THE CITY OF PERRYSBURG
YESTERDAY AND TODAY
One of only two cities in the United States platted by the federal government (Washington, DC is the other one) Perrysburg, Ohio is home to the largest wooden walled fortification in North America, is site of the world headquarters of Owens Illinois and boasts Tree City USA distinction for its care for the environment and lush surroundings.
A storied past of early American history is part of the tapestry that is the City's rich past.
Click here to visit www.historicperrysburg.org
HISTORY OF PERRYSBURG
By Judy Justus
In 1810, the first settlers in this area, led by Amos Spafford and his family, settled on the flats below the bluff where Fort Meigs would be built two years later. They came from Cleveland by boat on Lake Erie and then down the Maumee River, officially named "Miami of Lake Erie."
Amos Spafford of Orwell, Vermont and Litchfield, Connecticut was part of the surveyor teams in 1796 and 1797 that were sponsored by Moses Cleaveland from Connecticut to plot a new river town. Amos moved there with his family two years later.
In 1809, he received the appointment as "Postmaster and Collector of the Port of the District of Miami" and would have to relocate by 1810 to the foot of the Miami of Lake Erie rapids (Maumee River) to establish this port. The government had held these twelve square miles for military purposes since the Greenville Treaty in 1795.
Spafford exercised his pre-emptive rights and created a new town on River Tracts #64 and #65, on a quarter section (160 acres). The real estate was designated as Spafford Grant, Miami River of Lake Erie, Township of Waynesfield, Logan County.
It extended to Buttonwood Island, and deep into the interior of the prairie/woods acreage. Amos and the government expected the town, "Port Miami of Lake Erie" and its waterways to be a viable trade center. The new inhabitants dubbed it "Orleans of the North," and hoping it would rival its companion southern port town in Louisiana.
The Spaffords brought four of their children: Anna, Chloe, Adolphus, and Aurora with them. Amos' son Samuel had been part of the surveying crew, but elected to stay behind with his family in New York State until his father died in 1818.
The war clouds of 1812 rumbled throughout the land. The erection of a fort on a high elevation on the south side of the river downstream and diagonally opposite the old French/British Fort Miami, warned of fighting soon to erupt again between the Americans and British with their allies, the Native Americans.
The government fort was built in February of 1813 by General William Henry Harrison who would be elected as the 9th President of the United States in 1841), General Anthony Wayne's former aide-de-camp. It was named Fort Meigs in honor of Ohio's fourth governor, Return Jonathan Meigs. Fort Meigs was constructed on a bluff above the Maumee River, and created from a design by army engineer Captain Eleazer D. Wood, for whom the county would be named.
The War of 1812 between the Americans and British interrupted the flow of settlers to this area. The Spaffords and others fled until the war was over.
The men in the fort were attacked twice in the spring and summer of 1813, by British soldiers under the leadership of the British General Proctor and by Native American forces led by Shawnee Chief Tecumseh. But the soldiers held the fort. The majority of the garrison had left by 1815 and it was dismantled.
The former inhabitants of Port Miami (Orleans) slowly trickled back home, after the war ended in 1815, to find their log and frame homes and the little schoolhouse on the hill burned to the ground. Some of the dejected and tired families moved into the empty block houses, others set about rebuilding their town on the flats.
The little town never reached its potential to become a large shipping port, due to the shoals and rock ledge on the river preventing large ships from traveling any further up the river. In addition, spring floods and ice floes destroyed homes and almost completely wiped it out twice. Since Amos was employed by the federal government, he petitioned the government to create a new town, to the east and high up on a bluff.
In 1816 the government sent surveyors Joseph Wampler and William Brookfield to lay out a town a mile square in the dense woods on the bluff. Perrysburg's official birth date is April 25, 1816 on the map they drew.
On April 12 of 1816, the United States Land Commissioner, Josiah Meigs, wrote to Amos Spafford and gave him the chance to honor Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory over the superior British fleet on September 10, 1813 in the Battle of Lake Erie. Meigs wanted to create a town name utilizing Perry's name. He suggested "Perrysville" or "Perrytown", but Amos coined another one, "Perrysburg(h)." Once part of Champaign County, it was now in Logan County. Wood County wasn't created until February 22, 1820 and included all of Lucas County until 1835.
Perrysburg also honors the young Commodore with a large bronze copy of an original statue from Cleveland. He and his cabin boys look down Louisiana Avenue from Front Street. The statue, sculpted in 1860, was given to Perrysburg in 1933 by the City of Cleveland, where it had stood for seventy years. It was erected on September 18, 1937. The weathered original of the Commodore was given to Put-in-Bay in 2000 for display inside its museum, at the Perry Victory and International Peace Memorial. The cabin boys are displayed in the atrium between the Perrysburg Police Station and the Perrysburg Municipal Building.
The town from Boundary to Boundary is actually 1 _ miles wide by 1 mile deep. The "in-town lots" are from Mulberry to Hickory. The lots on either side of those streets are still referred to as "out-lots". (They must have been surveyors with a sense of humor. After hearing that the nickname of the town on the flats called "Orleans", they named our 8 rods, 132' wide street "Louisiana".)
Maumee was the first county seat as it was part of Wood County until 1835. Perrysburg became the county seat of justice March 27, 1823 and remained so until 1870. The first mayor, attorney John Spink, was appointed in the early 1830's.
Amos' sons were instrumental in forming the early government of Wood County and Perrysburg.
Samuel (1775-1831) came here in 1818 and was one of the first three county commissioners from 1820-1823 when Maumee was the county seat. He held a tavern license from 1820 to 1831 and was the innkeeper for the famous stagecoach inn, the Exchange Hotel at 140 Front Street from 1823 until his death. He established the Presbyterian Church in Maumee in 1820.
Aurora (1794-1849), another son of Amos, was a successful businessman, farmer, judge and county treasurer. He built a large home across from Fort Meigs that is still standing. He helped establish the Methodist Church here in 1819 and they met in his home.
By 1826 Perrysburg began attracting more settlers, mainly from the eastern part of the United States. Of course the roads through the Black Swamp were almost impassable, except in very cold or very dry weather. But the adventurers prevailed and soon a bustling town emerged that had church classes, farmers, lawyers, fishermen, blacksmiths, brick masons, shipbuilders, a sawmill, lumber yard, implement store, meat rendering plant, tannery, furniture makers, carpenters, doctors, and merchants.
Law enforcement and fire safety became the issues and Sheriff John Webb was the fourth sheriff, but the first to serve and live on this side of the river. A small courthouse was built on Front Street and the jail from Maumee was floated across the river. The second jail, made of brick in 1846, still stands at the corner of Indiana and Findlay Streets.
The cholera epidemic of 1854 decimated the population and the town literally closed down for two months in that summer. More than one hundred men, women and children died from the disease.
But the town rebounded. A new bridge across the river was built, as were lovely palatial Front Street homes. A weekly newspaper began, various churches were opened and the first library established. Our citizens can enjoy ten well-kept parks and shop in a historic district. The first public school was opened in 1849 and there are now four public grade schools and one parochial, a junior high and a modern high school that opened in 2000. Our library opened its present building in 2001 and a new police station was dedicated in 2004. The youth enjoy a municipal swimming pool, baseball diamonds, soccer fields and tennis courts.
Thanks to hard work and fortitude, the Black Swamp was drained by laborers hand digging a myriad of ditches and the fertile land began supporting a thriving town. Since its sparse beginning in 1816, Perrysburg has bloomed as a progressive, family-friendly city on the Maumee River at the foot of the rapids.