During the 1780s and 1790s, Israel Ludlow was a surveyor and town planner in the Northwest Territory.
Ludlow was born near Morristown, New Jersey in 1765. His family had come to America in the 1660s from Shropshire in England. Ludlow was trained as a surveyor and, as early as 1787, was employed by Thomas Hutchins, Surveyor General of the United States.
In 1793, Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton hired Ludlow to determine the boundaries of the Symmes Purchase. In 1787, the Confederation Congress sold John Cleves Symmes two million acres of land between the Great and Little Miami Rivers. The Congress allowed Symmes to pay for the land in installments. The first payment was due in August 1788. Symmes could not make payment, and the Confederation Congress agreed to sell Symmes only one million acres of land. Symmes, hoping to make a return on his initial investment, had already sold land from his original two million acres. Ludlow's job was to determine the actual boundaries of the Symmes Purchase. Numerous people who had purchased land from Symmes subsequently realized that Symmes had sold land that he did not own or had sold the same parcel of land to more than one person.
Before Ludlow had surveyed the land for the federal government, he too had purchased land from Symmes. In 1788, Ludlow, Matthias Denman, John Filson, and Robert Patterson purchased eight hundred acres from Symmes along the north side of the Ohio River across from the mouth of the Licking River in Kentucky. Denman and Filson provided the necessary cash; Patterson found settlers; and Ludlow surveyed the land to make sales and established a town. The three men named the town Losantiville. It grew slowly, but by 1790, approximately five hundred people lived in the settlement. The governor of the Northwest Territory, Arthur St. Clair, established Hamilton County and made Losantiville the county seat. St. Clair disliked the name Losantiville and changed the town's name to Cincinnati.
Ludlow also helped found a number of other communities. In 1790, he surveyed and established Ludlow's Station along Mill Creek in the Miami Purchase. Settlers in the area abandoned the site by 1794 in fear of Native American attacks. In 1795, Ludlow laid out the town of Hamilton and platted the town of Dayton. For a time, Ludlow also served as the clerk of courts in Hamilton County.
As settlers flooded into first the Ohio Country and the Northwest Territory, surveyors played an important role in preparing the land for settlement and determining proper land ownership when disputes arose.
Israel Ludlow married Charlotte Chambers in 1786 and the couple had four children over the next several years. Ludlow died in 1804 in Cincinnati. He was thirty-eight years old.