During the 1790s, Lucas Sullivant was a surveyor in the Virginia Military District. Like many frontier surveyors, he took his pay in land. The land he came to like best was on the western bank of the Scioto River in central Ohio at a place called the Forks of the Scioto. The Forks was the place where the Olentangy River – then called the Whetstone – joins the Scioto.
Native Americans had been living at this place for hundreds of years and an Indian village had been located as late as 1774 where the Arena District in downtown Columbus is today.
In 1797, Sullivant laid out a town on the west bank of the Scioto. He was a great admirer of Benjamin Franklin and named the town Franklinton.
The town lots were small, while farm lots on the outskirts of the town were considerably larger. Farmland generally sold for between one and two dollars per acre. Franklinton grew to become the most important community in the northern part of the Virginia Military District. In March 1798, a flood washed away the few houses built to that time. Rather than rebuild, Sullivant moved the entire town a quarter mile west to higher ground. In a short time, Franklinton had a growing population. Many of the homes were log houses or simple frame structures. Public buildings and the homes of prosperous people were built of brick or stone. By 1801, the community had grown so rapidly that residents advertised for a schoolmaster. Slowly the residents of Franklinton and other Ohio communities created a more settled life for themselves
Between 1803 and 1824, Franklinton served as the county seat for Franklin County. Franklinton became a major town during the War of 1812 when it served as a mobilization and training center for the army of General William Henry Harrison. Harrison held a major conference with Ohio's Native American leaders in 1813 under an elm tree in the back of Lucas Sullivant's home.
Once Columbus became the state capital and the county seat, the community of Franklinton no longer grew at a rapid pace. By 1840, the community had 394 residents. In 1870, Franklinton was annexed to Columbus. The neighborhood was seriously damaged in a major flood in 1913. With the recent completion of a major flood prevention program, the neighborhood has seen significant growth and development. In 1997, Franklinton celebrated its bicentennial with the dedication of a statue of Lucas Sullivant along the Scioto riverfront.