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From Liberty Hall: Cincinnati, Ohio, June 30, 1812

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Stacks has Ohio history on the brain more than usual since it is the course I just finished teaching. Not having taught since my very last days as the Antioch University Archivist, I felt the rust, but hopefully did not show it too much. Among the topics we discussed was the Land Ordinance of 1785,the system employed by the early republic to survey and sell land in Ohio when it was still the Northwest Territory and easily the most boring of three such bills passed by Congress in the last years of the nation under the Articles of Confederation.

The first such ordinance was written by Thomas Jefferson in 1784 and stipulates the creation of ten states with such silly sounding names as Assenisipia, Chersonesus, and Metropotamia, while the third land ordinance is the first national legislation in American history to prohibit slavery, not to mention contained a list of personal liberties that became the Bill of Rights. Stuck in the middle, poor old dull-as-dishwater 1785 merely lays out the system for surveying land called “township and range” so it could then be sold to a population rapidly swelling toward statehood size. It did, however, specify that one section of each township be devoted to education, it’s most far reaching and enlightened component.

White settlement in Yellow Springs dates to 1803, when Lewis Davis purchased a section of Township IV, Range VII from a 670,000 acre survey first laid out by Israel Ludlow called “The Land Between the Miamis.” A government surveyor and one of the principle founders of both Cincinnati and Dayton, Ludlow worked with John Cleve Symmes of New Jersey, a member of the Continental Congress who in 1788 was appointed Judge for the Ohio Territory. Using his influence, Symmes bought over a million acres from Congress, only paid for about 300,000 of them (at the absurd price of two thirds of a dollar per acre), and then lost his advantage in the wild speculation in Ohio lands that followed. In 1794 the remaining two thirds of the Symmes Purchase, as it was known, reverted back to the federal government from whom Davis probably bought his land. Davis’ tract included a cold, gushing spring already of no small reputation as a curative. He would boost that reputation with advertisements that appeared in publication as early as 1804.

Here, reprinted from the bygone Cincinnati newspaper Liberty Hall, Davis announces for the first time the realization of a dream: the town of Ludlow, and what a dream it was. Likely named for the aforementioned surveyor, to accommodate the anticipated host of traffic, Ludlow would have streets wide enough for both directions of a five-lane interstate, at least by the standard of twelve feet per lane used by the Federal Highway Administration. So grand were its thoroughfares that even Ludlow’s alleys were 20 feet wide. Davis’ broad promenade is perhaps more accurately called an “esplanade,” a space reserved for recreational walking that usually fronts an attractive sight such as a beach. With no oceanfront nearby, and the plat actually a bit north of today’s Yellow Springs and therefore beyond line of sight of the Glen, we can only surmise what Lewis envisioned, possibly a great collection of impressive buildings yet to be constructed.

For added incentive, he points to the region’s abundant water power located at a nearby falls, though one look at the Cascades in Glen Helen leads to speculation that Davis meant the more raging waters of the Little Miami River in Clifton Gorge a few miles east. “The great state road” he references is probably the so-called “Pinckney Road,” among the first in Ohio history, connecting Cincinnati and Columbus.

There never was a Ludlow, however, at least not the grandiose one described hereafter. Lewis Davis more or less disappeared, his unmarked grave reportedly discovered under a Logan County boulder as late as the 1880s. A more modest village would later take shape under the direction of William Mills, who for his efforts became known as the “Yellow Springs Man.”

From Liberty Hall, Cincinnati, 30 June 1812


On the 25th of August next, will be offered for sale, on the spot, to the highest bidders, the In and Out Lots of the Town of


situate at the well known Medical Watering Place, the Yellow Springs, in Green county. The site of this place is dry, elevated, and elegant: The air and water are esteemed particularly salubrious. The Town (a plan of which will be exhibited at the sales) is on a scale the most liberal, and calculated to combine elegance of design with public convenience. The streets, squares, court and public walks—all of which are to be kept open for ever—will afford a permanent and pleasing diversity, as well for ornament and recreation, as to accelerate intercourse between the parts. There are four diagonal streets, each about 130 feet wide; all the rest are in breadth 100 feet each, and 20 feet allies communicate with most of Town lots. Convenient sites are also reserved for places of worship, markets and other public uses. A promenade, 200 feet in width, extends along the whole front of the Town, designated to be ornamented with trees etc. as a place of public recreation. Close by the town there are Falls proper for a number of any kind of water works. Ludlow was, for several years a post town, and there is no doubt of it being reestablished as such. Here passes the great state road, which runs from east to west through most of the considerable towns in the state, besides several public highways—Terms of sale are, one fourth part in cash; one fourth payable in six months; another fourth in twelve months, and the remaining fourth at the end of two years. A discount of six per cent will be made to those who choose to pay cash in hand. Deeds will be executed to purchasers on the completion of payment. A failure on their part will subject the lots to forfeit.


June 12, 1812
Lewis Davis