From Ohio History Central
The Congress Lands were areas in the Northwest Territory held and sold directly by the United States in the years after the American Revolution.
As Congress organized the Northwest Territory in the late 1700s, large tracts of land were sold to private companies and individuals, such as the Ohio Company of Associates, the Scioto Company, and land speculator John Cleves Symmes. Individual states also held claims in the territory including the Connecticut Western Reserve and the Virginia Military District. The remaining land was held by the American government and was sold off slowly over a number of years. Some of the money paid off debts from the American Revolution. The Congress Lands, like many of the other land grants, were often occupied by Native Americans during the early years of settlement. When more settlers came into Ohio, the Native Americans moved out.