It was seen in print as early as 1800 and originated in Waynesboro Pennsylvania.
“As the crow flies” means to go from one point to another in the most direct route, aka a straight line. One of the ealiest accepted origins comes from the book The London Review Of English And Foreign Liturature, by W. Kenrick, which was originally published in 1767. The quotation from the book can be found at the link below. A digital copy of volume 8 of the book can be seen in Google Books at the second link.
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