the executive and the General As-

sembly. Several acts were passed creating new counties, or

changing the boundaries of those already existing. The legis-

lature insisted that, after the governor had laid out the country

into counties and townships, as he had already done, it was com-

petent for them to pass laws, altering, dividing, and multiplying

them at their pleasure, to be submitted to him for his approba-

tion: that when the territory had been divided into counties by

the governor, his exclusive power was exhausted, and any altera-

tions thereafter required, were to be made by the legislature, with

his assent. But St. Clair would not assent to any laws changing

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The Evolution of Ohio Counties.         341


the boundaries of counties, or erecting new ones. Six acts

of the kind, passed at this session, were vetoed by him. The

governor made a speech to the legislature, on the day of its ad-

journment, in which he said:

"I am truly sensible, gentlemen, of the inconveniences that

follow from a great extension being given to counties; they can-

not, however, be constructed while the settlements are otherwise,

and the inconveniences are not lessened, but rather increased

by being made very small, with respect to the number of inhabit-


"The expenses which necessarily attend the establishment of

counties fall light when divided amongst a number, but become

a heavy burden when they must be borne by a few, and the in-

convenience of attending the courts as jurors and witnesses, which

are sometimes complained of, are increased nearly in the same

ratio as the counties are multiplied within the same bounds.

"There is yet another reason, gentlemen, why those acts were

not assented to. It appears to me that the erecting of new coun-

ties is the proper business of the executive. It is, indeed, pro-

vided that the boundaries of counties may be altered by the legis-

lature; but that is quite a different thing from originally estab-

lishing them. They must exist before they can be altered, and

the provision is expressed that the governor shall proceed from

time to time, as it may become necessary to lay them out. While

I shall ever most studiously avoid encroaching on any of the

rights of the legislature, you will naturally expect, gentlemen,

that I should guard, with equal care, those of the executive."

Another reason given by St. Clair for his dissent to the bills

for erecting new counties, was, as he said, that in some of them

the present number of inhabitants could not support a county,

as it was not probable that the names of every man living within

the proposed boundary exceeded a hundred. St. Clair's biog-

rapher, in the St. Clair Papers, advances another reason for his

conservatism. He says: "The greed which characterized the

transactions in land, actuated those who were speculators, to seek

to control the establishment of county towns. They hoped to

increase the value of their lands, as the public improvements in

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342      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


the way of buildings and roads, and superior advantages incidental

to a county seat, would attract the better class of settlers to such

neighborhood." An illustration of this is afforded in the case of

the strife in the county of Adams, to which reference has been


It is quite likely that the true secret of St. Clair's unwilling-

ness to erect new counties, was, that if a large number of them

were represented in the legislature, the chance of his exercising

much political influence over the body would be diminished.



The next movement in the evolution of the territorial divis-

ions of the Northwest Territory, was the act of Congress dated

May 7, 1800. This provided for the separation of the western

part of the territory, and calling it the Indiana Territory. The

division was to be at a line beginning on the Ohio opposite the

mouth of the Kentucky river; thence northerly to Fort Recov-

ery; and thence north to an intersection of the territorial line

between the United States and Canada. This line divided the

lower Michigan peninsula into two nearly equal parts, but it did

not remain in force for any considerable time. The eastern di-

vision, thus created, was to remain under the existing govern-

ment, and the western division to be organized under a similar


It was also provided in the act, that when the eastern part

should be formed into a state, the western boundary line should

be changed, and begin at the mouth of the Great Miami river,

and run thence due north to the Canada line. A division of the

territory into states had been contemplated in the Ordinance of

1787, and this provision for changing the western boundary,

made the act coincide with the terms of the Ordinance upon the

subject. Its requirements were:

"There shall be formed in the said territory, not less than

three, nor more than five states; and the boundaries of the states,

* * * shall become fixed and established as follows, to-wit:

The western state in the said territory shall be bounded by the

Mississippi, the Ohio and Wabash rivers; *  *  * the middle

states shall be bounded by the *  *  * line from the Wabash

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and Post Vincents due north to the territorial line between the

United States and Canada, and by the said territorial line to

the Lake of the Woods and Mississippi, by a direct line drawn due

north from the mouth of the Great Miami to the said territorial

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344       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


line, and by said territorial line. The eastern state shall be

bounded by the last mentioned direct line, the Ohio, Pennsylvania

and the said territorial line; provided, however, and is further

understood and declared, that the boundaries of these three states

shall be subject so far to be altered, that if Congress shall here-

after find it expedient, they shall have authority to form one or

two states in that part of the said territory which lies norh of an

east and west line drawn through the southerly bend or extreme

of Lake Michigan; and whenever any of the said states shall

have sixty thousand free inhabitants therein, such state shall

be admitted, by its delegates, into the Congress of the United

States, * * * and shall be at liberty to form a permanent

constitution and state government."

