SOUTH SHORE OF LAKE ERIE.
BY COL. CHARLES WHITTLESEY.
WHILE the French occupied the south shore of Lake Erie, there was not the semblance of courts or magistrates for the trial of civil or criminal issues. This occupation ended in 1760, but it is an open historical question when it began a Salle was in the Ohio country from 1669 to 1671 or 1672; though if he established posts, the records of his occupation are lost. There are, on the Western Reserve quite a number of ancient axe marks on the trees, over which the growth of woody layers correspond to those dates; and which appear to me to have been made by parties of his expedition. The French had posts at Erie, Pa., on the Cuyahoga, on Sandusky Bay and on the Maumee and Great Miami rivers as early as 1749 and 1752, and in Ohio and Pennsylvania. In 1748 the English colonists from Pennsylvania had a trading post at Sandusky Bay, from which they were driven by the French.
Pennsylvania had, however, no civil authority west of her boundary, which is described as being five degrees of longitude west from the Delaware river. The colony of Virginia bad claims under various charters and descriptions to a part of Pennsylvania, and all the territory west and northwest as far as a supposed ocean called the South sea. Immediately after the peace of 1763 with the French, the Province of Canada was extended by act of Parliament, southerly to the Alleghany and Ohio rivers. Great Britain promised the Indian tribe that the whites should not settle north of the Ohio river. So far as I am now aware, the first civil organization under the authority of Virginia covering the Western Reserve as that of Botetourt county, erected in 1769 with the county-seat at Fincastle, on he head waters of the James river, between the Blue Ridge and the Alleghanies. But before this, there must have been a Virginia county covering the forks of the Ohio and extending probably to Lake Erie; for the troops captured at the Forks (now Pittsburg) by the French, in 1749, were Virginia militia under Ensign Ward. It is probable that he was or supposed himself to be within the county of Augusta. Settlers from that colony located on the Monongahela and Youghiogheny. In 1776 three counties were erected on those waters, some parts of which possibly included a part or all of the Reserve.
These covered a part of Westmoreland county, Pa., which was settled from Virginia. This conflict of authority brought on a miniature civil war, which was soon overshadowed by the war of the Revolution, in which both Virginians and Pennsylvanians heartily joined. In 1778, soon after the conquest of the British forts on the Mississippi and the Wabash, by Gen. George Rogers Clark, Virginia erected the county of Illinois, with the county-seat at Kaskaskia. It embraced the south shore of Lake Erie, Detroit, Mackinaw, Green Bay and Prairie Duchien, but for practical purposes, only Kaskaskia, Cahokia and St. Vincent, or Vincennes successive campaigns against the Indians, the United States drove them off by military force. All the lives lost, the forts built, and the expeditions made in the northwest, from 1785 to 1794, were a continuation of the war of the Revolution against England. Even after the second treaty in 1795, she built Fort Miami, on the Maumee within the State of Ohio. The result of the battle of the Rapids of the Maumee, in August, 1794, put a stop to her overt acts against us for a time; but it was not until after the war of 1812 that she abandoned the project of recovering the American colonies. While in her possession until 1799, there were posts on the lakes, justices of the peace, or stipendiary magistrates, exercising some civil authority, but none of them resided on the south shore of this lake.
successive campaigns against the Indians, the United States drove them off by military force. All the lives lost, the forts built, and the expeditions made in the northwest, from 1785 to 1794, were a continuation of the war of the Revolution against England. Even after the second treaty in 1795, she built Fort Miami, on the Maumee within the State of Ohio. The result of the battle of the Rapids of the Maumee, in August, 1794, put a stop to her overt acts against us for a time; but it was not until after the war of 1812 that she abandoned the project of recovering the American colonies. While in her possession until 1799, exercising some civil authority but none of them resided on the south shore of this lake.
This subject of early civil jurisdiction is a very obscure one, owing to indefinite geographical boundaries. I have received the assistance of Judge Campbell, of Detroit; of Silas Farmer, the historian of Detroit City; and of Mr. H. C. Gilman, of the Detroit Library, in the effort to trace out the extent of the Canadian districts and counties with their courts from 1760 to 1796. Their replies agree that it is difficult to follow the progress of civil law on the peninsula of Upper Canada, westward to the Detroit river and around the lakes. In 1778 Lord Dorchester, Governor-General of Canada, divided Upper Canada into four districts for civil purposes, one of which included Detroit and the posts on the upper lakes. Early in 1792 the Upper Canadian parliament authorized Governor Simcoe to lay off nineteen counties to embrace that the county of Essex, on the east bank of Detroit river, included the country on the west and south around the head of Lake Erie, but of this the information is not conclusive. Some form of British civil authority existed at their forts and settlements until Detroit was given up and all its dependencies in 1796. When Governor St. Clair erected the county of Washington in Ohio, in 1788, it embraced the Western Reserve east of the Cuyahoga. West of this river and the Tuscarawas was then held by the Indians and the British.