From Ohio History Central
As the Northwest Territory was organized in the late 1700s, the federal government sold large portions of land to private companies and individuals. The purchasers included the Ohio Company of Associates, the Scioto Company, and land speculator John Cleves Symmes. Individual states, including Connecticut and Virginia, also held claims in the territory. The United States government held the remaining land and slowly sold it. Some of the money paid off debts left over from the American Revolution. American Indians occupied much of the Congress Lands during the early years of settlement, but they were gradually forced out as more white settlers moved into Ohio.
John Cleves Symmes, a Congressman and judge from New Jersey, created a company with several of his friends to buy land in the Northwest Territory between the Great Miami and Little Miami Rivers. In 1788, Symmes and his associates requested one million acres of land from Congress. In the end they were only allowed to purchase about 330,000 acres. The 330,000 acres that Symmes and his associates purchased was called the Symmes Purchase. The remaining 670,000 acres that Symmes had hoped to purchase was known as the "Land between the Miamis." This land remained part of the Congress Lands until the federal government decided to sell it to other companies and individuals during the late 1700s and early 1800s.
Symmes proceeded to sell sizable portions of land that it was determined he did not own. One disputed land sale involved the community of Dayton. Symmes claimed that the land that is now Dayton was part of the Symmes Purchase. It was not. In 1796, Israel Ludlow platted and laid out the town of Dayton. By the end of that same year, more than forty log cabins and frame houses had been built. Many of these original settlers believed that they had legally acquired their land. But disputes arose over land ownership due to poor surveying. Many residents ended up paying additional sums of money to the federal government to become the official owners of their property.
- Bond, Beverley W., Jr., ed. The Correspondence of John Cleves Symmes, founder of the Miami Purchase, chiefly from the collection of Peter G. Thomson. New York, NY: Macmillan Company, 1926.
- Carter, Clarence Edwin, ed. The Territorial Papers of the United States. Vol. I-III. New York, NY: AMS Press, 1973.
- Howe, Henry. Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes. Vol. II. Cincinnati, OH: C.J. Krehbiel & Co., Printers and Binders, 1902.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
- Onuf, Peter S. Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.