Thursday, May 19, 2022

Putting Together The Pieces of Ohio

Ohio's boundaries seem so "regular". Three straight lines, a river and a lake. That regular form though is composed of many irregular pieces, each with their own history. I came across this map and Wikipedia entry, while looking for something completely unrelated and was intrigued enough to dig a little deeper.


Many of these "purchases" and "agreements" involved forced displacement of Native Americans, wars, massacres, bad faith treaties and swindles. Here are a few examples.

The Connecticut Western Reserve were lands claimed by Connecticut. That colony's charter included a "sea to sea" provision, giving it all lands within the state's latitude all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The claims in Pennsylvania and west of Ohio were ceded after the Revolutionary War but the "Western Reserve" of Ohio was held onto for another 14 years. This area included the "Firelands" at the western edge. These were lands given as restitution for residents of numerous Connecticut towns that were burned by the British during the war. The terms "Firelands" and "Western Reserve" are both still commonly used today.

Just south of this, the small uncolored area represents the Moravian Indian Grants, lands that were granted to Christian Indians who had been converted by Moravian missionaries. These grants were made as reparations after 96 of them were murdered in the 1782 Gnandenhuteen Massacre under the false notion that they had participated in killings of settlers. As these natives were driven further west, the land was bought back and sold to white settlers. These lands were not surveyed in the usual rectangular pattern leading to some interesting shapes.

To the west and south much of the lands were sold as rectangular tracts in the township and range pattern. The small green square in the northwest is the Twelve Mile Square Reservation surrounding Fort Miami, a fort built by French settlers on the Maumee River. It was rebuilt by the British to help the natives fight U.S. settlers in the Northwest Indian War. This war, begun in 1786 eventually resulted in the displacement of most indigenous people from Ohio.

Like Connecticut, Virginia also claimed lands far to the west of the state including areas of Ohio. Before there was a state of West Virginia, Virginia shared a boundary with Ohio. The large green area in the southwest were lands that Virginia granted to veterans in lieu of cash for their service in the Revolutionary War. The boundaries of this district were contentious and a line separating Native American lands from lands open for white settlers was ambiguously drawn in the Treaty of Greenville, leading to more unrest. Here are  the counties included in the Virginia Military District.

The small unmarked and unshaded area near the bottom tip of the map is the "French Grant", granted as compensation to French settlers after a series of worthless land deeds were sold to them by a company that did not own the land.
  

Finally, the northernmost pink area is the Toledo Strip. This area was claimed by both Ohio and Michigan and fought over in a "nearly bloodless" war. Both states deployed militias on opposite sides of the Maumee River near Toledo, but besides mutual taunting, there was little interaction between the two forces. The single military confrontation of the "war" ended with a report of shots being fired into the air, incurring no casualties. The war was resolved in 1836 with a compromise, allowing Michigan to claim three quarters of the Upper Peninsula in return for giving up its claim on the Toledo Strip.


Thursday, May 12, 2022

The Disapperance of Native American Land

Native American losses began at first contact with European settlers. "European colonization of the Americas, which began in 1492, resulted in a precipitous decline in Native American population because of new diseases, wars, ethnic cleansing, and enslavement." - via Wikipedia

Native Americans had mostly been driven out of the original thirteen colonies by the end of the American Revolution. The map below shows further land cessations between 1789 and 1816 in the "northwest" region.

via Getty Images
They were pushed even further westward into "strips of land stacked like cordwood" (quoted from Prairie Fires: The American Dreams of Laura Ingalls Wilder by Caroline Fraser p. 49). The designated Indian Territory (lands south of the Osages on the map below) was assigned to the "Five Civilized Tribes".

These tribes, the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek and Seminole were considered civilized because they had adopted Anglo-American practices such as Christianity, capitalism and in some cases the "civilized" practice of slavery. Despite being "civilized" they were still forced off their lands in the southeast and relocated westwards in the Trail of Tears.

The strip in southern Kansas was the Osage Diminished Reserve, an area left to them after signing many bad faith treaties. The rivers of their former land still bear the tribe's name.

Even after being removed from the rest of their land and granted this area of Kansas, it too became overrun with white squatters. These people included Charles Ingalls, father of Laura Ingalls Wilder. They settled on land they did not own and eventually drove the Osage out of Kansas entirely, forcing them to also relocate to Indian Territory. The tribe's base is now in northeastern Oklahoma.

Here is the full map above showing the lands assigned to "emigrant Indians" west of Arkansas and Missouri.

The Chickasaw after a long dispute paid the Choctaw for the westernmost part of their land. 

This map via Wikipedia illustrates the Trail of Tears beginning in the 1830's.

Some Cherokee had settled in northeastern Texas where they signed a treaty with Texas Republic President Sam Houston. In 1839 his successor backtracked on this treaty and sent militia to forcibly relocate them to Indian Territory. Here is a map of their final battle in Van Zandt County, via the Oklahoma Historical Society.

After the Civil War further incursions were made on Indian Territory with lands in the center of the future state ceded for potential white settlement. The western half of Indian Territory became Oklahoma Territory in 1890. Reservations in western Oklahoma were opened to white settlement leading to a series of land runs and drastically shrinking Indian Territory. Here is a map of Oklahoma and Indian Territories that year via Wikipedia. The thick red line divides the two.

Both territories sought statehood but in response to concerns from eastern politicians about creating two new western states they were combined into one state, Oklahoma, in 1907. Congress sought to dissolve the reservations as part of Oklahoma's statehood but the laws were vague and unevenly applied and has led to decades of uncertainty. In 2020 The Supreme Court of the United States, in the case of McGirt v. Oklahoma determined that much of the eastern part of the state remains Native American land. Though this case was primarily about jurisdiction of criminal cases, it has opened up questions about ownership, taxation, zoning and the enforcement of environmental policies.

A 1914 map submitted as part of the McGirt case shows the entire area that was post-1890 Indian Territory as Indian Reservations,

Image from Supreme Court Docket 18-9526 - Appendix p.33

making this by far the largest tract of Native American land in the country.

The future of this land will be determined through extensive negotiations between the tribes and state and federal authorities. For a deep dive into the Supreme Court's ruling see Indianz.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2022

My Family's Exodus from Ukraine

A few weeks ago some of my family members had a Passover seder. Passover is an exodus story. With huge numbers trying to leave Ukraine right now our thoughts turned to my own family's exodus from there. Rising antisemitism, employment restrictions and forced military service drove my family to risk everything to escape from Khotyn, Ukraine (then part of Austria-Hungary) and come to the United States. My great grandfather was the first to leave, in 1905. He traveled by steamship from Hamburg, Germany to Philadelphia. How he got to Hamburg is less clear but the shipping companies arranged for passengers to travel there by train with minimal harassment. I made a map of the trip based on railroad maps of that era, making assumptions about the most likely route across Europe.

There was no railroad in Khotyn at the time so they would have needed to travel the 30 kilometers to Czernowicz (not Cherivsti), probably in secret. My great grandmother followed with several children two years later. It must have been very frightening to leave everything behind to go to a place where they didn't know the language or how safe they would be. I'm sure today's Ukrainians are going through similar or worse horrors. Here is a second, less interesting map I made to complete the journey.

There is a story about my great grandmother going grocery shopping on her first day and not recognizing the house on the way back because the houses in South Philadelphia all looked the same. She had to walk up and down the street a few times before a neighbor came and helped her. If you see a lost refugee, They might need your help!