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Ohio Company of Associates

The idea of Ohio becoming a state began as a business idea in a Boston tavern back in 1786. At this time, the American Revolutionary War was over, British troops had departed, and the U.S. Constitution was being still being written. So in March of 1786, much of the conversation along the east coast of the brand new country revolved around what do we do next? The most talked about subject was the west and the great masses of settlers leaving to go west. At that time, going west meant going to Ohio and Kentucky. This was the wild west, a wilderness that was an extremely dangerous place to journey.

It was March 1786, in Boston Massachusetts. Eleven men had gathered at The Bunch-of-Grapes tavern located on King Street to talk business. Having a business meeting such as this was not uncommon. The Bunch-of-Grapes tavern had long been the local meeting house for many business deals dating back to the mid 1600s.

Dr. Manasseh Cutler and General Rufus Putnam had assembled the group of eleven who were all veterans of the Revolutionary War. The meeting was to form a business called the Ohio Company of Associates. Each man would issue shares of $1000 not to exceed a million dollars in Continental certificates. Putnam was named superintendent and in time would become the "Father of Ohio." Dr. Cutler would present the business plan to the new Continental Congress. A year after this first gathering, the company took title to 1.5 million acres of land that is today made up of Washington, Athens and Meigs counties, plus part of what is Gallia county, land that was already occupied by 1000s of Native Americans who had no concept of land ownership or title.

In December 1787 the first Ohio Company of Associates shareholders left Ipswich, Massachusetts by oxcart. This group of 48 probably had a vague idea of where they were headed, but probably not the difficulties they would face, nor the dangers associated with such a trip. George Washington had given the small group his blessing.

The group first stepped into the new territory in April 1788 where they christened the place Marietta in honor of the French Queen Marie Antoinette who would 6 years later be executed by angry French citizens in a revolution of their own.

The Original Ohio Company

In 1748, several wealthy Virginians, including family members of George Washington, established the Ohio Company. Investors hoped to secure lands west of the Appalachian Mountains from the British government then sell the land to settlers moving westward.

The British gave the Ohio Company 200,000 acres of land near the headwaters of the Ohio River in what is now western Pennsylvania. In exchange the company had to distribute the property among 100 families and construct a fort to guarantee their safety.

This action by the Ohio Company upset the French, who had long claimed the Ohio Country as their own. In 1753, 1,500 French soldiers entered the disputed area and established several forts, including Fort Le Boeuf (modern Waterford, Pennsylvania) and Fort Machault (modern Franklin, Pennsylvania).

The Ohio Company's land technically fell under the control of the Virginia colony. Robert Dinwiddie, the lieutenant-governor of Virginia, upon hearing of France's actions, immediately sent George Washington and Christopher Gist to Fort Le Boeuf to convince the French to evacuate the Ohio Country. The French commander refused and informed the English representatives that the French would arrest any English settlers or merchants entering the Ohio Country.

In 1754 the French expanded their control of the region, capturing the British trading post at Logstown and another site operated by William Trent on the headwaters of the Ohio River as well. Here the French built Fort Duquesne (modern Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). That same year, Dinwiddie sent Washington and a force of Virginia militiamen to the Ohio Country to force the French to withdraw from the area. The French, however, proved to be too firmly entrenched. Washington decided to build his own fort, Fort Necessity, to challenge Fort Duquesne's dominance of the region. A combined force of French soldiers from Fort Duquesne and their Native American allies attacked Fort Necessity in July 1754, signaling the start of the French and Indian War (1756-1763). The French captured Washington's men and sent the militia forces back to Virginia.

For the next 9 years, France and Great Britain fought for control of North America. In most cases, the Ohio Country natives supported the French. Most Native Americans feared that if England was victorious colonists would flood across the Appalachian Mountains to settle the fertile soils north of the Ohio River.

France's willingness to trade with the Native Americans as well as the small number of French citizens in North America (60,000) caused the Indians to become allies with the French. In the end, Great Britain did become victorious and the Treaty of Paris secured the Ohio Country for the British. Unfortunately for the Ohio Company investors, Great Britain implemented the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited its colonists from settling west of the Appalachian Mountains. This legislation essentially ended the Ohio Company, as the company could not legally sell any of its land. Investors lost all of the money contributed to the Ohio Company.