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Ohio Country

From Academic Kids

The Ohio Country, showing the present-day U.S. state boundaries
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The Ohio Country, showing the present-day U.S. state boundaries

The Ohio Country (sometimes called the Ohio Territory) was the name used in the 18th century for the regions of North America west of the Appalachian Mountains and in the region of the upper Ohio River south of Lake Erie. One of the first frontier regions of the United States, the area encompassed roughly the present-day states of Ohio, eastern Indiana, western Pennsylvania, and northwestern West Virginia. The issue of settlement in the region is considered by historians to have been a primary cause of both the French and Indian War and the American Revolutionary War.

Contents

History

Colonial Era

In the 17th century, the area north of the Ohio River had been occupied by the Algonquian-speaking Shawnee tribes. Around 1660, the Shawnee were driven out by the Iroquois during the Beaver Wars, but by 1730 the Shawnee had returned to reclaim the region. The Shawnee were largely under the control of two septs, with the Chalahgawtha (northern sept), in control of the area north of the Ohio. Major villages of the region included Chalahgawtha in present-day western Ohio, named for the Shawnee sept, as well Kittanning on the Allegheny River, in present-day western Pennsylvania.

With the arrival of the Europeans, the region was claimed by both Great Britain and France, which both sent merchants into the area to trade with the Shawnee. The region was also claimed by the Iroquois by right of conquest. The rivalry between the two Europeans nations, the Iroquois, and the Shawnee for control of the region played an important part of the French and Indian War in the 1750s. The Shawnee largely sided with the French. The Shawnee and the their allies the Lenape had been driven from east of the Alleghenies by the British of the Pennsylvania Colony through what the Shawnee considered to have been an unjust treaty. Armed with supplies and guns from the French, they undertook brutal raids via the Kittanning Path against British settlers east of the Alleghenies. After one such raid destroyed Fort Granville in the summer of 1756, colonial governor John Penn ordered Lt. Colonel John Armstrong to destroy the Shawnee villages west of the Alleghenies. The war ended with the defeat of the French and their allies. The 1763 Treaty of Paris gave control of the region to Great Britain.

American Revolution

Despite its acquisition by Great Britain, the area remained officially closed to white settlement by the Proclamation of 1763, which arose in part of the British desire to regain peaceful relations with the Shawnee and other tribes in the region. This proclamation also effectively established that the Crown no longer recognized claims of the colonies made on the land. On June 22, 1774, the parliament passed the Quebec Act which annexed this region to the province of Quebec, and was referred to as one of the Intolerable Acts leading to the American Revolution.

Despite the actions of the Crown, frontiersmen from the Virginia and Pennsylvania colonies had begun crossing the Allegheny Mountains and coming into conflict with the Shawnee. The Shawnee referred to the settlers as the Long Knives, and the realization of the threat they poses led the Shawnee, as well as the other tribes of the Ohio Nations, to side with the British against the Americans during the American Revolutionary War.

The desire of the Americans to establish control over the region was strong. In 1778, after victories in the region by American General George Rogers Clark, the Virginia legislature organized the first civil government in the region, called the county of Illinois, which encompassed all of the lands lying west of the Ohio River to which Virginia had any claim. The high-water mark of the Native American struggle to retain the region was in 1782, when the Ohio Nations and the British met in a council at the Chalawgatha village along the Little Miami River and planned the successful rout of the Americans at the Battle of Blue Licks south of the Ohio River two weeks later.

In 1783, following the Treaty of Paris, the area became part of the original territory of the United States and was immediately opened to legal settlement. The Ohio Country quickly became one of the most desirable locations for Trans-Appalachian settlements, in particular among veterans of the American Revolutionary War.

The Shawnee, however, continued to resist the encroachment of settlement into their lands. By 1800, many of the Shawnee had ceded their lands to control of the United States in exchange for lands in Missouri. The last great resistance to white settlement in the area was during the War of 1812, when Tecumseh led a disastrous war against the Americans. By 1817, the Shawnee, as well as the other Algonquin-speaking tribes in the region, had ceded all their lands to the United States.

Claims of the states

The area was seen as highly desirable for settlement in the early years of the existence of the United States, which lead to the area being subject to overlapping and conflicting territorial claims of several eastern states. These claims arose from existing colonial charters. Specifically:

  • Virginia, based on the charter of the Virginia Colony, claimed the entire region.
  • New York claimed the entire region.
  • Connecticut claimed a strip of land across the northern part of the region delineated by the westward extension of its northern and southern state boundaries.

Another result was that unlike the rest of the Northwest Territory, which was surveyed more or less uniformly under the Public Land Survey System, sections of the Ohio Lands were incrementally granted to various parties and were surveyed using disparate survey systems.

Northwest Ordinance

In 1784 the area was part of the Trans-Appalachian region that Thomas Jefferson proposed for the creation of future states to be admitted to the Union. Jefferson proposed that the states surrender their respective claims to the region. One of the most contentious issues was whether or not the area would be open to slavery.

In 1787, with the passage by the Congress of the Northwest Ordinance, the boundaries of the region were firmly established. Virginia was granted the land south of the Ohio and Pennsylvania was granted the area around the headwaters of the Ohio. The remaining area west of the Pennsylvania boundary and north of the Ohio became part of the newly-formed Northwest Territory, the first organized territory in the United States, with a civil government under the jurisdiction of the Congress.

All the existing states surrendered all their claims to the Ohio Country land within the Northwest Territory. Connecticut and Virginia reserved the right to use land in the new territory as payment to veterans of the Revolutionary War, without claiming sovereignty over the reserved areas, known respectively as the Connecticut Western Reserve and the Virginia Military District.

The Northwest Ordinance prohibited slavery in the territory and adopted the Jeffersonian proposal that the territory should be eventually admission as future states of the Union. The "Ohio Territory" is sometimes used in reference to the Northwest Territory. In 1802, the Enabling Act specifically provided for the admission of new states, the first of which, Ohio, was admitted to the Union on February 19, 1803, celebrated as March 1, 1803, the date of the first meeting of the Ohio state legislature.

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