Surveyor’s Journal Entry Four
The Virginia Military District is Home to Central Ohio’s First Settlers
In 1783, the Virginia Legislature agreed to give up its claims to land in the Ohio Territory in exchange for the creation of the Virginia Military District, which reserved approximately 4.2 million acres of wilderness, bordered by the Ohio River to the south, the Little Miami River to the west, and the Scioto River to the north and east, for settlement by war veterans from Virginia. Land was to be apportioned based on rank and years of service.
One of the first federally appointed deputy surveyors to work and settle in the district was Virginia native Nathaniel Massie who ventured from Kentucky in 1790. He founded the town of Manchester (Massie’s Station) along the Ohio River and then moved north where he laid out the town of Chillicothe, Ohio’s first capital, in 1796. Assistance was provided by Deputy Surveyors Thomas Worthington (Ohio’s first U.S. Senator and sixth Governor), Edward Tiffin (Ohio’s first Governor and third U.S. Senator, Surveyor General of the Northwest Territory, and brother-in-law of Thomas Worthington) and Duncan McArthur (Ohio’s eleventh Governor).
Because of Virginia’s ties to the district, these original surveys were conducted using the old “Metes and Bounds” style of describing land, which was standard practice throughout the original thirteen colonies. This led to the possibility of irregularities and disputes since physical features, such as large rocks, trees, and bodies of water, were combined with directions and distances to define boundaries rather than the new rectangular system.
Farther up the Scioto River, Deputy Surveyor Lucas Sullivant, from Virginia, laid out the town of Franklinton, just west of the confluence with the Olentangy (Whetstone) River, in August 1797. Like many surveyors of the time, he took his pay in land, which afforded him the opportunity to become one of Ohio’s largest land holders with nearly 40,000 acres, and the founder of Franklinton, which was the first settlement in the area that became Franklin County.