Symmes Purchase

Symmes Purchase map.jpg

The Symmes Purchase was an early land division in the region of what would become 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. This land came to be known as the Symmes Purchase. It was also known as the Miami Purchase. 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. President George Washington approved the land patent in 1794. Symmes and his partners paid approximately sixty-seven cents per acre. They were required to follow the same basic rules as the Ohio Company of Associates. Land had to be set aside for a school, for religion, and for the government's use. In addition, a large piece of land was also to be set aside for a university. Symmes ignored this requirement.

A number of settlements were built in the Miami Purchase during the early years of the Northwest Territory. Along the Ohio River, settlers built a small community called Losantiville, which later became known as Cincinnati. The government built Fort Washington nearby to protect settlers from American Indian attacks. Although the population in the region grew rapidly, Symmes and his associates faced some controversy. The investors chose not to follow the government survey system. This resulted in some confusion over property boundaries and land ownership. Symmes and his associates also founded the community of Dayton on land that was not part of the Miami Purchase. Numerous settlers in the Symmes Purchase had to pay for their property more than once. They initially purchased it from Symmes, and then, they had to buy it from the actual owner. The failure of Symmes to honor the United States Congress's provisions resulted in the federal government refusing to sell such large parcels of land to other private real estate speculators. Instead, the government surveyed the land and arranged the sale of the property directly to potential settlers.

See Also


  1. 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.
  2. Carter, Clarence Edwin, ed. The Territorial Papers of the United States. Vol. I-III. New York, NY: AMS Press, 1973.
  3. Howe, Henry. Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes. Vol. II. Cincinnati, OH: C.J. Krehbiel & Co., Printers and Binders, 1902.
  4. Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
  5. Onuf, Peter S. Statehood and Union: A History of the Northwest Ordinance. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1987.