VI. The Miami Immigration
History of Hamilton County Ohio
pages 45-49
transcribed by Laura Vogel

Go to page: 45, 46, 47, 48, 49

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~pg 45~


"I beheld, too, in that vision
All the secrets of the future,
Of the distant days that shall be.
I beheld the westward marches
Of the unknown, crowded nations.
All the land was full of people---,
Restless, struggling, toiling, striving,
Speaking many tongues, yet feeling
But one heart-beat in their bosoms.
In the woodlands rang their axes,
Smoked their towns in all the valleys,
Over all the lakes and rivers
Rushed their great canoes of thunder."
---H. W. LONGFELLOW, "Hiawatha."


By the winter of 1788-9 there were white Settlements on all sides of the Miami Purchase, though some of them were distant. Pittsburgh was founded; the Ohio company's colony was set down at Marietta; Limestone Point, or Limestone, afterwards Maysville, was much nearer at the eastward, and Lexington and Louisville, in the same State, both founded already ten years or more, lay at other points of the compass; while Detroit at the

~pg 46~
northward, Vincennes to the west, and St. Louis yet beyond, might be said to complete a cordon, though somewhat far away, of civilized settlement. In Kentucky, particularly at Lexington, as we shall see more fully in opening the history of Cincinnati, a lively interest began to be taken, in the summer and fall of 1788, in the colonization of the fertile tract between the Miamis. Attention was especially directed to the eligible site opposite the mouth of the Licking, which many of the men of Kentucky had seen, as they crossed the Ohio going upon or returning from their expeditions against the Indians. In this region the first steps were taken for the planting of Losantiville, which became Cincinnati, the "Queen City." So far had the project gone in early autumn that the fifteenth of September of that year was appointed "for a large company to meet in Lexington and make a road from there to the mouth of the Licking, provided Judge SYMMES arrives, being daily expected."

The first organized parties for the settlement of the Miami country, however, set out from the far east. A feeble scatter of emigrants had come to the Purchase and its vicinity on either side, from time to time, in the spring and summer of 1788; none of whom, however, dared attempt permanent settlement as yet, through fear of the savages and the total want of military protection. Some of them, on their return, remained at Limestone and joined the early expeditions back to the Miami country. Meanwhile the material of those expeditions was collecting, under the auspices of SYMMES and STITES, away in the comparatively old districts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, The latter started with his party, at just what date we know not, but probably in the early summer of 1788, and waited at Limestone until and for some time after the arrival of Judge SYMMES. The latter left New Jersey late in July of the same year, with an imposing train of fourteen four-horse wagons, and, with the wagons and on horseback, sixty persons, including his own family. He travelled leisurely across the then difficult country to Pittsburgh, and thence to Wheeling, sending his horses by land to the latter place from Devon's Ferry, on the Monongahela, while he embarked his people and their effects on the river. He regretted afterwards that he had not purchased ox-teams instead of horses, declaring that he should have saved three hundred pounds by it. He recommended his eastern friends proposing to immigrate to come with oxen, "as they are cheaper by one-half in the first purchase, not so much exposed to accidents - the Indians have never disturbed them in any instance (except in the attack on Colerain, when the enemy took all the cattle for the supply of their small army) - and after long service they are still of their original value." He was not troubled by Indians on the route, but was delayed somewhat by heavy rains and bad roads, which caused the breakage of several of his axles by the time Pittsburgh was reached. He remained in that city but two days, and pushed on to Wheeling, as before recited, from which the party floated briskly down, the Ohio being in flood at the time, to the infant colony at Marietta, and thence to Limestone, at which he arrived the latter part of September, two months from his departure from New Jersey. This place was to be his base of operations for some months. He paid an early visit of exploration to the Miami country, but was doomed to weeks of weary waiting, at first for a sufficient military escort to justify the completion of his journey and the execution of the Muskingum treaty pending with the Indians, which was delayed till almost midwinter; then for supplies. He complained bitterly of the delay of General HARMAR in sending him troops from the fort at Marietta; and when, on the twelfth of December, Captain KEARSEY reached Limestone with a force of forty-five men, the arrival was "much, more detriment than use," as SYMMES wrote, since he was not ready to start, ST. CLAIR not yet having advised him of the conclusion of the treaty, and, the troops coming to him with very limited supplies and HARMAR failing to send more, he had to feed them from his own stores. The purchases he was compelled to make from the surrounding country after a time were effected with difficulty and at large cost, since the "amazing emigration," as he called it, into Kentucky had almost exhausted the Limestone region and put every kind of provisions up to three times the price at Lexington.

