Happy April 1 birthdays!
April 1 is the birthday of 19 of Ohio's 88 counties, the second-most of any day. Read about the counties that celebrated their birthdays this week below, in order of oldest to youngest.
Delaware County (215 years old)
Delaware County, as well as its county seat, is named after the Lenape people, a Native American group that lived in the area. Early English settlers in North America named the Delaware River after the first governor of Virginia, Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr. The name "Delaware" was soon attached to the Lenape people who lived near the river and who later were pushed westward into what is now Ohio. The county was formed out of the northern portion of Franklin County.
Lucy Webb Hayes, the wife of 19th US President Rutherford B. Hayes spent her formative years in Delaware County, attending first a college prep program at Ohio Wesleyan University and then the university itself. Hayes was the first First Lady to be referred to as such and had a great deal of influence on both her husband and the White House as we know it today.
Meigs County (204 years old)
Meigs County, created out of land formerly belonging to Athens and Gallia counties, is named after Return J. Meigs. Meigs was a prominent figure in early Ohio history, serving as the first Chief Judge of the state Supreme Court, a senator, and the fourth governor. At the time the county was created, he was serving as the United States Postmaster General.
Meigs County was the site of the Battle of Buffington Island, the largest battle in Ohio during the Civil War. A raiding party led by Confederate John H. Morgan had traveled along the Ohio River in both Indiana and Ohio for six weeks in an effort to draw Union forces away from other operations. On July 19, 1863, Morgan's force of 1,930 traitors was nearly encircled while trying to ford the Ohio River. The Battle of Buffington Island saw Morgan's force suffer more than 900 casualties. Morgan himself escaped but surrendered only a week later.
Shelby County (204 years old)
Shelby County was formed out of Miami County. It draws its name from Isaac Shelby, the 1st and 5th Governor of Kentucky, who was instrumental in William Henry Harrison getting generalship of the western forces in the War of 1812.
The Shelby County village of Russia (pronounced ROO-shee) is part of an area of western Shelby County/eastern Darke County that was settled by a heavily French population. According to the 1958 book Ohio Town Names by William Daniel Overman, the village got its name from its terrain. Supposedly some of the early French settlers in the area were veterans of Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's invasion of Russia and found the area similar to that they had invaded decades prior.
Crawford County (203 years old)
Crawford County is named after William Crawford, an officer in the Revolutionary War who died in 1782 while conducting a raid in what is now northwest Ohio. The county was created out of land not previously assigned to a county.
Along State Route 19 in Crawford County, one will find a small park called Seccaium, notable for two reasons. Most recently, when there were intercity rail lines connecting towns and cities, the area was home to Seccaium Park, an amusement park along the trolly line. Long before that, the area served as neutral ground where Native American tribes could peacefully gather to trade and resolve disagreements over hunting territory.
Hancock County (203 years old)
Hancock County was created out of land not previously assigned to a county and is named after John Hancock, the first signer of the Declaration of Independence.
Hancock County was the home of two of the first Medal of Honor recipients. Private William Bensinger and Private John Porter were two members of the "Andrew's Raiders" who penetrated hundreds of miles behind enemy lines to steal a train and attempt to destroy rail lines and bridges. Members of the raiding party received the first ever Medals of Honor. Bensinger's Medal of Honor is still on display at the McComb Public Library.
Hardin County (203 years old)
Hardin County, like other counties sharing its birthday of April 1, 1820, was created out of land not belonging to any county. The county is named after John Hardin, a Revolutionary War veteran.
Hardin County was the site of one of the nation's first agricultural workers union strikes, when in 1934 the Agriculture Workers Union, Local 19724, began a strike over poor working conditions and low pay on the Hardin County onion fields. The strike lasted about two months -- months filled with violence. The mayor of McGuffey had his house bombed while Okey Odell, the leader of the union, was abducted and beaten. The strike ended with a partial victory for the unions, but over farming of the fertile onion fields soon depleted the natural resource and farming jobs dwindled.
Henry County (203 years old)
Henry County was created out of non-county land and is named after Patrick Henry, the Founding Father most famous for his "give me liberty or give me death!" speech.
