I wrote recently about the use of ground-penetrating radar to find the exact location of the first Presbyterian Church in central Ohio. As I did so, I was reminded that the first resting place of one of the most important individuals in the making of modern Columbus lay in that cemetery as well.

I wrote recently about the use of ground-penetrating radar to find the exact location of the first Presbyterian Church in central Ohio. As I did so, I was reminded that the first resting place of one of the most important individuals in the making of modern Columbus lay in that cemetery as well.

Lucas Sullivant was born in Virginia in 1765 and was too young to have fought in the American Revolution. But trained as a surveyor, Sullivant went west in the early 1790s and entered into the employ of the state of Virginia.

At the end of the American Revolution, the Continental Army consisted of more than 8,000 men who had not been paid for quite some time. Most of these men would have preferred to have been paid - like many of the rest of us - in cash. Unfortunately, the government of the newly formed United States had no money. So it offered its veterans land - across the mountains in Ohio.

Lucas Sullivant was one the men hired to survey that land. Sullivant and his employers realized that surveyed land would become settled land. If most of the surveyed land was within the Virginia Military District, then Virginia or at least Virginians would have a lot to say about the way the new state north of the Ohio River would be governed.

And of course he was quite right.

Sullivant was hired to survey the northern reaches of the Virginia Military District, a pie-shaped wedge of land between the Scioto River to the east and the Miami River to the west. It was pie-shaped because the headwaters of the two rivers were quite close one to another in central Ohio while the places where the rivers emptied in the Ohio River were some distance from each other.

Deciding exactly where the "point" of the pie was located would keep a lot of people busy for many years. But that was not a problem that Lucas Sullivant had to solve. So he went on to do other things.

Other things in this case included surveying large amounts of the Virginia Military District. If one looks today at the land Sullivant surveyed, it quickly becomes apparent that he spent much of his time south of Columbus.

It is not hard to see why. Where Statehouse Square stands today was part of a large unbroken forest. But only a few miles south was the great Pickaway Plains, which stretched from what is now Circleville south to Chillicothe. And to the west, the Pickaway Plains joined with the Darby Plains that reached all the way to modern Marysville.

Now, if one could survey across a vast prairie of high grass and buffalo trails or in a deep, dark, and dense forest, which would most likely be surveyed first? Sullivant spent much of his early time in the Ohio Country surveying large parts of the Pickaway and Darby Plains. And his surveys still form the basis of a lot of property lines in what is now Pickaway, Madison and Union counties.

But Sullivant soon realized that the best land was not out on those prairies. The prairies had once been forests too, but had been burned out in forest fires in previous centuries. Sullivant understood what many who followed him did not comprehend. If the land did not produce new forests, it was probably not as good as land that did.

The land to the north had also been burned and had come back as forest. Coming from a place where topsoil was perhaps one foot deep, Sullivant found the forest lands to the north of the Pickaway Plains to consist of top soils of three, four and even five feet deep.

Sullivant, like most of the surveyors of his time, took his pay in some of the land he surveyed. Of all of the towns Sullivant laid out on land that he owned, not a single one was to be found in the easily surveyed lands to the south.

Sullivant laid out a town north of and near to what is now Plain City and called it North Liberty. By 1796, a few people actually lived near it. He later laid out another town near what is now Bellepoint in Delaware County. But few people came to either town.

Part of the reason for that was that Sullivant decided that the place he liked best was where the Scioto and Whetstone Creek -- now the Olentangy River -- came together.

In 1797, two years after the signing of the Treaty of Greeneville, Sullivant laid out a town on the west bank of the Scioto, in the Virginia Military District, just below its junction with Whetstone Creek,

Sullivant's Town, as some people called it, took awhile to come into being. Sullivant called the place Franklinton. He was a great admirer of Benjamin Franklin.

In late 1797, he left about 15 people living in his new town and went to Kentucky to bring back his wife and his family possessions. When he arrived in early 1798, he found the whole town washed away in a flood. Moving the whole town a quarter-mile west, Sullivant and his family came to stay.

In 1823, after literally bringing central Ohio into being, Lucas Sullivant died at the age of 58 of one of the malarial fevers that often swept through the Scioto River valley.

Buried in the old Franklinton Graveyard, what remained of him and his immediate family was removed to Green Lawn Cemetery in 1870.

You can find him today on a ridge overlooking the rest of the cemetery at a place his heirs felt he had once stood as he came into central Ohio. And they are probably right. But most of Sullivant still lies in an unmarked place in the graveyard he gave to the town he founded in the place he came to call his own.

Ed

Lentz