There had been a numerous gathering at Limestone, waiting to go on to the Miamis. Major STITES, however, got away the twenty-fifth of November with the surveyors dispatched by SYMMES into the Purchase, determined to wait no longer for the beginning of his meditated settlement at or near the mouth of the Little Miami. The two or three block-houses (Fort Miami) erected by the party, with the adjoining cabins, formed the nucleus of Columbia, now the oldest part of Cincinnati and the oldest white settlement in Hamilton county or anywhere in the Purchase. A sergeant and eighteen men were presently sent to STITES. A sergeant and twelve men were also started with a party of settlers coming down the river for the "Old Fort" at the mouth of the Great Miami; but all these were turned back at Columbia by ice in the river gorging it and damaging their boats, and returned, discouraged but in safety, to Limestone. Just one month after the departure of STITES's company, on the twenty-fourth of December, the throng at Limestone was further relieved by the exodus of the party led by Colonel PATTERSON, of Lexington - which, however, was composed much more of eastern men than of Kentuckians. Their objective point was the coveted spot opposite the debouchure of the Licking into the Ohio, to which they moved accordingly, and successfully arrived, though with some trouble from floating ice - probably on the twenty-eighth of December, 1788. The town they founded here took at first the name suggested by the pedantic FILSON, who was one of the original projectors - "Losantiville," a name compounded of little words from several languages, and intended to signify "the village opposite the mouth of the Licking river." Thus was the second settlement in the Purchase made. The third was effected by Judge SYMMES himself and the party then over six months out from their New Jersey homes. He had taken a house for himself and family at Limestone, ex-

~pg 47~
pecting to be detained there until spring. He waited vainly and long, struggling with the difficulties of subsisting the troops and his following there, for a boat-load of flour which had been ordered from up the river, and which had been promised him by Christmas at furthest, or for HARMAR to forward supplies. But the last of January bringing an enormous freshet in the river, sweeping out the ice and furnishing a current favorable for rapid movement down the stream, he determined to tarry no longer. This determination was hastened also by messengers from STITES, who came on foot through the wilderness along the river banks, to advise him of the expressed friendship of the Indians and their eagerness to see him. A second message of this kind led him to fear that, if his journey were longer delayed, the savages would retire in disgust and anger; and he decided to leave. Collecting with much difficulty a small supply of flour and salt, he embarked his family and furniture, with Captain KEARSEY and the residue of the force, and committed his fortunes to the swelling waters on the twenty-ninth day of January, 1789. Reaching Columbia, he found it flooded, with the soldiers driven to the garrets of the block-houses and finally to boats, and only one house, built on high ground, out of water. Passing on to Losantiville he found the people there entirely out of the floods; but, knowing from his previous observations of the country at the mouths of the Miamis that the land about the "Old Fort " would be flooded, he abandoned his project of founding a city at the point between the Great Miami and the Ohio, and, at three o'clock in the afternoon, as he carefully notes, on the second of February, 1789, in an inclement season, his party stepped ashore at the site of North Bend. Improvement here was speedily begun; and HOWE, in his Historical Collections of Ohio, says that about the same time another beginning was made, three miles below this place and two from the Indiana line, on the tract which afterwards formed part of the farm of the younger William Henry HARRISON. This took the name of the "Sugar Camp Settlement," and at one time, says HOWE, had as many as thirty houses. The block-house built here was still standing in 1847, though almost a ruin. Soon after the North Bend occupation, a site was selected by Judge SYMMES for another town, which was destined to have a short career and a limited fame - South Bend, at the southernmost point of the Ohio in the purchase. North Bend, says Mr. Francis W. MILLER, in Cincinnati's Beginnings, obtained its appellation from being farther to the north than any other northwardly extending deflection of the Ohio between the Muskingum and the Mississippi. Judge SYMMES wrote in August, 1791 that "South Bend is pretty well established," and Mr. MILLER says "the village which was started there soon showed such signs of progress as to be considered for a time a competitor in the race for supremacy." In September, 1791, it had eighteen or twenty families. The entire chain of settlements along the river, particularly Columbia, Losantiville, and North Bend, received rapid accessions of immigration. In the years 1789-90 the first-named had the largest population of any of them.

