The Patriarch’s Risk: Alexander Huston and the Symmes Purchase
In the previous post I summarized the migration of the Croys of the Will’s Creek community (Londonderry Township, Bedford County, Pennsylvania.) Now I turn my attention to another community member, Alexander Huston, father to Mary Huston and Sarah Huston who were my 4x great grandmothers.
In the excitement of the time, sometime before 1799, Alexander bought land in Ohio between the Big and Little Miami Rivers from John Cleves Symmes. His sons, Samuel, Edward, and John, along with John Devores (Devor/Devore,) all neighbors in the Will’s Creek community, bought land through the Symmes’ land company as well. Each name appears on the Memorial to Congress from Citizens of the Territory dated October 22, 1800. [i]
This petition pleaded that Congress allow the undersigned to maintain rights to lands that Symmes sold illegally. Through poor surveying and villainous behavior, he sold lands north of the tract he had purchased from Congress. The petitioners discovered this in June of 1799, after “Many of us migrated with our families immediately after the termination of the Indian War under all the disadvantages incident to such a crisis, since that, much of the money remaining after payment for our lands has been expended, and the whole of our labour employed in clearing the wilderness, and making such other improvements as the wants and conveniences of Society require…”i
Rather than labor inadequately to give you background into the Symmes Purchase, I refer to an excellent resource.i
https://www.evidenceexplained.com/content/quicklesson-14-petitions—what-can-we-do-list-names Not only does the site provide superior documentation of this petition but outlines strategies for researching history in general. Elizabeth Shown Mills has created a series of “Ouick Lessons” that are excellent. https://www.evidenceexplained.com/tags/quicklesson
By the time of the petition in 1800, Alexander and his sons had likely moved to their new homes but had not yet broken connections with the old ones. While they all still appear on Pennsylvania’s Septennial Census results,[ii] John Devore and Alexander Huston do not appear on the Federal Census for the same year.[iii] Had they gone ahead to maintain their claims while waiting out the Congressional action regarding their petition, make improvements and preparing this new frontier for their families? The journey entailed traveling overland to the Ohio River and floating down river on flat boats to the mouth of the Miami. One can only imagine the dangers they faced. We do know that Alexander died in Montgomery County between the 4th and 28th of February, 1814. His death precipitated two petitions over the next 20 years. These disputes provided us with much that we know about the closely connected Croy, Oswalt, and Huston families.[iv]
Alexander’s other sons, Andrew and Alexander Jr., stayed in Bedford County.[v] But David Huston with wife Rebecca Oswalt, Rachel Huston with husband Isaiah McClish, Sarah Huston with husband Jacob Oswalt II, and Mary Huston with husband Jacob Croy moved north to what would soon become Columbiana County in Ohio. Certainly, the prospects of a new fecund land teeming with the hope of prosperity drew them there. But for Mary Huston, Ohio Territory would reap tragedy and test her strength of spirit and fortitude; genetic traits future generations employed again and again. That story comes with my next posting.