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John Cleves Symmes (1742 - 1814)

Judge John Cleves Symmes
Born in Southold, Long Island, NYmap
Ancestors ancestors
Brother of
Husband of — married 30 Oct 1760 in Mattituck, New Yorkmap
Husband of — married 1781 in Morristown, Morris, New Jerseymap
Husband of — married 10 Sep 1794 [location unknown]
Descendants descendants
Died in Cincinnati, Hamilton, Ohio, United Statesmap
Profile last modified | Created 18 Nov 2008 | Last significant change: 1 Jan 2021
02:01: Steve Dunn edited the Biography for John Cleves Symmes (1742-1814). [Thank Steve for this]
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Judge John Symmes served during the American Revolution
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John Cleves Symmes was born in Riverhead, Long Island, New York July 21, 1742. He was a delegate to the Continental Congress from New Jersey, and later a pioneer in the Northwest Territory. He was also the father-in-law of President William Henry Harrison (and therefore the great-grandfather of President Benjamin Harrison.

He was the son of the Rev. Timothy Symmes (1715-1756) and Mary Cleves (died c. 1746) of Suffolk County, New York on Long Island.

Col. Symmes was educated as a lawyer and married Anna Tuthill (October 1741-July 25, 1776) at Mattituck, New York on October 30, 1760. They had three children; Maria (born April 23, 1765) and Mary (b. August 30, 1767) at Mattituck before moving to Morristown, New Jersey sometime around 1770. Maria married Kentucky state senator Peyton Short. Another daughter Anna Tuthill Symmes was born at her father's estate Solitude, just outside Morristown, New Jersey (present day Wheatsheaf Farms subdivision off Sussex Avenue in Morris Township, New Jersey) before his wife died in 1776.

Col. Symmes supported the revolution, becoming chairman of the Sussex County, New Jersey Committee of Safety in 1774. When the Revolutionary War began in earnest, he served as Colonel of the 3rd Regiment of the Sussex County militia from 1777 to 1780. The unit was called into service with the Continental Army of several actions.

In 1776, he was elected to the New Jersey Legislative Council (now the New Jersey Senate); he was also a member in 1780. Col. Symmes served on the New Jersey Supreme Court in 1777 AND 1778. He was a frequent visitor to Governor William Livingston both in Elizabethtown and in Parsippany. In 1779, John married Livingston's daughter, Susannah. Besides being the governor's daughter, she was John Jay's sister-in-law.

About 1781 or 1782, Col. Symmes married Mary Henry, daughter of Dr. Robert Rosbrough Henry, M.D.

Col. Symmes represented New Jersey in the Continental Congress (1785-1786), then in 1788 moved to the west, settling in what later became North Bend, Ohio. He served as a judge of the Territorial Court from 1788 until Ohio became a state in 1803. He also pursued an active career as a land developer and seller. He died on February 26, 1814 at Cincinnati, Ohio, and is buried at Congress Green Cemetery in North Bend, Ohio.

Col. Symmes bought 311,682 acres from the Congress in 1788. President George Washington signed the patent on October 30, 1794 conveying to Symmes 248,250 acres plus a surveying township of 23,040 acres, in trust, for an academy. This land was known as the Symmes Purchase, and was the cause of considerable controversy in his lifetime and after. The purchase price was $225,000, and was paid in notes issued by the Congress to raise money during the Revolutionary War. There is no doubt that a considerable part of this amount came from Symmes in the first place as he lent most of his own money to the Revolution.

There were other investors who served as partners in the transaction. There is also no doubt that some of these notes were purchased from other holders, probably at a discount. This was before the rampant speculation in these notes that happened a few year later, but is still questionable.

There were also disputes about the actual boundaries of the purchase and the quality of surveying and validity of titles. In the last years of his life, he spent a great deal of time in court, defending himself from claims.

Col. Symmes' nephew and namesake John Cleves Symmes, Jr. fought in the War of 1812 and is best known for his Hollow Earth Theory.

Miami University's Symmes Hall was named in his honor in 1949. Symmes Hall is located on the East Quad near Erickson Dining Hall on the university's Oxford, Ohio campus and is currently being used as a resident hall for first year undergraduate students.


  • Appletons' Cyclopedia of American Biography, 1900; Douglas M. Henry;;; and the "Henry Genealogy" by William Henry Eldridge, Press of T. R. Marvin and Son, Boston, Massachusetts, 1915. A copy of the latter can be found in the library of the Southwest Texas State Teacher's College, San Marcos, Texas.


Author: Gary Boyd Roberts
Title: Notable Kin, Volume One
Publication: Name: Name: Carl Boyer, 3rd; Location: Santa Clarita, California; Date: 1998;;
NOTE: Published in cooperation with the New England Historic genealogical Society, Boston, Massachusetts


Thank you to Tom Beck for creating WikiTree profile Symmes-113 through the import of Beck_asof_06-05-2013.GED on Jun 5, 2013. Click to the Changes page for the details of edits by Tom and others.

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Symmes-132 and Symmes-1 appear to represent the same person because: from the biographies, this is the same person, will need to sort out wives
posted by Robin Lee

Rejected matches › John Symmes (1741-)John Sims (1744-)

S  >  Symmes  >  John Cleves Symmes

Categories: US President Direct Ancestor | American Revolution