When pioneer settlers began to migrate into the country north and west of the Ohio River in the years after the American Revolution, they brought with them a variety of items with which to defend themselves and to hunt for food.

In this time, most men above a certain age and a number of women became well-acquainted with the use of firearms and with a variety of tools that could serve as weapons.

They had good reason for this training and preparation. The territory north and west of the Ohio River was a land of clean rivers, deep forests and vast prairies. It also was home to vast numbers of wild game.

Some of the game hunted by early settlers included large herds of elk and deer. More dangerous were the bears, wildcats and occasional bison.

The possibility of encountering Native Americans, who often did not look with favor on the pioneers' arrival, also loomed.

In short, Ohio was a wonderful new land of limitless possibilities. It also was a place where preparedness was the key to a long life.

To defend oneself and to cope with other problems, adults and even children were accustomed to carrying a knife, a hatchet or both. For those of limited means, the hatchet or tomahawk often was the tool of choice.

The reason for this choice was -- and still is -- obvious: When left to one's own resources in the woods, a sharpened hatchet will cut almost anything. On the other hand, it is difficult to cut down even the smallest tree with a knife.

A firearm typically complemented these hand tools.

Some people owned a flintlock pistol. Most people did not because pistols were expensive and limited in range. More common was a smoothbore, single-shot, muzzle-loading musket.

But by the time the American Revolution was over, a different sort of firearm was becoming increasingly common on the frontier: the Pennsylvania rifle.

In the 1720s, recently arrived German gunsmiths recognized the limits of older muskets and began to develop something different.

Muzzle-loading smoothbore muskets had advantages: They could be fired often without jamming and they could fire a heavy lead ball. These benefits were useful in a European-style battle in which two armies lined up 50 yards from one another and blasted away.

However, they were not helpful in shooting at a deer on the other side of the meadow in the middle of the woods. Hunters in the Ohio Country needed a weapon with a much-longer range and a smaller projectile.

Pennsylvania gunsmiths solved these problems by creating a lightweight weapon with rifled grooves in a long barrel that took a much-smaller lead ball but propelled it with more force over a longer distance.

As gunsmiths moved over the mountains, the Pennsylvania rifle would come to be called the Kentucky rifle. But by any name, it became the type of weapon most desired by settlers in what would become Ohio.

Soon a lot of them would be needed.

The first permanent village created by settlers from the east was Marietta in 1788. Immediately across the Muskingum River, Gen. Josiah Harmar built a stockade he modestly named Fort Harmar.

From the fort, the general marched into the wilderness in 1789 in an attempt to defeat Native Americans hostile to the new settlers. He was not successful.

Gen. Arthur St. Clair, the governor of the Northwest Territory, marched his own army north in 1791.

He was even less successful. His army of more than 1,000 men and 200 more women and children dependents virtually was annihilated in what came to be called the Battle of the Wabash, or St. Clair's Defeat.

In the wake of that battle, Congress adopted the Second Militia Act of 1792. That act conscripted every "free able-bodied white male citizen" between the ages of 18 and 45 into a local militia company.

In the same year, the secretary of war contracted for the purchase of almost 1,500 new weapons. They were Pennsylvania-style rifles.

In 1794, 2,000 more rifles were purchased.

They were the new armaments for Gen. Anthony Wayne's new American Army. This was the army that won the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 and forged the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.

Two years later, surveyor Lucas Sullivant established Franklinton at the forks of the Scioto and Olentangy rivers. The village was about equidistant from most of the other settlements south of Lake Erie and north of the Ohio River.

It was about as close to the edge of the frontier as one could be.

Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.