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Wilma A. Dunaway.


In Appalachia in the Making: The Mountain South in the Nineteenth Century,  edited by Mary Beth Pudup, Dwight Billings, and Altina Waller (University of North Carolina Press, 1995).

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This Article Is Copyrighted: When citing this article, be sure to cite the book in which it is published, not this website.

Displacement of Native Americans

The British Proclamation Line of 1763 marked the watershed of the Appalachian Mountains as the limits for Euroamerican colonization of North America. (1) Areas west of the Line were reserved as Indian hunting grounds, and families who had "inadvertently seated themselves upon any lands. . . reserved to the Indians" were ordered "to remove themselves from such settlements." However, Tidewater planters had been engaged in speculation in lands beyond this Line since the 1740s. Consequently, permanent settlements had already been established too far west along the Virginia frontier. Needless to say, speculators were not deterred by the constraints of the Proclamation Line. For example, George Washington admonished his planter associates that they should not neglect the opportunity "of hunting out good lands, and in some measure marking and distinguishing them. . . (in order to keep others from settling them). (2)

In Southern Appalachia, Euroamerican resettlement could not advance until several Native American groups had been displaced. By the early 1700s, the Tuscaroras, the Senedos, the Toteros and the Shawnees had been pushed westward by Colonial encroachments. However, the largest indigenous Appalachian populations were the Cherokees who claimed almost all the region's lands and a few Creeks who resided in present-day northern Alabama. (3)  Virginia, North Carolina and Georgia titled indigenous lands to speculators and to war veterans long before cessions had been negotiated with residents peoples. Worse, land companies organized their own treaty meetings in order to secure illegal acquisitions. In the face of Royal edicts against private claims on Indian lands, the Transylvania Company arranged the lease-purchase of 20,000,000 acres of Cherokee lands located in present-day Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina. After the heads of the Loyal and Greenbrier Companies were appointed as boundary commissioners at the 1770 treaty of Lochaber, the new line was run far enough west to clear 800,000 acres of western Virginia lands for resale and resettlement. The Ohio Company of Virginia even attempted to weaken Cherokee control over their lands by extending "them Credit for [goods] in the Companies Store." (4)

As a result of such maneuvering, bloody land disputes between the Indians and white encroachers continued along the Southern Appalachian frontier until after the Revolutionary War. Between 1763 and 1773, settlers engrossed 4,545,908 acres from the indigenous peoples. By the end of the Revolutionary War, Cherokee territory had been diminished by nearly sixty percent. Between 1800 and 1819, the Cherokees "ceded" an additional 3,000,000 acres of their hunting grounds and their settled areas, leaving only a small enclave of Cherokee and Creek villages in southeastern Tennessee, western North Carolina, northern Georgia, and northern Alabama. Federal legitimation of state control over local Indians, intense racism, planter pressures for fresh cotton lands, and the discovery of gold in Indian territory culminated in the forced removals of the remaining Cherokees and Creeks from Southern Appalachia between 1832 and 1838. (5)

No Public Domain in Southern Appalachia

Southern Appalachia was never a unified frontier; in reality, the region was resettled in four major historical stages. Before the 1763 Proclamation Line had been mandated, repopulation was well underway in western Maryland, the Valley of Virginia, northwestern South Carolina, and West Virginia's eastern and Ohio-River edges. In a second phase, upper east Tennessee, northwestern North Carolina and the area around Madison County, Kentucky were re-peopled between 1770-1789. In the flurry of post-Revolutionary expansion, emigrants flowed into eastern Kentucky, the Cumberland Plateau of middle Tennessee, southwestern North Carolina, and central West Virginia. The final era of resettlement did not occur until the later 1830s-- after the forced removal from Southern Appalachia of the remaining Native Americans. (6)

Except for northern Alabama, Southern Appalachia's lands were redistributed long before federal land policy had been formulated. Consequently, westward movement into the Appalachian frontiers involved private acquisition of the state-controlled holdings of Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia and South Carolina. Moreover, the federal laws designed to establish the rights of small homesteaders and squatters came too late to benefit Appalachia's poorer landless emigrants; for the Midwest was the first frontier to be impacted by nationally-regulated land policies and homestead provisions.

By the mid-1700s, a few of the wealthiest Tidewater planters and British Court favorites had expropriated much of the Valley of Virginia and western Maryland. By the 1730s, Blue Ridge Virginia and present-day West Virginia had been carved into large estates. (7) The Ohio Company absorbed a large slice of the remaining frontier, by negotiating a Crown grant for 500,000 West Virginia acres. The Greenbrier Company and the Loyal Company engrossed more than 300,000 acres in eastern West Virginia and southwestern Virginia. During the 1740s, Tidewater merchant capitalists gained control of four-fifths of the surveyed lands in western Maryland. Practically every wealthy Maryland Tidewater planter or merchant speculated in that state's Appalachian lands. In western North Carolina, a few Virginia Tidewater planter families, the Loyal Company and the Henderson Company engrossed much of the northern sector. (8)

Absentee Engrossment on the Southern Appalachian Frontier

By the turn of the nineteenth century, northeastern merchant capitalists, land companies and southern planters had amassed a whopping majority of all Southern Appalachian lands. During the frontier years, absentee landholders owned three-quarters of the region's total acreage, as Table 1 demonstrates. In Virginia and West Virginia, little acreage was left for residents. After 1790, distant speculators gobbled up more than 90% of the lands when the Virginia Assembly began to sell its frontier areas at very cheap prices.

In 1793, the Virginia Treasury was peddling Appalachian lands for an average of two cents per acre. The effect of selling at below-market valuations was to stimulate distant brokerage-house trading in Virginia Treasury warrants. After Virginia opened her western lands for sale in 1792, the state sold 2,590,059 acres just to fourteen speculators. Within less than five years, Virginia's flooding of northeastern markets with these cheap warrants had thrown her Appalachian lands "into the hands of a few individuals." (9)

By examining land grants made in this era, it is possible to assess the extent to which acreage was falling into the hands of settlers. In three West Virginia counties, the absentee landholders were predominantly speculators from other states-- with fewer than a quarter of the grantees being West Virginians who resided outside the county in which the lands were situated. It is likely that investors were already gambling on amassing mineral lands. The greatest level of distant speculation and the largest grants occurred in the mountainous county (Randolph) where more than nine-tenths of the lands were allocated to absentees; and each speculator averaged 21,980 acres. Four-fifths of the ridge-valley county (Hampshire) parcels accrued to nonresidents who averaged 706 acres each. The least distant trading was directed toward the hill-plateau county (Monogalia), but nonresidents still monopolized more than two-thirds of the granted parcels and averaged 2,405 acres each. (10)

Because the region's most intense speculation occurred in the frontiers that had been shaped by the land policies of Virginia, east Kentucky also experienced high levels of engrossment. It is likely that absentee ownership of east Kentucky lands was even higher than the 56% reflected in Table 1, for many local courthouse officials colluded with distant speculators to have their tax records "disappear." One gubernatorial assessment points out that the major weakness of the state's nineteenth-century tax system was that "much land of non-residents [was] not listed." By the end of the 1700s, one-quarter of the entire area of Kentucky had been claimed by twenty-one land barons. By late 1794, northeastern land mongers were pouring into Kentucky to speculate in Virginia military and treasury warrants, often obtained through distant brokerage houses. Since nearly four-fifths of east Kentucky's land claims were made by absentee speculators, it is likely that three-quarters or more of east Kentucky's frontier lands were held by absentees. (11)

