Even during the Indian
troubles some land purchases and settlements were made in the Northwest.
In 1787 the 265,878 square miles which comprise the states of Ohio,
Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin were for the great part an
unbroken wilderness', while in 1800, two years before St. Clair's duties
as governor ceased, the census reported 51,006 people in the Northwest.
Though for a time the Indian wars delayed settlement, the navigable
rivers, fertile soil and natural resources of the country soon made it
the home of a progressive people.
The land policy here was destined to differ essentially from that in the
Southwest, as was evidenced in the congressional discussion in the
ordinance of 1787, the northern members preferring to have the territory
systematically surveyed and sold in townships, while the southerners
favored indiscriminate locations, such as had been made by the pioneers
of Kentucky and Tennessee. The former method eventually prevailed and
the plan finally adopted was that congress should provide for a
systematic survey of the region. The country was to be divided into
ranges of townships six miles square, subdivided into lots one mile
square each. The basis for public education was also laid in providing
that in every township lot No. should be reserved for the maintenance of
the public schools therein.
There were several reasons why the adoption of this system seemed
advantageous. If these lands were to he made a basis of revenue, which
was the primary motive for selling them, the southwestern method would
not do, for no great income was received from the lands there where the
Virginia plan required the payment of only two cents an acre before
locating a tract. Then too this system would effect a "compact and
progressive settlement" of the country, which Washington early saw was
necessary to give strength to the union and admit of good government.
The southern plan he feared would involve uncertainty of titles and give
the practical monopoly of the choicest lands to the few who could buy
large quantities. Thus the army would be deprived of the cream of the
land and the speculators and monopolisers might also bring on added
hostilities with the Indians.
The system adopted promised well but in practice it gave as much chance
for speculation and boundary difficulties as had been apprehended from
the other. It resulted in the sale of lands in large tracts to first
purchasers who might resell them as they desired to smaller settlers.
The first sale, the Cutler and Sargent contract, provided for a million
acre purchase, as we have seen. This plan was adopted by a resolution of
Congress in October 1787 which provided that the board of treasury
should be empowered to enter into contracts for not less than 1,000,000
acres on the same terms as the Cutler and Sargent purchase. So it was
recorded, that half of the Ohio name to be made up of large blocks of
In 1800 St. Clair brought this fact to the notice of the territorial
legislature. "The lands in this country have generally held, at first,
by a few individuals in large quantities and sold out by them in parcels
on credit; hence it happens that, in some counties, the greatest part of
the people are their debtors, and in the existing scarcity of money,
were the payment of those debts to be rigorously exacted, they would be
exceedingly distressed. He went on to suggest "that election by ballot
would be better than the viva voca method, for the debtors might be
influenced in their vote by those whom they owed." St. Clair had never
favored the sale in large tracts and often suggested to the government
that a mode of sale similar to that of Pennsylvania be adopted which
would be easier to carry into execution and would prevent complications.
But it remains! for Harrison to actually effect this measure during his
term in congress, when it was voted that these tracts for sale might be
reduced to even 320 acres.
It is noticeable that not one of these large contracts was ever carried
out according to the original agreement. Even the Ohio company was
unable to make its second payment and had to petition congress for
easier terms. Congress resolved that a title should be given for those
lands already paid for; it also granted 214,285 acres on delivery of the
army rights they were to pay, and 100,000 acres which the company had
appropriated for bounties and agreed that title be granted for the rest
of the 1,500,000 acres on their paying not exceeding twenty-five cents
per acre within six years.
The early colony of the Ohio Company, however, flourished, fully
justifying its early promise. When Michaux visited Marietta in his
travels in 1802, it boasted more than 200 houses, some of which were
brick. The ship building industry contributed considerably to its
growth. The first ocean vessel in the Ohio was the "St. Clair", a brig
built at Marietta, to carry a cargo to Havanna.
