James Kilbourne was the founder of Worthington, Ohio and a surveyor, merchant and political leader in the early years of Ohio statehood.
James Kilbourne (also spelled Kilbourn) was born in 1770 in New Britain, Connecticut. He served as an apprentice to a farmer and later became a merchant. Around 1800, he became an ordained minister in the Episcopal Church.
Kilbourne was also a member of the Scioto Company. In 1802, the Scioto Company dispatched Kilbourne to locate a township in the United States Military District for purchase. On his trip to the Northwest Territory, Kilbourne completed the first map of Ohio, but he refused to purchase land. He feared that the Ohio Constitutional Convention would permit slavery once the territory became a state. Once the Constitution of 1803 went into effect, outlawing slavery, Kilbourne purchased the desired land. In late 1803, settlers from Connecticut and Massachusetts began to arrive in the town of Worthington, Ohio. At first, it consisted of 162 lots, with one parcel reserved for a church and another saved for a school. The first cabin that the settlers constructed became the church and schoolhouse. The church was the first organized Episcopal Church in Ohio. Kilbourne served as its first minister. Kilbourne also helped found Sandusky, Ohio and Bucyrus, Ohio.
In 1805, Kilbourne accepted a position as Surveyor of Public Lands. In 1812, he helped negotiate the boundary of the Virginia Military District. He served briefly in the War of 1812, before becoming a member of the United States House of Representatives. He served from 1813 to 1817. During the 1820s and 1830s, Kilbourne also served in the Ohio legislature.
Kilbourne died in 1850 in Worthington.