In 1783, North Carolina threw open its own western sector and the lands of Tennessee for purchase, at very cheap prices. Shortly, North Carolina land jobbers began a speculative rampage that resulted in the disposal of 4,000,000 acres within seven months. In Tennessee, merchant capitalists, land companies and distant planters amassed more than two-thirds of the Appalachian lands (see Table 1). The John Gray Blount Land Company (owned by an eastern North Carolina planter-shipping magnate) effected a virtual monopoly in the acquisition of state land warrants, netting 1,184,460 acres in western North Carolina and Tennessee that were marketed in the northeast and in Europe. In 1795, the Blounts owned almost the entire land area of present-day Hawkins County in east Tennessee. Obviously, the Blounts had expectations of financial windfalls on the expanding frontiers. Perhaps their most elaborate scheme was the proposed joint development with a New York capitalist of a 150-mile-square city adjoining Knoxville; lots for the new city of Palmyra were to be sold only in Europe. (12)

Soon after the Revolutionary War, a few absentee speculators-- predominantly North Carolina planter-merchants or state officials and eastern capitalists-- monopolized all the available lands in western North Carolina. Kept by a Philadelphia capitalist during his travels through western North Carolina, a 1795 business journal provides unique insights into the techniques utilized by absentee investors to engross the Southern mountains. The "spirit of specewlation" was pandemic in North Carolina's small towns and courthouses where each "confab on the Business" pointed the outsider to land trades with nearly every new acquaintance. In less than three wintry weeks, John Brown "Procured near five hundred thousand Acrs" in Buncombe, Burke and Wilkes Counties. State Assemblymen and county surveyors were bribed to manage paperwork favorably and to delay fees, but "keep it secret." The State Treasurer even forewarned him to hasten his filings in order to circumvent the stricter regulations to be enacted by an impending new law. When other tactics did not produce quick results, Brown even tried to convince a Buncombe County official to "sell his place as surveyor" to a more cooperative crony. (13)

The earliest grants in 1787 were to North Carolina planter-officials Davidson and Moore for several thousand acres in Buncombe, Burke and Rutherford Counties-- including all the best agricultural lands along the Swannanoa River. In the early 1790s, John Gray Blount acquired 496,640 acres-- encompassing half the land area of Madison, Yancey and Buncombe Counties. Forty absentee speculators engrossed the entire land area of present-day McDowell County. Eastern mineral speculators William Cathcart and George Latimer agglomerated 332,780 acres-- incorporating all of Mitchell and Avery Counties and most of Jackson County. In addition, North Carolina planter families and state officials-- such as the Alexanders, Sharpes, Davidsons, Robert Henry, Waightstill Avery, Lambert Clayton, and Ephraim George-- invested their own money and that of eastern backers in huge tracts of Appalachian land. David Allison absorbed 250,240 acres, embracing most of Haywood County and about half of Buncombe County. Philadelphia merchant capitalist Tench Coxe accumulated thousands of acres east and west of the Blue Ridge. Holdimon and Eschlemon amassed 200,960 acres-- comprising two-thirds of present-day Jackson, Swain and Macon Counties. (14)

These engrossers paid only fifty shillings to one pound per 100 acres for western North Carolina holdings. Subsequently, they resurveyed their plats into smaller parcels, advertized in eastern cities, and sold farms at considerable profit. Due to the insider monopolizing techniques of such capitalists, it is likely that much more than the 43% of western North Carolina territory reflected in Table 1 remained in the hands of absentee holders in the early 1800s. Probably, nonstate investors are under-represented in these early tax lists due to their evasive and illegal tactics. In order to side-step the North Carolina law requiring land claimants to be state residents, speculative claims were registered in the names of local agents. For example, Philadelphia capitalist John Brown paid several locals to make entries in their own names for more than 1,133,000 acres. (15)

Similarly, absentee speculators amassed more than half the acreage of northwestern South Carolina (see Table 1). By examining the early deeds of this area, we can get a unique glimpse into how frontier land transfers were transacted. To measure the extent to which land was being acquired by local people, I categorized all 374 land transactions that occurred between 1789-1792. Less than one-half (174) of the deeds were made between resident buyers and sellers; however, 200 (53.5%) of the deeds were made to absentees. In nearly one-third of the transactions, residents made deeds to absentees; and another one-fifth of the land sales were paper trading between distant buyers and sellers. Only four of the deeds represented estate settlements, and all of these transferred the land to nonresidents, not to local family heirs. Two of the deeds resulted from public auctions of land to settle unpaid debts or taxes, a favored technique by which frontier speculators amassed holdings cheaply. In sharp contrast, only twenty-two (5.9%) of the sales were transactions in which absentee sellers turned over lands to actual settlers. In short, distant trading occurred routinely; acreage was filtering down very slowly to resident farmers; and there was little evidence that local family members were inheriting land. (16)

In contrast, less distant trading occurred in western Maryland than in any of the other Southern Appalachian zones. Investors were less attracted to speculate there because Maryland's quitrents, prices and taxes were higher than those in Virginia or Pennsylvania. Moreover, Maryland Tidewater planters monopolized the Appalachian lands, squeezing out-of-state speculators out of the market. (17)

Much of the explanation for western Maryland's lower levels of engrossment lies in the land regulations enacted there. Four key redistribution policies set Maryland apart from all the other Southern Appalachian states. In contrast to Virginia and North Carolina where wealthier officers could appropriate a military bounty of up to 10,000 acres, Maryland awarded officers only one hundred acres. Registration of land records and taxation were decentralized into Maryland counties, beginning in 1671-- making absentee tax avoidance more difficult. In addition, Maryland had passed eighteenth-century legislation to reserve parcels to parties who would cultivate it: a land policy that was not duplicated by any other Southern Appalachian state. Finally, Maryland legislated positions for nine public surveyors for each county, as early as 1718-- a precedental maneuver that averted the quagmire of duplicated claims that plagued the rest of the region. (18)

Who Were the Capitalists Involved in Appalachian Speculation?

Table 2 permits an even closer pinpointing of the types of profiteers who invested in the westward expansion of Southern Appalachia. Absentee planters and merchant capitalists owned most of the lands in Southern Appalachia, except in western Maryland. Even though small investors made up a majority of the total number of absentee holders, they owned only a very small portion of the total land area. Distant trading was facilitated by brokerage houses in Richmond, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., New York and Boston where military land warrants were bought for resale and margin trading. Brokerage houses traded in scrip or warrants (claims for acreage) and shares (in land companies' stocks). The most wealthy capitalists, like Robert Morris of the North American Land Company, engaged in the practice of dodging, by which the speculator sold lands in Europe before acreage or warrants were actually purchased on Appalachian frontiers. (19)

Land companies were active in every section of the region, but northeastern merchants were particularly oriented toward Virginia, West Virginia and Tennessee-- where nearly three-fourths of the total absentee acreage was under their control (see Table 2). Regionally-based merchants and planters made up another powerful market segment for trading in Appalachian lands. Wealthier elites in adjacent counties of the same state accumulated sizeable holdings through public auctions, inheritance, speculative trading in rental properties, and the operation of absentee-owned plantations. (20)

Early nineteenth-century trading in Southern Appalachian lands evolved into an interlocking, systematic network in which distant speculators utilized several levels of petty capitalists to acquire, to market, to defend and to lease their frontier investments. Financiers relied on land jobbers to manage their extensive holdings. Such men, like Daniel Boone for the Transylvania Company or Uria Brown of Baltimore, were hired on commission to mark off frontier tracts, supervise surveys, pay taxes, deal with courthouse officials or local attorneys, effect tenancy agreements, and vend agricultural produce collected in rents. Jobbers "set out [to the frontier] on the business of speculating on military land warrants." (21)

