Ohio Company

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(Redirected from Ohio Company of Virginia)

Ohio Company was the name of 18th century companies organized for the colonization of the Ohio River Valley. The first, a group endorsed by King George II in 1749 to settle the Ohio River Valley; the second formed in 1786 by Rufus Putnam, Benjamin Tupper, Samuel Holden Parsons and Manasseh Cutler.


The First Ohio Company

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Thomas Lee, the first manager of the Ohio Company of Virginia

Formation and Purpose

In the mid 16th Century, Great Britain was looking to secure the region of the Ohio River Valley, west of the Appalachian Mountains. This territory was also claimed by France, who controlled vast territory in New France. In 1749, Great Britain granted a charter to a group of Virginia planters, who, in return for some 200,000 acres, would settle 100 families in the area and erect a fort to protect both them and the British claim on the land. These planters were called The Ohio Company of Virginia, or the First Ohio Company. A secondary purpose of this settlement was to establish a regular trade with the local indians.


After their formation in 1749, The Ohio Company of Virginia was eager to survey and settle its new lands. The Company hired Christopher Gist, a skilled woodsman and surveyor, in 1750 to explore the new land. Gist explored the Ohio River Valley as far west as the mouth of the Scioto River. Upon the basis of his report, the Ohio Company settled in an area in Western Pennsylvania and present-day West Virginia. In 1752 the company had a pathway blazed between the small fortified posts at Wills Creek (Cumberland, Maryland), and at Redstone Creek (Brownsville, Pennsylvania), which it had established in 1750.

The French were not pleased to hear of the British attempts to gain control of the region. They were very interested in the land, because they believed the milder climates and more fertile soil would prove more beckoning to French settlers than the cold winters and barren soil of French Canada. To combat the British strive for sovereignty, the French extended New France southward by constructing a string of forts in the area. It is believed that the struggle to gain control of the Ohio River Valley is the primary cause of the French and Indian War.

Ultimately, the Ohio Company was unsuccessful. It was merged in the Walpole Company (an organization in which Benjamin Franklin was interested), which in 1772 had received from the British government a grant of a large tract lying along the southern bank of the Ohio as far west as the mouth of the Scioto River. However, the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War interrupted colonization and nothing was accomplished.

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Sign showing the southernmost point of surveying by the Ohio Company of Virginia


The company was composed of Virginians, including Thomas Lee and two brothers of George Washington, Lawrence Washington (who succeeded to the management upon the death of Lee) and Augustine Washington; and of Englishmen, including John Hanbury, a wealthy London merchant.

See also: British colonization of the Americas

Ohio Company of Associates

Formation and Purpose

On March 3, 1786, General Rufus Putnam, Benjamin Tupper, Samuel Holden Parsons and Manasseh Cutler met in Boston, Massachussetts to discuss the settlement of the territory around the Ohio River. They formed the Ohio Company of Associates, which today is credited with becoming the first non-indian group to settle in the present-day state of Ohio.


After their formation, Dr. Cutler was sent to negotiate with the U.S. Congress to help the company secure a claim on the portion of land they were interested in. While there, Cutler alligned himself with William Duer, secretary of the U.S. Treasury Board. Duer and his associates formed a steadfast group of New York speculators determined for the settlement of the area west of the appalachians. At this time, Congress desperately needed revenue. It was the economic strain and the pressure from Duer and Cutler that helped them to secure the incorporation in the Northwest Ordinance, for the government of the North-West Territory of the paragraphs which prohibited slavery and provided for public education and for the support of the ministry.

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Rufus Putnam

After the creation of the Northwest Territory, Cutler suggested that the Governor of the territory be General Arthur St. Clair, who was then serving as the President of Congress. Once St. Clair had been appointed to his new position, two new contracts were signed on October 27, 1787 between St. Clair, Cutler, and Major Wihthrop Sargent, the secretary of the Ohio Company. The first was for the absolute purchase for the Ohio Company, of 1,500,000 acres (6,000 km²) of land at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers from a point near the site of the present Marietta, to a point nearly opposite the site of the present Huntington, West Virginia, for a payment of $1 million in government securities, then worth about 12 specie to the dollar. The contract also provided that one section of land in every township be devoted to the maintenance of public schools, another section be set apart for religious uses, and two entire townships be reserved for a university. The second was an option to buy all the land between the Ohio and the Scioto rivers and the western boundary line of the Ohio Companys tract, extending north of the tenth township from the Ohio, this tract being preempted by Manasseh Cutler and Winthrop Sargent for themselves and others actually for the Scioto Company. Cutler's original intent was to buy for the Ohio Company only about 1,500,000 acres (6,000 km²), but on the July 27, Congress authorized a grant of about 5,000,000 acres (20,000 km²) of land for $3,500,000; a reduction of one-third was allowed for bad tracts, and it was also provided that the lands could be paid for in United States securities. On the same day Cutler and Sargent for themselves and associates transferred to William Duer, then Secretary of the Treasury Board, and his associates one equal moiety of the Scioto tract of land mentioned in the second contract, it being provided that both parties were to be equally interested in the sale of the land, and were to share equally any profit or loss. However, the interest of the Scioto Company was only speculative, and their contract lapsed before any land was purchased. In contrast, the Ohio Company held a genuine plan of settlement.

In 1788, General Rufus Putnam laid out the plans for Marietta, the first permanent settlement in the persent state of Ohio. Colonists were sent out by the Ohio Company from New England to Marietta. The First Purchase was in Washington, Meigs, Gallia, Lawrence and Athens Counties.

In 1792, a second purchase was made of over 200,000 acres (800 km²) in Morgan, Hocking, Vinton and Athens Counties, but in 1796 the Ohio Company divided its shares and ceased to be a genuine land company.

See also: Ohio Country, Ohio Lands


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