As it were
Grant looms large in Grove City history
Whenever I come to Grove City, I am always reminded of Hugh Grant. He is simply one of those people who is larger than life.
There was no Grove City when Hugh Grant came here in 1804. Grove City would not exist until 1852 when a man named William Breck laid out the town. But in the meantime, Jackson Township – where Grove City would later be – had become a place where people wanted to live.
It had not seemed all that obvious at the time.
At the end of the American Revolution, the newly formed United States found itself with a number of serious problems. Not the least of these was the simple fact that the new country found itself with several thousand soldiers who had not been paid in some time in a country which had little if any ability to pay them.
What to do?
What the United States decided to do was pay their soldiers in what they had – land – rather than what they did not have – money. Any land left over when the soldiers had been compensated would then be sold to benefit the government.
Standing in the path of this rather reasonable way to solve a lot of problems were the claims of the various states to much of that same land by virtue of their original charters as British colonies. These claims were largely settled when the United States assumed responsibility for the war debts of the states. There were however some exceptions to this general settlement. Among them was the desire of Virginia to set aside a tract of land for the benefit of its veterans. Known as the Virginia Military District, the land grant ran from Miami River in the west to the Scioto River in the east.
Eagerly desired by veterans and settlers alike, “The District” began to be surveyed shortly after the Treaty of Greenville was signed in 1795. Surveyor Lucas Sullivant led survey parties to the great old growth forests where the Olentangy River met the Scioto. It was at that place that Sullivant laid out Franklinton in 1797 as the first permanent settlement north of Chillicothe.
Most early settlement took place along the major rivers and away from the often wet prairie lands in what is now southern Franklin County.
One notable exception was Hugh Grant. We do not know all that much about Hugh Grant. Like many frontiersmen he moves in and out of the historical record. We do know he arrived in central Ohio in 1804 with his wife and six children. Originally from Maryland, he had drifted into Pennsylvania meeting and marrying one Catherin Barr.
Arriving in Ohio from Pittsburgh, Hugh Grant looked forward to taking possession of his tract of more than 450 acres of prime Ohio farmland. Unfortunately, he was unable to find it. This is not as unusual as it might seem.
Most of Ohio was surveyed using a rectangular mapping system set forth by the Land Ordinance of 1785. The Virginia Military District was exempted from that system. All of the land in the District was surveyed using an older method called “metes and bounds.” A survey by that method might proceed from “ye river” to “ye big oak tree” to “ye big rock” and back to “ye river.” A survey might be of any shape. Whole areas of poor land might be skipped altogether while other areas of good land might be claimed by multiple owners. In a country without good maps and not all that many landmarks, it could be rather hard to find one’s property.
Undeterred by his inability to find his land, Hugh Grant was nevertheless determined to stay in central Ohio. So he did just that. Finding a suitable spot where a major stream emptied into the Scioto, Grant and his family built a cabin and settled in as what later would be called “squatters.” Nobody challenged their right to be there at the time for a couple of reasons. One was that there simply were not all that many people around. Another was that Hugh Grant was a rather formidable individual.
In an era before legal limits on hunting, Hugh Grant proved to be a rather effective marksman. In his first winter in Ohio he killed 89 deer. By 1806, the creek flowing into the Scioto by his home had acquired his name as Grant’s Run.
It was along that creek that Hugh Grant came to an untimely end in 1806 or 1807 – the record is a bit unclear. In an effort to remove a tree full of bees from his property, Hugh Grant was killed. The traditional way to do this is to build a fire at the base of the tree to drive out the bees and then chop the tree down. It is not clear what exactly killed Hugh Grant – a falling tree, a horde of angry bees or complications from devouring a surfeit of honey.
In any case his family survived him and lived for many years in central Ohio. And Grant’s Run still flows to the Scioto.
Local historian Ed Lentz writes the As it were column for ThisWeek.