Graphical banner image for Ohio Settlement Conference 2020

Ohio Settlement Conference


Ohio University Baker Center, Athens Ohio
Feb. 21-22, 2020

The first people in Ohio arrived more than 13,000 years ago. These Native Americans overcame rapid changes in climate, eventually building the state’s first homes and becoming the state’s first farmers.

More than 200 years ago a series of events and actions began to shape the state of Ohio we see today—its government, its economy, and its people. Empires clashed and diverse peoples mingled.

Immigrants “settling” Ohio came from the East Coast and Germany, from free people of African descent to slaves crossing the Ohio River, from merchants to Johnny Appleseed. They fought over what freedom in a rapidly expanding republican nation meant, and they left legacies and institutions of enduring significance, including Ohio University.

Hear from historians, scholars and the Chief of the Eastern Shawnee Nation at Settling Ohio: First Nations and Beyond. The conference will take place at Ohio University’s Baker Center on Feb. 21 and 22. It is free and open to the public.

CEU Credit: If you are a teacher interested in receiving CEU credit for attending part of this conference, please contact in advance the Ping Institute, a cosponsor of this program, at

Sponsors: Office of the President of Ohio University, The Central Regional Humanities Center at Ohio University, The Charles J. Ping Institute for the Teaching of the Humanities, The College of Arts & Sciences departments of Geography and History, and the Southeast Ohio History Center. 

Additional Notes: Both Little Professor and Ohio University Press will have some books by our speakers and pertaining to our topic on sale outside of the ballroom. Alden University Library will have some displays that could be of interest to attendees. In addition to the 5th floor Founder’s Day exhibit on Music at Ohio University and one on the 4th floor commemorating women’s suffrage, Special Collections will be displaying many of their rare early artifacts including Manasseh Cutler’s refurbished chest. That is on the 5th floor at Alden Library. These might be perfect stops after the second panel ends at 4 p.m. on Friday. Special collections also is open noon to 4 p.m. on Saturday.

Conference Schedule

Unless otherwise noted, all events are in the Baker University Center Ballroom (fourth floor of Baker Center) on the Ohio University campus in Athens, Ohio.

Friday, Feb. 21, 2020

11 a.m. Pre-Conference Brunch |  Preserving American History in Southeast Ohio

  • A Conversation with Linda Showalter, Bill Reynolds, and Ray Swick at the Southeast Ohio History Center, 24 W. State St., Athens.

    Please RSVP for this event to

    Museums and archives play a vital role in making the real artifacts of our nation’s history accessible to researchers and the public. Join the Southeast Ohio History Center for a kick-off brunch session and a facilitated conversation with Linda Showalter, Bill Reynolds, and Ray Swick about their experiences working with David McCullough on his bestselling book, The Pioneers: The Heroic Story of the Settlers Who Brought the American Ideal West.

    Showalter is the Special Collections Manager at the Marietta College Legacy Library. Reynolds is the Historian and Exhibits Specialist at the Campus Martius Museum in Marietta, Ohio. Swick is the former historian for Blennerhassett Island in West Virginia.

1-2:15 p.m. | The First Pioneers

  • Dr. Brian Schoen, Associate Professor of History, Ohio University
    Conference Welcome and Introductory Remarks
  • Dr. Joseph Gingerich, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Ohio University
    “From Pioneers to Settlement: An Overview of Ohio’s First People and the Rise of the First Settled Villages”

    This talk will discuss the arrival of the first people in the Ohio Valley. Native Americans settled in Ohio more than 13,000 years ago, overcoming rapid changes in climate. Eventually these populations would become more sedentary where they domesticated some of the crops in eastern North America. This is one of only nine independent domestication events in the world. Around 2,000 years ago these first pioneers built some of the most impressive forms of monumental architecture anywhere in the world.
  • Dr. Cameron Shriver, Research Assistant, Department of History, Myaami Center, Miami University
    “Fort Pitt Spies during the French and Indian War”

    How did British and Native leaders acquire information about each other during the Seven Years’ War in the Ohio Country? This presentation will examine the British and Miami Indian concerns during this conflict in light of their imperfect intelligence-gathering. In particular, the records of Irish-born George Croghan help reveal a vantage from Fort Pitt and Miami communities who controlled the West.