Closely connected with the Ohio Company was the Scioto Company, the most
disastrous of all the speculations in the Northwest. Its history in
brief is as follows:- After Cutler and Sargent had completed their
additional purchase for Duer and his 2 associates, the land was divided
into thirty shares and arrangements made for the sale of its right of
pre-emption, which was all the company had. It was intended to make
these sales in Holland and France where large amounts of almost
worthless United States securities were held. The holders would probably
exchange them for land and with them the Scioto associates could in turn
Since congress would accept the certificates at par and the Scioto
associates secured them at greatly depreciated value, the latter could
soon pay for their lands and all sums after that would be clear gain.
As things turned out, Joel Barlow, the agent sent to France did not
prove a good business man, and after some months of discouragement
became entangled with an Englishman, William Playfair. By 1790 people
began to doubt, the sales ceased, the company was dissolved, Playfair
making way with the funds received. Later a new French Company was
formed but this too fell through and the only trace of the whole
proceeding was a forlorn little colony in the Northwest, Gallipolis.
Many of the French who had been acquainted with St. Clair during the
American Revolution wrote to him for assistance for themselves and their
friends who were coming over. St. Clair himself thought that protection
would be necessary against the savages and to support the civil
authority. He did not look very hopefully on the colony, writing that he
feared "that much disappointment, and chagrin will attend this project,
and that an interested speculation of a few men, pursued with too great
avidity, will reflect some disgrace on the American character, while it
involves numbers in absolute ruin in a foreign land".
The settlers met nothing but discouragement and hardship. After their
crossing in the disagreeable packets of the time, delay and discomfort
attended their trip west. On their arrival, instead of the beautiful
country promised by the prospectus, they found two rows of log cabins
which had been put up by Putnam's men. The ground behind was low and
unhealthy, in fact, Collot writes that the town was situated on a
platform covered with stagnant waters so it was extremely unhealthy and
the land was high, and sandy. Their provisions did not hold out, and the
efforts of the Frenchmen to clear the land were ludicrous. Their former
employments had only been calculated to administer to the luxury of high
polished and wealthy societies. There were carvers and guilders to the
King, coach makers, frizeurs, and peruxe makers, and a variety of others
who might have found employment in our larger towns, but who were
entirely out of place in the wilds of Ohio. For a while the Indians with
their customary attachment to the French remained friendly but after
some of the latter had joined in St. Clair's expedition of 1791 they
turned against them.
Many efforts were made to right the wrongs of these poor people who had
no legal claims to the lands they were cultivating. March 3, 1795
Congress, in response to a petition, granted the French settlers over
eighteen years of age who would be in Gallipoli on November 1st of that
year, 24,000 acres of land in what is now Scioto County, Ohio. In the
spring of 1796 the settlers drew lots for their portions, but as only a
few had the courage to start out again and move, the greater part was
bought up by settlers from eastern states at nominal prices. In December
1795 the French settlers petitioned the Ohio Company for the site of
Gallipolis, which Barlow, through a mistake, as the survey was not made
till the fall of 1789, had thought belonged to the Scioto Company. Their
petition was based on two grounds, first, because both purchases were
originally made by the Ohio Company agents and secondly, because no
objection was made at the time of the settlement of Gallipolis. This
last fact is accounted for by the proposal under consideration at the
time of Duer's purchasing this tract from the Ohio Company, a sale which
was not carried out through failure to make payments. The Ohio Company
refused the petition but consented to sell lands including Gallipolis
for $1.25 an acre, so the French could have their land by paying for it
twice; they were, however, also invited to share in the Donation Tract
of the Ohio Company on the Muskingum.
Thus the French did not come out so badly in the end, but the city never
flourished until the American settlers obscured the French element. When
their fellow countryman, Collot, visited Gallipolis about 1796 it was a
dirty place, "the abode of wretchedness", inhabited by 90 or 95 men and
40 or 45 women. Another French traveller, Michaux, in 1802 found
Gallipolis to consist of about thirty log houses, most of which were
uninhabited and falling in ruins and the rest occupied by Frenchmen who
breathed out a miserable existence. He says of their failure, "Though
they did not succeed better, it is not that the French are less
persevering and industrious than the Americans and Germans, it is that
among those who departed for Scioto not a tenth part were fit for the
for the toils they were destined to endure.
