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The Western Reserve

Beginning in the early 1780s, states with claims to western lands began to cede their rights to the central government. In 1786, Connecticut, one of the seven landed states, ceded much of its claim within the Northwest Territory. However, a tract of nearly 3.7 million acres was held back (reserved) in the area west of Pennsylvania and south of Lake Erie. Connecticut officials hoped to enrich the state’s treasury by selling these lands at some point in the future. These lands became known as the Connecticut Western Reserve, but little development occurred in the early years. In 1792, Connecticut granted 500,000 acres of the Reserve, later known as the “firelands," to state residents who had lost their property to British raids during the War for Independence. The Connecticut Land Company purchased the remaining lands in the Western Reserve in 1795. This was a risky proposition because the heavily forested area was difficult to develop. Cleveland, Ohio, the Reserve's first permanent settlement, was established in 1796. The Western Reserve was included in the Northwest Territory in 1800, when the first government was introduced to the area.