The census of 1800 revealed the fact that the eastern division

of the territory had a population of forty-two thousand, and al-

though this was less than the number set in the ordinance, to

entitle it to admission to the Union, the people were ambitious to

form a state government, and made application to Congress for

the privilege. Much scheming was indulged in at the time, be-

tween the adherents of the Federalist and the Anti-Federalist

parties, each desiring to get the political advantage of the other

in the formation of the new state. Each desired to have the

boundaries coincide with their political majority. St. Clair was

a Federalist and was working for a state that would vote for his

party. He advocated that one be made from the territory east

of a line running up the Scioto to the southwest corner of New

Connecticut, as, in this district, a majority of the voters sup-

ported the Federal party. But in the boundaries, as they were

fixed in the Ordinance of 1787, not including the county of

Wayne, there was a majority in favor of the Anti-Federalists.

Congress was then an Anti-Federalist body, and the Ordinance

boundaries were left intact.



April 30, 1802, an enabling act was passed authorizing a

constitutional convention, to form a state, from which the fol-

lowing extracts pertinent to this subject are taken:

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"The inhabitants of the eastern division of the territory

northwest of the river Ohio, be, and they are hereby authorized

to form for themselves a constitution and state government, and

to assume such name as they shall deem proper;

"That the said state shall consist of all the territory included

within the following boundaries, to-wit: Bounded on the east by

the Pennsylvania line; on the south by the Ohio river, to the

mouth of the Great Miami river; on the west by the line drawn

due north from the mouth of the Great Miami aforesaid; and on

the north by an east and west line drawn through the southerly

extreme of Lake Michigan, running east, after intersecting the

due north line aforesaid, from the mouth of the Great Miami,

until it shall intersect said Lake Erie, or the territorial line, and

thence, with the same, through Lake Erie, to the Pennsylvania

line aforesaid;

"That all that part of the territory of the United States north-

west of the river Ohio, heretofore included in the eastern division

of said territory, and not included within the boundary herein

prescribed for the said state, is hereby attached to, and made a

part of the Indiana territory.

"That all male citizens of the United States, who shall arrive

at full age, and reside within the said territory at least one year

previous to the day of election, * * * be, and they are hereby

authorized to choose representatives to form a convention, who

shall be apportioned among the several counties within the eastern

division aforesaid, in a ratio of one representative to every twelve

hundred inhabitants of each county  * * * that is to say, -

from the county of Trumbull two representatives, from the county

of Jefferson seven, two of the seven to be elected within what is

now known by the county of Belmont, taken from Jefferson and

Washington counties; from the county of Washington four rep-

resentatives; from the county of Ross seven representatives -

two of the seven to be elected in what is now known by Fairfield

county, taken from Ross and Washington counties; from the

county of Adams three representatives; from the county of Ham-

ilton twelve representatives - two of the twelve to be elected in

what is now known by Clermont county, taken entirely from

Hamilton county; and the elections for the representatives afore-

346 Ohio Arch

346       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


said, shall take place on the second Tuesday of October next,

the time fixed by law  *  *  * for elected representatives to

the General Assembly.

"That the members of the convention  * *    when met

shall first determine by a majority of the whole number, whether

it be or be not expedient at that time, to form a constitution and

state government for the people within the said territory; and if

it be determined to be expedient, the convention shall be, and

hereby are authorized to form a constitution and state govern-


The Federalists, having been defeated in their endeavor to

have a small state formed, did not cease their opposition to the

proposed new state. Not having been able to get what they

wanted, they were now not in favor of any change. As the act

authorizing the calling of a convention, left it to that body, when

assembled, to say whether a state would be formed, it became

important for each side to elect as many of its adherents to the

convention, as possible.  Political excitement ran high. The

Federalists complained of the provisions of the enabling act

prescribing the number of members the different counties were

allowed in the convention, claiming that those which had adverse

majorities to their party, were given an unfair representation, in

order to ensure a political majority for the opposing party, and

that Wayne county was left out of the convention, because its

vote would be opposed to the new state. The Federalists endeav-

ored to secure the election of as many members, pledged in oppo-

sition to a state, as possible, and hoped to defeat the project by

a vote in the convention when it had assembled. Notwithstand-

ing their strenuous efforts, they were sorely defeated. When the

convention met, the vote upon the question of statehood was

thirty-four for it, to one against.

