10 Events That Shaped Cincinnati: Settlers Make Camp on the Ohio River

The families who arrived here didn’t discover this place, but their presence changed the river valley forever.

December 24, 1788

Photograph courtesy of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County

When the flatboats docked on the banks of the Ohio River on December 24, 1788, at what’s now roughly right field at Great American Ball Park, this was the wild frontier of the Northwest Territory. After helping to establish Lexington, Kentucky, Colonel Robert Patterson recruited 11 families and 24 men for a harrowing four-day journey on ice-choked waters from Maysville to Losantiville (loosely translating to “town opposite the Licking River,” and changed to Cincinnati in 1790), where they’d erect a stockade, Ft. Washington. The region’s first settlers, however, were far from its first peoples.

+ Cincinnati Magazine looks at 10 events that set the city on its path to today. See the full list here.

You know how this story ends: the U.S. wins. Ft. Washington was torn down in 1808 to make way for a city more like the one we know today—a city that also isn’t shying away from its past. In October 2018, City Council passed a resolution recognizing Columbus Day as Indigenous Peoples’ Day instead, acknowledgment of the ongoing struggles of the region’s rightful first peoples.In the Ohio Valley, that would have been predominately the prehistoric Hopewell-era Ft. Ancient people, followed by the Miami and Shawnee tribes. The latter were still living here when Benjamin Stites arrived in 1786 and chased them out of the fertile land between the Great Miami and Little Miami rivers. Stites sent word back East and one speculator, New Jersey congressman and judge John Cleves Symmes, acted fast, purchasing 1 million acres (later reduced to 311,682 acres) of what is now Hamilton, Butler, and Warren counties from Congress in 1788. With more settlers moving into native lands, resistance to the newcomers got bloodier, reaching a peak at the battle of the Wabash, near Ft. Recovery, Ohio. Native Americans led by Miami chief Little Turtle killed 918 U.S. soldiers, one of the worst defeats in U.S. military history

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