The Connecticut Western Reserve was a portion of land claimed by the Colony of Connecticut and later by the state of Connecticut in what is now mostly the northeastern region of Ohio. The Reserve had been granted to the Colony under the terms of its charter by King Charles II.
Connecticut relinquished claim to some of its western lands to the United States in 1786 following the American Revolutionary War and preceding the 1787 establishment of the Northwest Territory. Despite ceding sovereignty to the United States, Connecticut retained ownership of the eastern portion of its cession, south of Lake Erie. It sold much of this "Western Reserve" to a group of speculators who operated as the Connecticut Land Company; they sold it in portions for development by new settlers. The phrase Western Reserve is preserved in numerous institutional names in Ohio, such as Western Reserve Academy, Case Western Reserve University, and Western Reserve Hospital.
The Reserve encompassed all of the following Ohio counties: Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Erie and Huron (see Firelands), Geauga, Lake, Lorain, Medina, Portage, Trumbull; and portions of Ashland, Mahoning, Ottawa, Summit, and Wayne.
Prior to the arrival of European colonizers, the land surrounding the southern shore of Lake Erie was inhabited by the Erie people. At the close of a war against the Iroquois from 1654-56, the Erie were almost completely decimated. Their towns were destroyed, and any survivors were assimilated into neighboring tribes, mainly the Seneca.
After the American Revolutionary War, Connecticut was forced by the federal government to surrender the Pennsylvania portion (Westmoreland County) of its "sea-to-sea grant" following the Pennamite–Yankee Wars. Nevertheless, the state held fast to its claim on the lands between the 41st and 42nd-and-2-minutes parallels that lay west of the Pennsylvania state border.
The claim within Ohio was for a 120-mile (190 km)-wide strip between Lake Erie and a line just south of present-day Youngstown, Akron, New London, and Willard, about 3 miles (4.8 km) south of present-day U.S. Highway 224. The claim beyond Ohio included parts of Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California. The eastern boundary of the reserve follows a true meridian along Ellicott's Line, the boundary with Pennsylvania. The western boundary veers more than four degrees from a meridian to maintain the 120-mile width, due to convergence.
Connecticut gave up western land claims following the American Revolutionary War in exchange for federal assumption of its debt, as did several other states. From these concessions, the federal government organized the Northwest Territory (formally known as the "Territory Northwest of the River Ohio"). The deed of cession was issued on September 13, 1786. As population increased in portions of the Northwest Territory, new states were organized and admitted to the Union in the early 19th century.
Connecticut retained 3,366,921 acres (13,625.45 km2) in Ohio, which became known as the "Western Reserve". The state sold the Western Reserve to the Connecticut Land Company in 1796 (or possibly 12 August, 2 September, or 5 September 1795) for $1,200,000. The Land Company were a group of investors who were mostly from Suffield, Connecticut. The initial eight men in the group (or possibly seven or 35) planned to divide the land into homestead plots and sell it to settlers from the east.
But the Indian titles to the Reserve had not been extinguished. Clear title was obtained east of the Cuyahoga River by the Greenville Treaty in 1795 and west of the river in the Treaty of Fort Industry in 1805. The western end of the reserve included the Firelands or "Sufferers' Lands," 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) reserved for residents of several New England towns which had been destroyed by British-set fires during the Revolutionary War.
The next year, the Land Company sent surveyors led by Moses Cleaveland to the Reserve to divide the land into square townships, 5 miles (8.0 km) on each side (25 square miles (65 km2). Cleaveland's team also founded the city of Cleveland along Lake Erie, which became the largest city in the region. (The first "a" was dropped by a printer in the early years of the settlement, as Cleveland takes less space on a printed page than Cleaveland.)
The territory was originally named "New Connecticut" (later discarded in favor of "Western Reserve"), and settlers began to trickle in during the next few years. Youngstown was founded in 1796, Warren in 1798, Hudson in 1799, Ravenna also in 1799, Ashtabula in 1803, and Stow in 1804.
Connecticut finally ceded sovereignty over the Western Reserve in 1800. The United States absorbed it into the Northwest Territory, which organized Trumbull County within the boundaries of the Reserve. Warren, Ohio is the former county seat of the Reserve and identifies itself as "the historical capital of the Western Reserve." Later, several more counties were carved out of the territory. The name "Western Reserve" survives in the area in various institutions such as the "Western Reserve Historical Society" and Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.
This area of Ohio became a center of resource development and industrialization through the mid-20th century. It was a center of the steel industry, receiving iron ore shipped through the Great Lakes from Minnesota, processing it into steel products, and shipping these products to the east. This industry stimulated the development of great freight lakers, as the steam ships were known, including the first steel ships in the 20th century. Railroads took over some of the freight and commodity transportation from the lake ships. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, these cities attracted hundreds of thousands of European immigrants and migrants (both black and white) from the rural South to its industrial jobs.
