- American pioneers to the Northwest Territory
American pioneers to the Northwest Territory
Plaque commemorating the first permanent settlement of the new United States of America in the Northwest Territory
Participants Pioneers and veterans of the American Revolutionary War Location Northwest Territory, the area later to become Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin, as well as the northeastern part of Minnesota Date April 7, 1788 Result Founding of the first permanent American settlement of the Northwest Territory at Marietta within the area to become Ohio
American pioneers to the Northwest Territory included soldiers of the Revolution and members of the Ohio Company of Associates. During 1788 these pioneers to the Ohio Country established Marietta, Ohio as the first permanent American settlement of the new United States in the Northwest Territory, and opened the westward expansion of the new country. General George Washington commented about these pioneers: “I know many of the settlers personally, and there never were men better calculated to promote the welfare of such a community.” General Lafayette of France, who fought with the Americans during the Revolution, visited Marietta on his US tour during May 1825  and described these pioneers and former officers: “They were the bravest of brave. Better men never lived.”
The first group of these early American pioneers to the Northwest Territory is sometimes referred to as “the forty-eight” or the “first forty-eight”, and also as the “founders of Ohio”. These first forty-eight men were carefully chosen and vetted by several of the co-founders of the Ohio Company of Associates, Rufus Putnam and Manasseh Cutler, to ensure not only men of high character and bravery, but also men with proven skills necessary to build a settlement in the wilderness. On the centennial anniversary of the Marietta settlement, Senator George F. Hoar of Massachusetts orated, “It was an illustrious band; they were men of exceptional character, talents and attainments; they were the best of New England culture; they were Revolutionary heroes”.
Massachusetts to Ohio
Under the leadership of Rufus Putnam, two parties of pioneers comprising the first forty-eight men, departed New England, cutting trails westward through the mountains during an uncommonly severe winter. One party departed from the towns of Ipswich, Massachusetts and Danvers, Massachusetts on December 3, 1787; the other party departed from Hartford, Connecticut on January 1, 1788. The pioneers crossed the mountains and met at Sumrill’s Ferry (present-day West Newton, Pennsylvania) on the Youghiogheny River. During the bitterly cold winter, the men built two flatboats, the forty-five ton ‘Adventure Galley’ also known as the ‘Mayflower’ in honor of their Pilgrim ancestors, and the three-ton ‘Adelphia’. They also built three log canoes. This small fleet of boats carried the pioneers down the Youghiogheny River to the Monongahela River, and then to the Ohio River, and onward to the Ohio Country and the Northwest Territory. They arrived at their final destination, the mouth of the Muskingum River at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers, on April 7, 1788.
“Can too much be said in praise of the noble heroes who opened to settlement the Great Northwest Territory? These men had been trained in army life and discipline and were anxious to take this country as the payment due them for military service. They were men who had fought valiantly to preserve the principles of their government and were ready for other great achievements. They were men who had assisted in making this territory a part of the United States and had, in great measure, assisted in the formation and adoption of the Ordinance of 1787 which was to govern it. Indeed, a better company of men could scarcely have been selected than those who were directed by General Putnam.”
Pioneers building the flatboat, Adventure Galley, at Sumrill’s Ferry on the Youghiogheny River during March 1788
Monument at Marietta, Ohio to the first forty-eight pioneers
Plaque at Mound Cemetery quoting General Lafayette
The first forty-eight pioneers, April 1788THE FOUNDERS OF OHIO
- The footsteps of a hundred years
- Have echoed, since o’er Braddock’s Road
- Bold Putnam and the Pioneers
- Led History the way they strode.
- On wild Monongahela stream
- They launched the Mayflower of the West,
- A perfect State their civic dream,
- A new New World their pilgrim quest.
- When April robed the Buckeye trees
- Muskingum’s bosky shore they trod;
- They pitched their tents and to the breeze
- Flung freedom’s star-flag, thanking God.
- As glides the Oyo’s solemn flood
- So fleeted their eventful years;
- Resurgent in their children’s blood,
- They still live on – the Pioneers.
- Their fame shrinks not to names and dates
- On votive stone, the prey of time; -
- Behold where monumental States
- Immortalize their lives sublime!
The first forty-eight pioneers included the following men. This group of pioneers arrived on April 7, 1788, except for Col. Meigs, who arrived several days later on April 12, 1788, and Anselm Tupper, who arrived on April 25, according to Rufus Putnam's journal.