Break: Coffee and Drink Service

2:30-4 p.m. | Anglo Foundations

  • Dr. Jessica Roney, Associate Professor of History, Temple University
    “The Northwest Ordinance: America’s Forgotten Constitution”

    The 1787 Northwest Ordinance was passed the same summer that the Founders drafted the US Constitution. In fact, some of the framers had to leave Philadelphia to vote in Congress in New York to pass it! The importance of the Ordinance to the political formation of the United States has been forgotten, but arguably it laid the foundation for republican state governments from Ohio to the Pacific Ocean. It deserves central consideration in how we understand the thinking of the Founders and the kind of government they enacted in that fateful summer of 1787.
  • Dr. Tim Anderson, Associate Professor of Geography, Ohio University
    “Selective Migration and the Production of Ohio’s Regional Cultural Landscapes During the Early National Period”

    Both the historical and contemporary cultural landscapes of Ohio reflect the legacy of the settlement of a variety of population groups during the state’s early period of settlement. During this formative era migrants from three of the primary East Coast culture regions, as well as foreign immigrants hailing mainly from Germany, funneled into the frontier Old Northwest via Zane’s Trace, the National Road, The Great Lakes, and the Ohio River. As migrants from each of these hearth areas settled in geographically separate regions in Ohio, they brought with them characteristic values and ideals, including agricultural traditions and material culture. This resulted in distinctive regional cultural landscapes. This talk will analyze Ohio’s early settlement history and geography, delineate the state’s distinctive culture regions, and identify the attendant cultural landscape features that distinguish each of these regions.
  • Joseph Ross, Ph.D. Candidate, History, University of Missouri
    “Federalist Failure: Conflict and Disorder in the Northwest Territory”

    Historians have long credited the Ohio Company of Associates for establishing order and stability in the early American West. From its enlightened design of Marietta to its promotion of social and religious life on the frontier, the Ohio Company has been seen, in the words of David McCullough, as a progenitor of “the American way of life.” This paper offers a counter narrative, one that highlights the conflict and disorder created by the Ohio Company and other Federalist programs in the Northwest Territory rather than its successes.

Late Afternoon | Walking, Van, and Library Tour

7-8:15 p.m. | Keynote Presentation #1

  • Introduction of President, Tim Anderson
  • Duane Nellis, President, Ohio University
    “Opening Remarks”
  • Dr. Anna-Lisa Cox, Non-Resident Fellow, The Hutchens Center, Harvard University
    “What if Manasseh Cutler was Black? The Hidden History of the Diverse Pioneers Who Created Ohio”

    Watch on YouTube.

    When pioneers began flooding into the region that would become Ohio just after the Revolutionary War, some were guided by the best ideals of that revolution – that all men are created equal, with an equal right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These pioneers included thousands of free people of African descent who were hugely successful settlers on that early frontier. From the Black Buckeyes who made the creation of Columbus possible and founded dozens of communities, to those who fought in the War of 1812, these antebellum Ohio settlers shaped the region and the nation. Without them there would be no Ohio, so why are they still being kept out of history books. And why should we care?

8:30 p.m. | Presidential Reception, Baker Center, outside the Ballroom

Saturday, February 22, 2020

9:30-10:30 a.m. | Keynote Presentation #2

  • Dr. William Kerrigan, Cole Distinguished Professor of American History, Muskingum University
    “Johnny Appleseed, Apple Cultures, and the Settlements of the Old Northwest

    Watch on YouTube.

    Born into an impoverished Yankee family, John “Appleseed” Chapman spent most of his life planting a distinctive apple culture across Ohio and the Old Northwest. His activities put him in contact with an array of migrant communities that occupied the region in the early national period, but not all of those who encountered him viewed his activities in the same way. Professor William Kerrigan, author of Johnny Appleseed and the American Orchard, will explore Chapman’s reception in the region across a half a century in order to highlight a few of the important distinctive cultural practices that shaped the Old Northwest.

