Petition of Samuel Huntington and Others
[before 25 Apr. 1803]
The undersignd. Inhabitants of The State of Ohio beg leave to Represent that at the Mouth of Cuyahoga River (the Boundary line between the Settlements in the County of Trumbull and the lands where the Indian Title is yet Unextinguished) there are Annually large Assemblages of Indians Cheifly Ottowas Wyandotts Shawanoes Chipawas & Senecas Amounting from three hundred to five hundred. that it is the practice of those Indians to meet in the fall of the Year at Cleaveland a Town Situated within the County of Trumbull where Sd. River Emptyes into Lake Erie from whence they Proceed to their winters Hunt up Said river & the Other Adjacent Streams and Return again in the Spring with their Skins Sugar and Oil which they barter for goods with The Merchants of that place and Factors sent there from Detroit & Other places that their Trade has become of Considerable Consequence & would prove Highly usefull To both parties were it not for the Disputes and disorders that necessarily result from the want of an efficient force or of Some person Authorised to Interfere upon Certain Occasions. Constant Complaints are made by the Indians of The Incroachments of Our people in getting Grindstones from Quarries on their Side the Line this They apprehend justifies them in Stealing Our horses Cattle & Corn The unauthorised retakeing of These by Individual force on theire own ground furnishes a theme of reiterated Complaint. & the well known Customs of the Indians to make reprisals from any of The supposd. agressors often Exposes the Innocent to Suffer for the misdemeanors of the Guilty—When Complaints have been made by the Indians they have been Referd to the Superintendant of Indian affairs. the Distance of his residence has been so great that they have always Considered Even a Successfull application to him as amounting to the Same thing as a Denial of redress—and our own people for the Same reason have Chosen to pursue the Indians to their Own Towns and Take at any risque from their very Cabins their Stolen property by force. many disorders and Even Murder is Sometimes Committed under Our Doors at their meeting in the Spring & the Civil Authority has felt itself two weak to interpose for the Establishment of Tranquility or the Execution of Justice. their Numbers at such Times gives them Confidence and the Dispersed situation of our Frontier Settlements render it Impossible to Calculate on Our Safety in case of a Sudden or unexpected Contest with them—Most or all of these difficulties it is believed woud. be Removed by the appointment of a Superintendant of Indian affairs or Indian agent to Reside at Cleaveland—a Discription of Officers known to the Indians to whom they would look up with a Certainty of haveing their Greivances redressd. & to whoom our Own people might apply without the danger or Trouble of Carving out the measure of Justice they think due to themselves—The undersignd. further beg leave to suggest that in their Opinion there is no place within the United States that has not an Indian agent, where their is so much Necessity for one being the Dividing line between a rapidly populateing Country and Indian lands Inhabited by numerous Tribes long accustomed to hunt in the Neighbourhood of the Cuyahoga & to Dispose of their goods to the Traders at its mouth and they apprehend that the Appointment of Such Officer woud Tend to promote peace & good understanding between the people of this part of The State & their Indian Neighbours by Distroying in their Infancy all Causes of dissension and in this way prove Highly benificial to the United States as well as to those parts more Immediately Connected with Our Vicinity the undersignors from the Above mentioned Circumstances are Induced to request the President to appoint Such Superintendant or agent of Indian Affairs & with Such powers & Authority as he Shall Deem proper and Competant to effect the Object of his Appointment and They beg leave to Recomend for the Office Majr. Amos Spafford a Citizen of Said Cleaveland a man whose Constant Residence there & whose Acquaintance with the Indians & their Affairs & whose talents & Experience they believe will Qualify him to discharge it with fidelity & To universal acceptation
MS (PHi); undated, but see below; in an unidentified hand, signed by all; at head of text: “To the President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 30 May and “Amos Spafford to be Indn agent” and so recorded in SJL; also endorsed by TJ: “refd to Secy. at war.”
Samuel Huntington (1765–1817) descended from a prominent Connecticut family, which included his uncle and mentor, Samuel Huntington, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and former governor of the state. As a young attorney, he immigrated to the Northwest Territory in 1801 and quickly rose to political prominence, serving in the Ohio constitutional convention and first state legislature before receiving an appointment to the Ohio supreme court in 1803. TJ nominated him for a Michigan Territorial judgeship in 1805, but he declined the office. Although a professed Republican, Huntington’s political views were flexible and somewhat ambiguous. He was elected governor of Ohio in 1808, defeating Thomas Worthington with the support of conservative Republicans and Federalists. Losing a close election to Worthington for the U.S. Senate in 1810, Huntington won another term in the state legislature in 1811 before retiring from politics (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Jeffrey P. Brown, “Samuel Huntington: A Connecticut Aristocrat on the Ohio Frontier,” Ohio History, 89 , 420–38).
On 25 Apr., Huntington wrote Granger and enclosed the petition, above, which had been circulating for some time. On 23 Mch., Huntington wrote Elijah Wadsworth, the postmaster at Canfield, Ohio, noting that he was “sorry to find no more encouragement” given to the “petition for Indian Agent—an establishment which would be very useful to our County besides bringing in considerable money.” On 25 May, Granger informed Huntington that he had transmitted the document to the president and would himself “pay evry proper attention to it” when he returned to Washington (“Letters from the Samuel Huntington Correspondence, 1800–1812,” in Western Reserve Historical Society, Annual Report for 1914–1915 [Cleveland, 1915], 84–5).
As a surveyor for the Connecticut Land Company in 1796, amos spafford produced one of the first maps of the town of Cleveland, Ohio. He later became a prominent early resident of northern Ohio and was appointed collector of the Miami district by James Madison in 1809 (William Ganson Rose, Cleveland: The Making of a City [Cleveland, 1950], 24, 28, 40, 43, 44, 48–50, 56, 60; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States…to the Termination of the Nineteenth Congress, Washington, D.C., 1828, 3 vols. description ends , 2:134–5).