Follow the signs

Trains, forts, the natural gas boom and the underground railroad are some of the highlights of historical markers detailing the history of Hancock County.

A few months ago, Seneca and Wyandot historical markers were reviewed, so it’s time to look into the rich histories of Seneca County’s neighbor to the west.

Historical markers offer glimpses into history, but often are overlooked by people as they live their daily lives. This spring, take a historical tour of the area by stopping to find and read some of the familiar brown markers.

Hancock County has 23 markers, so here are some select as highlights detailing some of the markers in Findlay and the eastern half of the county.

To learn about all of them, visit the Ohio Historical Society’s Remarkable Ohio website at www.remarkableohio.org.

19th Century Freight Depot

The marker was placed in 1989 on Findlay’s East Street between East Crawford and East Sandusky at the Greek Revival House by the Historic Preservation Guild of Hancock County and The Ohio Historical Society.

Front text: 19th Century Freight Depot

The freight depot east of this marker stands on the western terminus of Hancock County’s first rail link to the outside world. In 1849 the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad Company opened a branch line from Findlay to its main line at Carey. A freight warehouse was built here ca. 1848 and passenger station in 1863. The Cleveland, Cincinnati, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad replaced these earlier buildings with the present depot in the 1890s.

Back text: Railroads of Hancock County

By the time of the 1890s Gas Boom era the following railroads had linked Findlay and Hancock County to most parts of Ohio as well as the nation.

1849: Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad

1860: Lake Erie & Western Railroad

1874: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad

1880: McComb, Deshler & Toledo Railroad

1881: New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad

1883: Cleveland, Delphos & St. Louis Railroad

1883: Toledo, Columbus & Southern Railroad

First Courthouse of Hancock County

The marker was placed at 819 Park St., Findlay, in 1975 by the Historic Preservation Guild of Hancock County, Findlay/Hancock County Bar Association and the Ohio Historical Society.

Front text: First Courthouse of Hancock County

This “temporary courthouse” was authorized by the County Commissioners in 1831 completed in 1833, and in use until 1842. The building then served many functions, such as a school, church, hotel, dentist office, store and residence. It has been moved twice, 1862 and 1913, from its original location on the southwest corner of South Main and West Crawford streets. First County Court Session, March 14, 1828. First Court of Common Pleas, June, 1828. First Lawyer, Edson Goit, June, 1828. First Courthouse, 1833. Second Courthouse, 1842. Present Courthouse, 1888. Findlay/Hancock County Bar Association, March 27, 1899

Text repeats on back of marker.

Fort Necessity

The marker was placed near the former site of Fort Necessity, off SR 68 near Findlay, by Louis and Edward Galitza Fort Necessity Inc., but the marker was stolen from the site.

Front text: Fort Necessity

A short distance to the northeast a small stockade and blockhouse were built on June 22, 1812, by order of General William Hull for his nearly 2,000-man army on its Detroit expedition during the War of 1812. Here mired in mud, Hull, his Ohio militiamen, and army regulars rested, made paper cartridges, and then moved north with a lumbering wagon train to Detroit and eventual surrender.

Back text: William Hull Memorial Park

Word of General Hull’s surrender at Detroit on August 16, 1812, angered and panicked Ohioans. But from the ashes of humiliation arose a new resolve for victory against the British and their Indian allies in the War of 1812. This park is dedicated to William Hull, Revolutionary War soldier, first territorial governor of Michigan, and brigadier general in 1812.

Mt. Blanchard

The marker was placed in Mt. Blanchard on West Market Street near the park in 1980 by Mt. Blanchard Historical Society, Historic Preservation Guild of Hancock County and the Ohio Historical Society.

Front text: Mt. Blanchard

This village was founded in 1830 on the banks of the Blanchard River by Asa M. Lake, son of Asa Lake, veteran of the Revolution and War of 1812 and first settler of Delaware Township. The town and river are named for an early French pioneer, Jean Jacques Blanchard, who resided among area Shawnee Indians during the period 1770 to 1802. The Methodist Episcopal Church, first religious organization in Hancock Co., was founded in Delaware Twp. in 1828.

