Friday, March 13, 2020

Following That Opportunity

When settlers from the original thirteen United States decided to move westward, you can be sure they chose that route because they saw the chance to gain personal benefits. Their impetus to move westward was an unprecedented opportunity to obtain farmland.

There were, of course, incentives available to anyone hardy enough to take up the challenge of moving to the frontier. By the late 1700s, that had become the heritage of almost every immigrant arriving on American shores; they had come to expect that immigration could improve their situation, and perhaps had seen that very scenario play itself out in the generations preceding their own lifetime.

For those who had fought in the Revolutionary War (and subsequent service), there were military bounty land warrants to be claimed. Following the issuing of those first offerings, additional congressional legislation served to open up what was then called the Northwest Territory to wave after wave of settlers.

Whether the families I am researching served in the Revolutionary War, I don't yet know. All I know at this point is that the Nicholas Schneider family from Adams County, Pennsylvania, made it to Perry County, Ohio, in time for his son Jacob to meet and marry Elizabeth Stine, daughter of a family who had moved to Ohio from Franklin County, Pennsylvania. Their wedding in 1825 thus serves as a marker to help us delineate the approximate time of their families' arrival in Perry County.

Why did they head to Ohio? Though I don't yet know of any involvement with the Continental Army for either family, I do know of other opportunities which opened up land for settlers. First was the Harrison Land Act, which was passed in 1800, enabling people to purchase land in the Northwest Territory directly from the government, even on credit.

The drawback to that land act, though, was that it required people to purchase at least 320 acres of land. At a price of at least two dollars per acre—a steal in today's economy—the cost was still prohibitive for many, hence the revision in terms with the Land Act of 1804. The newer act, while keeping the price of the land the same, reduced the mandated size of the parcels to 160 acres, a more affordable option.

To facilitate the sale of the territorial lands, Congress authorized the opening of land offices in 1800. Three possible land offices which might have played a role in the sale of land to my mother-in-law's ancestors were opened around that same time. One, at Marietta, would have been of particular interest to those arriving in central Ohio by way of the river route from Pittsburgh on the Ohio, as it was the town at the mouth of the Muskingum River leading northward toward Perry County; that office was in operation from 1800 to 1840.

Another land office, opening only a few years later, was at nearby Zanesville, conveniently upon the overland route known as Zane's Trace. That land office was established in 1804 and, like the Marietta office, continued operations until 1840. Though farther to the south, the land office at Chillicothe also served the area from 1801 to 1876.

Sure enough, in looking for signs that the Stine family might have taken up the offer of land in Ohio, the General Land Office Records of the Bureau of Land Management revealed one Jacob Stine had purchased land in what was to become Perry County. He did so in partnership with someone named Moses Petty. The document was drawn up through the Chillicothe Land Office and was dated July 6, 1816.

A few years later—in 1820, to be exact—Nicholas "Snyder" and another Snyder by the name of Jacob, likely Nicholas' son, obtained their own parcel through the same Land Office, demonstrating when they officially became land owners in Perry County, and at the same time, allowing us to more closely zero in on when each family arrived in the area which, in 1818, officially became designated as Perry County.

Knowing when each family arrived in Perry County, and discovering that each family became landowners, helps us find additional clues about their situation. Considering that we know very little about Elizabeth Stine besides the date of her marriage, that leaves us with few hints about her family, other than her father's name. It would have been more helpful to discover that the other party to the land transaction was also a member of the Stine family. That leaves us with the question, who was Moses Petty, and why did he choose to purchase land as "tenant in common" with Elizabeth's father?

Hopefully, discovering information about Moses Petty will allow us to learn more about Elizabeth's family, as well. 



  1. My husband has people in his background that came from the east coast to Ohio also. Then eventually on to Iowa via Missouri. I have wonder too why they moved?

    1. For the most part, I suspect at the earliest dates is was in pursuit of better farmland, before the techniques of rotating crops and fertilizing became commonly used to replenish the soil. I know that was the case in the old South. But moving again and again does make me wonder, too. One branch of this family left Ohio for Iowa, but then chose to move further into Minnesota.


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