You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.
That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.
That’s older than America for those playing at home.
So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Ohio? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?
Because even if your Ohio city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.
And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.
These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Buckeye State according to their ‘date of foundation’:
- Cleveland (Photos)
- Cincinnati (Photos)
- Kent (Photos)
- Mansfield (Photos)
- Columbus (Photos)
- Nelsonville (Photos)
- Canton (Photos)
- Lorain (Photos)
- Elyria (Photos)
- Medina (Photos)
For being 222 years old, Cleveland doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Ohio? That would be Riverside — a brand spanking 23 years old.
How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Ohio… Or Is It Settled?
Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.
So what did we do instead?
Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!
For the majority of cities in Ohio, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):
And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.
If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.
All in all, we were able to collect data on 237 out of 289 in Ohio with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 82.0% completion rate.
We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Cleveland turning out to be the matriarch of Ohio at the ripe old age of 222.
Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.
Cleveland was named on July 22, 1796, when surveyors of the Connecticut Land Company laid out Connecticut’s Western Reserve into townships and a capital city. They named it ‘Cleaveland’ after their leader, General Moses Cleaveland. Cleaveland oversaw design of the plan for what would become the modern downtown area, centered on Public Square, before returning home, never again to visit Ohio. The first settler in Cleaveland was Lorenzo Carter, who built a cabin on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. The Village of Cleaveland was incorporated on December 23, 1814. In spite of the nearby swampy lowlands and harsh winters, its waterfront location proved to be an advantage, giving access to Great Lakes trade.
The area began rapid growth after the 1832 completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal. This key link between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes connected the city to the Atlantic Ocean via the Erie Canal and Hudson River, and later via the St. Lawrence Seaway. Its products could reach markets on the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River. Growth continued with added railroad links. Cleveland incorporated as a city in 1836.
Cincinnati began in 1788 when Mathias Denman, Colonel Robert Patterson and Israel Ludlow landed at the spot on the north bank of the Ohio River opposite the mouth of the Licking River and decided to settle there. The original surveyor, John Filson, named it ‘Losantiville’. In 1790, Arthur St. Clair, the governor of the Northwest Territory, changed the name of the settlement to ‘Cincinnati’ in honor of the Society of the Cincinnati, made up of Revolutionary War veterans, of which he was a member. Which is named after Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, a dictator of the early Roman Republic who saved Rome from crisis and then retired to his farm because he didn’t want to rule.
The introduction of steamboats on the Ohio River in 1811 opened up its trade to more rapid shipping, and the city established commercial ties with St. Louis, Missouri and especially New Orleans downriver. Cincinnati was incorporated as a city in 1819. Exporting pork products and hay, it became a center of pork processing in the region. From 1810 to 1830 its population nearly tripled, from 9,642 to 24,831. Completion of the Miami and Erie Canal in 1827 to Middletown, Ohio further stimulated businesses, and employers struggled to hire enough people to fill positions. The city had a labor shortage until large waves of immigration by Irish and Germans in the late 1840s. The city grew rapidly over the next two decades, reaching 115,000 persons by 1850.
The region was originally inhabited by various tribes of American Indians, including the early Mound Builders. Around 1780, Captain Samuel Brady achieved notoriety for his activities in the area, including his famous leap of 21 feet (6 m) over the Cuyahoga River to avoid capture by an unknown band of American Indians. The site, known as Brady’s Leap, is now a city park. Settlement by Europeans began in the late 1790s and early 19th century. As part of the Connecticut Western Reserve, the area was divided into survey townships in 1798 and almost all of what is now Kent was originally part of Town 3 Range 9, which would eventually be known as Franklin Township. Aaron Olmsted, a wealthy Connecticut merchant, had purchased the 16,000-acre (6,500 ha) township and named it for his son Aaron Franklin Olmsted.
Mansfield was laid out and founded by James Hedges, Joseph Larwell, and Jacob Newman, and was platted in June 1808 as a settlement. It was named for Colonel Jared Mansfield, the United States Surveyor General who directed its planning. Originally platted as a square, known today as the public square or Central Park. During that same year of its founding, a log cabin was built by Samuel Martin on lot 97 (where the H.L. Reed building is now), making it the first and only house to be built in Mansfield in 1808. Martin lived in the cabin during the winter and illegally sold whiskey to Indians, which compelled Martin to flee the country. James Cunningham moved into the cabin in the year of 1809. At that time, there were less than a dozen settlers in Richland County and Ohio was still largely wilderness. Two blockhouses were erected on the public square during the War of 1812 for protection against the North American colonies and its Indian allies. The block houses were erected in a single night. After the war ended, the first courthouse and jail of Richland County were located in one of two blockhouses until 1816. The blockhouse was later used as a school with Eliza Wolf being its teacher.
The area including modern-day Columbus once comprised the Ohio Country, under the nominal control of the French colonial empire through the Viceroyalty of New France from 1663 until 1763. In the 18th century, European traders flocked to the area, attracted by the fur trade.
The area found itself frequently caught between warring factions, including American Indian and European interests. In the 1740s, Pennsylvania traders overran the territory until the French forcibly evicted them. In the early 1750s, the Ohio Company sent George Washington to the Ohio Country to survey. Fighting for control of the territory in the French and Indian War (1754-1763) became part of the international Seven Years’ War (1756-1763). During this period, the region routinely suffered turmoil, massacres, and battles. The 1763 Treaty of Paris ceded the Ohio Country to the British Empire.
Canton was founded in 1805, incorporated as a village in 1822, and re-incorporated as a city in 1838.
Bezaleel Wells, the surveyor who divided the land of the town, named it after Canton (a traditional name for Guangdong), China. The name was a memorial to a trader named John O’Donnell, whom Wells admired. O’Donnell had named his Maryland plantation after the Chinese city, as he had been the first person to transport goods from there to Baltimore.
Ford Motor Company had the Lorain Assembly Plant in the city, mostly known for assembling the Ford Econoline (E-series) van, Ford Torino and Mercury Montego, and beginning in 1975 the Ford Thunderbird and Mercury Cougar (through 1997); the plant ceased all production on December 14, 2005 because the UAW and Ford management were unable to come to terms on a new contract. The sprawling United States Steel Mill stretches for nearly 3 miles (4.8 km) on the city’s south side. These mills had operated in the city since 1895 and employed thousands of local residents. Though the blast furnaces were idled in late 2008, Republic Steel announced in December 2011 that they would be building electric arc furnaces to once again make steel in Lorain. However, Republic Steel closed its doors for good in July 2016.
The village of Elyria was officially founded in 1817 by Heman Ely, who built a log house, dam, gristmill and sawmill on the village’s site along the Black River. Ely began to build more houses to accommodate European-American settlers migrating to what was, at that time, within Huron County, Ohio. By the time Ely died in 1852, Elyria had five churches, three grocery stores, three flour mills, a newspaper, and a population of more than 1,500. Early postal service from Cleveland was provided by Artemis Beebe, a rider who held the first contract to deliver mail across this section of the Black River.
Medina was founded on November 30, 1818 as part of the Connecticut Western Reserve. It was originally named Mecca, but an unincorporated community in Ohio already had that name, so the name was changed. Both Mecca and Medina are cities in Saudi Arabia and particularly significant to Islam.
Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Ohio
So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Ohio. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Ohio.
And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Buckeye State.
And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Ohio:
- Riverside (Founded in 1995)
- Munroe Falls (Founded in 1995)
- Beachwood (Founded in 1995)
Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Ohio
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