Back text: John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed

John Chapman, known as Johnny Appleseed, established a nursery on lots 51, 52 and 53 in 1834. Mt. Blanchard Union School, organized in 1868, was the first high school in the county outside Findlay. The large brick home at the town’s south end was built by Maylangton Hamlin in 1882. Mr. and Mrs. Dean Cunningham donated land for Island Park in 1932, which, with community cooperation, has been a constant source of enjoyment and pride.

Rawson and the Railroads

The marker was placed at Village Park in 1993 in front of 1898 Railroad Depot in Rawson by the Village of Rawson Historic Preservation Guild, Hancock Park District and the Ohio Historical Society.

Front text: Rawson and the Railroads

The original town plat of Rawson was filed on February 3, 1855, consisting of fifty-five lots in sections 13 and 14 of Union Township, Hancock County, on the Frederick Keller and George J. Kelly farms. Several residential and business structures were built in anticipation of completion of a railroad rumored to pass from Fremont through the “Rawson” area on its way to the western boundary of Ohio. Farmers Keller and Kelly named their village Rawson after L.Q. Rawson, President of the railroad company, hoping that the name would encourage him to build through their area. Financial troubles delayed construction causing a standstill in Rawson. Seventeen years later the first locomotive arrived in Rawson, spurring new construction. At that time the railroad was called the Lake Erie and Louisville; in 1879 it was changed to the Lake Erie and Western and in 1922 became part of the Nickel Plate Railroad.

Back text: The Rawson Heritage

When local residents heard the shrill blast of the steam whistle sounding from the first locomotive to arrive in Rawson in 1872, they thought that their small hamlet was finally assured of growth and prosperity. Fire, however, the plague of towns everywhere, almost destroyed Rawson in 1887. In a matter of hours nearly every building, especially those in the business district, was consumed by flames. Without the aid of the Lake Erie and Western Railroad, which transported a hose cart and men from Findlay, the town would have burned to the ground. Determined towns people rebuilt Rawson adding new features. The Depot was built in 1898, and the Western Ohio Electric Railroad, an interurban line, connected Rawson to major urban centers from 1906 to 1932. In 1937 wells in Stringfellow’s Grove began supplying water to the town. This site later became a park, and on June 11, 1951, the Nickel Plate Depot was relocated here.

Riverside Park

The marker was placed on Osborn Street, Findlay, at the park entrance south of the pool in 1987 by the Historic Preservation Guild of Hancock County, Hancock Park District and the Ohio Historical Society.

Front text: Riverside Park

One of the earliest and largest amusement parks in Northwest Ohio dedicated in 1906 on site of old waterworks. Trains brought visitors from as far away as Cleveland. 1907: Dance Pavilion and 2,000 seat auditorium built. 1908: Bathing beach made in old reservoir. 1925: Green Mill Dance Hall built on side near dam. Big name bands highlight entertainment. 1936: Shelters, band shell and pool bath house made from bricks of old waterworks. 1978: Renovation of waterfront begins new era.

Back text: Old Mill Stream

Blanchard River Valley was home for Findlay native Tell Taylor who wrote ballad “Down by the Old Mill Stream” in 1908. Settlers established many saw and grist mills. 1881: Findlay Ice Company cuts 3,000 tons of river ice which is stored in two ice houses. 1888: Construction begins on Riverside dam, reservoir and waterworks east of Findlay. 1905: Seven foot dam built near (Liberty Street) to elevate water level for boating. 1907: Seventy foot, 250-passenger steamer makes first trip from Main Street to Riverside Park. 1980: Old Mill Stream Parkway dedicated.

Fort Findlay

The marker was placed at the southwest corner of the South Main Street bridge in 1978 by the Historical Preservation Guild of Hancock County and the Ohio Historical Society.

Front text: Site of Fort Findlay

Early in the War of 1812, Gen. Wm. Hull, commander of Ohio troops, ordered Col. James Findlay to open a road from Ft. McArthur on the Scioto River to Blanchard’s Fork. Under Findlay, a stockade 50 yards square, with a blockhouse at each corner, was erected here and named in his honor. The fort was used as a supply depot.

Text repeats on back of marker.

