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Columbus: A Created Capital

Columbus was founded by people from Franklinton. It was an “invented city”—chosen to be the capital of Ohio after years of political wrangling and backroom deals.
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Historical Context and Overview

In 1795, the Treaty of Greenville ended Ohio’s Indian Wars and established the boundary line between Native American territory and lands open to white settlers. Most of the Virginia Military District was south of the treaty line, making it open for white settlers. Lucas Sullivant worked as the surveyor of Virginia Military District between the Scioto and Little Miami Rivers. As payment for his services, Sullivant received land tracts at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers. In 1797, Sullivant established a village on the west bank of the Scioto and named it Franklinton.

During the War of 1812, Franklinton became a staging point for soldiers heading north and west to fight the British. In search of men and supplies to build his army, General William Henry Harrison came to Franklinton in fall of 1812. The following year, Harrison successfully negotiated a treaty in Franklinton with Native Americans who agreed not fight against the United States in the War of 1812.

In 1812, the Ohio General Assembly began a search for a permanent location for a capital city near the center of the state. Lyne Starling, (the brother-in-law of Lucas Sullivant), John Kerr, James Johnston, and Alexander McLaughlin offered the state legislature a tract of land on the “high banks” of the Scioto River, across from Franklinton. The legislature accepted the offer on February 14, 1812, and named the new capital “Columbus” one week later. The first lots were sold on June 18, the same day the War of 1812 began. The Ohio General Assembly met for the first time at Columbus in 1816.

  • Standards Alignment
  • Learning Objectives
  • Discussion Questions
  • External Activities
  • Additional Resources
Ohio’s New Learning Standards: K-12 Social Studies

Grade 3, Content Statement 3: Local communities change over time.

Grade 3, Content Statement 8: Communities may include diverse cultural groups.

Grade 3, Content Statement 10: Individuals make the community a better place by solving problems in a way that promotes the common good.

Grade 3, Content Statement 18: A market is where buyers and sellers exchange goods and services.

Grade 4, Content Statement 3: Various groups of people have lived in Ohio over time including prehistoric and historic American Indians, migrating settlers and immigrants. Interactions among these groups have resulted in both cooperation and conflict.

Grade 4, Content Statement 6: The inability to resolve standing issues with Great Britain and ongoing conflicts with American Indians led the United States into the War of 1812. Victory in the Battle of Lake Erie contributed to American success in the war.

Grade 8, Content Statement 8: Actions of early presidential administrations established a strong federal government, provided peaceful transitions of power and repelled a foreign invasion.

Grade 8, Content Statement 9: The United States added to its territory through treaties and purchases.

Explain what a community is and how members of the community contribute to it by solving problems.

Explain how the Treaty of Greenville led to the founding of Franklinton.

Discuss the role of Franklinton in the War of 1812.

Discuss the role that geography played in the founding of Franklinton and the establishment of Columbus as the capital.

Explain how and why Columbus was established as the capital city.

1. How did Lucas Sullivant acquire land at the confluence of the Scioto and Olentangy Rivers? What actions did Sullivant take to develop the settlement?

2. How did the Sullivant family members promote the common good in their community?

3. What goods were traded between white settlers and Native Americans in the Franklinton area?

4. Describe the relationship between whites and Native Americans in Franklinton

5. How did the first African American come live in Franklinton?

6. How did Columbus come to be the capital of Ohio?

7. Why is Columbus considered a crossroads?

8. What event delayed construction of the capital?

9. What role did Franklinton play in the War of 1812?

10. What new businesses were established in the new capital city?

Have students identify items that might have been items of trade between the white settlers and Native Americans. Use the lists at http://www.albanypinebush.org/pdf/Lesson1- AtriptotheMall.pdf as a resource for ideas. Students discuss the potential trade value of items based on the needs of settlers and on the needs of Native Americans. A mini-simulation of a trading post that could have been located in Franklinton would be a great way to engage students in actively thinking about wants, needs, goods, and services.

Give students an outline of an imaginary state. Include on the outline some mountains and rivers and other geographic features or population features. Divide students into groups. Each group, acting as if they are the founding members of the new state, must debate and choose about where they want the capital city and other key cities of the state to be located. They must also identify where trails and eventually roads should go. Groups should be able to justify their placement based upon geographic, economic, and governmental reasons.