In dealing with the adverse claims of small West Virginia homesteaders in the early 1800s, Uria Brown demonstrated the crucial role played by the land jobbers in protecting the interests of distant engrossers against settlers and squatters who lacked political connections and legal sophistication. Following the advice of another jobber (an agent for holdings extending from the Mississippi River to western Pennsylvania), Brown determined to "Appear solid & firm & presist in Establishing the rights of Lands" claimed by his client, a Baltimore capitalist; "as the Tuffest skin shall hold out the Longest; & surveys on surveys is there nee Deep and deeper." (22)

Three other types of professionals were also essential to the land speculation process. Local attorneys often contracted with parties holding military warrants to "carry the claim into grant," the legal fee being one-half the land. In addition, lawyers settled adverse claims and managed the lands of absentee heirs. Some of these frontier lawyers, such as O.P. Temple of east Tennessee, David Goff of Randolph County, West Virginia or Lewis Maxwell of Weston, West Virginia, amassed their own estates by utilizing "insider" information about client's claims to acquire their own choice holdings. For instance, Maxwell allowed the taxes on a client's lands to become delinquent; then he bought them at public auction. He responded to a complaint from this client by countering "I cannot act as agent for you to pay taxes on the land you claim. The same land was sold to me. . . and I have a deed for it. I have paid the taxes thereon and have tenants now in possession of the land." (23)

Surveyors, like George Washington or William Calk, reconnoitered newly-opened frontiers. By laying off large tracts into smaller farm parcels that ran "to the top of them mountains," such entrepreneurs made Appalachian holdings more profitable to sellers who could co-mingle cultivable acreage with steep woodlands. Seeing no conflict with their public duties, county surveyors routinely offered their services to large landholders. For instance, the public surveyor for Lewis County, West Virginia, advertised his services to one absentee land baron, assuring him that he made "a business of hunting up land and surveying it on commission for men liveing at a distance." (24)

Such courthouse officials sought to make their own fortunes by engaging in land ventures. Distant speculators employed local discoverers, often petty bureaucrats, to select and survey lands purchased by means of military warrants. John May, for instance, amassed a vast empire in east Kentucky lands while serving as court clerk of Jefferson County. When land jobber Uria Brown complained about the large bill for delinquent taxes on an absentee parcel of 50,000 acres, the court clerk of Harrison County, West Virginia offered "for $150.00. . . to get a Law passed by the Legislature of Virginia to strike off all the taxes." In the case of Alexander Quarrier, public corruption was even more aggressively proffered. While Kanawha County tax assessor, Quarrier served absentee engrossers by arranging for their delinquent taxes to "disappear" from public records. For example, he wrote to land baron Eugene Levassor that "the Sheriff is always in my debt. . . but recollect his list of delinquent lands are every year returned to me, and it is my duty to certify copies of these delinquents to the auditors at Richmond; of course your lands are not on this list. And the best evidence that the taxes are paid is that they are not returned delinquent. And I beg you to be assured that so long as I live your interests here shall suffer in nothing that I can avert." (25)

Land speculation was the fervor of the times, and even small local farmers and middling planters engaged in the marketing of this seemingly-endless commodity. Frontier landholders with surplus acres frequently sold, traded or rented acreage. The resident elite, like Thomas Jefferson (Albermarle, Virginia), Albert Gallatin (Monogalia, West Virginia), or William Lenoir (Caldwell, North Carolina) accumulated thousands of the region's acres. However, the wealthiest Appalachians also engaged in long distance land speculation, investing their accumulated dollars outside the region. (26)

Many local merchants and planters acted as the county agents for distant capitalists. Land barons, like Eugene Levassor, followed the practice of selecting "an agent in each county where the land lies." These petty capitalists handled sales and collected rents for one-third commission, plus expenses. Even wage laborers engaged in land speculation. Tenants were employed to move to the frontier to "seat" large holdings and prepare the land for occupance by a later purchaser. Without settling on the land, outlyers made minor improvements on the speculator's holdings to meet legal requirements. Some local people were even hired by land jobbers to "destroy the Corners of Unseated Lands" to enlarge the boundaries of newly-surveyed claims. (27)

Speculation and Landlessness on the Appalachian Frontier

Through their land-engrossing strategies, distant merchant capitalists, absentee planters and local elites choreographed-- rather clumsily-- the advancing resettlement of Southern Appalachia. Eager for wealth accumulation, Tidewater planters and northeastern merchants systematically engaged in profit-oriented tactics that bypassed small homesteaders or kept prices out of their reach. By 1810, the repopulation of Virginia's frontier areas was lagging behind that of the rest of the region. Even though emigration began there fifty years later, North Carolina, Tennessee and South Carolina were repopulated at a faster pace than were the Virginia-controlled frontiers. West Virginia was re-inhabited much more slowly than western Maryland, even though there was little topographical difference between the two areas and even though emigration into Maryland began a decade later. The principal reason that West Virginia had not been more fully resettled by the 1780s "[wa]s that the greater part if not all the good Lands, on the main river, [we]re in the hands of persons who d[id] not incline to reside thereon themselves, and possibly h[e]ld them too high for others." (28)

There can be little doubt that the morass of overlapping titles and official collusion with absentee engrossers slowed repopulation of Southern Appalachian frontiers. In an 1816 report, Kentucky's auditor lamented that the state had mistakenly sold thousands of acres belonging to resident small holders, even after they had faithfully paid taxes upon their purchases from out-of-state sellers. Kentucky's land titling was so haphazard that absentees sold lands to residents without transferring deeds, then the State confiscated such lands when the out-of-state seller failed to pay taxes. (29) An early nineteenth-century land jobber prophesied the two-century-long litigation that would ensue from hastily-drawn boundaries and multiple titling. Uria Brown wrote in his 1816 journal that Ohio speculators "would purchase no Lands in Virginia at any price: for the Titles of Land there was worse than the Titles in Kentucky. Moreover, he predicted, "the titles in Kentucky w[ill] be Disputed for a Centry to Come yet, when it [i]s an old Settled Country." (30)

Throughout the region, speculators held large tracts of land off the market for as long as thirty years, waiting for prices to rise. George Washington's tactics were typical. To one inquiry about his Kanawha County holdings, he replied: "I am not inclined to part with any of these Lands, as an inducement to settle the rest. My mind is so well satisfied of the superior value of them to most others, that there remains no doubt on it of my obtaining my own terms, as the country populates and the situation and local advantages of them unfold." (31) When land was marketed, it was often too expensive for homesteaders. (32) As a result, most of Southern Appalachia's best agricultural lands were inaccessible to small farmers. Consequently, the region was repeopled more slowly than Ohio "where lands [could] be bought in small tracts for farms, by real settlers, at a reasonable rate, whereas the Virginia lands belonging mostly to wealthy and great landholders [were] held at four or five times the Ohio price." (33)

