The CONNECTICUT LAND CO. (1795-1809) was an investment group that obtained title from the State of Connecticut to a major portion of the WESTERN RESERVE lands for resale to settlers. On 3 Aug. 1795, Native American claims to the eastern two-thirds of the Reserve were quieted through the Treaty of Greenville, thus opening the lands east of its CUYAHOGA RIVER treaty line for settlement. A syndicate of investor groups purchased what was advertised to be 3 million acres of the Reserve for $1.2 million on 2 Sept. 1795. Three days later 57 individuals, representing 35 investor groups, adopted articles of association as the Connecticut Land Company, establishing 400 ownership shares worth $3,000 each. The same day they conveyed the purchase to a trust, headed by John Caldwell, Jonathan Brace, and John Morgan. The sale consisted of all the Reserve except for a previously sold salt tract in the Mahoning Valley and the 500-acre Firelands on the west end. Done on credit, all proceeds were earmarked for the Connecticut School Fund. The first directors included MOSES CLEAVELAND, who as General Agent led the company’s initial survey party to the Reserve in 1796. Stopping at Conneaut, he negotiated a treaty on the Fourth of July with the MASSASAGOES whereby the tribe gave up their claim to all land east of the Cuyahoga River.

Over the course of two summers, the survey parties laid out the eastern Reserve into five-mile-square townships, and the Cleveland town site into three distinct sections: the In-Lots, the Out-Lots, and the Hundred-Acre Lots. Five-mile-square townships were less common in that time, but the resulting 16,000-acre parcels worked better mathematically for the company’s 400 investor shares than the federal land ordinance’s six-mile-square townships of 23,040 acres, albeit many configurations were being tried in Ohio at the time. The survey party noted the quantity and quality of the land and the Company developed a means of distributing the holdings to the investors in proportion to their stake. The Cleveland town site and six eastern townships were set aside for direct sale to settlers to defray the cost of operations. Then 93 townships were equalized and randomly assigned to the proprietors in a draft, or lottery, on 29 Jan. 1798.

A similar process was followed after the western townships became available through the Treaty of Ft. Industry on 4 July, 1805. Surveys in the west in 1806 by Abraham Tappan disclosed that the actual quantity of land purchased by the company totaled 2,837,100 acres, thus thwarting the gamble of the Excess Company that there would be more than 3 million acres. Due to the random nature of the drafts, proprietors received properties scattered throughout the Reserve.  Many never intended to nor moved to the Reserve and the company never opened a sales office there. One group of proprietors created the Erie Company with their share of the holdings and sent Simon Perkins to manage their affairs there. Settlers were slow to purchase Reserve lands, in part because the title to the land and the right to govern it were disputed. Settlers ignored the authority of the governor of the Northwest Territory, while Connecticut refused company pleas that the state exercise the territorial rights ceded in 1786. On 28 Apr. 1800, President John Adams signed the "Quieting Act," in which the U.S. gave Connecticut legal rights to the Reserve so that the company's land titles would be quieted and guaranteed. Connecticut then granted the U.S. jurisdiction over the Reserve on 10 July 1800, when the Western Reserve became Trumbull County, a part of the Northwest Territory. During the early years, slow land sales forced the company to offer settlers moderate rates, free bonus land for running gristmills and sawmills, and other incentives. Because of company mismanagement, not many of the original proprietors made profits. The 1809 annual report of the Connecticut School Fund showed that a large amount of interest on the company's debt was unpaid and that the collateral of the original debt was not safe, a matter that the Fund’s Commissioner, JAMES HILLHOUSE, spent years setting right. The company was dissolved on 5 Jan. 1809, when all the remaining land was divided among the proprietors in a final lottery.

Updated by William C. Barrow

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding aid for the Connecticut Land Co. and Accompanying Papers, WRHS.


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