Seeking Heritage Area designation
At the request of Congress in 2011, the National Park Service prepared a feasibility study for declaring the 14-county region of the Western Reserve as a National Heritage Area. This is a means to encourage broad-based preservation of such historical sites and buildings that are related to a large historical theme. Such assessment and designation has been significant for recognizing assets, and encouraging new development and businesses, including heritage tourism, often related to adaptive re-use of waterways, and buildings, as well as totally new endeavors. 49 National Heritage Areas have been designated in the United States, including two in Ohio: the Ohio Canal of the Ohio and Erie Canal and the National Aviation Heritage Area.
The NPS study coordinator said that while the region had the historic assets, and there was considerable public support for such a designation, the Western Reserve lacked "a definitive coordinating entity or supporting group," which is required to gain Congressional approval. If such a body develops in the future, it might seek federal designation as a Heritage Area.
The settlers in northern Ohio repeated the style of structures and the development of towns with which they were familiar in New England; many buildings in the new settlements were designed in the Georgian, Federal, and Greek Revival styles. Towns such as Aurora, Bath, Canfield, Chagrin Falls, Gates Mills, Hudson, Medina, Milan, Norwalk, Oberlin, Painesville, Poland, and Tallmadge exemplify the expression of these styles and traditional New England town planning. For instance, Cleveland's Public Square reflects the traditional New England central town green.
- Connecticut Colony
- Greater Cleveland
- Northeast Ohio
- Ohio Lands
- Ox-Cart Library
- Western Reserve Historical Society
- State cessions
- Western Reserve. Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (2020-10-05). Retrieved on 2020-10-05.
- Knepper, George W (2002). The Official Ohio Lands Book (PDF). Auditor of the State of Ohio. pp. 23–26.
- "Western Reserve History". Fiscalofficer.cuyahogacounty.us. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
- "Finding aid for the Ashland and Wayne County, Ohio Deeds". Ead.ohiolink.edu. Retrieved 2014-01-14.
- White, Marian E. (24/1971). "Ethnic Identification and Iroquois Groups in Western New York and Ontario". Ethnohistory. 18 (1): 19–38. doi:10.2307/481592. JSTOR 481592. Check date values in:
- Bélanger, Claude. "Quebec History". faculty.marianopolis.edu. Retrieved 2020-09-19.
- Upton, Harriet Taylor (1910). Cutler, Harry Gardner (ed.). History of the Western Reserve. 1. New York: Lewis Publishing Company. pp. 10–11.
- Peters, William E. (1918). Ohio Lands and Their Subdivision. W.E. Peters. p. 153.
- 7 Stat. 49 - Text of Treaty of Greenville Library of Congress
- 7 Stat. 87 - Text of Treaty of Fort Industry Library of Congress
- Elsewhere in Ohio, most townships are 6 miles (9.7 km) on each side (36 square miles (93 km2)), following the guidelines of the US Land Ordinance of 1785.
- "Western Reserve loses bid as heritage area", Akron Beacon Journal, June 18, 2011, retrieved November 29, 2012
- Hatcher, Harlan, Western Reserve: The Story of New Connecticut in Ohio, Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1949. (2nd edition, Cleveland: World Publishing, 1966). (2nd edition paperback, Kent State University Press, 1991, ISBN 0-87338-449-0).
- Taylor Upton, Harriet, History of the Western Reserve, New York: Lewis Publishing Co., 1910, ISBN 978-0-8328-5091-2 (1996 edition).
- Ohio Historical Society -- Connecticut Western Reserve
Connecticut State Library (CSL) collection
- The Public Records of the State of Connecticut [HistRef ConnDoc G25 1776-]. This multi-volume set contains the record of transactions of the Connecticut General Assembly. Each volume covers a given time period and has an index. Researchers interested in the Western Lands should consult these volumes to gain knowledge of the legislative actions and petitions granted by the Connecticut General Assembly.
- Burke, Thomas Aquinas. Ohio Lands: A Short History. [Columbus, OH]: Auditor of State, c1997 [CSL call number HistRef HD 243 .O3 B87 1997].
- Cherry, Peter Peterson. The Western Reserve and Early Ohio. Akron, OH: R. L. Fouse, 1921 [CSL call number F 495 .C52].
- Fedor, Ferenz. The Yankee Migration to the Firelands. s.l.: Fedor, 1976? [CSL call number F 497 .W5 F43 1976].
- Mathews, Alfred. Ohio and Her Western Reserve, With a Story of Three States Leading to the Latter, From Connecticut, by Way of Wyoming, Its Indian Wars and Massacre. New York: D. Appleton, 1902 [CSL call number F 491 .M42].