Another large land purchase was that of Judge Syrnmes of New jersey who
petitioned congress in "behalf of citizens "westward of Connecticut" in
August 1787 for 1,000,000 acres on the north bank of the Ohio between
the two Miami Rivers. In this tract three colonies were planted in 1788;
that consisting of eiphteen or twenty under Major Stites who laid out
Columbia at the south of the Little Miami; that under Denman and
Patterson at the mouth of the Licking, called Losanteville, a name which
was changed to Cincinnati by St. Clair; and lastly the colony under
Judge Symmes himself, which was called North Bend, as it was located at
the farthest northern sweep of the Ohio west of the Kanawha.
In spite of their common object and common danger, great rivalry grew up
among Cincinnati, Columbia and North Bend for the leadership. At first
Columbia was the most flourishing but the garrison having been
established at Cincinnati which was also chosen the county seat for
Hamilton County, it had the advantage.
In five years the population of Cincinnati grew to 3,000 families, a
sudden increase which was chiefly due to the establishment of General
Wayne's army there. During their early days these settlements suffered
considerably from Indian depredations. Symmes complained that his
colonies were left without military protection, while the colony at
Marietta had more than her share, yet in spite of difficulties these
colonies in time came to take the lead in population and enterprise.
The Symmes purchase was also the cause of difficulty for a number of
years. The contract required the payment of the purchase money to he
complete within three years after the boundary line had been surveyed.
In 1792 when it came due, only the first and part of the second
instalment was paid, so Symmes petitioned congress, stating that from
the advanced price of the certificates the strict fulfillment of the
contract was impossible and asked that he be given as much land as he
had already paid for and terms as favorable as the Ohio Company's.
Symmes had, moreover, sold lands which fell outside those of his
purchase, so changes were made in the boundaries of the original tract
to include these.
Meanwhile St. Clair, finding Symmes and a number of his purchasers
settled far to the eastward of this twenty miles, had unsuspectingly
clothed many of them with civil and military authority. Accidentally
through Ludlow's instructions for the survey he discovered the mistake.
He at once wrote Judge Symmes and at the same time published a
proclamation warning all persons against further intrusions, though he
allowed the present settlers to remain until he heard from congress.
This course led to hostility of Symmes to St. Clair in later years and
also to the anger of Judge Turner who was one of the settlers and whom
St. Clair requested to leave, thinking that as a federal judge he should
set an example.
In June 1793 Symmes declared he was ready to alter the contract
according to the terms agreed on in 1792 and quitted claim to all other
lands, though, a second contract was to he given him if it could he paid
for in six months. The president assented to the alteration September
1794, so that 311,682 acres belonged to Symmes. After 1794 he made no
more payments for lands not included in his patent; and, although he had
assented to the alteration, insisted that he had never relinquished his
claim to the original quantity of 1,000,000 acres and was not bound to
make further payments until a survey containing that quantity had been
made by the United States.
As the contract of 1788 had never been formally cancelled, Symmes
thought that on making future payments, he was to be entitled to future
grants, so he continued to sell beyond the limits of his patent as
before. The people who bought these lands of Symmes were put in a hard
place. When in 1798 they petitioned St. Clair for the right to vote,
they were refused suffrage because it was limited to those who held
lands either by freehold or in fee simple, while they only held from
Judge Symrnes who had neither of these titles.
Finally congress in March 1799, considering the Symmes claim forfeited
because of failure of payment, passed a law giving the right of
pre-emption at $2 per acre to those who had before April 1797 made
contracts with Symmes for lands between the two Miamis, not included
within his patent, provided they would give notice cf their intention
before September 1799. Few took advantage of this; some saying they had
paid Symmes for the land and were unable to purchase it again from the
United States and others that the increase in the price of land in that
part of the country was due to their improvements and settlements.