Break: Coffee and Coffee Cake

10:45-11:45 a.m. | Empires, Economies, and Commodities

  • Dr. Kim Gruenwald, Associate Professor History, Kent State University
    “Ice Water Baths and Rising Waters: Establishing Commercial Connections Along the Ohio and its Tributaries in the Early Republic”

    The iconic image of Eliza crossing the ice to freedom in Uncle Tom’s Cabin cemented the image of the Ohio River as the boundary between North and South in the American imagination. But after the American Revolution, the Ohio River served as the main thoroughfare for the Western Country as merchants created a riverine economy with ties across along western rivers on both sides of the Ohio and between West and East, helping the new United States claim the trans-Appalachian West for its own.
  • William Hunter, Cultural Resource Manager and Outdoor Recreation Planner, National Park Service, Cuyahoga Valley National Park
    “Re-Tracing Zane: Zane’s Trace and Production of Space in the Ohio Country”

    Zane’s Trace, was the first formally-sanctioned nonmilitary road in the Northwest Territory, along ancient trade routes by a party led by Virginian Ebenezer Zane in 1796-1797. Extending along the southern extent of glaciation, the Trace ran across different landforms and land survey systems, linking the Mid-Atlantic to the South via a series of inland river towns, producing a complex linear cultural landscape. This paper explores the evolution of the cultural landscape along its route, finding unity amid a diversity of culture areas, property systems and natural landscapes as it explores how this route was implicated in dispossession as it shaped settlement, until it was made remote by the shifting scales of transportation, political machinations and westward settlement. Yet the current fragmentary landscape demonstrates not only the persistence of Zane’s Trace through time, but also points to powerful historical processes that engendered its development, disillusion, commemoration and designation. The many representations of the Trace express the differential processes of landscape change that typify the variegated land use of the edge of Appalachian Ohio.

1-2 p.m.: Keynote Presentation #3

  • Dr. Adam Nelson, Vilas Distinguished Achievement Professor of Educational Policy Studies and History, University of Wisconsin-Madison
    “Public Education in the Old Northwest: Legacies of Ohio’s First Land Grant”

    Watch on YouTube.

    David McCullough devotes a whole chapter in The Pioneers to “The Cause of Learning,” in which he celebrates the Northwest Ordinance’s provisions for public schools and Manasseh and Ephraim Cutler’s hopes for republican education on the frontier. In general, he repeats the standard narrative of the common-school crusade, in which reformist Whigs led reluctant Democrats toward in a grand political consensus in support of statewide systems of public education. But what if this story was a tale not of consensus but of enduring conflict? This lecture considers the many challenges that confronted proponents of public schools in the west—and the roots of some of the difficulties that face American education today.

2 p.m. | BREAK

2:15-3:15 p.m. | Civic Institutions

  • Dr. Ann Fidler, Independent Scholar
    “‘Warm Friends and Suitable Characters’: The Early Days of Governance at Ohio University”

    From the earliest days of his involvement with the enterprise that became the Ohio Company of Associates, Manasseh Cutler envisioned a set of communities arrayed around a university. He lobbied hard for the university’s establishment, wrote eloquently of its purpose, and drafted the charter that was to guide its governance. However, as Cutler chose to remain in Massachusetts, the actual development and administration of the university fell to residents of the Ohio Country. The history of governance at Ohio University highlights the complex personal, political, and cultural interactions that influenced both local and regional developments in higher education during the early national period.
  • John Bickers, Ohio State University
    “Who Speaks in the Name of the Miami Nation?"

    Following the Northwest Indian Wars of the 1790s, factions of Myaamia (Miami) village leaders vied for political control over the nation. In the ensuring decade, one of the factions formed the Miami National Council which became the undisputed governing body for the Miami tribe. This talk will discuss the internal and external forces that fueled both the factionalization of village leaders and the drive towards the creation of a national political body.

3:15 p.m. | BREAK 

3:30-4:30 p.m. | Keynote Presentation #4

  • Chief Glenna J. Wallace, Chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe
    “Taking Care of Business: Balancing History and Legacy”

    Watch on YouTube.

    Everyone needs balance in life. Easy to say, difficult to attain, especially when the history occurred nearly 200 or more years ago. What might have occurred in those 200 years that affects that balance of history and legacy—memory, perspectives, values, research, inaccuracies? Let’s talk about it.

 4:30 p.m. | Wrap Up Roundtable with All Presenters