The Stites Expedition from New Jersey to the Miami Valley

The following information from History of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, Ohio, publ. 1894, pages 30-33. on the Stites Expedition is quoted in a book written by Lewis D. Cook entitled Ancestors of Hampton Woodruff which was copied from an LDS microfilm by Cathy Penland. Some portions were illegible. The surnames Stites, Woodruff and Mills are among my New Jersey ancestors, but I have no evidence that significant numbers of people with those names relocated to Ohio.


In the spring of 1786, Capt Benjamin Stites, a resident of Red Stone, one of the settlements on the Monongahela (river in Western Pennsylvania) left home upon one of the common trading voyages down the Ohio (river)... The view which Stites thus obtained of the Miami Country ended his career as a Kentucky trader. In a short time he was traveling toward New York, where Congress then had its sessions, to negotiate for the purchase of part of the tract which he had explored .... He soon sought a business alliance with .... John Symmes, of Trenton, New Jersey, a member of the Continental Congress. Symmes contracted with the Treasury Board for the million acres of the fertile lands which he had been inspecting, at the price of 66 cents per acre. Before the year (1787) ended, he had transferred 20,000 acres of his tract to Capt. Stites.

The greater part of the next year was spent by the leaders in organizing parties of immigrants in the East. Three settlements were to be established. Capt. Stites had chosen a site at the mouth of the Little Miami, Symmes at the mouth of the Great Miami, and a third speculator, Matthias Denman, a resident of Springfield, NJ had made a location of several hundred acres .... opposite the mouth of the Licking River in January 1788 .... In the meantime Capt. Stites and his company from Red Stone had passed Marietta on their way westward and reached Limestone (Maysville, Kentucky) .... Late in September, Judge Symmes arrived at Limestone with the party which he had marshaled in New Jersey, numbering about sixty members.

Leaving his people in the well .... little hamlet, Symmes with Denman, Capt. Stites and others proceeded to the Miamis, where a large party of Kentuckians were awaiting his appearance to make a general survey of the country .... On the 16th of November the whole party left Limestone, at day-break of the 18th their flatboats approached the mouth of the Little Miami .... The persons composing this adventurous troop were not numerous. Only five of the men brought their families: Capt. Stites, Elijah Stites, Greenbright Bailey, Abel Cook, and Jacob Mills. The remainder were unmarried or had left their wives and children in safer quarters. Their names were Hezekiah Stites, John S. Gano[?], Ephraim Kibby, Benjamin Cox, Joseph Cox, Hampton Woodruff, Evan Shelby, .... Hempstead, Daniel Shormaker, Edmund Buxton, Elijah Mills, and Thomas C. Wade. During the next two years the original party was strongly reinforced .... The village of cabins which at once grew up around the blockhouse was christened Columbia. It was situated on the bank of the Ohio, more than half a mile below the mouth of the Little Miami.

John Symmes' land speculation activities may have slowed the migration of New Jersey settlers to Ohio's Miami valley, judging by this information which we found in The Official Ohio Lands Book, by Dr. George W. Knepper, published 2002 by the Auditor of the State of Ohio, and available on the World Wide Web.

Symmes Purchase (Miami Purchase)

The Ohio Company of Associates was not the only group petitioning the Confederation Congress for western lands. New Jersey interests, led by Judge John Cleves Symmes, a member of Congress, persuaded that body in 1787 to sell 1,000,000 acres lying north of the Ohio River between the two Miami rivers. Symmes had been attracted to this land by the recommendation of Benjamin Stites, a soldier and trader to whom Symmes had granted land near the Little Miami. Stites and company erected some huts and called their settlement Columbia. It later became an eastern extension of Cincinnati.

Symmes never paid for nor developed the full 1,000,000 acres he sought. He mishandled survey and sales to such an extent that Congress restricted his purchase to 311,682 acres, including lands reserved for special purposes. On occasion, Symmes had sold land lying outside the bounds of his purchase. Sometimes his associates back in New Jersey sold lots, inadvertently, that Symmes had already sold to others, and the reverse was true as well. Symmes ignored reported federal requests to set aside the full surveying township he was obligated to supply for support of an academy. This confusion was amplified by Indian wars that developed as the U. S. Army attempted to quell threats from an Indian confederacy through a series of campaigns against the tribes in the early 1790s...

For further information on Capt. Benjamin Stites and his marital difficulties or adventures, please visit our Mary Mills page.

This page was last updated 10 Jan 2005.