Resettlement was further deterred by land speculators who held large warrants for western lands until their value increased. This practice most directly impacted emigrants to east Kentucky. A 1785 traveller reported seeing 721 ordinary homesteaders in a thirty-mile stretch of the Wilderness Road; however, very few of such poorer landseekers achieved their dream. "And when arrivd at this Heaven in idea," he queried, "what do they find? a goodly land I will allow but to them forbidden Land." (34) Actually, Kentucky redistributed very little land to people who lived on and cultivated the soil. Rather than legislate the transfer of acreage to small homesteaders in the early 1800s, Kentucky's policy makers favored land grants to "monopolizing capitalists" for "the purpose of speculation" and to promote industry. (35) As a result, less than one-third of Kentucky's frontier titles were held by actual inhabitants. In Floyd, Laurel, Pulaski and Whitley Counties, there were no settlement entries among the early grants. (36) Despite legislation restricting Green River claims to squatters who had already resided there one year, Kentucky even sold more than three-fourths of that land to absentee speculators. (37)

Capitalistic speculation not only deterred resettlement of Southern Appalachia but also stimulated the further concentration of land into the control of settler-elites. In the face of two layers of land engrossment, poorer Appalachians stood little chance of competing for farms or town lots. On the one hand, absentee owners controlled a sizeable majority of the region's lands. On the other hand, local planters, professionals and merchants-- like Virginia's Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky's Peyton Skipwith and Tennessee's John Sevier or William Blount-- also speculated and amassed sizeable holdings. (38) As a result, Southern Appalachia's frontier lands were very inequitably distributed. The commodification of land was so extensive that the soil was monopolized by the privileged local elites as the basis for sustaining their social and economic status within a highly polarized economic structure. The wealthiest quartile of households engrossed more than four-fifths of the region's resident-held acres. (39) In western Maryland and western North Carolina, the top quartile engrossed two-thirds of the resident-held acreage. One-quarter of the east Tennessee and east Kentucky families monopolized more than three-quarters of all acres titled to residents. Nine-tenths of the resident-owned acreage of Appalachian Virginia and West Virginia was held by only one-quarter of the households. At the most extreme, the top 15% of Appalachian South Carolina households owned all the resident acreage. Moreover, the "engrossing of the better lands by the great planters. . . had a part in pushing the poore and less efficient producers back from the rivers onto the ridges and westward away from navigable rivers." (40) In Frederick County, Virginia, for instance, the largest plantations and towns were situated in the eastern Shenandoah Valley; smaller holdings were more often located in the western part of the county, toward the mountains and foothills. (41)

By the end of the 1790s, absentee speculators controlled a majority of Southern Appalachia's lands; however, most of the emigrants flowing into the region were poor. Contrary to our historical mythology, there was little prospect for a poor family to acquire land in Southern Appalachia. There was no free land, and none of the state land laws conceded rights to "trespassers having no color of title." Consequently, many early squatters were pushed off their improved land by those holding grants or military warrants. (42) For instance, when the Transylvania Company arrived to lay off a new town in east Kentucky, they displaced such a group of squatters. "About fifty men, most of them young persons without families" were "determined to live in the country", after they had emigrated from Pennsylvania. The trespassers "had got possession some time before" the Company arrived; and they had proceeded to make improvements. However, Transylvania officials scoffed that such poor transients lacked the means "to hold land." (43)

Settlers were even charged for acreage to which they had been granted "preemption" rights; and squatters were liable for damages to absentee holdings, under legislation like Kentucky's Occupying Claimant's Law. Consequently, land remained inaccessible to the poor; for every Appalachian state sold its public holdings. Moreover, a landless family needed at least $1,000 to set up a forty-acre farm on the frontier. (44) As a result, the region's average and poor populace-- those most dependent upon the soil for survival-- owned very little land. In fact, three-quarters of the Appalachian families owned less than 16% of the resident-held acreage. (45) Even though the extent of land ownership varied slightly Appalachian zone to another, at least two-fifths of settler households in every geographical sector were landless. For Southern Appalachia as a whole, nearly three-fifths of resident households owned no land. (46)

Land Speculation on the Last Indian Frontiers

By 1815, only the Cherokee and Creek territories of Southern Appalachia remained closed to resettlement. During his travels through east Tennessee, a French aristocrat observed that whites had encamped illegally, waiting like vultures for the inevitable demise of the Cherokee Nation. Along the Tennessee River, he observed, "the region's lushness ha[d] attracted several colonists, who settled here despite the proximity of uncontested Cherokee territory." (47) The Cherokees complained repeatedly to the Indian agent about encroachers near their settlements. Even when federal troops removed them, the intruders "returned as thick as crows that are scattered from their food by a person passing on the road, but as soon as he is passed they return again." (48) In northern Alabama, encroachers trespassed on Creek territory, as well. "All along the river [colonists] owned herds of cattle which they kept in the range on the Indian side of it." (49)

After additional Indian cessions and the forced removal of the region's remaining Native Americans between 1815-1835, Southern Appalachia's final frontiers opened in western North Carolina, southeastern Tennessee, northern Georgia and northern Alabama. State redistribution of these acres was even more inequitable than had been late eighteenth-century land dispersion. In a last-ditch move to expel all Cherokees from within their borders, each of the states enacted legislation denying land ownership to Native Americans. Even individual Cherokees, who had been granted small parcels and citizenship by the United States, lost their lands in state sales or were pressured to relinquish title to them. In Tennessee, newly-acquired Cherokee lands were sold in parcels of 160 to 640 acres, at $2.00 to $7.00 per acre. North Carolina surveyed only those lands worth more than fifty cents per acre, auctioning acreage mostly in 640 acre tracts, ranging in price from $4.00 per acre for first-quality to fifty cents per acre for worst quality. (50)

By structuring parcel requirements and prices so that only inferior acreage was within the reach of poorer settlers, state land policies favored large speculators. In addition, absentee buyers circumvented residency requirements by hiring local attorneys or jobbers to act as their agents. Typical of the engrossment which ensued was the agglomeration of thousands of acres through the ninety-six Peet (New Orleans) and Gilbert (New York City) grants in Cherokee, Clay and Graham Counties. (51)

Neither North Carolina nor Tennessee granted preemption rights to poorer settlers. Not until after 1823 did Tennessee acknowledge squatters' needs, by allowing them to purchase for a six-month period their occupied parcels at $1.50 per acre-- a higher price than the twelve-and-a-half cents per acre offered to later nonresidents. Not until thirty years later did North Carolina legislate preemption rights. Beginning in 1850, the state made available to such families previously unsurveyed areas that "were not considered worth twenty cents per acre." In addition to charging them twenty cents per acre, North Carolina required these squatters to pay their own titling costs, even though the state had publicly surveyed earlier grants. (52)

It is enlightening to examine the redistribution of Cherokee lands in Georgia, the only Appalachian state to offer free land. Any resident family head, widow, orphan or veteran was eligible to receive a gold lot or 150 acres, plus 50 acres per family member or slave. In reality, Georgia was not very successful at redistributing these lands to actual settlers. Moreover, Georgia declared squatters on Indian lands ineligible for the lottery. Despite state requirements that grantees live on the awarded parcels for at least five years, nearly half the land was held by absentees, two years after the lottery. In spite of Georgia's "free" acreage policy, sixteen percent of the households held all the land while the majority of Habersham County families remained landless. (53)

Speculation in the Public Domain

After 1819, Southern Appalachia's federal public land opened in northern Alabama. The Huntsville Land Office was overtly corrupt, under the supervision of speculator John Coffee. Coffee's official clique advertised their willingness to "give any information to people wishing to purchase to an advantage." For "a liberal per centum," the land office staff offered to "do business on commission, and receive in pay either a part of the land purchased; or money." In return for his collusion and protection, the clerks paid Coffee half their bribes from selling information, locating tracts, or purchasing lands for engrossers. (54) The public land office reflected the interests of wealthy planters who represented a sizeable proportion of the speculators in northern Alabama. A Winchester, Tennessee lawyer could sit on his porch along the turnpike and watch emigrants "flocking from every quarter of the adjacent territories. A large quantity of the travellers [we]re from old Virginia some of them having a hundred slaves in family." (55)

