In 1786, a group of men in Massachusetts, including General Rufus Putnam and Brigadier General Benjamin Tupper, founded the Ohio Company of Associates, a real estate company. The Ohio Company of Associates was not affiliated with the earlier Ohio Company.
The Ohio Company of Associates planned to purchase land in the Northwest Territory west of a previously surveyed area called the Seven Ranges. Both Putnam and Tupper had participated in survey expeditions led by Thomas Hutchins and believed that the region had great potential for land speculation.
The company first chose Samuel Holden Parsons to represent their interests to the American government, but when he was unsuccessful in his mission, the company replaced him with the Reverend Manasseh Cutler. Cutler worked with Treasury Board assistant William Duer and president of the Confederation Congress Arthur St. Clair to negotiate an arrangement for the purchase of the land. The Ohio Company of Associates purchased 1,500,000 acres of land, agreeing to pay $500,000 immediately and another $500,000 payment once survey work was finished. Congress allowed the company to pay for part of the land using military warrants. This created a very favorable arrangement for the investors since less cash was required to make the purchase. In the end, the investors paid about eight and one-half cents per acre. In order to encourage settlement of the region and create a buffer between white settlements and American Indians, Congress also gave the Ohio Company of Associates 100,000 acres that became known as the Donation Tract. In this area, any adult white male could obtain one hundred acres of free land. Although the survey pattern was somewhat different from that of the Seven Ranges, company investors were required to set aside land in each township for education and religion as well as three sections for future government purposes. In addition, two townships were set aside for a university.
Putnam established the first Ohio Company of Associates settlement on the banks of the Ohio River. Known originally as Adelphia, the community soon became known as Marietta in honor of French Queen Marie Antoinette. To protect the settlement from Indian attacks, the settlers built a fortification known as the Campus Martius. Many of the early settlers of Ohio Company of Associates lands came from New England. Now in Ohio, they tried to establish institutions and communities similar to those they had known in the East.
In 1804, the company established Ohio University on the land that it had set aside for that purpose. In its early years, the university only offered the equivalent of a high school education and enrollment remained low. The settlers of Marietta had greater success in establishing a new society once the Native American threat was reduced with the signing of the Treaty of Greeneville in 1795. As the population continued to grow in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, many of the New England settlers found themselves in disagreement with people coming from Virginia and Kentucky who had different visions for the region.