Henry County was the home of Camp Latty, one of several military camps that popped up during the Civil War to muster and train soldiers. Camp Latty was the mustering site of the 68th Ohio Infantry Regiment, which saw action in several pivotal battles. These include the Battle of Shiloh, the Siege of Vicksburg, and the March to the Sea. The regiment is also a reminder of the overwhelming risk that disease posed for militaries before the rise of modern military medicine. The regiment lost 300 men during the war; 50 killed in action or mortally wounded, while 250 died of disease.
Marion County (203 years old)
Marion County is named after Francis Marion, a general during the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. His use of guerrilla tactics earned him the nickname "the Swamp Fox."
The county saw some of the most extensive eminent domain utilizations in state history when, during World War II, the federal government acquired more than 13,000 acres of land to construct the Marion Engineer Depot and the Scioto Ordinance Plant. Camp Marion, a POW camp, was also created on the grounds of the Marion Engineer Depot; it would hold up to 500 POWs by the end of the war.
Mercer County (203 years old)
Mercer County is named after Hugh Mercer. Born in Scotland, Mercer took part in the Jacobite uprising of 1745 before fleeing Britain for Pennsylvania. He was a general in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and died from wounds suffered during the Battle of Princeton.
The Carthagena Black Cemetery, located in Mercer County, was established in 1840 as the cemetery for the village of the same name. The village, plotted by Charles Moore, was home to more than 100 black and mixed-race families during the mid 1800s; many of the first residents had fled from the Cincinnati race riots of 1829. The cemetery is the resting place of nine black veterans, one from the War of 1812 and eight from the Civil War.
Paulding County (203 years old)
Paulding County is named after John Paulding, one of three men who captured John Andre, the British spy who was planning with Benedict Arnold to turn West Point over to the British. Paulding's fellow militiamen are also the namesakes of Ohio counties.
The Paulding County motto of "No Compromise!" traces its history about to an episode in 1887 known as the "Reservoir War." Near the Paulding County village of Antwerp was the Six Mile Reservoir, a part of the Wabash and Erie Canal. An effort to get the state to demolish the reservoir after the canal closed stalled and area men decided to take matters into their own hands. On April 25, 1887, a band of a few hundred area residents dynamited the banks of the reservoir and the canal locks that bound it. Some of these men carried a banner that read "No Compromise!" on one side and "The Reservoir Must Go" on the other. By the time the state militia mustered and arrived at the scene the crowd had dispersed.
Putnam County (203 years old)
Putnam County is named in honor of Israel Putnam, a military officer in both the French and Indian War and the Revolutionary War. He was also the cousin of Rufus Putnam, one of Ohio's Founding Fathers.
A Putnam County boys high school basketball team pulled off a championship run in 1950 reminiscent of the film Hoosiers -- although it happened four years before the inspiration for the film. The Miller City Wildcats went 29-0 to win the Class B state title, beating teams with All-Ohioans Dick Honingford (who would go on to play at Notre Dame) and Gene Neff (who would go on to play at Kentucky). The school was so small that the basketball team comprised 33% of its male enrollment (12 members of the team and only 37 boys in the school).
Sandusky County (203 years old)
Sandusky County shares its name with a river flowing through the county and spilling into Lake Erie. The name is derived from the Wyandot word "saandustee," meaning "water."
A lesser known, but no less vital, American victory in the War of 1812 occurred in modern-day Sandusky: The Battle of Fort Stephenson. The fort defended an important supply depot for American forces and was defended by 160 men and a single cannon. The fort was commanded by Major George Croghan. The fort was sieged by a group of British infantry and Native Americans totaling an estimated 3,300. Under expert leadership from Croghan, the Americans repelled the siege, killing 26 (as well as an additional 29 missing, believed dead) and wounding another 41 of the attackers while losing only a single soldier. The battle, along with the Battle of Lake Erie a month later, all but ended the War of 1812 on the western front.
Seneca County (203 years old)
Seneca County is named after the Seneca Nation, the westernmost nation of the Iroquois Confederacy. While the Confederacy was centered in New York, its constitution nations stretched westward into Ohio.
The Seneca Caverns, located in Seneca County, is a cave system that visitors can tour portions down to about 110 feet underground. The cave is connected to an aquifer, meaning portions of the cave flood at certain parts of the year. Past the seventh level, the cave is flooded year-round. The deepest any human has gone is 220 feet underground, but it is known that the cave descends even further.