In addition to activity by the Yazoo Companies and the North American Land Company, numerous small combines of public officials, southern planters and eastern backers engrossed the public domain. Using insider information from Coffee's clerks, syndicates organized to eliminate competition at public sales. By sending scouts out along the roads into Huntsville, these companies persuaded new emigrants to join their ranks, or lose all hope of buying land. At the auctions, the companies operated as cartels to prevent prices from rising above desired levels and to squeeze out contenders for the best river tracts. (56)

In addition, the combines solicited "hush money" from squatters who had already made improvements on acreage, promising that company speculators would not bid against them when their tracts were auctioned. When these monopolies outbid them at the sales, homesteaders were forced to pay higher than the appraised value to retain their improved parcels. Because there was keen rivalry for river and valley tracts, poorer settlers were pushed off such lands. Using insider information and bribes to the combines, planters and company-employed shills bid prices up above the level squatters could afford. Subsequently, the rush for northern Alabama lands generated an intense class struggle, as squatters organized their own schemes to resist the speculators. Teams of settlers rode through the countryside, marking prices on sections that had already been improved. "Those marks they took care to have considerably above the real value of the land. The company purchasers and other men of capital who went to explore the country previous to these sales finding such immense value set upon lands as they supposed, returned home and did not attend the sales." (57)

As a consequence of monopolistic tactics and official fraud, northern Alabama lands were overwhelmingly engrossed by absentee speculators and wealthy settler elites. Because public lands were redistributed in 160-acre parcels at $2.00 per acre, two-thirds of the settler households were priced out of the market and remained landless. Planters were so successful in monopolizing the best agricultural tracts that poorer settlers were driven into the least cultivable sections of northern Alabama. Once squatters were pushed off improved valley holdings, they sought out and resettled tracts not desired by the speculators. Most of the public land entries lay along creeks or streams where the population density was 12-13 people per square mile. Consequently, the poorer squatters resorted to the hillier and more mountainous lands where there were only two persons per square mile in 1820. (58)

Continued Speculation and 1860 Land Ownership Patterns

Land speculation continued well into the mid-nineteenth century, with the active participation of local elites. Throughout the region, absentee owners or their heirs withheld from the market large tracts of land that had been acquired during the late eighteenth century. Such engrossers were always waiting for prices to rise or for future exploitation of minerals or timber. For example, European investors, like those associated with Eugene Levassor, were just beginning to sell their Kentucky and West Virginia holdings in the 1820s. New York land baron John Greig did not dispose of 23,108 acres of prime Monogalia County farms until three decades after the start of resettlement. James Swan and Albert Gallatin retained control over their West Virginia holdings into the 1830s. In addition, investors still collected rents on lots obtained when the frontiers opened; and Appalachian towns were heavily engrossed by absentee speculators. (59)

Well after the frontier years, wealthier planters of eastern Virginia and Bluegrass Kentucky invested part of their profits in nearby Appalachian holdings. Beginning in the mid-1800s, local elites also bought up Appalachian mineral lands for distant capitalists. For example, O.P. Temple of Knoxville represented eastern interests in the Ducktown, Tennessee copper mines; and he assisted a Philadelphia firm to acquire Campbell County mineral lands. Johnson N. Camden, John W. Marshall, and Henry O. Middleton often utilized Philadelphia and New York backing to purchase West Virginia mineral holdings. (60)

Local merchants, lawyers or public officials continued the frontier practice of serving as agents to lease acreage, invest in mineral holdings or market timber for absentee owners. For instance, William McCoy and John Rogers managed rental properties in nine West Virginia counties for distant investors. (61) Facing the threat of passage of the Homestead Act in the 1850s, local land agents advised engrossers to move quickly to dispose of their Appalachian holdings, before emigrants were attracted to cheaper Far Western opportunities. Lewis Maxwell warned several of his clients that the Homestead Bill had not passed Congress "but will likely do so in a year or two, if so such land must fall in value. I believe that lands in this section of Country will sell higher the present and next year than at any time thereafter for the next ten years." (62)

Because they could not "sell profitably" to Southern Appalachia's landless families, land speculators advertised their holdings in Europe to attract foreign immigrants. In 1845, for example, Cincinnati merchant Louis Chitti advertised in Europe 200,000 acres of Levassor's holdings in Lewis, Doddridge and Gilmer Counties for the establishment of new immigrant "colonies in Western Virginia." (63) As a direct result of such long-term investment strategies, land was out of the reach of at least half of Southern Appalachia's settler families. With so many large tracts of the region's lands concentrated into the hands of absentee speculators and local elites, acreage was neither cheap nor easily acquired. Consequently, nearly half the region's households remained landless in 1860. (64)


Half a century before the decolonization of North America from the British Empire, southern planters and eastern capitalists expropriated vast territories of Southern Appalachia from the Native American groups who lived and hunted there. In the econo-cultural collision which followed, new settlers displaced the Tuscaroras, the Shawnees, the Senedos and the Toteros and forcibly expropriated the ancestral lands of the Cherokee Nation. Once the frontiers had been depopulated of their indigenous inhabitants, speculator and settler capitalism expanded into the region.

An interlocking network of distant brokerage houses, planters, merchants, corrupt local officials and resident petty capitalists structured the redistribution of land on the Appalachian frontiers. By 1810, three-quarters of the region's acreage was absentee-owned; and distant speculators laid out towns, sold or leased farms to settlers, and engrossed areas believed to offer wealth in minerals. Because of the concentration of land into the hands of a few absentee speculators and local elites, resettlement of the region was deterred. There was no such thing as "free" land or "squatters" rights on the Southern Appalachian frontiers; yet a majority of the emigrants to the region after the Revolutionary War were too poor to afford the prices set by speculators. Consequently, land provided the economic basis for the structuring of a polarized Appalachian society in which the wealthy gentry amassed a majority of the acreage while more than half the settler households remained landless.


1. Funding for this research has been provided by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation and by an Appalachian Studies Fellowship from Berea College. To permit the broadest analysis of the region's diversity, I have utilized the boundaries for Southern Appalachia that are described in John C. Campbell, The Southern Highlander and His Homeland (New York: Russell Sage Foundation, 1921).

2. First quote is from 1763 Proclamation in Charles J. Kappler, Indian Affairs--Laws and Treaties (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1903-29), 4: 1172. Phyllis R. Abbott, "The Development and Operation of an American Land System to 1800." (Ph.D. diss., University of Wisconsin, 1959); B.A. Hinsdale, "The Western Land Policy of the British Government from 1763 to 1775," Ohio Archaeological and Historical Publications 1 (1887): 207-29. Delf Norona, ed., "Joshua Fry's Report on the Back Settlements of Virginia (May 8, 1751)," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 46 (1948). Second quote is from Worthington C. Ford, ed., The Writings of George Washington (New York, 1889), 2: 220.

