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Ephraim Cutler (April 13, 1767 – July 8, 1853) was an early Northwest Territory and Ohio political leader and jurist.

Ephraim Cutler
Ephraim Cutler.png
Delegate to 1802 Ohio Constitutional Convention from Washington County
In office
November 1, 1802 – November 29, 1802
Personal details
Born(1767-04-13)April 13, 1767
Edgartown, Massachusetts
DiedJuly 8, 1853(1853-07-08) (aged 86)
Belpre, Ohio
Resting placeGravel Bank Cemetery, Marietta, Ohio
Political party
  • Leah Atwood
  • Sally Parker


Early lifeEdit

Ephraim Cutler was born in Edgartown, Massachusetts on April 13, 1767. He was the oldest son of Manasseh Cutler, and was named for his father's late brother. From age three he lived with his grandparents in Killingly, Connecticut.[1] He married Leah Atwood April 8, 1787.[2] Manasseh Cutler was a leader of the Ohio Company of Associates, a land company which bought a large tract in what is now southeast Ohio from the Congress of the Confederation. Ephraim Cutler acted as a sales agent for the company, and sold twenty subscriptions. These shareholders elected him to represent them at a meeting of the company in 1788, even though he was not yet of legal age.[2] In the 1790s he ran a shop, and inherited his grandfather's farm, which he sold. Cutler decided Ohio would have a more agreeable climate for his wife's failing health, and decided to move.[3]


On June 15, 1795, Cutler, his wife, and four children left Killingly, and traveled by foot to the Monongahela River near Williamsport, Pennsylvania, where they had a Kentucky flat-boat built. The river was low, so progress was slow. The boat finally landed at Marietta, Ohio September 18, 1795, after 31 days on the river, with the death of two of Cutler's children to illness along the way, Mary and Hezekiah.[4] Cutler had dysentery by this time, and recovered in a rented room in the blockhouse of Campus Martius.

With Ephraim Cutler's recovery in October, the family moved up the Muskingum River to Waterford, Ohio, where some Killingly families had settled. The autumn and winter were spent settling company business in Marietta and surveying land in the Donation Tract.[5] In 1796 he procured some land nearby, and later had a hand in developing and marketing a salt spring, and also received commissions from Governor Arthur St. Clair for captain of the militia, Justice of the Peace and Judge of the Court of Common Pleas. By 1799 he was the first settler in what would become Ames Township, Athens County, Ohio, moving his wife, two surviving children from Connecticut, and two children born in the Northwest. In 1800, the Legislature of the Northwest Territory named Cutler to examine and lease the School Lands sections in his part of the territory, which involved a great deal of travel.[6] He convinced the people of Ames Township to establish the Western Library Association in 1804, one of the earliest libraries formed in the Northwest Territory. Money was raised for the library through sale furs and other items. It came to be called the "Coonskin Library."[7][8] It was not the first incorporated in the state, as three others in the state had been incorporated before it was incorporated in February, 1810.[9] Cutler was elected the first librarian.[10]

Territory politicsEdit

In September, 1801, Cutler was elected to represent Washington County, Ohio in the House of Representatives of the Northwest Territory at the First Session of the Second Territorial General Assembly convened November 23, 1801 – January 23, 1802,[11] where he drafted the legislation that incorporated the predecessor to Ohio University.[12] After adjournment, he visited his father in Washington, D.C., where he sat as a member of Congress from Massachusetts, and where Ephraim witnessed the passing of the Ohio Enabling Act.[13] This act allowed for four delegates to be elected from Washington County, which then included Cutler's home. Cutler was nominated by his party at a county convention to be one of those four, who were each elected as delegates in September, and Cutler sat as a delegate to the Ohio Constitutional Convention November 1–29, 1802,[14] which wrote the Constitution accepted by Congress, and led to statehood in 1803.

