Huron County History
Huron County was established by the Ohio Legislature in 1809 from the western end of the Connecticut Western Reserve, but did not have a functioning government of its own until after the War of 1812 ended in 1815. Huron County originally embraced all of the 500,000 acre "Fire Sufferes Tract" or Firelands. This land was given in 1792 by the Connecticut Legislature to persons who had lost property during British raids on Connecticut during the American Revolution.
Although some of the early Huron County settlers were Connecticut natives, the majority of the persons who came here were simply opportunists looking for cheap land and milder weather than they had in New England and New York. Much of the Fire Sufferes land had passed to speculators who were eager to see the county develop and thus make their land more valuable.
In 1838 and 1840, Huron County was considerably reduced in size when Erie County was formed from the two northern tiers of townships. The earliest settlements had been in that territory given to Erie County and the first battle of the War of 1812 to take place on Ohio soil was in Danbury township of old Huron County, now a part of Ottawa County on the north side of Sandusky Bay. The first County Seat was established at a town called Huron which was platted in 1811. This town no longer exists, but was located in what is now Erie County. It was called Avery in 1815 when Court was first held there and when the Commissioners first met, but today the site of this town is good farmland on the banks of the Huron River.
There was general dissatisfaction with the site of the first County Seat and in 1818 the proprietors of a town plat in Norwalk township succeeded in having the County Seat located there. There was a Courthouse begun at the old County Seat but apparently it was never finished. The first Courthouse in Norwalk was two-story wooden building which stood in the front yard of the present Courthouse. Naturally, many exciting and historical frontier events in Huron County history took place in this old Courthouse, including the indictment and subsequent conviction of two Ottawa Indians for a double murder. They were executed in Norwalk on July 1, 1819, for their crimes.
By 1830 the wooden Courthouse had become too small and an office building was built to augment it. In 1837 a new brick Courthouse was constructed on the site of the present building, with a new jail behind it. In 1881 the Courthouse was greatly remodeled and enlarged, and in 1887 the present jail (as of 1982) and sheriff's residence was completed. The latter building is now on the National Register of Historic Places along with the present Courthouse.
The present Courthouse was reconstructed in 1913 from the ashes of the 1881 building which was heavily damaged by fire in the summer of 1912. There was considerable opposition to rebuilding the 1881 structure, especially from those who wanted the County Seat relocated at a more central location such as North Fairfield. That had also been a hot item when the remodeling was done in 1881, but Norwalk has persevered.
The early settlers in Huron County were typical in that they were mainly farmers and "Mechanics". Mechanics at that time were men who could do carpentry work, blacksmithing and like crafts. The county remained agricultural with good mill facilities on the many streams which flow to Lake Erie and a good market at the Lake Erie ports, until the advent of the first railroad in 1835 and the completion of the Milan Canal in 1839.
Although the Milan Canal was geographically in Erie County, its impact was felt in Huron County in that it brought small industry to the area and increased commerce. The farmers who hauled grain in Milan wanted to stop somewhere on their way home and buy goods and supplies for their home use. The first railroads radiated from Sandusky, but in 1853 a railroad (last known as Penn Central) crossed the northern tier of townships in Huron County and made large towns out of the small ones, and created new towns with excellent shipping facilities. Other railroads after the Civil War created even more diversification in the southern part of the County and brought about establishment of the present city of Willard in 1874 at an important railroad junction.
Today Huron County has a population of approximately 53,400 (as of 1982) and enjoys a large farming community as well as a variety of large and small industries. The County contains 475 square miles and several of its 19 townships carry names reminiscent of the Connecticut origins such as New London, New Haven, Lyme, Greenwhich, Norwalk and Ridgefield. The County is drained by two major rivers, the Huron and the Vermilion, and just to the south of the County is Ohio's watershed. The Huron River marks the eastern edge of the great prairie of the United States which stretches West to the Rocky Mountains.
Early Settlers found the east half of the county heavily forested and slightly rolling, while the western half was not so heavily forested and had many open areas with "islands" of timber. The land there was nearly flat except for sand and gravel ridges which mark ancient shores of Lake Erie.
Another Huron County History