Ebenezer Zane (October 7, 1747 – 1811) was an American pioneer, road builder and land speculator. Born in what is now Moorefield, West Virginia (which was then in the colony of Virginia), Zane established the settlement known as Fort Henry in Wheeling, Virginia (present-day West Virginia) on the Ohio River. Zane is also famous for blazing the trail known as Zane's Trace. Zane died of jaundice in 1811.
Ebenezer Zane was one of six children born to William Andrew Zane and his wife, Nancy Ann Nolan. He had four brothers: Silas (born 1745), Andrew (born 1749), Jonathan (born about 1750), and Isaac (born 1753), as well as one sister, Elizabeth "Betty" (born 1759). Ebenezer Zane married Elizabeth McColloch (October 30, 1748 – 1814). Their first child was daughter Catherine (born June 27, 1769), who married Absalom Martin, a government surveyor of the Seven Ranges who founded Martins Ferry, Ohio. Sarah (born February 23, 1773) married John McIntire, later founder of Zanesville, Ohio and helped write the first Ohio Constitution. Noah was born October 25, 1778. Rebecca (born October 10, 1776) was married to John Clarke. Hester, or Esther (born October 8, 1786) was married to Elijah Woods, who also helped write the Ohio Constitution. Daniel was born October 25, 1788, Jesse, October 5, 1790, John April 30, 1780, and Samuel born May 12, 1782. Jesse and John died young.
He was a maternal ancestor of author Zane Grey, who was born in Zanesville.
At Fort Henry
Zane headed west with his brothers Silas and Jonathan Zane from Moorefield and established Fort Henry in 1769. During the American Revolutionary War, Zane and his brothers defended Fort Henry against two Native American attacks. The first Siege of Fort Henry occurred in September 1777. Zane's sister Elizabeth was celebrated for her courage during the second siege in September 1782 when she left the fort to retrieve a badly needed keg of gunpowder and sprinted back safely under a hail of gunfire.
Ebenezer Zane began his military career under British rule. He served as a disbursing officer under Lord Dunmore. Zane later became a colonel in the Virginia colonial militia. In 1788, he served as a western delegate to the Virginia Ratifying Convention and voted in favor of ratification of the United States Constitution.
Building Zane's Trace
Following the war in 1796, Zane obtained permission and funds from the United States Congress to build a road through the Northwest Territory. In exchange for his work, Congress granted Zane tracts of land in the areas where the road intersected the Muskingum, Hocking, and Scioto rivers.
When Zane's Trace was completed, it crossed what is now the state of Ohio from Wheeling, Virginia to Maysville, Kentucky. Although the road was a rudimentary path and at first suitable only for travel by foot or horseback (not by wagon), the state of Ohio undertook improvements in the early 19th century. It was the only major road in Ohio until the War of 1812.
Zanesville, Ohio was named in his honor.
- Wiseman 1901, p. 11-12.