Born in 1765 in Virginia, Lucas Sullivant was too young to have fought in the American Revolution. He went to work early, training as a surveyor.
At the end of the Revolution, the newly formed United States had a vast burden of debt and an army that had not been paid adequately in some time. While the United States lacked money to pay its veterans, it did have land -- a lot of land -- on the other side of the mountains in the Ohio Country north and west of the Ohio River.
Part of this Northwest Territory had been set aside for Virginia veterans of the Revolution and for anybody else who wanted to buy fertile, cheap land from Virginia. But the land needed to be surveyed, and Sullivant was chosen to help survey the northern part of the Virginia Military District, which ran from the Miami River in the west to the Scioto River in the east.
Like most of his fellow surveyors, Sullivant took his pay in land. Because he surveyed a lot of land, he ended up owning a lot.