Western Lands and the American Revolution

By Thomas Perkins Abernethy | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XII
INDEPENDENCE AND VIRGINIA'S WESTERN LAND PROBLEM

NO group of people in America was more deeply affected by the declaration of independence than were the land speculators. All their plans were changed by that political event. Even the anticipation of it caused them grave concern, for successful speculation was never more dependent upon a shrewd prognostication of events than in this case. As soon, therefore, as independence became a probability, the dealers in Western land schemes began to shape their courses accordingly. Both in Kentucky and in the Pittsburgh area there was much uneasiness as to the attitude which might be assumed by the government of Virginia.

Until the latter part of 1775 the Transylvania Company had had smooth sailing in Kentucky. Most of the Virginians who had come out to that country were working in apparent harmony with it, for Dunmore certainly had no authority to open to settlement any land which lay beyond the Kentucky River to the west and south, and his orders actually forbade the opening of any beyond the Alleghenies. The only hope was in Henderson and the specious Camden-Yorke opinion. But now the situation began to change. The Transylvania proprietors were marking out for themselves large tracts near the Falls of the Ohio, where Douglas, Hite, and Floyd had previously made surveys for a number of influential Virginians. It is not surprising, therefore, that Isaac Hite, now living at Harrodsburg, should begin to show signs of opposition to Henderson and his associates.

In December, 1775, we find him, along with the Harrods, McAfees, and other settlers of Harrodsburg, sending a protest to the Transylvania Company complaining that it had raised the price of its lands. The act complained of was quite in accord with the plans of the company, for only the first settlers were to be allowed to purchase at the original price, and no one had previously complained of the arrangement. The representatives of the company thought that the surveys at the Falls lay behind the protest, and they agreed to limit the grants which should be made in that neighborhood to one thousand acres, and this to be allowed

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