After the American Revolution (1780-1800). a great Westward migration occurred. Needing land were new immigrants, and owners of worn-out Eastern land. In addition to worthless, scarce currency was the state of the American Treasury. Being land poor from having received the Western land claimed by the colonies, and unable to pay the Continental Army, most soldiers received land certificates as payment for war service instead of money. Various states also reserved land to pay their own soldiers.
The land everyone set their sights on was over the mountains or across the Ohio River. He wanted free or low-cost land; which could be acquired in western Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee. He wanted credit for his Revolutionary service which might come from claiming his bounty, or from selling to a speculator and using his the money to buy land closer to home. He also wanted lower taxes, a say in his government and a market on the west side of the mountains for his crops. Every land promoter claimed these expectations could be filled in the Western lands.
Some pioneers were far to the South where a hundred miles of Virginia mountains separated eastern Virginia and the Ohio River. South of the Pittsburgh trails, those mountains had only three major trails by 1790 including: the trail into the Greenbrier valley and down the Kanawha River; and the Wilderness Road trail through Cumberland Gap which had opened in the mid 1770's. They had to contend with harsh terrain and Indian problems.
The vast Northwest Territory had been ceded to the federal government in 1785. The land across the Ohio River beckoned because many Revolutionary claims lay North of the territory was to be surveyed and parcels offered for sale and as well as to provide military grants, but the pioneers wanted access to the new territory long before the surveys were completed.
The major Southern flow of settlers between 1785 and 1795 remained through Cumberland Gap. North Carolina granted vast acres in Tennessee to her Revolutionary soldiers and by 1790 those settlers were also moving through Cumberland Gap and down the French Broad, where Knoxville was founded in 1792. In 1788 North Carolina constructed a trail to connect Knoxville to the Cumberland River settlements around Nashville. Nashboro, as it was then called, had connections north to the falls of the Ohio at Louisville and southwest to the Mississippi. Most of Tennessee's settlements were along the western sections of both the Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers away from the Indian controlled southeast. These rivers flowed along the Northern and Southern borders of Tennessee only to empty into the Ohio River about ten miles apart. (The Cumberland's mouth has since been changed and forced into the Tennessee River.)
Traders and hunters had used the Ohio River as a highway for over fifty years before the settlers reached its banks. Despite Indians, many a raft loaded with families and household goods reached central Kentucky between 1775 and 1785 from Western Pennsylvania. However, many pioneers stayed on the Virginia side of the river, due to the Indians.
Several military expeditions crossed into Ohio, burning crops and villages, to punish the Indians for frontier raids. Both the military roads they created and the stories the returning soldiers told, guaranteed an interest in the "Ohio Country." Several military campaigns were needed to subdue the tribes. Finally in 1795, the Treaty of Greenville ended Indian occupation of most of the Ohio Territory. The new flood of settlers to "Ohio Country" made earlier migrations seem inconsequential. Ohio, as part of the Northwest Territory, was supposed to be surveyed before any land was sold. The first public lands sales for Ohio Territory were made in New York City in 1787 when 108,431 acres were sold. The second public sales were disappointing. The price per acre was only two dollars, but the settler was required to buy in 640 acre sections. In 1796, the Federal Government held two sales. At Pittsburgh, 43,446 acres of Ohio land were sold, while 5,120 acres were sold at Philadelphia.
First Federal Land Offices: Marietta 1800-1840, Steubenville 1800-1840, Cincinnati 1801-1840, Chillicothe 1801-1876, Zanesville 1804-1840
The Virginia Military District covered parts of twenty counties between the Scioto and Little Miami Rivers. Reserved to pay Virginia Revolutionary claims, the District is the only section of Ohio surveyed in the "Metes and Bounds" system. It has been noted that 25% (1,035,408 acres) of the Virginia Military District was patented by just twenty-five people.
Top of Page
03Jan2000 Site Started
Discovering Family Histories© 2000+
USA - Virginia - Migration from Virginia
Updated 12 Sep 2005
Webmaster, Flo. Day