Wednesday, March 2, 2011

APPENDIX A: Notes on General Nathaniel Massie

During the 1st decade of the 1800s, William Chandler acquired land in Ross County, Ohio from Nathaniel Massie. The land grant, #3604, signed by President Thomas Jefferson in the City of Washington on January 2, 1802, notes that Massie had acquired the rights to the land from Richard Parker and Benjamin Brooks.

During the Revolutionary War, the new Government of the United States realized it had little it could offer to pay the soldiers who were fighting for the new republic. In the early 1780s, the various states agreed to cede to the federal government lands in the western reaches of their territories. Under the British, each colony had had an undefined western border, in many cases stretching all the way to the Mississippi River. The federal government asked the states to accept defined western borders, normally running along the eastern mountain chains. The states agreed, but with a catch. The federal government would establish a law that would pay the soldiers of the various state militias with lands in the territories they had ceded to the federal government. These laws, known in Virginia as the Virginia Cessions Act, granted land in Kentucky and Tennessee to the soldiers of the Virginia Line on Continental Establishment (the state militia). When lands in those two territories proved inadequate, the Virginia Military District in the new territory of Ohio was created to provide additional land for the Virginia Line. The two laws are referred to in the wording of the land grant. The legislative history of the law, HR85 of the very first session of Congress, can be found in the documents of the National Archives in Washington, DC.

General Nathaniel Massie is a figure tied closely to the history not only of the Chandler family but also of the state of Ohio and of Ross County. He is from an early Virginia family which can be traced at least to 1707 in New Cook County. His father, Colonel Nathaniel Massie, was born August 2, 1727 in New Cook County and died in 1802. General Nathaniel Massie was born December 28, 1763 in Goochland County, Virginia and was an eldest son. His father educated him and encouraged him early on to learn a profession. Massie chose surveying as his field, and apparently became quite good at it. In 1780 he joined the Virginia Line and served for a brief period.

By 1783 Massie was surveying lands in Kentucky, and by 1786 was engaged in several business ventures in the territory. In 1788 he made his first trip to the newly established Northwest Territories. Although unconfirmed, it is believed he was surveying the Virginia Military District in Ohio with a gentleman by the name of Arthur Fox. In 1791, Massie and a group of 25 families established the town of Manchester, the first in the Virginia Military District and the fourth in what would become the state of Ohio. In 1793 Massie led the first expedition into the area between the little Miami and Scioto rivers, and in 1795 he tried unsuccessfully to establish a settlement in the Scioto valley.
In 1796 Massie was successful in establishing Chillicothe, Ohio.

Massie would go on to become a member of the constitutional convention which permitted the establishment of Ohio as a state, became a member of its first Senate where he served as Speaker, and served very briefly as a Governor of the new state.

In the spring of 1813 Massie, an excellent woodsman and Indian fighter who bore the rank of General in the Ohio militia, was called upon to form a troop and march north from Chillicothe to relieve Benjamin Harrison and his army who were besieged at Fort Meigs by the British Army. Word of his coming preceded him and the British fled before his arrival. Massie and his men returned to Chillicothe without firing a shot. He lived only a short time after, dieing on November 3, 1813.

The above information is documented in a book titled “Biographical Sketches of General Nathaniel Massie, General Duncan McArthur, Captain William Wells, and General Simon Kenton: Who Were Early Settlers in the Western Country,” by John McDonald of Poplar Ridge, Ross County, Ohio, published in 1852 by D. Osborn and Sons, Dayton, Ohio.

A 1994 article in “Ohio History,” the journal of the Ohio Historical Society, offers another view of General Nathaniel Massie. The article is titled “Marketing ‘the great American commodity’: Nathaniel Massie and Land Speculation on the Ohio Frontier, 1783 – 1813.” The article documents Massie’s purchasing land grants in the Kentucky and Northwest Territories during the 1780s and 1790s from veterans of the Revolutionary War. Massie then goes on to survey and lay out townships, and resells the land to new settlers in those areas. He builds roads and takes a great interest in providing schools in his new settlements. By 1800 Massie owned more than 75,000 acres in the Virginia Military District, by far the largest single land owner in the district. Massie was very influential in the drafting of several early federal land management acts, most notably the Land Act of 1800. In 1806 Massie was successful in having Chillicothe named the first capital of Ohio, which it remained until 1811. The article ends with the following observations:

“Like many other speculators of the time, Massie found it difficult to profit from his ventures. In fact, one historian has described post-Revolutionary speculators as the ‘most unsuccessful group of businessmen in American history….’ Massie became entangled in numerous legal disputes and, as a landlord, he found it difficult to collect his rents…. As Massie discovered, speculation in ‘the great American commodity’ of land could bring both riches and ruin in one man’s lifetime.”

While there is no direct evidence that Nathaniel Massie and William Chandler were acquainted, we can document that Chandler’s first child, Rebecca, was born 1798 at High Banks in what would become Ross County, and that Chandler purchased from Massie 110 acres of land described in land grant #3604.

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