By Gordon Mitchell

The Greenville Treaty of 1795 finally brought peace to the Ohio Valley and opened up about two-thirds of the present State of Ohio to European settlement. Many of the settlers came west to collect their land warrants that they received as payment for their services in the Revolutionary war.

Floating down the Ohio River on flatboats was the main method of transportation used by the settlers to reach their newly acquired lands. Unfortunately, travel down the Ohio River was hampered by ice in the winter and by sandbars in the summer. Travel upriver was even more difficult and had to be done by keel boat. It took about seven days to travel down river from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati and it took about 13 days to travel that same distance upriver.

General Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, also wanted a military route across Ohio. Indeed, a better route had to be found. Colonel Ebenezer Zane, a leading resident of Wheeling, had the answer to this problem.

Ebenezer Zane, of Danish descent, was born in Virginia's Potomac River Valley on October 7, 1747. In 1796 Ebenezer, his wife, the former Elizabeth McCulloch, and his siblings: Silas, Jonathan, Andrew, Isaac, and Elizabeth, settled at present Wheeling, West Virginia, and built Fort Fincastle. Ebenezer later renamed kit Fort Henry (renamed in 1771 to honor Virginia's governor, Patrick Henry).

In 1777 and in 1782 Fort Henry withstood major attacks by both the British and their Indian allies. One of those battles is where Samuel McCulloch and his horse survived a leap off a cliff to evade the Indians (Even the Indians cheered his daring leap). One of those battles is also where Elizabeth Zane made her daring run from the fort to a nearby blockhouse to fetch more powder and lead. Other residents of this community were: Lydia Boggs, Hamilton Kerr (or Carr), the McCulloch brothers, Abraham, George, Samuel, and John; and the Wetzel brothers: Martin, Jacob and Lewis.

The Zanes were all very knowledgeable in wood-lore and in Indian cultures. Isaac Zane was captured and then adopted by the Wyandot tribe. He later married Myeerah, daughter of Wyandot Chief Tarhe (the Crain). Isaac later assisted the American government with peace negotiations and was awarded some land near present-day Zanesfield in Logan County.

Ebenezer's great-grandson was the famous western writer, Zane Grey (nee Pearl Zane Gray). His first three novels, "Betty Zane," "Spirit of the Border," and "The Last Trail," were fictionalized accounts of the Zane family at Fort Henry during the American Revolution.

Colonel Zane, who finished a route from Pittsburgh to Wheeling, proposed a route that would start across the Ohio River from Wheeling and would travel to Limestone (now Maysville), Kentucky. Not only would this route be used for the new homesteaders, it could also be used as a mail route.

On March 25, 1796, Colonel Zane petitioned Congress for a contract to build this road. Before he even received this contract on May 17, 1796, Colonel Zane had already started construction, using his own resources. The terms of the contract stated that he had to complete construction by January 1, 1797. However, he didn't finish the project until the following fall.

As payment for this project, Colonel Zane was to receive three parcels of land, each a 1-mile square or 640 acre tract' where the trace crosses the Muskingum, the Hockhocking (or Hocking), and the Scioto Rivers. However, Colonel Zane had to survey these land tracts at his own expense and had to send plats of these surveys to the treasurer of the United States (Surveyor General Rufus Putnam of Marietta had the tracts surveyed.) He also had to operate ferry services at each of the three rivers with their toll rates set by two of the three Northwest Territory judges (Some ofthese earlyfenies were two canoes lashed together). Colonel Zane picked his own crew for the construction of the trace. His brother, Jonathan, and an Indian, Tomepomehala, served as the trail guides. Other members of the crew were John McIntire, Ebenezer's son-in-law; William McCulloch, Ebenezer's nephew; John Green, Ebenezer Ryan, Ebenezer's step-nephew; Levi Williams, and James Worley.

The original trace was only wide enough for foot and horse travel. It could not accommodate wagons. Whenever possible, the trace followed routes that were used by the Indians or by traders. Some of the trails that the trace followed were the Mingo, the Moxahala, and the Coshocton trails. Although the original trace wasn't formally surveyed, the trees along the route were marked with axes. Sometimes, more than one route was proposed or blazed. Except for some rerouting, there were few improvements done to the trace until 1802.

