Before Ohio became a state in 1803, the area was part of what was known as the Western Reserve. During the colonial period, England gave the northeastern section of what became Ohio to Connecticut, creating what was known as Connecticut's Western Reserve.
By the time the Latter-day Saints began arriving in Ohio, the state was already experiencing a population boom. In 1800, three years before Ohio became the 16th state in the Union, the region's population was approximately 72,000. By 1826 - about five years before the first saints began to gather in Kirtland - Ohio's population had grown to 800,000.That increase, some observers note, was without parallel in the history of the United States or any country. Milton V. Backman, in The Heavens Resound, noted that it seemed Ohio began emerging from a wilderness frontier in the early 1800s to a progressive state in the Union just in time to set the stage for the enactment of great scenes in the drama of the Restoration.
Brother Backman wrote: "During the 1830s, the period of the Latter-day Saints' migration to Ohio, the population increased 581,000. Ohio had advanced from the 13th most populous state in 1810 to the fifth in 1820, and fourth in 1830. In 1840, only New York and Pennsylvania had more inhabitants than Ohio, and there were now as many people in Ohio as in the other states of the old Northwest (Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin) combined."
Just as Ohio was in a condition of rapid change, so was Kirtland, which had its first permanent settlers in 1811. By 1820, Kirtland's population was listed at 481. By 1830, its population more than doubled to 1,018.
"At least nine of the families who would join the Church in 1830 or early 1831 were among the pioneers who helped develop a civilization out of the Kirtland wilderness," Brother Backman wrote. "The lessons that young and old alike learned while building homes, manufacturing household goods, planting and harvesting crops, and establishing local political institutions proved invaluable after these pioneers joined the Church and created new communities in Missouri, Illinois, and the Great Basin of western America."