"Some", St. Clair said, "talk plainly of holding their possessions by
force of arms, and it has been hinted to me that they are stimulated to
it by the judge, a thrust which St. Clair no doubt was glad to give his
enemy. These people, estimated at about 2,000 in 1799, sent in petitions
to congress which St. Clair forwarded, though not by the representative
of the territory, William Henry Harrison, who was the son-in-law of
Symmes. In the latter's election St. Clair thought he saw an effort on
Symmes part to secure support through congress, perhaps because he
defeated St. Clair's own son. Congress in response to the petition
continued to indulge these unfortunate settlers from year to year until
they were able to complete their payments.
A second difficulty arose in the Symmes purchase over the college
township. The patent of 1794 stated: "It is declared that one complete
township or tract of land, of six miles square, to be located with the
approbation of the Governor within the term of five years ..... as
nearly as may be in the center of the tract of land herein before
granted...... shall be holden in trust, to and for the sole and
exclusive intent and purpose of erecting and establishing therein an
academy and other public schools and seminaries of learning, etc." At
the request of the inhabitants St. Clair (1799) spoke to Symmes about
this township. The latter replied that he had designed a township for
that purpose but had met with so many delays before the granting of a
township for an academy was agreed to that he had sold it. One whole
township alone in the tract remained which he would resign for this
purpose. The governor, however, learning that a lawsuit was actually
pending rejected it, as was within his rights.
In October 1799 St. Clair presented the case to the territorial
legislature who also refused the grant, instructing their successive
delegates to congress to try to induce the government to grant them a
township in lieu of the one lost. This the governor thought a ridiculous
proposition. His own idea, strengthened possibly by his hostility for
Symmes, would have been to compel the latter to pay them the value of
the township. Year after year this question came up but nothing was done
until 1802-3 when a state government was established and a law passed,
vesting in the legislature of Ohio a quantity of land equal to an entire
township for establishing a college or academy in place of the one
granted Symmes for this purpose.
Just between the Symmes purchase and the Scioto River were the Virginia
Military Lands. According to the Virginia cession of 1784, if the lands
reserved south east of the Ohio for the Virginia troops should prove
insufficient, the deficiency was to be made up in government lands
between the Scioto and Little Miami. An Act of Congress 1788 decided
that the deficiency must be ascertained and stated before locations were
made here or they would be invalid.
Such a statement having been made, boundary lines were run in 1796,
including all the land between the Little Miami and the Scioto River.
The same year General Massie and Duncan McArthur, later governor of
Ohio, laid out the town of Chillicothe in this territory, which in six
years grew to be a settlement of 150 houses, and the proud possessor of
a weekly newspaper.
A second tract of military lands in the Northwest set aside for the
continental array in accordance with the early resolutions of congress.
It lay just south of Wayne’s line of 1795 between the Scioto and the
Seven Ranges. These bounty lands of 1,851,800 acres as well as the
4,209,800 acres of the Virginia llilitary District originally belonged
to a large number of persons but they too througi the sale and purchase
of rights tended to work into the hands of large holders.
The fever for land speculation was in the air during these years of the
early settlement of the Northwest and some petitions were made for large
tracts of land which never went farther than a contract. One of these
was made in October 1787 by a certain Flint and Parker for themselves
and associates. They desired two tracts, a two million acre one on the
north bank of the Ohio, extending both east and west of the Wabash; and
a one million acre tract on the east of the Mississippi River including
the lower part of the Illinois.
For some reason this scheme seems to have dropped before it was carried
Another petition was made by Colonel George Morgan as secretary of the
New Jersey Company, composed of gentlemen from that state. His petition
was for two million acres south of the Flint and Parker tract, extending
to the Ohio and including the French villages, Kaskaskia and Gahokia. A
contract, was formed, but Morgan for some reason did not accept it.
