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The Making of the 50 States: Ohio


Part 2: The Rest of the Story

The Native Americans who lived in Ohio grew corn (eight- and ten-row), beans (kidney, navy, and pinto), squash, pumpkins, turnips, cabbage, parsnips, sweet potatoes, leeks, and melons. Europeans began to move into the Ohio Territory in the mid-to-late 1700s, bringing with them wheat, oats, barley, rye, buckwheat, and potatoes. European settlers also grew tobacco, which many people at that time had medicinal qualities. Fruits grown included apples, grapes, and peaches.

During all of the American-Native American struggles, settlers from the east continued to pour in to Ohio. Many larger cities developed factories that churned out crops and goods in record numbers. Dayton, for instance was a major tobacco processing plant. Cincinnati was known as "Porkopolis" for its amazing pork production. Steubenville had a major wool mill that employed more than 100 people. Cyrus McCormick, inventor of the reaper, lived in Ohio for a time during the 1830s. Because agriculture was such a dominant industry, many workers were paid in wheat or corn rather than with money.

The expansion of the Ohio Territory brought with it more and more people, making direct connection with the East Coast desirable. The National Road, the first gravel road to cross the Appalachian Mountains, passed through Ohio. Steamboats, invented in the early 19th Century, sent Ohio goods down the Mississippi River to New Orleans or through the Ohio and Erie Canal eastward to New York.

The drive toward statehood was a political affair, as members of the two major political parties of the time, the Federalists and the Democratic-Republicans, tried to exert their influence over new territories like Ohio. The Northwest Ordinance required that states have a population of at least 60,000 before being admitted to the Union. The Enabling Act of 1802 helped this process along by setting Ohio's geographic boundaries and making it possible for Ohio to become a state as soon as possible. (Even though Ohio had only a little more than 45,000 citizens at this point, Congress determined that the population would exceed the required number by the time all of the statehood paperwork was done.)

The Enabling Act also called for a state convention, with attending delegates to discuss a state constitution. This convention began in November 1802. The delegates were split along party lines, with two delegates belonging to neither party. Most of the delegates, 26 of the 35, were Democratic-Republicans, however, and so the state constitution blueprint that the convention as a whole drafted included provisions for a weak central government, one of the main political beliefs of the Democratic-Republican Party. Northwest Territory Governor St. Clair, a Federalist, got involved, giving a speech that urged his fellow Federalists to hold out for something more to their liking. Then-President Thomas Jefferson, himself a Democratic-Republican, removed St. Clair from office and ordered the state constitution approved as it was. In the end, only one Federalist opposed the constitution.

The final vote was taken and ratified on November 29, 1802. The United States Congress approved the constitution on February 19, 1803, and Ohio became the 17th state on that day.

Among the provisions of the state constitution was a legislative branch that had power over the governor in that he couldn't veto any laws passed by the two houses of the General Assembly, the House and Senate. Representatives served only one year, and Senators served two. The General Assembly also selected state judges and had approval power over the governor's appointments. Slavery was prohibited in the new state of Ohio, although African-Americans could not vote.

First page > In the Beginning > Page 1, 2

Graphics courtesy of ArtToday


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