Who Was Amzi Atwater?
Amzi Atwater served as a member of the Connecticut Land Company’s first two survey parties to the Western Reserve in 1796 and 1797. He helped map the land east of the Cuyahoga River in what is now Northeast Ohio. Born in New Haven, Connecticut in 1776, Amzi Atwater was one of the few original surveyors who later settled in the Western Reserve. He died in 1851.
In His Own Words
The following quotes were taken from letters Amzi Atwater wrote to Moses Warren, a fellow member of both survey groups. Compare the letter written in the early 1820s with the one from 1831. Amzi Atwater describes the dramatic changes that took place in Ohio as the state entered its canal era. Readers, beware—people wrote and spelled differently in the past!
Undated letter from Amzi Atwater to Moses Warren, probably written in the early 1820s
“…I believe it has learnt us [those early New England settlers in Ohio] to do with but a little money, and a little we are now, able [to] get for oxen, horses, cheese, sugar, pearash [pearl ash] and a few other things, and we are in hopes that when the Great Canal gets through to the Lake, some other things will bear transportation, but we are not to expect that every bodys pocket will be full of money and indeed it is not necessary. As respects our laws they ar[e] rather relaxed and in some instances vague and uncertain. But perhaps not more so than might be expected when it is considered that they are made by the people and they come together for all parts of the Union and many from Europe, all with their own prejudices…As respects the religious oppinons they appear to be about as various as in any part of the world. Some are very zelous in their particular faith and others not. The people in this part of the state are in general despos’d to support schools, but as we have no public money for that purpose it is expensive supporting goods ones.”
Letter from Amzi Atwater to Moses Warren, dated July 18, 1831
“I wish you could come and see the country now and compare it with what it was thirty five years ago. This State has increas’d in population, beyond expectation, and for several years past in welth and respectability perhaps faster than most other states. It is now one of the most agreeable parts of the Union for a Man of enterprise to fix his permanent residence. Not so a few years ago, our prospects were truly dismal. Altho, our lands were fertile and our Country handsom, our crops were roting or wasting on our Lands. No market, except our own home consumption. Forien goods could not be paid for in the products of the Country. No incouragement to industry, none but mere vagabonds came to settle among us. Almost all our young men of any enterprise were leaving us. A large portion of our people were in debt and and scanty means to pay… Not so now. Our farms have been sleaked up and the new ones cleared, good farm houses and barns erected and tolerably well filled. Towns, Villages and manufacturing establishments have much increased and bear the mark of enterprise and industry—and it is believed that the moral state of society has been improved more than any thing else in this part of the state. The Western Reserve College at Hudson is flourishing at a rate perhaps seldom know in the United States. Academies are established in many of the most important Towns and Villages and common schools in every neighbourhood.”
Robert Wheeler, editor. “Amzi Atwater: An Overview of the Reserve before and after the Canal, 1824-1831.” Visions of the Western Reserve: Public and Private Documents of Northeastern Ohio, 1750-1860. Columbus, Ohio: Ohio State University Press, 2000.
Last updated: April 10, 2015