In 1810, the Ohio General Assembly concluded that the time had come to find a new home for the state capital.

In 1810, the Ohio General Assembly concluded that the time had come to find a new home for the state capital.

Founded in 1803, the state of Ohio had seen its capital move from Chillicothe to Zanesville and then back to Chillicothe. And while many people living in southern Ohio liked the capital just where it was, the long journey to Chillicothe on bad roads with no bridges and few inns did not please people from northern Ohio at all.

Undecided as to where to locate the capital, the assembly did what it often does: It appointed a committee to study the problem. Of the many places wanting to be the capital, the committee liked best the place where Dublin is today.

Accepting the report of its committee, the assembly then did what it often does: It ignored the committee's recommendation.

Instead, lured by the promises of a group of four "proprietors," the Ohio General Assembly chose "The High Banks opposite Franklinton at the Forks of the Scioto known as Wolf's Ridge" on Feb. 14, 1812. The place called Franklinton was a small village constructed in 1797 on the west side of the river near the place where the Olentangy River emptied into the Scioto.

The land east of the river was called the Refugee Tract and had been set aside for people from Nova Scotia who had lost property in the American Revolution. Mostly it was a place of unbroken forest at the top of a series of high bluffs. Mostly, but not completely.

Today, almost 200 years later, it is difficult to get an idea what the pioneers saw when they came to central Ohio to live in the place that would be Columbus.

To help us see that early Columbus a bit better, an amateur historian named A.A. Graham did some rather meticulous research back in the years after the Civil War, when at least a few of the youngest of the pioneers were still alive. In 1885, he published his vision of what one would have seen from a canoe heading up the Scioto to the Forks in the late summer of 1812.

Some of it is well worth retelling.

"On his left hand was a broad plain, bounded on the west by a low range of wooded hills, now in part a waving cornfield, in part a grassy meadow. Along the water's edge grew many wild plum trees whose blossoms filled the air with a pleasant perfume. Beyond the meadow and the corn, the busy town of Franklinton appeared in the distance, guarded on the east and north by the river, whose thread of water was lost in the forest above.

"On the right bank of the river rose a sharply inclined bluff covered by a sturdy growth of native forest timber. The abruptness of the bluff gradually declined as the voyager ascended the stream. As he came up the river he would have seen south of the Indian mound, from which Mound Street took its name, a small cleared field, in which was the pioneer house of John McGowan, who then occupied the land which he afterwards, in 1814, laid out as McGowan's addition to Columbus (now German Village).

"Near the top of the bluff, not far from the present crossing of Front and State Streets stood a cabin surrounded by a small clearing and occupied by a manand his family. He was probably a squatter on the Refugee lands and was able to live there as long as the rightful owner did not claim possession. His small garden, his rifle and his traps furnished him an abundant frontier living, and if he could live free of many of the comforts of civilized life, he was also free of many of its cares.

"Further north and not far fromthe banks of a small stream (now paved over and called Spring Street) were the ruins of an old sawmill, built about 1800, by Robert Ballentine, a citizen of Franklinton. Near it were also the ruins of a distillery, built by Benjamin White about the same time. They were now in decay and almost covered by small trees and underbrush. Near the site(of North Bank Park) stood the cabin John Brickell, who for many years had been a captive among the Indians. He now had a clearing made in the ten acres sold to him by Mr. Starling (one of the four Proprietors of Columbus)

"Mr. Brickell and his family lived in measured security now, and the man, though now a free man, could not and did not entirely forego Indian customs. He always wore deerskin moccasins and a skin cap with the tail of animal dangling down his back. Indians were still plenty and owing to the evil influences of the British, still troublesome

"Had the canoeist moored his birch bark vessel and ascended the bluff, he would have found himself in a forest of oak, beech, maple, walnut and other trees common to the uplands of OhioHad he noticed the topography of the city's home, he would have seen a gradual incline from the north toward its center, a more decided one from the west, and level land towards the south; eastward, the plateau slightly declined, while northward was a 'prairie', as it was afterwards called, in which he would have found many springs whose outlet was a small stream which found its way westward to the river he had left."

It would have seemed to be a good place to build a town.

Ed Lentz writes a history column for ThisWeek Community Newspapers.