Congress was also assailed with petitions from the Illinois and Wabash
Land Company. Their claim dated back to 1793 when William Murray and
others formed a plan to purchase lands from the Illinois Indians, which
was consummated the same year by a bargain at Kaskaskia for two tracts
between the Mississippi and the Ohio. These purchasers called themselves
the Illinois Land Company. In 1775 Louis Viviat, a partner of Murray,
made another negotiation with the Piankeshaw Indians for himself and
others which resulted in the purchase of lands on the Wabash River at
Vincennes, from which the purchasers became known as the Wabash Land
Company. The revolution prevented their taking possession of these lands
and in 1780 the two companies united into one and laid their rights to
the land before congress, frequent applications were than made for the
possession of their territory but in every case the commission appointed
to investigate their claims reported unfavorably, so the Illinois and
Wabash Company came to nothing.
A more successful speculation was that of the Connecticut Land Company
who were concerned in the sale of the tract known as the Western
Reserve, just south of Lake Erie, part of this territory may be found in
the American State Papers, Public Lands, II., 108-109. In 1792 the
company even offered to convey all the lands they claimed to the United
States, provided one-fourth be returned to them.
500,000 acres, was in 1792 assigned to certain inhabitants of the state
who had suffered from the revolution, 1,870 in all. These lands, known
as the Fire Lands, are comprised chiefly in Huron and Erie Counties of
today. There had been no great sale on the rest of the Reserve up to say
1793, when the General Assembly appointed a committee to see to it. They
advertised the sale of the lands in the newspapers which at once brought
a flock of would-be purchasers to Harbford, most of the bidders
representing companies. The Connecticut men, jealous of outsiders,
joined together through their agents whose offer of $1,200,000 payable
in five years was finally accepted. This speculation syndicate which
proceeded to sell the lands was made up of thirty-six purchasers, though
some of these represented more than one individual.
It is not our intention to go into the history of this part of the
territory except in its connection with St. Clair. The question early
arose as to just how much authority, if any, he had over the Western
Reserve. No arrangement had been made for this territory in the
Ordinance of 1787 and St. Clair proceeded to act as if his jurisdiction
extended over this section as well as over the rest pf the Northwest.
The eastern part of it was included in Washington County in 1788. Later
when Wayne County was established, it included the whole of the Reserve
and once more in 1797 the eastern part was included in Jefferson
Counter. As the formation of Jefferson County came just after the
arrival of Hoses Cleaveland and the first colony in the Western Reserve,
it was the signal for a contest to begin.
Hinsdale says, "Connecticut's claim included both the soil and the
jurisdiction. If the territory belonged to her at all, it belonged to
her in a sense as full and absolute as any town or county within her
present limits." This seems a fair decision, but the jurisdiction of
Connecticut could not he extended over this territory without great
inconvenience and the state itself was indifferent to the controversy,
refusing to reply to St. Clair's letters or the importunings of the Land
Both the settlers and the land company hesitated to submit to the
authority of the government of the United States, fearing lest it would
endanger their titles which were from Connecticut. An effort of the
Connecticut Assembly to release the jurisdiction of the Reserve to the
United States in 1797 also fell through, owing to the fact that other
states had claims to the Western Reserve and did not wish to officially
recognize Connecticut's sole right by acceding to this measure. So there
were no laws nor government in this section from 1795 till 1800, when
after a stormy session a bill passed congress authorizing the president
to deliver to the governor of Connecticut letters patent whereby the
right and interest of the United States in the territory of the Western
Reserve were released, a proviso being that Connecticut should release
to the United States its jurisdictional claim to the Reserve. In
accordance with this St. Clair in 1800 erected the county of Trumbull,
constituting the whole Reserve, with county seat at Warren.
The Moravian Indians also came in for a share of St. Clair's protection.
By the Ordinance of May 1785, the three towns, Gnadenhiltten, Schttnbrun
and Saieiji, were appropriated for the remains of the "Moravian society.
12,000 acres on the Muskingum had been reserved for that purpose when
the Cutler and Sargent purchase was made.
No use was made of them, however, till 1797 when surveyors were sent to
prepare them for the missionaries and such of their flock as should
return. Many of them had scattered and died, so the society let out part
of the land to whites, tc raise money for the support of their mission
among the Indians. These tenants, Indians, mission and all were
recommended to St. Clair's care by the leaders of the society.