One area that Colonel Zane did not choose as one of his three land grants was along Wills Creek, near present day Cambridge. He may have regretted this decision in his later years.

When the trace reached the Muskingum River, Colonel Zane chose the junction of the Licking and Muskingum Rivers as the crossing over a spot farther south (present-day-Duncan Falls) because of the potential for waterpower and the ease of crossing.

Colonel Zane's 640 acres became the town of Westbourn, renamed Zanesville in 1801. Until Zane made some improvements to the trace in that area, he did not receive title to that tract until 1800. On December 19, 1800 Ebenezer Zane deeded the tract to Jonathan Zane, who plotted out Westbourn, and to John McIntire for $100. William McCulloch and Henry Crooks were Zanesville's first settlers. The western part of present-day Zanesville, which was founded by Levi Whipple and by Dr. Increase Matthews, Rufus Putnam's nephew, was first named Springfield and later renamed Putnam.

Colonel Zane's tract on the Hocking River was located on a river ford that was called the "crossings of the Hockhocking." This tract was first named New Lancaster in 1800 but later renamed Lancaster in 1805. Ebenezer plotted the town and had his sons, John and Noah, sell the lots. Depending upon the location, the costs of these lots ranged from $5 to $50. Lancaster's Public Square, located at Broad and Main Streets, was divided into four equal squares and was deeded by the Zanes to the town solely for public use. The area's first settler was Captain Joseph Hunter who arrived in April of 1798.

Because Chillicothe had been founded on the Scioto River's west side by Nathaniel Massie in 1796, Colonel Zane had to settle for the east side of the river for his tract. Ohio land west of the Scioto River was part of the Virginia Military District. Unfortunately, Zane's Chillicothe tract was not very successful. Wills Creek probably would have been a more profitable choice. Humphrey Fullerton purchased this tract in 1804 for $5,190.

Colonel Zane's plan was to place out each town into lots and to sell them for large profits. He demanded one-fourth payment within the first two weeks and the rest of the payment within two years. He offered free land to tradesmen (blacksmiths, carpenters, etc.) if they agreed to stay for four years and to practice their trades. Five lots were reserved for schools, for churches, and for other community uses. The first settlers usually received the choicest lots.

In 1803 Ohio achieved its statehood, Ohio's new government passed some enabling legislation that required three percent of income from land sales were to be used for road building. On February 18, 1804 The Ohio legislation voted to spend $15 dollars per mile to improve Zane's Trace. Afterwards, Zane's Trace was straightened, was widened to 20 feet, had stumps cut below one foot, had bridges built, and was corduroyed with logs in wet areas.

Even with improvements, travel was still slow and difficult on Zane's Trace. There were still problems with hills, wheel ruts, streams and wet areas. It took an average of five days to travel the entire 228 miles.

However, Zane's Trace did bring a lot of economic prosperity to Ohio. Many inns, taverns, and towns sprang up within a few years. Some of these business establishments were only spaced about four miles apart and paid license fees to maintain the trace. Many freight and stagecoach lines also used the trace. Many other roads were built to connect to the Zane's Trace. Some of the famous people who traveled Zane's Trace were President James Monroe, future President Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay and future King Louis Philippe of France.

Some other names for Zane's Trace at various locations along its rout were Tod's Trace, Maysville Road, Maysville Pike, Limestone Road, Limestone and Chillicothe Road, Zanesville Pike and Wheeling Road.

To follow Zane's Trace today, start at Wheeling and follow U.S. 40 west to Zanesville. From Zanesville, follow U.S. 22 southwest to Lancaster. Just west of Lancaster turn on S.R. 159 and follow it southwest to Chillicothe. From Chillicothe, follow U.S. 50 west to Bainbridge. Then follow S.R. 41 southwest to Aberdeen on the Ohio River. Zane=s Trace travels through 11 counties in Ohio/


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