- General Rufus Putnam, superintendent of the settlement, co-founder of the Ohio Company of Associates
- Colonel Return J. Meigs, Sr., surveyor
- Colonel Ebenezer Sproat, surveyor (married to daughter of Commodore Abraham Whipple)
- Major Anselm Tupper, surveyor (son of General Benjamin Tupper)
- John Mathews, surveyor
- Major Haffield White, quartermaster
- Captain Ezekiel Cooper
- Captain Daniel Davis
- Captain Jonathan Devoll (Devol)
- Captain Peregrine Foster
- Captain William Gray
- Captain Josiah Munroe (Munro)
- Captain Jethro Putnam
- Jabez Barlow
- Daniel Bushnell
- Phineas Coburn
- Ebenezer Corey (Cory)
- Samuel Cushing
- Jarvis (Jervis) Cutler (son of Manasseh Cutler)
- Israel Danton
- Jonas Davis
- Allen Devoll
- Gilbert Devoll, Jr.
- Isaac Dodge
- Oliver Dodge
- Samuel Felshaw
- Hezekiah Flint
- Hezekiah Flint, Jr.
- John Gardner
- Benjamin Griswold
- Elizur (Elisur) Kirtland
- Theophilus Leonard (Learned)
- Joseph Lincoln
- Simeon Martin
- Henry Maxom
- William Maxom (Mason)
- William Miller
- William Moulton
- Edmond (Edmund) Moulton
- Amos Porter, Jr.
- Allen Putnam
- Benjamin Shaw
- Earl Sproat
- David Wallace (Wallis)
- Joseph Wells
- Josiah White
- Peletiah White
- Josiah Whitridge
Arrivals the following month, May 1788LANDING OF THE PIONEERS
At the Mouth of the Muskingum, Ohio, April 7, 1788.
- “A song of the Early Times out West,”
- And that bold adventurous band
- Who first set foot upon these shores
- Where now their children stand;
- Who fell’d the lordly forest tree
- And built the Cabin Home,
- Resolved on meeting valiantly
- All dangers that might come.
- A strong and hardy race were they,
- To wield the axe and hoe,
- When first they came as Pioneers,
- Just sixty years ago!
- The April winds swept o’er the hills
- And bowed the forest tree,
- And wild-wood flowers were blossoming,
- And birds were singing free,
- The wild deer bounded o’er the plain,
- The wolf’s long howl was heard
- And oft the panther’s fearful scream
- The stoutest bosom stirr’d,
- The wily Indian roam’d the wood
- And sprung his bended bow,
- When first they came as Pioneers,
- Just sixty years ago!
- But like a band of brothers then
- Our worthy Fathers stood,
- And met with firm and cheerful front
- The dangers of the wood;
- E’en woman’s heart grew bold and strong
- Amid the toil and fear,
- And with unshrinking heart and hand
- Gave comfort, aid, and cheer.
- Sweet were the social joys of life-
- Few others did they know-
- When first they came as Pioneers,
- Just sixty years ago!
- But years rolled on and swept away
- Their trials and their foes,
- And soon the wilderness was made
- To blossom as the rose,
- The bleating of the gentle sheep,
- The lowing of the kine,
- Were heard, where once the panther screamed
- In days of Old Lang Syne.
- Our worthy Sires, all danger o’er
- Now felt life’s joyous flow-
- Nor mourned that they were Pioneers,
- Just sixty years ago!
- But few are left to bless us now
- Of all the honored band-
- And they, ere long, must pass away
- Into the spirit land.
- Oh may their fleeting years be blest
- By Sympathy and Love!
- Till God shall call each wanderer home
- To dwell with him above.
- And may we all by well spent lives,
- Of strength and virtue show
- We’re worthy of the Noble Sires
- Of sixty years ago!
Arrivals the following month, May 1788, included:
- General Samuel Holden Parsons
- Colonel John May
- Colonel Israel Putnam (son of General Israel Putnam)
- Colonel William Stacy
- Major Winthrop Sargent
- Captain William Dana
- Aaron Putnam
- Jonathan Stone
During June 1788, several more pioneers arrived, including the first woman settler:
- James Owen and his wife, Mary Owen, the first woman settler
- Dr. Jabez True
- General James Varnum
During August 1788, General Benjamin Tupper and his extended family arrived.
- General Benjamin Tupper, co-founder of the Ohio Company of Associates
- Colonel Ichabod Nye and his wife Minerva Nye (daughter of Gen. Tupper)
- Major Asa Coburn
- Andrew Webster
- The Cushing and Goodale families
“The forty-eight persons who disembarked from the ‘Adventure Galley’ at the mouth of the Muskingum, April 7, 1788, had come out into the wilderness to lay the corner-stone of one of the greatest political edifices that has ever sheltered millions of brave, prosperous and happy freemen. They were certainly the progenitors of the state builders of the great Northwest. Within fifty years of their coming, Ohio had a million and a half of people, and had already made such rapid strides in its internal improvement, its systems of navigation, its jurisprudence, and its enlargement of public education, as to become an example to some of the older states.”
