15 Ohio Counties Celebrated Bicentennials in 2020

by Willis Beck

Formation of the Counties…

The concept of counties dates back to English law and U. S. History was laid out in the Northwest Ordinance of 1787. Ohio officially became a state in 1803 and was a part of Virginia until 1784. One time, Connecticut also claimed part of the northern part of the state as can be seen by the Western Reserve and the Firelands. Many early homes in the area portray the Con-necticut style of architecture.

At one time we were considered a part of New France. Shortly before the Revolution we came under the Quebec Act. Our major city in Northwest Ohio is Toledo, although we never owed allegiance to Spain! Ethnically, we are mostly British, Irish, German and Polish with a sprinkling of Native American and Hispanic.

In the act of 1820, fourteen counties were to be surveyed and then orga-nized when the time was right. In 1820, all of Wood County had a population of 734. Sandusky County had a total population of 832. These two places had been the sites of Fort Meigs and Fort Stephenson during the War of 1812.

Sandusky and Wood counties were organized at once. Other counties were surveyed but not organized and were attached for administrative purposes to an adjacent county. Here follows the fourteen counties, their attaching counties, and the dates they were organized.

1 Sandusky 1820, attached county 2 Seneca 1824 — 3 Wood 1820, counties attached for civil purposes 4 Paulding 1824, 5 Williams 1824, 6 Putnam 1824, 7 Henry 1834, and 8 Hancock 1826. 9 Marion – attached to Dela-ware 1820 – 10 Mercer attached to Darke 1824 – 11 Crawford attached to Delaware 1826 – 12 Allen attached to Shelby 1831 – 13 Hardin attached to Logan 1833 – 14 Van Wert attached to Darke 1837.

All of these counties were immediately surveyed to facilitate land sales, etc. They were then attached to the name of the adjacent counties for civil purposes until they could be organized and a seat of government established.

The 1835 boundary dispute with the Michigan Territory, aka the “Toledo War,” resulted in the formation of 15 Lucas and 16 Ottawa 1840. The removal of native tribes resulted in the formation of 17 Wyandot 1845 and 19 Auglaize 1848. The tremendous growth in population and industry that resulted from the opening of the canals led to the founding of 18 Defiance 184. In most cases, lands were taken from the adjacent counties to form these new governmental units.

The little village of Perrysburg(h) got a jump-start on the settlement game when it was surveyed and platted in 1816, (before Wood County was formed). It along with the neighboring Maumee area in the center of the Twelve Miles Square reserve that was part of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. All land outside of that area unless specifically designated was technically still native land. These boundaries can still be seen on old maps. The Twelve Miles Square Reserve has a southern boundary of Dowling Road and a western boundary of Crissey Road. Its center lies about a block east of the Maumee Public Library.

Naming the Counties…

Of the 88 counties in Ohio you can find the names of many of our Founding Fathers. You will see most of the early presidents until Jackson, a healthy dose of Revolutionary War generals and several Native tribe names. You will also see our local favorites Harri-son and Wayne; as well as War of 1812 favorites Perry, Shelby, and Pike.

Eleazor Darby Wood the engineer that designed and built Fort Meigs was an early graduate of the newly formed West Point Army Academy. He was killed in battle at Fort Erie in 1814 and we have honored him by naming Wood County for him.

Three militiamen of Westchester County New York were guarding a highway near Tarrytown, NY on September 22, 1780. They stopped a gentleman on horseback that claimed to be John Anderson. He claimed to have a passport signed by General Benedict Arnold. They examined the document and then strip-searched him. Inside his boot and between his sock and his bare feet they found several drawings of the new fort at West Point. They soon found that he was not John Anderson. He was in fact the British spy John Andre and he was working on an intrigue with the traitor Benedict Arnold. A few weeks later he was hanged at General Washington’s headquarters.

The three militiamen were: John Paulding, David Williams, and Isaac Van Wart. In 1820, some forty years later, we named three of our North-west counties for them. (The spelling of the name Van Wart is correct! Somewhere along the line it got changed to Van Wert!)
(Footnote: Another county in Ohio formed in 1820 is Union County in Central Ohio.)

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