Friday, February 18, 2011

Land Grants - Jefferson (1802), Madison (1816), and Jackson (1833):

The new Government of the United States issued grants for lands in the western territories as a means of compensating citizen soldiers of the various states for service in the Continental Army. The first session of Congress (1790 – 91) established the necessary laws, and the wording of the laws is reflected in the language of the land grants. Originally, lands in Kentucky and Tennessee were to be awarded. By the 1790s it became apparent that insufficient good land was available, and Congress authorized lands in the Northwest Territories to be included. In Ohio, lands north of the Ohio River and between the Scioto and Little Miami rivers were designated as the Virginia Military District and were intended for distribution to veterans from Virginia.

Among the early surveyors to visit and map these western lands was Nathaniel Massie of Virginia. The Jefferson land grant in our possession is for land in the Virginia Military District of Ohio. It is assigned to Nathaniel Massie, founder of Chillicothe and an early governor of Ohio. An Ohio Historical Society publication refers to Massie as the first American land speculator. Massie and others bought property from veterans who had no intentions of going west and resold the land to settlers.

The January 1802 grant signed in the City of Washington is relatively early. It is for property situated at the mouth of Indian Creek as it empties into the Scioto River. United States Geological Survey maps from the last decade of the 20th century locate the land in Ross County. It is hilly and unsuitable for farming. Of significance however is that the site contains a gravel pit. Gravel, a prime building material for roads, was of great value during the founding and early development of Chillicothe.

The Jefferson land grant raises several questions. How did this document relate to William Chandler and his heirs, and why it is included with Chandler family records? Early Ross County, Ohio tax records answer these questions. And why are there discrepancies in the physical location of the land described in the Jefferson document and Ross County, Ohio records identifying land owned by Chandler? During a 2008 visit to Ross County Common Pleas Court, which now serves as the archives for early official court records, the archivist suggested the early surveys were often inaccurate and led to later disputes which were settled by the court. Chandler family documents from the 1820s support this view.

The Jefferson land grant was recorded in a ledger noted on the document as being held in the Department of State. The Department of State served the country as its first Land Office. Searches of the Department’s library (the first federal library in the US) and the Department’s archives did not find the referenced ledger. It may have been among a number of documents lost when the British burned the Capital during the War of 1812.

The 1816 Madison grant is for land in the city of Cincinnati, Ohio. One of the assignees is James Winder. A James Winder, father of the bride, attended the 1797 Chandler/Winder marriage ceremony and signed the wedding certificate. By the time of the Madison grant, the US Land Office had been established separate from the Department of State.

The two Jackson land grants, issued in 1833, name William Chandler and Benjamin Kerns Junior as assignees of land in Ohio. (A Benj. Kerns signed the 1797 Chandler wedding certificate.) The two Jackson documents are consecutively numbered and are signed on the same date, yet contain different language in their closing paragraphs.

The Andrew Jackson signatures are believed to have been penned by his Secretary rather than by the President himself. Beginning with Jackson’s second administration, the actual signing of land warrants passed from the presidents to their appointed secretaries.

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