Founded in 1790 by 500 French clients of the Scioto Company land developers, Gallipolis [†] was named the "City of the Gauls," and was the result of a land swindle. When the Ohio Company arranged for purchase and settlement of western lands, Manasseh Cutler and Winthrop Sargent, agents of the Ohio Company, secured a personal option from Congress to purchase an equally large tract just west of the Ohio Company purchase. No title to this second tract would pass until an agreed payment was made. It was called the "Scioto Tract" and was to extend to the Scioto River. Interests were transferred to Colonel William Duer of New York, who was to promote sales of these lots in Europe. Duer induced Joe Barlow, appointed Minister to France, to represent the company in Paris in 1788, and he with the help of an English promoter named William Playfair, opened offices and distributed a prospectus.
With the approach of a revolution, several hundred persons purchased deeds and by the middle of February 1790, they gathered at Havre de Grace to embark for America and the promised land. Approximately 600 Frenchmen landed in Alexandria, Virginia, six weeks later and learned their deeds were worthless and the farms they purchased were part of a remote wilderness filled with savages. These new arrivals were of minor aristocratic families and bourgeois classes, poor by now having exhausted their funds to reach the new world. Some returned to France, others settled in the larger eastern cities, but most were determined to see their new homestead venture through.
After negotiations with appointed agents, Congress agreed to provide a townsite on the Ohio River opposite the mouth of the Great Kanawha River. The townsite was called "Fair Haven," and it was discovered that the land lay too low, so the settlers proceeded to a point four miles below to higher ground. The locating party arrived at what was to be known as Gallipolis on June 8, 1790.
Arrangements were provided with the Ohio Company to send surveyors and builders to the site to prepare quarters for the settlers. This site became the Public Square. Log Cabins were erected 2 in a row around the square surrounded by a stockade. The cabins above the square were one and one-half story and furnished in a better style for the wealthier settlers and those appointed to manage the colony. The cabins on the remaining three sides were 2 story.
† Deborah Douglas Barrington and David A. Simmons, Ohio Preservation Office, Gallipolis Public Square and Garden Lots Historic District, nomination documnet, 1980, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Nearby Towns: Point Pleasant City •