We tip a cap to an ad hoc committee for unanimously picking 1822 as the year for Tiffin’s birthday.
The group of local historians, members of the Tiffin Historic Trust, Seneca County Historical Society and the Seneca County Museum Foundation had considered events ranging from the War of 1812 in 1813 to the unification of Tiffin and Fort Ball in 1850 when contemplating the year for a bicentennial celebration.
A strong candidate was 1817, when Erastus Bowe erected an inn and tavern – the first civilian structure in what grew to become the village of Oakley. But Bowe’s establishment served soldiers assigned to nearby Fort Ball as well as travelers – the location being about a day’s travel from either Upper Sandusky or Fremont.
But the city really began as a community when Josiah Hedges bought land along the Sandusky River opposite Oakley, named it Tiffin and – in 1822 – built a dam, a mill and a home. And it has been home to residents of Tiffin ever since.
After two months of discussion, a committee created to research and establish a date for Tiffin’s birthday has chosen 1822.
Mayor Aaron Montz said the committee – which consisted of local historians, members of the Tiffin Historic Trust, Seneca County Historical Society and the Seneca County Museum Foundation – unanimously agreed on the date, which was the year Josiah Hedges purchased land and organized the community he called Tiffin.
According to research compiled by Seneca County Museum and Seneca County Historical Society member Mark Steinmetz, the city has celebrated Tiffin’s birthday in the past as 1817 and 1822. He also said there were no guidelines to picking an establishment date, which generated more confusion.
The committee considered a timeline of events from the construction of the fort for the War of 1812 in 1813 to the unification of Tiffin and Fort Ball in 1850.
The originally accepted birthday of 1817 was to celebrate Erastus Bowe’s arrival in the area and the building of his cabin and the tavern on the Fort Ball side of the Sandusky River. The committee came to the conclusion he could not be the first white settler on the land because if he was to build a tavern, he would have to have customers.
“No one comes to an area where no one is settled to build a tavern,” Montz said. “There has to be people there.”
More consideration went into finding a definitive, more significant date instead.
Because Montz said the establishment of Tiffin should be based on a significant event and not when it was accepted that white settlers had settled the area in 1817, the committee agreed the distribution of the plats by Hedges should be the accepted year.
Between research compiled by Steinmetz and Tiffin Historic Trust member and historian John Huss, they said Hedges purchased 854 acres in 1821 and the next year had it surveyed and platted. As a result, he offered free land to settlers as long as they lived on the land.
“When I see Hedges coming here in 1822 and just building. .. he has a plan,” Steinmetz said. “To me, that’s the start of Tiffin.”
“We considered everything,” Montz said. “At the end of the day, we had settled on 1822 because… you need something significant.”
Hedges not only developed the area, but he also helped make Tiffin the county seat. After that, Steinmetz said, the area originally called Oakley sold its “haphazard” development to Hedges. By 1850, the community of Fort Ball also combined with Tiffin.
The established date does not represent the communities of Fort Ball or Oakley, Montz said, adding the date was only an “accurate representation” of the establishment of Tiffin.
As a result, celebrations can be planned for the establishment date. Montz said smaller celebrations are to be considered for events such as the establishment of Fort Ball and for the birthday of Edward Tiffin, the first governor of Ohio.
Because the city is starting on a redesign of Tiffin’s logo, Montz said it will not be difficult to incorporate the 1822 date. After the rebranding is completed, Montz said, more items can be updated, such the signs welcoming visitors to Tiffin.
Although the date has brought much dissension in the community, historical author Lisa Swickard said officially establishing the date now can stop any future disputes.
“To sum up all the dates we’ve considered, the big loser is clearly 1817,” Former Heidelberg University history professor and local historian Ken Davison said.
Montz said regardless of the dissension on the date, the conversation has brought more information to light in the community.
“We’re excited nonetheless, because if nothing else, this has brought attention to the history of Tiffin,” he said.
Legislation is to be brought to Tiffin City Council in order to consider passing a resolution accepting the decision made by the committee.