At all periods of its history, the vast majority of immigrations to the Miami country has come in by way of t he river Ohio. In the early day there was rarely an arrival by any either means of transportation, from the absence or paucity and poorness of roads in the interior. It was natural, therefore, that the settlements along the north bank of that river should be the first made in the Purchase. The policy of Judge SYMMES, however, was to disperse settlers through the entire tract. In this he differed from the Ohio company. He wrote to Dayton in May, 1789:
At Marietta, the directors of the company settled the settlers as they pleased, on the New England plan of concentrating in towns and villages, so as to guard against Indians. In "Miami" every purchaser chose his ground, and converted the same into a station, village, or town at pleasure, with nothing to anticipate but fear of the Indians. If ten or twelve men agree to form a station, it is certainly done. This desultory way of settling will soon carry many through the Purchase, if the savages do not frustrate them. Encouragements are given at every man's will to settlers, and they bid on each other, in order to make their post the more secure."

In accordance with this wise policy, SYMMES was soon able to announce (to Dayton, April 30, 1790):
We here established three new stations some distance up in the country. One is twelve miles up the Big Miami, the second is five miles up Mill creek, and the third is nine miles back in the country from Columbia. These all flourish well.

The first of these small forts or stockades was named "Dunlap's station," at Colerain, seventeen miles northwest of Cincinnati, about which a good many settlers early concentrated; the second, although at first called by SYMMES "Mill Creek station," is better known as Ludlow's, and was at Cumminsville, within the present limits of Cincinnati; and the third was probably "Covalt's station." A few months later, in November, after HARMAR's defeat, Mr. SYMMES writes: " But for the repulse of our army, I should have had several new stations advanced further into the Purchase by next spring; but I now shall be very happy if we are able to maintain the three advanced stations."

The next year, in September, General ST. CLAIR, while marching to his defeat, established Fort Hamilton on the Great Miami, in the Purchase, twenty-five miles from Cincinnati, which speedily became the nucleus of a thriving settlement, and finally gave way to the town (now city) of Hamilton, founded in 1794. Long before this, in June, 1789, when the Mad river region was presumed to be included in the Purchase, Major STITES and other Columbians, arranging with SYMMES for the purchase of the seventh entire range of townships, drew a superb plan for a town upon the subsequent site of Dayton, for which they proposed the name "Venice." The project failed, from difficulties in obtaining title from SYMMES, and very likely also from fear of the savages. As soon, however, as the Indian troubles were pacificated this very desirable site at the mouth of the Mad river was occupied by a company composed of Governor ST. CLAIR, General DAYTON, General WILKINSON, and Colonel LUDLOW, who founded and secured a rapid early growth for their new town of "Dayton." , They had negotiated

~pg 48~
for the land with SYMMES, but were compelled, of course, eventually to purchase from the Government, as, by the Judge's patent of 1794, it lay far outside of his tract. At an early day, also, Lebanon and other towns and country settlements in the Miami country, in and out of the Purchase, made their hopeful beginnings.

Thus rapidly, under the circumstances, was setting in the tide of Miami immigration. Some of those circumstances were specially formidable to the rapid development of the country. Notwithstanding the peaceful auspices under which the first treaties and settlements had been made, and the comparative freedom from attack which the little communities enjoyed for some time, the fear of savage inroads was ever present, and even afar off it deterred the intending immigrant from making his venture. The fear of Indian massacre, captivity, and torture hung like a pall over the advance guard of civilization in the Miami wilderness. This was greatly increased by the disastrous defeats of Generals ST. CLAIR and HARMAR, and was not entirely removed until after the victory of WAYNE at the battle of the Fallen Timbers, and the subsequent peace of Greenville. An era of security and peace then set in. The inhabitants could now leave their fortified stations and remove to tracts selected in the open country. Here they built their cabins anew, and began to subdue the forest and get in their first crops. Other immigrants rapidly arrived on the news of apparently permanent peace, to join them; and the wonderful growth of the region fairly began.

Another cause operated almost as powerfully, early in the immigration, to deter settlement. This was the hostility of the Kentucky people, who, from being warm friends of the Miami country, had become its bitter enemies, and lost no opportunity to decry it. They doubtless suffered "the piques of disappointment," as SYMMES put it, at seeing the rich prize of the Purchase carried off by eastern men, after they the leading Kentuckians, had fixed their longing eyes upon it. Nevertheless, many land-jobbers from that region had bargained with the judge for tracts of his land, and had been granted generous terms - abundant time in which to pay the fees for surveying and registering required of land-buyers at that time, and to make their first payments. In most cases they utterly failed in these; and after waiting a reasonable length of time, their negotiations or contracts were declared void by Mr. SYMMES. They consequently took especial pains, particularly at Limestone, where all parties of immigrants going down the Ohio called, to discourage settlers from locating in the purchase. SYMMES writes to DAYTON in May, 1789:
At Limestone they assert with an air of assurance that the Miami country is depopulated, that many of the inhabitants are killed and the settlers all fled who have escaped the tomahawk, adjuring those bound to the falls of the Ohio not to call at the Miamis, for that they would certainly be destroyed by the Indians. With these falsehoods they have terrified about thirty families, which had come down the river with a design of settling at Miami, and prevailed with them to land at Limestone and go into Kentucky. Nevertheless, [added the stout-hearted pioneer] every week, almost every day, some people arrive at one or other of our towns, and become purchasers and settlers.... Many persons who have been with us, made purchases, built houses, and are fully satisfied and much pleased with the country, go back and get their families.

