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1788. unsettled state, Congress considered itself released from its obligation to sell; and, but for the representations of some of his friends, our adventurer would have lost his bargain, his labor, and his money. Nor was this all. In February, 1788, he had been appointed one of the judges of the North-west Territory, in the place of Mr. Armstrong, who declined serving. This appointment gave offence to some; and others were envious of the great fortune which it was thought he would make. Some of his associates complained of him, also, probably because of his endangering the contract to which they had become parties. With these murmurs and reproaches behind him, he saw before him danger, delay, suffering, and, perhaps, ultimate failure and ruin and, although hopeful by nature, apparently he felt discouraged and sad. However, a visit to his purchase, where he landed upon the 22d of September, revived his spirits, and upon his return to Maysville, he wrote to Jonathan Dayton, of New Jersey, who had become interested with him, that he thought some of the land near the Great Miami “positively worth a silver dollar the acre in its present state.”
But though this view of the riches now almost within his grasp somewhat re-assured Symmes' mind, he had still enough to trouble him. The Indians were threatening; in Kentucky, he says, “they are perpetually doing mischief; a man a week, I believe, falls by their hands; but still government gave him little help toward defending himself; for, while three hundred men were stationed at Muskingum, he had “but one ensign and seventeen men for the protection and defence of “the slaughter-house.”” as the Miami valley was called by the dwellers upon the “dark and bloody ground” of “Kentucke.” And when Captain Kearny and fortyfive soldiers came to Maysville in December, they came without provisions, and but made bad worse. Nor did their coming answer any purpose; for when a little band of settlers were ready to go, under their protection, to the mouth of the Miami, the grand city of Symmes that was to be, the ice stove their boats, their cattle were drowned, and their provisions lost, and so the settlement was prevented. But the fertile mind of a man like our adventurer could, even under these circumstances, find comfort in the antici
two acres. This tract was bounded by the Ohio, the two Miamies, and a due east and west line, run so as to comprehend the desired quantity. As Symmes made no farther payments after this time, the rest of his purchase reverted to the United States, who gave those that had bought under Symmes ample pre-emption rights. See Land Laws, pp. 372-382, et seg and post.
pation of what was to come. In the words of Return Jonathan Meigs, the first Ohio poet with whom we have any acquaintance,
“ To him glad Fancy brightest prospects shows,
But alas! so far as his pet city was concerned, “glad Fancy” proved but a gay deceiver; for there came “an amazing high freshet,” and “the Point,” as it was, and still is called, was fifteen feet under water.
But, before Symmes left Maysville, which was upon the 29th of January, 1789, two settlements had been made within his
purchase. The first was by Mr. Stites, the original projector, of the whole plan; who, with other Redstone people, had located themselves at the mouth of the Little Miami, where the Indians had been led by the great fertility of the soil to make a partial clearing. To this point, on the 18th of November, 1788, came twenty-six persons, who built a block-house, named their town Columbia, and prepared for a winter of want and hard fighting.† But they were agreeably disappointed; the Indians came to them, and though the whites answered, as Symmes says, “in a blackguarding manner,” the savages sued for peace. One, at whom a rifle was presented, took off his cap, trailed his gun, and held out his right hand, by which pacific gestures he induced the Americans to consent to their entrance into the block-houses. In a few days this good understanding ripened into intimacy, the “hunters frequently taking shelter for the night in the Indian camps;" and the red men and squaws “spending whole days and nights” at Columbia, “regaling themselves with whiskey.” This friendly demeanor on the part of the Indians was owing to the kind and just conduct of Symmes himself; who, during the preceding September, when examining the country about the Great Miami, had prevented some Kentuckians, who were in his company, from injuring a band of
* A poem delivered at Marietta, July 4th, 1789, slightly altered.
+ Cincinnati Directory for 1819, and Symmes' Letters. The land at this point was so fertile that from nine acres were raised nine hundred and sixty-three bushels of Indian
the savages that came within their power; which proceeding, he says, “the Kentuckians thought unpardonable.”
The Columbia settlement was, however, like that proposed at the Point, upon land that was under water during the high rise in January, 1789. “But one house escaped the deluge.” The soldiers were driven from the ground-floor of the block-house into the loft, and from the loft into the solitary boat which the ice had spared them.
This flood deserves to be commemorated in an epic; for, while it demonstrated the dangers to which the three chosen spots of all Ohio, Marietta, Columbia, and the Point, must be ever exposed, it also proved the safety, and led to the rapid settlement of Losantiville. The great recommendation of the spot upon which Denman and his comrades proposed to build their “Mosaic" town, as it has been called, appears to have been the fact that it lay opposite the Licking; the terms of Denman's purchase having been, that his warrants were to be located, as nearly as possible, over against the mouth of that river; though the advantage of the noble and high plain at that point could not have escaped any eye. But the freshet of 1789 placed its superiority over other points more strongly in view than any thing else could have done.
