As the nearest major metropolitan area, many of our patrons have grown up thinking of Cincinnati as their second home. We follow the wins and losses of the Cincinnati Reds and Cincinnati Bengals. We shop and dine in Cincinnati, enjoy the arts in Cincinnati, and feel a little pride when someone from Cincinnati achieves success. Yet, how much do we really know about the origins of this city we love like it’s our own?
The land on which Cincinnati now lies once belonged to a group we refer to as the Fort Ancient Culture, descendants of both the Adena Culture and Hopewell Culture. Spanning from 1,000 to 1,750 CE, Fort Ancient was an egalitarian culture of hunters and farmers, with primary food sources including black bear, elk, white tail deer, beans, squash, and maize. Their pottery was made with a coiling technique, and the main material used in tools was stone.
Fort Ancient artifacts have been found in a number of sites in what is now the Cincinnati area, including the Clough Creek and Sand Run Archaeological District (along the Little Miami River), the now-closed Turpin Site (less than 2 miles away and further east from the river), and the State Line Archaeological District (surrounding the Ohio/Indiana border by US 50).
Throughout most of the 1700s, the ancestors of the modern Miami and Shawnee Native American tribes lived on land that encompasses Cincinnati’s current borders. In 1787, Benjamin Stites of New Jersey explored the newly formed Northwest Territory and advised his friend and former member of the Continental Congress, John Cleves Symmes, to purchase land there. Symmes did his own exploration and was enticed by the land between the Great Miami and Little Miami Rivers.
Symmes returned home and formed a land development company called the Miami Company. In August of 1788, he and his wealthy associates petitioned Congress to let them purchase the land he had scouted. About 515 square miles were bought in what has been referred to as both the Symmes Purchase and the Miami Purchase, and the land makes up modern-day Hamilton, Butler, and Warren Counties.
Three settlements promptly arose in the region: Columbia, North Bend, and Losantiville. As more European settlers filtered into the area, land conflicts arose between the settlers and the native tribes. In January 1795, negotiations began for a treaty in which both parties ceded control of certain areas, while still allowing the Native Americans to hunt to the south and east of the boundary line and the Europeans to establish trading posts to the north and west. This Treaty of Greeneville was signed on August 3, 1795 by the Miami and Shawnee tribes of the current Cincinnati area, along with the Chippewa, Delaware, Eel River, Kaskaskia, Kickapoo, Ottawa, Piankashaw, Potawatomi, Wea, and Wyandot tribes.
By the time of the Treaty of Greeneville, the central settlement of Losantiville had been called Cincinnati for five years. Arthur St. Clair, governor of the Northwest Territory, renamed the settlement on January 4, 1790 after the Society of the Cincinnati, a fraternal, hereditary society celebrating the achievement of American independence. The society, in turn, was named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a Roman who lived from about 519-430 BCE and temporarily was appointed as dictator to handle a war emergency. Cincinnatus became a legendary figure of civic virtue, a dedication to the common welfare even at the expense of individual interests.
January displays at both the Aurora Public Library and Dillsboro Public Library feature photographs from and books about Cincinnati, where you can learn how the city was shaped from these early beginnings through the present day. Some of the books available include:
You can place these books on hold by logging in to your online library account using your library card barcode and PIN, or by calling the library at (812) 926-0646 for Aurora or (812) 954-4151 for Dillsboro.