Ohio History

Historic Facts & Overview of Ohio History

Take a peek at Ohio history. Discover an overview of Ohio's rich history, heritage, historic events, and culture.

The land we call Ohio today was part the Northwest Territory that the United States won by defeating the British in the Revolutionary War. Ohio was admitted into the Union as the 17th state in 1803. The state gets its name from the river that forms its southern border. Ohio is an Iroquois word meaning "great water." The capital of the "Buckeye State" is Columbus, and, not surprisingly, the state tree is the buckeye. Highly populated, Ohio is situated between the Eastern Seaboard and the Midwest, and is known for the fact that eight presidents were either born or lived there. The flower is the scarlet carnation.

Overview of Ohio History and Heritage

First explored for France by sieur de la Salle in 1669, the Ohio region became British property after the French and Indian Wars. Ohio was acquired by the US after the Revolutionary War in 1783. In 1788, the first permanent settlement was established at Marietta, capital of the Northwest Territory.

When European explorers first arrived in the area now known as Ohio in the late 1600s, they found Delaware, Shawnee, Wyandot, and Miami Indian tribes living there. Frenchman René-Robert Cavelier explored the Ohio region in 1670 and is believed to be the first white man to visit the area. In 1750, the Ohio Company of Virginia sent Christopher Gist to explore Ohio in preparation for the settlement of British colonists. Therefore, both the French and the British believed they held claim to Ohio. These disputes over land in North America started the French and Indian Wars, which ended in 1763 with the British in control of most land in North America. One of the provisions of the Treaty of Paris, which concluded the French and Indian War, was that the British would prohibit settlement of the areas west of the Alleghany Mountains, including Ohio. However, Europeans were hungry for land and resources. They continued to push their settlements further and further west in violation of the treaty. This continued to cause trouble with the native occupants of the land and was one of the issues that led to the Revolutionary War.

After the Revolutionary War, the Northwest Territory was established in 1787. On April 7, 1788, the town of Marietta was founded, and it became the first permanent white settlement in Ohio. The 1790s saw severe fighting with the Indians in Ohio; a major battle was won by Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne at Fallen Timbers in 1794. In the War of 1812, Commodore Oliver H. Perry defeated the British in the Battle of Lake Erie on Sept. 10, 1813. Indian raids continued, however, until the defeat of the natives in the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The Treaty of Greenville that followed gave the United States land that accounts for almost two-thirds of present-day Ohio. Thousands of settlers came to the region and soon Cincinnati, Cleveland, Dayton, and Youngstown were established.

Ohio became the 17th state on March 1, 1803. Chillicothe was the first state capital, followed by Zanesville in 1810, then Chillicothe again, and finally Columbus in 1816. River trade along the Ohio River developed after the United States acquired the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. Products could be shipped down the Ohio to the Mississippi River, then all the way to New Orleans. The first steamboat, New Orleans, went down the river in 1811.

An important naval victory, the Battle of Lake Erie, was fought off the Ohio shore during the War of 1812. American ships defeated a much larger fleet of British naval vessels. In 1825, the Erie Canal opened. In 1832, the Ohio and Erie Canal connected Cleveland and Portsmouth, Ohio. The Miami and Erie Canal connected Toledo and Cincinnati in 1845. Many mills and factories were built between 1830 and 1860 because canals and railroads had created much faster trade routes.

During the Civil War, Ohio fought on the side of the Union but the people of the state had mixed feelings toward slavery. Many helped in the "Underground Railroad"to smuggle slaves to Canada. Others with sympathies toward the South organized the Peace Democrats Party in opposition to President Lincoln. In 1863 a group of Confederate cavalry actually raided Ohio, but the attack was completely unsuccessful.

After the Civil War, Ohio's industry expanded rapidly. Benjamin Goodrich opened a rubber plant in Akron. John D. Rockefeller founded the Standard Oil Company in Cleveland. Ohio became a top manufacturing state of machinery and furniture. With the growth of the iron and steel industries, shipping of coal and iron ore on Lake Erie increased, and farming continued to be a leading industry.

When the Great Depression hit the nation in 1929, nearly half the workers in Ohio lost their jobs. A federal agency, Works Progress Administration, created jobs by constructing dams and other public facilities. The outbreak of World War II in 1941 also helped to end the Depression. Ohio factories produced airplanes, warships, and weapons. Industry continued to expand following World War II. In 1959, the St. Lawrence Seaway opened, connecting the Great Lakes to the Atlantic Ocean and creating international trade for eight Ohio cities on Lake Erie. Aluminum plants and chemical factories were built along the Ohio River.

Ohio is one of the nation's industrial leaders, ranking third in manufacturing employment nationwide. Important manufacturing centers are located in or near Ohio's major cities. Akron is known for rubber; Canton for roller bearings; Cincinnati for jet engines and machine tools; Cleveland for auto assembly, auto parts, and steel; Dayton for office machines, refrigeration, and heating and auto equipment; Youngstown and Steubenville for steel; and Toledo for glass and auto parts

The state's fertile soil produces soybeans, corn, oats, greenhouse and nursery products, wheat, hay, and fruit, including apples, peaches, strawberries, and grapes. More than half of Ohio's farm receipts come from dairy farming and sheep and hog raising. Ohio ranks fourth among the states in lime production and also ranks high in sand and gravel and crushed stone production.

Tourism is a valuable revenue producer, bringing in $25.7 billion in 2000. Attractions include the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Indian burial grounds at Mound City Group National Monument, Perry's Victory International Peace Memorial, the Pro Football Hall of Fame at Canton, and the homes of presidents Grant, Taft, Hayes, Harding, and Garfield.

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