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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

WESTERN RESERVE - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The WESTERN RESERVE encompassed approx. 3.3 million acres of land in what is now northeastern Ohio. Bounded on the north by Lake Erie, on the east by Pennsylvania, it extended 120 mi. westward. On the south, the Reserve's line was set at 41 degrees north latitude, running just south of the present cities of Youngstown, Akron, and Willard. The state of Connecticut exempted the land from 41 degrees to as far north as 42 degrees 2 minutes (western extensions of its own boundaries) when it ceded its western claims to the U.S. in 1786. In its 1662 royal charter, Connecticut's boundaries were established as extending "from sea-to-sea" across North America; royal grants also had created New York and Pennsylvania, both of which intruded on Connecticut's lands. In the 1750s, a group of Connecticut speculators began to sell lands in the Wyoming Valley near present-day Wilkes-Barre, PA. In 1782, under the Articles of Confederation, a federal court determined that the Wyoming lands belonged to Pennsylvania. At the same time, Congress was encouraging states that claimed western lands to cede them so that it could regulate their sale and governance. Following the example of Virginia's cession in 1784, which had exempted lands promised to war veterans, Connecticut reserved lands roughly equal in dimension to the Wyoming Valley lands from her cession. Congress took 2 years before reluctantly accepting the Connecticut cession, and then only because the Pennsylvania delegation championed Connecticut's offer. It is assumed that threats to reopen the Wyoming Valley case motivated Pennsylvania's support of Connecticut.

Connecticut ceded to the U.S. all her western lands claims, except the area of the Reserve, on 14 Sept. 1786. Indian title to the lands east of the CUYAHOGA RIVER was extinguished in the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. That same year, the State of Connecticut sold most of the reserved lands to the CONNECTICUT LAND CO., and established a school fund with the proceeds from the sale. The actual survey and division of the lands would be directed by the company. Connecticut had exempted the "Firelands," some 500,000 acres in the western part of the Reserve, in order to compensate citizens whose property had been destroyed in British raids during the Revolutionary War. The year after the Connecticut cession, Congress created the Northwest Territory, but it was assumed that Connecticut, not the territory, was empowered to exercise political jurisdiction over the Reserve. The ambiguity lasted until 1800, when Congress passed the "Quieting Act"; Connecticut surrendered all governing authority and shortly thereafter Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, designated the Western Reserve as Trumbull County, fixing the county seat at Warren.

Finding aid for the Arthur St. Clair Papers. WRHS.
Last Modified: 14 Nov 2012 08:57:16 AM

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