Although forced to surrender the Pennsylvania portion (Westmoreland County) of its sea-to-sea land grant following the Yankee-Pennamite Wars and the intercession of the federal government, Connecticut held fast to its right to the lands between the 41st and 42nd-and-2-minutes parallels that lay west of the Pennsylvania border.
Within the state of Ohio, the claim was a 120-mile (190 km) mile strip between Lake Erie and a line just south of Youngstown, Akron, New London, and Willard, about 3 miles (4.8 km) south of the present-day U.S. Highway 224. Beyond Ohio the claim included parts of what would become Michigan, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and California.
In its deed of cession (the states gave up their western claims in exchange for federal assumption of their American Revolutionary War debt) dated September 13, 1786, Connecticut retained more than 3,000,000 acres (12,000 km2) in Ohio. In 1796, Connecticut sold that land to investors, initially eight original purchasers, most of them from Suffield, Connecticut, who formed the Connecticut Land Company. However, the Indian title to the reserve had not been extinguished. Clear title was not obtained until the Greenville Treaty in 1795 and the Treaty of Fort Industry in 1805. The west end of the reserve included the 500,000 acres (2,000 km2) Firelands or "Sufferers Lands" reserved for residents of several New England towns destroyed by British-set fires during the Revolutionary War.
The land company arranged for the surveying of the balance of the land into square townships 5 miles (8.0 km) on each side or 25 square miles (65 km2). To this day, the townships of the Western Reserve differ in size from those of most of the rest of the state, which are 6 miles (9.7 km) on each side or 36 square miles (93 km2), following the guidelines of the Land Ordinance of 1785.
The following year, a team from the land company led by Moses Cleaveland traveled to the Reserve to prepare surveys. The group also founded Cleveland, which would become the largest city in the region. (The arbitrary decision to drop the "a" in the name of the community was done by a printer early in the settlement's existence, Cleveland taking less room on a printed page than Cleaveland.)
Over the next few years, settlers began trickling into the territory, originally carrying the name "New Connecticut," later discarded in favor of "Western Reserve." Youngstown was founded in 1796, Warren in 1798, Hudson in 1799, Ashtabula in 1803, and Stow in 1804.
In 1800, Connecticut finally ceded the Western Reserve, and the Northwest Territory absorbed it, establishing Trumbull County. As the former county seat of the territory, Warren calls itself "the historical capital of the Western Reserve." Later, several more counties would be carved out of the territory.
The name "Western Reserve" survives in the area in various institutions (see Western Reserve (disambiguation)).
Architecture in the Western Reserve mimicked that of the New England towns from which its settlers originally came. Many of the buildings were designed in the Georgian, Federal and Greek Revival style. Towns such as Aurora, Canfield, Gates Mills, Hudson, Milan, Norwalk, Painesville, and Poland exemplify the mixture of these styles and traditional New England town planning. Cleveland's Public Square is even characteristic of a traditional New England town Green.
The following publications are in the collection of the Connecticut State Library (CSL):