But later the feeling in Kentucky seems to have changed, or the disappointed and pestilent landsharks there had lost their influence; for a large immigration from that very region northward to the Miami valley was promised. Judge SYMMES wrote November 4, 1790:
Never had been finer prospects of speedy sales and, settlement of lands in the Purchase, than were about the time the army marched to HARMAN's defeat. Great numbers were arranging their business to emigrate from Kentucky and the Pittsburgh country; but the strokes our army has got seem to fall like a blight upon the prospect, and for the present seem to appall every countenance.

Still another source of discouragement was found in 1791, in the arbitrary conduct of Governor ST. CLAIR towards Judge SYMMES, and of the governor and the military towards the citizens of Cincinnati and the purchasers of lands in the southeast corner and elsewhere in the Purchase. On the twelfth and fourteenth of July in that year ST. CLAIR addressed somewhat dictatorial letters to the judge, on the subject of his continued sales of lands between the Little Miami and the new line established by the Treasury board as the eastern boundary of the Purchase, and on the nineteenth issued the proclamation of warning and threat mentioned in our Chapter V. Mr. SYMMES wrote:
Every person must admit that the Governor has treated me and the settlers in a most cruel manner.

He also writes of the proclamation, which seems to have been preceded or followed by another placing Cincinnati, or some part of it outside of the fort, under martial law:
The Governor's proclamations have convulsed these settlements beyond your conception, sir, not only with regard to the limits of the Purchase, but also with respect to his putting part of the town of Cincinnati under military government.

The governor had shortly before summarily arrested a respectable settler from New England, named Knoles SHAW, although he lived beyond the limits of martial law, as prescribed by the proclamation, put him in irons, as the judge was "credibly informed," and finally, without hearing before judge or jury, exiled him and his family from the territory, while his house had been burned by the troops, under ST. CLAIR's orders. The charges against him related to the purchase of some articles of soldiers' uniform and the advising soldiers to desert; but they tested solely upon the assertion of a soldier who deserted and was retaken, against whom Mr. SHAW stoutly asserted his innocence, and they were not, even if fully substantiated, such as called for the severe penalties inflicted, had the governor legal power to inflict them at discretion. Some of the military officers, par- taking of ST. CLAIR's spirit, had been guilty of other highhanded and unwarranted acts. One Captain ARMSTRONG, commanding at Fort Hamilton, for example, ordered out of the Purchase some of the settlers at Dunlap's station, and threatened to eject them vi et armis if they did not go. Previously, under HARMAR's command at Fort Washington, the regular officers at the fort committed "many other acts of a despotic complexion," "beating

~pg 49~
and imprisoning citizens at their pleasure," writes SYMMES. When, late in the same year, the defeat of ST. CLAIR by the Indians was added to the disastrous repulse of HARMAR, the combined discouragements certainly looked as if the Purchase would be ruined. SYMMES wrote to DAYTON:
I expect, sir, that the late defeat will entirely discourage emigration to the Purchase from Jersey for a long time. Indeed, it seems that we are never to have matters right. What from the succeeding defeats of our army, and the Governor's arbitrary conduct towards the settlers, still more discouraging at the time than even the defeats, many settlers became very indifferent in their attachment to the Purchase, and numbers had left it on account of the Governor's conduct before his unparalleled defeat.

Yet the elasticity of the indomitable spirit of the pioneers and their leaders rebounded from all depressions, and the immigration, after a period of relapse, went bravely on. It is estimated that there were two thousand white persons already in the Miami country in 1790, and that ten years thereafter the number had jumped to fifteen thousand. In 1810 Hamilton county alone had fifteen thousand two hundred and four, and the entire Miami country about seventy thousand, or one-seventh of the whole population then in the State. By August, 1815, it was judged by Dr. DRAKE that one hundred thousand at least were in the same region, or twenty-five per square mile, scattered over about four thousand square miles. It was a remarkable growth for the first quarter of a century.