3. The Tuscarora were pushed inland from coastal areas in several historical stages. In one era, they settled in Amherst, Nelson and Bedford Counties in Virginia. Shawnee villages had existed in western Maryland, western North Carolina, Frederick County, Virginia, and parts of West Virginia. The Senedos and the Toteros were semi-nomadic peoples who had lived along the river banks in the Blue Ridge foothills. See Louis Evans, General Map of the Middle British Colonies and of the Country of the Confederate Indians (Philadelphia: 2nd Ed., 1755); Archives of Maryland, 23 (1884); Margaret T. Peters, A Guidebook to Virginia's Historical Markers (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1985); William G. Lord, Blue Ridge Parkway Guide (Washington, DC: Eastern Acorn Press, 1: 139.9; 2: 383.5. The histories of these Native American nations are detailed in numerous other sources and, for that reason, will not be repeated here. See, for example: R.S. Cotterill, The Southern Indians: The Story of the Civilized Tribes before Removal (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1954); Louis DeVorsey, The Indian Boundary in the Southern Colonies, 1763-1775 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1961).

4. DeVorsey, The Indian Boundary; Philip M. Hamer, Tennessee, A History 1673-1932. (New York: American Historical Society, 1933), 1: 241. Archibald Henderson, "A Pre-revolutionary Revolt in the Old Southwest," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 17 (1930), 198-204; Shaw Livermore, Early American Land Companies: Their Influence on Corporate Development (New York: Octagon Books, 1968), 74-82, 90-97; Marshall Harris, Origin of the Land Tenure System in the United States (Ames: Iowa State College Press, 1953), 301-2. Short quote is from Lois Mulkearn, ed., George Mercer Papers Relating to the Ohio Company of Virginia (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1954), 144.

5. Lewis C. Gray, History of Agriculture in the Southern United States to 1860 (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1958), 1: 123. William L. Anderson, ed., Cherokee Removal Before and After (Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1991), vii-viii. Charles C. Royce, Cherokee Nation of Indians (Washington, DC: Bureau of American Ethnology, 1884). Numerous studies detail these removals; see, for example: Grant Foreman, Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized Tribes of Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953).

6. For information on resettlement phases, see Gray, History of Agriculture, 1: 119-126.

7. The largest of these estates included: Ross and Bryan Grant (100,000 acres); Borden Grant (925,000 acres); Roanoke Grant (100,000 acres); Beverly Manor (118,491 acres); Patton Grant (120,000 acres); Carter Grants (100,000+ acres); Greenway Court and Leeds Manor of Lord Fairfax (100,000+ acres); Van Meter and Kercheval Grants (40,000 acres); McKay and Heyd Grant (100,000 acres); Peyton Randolph (400,000 acres); Bernard Moore (100,000); Hiscock and Griffin (100,000 acres); and Thomas Lewis (100,000 acres). For greater detail, see Charles E. Kemper, "The Settlement of the Valley," Virginia Historical Magazine 30 (1922), 169-82; Kegley's Virginia Frontier, 1740-1783 (Roanoke: Southwestern Virginia Historical Society, 1938), 245; Robert D. Mitchell, Commercialism and Frontier: Perspectives on the Early Shenandoah Valley (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1977), 65; William D. Bennett, "Early Settlement on the New River System." North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal 10 (1984); Warren R. Hofstra, "Land Policy and Settlement in the Northern Shenandoah Valley," in Appalachian Frontiers: Settlement, Society and Development in the Preindustrial Era, ed. R.D. Mitchell (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1991), 109-10.

8. Harris, Land Tenure System, 299-300; Livermore, Land Companies, 74-82; Paula H. Anderson-Green, "The New River Frontier Settlement on the Virginia-North Carolina Border, 1760-1820," Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 86 (1978), 416-18; Thomas P. Abernethy, Western Lands and the American Revolution (New York: Appleton-Century, 1937), 5; Elizabeth A. Kessel, "Germans on the Maryland Frontier: A Social History of Frederick County, Maryland, 1730-1800" (Ph.D. diss., Rice University, 1981), 95; Clarence P. Gould, "The Land System in Maryland, 1634-1820," Johns Hopkins University Studies in Historical and Political Science 31 (1913), 86-7; Bennett, "Early Settlement," 22. For example, Daniel Dulaney acquired 16,550 acres which he surveyed into 100 to 300 acre parcels for sale or lease to German emigrants; see Aubrey C. Land, "A Land Speculator in the Opening of Western Maryland," Maryland Historical Magazine 48 (1953).

9. Soltow, "Land Speculation in West Virginia in the Early Federal Period: Randolph County as a Specific Case," West Virginia History, 44 (1983), 111. Gaillard Hunt, ed., The Writings of James Madison (New York: G.P. Putnam's Sons, 1901), 15-17. Henry P. Scalf, Kentucky's Last Frontier (Prestonburg, KY: np, 1966), 469-70. Annals of Congress, 4th Congress, 1st sess., 340.

10. Derived from analysis of all land grants made before 1810 in the West Virginia counties of Randolph, Monogalia, and Hampshire, listed in Sims Index: Land Grants of West Virginia (Charleston, WV: Stat Auditor's Office, 1952). Residents were identified by utilizing an alphabetized statewide listing. For sources and statistical detail, see Wilma A. Dunaway, "The Incorporation of Southern Appalachia into the Capitalist World-Economy, 1700-1860" (Ph.D. diss., University of Tennessee, 1994), Table 3.2.

11. After 1797, Kentucky's nonresident lands were recorded with the State Auditor; and taxes were paid directly to the State Treasury. Consequently, absentee landholders do not appear on county tax lists after 1796. See Nollie O. Taff, History of State Revenue and Taxation in Kentucky (Nashville: George Peabody College, 1931), 17-18. The names of several well-known resident large landholders (e.g., the Clays) do not appear at all in county tax lists, or their names appear in some years but not others. It is likely that county tax assessors extended this exclusionary treatment to wealthy absentees, as well. Short quote is from Governor's Message in Kentucky House Journal, 1869: 5. Paul W. Gates, "Tenants of the Log Cabin," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 49 (1962), 5. Frederika J. Teute, "Land, Liberty and Labor in the Post-revolutionary Era: Kentucky as the Promised Land" (Ph.D. diss., Johns Hopkins University, 1988), 234-6.

12. John was the brother of William Blount, delegate to the Constitutional Convention and first governor of the Territory South of the River Ohio; see Alice B. Keith, "Three North Carolina Blount Brothers in Business and Politics, 1783-1812" (Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, 1940), 108-10; 278-90; 296-8.

13. "John Brown's Journal of Travel in Western North Carolina in 1795," edited by A.R. Newsome, North Carolina Historical Review 11 (1934), 284-313; quotes from pp. 285, 295, 298-9, 303, 313.

14. Ray A. Billington, Westward Expansion: A History of the American Frontier (New York: Macmillan, 1967), 203. The Earl of Granville held the only Colonial grant that encompassed parts of western North Carolina, including much of Randolph, Buncombe and Haywood Counties to the Tennessee state line. Granville had located a land office at Edenton and sold parcels through agents. After the Revolutionary War, this grant was declared forfeit by the Supreme Court; and the lands were largely redistributed. References are to present-day county boundaries in western North Carolina. Information on grants was aggregated from George H. Smathers, The History of Land Titles in Western North Carolina (Asheville, NC: Miller Printing, 1938); Jason B. Deyton, "The Toe River Valley to 1865," North Carolina Historical Review 24 (1947); William D. Bennett, "Josiah Brandon's Burke County, North Carolina, 1777-1800," North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal 7 (1981), 9; Ora Blackmun, Western North Carolina: Its Mountains and Its People to 1880 (Boone, NC: Appalachian Consortium Press, 1977), 1: 164-5.

15. "John Brown's Journal," 284-313.