Glass Industry of Findlay

The marker was placed at the Richardson Glass Works, 421 E. Main Cross St., Findlay, in 2003 by the Ohio Bicentennial Commission, Longaberger Company, Historic Preservation Guild of Findlay-Hancock County and the Ohio Historical Society.

Front text: The Glass Industry of Findlay

In 1884, the first natural gas well was successfully drilled in Findlay, and when The Great Karg Well, then the largest in the world, was drilled in 1886, the boom was on. Many industries, especially glass, were attracted to Findlay, lured by free or cheap gas for fuel. They included eight window, two bottle, two chimney lamp, one light bulb, one novelty, and five tableware glass factories. Famed manufacturing pioneer and inventor Mike Owens (later associated with Owens Illinois) managed the Richardson Glass Works, located at this site in 1891-1892. Tableware glass companies included Bellaire Goblet (1888-1892), Columbia Glass (1886-1892), Dalzell, Gilmore & Leighton (1888-1901), Findlay Flint Glass (1889-1991), and Model Flint Glass (1888-1893). Tableware companies employed women as decorators and packers. Hundreds of skilled glassworkers came from the eastern states of America, as well as Europe, especially Belgium, France and Germany. Bottle glassworkers were among the first workers to unionize and to use collective bargaining.

Text repeats on the back of the marker.

Ohio Oil Company – Marathon Oil Co.

The marker was placed on SR 12 at West Main Cross and Cory streets in the northwest corner of Findlay in 1987 by the Historic Preservation Guild of Hancock County and the Ohio Historical Society.

Front text: The Ohio Oil Company-Marathon Oil Co.

Site of the first Findlay Field Office for what was to become a world-wide oil company, formerly locally owned and operated. 1887: The Ohio Oil Company was incorporated by five independent oil producers in the Lima field. 1901: J.C. Donnell elected President of the Ohio Oil Company. Company’s ‘big well,’ the “Hugh McMurray,” comes in. 1929: Construction begins on new office building at South Main Street and Hardin Street. 1962: Name changed to Marathon Oil Company to reflect international operations.

Back text: Gas Boom Era

Four years (1886-1890) changed the course of history in Northwest Ohio, making Findlay an industrial center. 1884: Findlay Natural Gas Company, formed by Dr. Charles Oesterlen, brings in first commercial natural gas well. 1886: Karg Well comes in and Findlay becomes known as the “City of Light.” 1887: Free fuel, free light and free land attract 31 industries to Findlay. 1888: Findlay becomes known as “Glass Capital of the World.” 1890: Natural gas output declines. Oil production increases.

Underground Railroad of Hancock County

The marker was placed at 307 Main St., Findlay, in 2001 by the Ohio Bicentennial Commission, The Longaberger Company, Historic Preservation Guild of Hancock County, Hancock Historical Museum, Black Heritage Library and the Ohio Historical Society.

Front text: The Underground Railroad of Hancock County

The Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 prompted an expansion of the “Underground Railroad,” and as the state spanning the shortest distance between the Ohio River and Canada, Ohio saw heavy traffic in escaping slaves in the decades before the Civil War. Hancock County was home to many sympathetic residents who defied fugitive slave laws to help conduct slaves to freedom. “Stationmasters” offered safe havens, “conductors” accompanied fugitives through the county, and “stockholders” provided financial support and misled pursuers. Known stations were located mainly along the Perrysburg Road, now U.S. Highway 68. (Continued on other side.)

Back text: The Underground Railroad of Hancock County

David Adams, a free black barber in Findlay, watched his father and grandfather assist fugitive slaves as a child in Urbana. In the 1850s he conducted scores of “passengers” northward from Findlay. Other Hancock County stations included the farms of John Woods, John King and Judge Robert Strother; other conductors included Robert Hurd and Joel Markle. Other local participants in America’s first struggle for civil rights: William Baldwin; Francis Bartley; Dr. Belizur Beach; Henry and P.D. Bigelow; Ezra Brown; Job Chamberlin; David J. Cory; C.A. Croninger; William McCaughey; Hugh Newell; Charles O’Neal; Jonathan Parker; Henry Porch; Bass Rawson; James Spaythe; William Taylor; Jesse Wheeler; James Woods. Because of its secrecy, the extent of the local Underground Railroad may never be known.