Saturday, October 5, 2019

The History of an Ohio Farm: From President John Adams to Grandpa Thomas Kirk

In the summer of 2017, I stood on the Licking County, Ohio land that my fifth great-grandfather Thomas Kirk once owned in the early part of the 19th century.

In the 200 years since he purchased the property, the landscape had changed considerably. His 100 acres of farmland were now developed with homes and manicured lawns and trees that obfuscated the original contours of the property. Despite the evolution, I could sense the history of the land.

Gazing towards Thomas Kirk's 100-acre farmland
Licking Township, Licking County, Ohio

It was this land that Thomas sold on March 1, 1838, to Charles Wallace for $2,000. This sale price represented a whopping return on Thomas' initial $175 investment. Over a span of 26 years, the value of the 100 acres grew more than 1,000%.

Perhaps the close proximity to the recently-built National Road made the land a lucrative investment. Profits aside, it may have been the sheer beauty of the land that prompted Wallace to make the purchase. A private family history on the shelves of the Licking County Genealogical Library includes a handwritten note:

"Charles Wallace worked on the 'National Pike' from 1828 on to 1835 part time from before Wheeling to Springfield [Illinois]. He rode horse back with saddle bags and superintended the masonry all along and when pay day came he paid off the men working on the stone culverts, some of which are still standing and being used. Going back and forth so many trips between Wheeling and Columbus he thought this farm was the prettiest between these two places... He thought about these things for a long time... finally he bought this farm."
March 1, 1838 deed of sale: Thomas Kirk sold 100 acres in
Licking Township, Licking County, Ohio to Charles Wallace.

Over a quarter century earlier, Thomas had bought the 100-acre farm from John and Margaret (Kirk) Beard. On January 25, 1812, in his first documented land transaction, Thomas paid the Beards $175 "current money of the United States" for 100 acres - a tract of land "situated in the Fourth Section, First Township and Twelfth United States Military Range."

January 25, 1812 deed of sale: Thomas Kirk bought 100 acres in
Licking Township, Licking County, Ohio from John Beard

Where did John Beard get the land from? On March 23, 1807, "John Beard of Fairfield County" (the county from which Licking was formed in 1808) paid Samuel Dick $700 for 400 acres located in "that certain tract or parcel of land...of the fourth quarter of the first township of the twelfth range of the tract appropriated for satisfying warrants for military services held by deed from Martin Baum and William C Schinek of the date of the 20th September in the year one thousand eight hundred..."

March 23, 1807 deed of sale: John Beard bought 400 acres in
Fairfield County, Ohio from Samuel Dick

Nearly seven years earlier on September 20, 1800, Martin Baum and William C. Schenek "...both of the United States territory north west of the river Ohio..." sold to Samuel Dick "...for and in consideration of the sum of five shillings to them in hand well and truly paid..." 2,800 acres belonging to "...a certain tract or parcel of land being a part of the fourth quarter of the first township in the twelfth range of the tract appropriated for satisfying warrants for military services..."

September 20, 1800 deed of sale: Samuel Dick bought 2800 acres in the fourth
quarter, first township, twelfth range from Martin Baum & William Schenek

Licking County's Engineer shared a modern map where he highlighted the border of the fourth quarter, helping to identify the land.

Only months earlier on March 29, 1800, Martin Baum and William C. Schenek were granted 4,000 acres "being the fourth quarter of the first township in the twelfth range of the tract appropriated for satisfying warrants for military services" by President John Adams.

March 29, 1800 military service land grant from President John Adams
to Martin Baum and William C. Schenek

Over 38 years and several owners, the land once farmed by my fifth great-grandfather traced its ownership origins to President Adams who doled it out to two men in recognition of military service to the United States, and who, in turn, sold it for mere shillings.

Have you traced your ancestral land back or forward in time? What did you discover?


  1. Working on a similar project for two tracts of land my ancestor William JOHNSON sold in 1798. I was always too scared to work with land records but once I learned more about them it got easier. Great post, Michael.

    1. I just found a land record yesterday that included a history of ownership for the property which gave the name of the father for the current land owner. Land records can be real treasures, especially for folks born before vital records.

  2. Fascinating! So John Beard paid $700, but Thomas Kirk bought it for only $175 and sold it for $2000. Do you think Thomas got such a good deal from John because there was a familial tie to John's wife?

    1. John paid $700 for 400 acres, but Thomas only bought 100 acres, which would come out to $175 per 100 acres. Apparently the family discount was "you pay what I paid." :)

    2. Ah, I missed that critical detail! Sorry!