St. Clair's connection with these large land companies in the northwest
lay in the fact that their colonies came under his administration. With
the actual sale of lands he had little to do. In the later years of his
government when the sale of small tracts had become customary, his
presence or that of his secretary was required on such occasions, and it
fell to his lot to see that the sales were advertised.
The land cases chiefly demanding his attention were those based on
titles prior to the Ordinance of 1787. They were found in the Illinois
country where the French had inhabited the villages of Kaskaskia,
Cahokia and Prairie du Rocher since the early discovery of the country
when their missionaries had come in to convert the tribes, and at
Vincennes on the Wabash. These settlements had experienced such a
checkered career that the land titles and claims had become decidedly
confused. Squatters from Kentucky, especially members of Clark's
military had taken advantage of this state of affairs to make "tomahawk
rights" in such numbers.
Congress realized the necessity of settling these claims and acts were
passed June 20th and August 29th 1788, providing that "measures be
immediately taken for confirming in their possessions and titles, the
French and Canadian inhabitants and other settlers on those lands, who
on or before the year 1783, had professed themselves citizens of the
United States and that additional tracts be laid off from which
donations of 400 acres each might be distributed by lot to heads of
families. The governor was to proceed at once to examine the titles of
the settlers and determine what quantity of land should be laid off for
them at their own expense.
St. Clair was, however, delayed until 1790 from undertaking this duty by
the postponement of the Indian treaty, but the spring of this year found
him in the Illinois country ready to examine land titles. Difficulties
arose at once and the work of confirming the titles was so slow that it
was never entirely completed under St. Clair’s administration. The
French, though gentle and docile, were ignorant. Many of them could not
read the placards for the examination of titles and those that could did
not understand at first how they were to be confirmed. Then when their
claims were actually turned in, it was asserted that they were difficult
to establish as the original cessions of the French and British
conroandants had been carelessly kept on loose scraps of paper and often
lost. The inhabitants were, moreover, too poor to pay for having their
lands surveyed as ordered by congress. They knew their own land, they
never had law suits and if congress wished to know the extent of their
consessions, let congress bear the expense; thus they wrote St. Clair
through their priest, Pierre Gibault. Nor was a surveyor easy to obtain.
St. Clair could find but one person in the country "with the least
acquaintance with that art" and this one "found himself inadequate to
the task, and conscientiously deferred it.
There were also difficulties connected with, the validity of the claims
themselves. Besides grants from the British and French commandants it
was claimed that some were made by Todd, lieutenant of the county of
Illinois from Virginia, who had no authority for this. T^e civil courts
had also made grants, asserting that they were authorized to do so by
Todd. This arrangement had suited all parties, for the grantors charged
a fee of four dollars a grant and the applicants received land for a
Besides the French, a number of American settlers held such grants,
claiming they never doubted the authority of the courts, and having
moved into the country after 1783, they did not come within the
resolution of congress which described those to be confirmed in their
possessions. This last question was settled by congress's authorizing
the governor to confirm claimants who had actually cultivated their land
under a supposed grant of a commandant or court claiming authority to
make such a grant, in lands not exceeding 400 acres.
There were still other additional articles of legislation necessary. The
provision made by congress for laying off certain lands to heads of
families was not satisfactory, for a great part of the locations ordered
were in lands covered by titles from ancient government of the country,
and part were in rocky and poor land.
The people entitled to these donations therefore petitioned congress
which led to their directing St. Clair to lay out other lands of equal
value in United States property. There was also a petition from 131
Canadians, French and American inhabitants, stating that many of them
were heads of families shortly after 1783, that they were liable and
willing to perform military service and would like donations. Congress
decided that the government should grant not exceeding 100 acres to each
person who had not obtained a donation from the United States and who on
August 1, 1790 was enrolled in the militia or had done military duty.