We have said that Filson was killed in September, or early in October, 1788. As nothing had been paid upon his third of the plat of Losantiville, his heirs made no claim upon it, and it was transferred to Israel Ludlow, who had been Symmes' surveyor. This gentleman, with Colonel Patterson, one of the other proprietors, and well known in the Indian wars, with about fourteen others, left Maysville upon the 24th of December, 1788, “to form a station and lay off a town opposite Licking.” The river was filled with ice “from shore to shore;” but, says Symmes, in May, 1789, “perseverance triumphing over difficulty, they landed safe on a most delightful high bank of the Ohio, where they founded the town of Losantiville, which populates considerably.”
It is a curious fact, and one of many in western history, that may well tend to shake our faith in the learned discussions as to dates and localities with which scholars now and then amuse the world, that the date of the settlement of Cincinnati is unknown, even though we have the testimony of the very men that made the settlement. Judge Symmes says in one of his letters, “On the 24th of December, 1788, Colonel Patterson, of Lexington, who is concerned with Mr. Denman in the section at the mouth of Licking
Trade opened with New Orleans.
river, sailed from Limestone,” &c. Some, supposing it would take about two days to make the voyage, have dated the being of the Queen City of the West from December 26th. This is but guess-work, however; for, as the river was full of ice, it might have taken ten days to have gone the sixty-five miles from Maysville to the Licking. But, in the case in chancery to which we have referred, we have the evidence of Patterson and Ludlow, that they landed opposite the Licking “in the month of January, 1789;" while William McMillan testifies that he was one of those who formed the settlement of Cincinnati on the 28th day of December, 1788.” As we know of nothing more conclusive on the subject than these statements, we must leave this question in the same darkness that we find it.
The settlers of Losantiville built a few log huts and blockhouses, and proceeded to lay out the town; though they placed their dwellings in the most exposed situation, yet, says Symmes, they “ suffered nothing from the freshet.”
South of the Ohio, during this year, matters were in scarce as good a train as upon the “Indian” side of the river. The savages continued to annoy the settlers, and the settlers to retaliate upon the savages, as Judge Symmes' letters have already shown. But a more formidable source of trouble to the district than
attack the red men were capable of making, was the growing disposition to cut loose from the Atlantic colonies, and either by treaty or warfare obtain the use of the Mississippi from Spain. We have already mentioned Wilkinson's trip to New Orleans, in June, 1787;* but as that voyage was the beginning of the long and mysterious Spanish intrigue with the citizens of the west, it seems worth while to quote part of a paper, believed to be by Daniel Clark, the younger,
whose uncle of the same name was the agent and partnerf of Wilkinson, in New Orleans, and who was fully acquainted with the government officers of Louisiana. I
About the period of which we are now speaking, in the middle of the year 1787, the foundation of an intercourse with Kentucky and the settlements on the Ohio was laid, which daily increases, Previous to that time, all those who ventured on the Mississippi had their property seized
Ante, p. 286. + Wilkinson says the partnership was formed for him without his knowledge or consent. (Memoirs, i. 113.)
American State Papers, xx. 704.
Trade opened with New Orleans.
by the first commanding officer whom they met, and little or no communication was kept up between the countries. Now and then, an emigrant who wished to settle in Natchez, by dint of entreaty, and solicitation of friends who had interests in New Orleans, procured permission to remove there with his family, slaves, cattle, furniture and farming utensils; but was allowed to bring no other property, except cash. An unexpected incident, however, changed the face of things, and was productive of a new line of conduct. The arrival of a boat, belonging to General Wilkinson, loaded with tobacco and other productions of Kentucky, is announced in town, and a guard was immediately sent on board of it. The general's name had hindered this being done at Natchez, as the commandant was fearful that such a step might be displeasing to his superiors, who might wish to show some respect to the property of a general officer; at any rate, the boat was proceeding to Orleans, and they would then resolve on what measures they ought to pursue, and put in execution. The government, not much disposed to show any mark of respect or forbearance towards the general's property, he not having at that time arrived, was about proceeding in the usual way of confiscation, when a merchant in Orleans, who had considerable influence there, and who was formerly acquainted with the general, represented to the governor that the measures taken by the Intendant would very probably give rise to disagreeable events; that the people of Kentucky were already exasperated at the conduct of the Spaniards in seizing on the property of all those who navigated the Mississippi; and, if this system was pursued, they would very probably, in spite of Congress and the Executive of the United States, take upon themselves to obtain the navigation of the river by force, which they were well able to do; a measure for some time before much dreaded by this government, which had no force to resist them, if such a plan was put in execution. Hints were likewise given that Wilkinson was a very popular man, who could influence the whole of that country; and probably that his sending a boat before him, with a wish that she might be seized, was but a snare at his return to influence the minds of the people, and, having brought them to the point he wished, induce them to appoint him their leader, and then like a torrent, spread over the country, and carry fire and desolation from one end of the province to the other.
Governor Miro, a weak man, unacquainted with the American Government, ignorant even of the position of Kentucky with respect to his own province, but alarmed at the very idea of an irruption of Kentucky men, whom he feared without knowing their strength, communicated his wishes to the Intendant that the guard might be removed from the boat, which was accordingly done; and a Mr. Patterson, who was the agent of the general, was permitted to take charge of the property on board, and to sell it free of duty. The general, on his arrival in Or