AMERICAN HISTORY

NORTHWEST TERRITORY SETTLEMENT GAME

The Land Ordinance of 1785 established the Township and Range system of dividing land in much of the Northwest Territory (established by the Northwest Ordinance of 1787).  Townships, six miles on each side (and thus containing 36 square miles), were surveyed and sold in sections of one square mile each.  These 640-acre sections were sometimes divided into half sections, quarter sections, and smaller units.  This simulation will demonstrate some of the choices that faced settlers as they moved into the Northwest Territory.

The map board represents one township, divided into 36 sections one mile square.  Every player will, in turn, choose a section to settle and place a cabin somewhere within it.  This represents the homestead of a new family farm.  Once placed it cannot be moved.

Section 16 is set aside for the use of the public school.  As soon as section 16 is sold, the proceeds may be spent to place the school anywhere in that section.  The rest of the section belongs to the buyer.  However, if the township is still sparsely settled, the school may be built later.

Players will wish to keep in mind the different types of terrain found in this township.
*Meadows (represented by hatch-marked areas) are naturally clear of trees and are easy places wherein to begin farming.
*Forested land (represented by all unmarked green areas) has richer soil than other areas and provides useful wood for building, but is difficult to clear for farming.
*Rivers (marked in blue and flowing towards to top of the map) are useful sources of water and are good transportation routes.
*Waterfalls (marked by two parallel black lines across the river) are useful for powering watermills, but slow travel.
*Bluffs or cliffs (shown with X marks) are harder to farm, but help save homes from flooding.
*Swamps (shown with a black symbol like an arrow) are bad for farming, but often contain bog iron—iron deposits found in swamps and useful for the manufacture of tools.
*Rocky outcroppings (represented by large black dots) are poor areas for farming and make road-building harder.

Some players will represent craftsmen and businessmen, and will place their shop or business in the same section as their house.
*The blacksmith will seek land containing a swamp in hopes of finding bog iron to use in his work, as well as wood from which to make charcoal.  He will also want access to transportation routes if possible.  In some cases, townships may give a blacksmith land for free in order to bring him and his valuable services to the area.
*The miller will wish to build below a waterfall if possible so that he may use the falling water to power his waterwheel.  If no land beside a waterfall is available, he may seek a bend in a river, so that he may dam the river and create a millpond.  He will likely be paid in grain, and may resell it or distil it into whiskey (also for resale, and easier to transport than grain).
*The inn provides a place for travellers to stay, and a place for local people to eat, drink, and socialise.  Consequently, an inn will most likely be built near transportation routes or near large groups of people.
*A general store will sell or trade to local people many of the goods they cannot make for themselves or buy from a neighbour.  The general store may also contain a post office, do a small amount of banking, and provide other services.  Therefore, it will most likely be built near as many people as possible, but also close to a road or river.

When all private buildings are placed, public buildings may be erected according to the consensus of all those dwelling in the township.  Naturally, business owners will probably want these important buildings near their businesses in order to attract more potential customers.
*The school, if not built already, will be built in section 16 in whichever part of that section seems best to everyone.  If section 16 was not sold, there will be no funds to build a school.
*The church is very important to most settlers in the early 1800s.  Eventually many denominations will probably build churches in this township, but for now, one will be built where the majority of the township thinks will be most convenient for them to attend worship.  The owner of the section on which the church is built will probably donate land, but he may sell it to the congregation or may refuse to allow the church to be built on his property.
*The town hall will be built where the majority of the population thinks it will be easiest to reach.  Again, it is possible that the owner of the land will donate it or be paid by the township, although he may choose not to allow the town hall to be built on his land.

When the town hall is built, the local government will be able to call upon the men of the township to work on the roads a certain number of days a year.  However, as this takes time, effort, and money, there are never enough roads to serve everyone.  The township will be divided into two committees, each of which has the power to lay out one road (represented by a length of string) as they see fit, hopefully serving as many farms and businesses as possible.

Eventually, the township will become crowded and people will move off the farms into the towns that grow up around the important businesses or crossroads, or they will move west and begin the process again.
 

BACK TO SYLLABUS


This page last updated 10 September, 2003.