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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

Edward Heald's Thesis

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, February 15, 2009

Our area owes a debt of thanks to author Edward T. Heald and the thesis that he wrote in 1942 to complete his Master's Degree at Case Western Reserve University.


Titled, "Bezaleel Wells, founder of Canton and Steubenville, Ohio," his thesis is well researched and well written and provides excellent information for the local area as well as Ohio history.


Bezaleel Wells and James Ross acted promptly upon the opening of the Pittsburgh Federal Land Office on October 24, 1796.


They purchased 3,538.5 acres of land in the Seven Ranges at a cost of $ 7,077.


The area they purchased had been surveyed by Absalom Martin of New Jersey in 1786 as part of the Seven Ranges.


A 1799 contract between Wells and Ross, written in Ross's handwriting, confirms their business arrangement.


Wells had his tract surveyed for further sale, and consisted of Steubenville from North to South Streets, and from the Ohio River to Fifth Street.


Out lots continued up the hillside for later sales.


The blocks are 600 feet long, and the right-of-way for streets is 60 feet wide, similar to Well's hometown of Washington, Pa.


Market Street was the exception to the survey, being six feet wider than the other streets.


Four lots at 3rd and Market Streets were labeled "public" and a triple lot at 4th and South Street was assigned, "grave yard."


The sale of lots was announced in the "Pittsburgh Weekly Gazette" in August 1797.


The area was announced as the "new county of Jefferson...fixed at Fort Steuben on the banks of the Ohio River."


The area was promoted as having a sawmill close to the town, and an abundance of "Pitt coal will render fuel a very cheap article forever."


Ninety-one lots were sold the first day, and total sales for the first two years yielded a handsome profit to Wells and Ross.


Life on the frontier was difficult in the beginning.  Streets were only pathways, with stumps blocking the way for travelers.


Ferryboats connected the two sides of the Ohio River when the river was deep enough to allow boats to navigate it.


By 1800, Steubenville contained a tannery, a distillery, a gristmill and sawmill, as well as stores and businesses.


Brick buildings replaced the early log and clapboard structures, and the city was a major Ohio town with Cincinnati, Chillicothe, and Marietta.


A 1799 taxable listing showed that 5,500 acres of the county had been cleared for agriculture, and 1,159 horses and 2,086 cattle resided in the county.


The efforts of Wells and Ross were important to the settlement of the region, as early land sales were restricted to large tracts.


Without their purchases, and division into smaller tracts, settlement would have been slower in the area.


It is interesting to see how many of the names and surveying work has been retained in the 200 years that has passed.