It is to be observed that the convention, in forming the west-

ern boundary of the state, followed the line that had been fixed

by Congress in the Enabling act of April 30, 1802, and which

was the same as that fixed in the proviso of the act of May 9,

1800, providing for the division of the territory. The new bound-

aries for the state set out in the convention of 1802 were as fol-


The Evolution of Ohio Counties

The Evolution of Ohio Counties.        347


"Bounded on the east by the Pennsylania line, on the south

by the Ohio river to the mouth of the Great Miami river, on the

west by a line drawn due north from the mouth of the great

Miami aforesaid, and on the north by an east and west line

drawn through the southerly extreme of Lake Michigan, run-

ning east after intersecting the due north line aforesaid, from

the mouth of the Great Miami until it shall intersect Lake Erie

on the territorial line, and thence with the same through Lake

Erie to the Pennsylvania line aforesaid."

The contraction of the western boundary, so that the state

line began at the mouth of the Great Miami, instead of at a point

opposite the mouth of the Kentucky, gave Indiana a strip of

territory about fifty miles wide on the Ohio, and one hundred

miles long next to the eastern boundary of that state, coming

to a point near Fort Recovery, which happens to be about in the

due north line from the mouth of the Great Miami.

Disputes have arisen as to the correctness of the surveys

of the western and northern boundary lines of the state, which

have been fully set forth in former issues of the Archaeological

Reports published by this society.



At the time of the organization of the Northwest Territory

the state of Connecticut had laid claim to that part of it lying

north of the forty-first parallel of north latitude. In 1786 the

legislature of that state ceded all of this claim to the United States,

except a strip 120 miles in length lying next west of the Penn-

sylvania line. This became known as the Western Reserve of

Connecticut, and was often called New Connecticut, as that state

continued to enact laws for its government, and exercise juris-

diction within it, as she did at home. In May, 1800, her legis-

lature renounced jurisdiction to this Reserve, and conveyed the

same to the United States. It then became in order for St. Clair,

the territorial governor, to create a county government for it.

Before this, it had been parts of the counties of Jefferson and

Wayne. July 10, 1800, St. Clair placed all of the Reserve into

the county of Trumbull. The new county embraced all of the

territory north of the forty-first parallel, lying within a distance

348 Ohio Arch

348       Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


of 120 miles west of the Pennsylvania line. It was named in

honor of Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, who was the execu-

tive of that state at the time the cession was made. The county

seat was located at Warren.


The next county which St. Clair organized was Clermont.

The date of his proclamation for the purpose was December 6,

1800. It was taken from the county of Hamilton. The county

seat was located at Batavia. The origin of the name of the

county has not been preserved, but the presumption is that it

was derived from Clermont in France.



December 9, 1800, but three days after the organization of

Clermont county, St. Clair issued a proclamation for the organi-

zation of Fairfield county. It was taken from the counties of

Washington and Ross, about one-half from each. St. Clair gave

it the name of Fairfield, from the beauty of its fair lands. The

county seat was located at Lancaster.

The Evolution of Ohio Counties

The Evolution of Ohio Counties.        349





Belmont county was formed by St. Clair, September 7, 1801.

It was made up of the northern part of Washington and the

southern part of Jefferson county.  Belmont is derived from

two French words signifying a fine mountain. The surface is

very hilly and the land very picturesque. St. Clairsville, the

county seat, derives its name from Governor St. Clair.

This was the last county to be formed by the proclamation

of the territorial governor. Subsequent to this, under the new

state government, counties were formed, and their boundaries

changed, by act of the state legislature.

350 Ohio Arch

350      Ohio Arch. and His. Society Publications.


This completes the evolution of Ohio counties to the time

the state was formed. The Convention which met November 1,

1802, to frame the first state constitution was composed of thirty-

five members, apportioned to the counties appearing on the above

map, as follows: Adams, three Belmont two, Clermont two, Fair-

field two, Hamilton ten, Jefferson five, Ross five, Trumbull two,

and Washington four. The northwestern part of the state, by

the treaty of Greenville, August 3, 1795, had been allotted to the

Indian tribes, as a reservation, and was unsettled by the Whites.

The seat of government of the county of Wayne was at Detroit,

and when Ohio was being formed, as the greater part of that

county would be in the Indian Territory, it was given no represen-

tation in the convention.

These counties have been divided and disintegrated, until

from the nine organized counties and the Indian reservation that

came to the state when formed, the number has grown to eighty-

eight. When this article was begun it was the intention to go to

the end, and thus evolve the present county map of the state, but

the time allotted has been too brief to allow it, and we stop at this

convenient point, hoping to be able to present the others in some

subsequent report.