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Biography of Manasseh Cutler
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A history of Athens county would be very incomplete without a biographical notice of the father and projector of the Ohio university-an institution that has done so much to shape and influence the history of this community. Though never a resident of the county, perhaps no one person has exerted a more deep and lasting influence on its welfare than Dr. Manasseh Cutler. He was the son of Hezekiah Cutler, who came from a thorough Puritan stock, and was born at Killingly, Connecticut, May 3, 1742. He graduated at Yale college, at the age of twenty-three, studied theology at Dedham, with the Rev. Thomas Balch, and having settled in the ministry at Ipswich, Massachusetts, in 1771, soon became known for ability and learning. A minister by profession, he was also an ardent votary of science, in some of whose walks he became very eminent. In 1766, he married Mary Balch, daughter of his preceptor in theology, and to them were born seven children, viz : Ephraim, Jervis,
Mary, Charles, Lavinia, Elizabeth, and Temple. Of these only three, Ephraim, Jervis, and Charles ever came to Ohio. Dr. Cutler was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1781, of the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, in 1781; an honorary member of the Massachusetts Medical Society in 1784; received the degree of LL. D. from Yale college in 1789; was elected a member of the Massachusetts Historical Society in 1792, and was a representative in congress in 1800 and i 802. He was also active as president of a bible society in Massachusetts, and was a member of various other scientific bodies than those above named. He was a chaplain in the American army during the revolutionary war, and in one engagement took such an active and gallant part, that the colonel of his regiment presented him with a fine horse captured from the enemy.
On the formation of the Ohio Company in 1787, Dr. Cutler soon became a controlling spirit in that enterprise. In an original memorandum of his, now before us, referring to the origin of the company, etc., he says
“At this meeting (March 1st, 1787) by y, desire of Major Sargent, I attended. I had suffered exceedingly in y- war, and after it was over, by paper money and y, high price of articles of living. My salary small and family large, for several years I thought y, people had not done me justice, and I meditated leaving them. Purchasing lands in a new country appeared to be y’ only thing I could do to secure a living to myself, and family in that unsettled state of public affairs. I had long before entertained an high opinion of y, lands in y- western country, which was a particular inducement to attend this meeting. The representations and plans of y, country gave me a still more favorable idea, and I determined to join y° association, but without ye most distant thought of taking an active part.”
A few days later, he was chosen a director, and appointed as their agent to proceed to New York and negotiate with the congress then sitting there, for a purchase of western lands. From the very interesting journal kept by Dr. Cutler during this trip, we have quoted at some length. He conducted this negotiation with great skill and entire success. He insisted that there should be an appropriation of land in the company’s purchase for the endowment of a university, and this feature was part of the contract with congress. Thus, the Ohio university is undoubtedly indebted to Dr. Cutler for its existence, and he was in later years very active in furthering its sound organization. He also originated the idea of a donation of land in each township, for educational and religious purposes, and made it a part of the contract with congress that two sections in each township should be reserved as school and ministerial lands.
In the summer of 1788, in order to attend a meeting of the directors of the Ohio Company, and to examine into the condition and prospects of the colony, Dr. Cutler made a trip to Marietta, where he spent a short time, and became thoroughly acquainted with the nature of the country and wants of the settlers. His versatile talents and unusual business qualifications made his services to the company of great value, and for many years he continued to exercise a controlling influence in this great enterprise. During all this time he did not cease his labors as a minister of the gospel, nor his scientific investigations, particularly his botanical pursuits, in which branch of science he was very eminent.
The latter years of his life were spent peacefully in Massachusetts. He officiated as pastor of one church at Hamilton in that state, for nearly fifty years, and died in 1820.
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