The expectations entertained of the whole Ohio country, long before it was permanently settled, are well by an official communication addressed in 1770 to the Earl of HILLSBOROUGH, then attached to the British government as Secretary of State for the North American Department, in which the following passage occurs:
No part of North America will require less encouragement for the production of naval stores and raw materials for manufactories in Europe, and for supplying the West India islands with lumber, provisions, etc., than the country of the Ohio.

The writer then gives six excellent reasons for the faith that is in him, with observations that involve many compliments to and a high appreciation, of the beautiful .fertile land watered by the Ohio and its tributaries.

It was a beautiful land to which the Miami immigration was invited-

A wilderness of sweets; for Nature here
Wantoned as in her prime, and played at will
Her virgin fancies, pouring forth more sweet,
Wild above rule or art; the gentle gales,
Fanning their odoriferous wings, dispense
Native perfumes, and whisper whence they stole
Those balmy spoils.

Judge SYMMES had called it, with tolerably clear prescience, "a country that may one day prove the brightest jewel in the regalia of the nation." The forest was luxuriant, and fertile in native fruit products. The fine bottom lands in the valleys had been cultivated by the savages, and by the Mound Builders before them, for untold centuries, and were found by the early settlers as mellow as ash heaps, and with their fertility unimpaired by long culture, much less exhausted. Said SYMMES, to DAYTON, in a letter from North Bend, May 27, 1789: "The country is healthy, and looks like a mere meadow for many miles together in some places." The "Turkey Bottom still so-called, a clearing of about six hundred and forty acres, or a "section," made ready to the hand of civilization, a mile and a half above the mouth of the Little Miami, on the east side of the Purchase, with the produce of some smaller lots near Columbia, furnished the entire supply of corn for that hamlet and for Cincinnati during their first year. This tract, like many others in the valleys, was extremely fertile. Benjamin RANDOLPH, one of the occupants, planted a single acre of corn upon it, which he had no time to hoe, hastening back to New Jersey upon some errand of affection or business; and when he came back in the fall he found that his neglected acre had one hundred bushels of excellent maize ready for him to husk. From nine acres of this tract, the tradition goes, the enormous, crop of nine hundred and sixty-three bushels was gathered the very first season.

Oliver M. SPENCER, one of the earliest residents at this corner of the Purchase, thus pleasantly records his impressions of the Miami country in the primitive time:
The winter of 1791-92 was followed by an early and delightful spring; indeed, I have often thought that our first Western winters were much milder, our springs earlier, and our autumns longer than they now are. On the last of February some of the trees were putting forth their foliage; in March the redbud, the hawthorn, and the dogwood, in full bloom, checkered the hills, displaying their beautiful colors of rose and lily; and in April the ground was covered with Mayapple, bloodroot, ginseng, violets, and a great variety of herbs and flowers. Flocks of paroquets were seen, decked in their rich plumage of green and gold. Birds of various species and every hue, were flitting from tree to tree, and the beautiful redbird and the untaught songster of the west made the woods vocal with their melody. Now might be heard the plaintive wail of the dove, and now the rumbling drum of the partridge or the loud gobble of the turkey. Here might be seen the clumsy bear, doggedly moving off; or, urged by pursuit into a laboring gallop, retreating to his citadel in the top of some lofty tree; or, approached suddenly, raising himself erect in the attitude of defence, facing his enemy and waiting his approach; - there the timid deer, watchfully resting or cautiously feeding, or, aroused from his thicket, gracefully bounding off, then stopping, erecting his stately head for a moment, gazing around, or snuffing the air to ascertain his enemy, instantly springing off, clearing logs and bushes at a bound, and soon distancing his pursuers. It seemed an earthly paradise; and, but for apprehension of the wily copperhead, which lay silently coiled among the leaves or beneath the plants, waiting to strike his victim; the horrid rattlesnake, which, more chivalrous, however, with head erect amidst its ample folds, prepared to dart upon his foe, generously with the loud noise of his rattle apprised him of danger; and the still more fearful and insidious savage, who, crawling upon the ground or noiselessly approaching behind trees, or thickets, sped the deadly shaft or fatal bullet, you might have fancied you were in the confines of Eden or the borders of Elysium.

Many, notwithstanding these drawbacks, were the charms, attractions, and delights of the Miami country. The immigration thereto, as we shall now see, was every way worthy of it.

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