These delays and other complications arising from the land's changing
ownership explain why little was accomplished in the confirmation of
titles in 1790. This gave chance for land speculation, for many of the
inhabitants were too poor to wait for the government to adjust their
claims and uninformed as to the manner of obtaining their rights so it
was easy for the more shrewd ones to purchase advantageously from them.
It is said that in Kaskaskia and Vincennes many sold their donations for
thirty cents an acre and in some cases received payment in different
kinds of unprofitable merchandise.
At various times St. Clair returned to the Illinois country and
continued the work of confirming and surveying claims. Yet so many were
still unadjusted that congress in 1804 established land offices at
Kaskaskia, Vincennes and Detroit to settle old claims and hasten the
sale of public lands, as the settlement of the country was still
delayed. Eight years later an act was passed authorizing the land
commissioners, Jones and Backus, to revise former confirmations.
Their examination of the claims showed that St. Clair had either been
very incapable or that he had that taste and genius for speculation in
land which he denied in later years. There was abundant evidence that
fraud, forgery and perjury had been practiced upon him.
Of about 390 worthless claims reported in the Kaskaskia district, 370
were supported by the perjury of persons of bad repute. The committee
excused St. Clair in part because his multifarious duties as governor
and Indian agent did not give the time necessary for a full
investigation of the claims presented but in one report they suggested
that there was something "rotten in Denmark". The very fact that many of
the confirmations were withheld by the claimants looked suspicious.
John Edgar, one of those who had acquired considerable land, was more
willing to present his confirmed claims. These do not place St. Clair in
a favorable light. In at least three of them before they were confirmed,
Edgar had conveyed a part to St. Clair's son or nephew. Another claim
was confirmed to John Edgar in right of William Tait as head of a family
in 1733. In regard to this the committee says, "Now did the governor,
who in the year 1790, lodged with Edgar, know that this young man, who
was clerk to Edgar had no family? And that he lived in Edgar's house?
And at this date, the confirmation seems to have been made." In another
case where the patent called for 13,986 acres, it covered, the land
being described by certain natural boundaries, nearly 30,000 acres.
By the various acts of congress St. Clair could issue confirmations to
the following different classes; those who had held under ancient
grants, those who were heads of families on or before 1733, those who in
August 1, 1790 were enrolled in the militia and had done militia duty
and those who had made actual improvements on their land. Under the
first head ire find that St. Clair confirmed a grant claimed on a patent
originating from John Wilkins, Lieutenant Colonel in the Illinois
country. The latter, according to the proclamation of the king October
7, 1763 had no right to make such a concession, so the basis of this
claim was illegal. Several of the claims founded on French grants
confirmed by St. Clair were found upon inquiry not to be derived whence
they were claimed, the names having been forged.
On claims under the second head, St. Clair was similarly deceived. Often
the man who had claimed to be the head of a family was proved to have
been single when he got the donation, some married later and some never.
In some cases they had left the Illinois country before the law was
passed and never returned to reside there, yet the assignee of the widow
had the claim confirmed by St. Clair.
The claims of the militia in some cases were proved to have been
fraudulently obtained from the governor, the names not always being
found in the militia list, and sometimes being found in both militia and
heads of families donation lists.
As to the claims confirmed in virtue of improvements made, no
improvement was heard of in some instances, and in others it consisted
entirely of a shed for a sugar camp, or even the making of rails on the
land. St. Clair himself confessed it was difficult to decide which
improvements should be confirmed. His idea was that not the quantity of
the land as the intention of the party in making it was to be
considered, i.e., if a man had solomned to make a bona fide settlement,
he should be allowed land. Still he seems to have intended that in every
case there should be real improvement.
In a letter to Robert Buntin, September 19, 1796 asking him to lay off
and allot some lands he says that these must be actual improvements, not
the marking or deadening a few trees, or throwing a few logs together in
form of a cabin.
Though the list of fraudulent claims is thus a long one, the number of
fraudulent claimants is not so great, as in many cases a single
individual claimed several tracts, which points to speculation. Whether
St. Clair had a hand in this cannot be fully determined from the
information we have at present, but the evidence is strong in that