Union County (203 years old)
Union County, unlike its 1820 siblings, was created out of parts of Delaware, Franklin, Logan, and Madison counties, as well as some unaffiliated land.
Medical discoveries of the past century have been instrumental in saving lives, but they have also inadvertently caused the demise of some tourist destinations. Magnetic Springs, a village in Union County, is a prime example. When, in 1879 a man discovered the spring in a local park had magnetic properties (due to the minerals in the water), people came from across the state and country to take advantage of what was believed to be the spring's healing properties. After the release of the polio vaccine and other medical breakthroughs, visitors to the town dried up.
Van Wert County (203 years old)
Van Wert County is named after Isaac Van Wart, one of the three militiamen who captured the British spy John Andre. While holding him in custody, Van Wart, John Paulding, and the other militiaman discovered documents of Andre's communications with Continental General Benedict Arnold. Spellings of "Van Wart" and "Van Wert" were used alternately.
One the world's greatest amateur astronomer hailed from the Van Wert portion of the city of Delphos. Leslie Peltier lived from 1900 to 1980 and is credited with discovering 12 comets and making more than 132,000 star observations. The asteroid 3850 Peltier is named in his honor, as is the Peltier Award, given annually to amateur astronomers.
Williams County (203 years old)
Williams County is named after David Williams, the third of the three militiamen (along with John Paulding and Isaac Van Wart) who captured the British spy John Andre. Despite the three being poor farmers, they rejected a bribe offer from Andre and instead turned him in to the Continental Army.
The Bryan Air Mail Field was an important waystation for the early mail postal system. It opened in September 1918 and was one of the stops on the transcontinental air mail route. In the era before radio and modern navigational tools and when pilots flew open cockpit biplanes, a constellation of airfields were created to assist in navigation and refueling. The Bryan Air Mail Field served for a time as one of the main stops between New York and Chicago for postal carriers.
Wood County (203 years old)
Wood County is named after Eleazer Wood, an officer during the War of 1812 who played a role in the defense of Fort Meigs in the county that now bears his name.
The Wood County village of Grand Rapids was home of a remarkable artist and inventor named Dominick Labino. While working in industry, Labino was an innovator in creating fiberglass and some of his fiberglass inventions were used in the insulation of the Gemini and Apollo space programs. Later, he was an pioneer in glassblowing art and his pieces are in museums around the world (ranging from Toledo, Cleveland, and Washington, D.C. to Dusseldorf, London, and Leerdam).
Fulton County (173 years old)
Fulton County was created out of Henry, Lucas, and Williams counties and is named after Robert Fulton. Fulton was an engineer and inventor credited with creating the first practical submarine, some of the first naval torpedoes, and, most famously, the first steamboat.
While it is well-known that the "Toledo War" between Ohio and the Michigan Territory did not actually involve armies fighting over territory, one of the most pivotal episodes occurred in modern-day Fulton County. The Battle of Phillips Corners occurred on April 26, 1835, when Ohio land surveyors were attacked by Michigan militia forces and nine were taken prisoner. Surveyors who escaped attested that they were fired upon by the militia while Michigan contended there were only warning shots fired into the sky. Either way, Ohio Governor Robert Lucas reacted by amping up hostilities through establishing Toledo as the seat of Lucas County and establishing a Court of Common Pleas in the city.
Noble County (172 years old)
Noble County was created out of Guernsey, Morgan, Monroe, and Washington counties. The youngest county, the origin of Noble County's name is unclear. A history of Noble County written in 1887 explains the two explanations: the chairman of the Ohio House of Representatives committee that oversaw new counties was named Warren Noble, so giving the county the name "Noble" was a way to curry his influential support; alternatively, the family of John Noble was one of the area's most prominent farming families and his son, John Noble, Jr., was on the county's first board of county commissioners.
The first discovery of oil in Ohio occurred in Noble County in 1814. While digging a well for salt brine, Silas Thorla and Robert McKee found both their intended target and oil. To separate the oil from the salt brine they originally sought, they soaked the mixture in blankets and then wrung out the blankets.