The (Connecticut) Western Reserve



Connecticut had been granted the land in the yellow / flesh colored strip above. Notice the words "Western claim ceded in 1796" on the left side of the strip. The strip went from Naragansett Bay on the east to California in the west. The part that was the Western Reserve is the yellow section in the center below Lake Erie.


                             COURTESY:   Wikimedia Commons

During a conference call for Friendly Connections, a man asked me what I knew about "The Western Reserve".  I told him I had read a little about it, but not a lot.  Connecticut had been given land in payment for damages caused during the Revolutionary War. He said he'd be curious to hear more about it.  Well, I did some research and a fascinating story began to unfold.

The story begins in 1662 when King Charles II of England approved a patent to extend the boundaries of Connecticut Colony.  Since he was feuding with New Haven Colony (sepearte from Connecticut Colony), he extended the eastern boundary - through New Haven Colony - to Naragansett Bay in Rhode Island!  The northern boundary was extended to the southern Massachusetts boundary, and the southern boundary to Long Island Sound.  The western boundary was set all the way to the Pacific coast!  In effect, Connecticut now owned the upper third of Pennsylvania as well as parts of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Utah, Nevada and California.  The colony was now a strip of land from coast to coast.

Since Connecticut had incurred a huge war debt during the Revolutionary War, it ceded, or gave up in 1786, its right to all the lands, except the Ohio holdings. (This became known as the "New Connecticut" and later "The Western Reserve".) In exchange, the US government took over the debt.  This left two land pieces - the "The Western Reserve", and a tract transferred in 1795 to a group of investors from Suffield, CT, known as the Connecticut Land Company. The $1.2 million raised from the sale was used for public education. 

Part of the "Western Reserve" included the northeastern edge of Ohio from Lake Erie to slightly below Akron and Youngstown.  This area, which encompassed what would become Huron and Erie counties, was known as the "Firelands" or "Sufferslands Lands". The land was reserved for colonists from New England, who's homes had been destroyed by fire by the British during the Revolutionary War.  Between 1786 and 1800, tracts of land in the "Firelands" were sold (or given) to immigrants from Connecticut in compensation for their losses.

As an interesting aside, the Connecticut Land Company hired a surveyor, Moses Cleaveland, to work with a group of others to divide the land into townships. He and his crew actually laid out the piece of land that would become Cleveland, Ohio.  A printer dropped the "a" in his name to save space on the printed page!

There is also the claim of the Native-Americans to the land, which was pretty much ignored as history tells us.  This was certainly true in this case.

In 1800 Connecticut ceded sovereignty over the "Western Reserve" to the government so that the Northwest Territory could be created.  Today, visitors to this area can see the Connecticut influence in architecture, town planning and public parks.  People tracing their family history might even find a missing relative or two in Ohio!  It can be said that Connecticut played a direct role in helping to settle the rest of the country.  Connecticut residents indeed pushed west long before editor Horace Greely admonished his readers in 1851 to "Go west, young man!". 


SOURCE:    Upton,H. (n.d.).  History of the Western Reserve. In RootsWeb websites. retreived Nov. 30, 2011, from:




I spent over a year transcribing about 90 years of correspondence of the Howland family (Joseph Howland Sr.) of Norwich, Conn, who along with his business partners purchased this land. It is fascinating reading including all of the original documents pertaining to this purchase and the Articles of Incorporation and Partnership Agreement. All of those men who signed that Agreement, you will find in the names of our townships and village, ie, Philip Cortlandt, John Kinsman, Gardiner Green, and Mr. Lord. etc. This information beginning with a meeting at the Administration building in Howland Township to open the new Historical Center on July 3, 2012, at 4:00 o'clock p.m. Connie

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This page contains a single entry by Carl White published on November 30, 2011 10:31 AM.

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