16. Derived from analysis of all deeds registered in the 1789-1792 Pendleton District deed books. Occupation and residency of buyers and sellers were usually specified; in addition, residency was also checked against the 1790 Census. Estate or debt settlements and public auctions were distinguished from other transfers. For sources and statistical detail, see Dunaway, "Incorporation," Table 3.3.

17. In the 1780s, Maryland lands were selling at an average price of five pounds (more than $20) per acre; see Harris, Land Tenure System, 247. Gould, Land System, 62-3.

18. Lee Soltow, "Land Inequality on the Frontier: The Distribution of Land in East Tennessee at the Beginning of the 19th Century," Social Science History 5 (1981): 282, 290n. For North Carolina and Tennessee military bounties, see Laws or Laws Relative to Lands and Intestate Estates (Knoxville: Roulstone & Wilson, 1800), 35-40. In Virginia, the land office and taxation were centralized at Richmond; see Harris, Land Tenure System, 249, 334-52. In 1782, Kentucky squatters petitioned the Virginia Assembly to require grantees to cultivate and improve the land; see James R. Robertson, Petitions of the Early Inhabitants of Kentucky to the General Assembly of Virginia, 1769 to 1792 (Louisville: Filson Club Publications, 1914), 66-8. However, Virginia never legislated any requirement more than nominal evidence of seating (e.g., constructing a makeshift cabin or use of the land by tenants).

19. 61 sources were utilized to categorize absentee holders, including several genealogical and Census listings and the following sources: W.S. Laidley, "Large Land Owners," West Virginia Historical Magazine 3 (1903), 243; Abernethy, Western Lands, 228; Scalf, Kentucky's Last, 181-2; Robert D. Arbuckle, "John Nicholson, 1757-1800: A Case Study of an Early American Land Speculator, Financier and Entrepreneur" (Ph.D. diss., Pennsylvania State University, 1972), 482-3; Livermore, Land Companies; Bennett, "Early Settlement," 22; Soltow, "Land Speculation." Military land warrants encouraged land engrossment because of the manner in which these bounties were awarded. The acreage was staggered to reflect the status of the soldier so that the wealthiest officers acquired the largest grants of 2,000 acres and more; see Harris, Land Tenure System, 255-67. For information about brokerage houses, see Robert P. Swierenga, "The Western Land Business: The Story of Easley and Willingham, Speculators," Business History 41 (1967). There was extensive brokerage trading in military warrants because most soldiers sold their land bounties; see American State Papers: Public Lands 7: 333-76. For the practice of dodging, see A.M. Sakolski, The Great American Land Bubble: The Amazing Story of Land-Grabbing, Speculations, and Booms from Colonial Days to the Present Time (New York: Harper & Row, 1932): 36, 42,52-3.

20. Southern Appalachian lands were owned by some of the country's wealthiest land barons, including: Henry Banks; Coldwell and Vansweller; Francis and William Deakins; Jonathan DeWitt; Standish Ford; Michael Gratz; Hollingsworth and Pentecost; Robert Morris; Wilson Nicholas; James Swann; William Tilton; and Alexander Walcott (aggregated from 1790-1810 county tax lists). The Louisa Company and the Yazoo Companies were syndicates of merchant and planter capitalists; see Livermore, Land Companies.

21. Quote is from 1787 letter in William Calk Papers, University of Kentucky Library. See jobber ads for military warrants in Kentucky Gazette, 21 April 1792.

22. Brown has left a detailed journal of his early 1800s jobbing for Baltimore capitalists in western Maryland and West Virginia. Quote is from "Uria Brown's Journal of 1816," Maryland Historical Magazine 10-11 (1915-1916), 346. Similar Midwestern land jobbers were found by Paul W. Gates, "The Role of the Land Speculator in Western Development," Pennsylvania Magazine of History 66 (1942), 314-33.

23. Neal O. Hammon, "Land Acquisition on the Kentucky Frontier," Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 78 (1980), 315; Teute, "Land, Liberty," 226. Many letters in O.P. Temple Papers, University of Tennessee and in David Goff Papers, West Virginia University. The quote is from a letter dated 28 July 1850 in Lewis Maxwell Papers, West Virginia University.

24. As a public surveyor, Washington mapped much of the Virginia and West Virginia area where he amassed an estate of 29,754 acres; see John C. Fitzpatrick, ed., The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1939), 37: 295-302. Calk laid off the town of Boonsborough, thereby acquiring prime town lots and linkages to locate prime river lands nearby; see entries dated April, 1775 in "William Calk, His Journal," in Calk Papers. Quote is from a letter from prospective buyer who complained about this surveying method dated 2 January 2 1854 in the Eugene Levassor Papers, West Virginia University; second quote is from letter dated 18 January 1840.

25. Sakolski, Land Bubble, 32. Teute, "Land, Liberty," 225. Short quote is from "Uria Brown's Journal," 365-6. Brown subsequently hired the clerk "as Agent over these several tracts of lands." Long quote is from Quarrier letter dated 17 July 17 1855, Levassor Papers.

26. Information about landholdings of Jefferson and Gallatin aggregated from 1800 county tax lists for Albermarle and Monogalia, Virginia. Maps and plats of Gallatin's lands found in the Felix G. Hansford Papers, West Virginia University. For information about Lenoir, see Bennett, "Early Settlement," 22. The following instances are typical of the investment practices of the region's wealthy elite. Elisha Hall (Frederick, Virginia) developed a syndicate of Philadelphia and Virginia investors who speculated in Blue Grass Kentucky lands; see Hammon, "Land Acquisition." James Lewis (Albermarle, Virginia) invested in Alabama and Mississippi lands; see Gordon T. Chappell, "Some Patterns of Land Speculation in the Old Southwest," Journal of Southern History 15(1949), 467. John Sevier and William Blount (east Tennessee) chartered a company to speculate in Alabama lands around Muscle Shoals; see A. P. Whitaker, "The Muscle Shoals Speculation, 1783-1789," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 13 (1927).

27. First quote is from letter dated 18 November 1854, Levassor Papers. 29 July 1808 Agreement, McCoy Family Papers, West Virginia University. In the mid-1800s, West Virginia merchants Samuel Tolbert (Lewis County) and John Rogers (Monogalia County) acted as agents for out-of-state landowners; see Talbott-Tolbert Family Papers and John Rogers Papers, West Virginia University. Hammon, "Land Acquisition," 310; Reuben G. Thwaites, Travels West of the Alleghanies, III (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1904), 278. Hammon, "Land Acquisition," 308. Second quote is from "Uria Brown's Journal," 363.

28. Writings of Washington, 28: 393.

29. "Report from the State Auditor's Office," 28 December 1816, Kentucky Land Office Records: Nonresident Land Owners, 1792-1843, obtained from the Family History Center, Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.

30. "Uria Brown's Journal," 153-4.

31. Writings of Washington, 28: 436-7.

32. In 1730, Virginia grantees resold Valley lands for six times the purchase price; see Thomas P. Abernethy, Three Virginia Frontiers (Gloucester: Peter Smith, 1962), 55. In 1793, western Maryland agricultural lands within fifteen miles of town were selling for $16 to $24 per acre; see Toulmin, Western Country in 1793, 54. In Tennessee, lands sold for $2 per acre until the 1820s, with much higher prices for river lands. Only the worst mountain acreage sold cheaply at 12.5 cents per acre; see Henry D. Whitney, ed., The Land Laws of Tennessee (Chattanooga, 1891), 58-61.

