The Connecticut Western Reserve

The following was prepared by Judith Sheridan. It gives a good explanation as to why this part of Ohio is still know as "The Western Reserve" Mrs. Sheridan is a board member of the Trumbull County Historical Society and First Vice President of the Geauga County Historical Society.

In the years before the American Revolution, the colony of Connecticut claimed all of the land from its western border to the Mississippi River. This included parts of New York and Pennsylvania. After the United States Federal System of Government was established, Connecticut ceded all of its claims to these lands except for a 120 mile strip in the Ohio Country. This land became known as the Connecticut Western Reserve. Funds obtained by the state from the sale of this land were to be used for public schools in Connecticut. The western end of the Reserve (later Huron and Erie Counties) was set aside as the "sufferer" lands. It was to be given to Connecticut residents to compensate them for losses from British military actions during the Revolutionary War. In the Reserve it was called the "Firelands".

The remaining 3,000,000 acres was sold by Connecticut to the Connecticut Land Company. This group of 35 men paid $1,200,000 for the Reserve. This amounted to $.40 an acre. In order to sell the land it had to be surveyed and Moses Cleaveland was hired as the land agent to do the job. Cleaveland settled prior Native American claims by signing a treaty with the Indians in Buffalo, NY on June 22, 1796. The surveying party then continued to the Reserve and arrived at Conneaut, Ohio on July 4, 1796, 20 years after independence from England had been declared.

The surveying party split into town groups. One party surveyed along the north-south Pennsylvania border. General Cleaveland continued along the lakeshore and arrived at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River on July 22nd. This was to be his only visit to the site that would eventually become the city of Cleveland. The surveyors laid out Townships in 5 mile square grids beginning with Township One, Range One. in what is now Poland, Ohio, Mahoning County. The surveying work was slow and difficult due to the terrain and the dense forests.

The entire area was called Trumbull County and Warren, Ohio was the county seat. Beginning in 1798 a steady stream of settlers began arriving in New Connecticut to begin a new life in a new land. The difficult 600 mile trip transplanted the culture of New England to the northern Ohio frontier. Groups of related people or people from the same town moved together to the wilderness to begin new lives.

By 1805 Geauga County was thinly settled but had enough voters to separate from Trumbull County. At that time Geauga County also included all of what later became Lake County. By 1820 the population of Geauga County was 7791 and it had doubled by 1830. The total population of the Western Reserve was 55,000 in 1820. Completion of the Erie Canal in 1825 was a great economic factor in the continued growth of the county. It provided an outlet for agricultural products to be sent east.

The settlers were a diverse group of people. Some hoped to make their fortune here and some were well-to-do on arrival. They worked together to bring their dreams to fruition. They created towns and cities which reflected the values they carried with them from New England. Schools, churches, mills, farms and factories all took root and flourished at an early date.

The Geauga County Historical Society has brought together a sampler of typical 19th century buildings and related artifacts to create the century village. The surrounding 50+ acres reflect the importance of agriculture during the last two centuries in Geauga County. The Society is dedicated to the brave pioneers who walked the Western Reserve and all of those who believe that history can be a valuable resource and teacher.