What And Why

Man moves from one place to another (migrates) for a number of reasons. He may be escaping some natural force with which he can not live such as an unfavorable climate or he may be running from a stronger enemy. He may be forced to migrate by some governing power. He may be unhappy with the society in which he is living; for example, he may not be allowed to practice the religion in which he believes or he may not be allowed to own land or do the kind of work he would like to do. He may wish to go somewhere else in order to achieve a better standard of living. An adventurous or pioneer spirit also causes some people to migrate.

Shortly after the American Revolution, the United States began to expand westward. Land in the eastern United States was becoming scarce and people were looking for new areas in which they could buy land and settle. With the Treaty of Greenville signed in 1794, the Indian problem was no longer a factor in prohibiting settlement and Congress decided to sell large quantities of land in Ohio in order to raise money to help pay for the costs of the Revolution. People came to the vast forests of Fairfield County to buy land and settle in an area not so crowded as the east.


Before 1797 there were no roads into the Northwest Territory of which Ohio was a part. Zane’s Trace was the first continuous road through Ohio and was opened in 1797. It ran from Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia) to Maysville, Kentucky and passed through Fairfield County. At first it was not wide enough for wagons but by 1804 had been widened into a wagon road. 

Many people also came by way of flatboats from Pittsburgh down the Ohio River to the mouth of the Hocking River. Here they transferred their belongings into canoes and came up the Hocking River as far as the Lower Falls (Logan, Ohio) and sometimes, when the river was full enough, as far as the mouth of Rushcreek (Sugar Grove, Ohio). From these points they had to travel on horseback. At other times people floated down the Ohio River to the Scioto or Muskingum Rivers and then traveled by canoe to Chillicothe or Zanesville Ohio.

The Cumberland (National) Road began at Cumberland, Maryland in 1811 and was completed as far west as Wheeling in 1818. By 1837 it had been completed to Vandalia, Illinois.

The canal system in Ohio began at Licking Summit near Newark Ohio on July 4, 1825. The Ohio and Erie Canal was completed in 1832 and ran from Cleveland Ohio on Lake Erie to Portsmouth Ohio on the Ohio River. The Erie Canal in New York had been completed in 1825 and joined the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Ocean.

The first railroad in Ohio was a 16 mile track of the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad completed by 1837. By 1851 the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati Railroad was ready for operation.

Who, When and Where

Early man migrated to America from Asia 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. He seemingly disappeared with the mammoths and mastodons which he hunted. He may have wandered up and down the Ohio Valley but few traces of his presence here remain.

Later migrations from Asia – 5,000 to 7,000 years ago – brought a tribe of people who depended upon the rivers for their food. Traces of these people have been found in at least one case in Ohio – in Preble County. 

About the beginning of the Christian era (2,000 years ago) more advanced people appeared in the Ohio Valley – the Adena and Hopewell Indians. They were mound builders and vanished about 1300 years ago. 

About 1700 several Indian tribes moved to Ohio pushed from their lands by the settlement of the White Man: Delaware, Wyandot, Miami, Ottawa, Shawnee and Mingo (Seneca) Indians.

When it was still a wilderness, Fairfield County was the home of Wyandot Indians. By as late as 1790, a village of 500 Wyandots existed at the crossing of the Hockhocking River and an old Indian trail going from Fort Duquesne (Pittsburgh) to the Shawnee town of Old Chillicothe. This village was called Tarhe Town and was located at the future site of New Lancaster, in the area between the foot of South High Street and the north bank of the Hocking River. Another smaller village was located 9 miles west near the present site of Royalton, Ohio and was called Toby Town.

In April 1798, Captain Joseph Hunter, a native of Virginia, with his family, emigrated from Kentucky and settled on Zane’s Trace near the crossing of the Hocking River. This was the first white settlement in Fairfield County and Captain Hunter’s closest neighbors were at Zanesville and Chillicothe Ohio. In May of the same year, Nathaniel Wilson Sr., John and Allen Green, Joseph McMullen, Robert Cooper, Isaac Shaeffer and a few others also arrived to take up settlement.

In 1799 the tide of immigration set in with real force. The settlement of Fairfield County had begun !

Pennsylvania and Virginia supplied the largest numbers of early immigrants. Many of the first immigrants were German speaking people from the Lancaster County area of Pennsylvania. Others came in large numbers from the Pennsylvania counties of : Bedford, Berks, Bucks, Chester, Cumberland, Dauphin, Fayette, Franklin, Huntingdon, Lehigh, Luzerne, Mifflin, Northumberland, Washington, Westmoreland and York.

A large number came from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, especially Rockingham and Shenandoah Counties. One entire church congregation came from Rockingham County and established the Pleasant Run Baptist Church in Pleasant Township. Other Virginia emigrants came from Berkeley and Hampshire Counties (now West Virginia) and also from Frederick County.

Maryland also was well represented in the early migration, especially Baltimore, Frederick and Washington Counties. Others came from Allegheny and Montgomery Counties.

Delaware and New Jersey produced some early immigrants to Fairfield County and a number came north from Kentucky.

New England was well represented with emigrants coming from Connecticut, New York, Vermont, Maine, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. This area in particular furnished us many of our early doctors and lawyers. A group of more than 40 people traveled together from Royalton, Vermont in 1800 with Dr. Silas Allen and settled in Amanda Township naming their new village Royalton. The party intended to go as far as the Mississippi River but liked it in Fairfield County so well that they stayed.

Immigrants seldom traveled alone or in small numbers because of the dangers and difficulties of the journey.

Many entire families moved to Fairfield County although not all may have come at one time. Sometimes they arrived over a period of several years.

Other early immigrants came from Ireland, England, Germany and Switzerland although not in the numbers that would begin to arrive later. Frequently they spent several years in the east before coming to Fairfield County.

Many, of course, came from within Ohio from earlier settlements in Marietta and Chillicothe.

Beginning in the 1820’s and 1830’s many immigrants began to arrive directly from their native countries. There are no lists of these people but we do have records of when many of these people became citizens.

In order to become a citizen, it was necessary for the immigrant to have lived in the United States for 5 years and in the state for 1 year prior to becoming naturalized. At that time he had to disavow any allegiance to his former government. From this information we know the approximate time and place from which he came to Fairfield County. The wife of the immigrant and his children under the age of 21 years automatically became citizens when he was naturalized.

From 1813 through 1903 there were 1636 men naturalized in Fairfield County. 900 of them were of German origin. 292 were from Great Britain which may also include some from Ireland, Scotland, England, etc. 90 came specifically from Ireland and 89 from France. 158 were Swiss and 8 came from Italy in the years 1888 – 1896. It has been reported that at one time there was a “Little Italy” in the Cedar Heights area of Lancaster.

The former Tarpey grocery at the corner of Locust and Maple Streets in Lancaster was called “Capitol of Little Ireland”. Here at this small grocery the Irish gathered in the evenings after work on the railroads that crossed South Maple Street. This small building still stands on the northwest corner.

A BIG thank you goes out to Patsy Kishler who collected and put this information together.

Ohio Immigration routes
Immigration routes
Ohio Canal Routes
Canal in Lancaster
Canal in Lancaster