Tomahawk Right. The W. H. Beers History of Montgomery County, Ohio, published in 1882, said: "Before the [land] surveys, the title fully respected by the settlers of the county is known as the 'tomahawk right.' It was made by deadening a few trees near a spring, or at some other prominent point on the tract: and by blazing trees at the corners, or along the lines. A 'settlement right' was even stronger, as the pioneer was on hand to defend his property. Either of these rights, however, were recognized as establishing a priority of claim, and were often bought and sold, as it was better to buy the improvements, rather than quarrel with parties who held them."
A Bedford County, Pa., genealogical site offers this explanation: "Before the lawful land titles were issued in 1769, the first step necessary for the early settler to obtain land, was to establish what they called a 'Tomahawk Right.' This meant for the settler to deaden a few trees near a spring and cut his name or initials in the bark of the trees near the spring. This showed the settler's intention to hold and occupy the land which was usually surrounded by blazed or deadened trees. These 'Tomahawk Rights' gave the settler no legal title unless followed by occupation or a warrant and a patent secured from the land office. But the 'Tomahawk Rights' were quite generally recognized by the early settlers, and many of them were purchased cheaply by other settlers who did not want to enter into a controversy with the claimants who made them."