These early American pioneers to the Northwest Territory have been memorialized in poetry. The poem, Landing of the Pioneers, was written sixty years after the landing by Frances Dana Gage, and included in her book of poems published in 1867. The poem, The Founders of Ohio, was written in 1888 during the centennial of the event by William Henry Venable, and was published later in several books of poems.
- ^ Sparks, Writings of George Washington, Vol IX, 385.
- ^ Cutler, Life and Times of Ephraim Cutler, 202–03.
- ^ Cutler, The Founders of Ohio, 1-28.
- ^ a b c Stevenson, Poems of American History, 335.
- ^ Cutler, The Founders of Ohio, 5-6.
- ^ a b c Zimmer, True Stories from Pioneer Valley, 18.
- ^ Randall and Ryan, History of Ohio, 458.
- ^ Zimmer, True Stories from Pioneer Valley, 14-17.
- ^ Summers, History of Marietta, 49-50.
- ^ a b Venable, Saga of the Oak, 50-51.
- ^ Hulbert, Proceedings of the Ohio Company, Volume I, 24.
- ^ Hildreth, Pioneer History, 24.
- ^ Hildreth, Pioneer History, 161.
- ^ a b Gage, Poems, 199-201.
- ^ Zimmer, True Stories from Pioneer Valley, 19.
- ^ Kennedy, History of the Ohio Society of New York 1885-1905, 183-84. (A slight correction to this reference: forty-seven persons arrived April 7, 1788, with the forty-eighth person arriving on April 12, 1788.)
- ^ Hawley, Mound Cemetery, Marietta, Ohio.
- Opening the Door West, aired on Ohio PBS during the 2003 Ohio Bicentennial, available on DVD, Shelburne Films, Reedsville, Ohio (2003). The film website is located at Opening the Door West.
- Andrews, Martin R.: History of Marietta and Washington County, Ohio and Representative Citizens, Biographical Publishing Company, Chicago, Illinois (1902).
- Barker, Joseph: Recollections of the First Settlement of Ohio, Marietta College, Marietta, Ohio (1958) original manuscript written late in Joseph Barker's life, prior to his death in 1843.
- Cutler, Julia Perkins: Life and Times of Ephraim Cutler, Robert Clarke and Co., Cincinnati, Ohio (1890) pp. 202–03.
- Cutler, Julia Perkins: The Founders of Ohio, Brief Sketches of the Forty-Eight Pioneers, Robert Clarke and Co., Cincinnati, Ohio (1888).
- Edes, Richard S. and William M. Darlington, eds. Journal and Letters of Col. John May, of Boston. Robert Clarke and Co, Cincinnati, Ohio (1873). Available on Google Book Search.
- Gage, Frances Dana: Poems, J. H. Lippincott and Co, Philadelphia (1867) pp. 199–201.
- Hawley, Owen: Mound Cemetery, Marietta, Ohio, Washington County Historical Society, Marietta, Ohio (1996).
- Hildreth, S. P.: Biographical and Historical Memoirs of the Early Pioneer Settlers of Ohio, H. W. Derby and Co., Cincinnati, Ohio (1852).
- Hildreth, S. P.: Pioneer History: Being an Account of the First Examinations of the Ohio Valley, and the Early Settlement of the Northwest Territory, H. W. Derby and Co., Cincinnati, Ohio (1848).
- Hulbert, Archer Butler: The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company, Volume I, Marietta Historical Commission, Marietta, Ohio (1917).
- Hulbert, Archer Butler: The Records of the Original Proceedings of the Ohio Company, Volume II, Marietta Historical Commission, Marietta, Ohio (1917).
- Kennedy, James: History of the Ohio Society of New York 1885-1905, The Grafton Press, New York (1906) pp. 183–84.
- Milligan, Fred J.: Ohio’s Founding Fathers, iUniverse, New York (2003).
- Randall, Emilius and Ryan, Daniel: History of Ohio, the Rise and Progress of an American State, Century History Co., New York (1912) p. 458.
- Sparks, Jared: The Writings of George Washington, Vol. IX, Harper and Brothers, New York (1847) p. 385.
- Stevenson, Burton Egbert: Poems of American History, Houghton Mifflin Co, Boston and New York (1908) p. 335.
- Summers, Thomas J.: History of Marietta, The Leader Publishing Co., Marietta, Ohio (1903).
- Venable, William H.: Saga of the Oak and Other Poems, Dodd, Mead, and Co., New York (1904) pp. 50–51.
- Zimmer, Louise: More True Stories from Pioneer Valley, published by Sugden Book Store, Marietta, Ohio (1993).
- Zimmer, Louise: True Stories from Pioneer Valley, published by Broughton Foods Company, Marietta, Ohio (1987).
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