The first vote at the convention after procedural issues had been settled was on the approval of "Resolved, That it is of the opinion of the convention, that it is expedient, at this time, to form a constitution and State government." It was resolved Yeas, 32, nays, 1, with Ephraim Cutler the only Federalist to vote nay.[15] Nevertheless, he participated vigorously, and managed to affect the outcome on several issues.[16][17] Cutler also tried, without success, to have the Constitution submitted to a referendum by the population, saying "I deem it of primary importance that the people of this territory should have some opportunity of declaring their assent to or dissent from this instrument before it became binding on them...By adopting the resolution to submit the constitution to a vote of the people the mouths of the clamorous would be stopped, and the minds of the judicious satisfied." The delegates voted 27-7 against, preferring haste.[18]


Cutler was township Justice of the Peace 1803-1805 and township trustee of Ames Township in 1806,[19] but Cutler's wife fell ill, and the family moved to Belpre,[20] or Constitution, Warren Township, a ghost town outside of Belpre,[21][22][23] to be near a doctor. She died November 3, 1807, and Cutler sent his nine-year-old son Daniel to Massachusetts to live with his Grandparents.[24] On April 13, 1808, he married Sally Parker, a native of Newburyport, Massachusetts, with whom he had five more children, four of whom survived to adulthood, including William P. Cutler, who would serve as speaker of the Ohio House, and as a member of Congress.

Early in statehood, Federalists fell out of favor. Consequently, Cutler had to wait until passions cooled to be elected to represent Washington County in the Ohio House of Representatives in the Eighteenth General Assembly (1819–1820)[25] and in the Ohio Senate in the Twenty-second and Twenty-third General Assembly (1823–1825)[26] The two topics where he had greatest effect in the legislature was establishment of a common school system to replace the strictly local efforts up to that time,[27] and for reform of land taxes from a direct system to an ad valorem system.[28] Under the direct system, land was levied by acre, without reference to value. Thus small, but wealthy Hamilton County paid less land tax to the state than large, but mostly rural Washington County.[29] This was politically tolerable until taxes would have to rise significantly to pay for canals between Lake Erie and the Ohio River. At that point, Cutler's arguments finally won out, and taxes began to be assessed on value, rather than acreage. Cutler also lobbied vigorously for the interests of Ohio University, where he was a Trustee from 1820 to 1849.[30]

In later years, Cutler was a delegate to the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in 1835 in Pittsburgh, and 1837 in Philadelphia, and in 1839 he was a delegate representing the Sixth Congressional District of Ohio at the National Convention of the Whig Party in 1839. In 1841, he was first President of the Marietta Historical Association, and he assisted Dr. Hildreth in his history.[31] He also helped to organize and participated in the Underground Railroad.[22]

Sally Cutler died June 30, 1846. In spring of 1853, Ephraim fell from a horse, and, after four months of invalidism, he succumbed on July 8, 1853. The obituary in the Marietta Intelligencer read "In every sphere and relation of life, Judge Cutler was a useful man. He was an upright judge, an intelligent legislator, a good neighbor, a public-spirited citizen, an affectionate father, a sincere Christian, and an honest, true man."[32]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 8.
  2. ^ a b Cutler 1890, p. 14.
  3. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 16.
  4. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 19-22.
  5. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 28-30.
  6. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 44.
  7. ^   Wilson, J. G.; Fiske, J., eds. (1900). "Cutler, Ephraim" . Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography. New York: D. Appleton.
  8. ^ Milligan 2003, p. 17.
  9. ^ Walker 1869, p. 369.
  10. ^ Walker 1869, p. 371.
  11. ^ Ohio 1917, p. 208.
  12. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 177.
  13. ^ Stat. 173 - Text of Act of April 30, 1802 (section 7) Library of Congress
  14. ^ Convention 1896, p. 131-132.
  15. ^ Convention 1896, p. 88.
  16. ^ Convention 1896, p. 73.
  17. ^ Walker 1869, p. 390-391.
  18. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 79-80.
  19. ^ Walker 1869, p. 383-384.
  20. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 85.
  21. ^ Ephraim Cutler at Ohio History Central
  22. ^ a b Milligan 2003, p. 20.
  23. ^ Geographic Names Information System. "GNIS entry for Constitution (Feature ID #1062708)". Retrieved 2012-12-17.
  24. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 86.
  25. ^ Ohio 1917, p. 261.
  26. ^ Ohio 1917, p. 224.
  27. ^ Burns 1905, p. 409.
  28. ^ Walker 1869, p. 392-393.
  29. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 148.
  30. ^ Walker 1869, p. 346-348.
  31. ^ Hildreth 1848.
  32. ^ Cutler 1890, p. 271.


External linksEdit

Ohio House of Representatives
Preceded by
Sylvester Ames
Joseph Barker
Representative from Washington County
December 6, 1819-December 3, 1820
Served alongside: Elijah Hatch
Succeeded by
Alexander McConnell
Timothy Buell
Ohio Senate
Preceded by
Sardine Stone
Senator from Washington & Athens District
December 1, 1823-December 4, 1825
Succeeded by
Eben Currier