- Mills, William Stowell. The Story of the Western Reserve of Connecticut. New York: Printed for the author by Brown & Wilson Press [ca. 1900] [CSL call number F 497 .W5 M6].
- Peters, William E. Ohio Lands and Their Subdivision. Athens, OH: W. E. Peters, 1918 [CSL call number F 497 .W5 P47 1918].
- Rice, Harvey. Pioneers of the Western Reserve. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1883 [CSL call number: F 497 .W5 R5 1883].
- Upton, Harriet Taylor. History of the Western Reserve. Chicago: Lewis Pub. Co., 1910 [CSL call number: F 497 .W5 U7]. Volume 1, online Volume 2, online
- Wickham, Gertrude Van Rensselaer. Memorial to the Pioneer Women of the Western Reserve. [s.l.]: Whipporwill, [197- ] [CSL call number F 497 .W5 W63 1970z].
- Cleveland Centennial Commission. Woman's Dept (1896). Album of the Western Reserve Centennial. Cleveland, Ohio: Edwin H. Clark and Co. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Cleveland Centennial Commission (1896). Official report of the centennial celebration of the founding of the city of Cleveland and the settlement of the Western Reserve. Cleveland, Ohio: The Cleveland Printing & Publishing Co. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Kirtland, Turhand. Diary of Turhand Kirtland from 1798-1800. While surveying and laying out the Western Reserve for the Connecticut Land Company. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Garfield, James Abraham (1885). The Northwest Territory Settlement of the Western Reserve. Address delivered at Burton, Ohio before the Historical Society of Geauga County, Sept. 16, 1873. Boston: James R. Osgood and Company. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Hawley, Zerah (1822). A journal of a tour through Connecticut, Massachusetts, New-York, the north part of Pennsylvania and Ohio, including a year's residence in that part of the state of Ohio, styled New Connecticut, or Western Reserve; in which is given, a description of the country, climate, soil, productions, animals, buildings, manners of the people, state of society, population, & c, from actual and careful Observation. New Haven: S. Converse. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Rice, Harvey (1881). Incidents of Pioneer Life in the Early Settlement of the Connecticut Western Reserve. Cleveland, Ohio: Cobb, Andrews & Co. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Rice, Harvey (1885). Sketches of Western Reserve life : Rice, Harvey, 1800-1891 : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive. Cleveland, Ohio: William W. Williams. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- The Western Reserve register for 1852 : containing lists of the officers of the general governments and of the officers and institutions on the reserve. Hudson, Ohio: Sawyer, Ingersoll and Company. 1852. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Western Reserve Historical Society (1916). The Connecticut Land Company and accompanying papers. Cleveland, Ohio. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Whittlesey, Charles (1867). Early History of Cleveland, Ohio: Including Original Papers and Other Matter Relating to the Adjacent Country, with Biographical Notices of the Pioneers and Surveyors. Cleveland, Ohio: Fairbanks, Benedict & Co. Retrieved 2013-06-09.
- Wing, George Clary (1916). Early Years on the Western Reserve: With Extracts from Letters of Ephraim Brown and Family, 1805-1845. Cleveland, Ohio: Arthur H. Clark Company. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Cochran, W.C. (1920). The Western Reserve and the fugitive slave law: a prelude to the Civil War. Collections, The Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland, Ohio. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Ford, Seabury (1850-01-30), Special message of the governor, in relation to Western Reserve school lands, Executive Office of the Governor of Ohio, retrieved 2013-06-08
- Hinsdale, Burke Aaron (1896). The History of Popular Education on the Western Reserve. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Levinson, Burton E (1900). The Western Reserve : its Hebrew influence. Cincinnati, Ohio: American Jewish Archives. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Hayden, Amos Sutton (1875). Early history of the Disciples in the Western Reserve, Ohio; with biographical sketches of the principal agents in their religious movement. Cincinnati, Ohio: Chase & Hall. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Kaiser, Peter Henry (1894). The Moravians on the Cuyahoga : address delivered before the Western Reserve Historical Society. Cleveland, Ohio: Mount & Co. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Kennedy, William Sloane (1856). The plan of union: or a history of the Presbyterian and Congregational churches of the Western Reserve; with biographical sketches of the early missionaries. Hudson, Ohio: Pentagon Steam Press. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- Wood, James (1837). Facts and observations concerning the organization and state of the churches in the three synods of western New-York and the Synod of Western Reserve. Saratoga Springs, NY: G.M. Davison. Retrieved 2013-06-08.
- The Western Reserve Heritage Feasibility Study
- Western Reserve Historical Society, Cleveland, Ohio
- Research Guide to Connecticut's "Western Lands" or "Western Reserve"
- Connecticut Western Reserve article on h2g2
- Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
- History of the Western Reserve
- Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve
- Firelands Historical Society