33. The Virginia lands described in the quote lay in Virginia, West Virginia and Kentucky. See Edward St. Abdy, Residence and Tour in the United States of America (London: John Murray, 1835), 3: 89.

34. "Memorandum of M. Austin's Journey from the Lead Mines in the County of Wythe in the State of Virginia to the Lead Mines in the Province of Louisiana, 1796-1797," American Historical Review 5 (1899-1900), 525-6.

35. "Governor's Message," Kentucky Senate Journal, 1828.

36. Derived from analysis of all 1787-1800 Appalachian land grants in east Kentucky. For sources and statistical detail, see Dunaway, "Incorporation," Table 3.6.

37. Frank W. Porter, "From Backcountry to County: The Delayed Settlement of Western Maryland," Maryland Historical Magazine 70 (1975), 338; G. Hulbert Smith, ed., "A Letter from Kentucky, 1785," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 19 (1932), 93. A similar pattern emerged in West Virginia, where post-revolutionary settlers owned less than 13% of the total acreage in three counties. Abernethy, Western Lands. Only 33.5% of all land grants in Kentucky were settler and preemption claims; see Neal O. Hammon, "Settlers, Land Jobbers, and Outlyers: A Quantitative Analysis of Land Acquisition on the Kentucky Frontier," Register of the Kentucky Historical Society 84 (1986): 250, 259.

38. For examples of local planters who invested in Appalachian lands, see Peyton Skipwith Papers (1796-1798), Filson Club; Thomas Jefferson's Farm Book, edited by Edwin M. Betts (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953); "Journal of John Sevier," Tennessee Historical Magazine 5 & 6 (1919-1920), 156-94; 232-64; 18-68.

39. Derived from analysis of manuscript county tax lists; n = 9,223. For sources and statistical detail, see Dunaway, "Incorporation," Tables A.1 and 3.7.

40. Avery O. Craven, "Soil Exhaustion as a Factor in the Agricultural History of Virginia and Maryland, 1606-1860," University of Illinois Studies in the Social Sciences 13 (1926), 62.

41. Analysis of unpublished 1809 map of Frederick and Jefferson Counties, Virginia, at Library of Congress. See also Hofstra, "Northern Shenandoah," 124.

42. Entry dated 15-16 December 1773 in Executive Journals, 6: 552-4.

43. "Extracts from the Journal of Col. Richard Henderson, 1775," in A Documentary History of American Industrial Society, ed. J. R. Commons et.al. (Cleveland: Arthur H. Clark Co., 1910), 2: 225-6.

44. For example, the Loyal Company charged three pounds per 100 acres for lands to which southwestern Virginia squatters had already been granted preemption; see Abernethy, Western Lands, 90, 218. For other information about treatment of squatters, see Gates, "Tenants," 11-14; Teute, "Land, Liberty," 153. Even poor relief carried a price tag. For example, North Carolina and Virginia enacted poor relief, empowering surveyors to lay off tracts of waste lands for destitute residents. Still, payment was due from the poor within two and a half years; see Smathers, Land Titles, 68; Harris, Land Tenure System, 246. Clarence C. Danhof, "Farm Making Costs and the Safety Valve," Journal of Political Economy 49 (1941).

45. Derived from analysis of manuscript county tax lists; n = 9,223. For sources and statistical detail, see Dunaway, "Incorporation," Tables A.1 and 3.7.

46. Derived from analysis of manuscript county tax lists; n = 9,223. For sources and statistical detail, see Dunaway, "Incorporation," Tables A.1 and 3.8.

47. Stephen Becker, trans., Louis-Phillipe, King of France: Diary of My Travels in America, 1796-99 (New York: Delacorte Press, 1977): 66, 99.

48. The manuscript Records of the Cherokee Indian Agency in Tennessee (1801-1835) indicate the extent of illegal settlement on indigenous lands. For example, see letters or reports dated: 17 June 1803; 26 August 1803; 17 November 1803; 22 February 1805; 25 March 1805; 12 January 1807; 20 February 1807; 22 April 1809; 23 April 1809; 23 May 1809; 6 September 1810; 1 February 1813; 10 February 1813; 2 March 1813; 1 June 1813; 12 September 1813; 18 February 1815; 7 July 1819. Quote is from Turtle-at-Home to Meigs, 1 October 1809.

49. "Autobiography of Gideon Lincecum," Mississippi Valley Historical Review 8 (1910), 448.

50. Smathers, Land Titles, 82-5; Hamer, Tennessee, A History, 1: 255.

51. These lands were purchased from Peet and Gilbert in the early 1900s (see Smathers, Land Titles, 96) by the Champion Paper Company, around which there has been much present-day controversy over environmental degradation.

52. Hamer, Tennessee, A History, 1: 261; Chapter 25, Public Laws of 1850-51, Code of 1883 of North Carolina, 2: 101-5.

53. Analysis of 1820 and 1830 deeds and Census manuscripts. For sources and statistical detail, see Dunaway, "Incorporation," Table 3.9.

54. Chappell, "Some Patterns," 467-8; quote is from Huntsville Republican, 21 January 1818.

55. Letter from James Campbell to Elizabeth Campbell, 18 November 1818, in Campbell Papers, Duke University Library.

56. Chappell, "Some Patterns," 472; Livermore, Land Companies, 146-62; Whitaker, "Muscle Shoals Speculation;" American State Papers: Public Lands 7: 548-9.

57. American State Papers: Public Lands 5: 376-81. Such prime lands sold from $4 to $13.25 per acre; see Malcolm J. Rohrbough, The Land Office Business: The Settlement and Administration of American Public Lands, 1789-1837 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1968), 110-1. Quote is from letter dated 8 January 1819 in Campbell Papers.

58. Powell, "A Description and History of Blount County," Alabama Historical Quarterly 27 (1965), 112-3. John M. Allman, "Yeoman Regions in the Antebellum Deep South: Settlement and Economy in Northern Alabama, 1815-1860" (University of Maryland, Ph.D. diss., 1979), 139.

59. McNall, "John Greig," 527-9; Levassor Papers; George W. Summers, "James Swan's Western Lands," West Virginia Review 12 (1934-5); Dater, "Albert Gallatin." Absentee engrossment of town lots evident from analysis of manuscript county tax lists.

60. For planter investments, see Barbour Account Book (1803-1822), Barbour Family Papers, University of Virginia Library; Warrick Miller Papers (1816-1842), Filson Club; Means-Seaton Papers (1818-1839) and Wickliffe-Preston Papers (1800-1840), University of Kentucky. For mineral investments, see letters dated 29 September 1856 and 14 February 1859 in Temple Papers; many letters and agreements after 1830 in Johnson Newlon Camden Papers, John Williamson Marshall Papers, and Henry O. Middleton Correspondence, West Virginia University.

61. For instance, O.P. Temple of east Tennessee, Lewis Maxwell and David Goff in West Virginia were land agents for absentee landholders; see Temple Papers; Maxwell Papers; Goff Papers. Many lease agreements and letters in McCoy Papers and Rogers Papers.

62. Letter on Virginia Senate Chamber stationery dated 24 March 1853 in Maxwell Papers.

63. Copy of emigrant prospectus and plat maps, Levassor Papers. Also see earlier discussion of the marketing tactics of the John Gray Blount Land Company dealing in Tennessee and North Carolina lands.

64. Derived from analysis of a systematic sample of 3,056 households drawn from the 1860 Census of Population manuscripts. For sources and statistical detail, see Dunaway, "Incorporation," Tables A.4 and 3.10.

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