Surveyor’s Journal Entry Three
Rufus Putnam Advocates the Apportionment of Land
In the closing months of the American Revolution, Brigadier General and Surveyor Rufus Putnam advocated that war veterans and their families be allocated land in Ohio as compensation for their service. He was a supporter of the Newburgh Petition, signed by 288 Continental Army officers, which called for their pay to be in land warrants that could be redeemed or sold, and that resettled troops would protect the frontier.
Even though the initial proposal was denounced and its supporters labeled as “conspirators,” the petition influenced the legislatures of Virginia and Connecticut that had territorial claims in Ohio, as well as Congress, to set aside military bounty lands.
Putnam, a Massachusetts native, then created the Ohio Company of Associates, in 1786, which purchased 1.5 million acres of public land at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers. Marietta, the first permanent settlement in the Northwest Territory, was established there in 1788 by Putnam and a group of war veterans.
The use of purchased military warrants lowered the investors’ overall expense to 8.5 cents per acre. Congress also gave an additional 100,000 acres to encourage settlement, which became known as the “Donation Tract.”
Putnam fulfilled his promise to protect the frontier by serving in the Continental Army under the leadership of General Anthony Wayne during the Ohio Indian Wars. For his service to the nation, Putnam was appointed as the first “Surveyor General” of the United States in 1796, and as a Supreme Court Judge for the Northwest Territory.
When Congress passed the Enabling Act of 1802, permitting Ohio to become a state, the territory consisted of 20 federally recognized bodies of land, including the Virginia Military District, U.S. Military District, Refugee Tract, and U.S. Congress Lands that covered the state’s midsection. Nearly half of the acreage was designated for settlement by war veterans as envisioned by General Putnam.