It’s a well-known fact of local history (or, it ought to be) that Huron County originally included all of the original Firelands grant. Ruggles Township eventually became part of Ashland County; Danbury Township is now in Ottawa County; and Erie County was formed from Huron County in two divisions — one in 1838 and the other in 1840.
Not long ago I was at a gathering where someone expounded a story that when it was proposed to form Erie County in 1838, everyone in Huron County agreed with the idea on the premise that that territory was just swamp and waste. Actually, the story is much different from that and had a number of factors in play at the time.
Norwalk has been the seat of Huron County (as fixed by the legislature) since 1818. At that time it was very near the geographic center, which seemed reasonable. By the early 1830s a number of Sanduskians were proposing to move county government there in order to increase the value of property they wanted to sell. A convenient location meant nothing to them.
In 1838 there was a Whig County Convention in Norwalk. The Sandusky people put up several candidates for county office, believing that if they were elected then moving the county seat to Sandusky could be established. This plan didn’t work, so they turned to state legislators to introduce a bill to establish a separate county with Sandusky at the seat of justice.
After some maneuvering, the bill passed in March of 1838 to establish a county from what is now the west part of Erie County along with part of Sandusky County to the west and the territory north of Sandusky Bay, which included Danbury Township. People in southern Huron County has opposed this move, so the Sandusky interest sent a man to talk with them and propose that they support the new county, and then he’d work to help them form a new county in southern Huron, northern Richland, and part of Seneca and Crawford. Plymouth of New Haven would be proposed for the county seat, and this sounded good to the locals.
As we know, this county to be called Plymouth or Kenton, never came to fruition. At the same time there was a group called “The Lake Shore,” proposing that Huron County’s seat of justice be moved to somewhere near Lake Erie between Huron and Vermilion. This never happened, either, and in two short years that territory became part of Erie County. Other boundaries were adjusted so that that county took the shape it has today.
Thus the creation of Erie County was based mainly on politics. Norwalk then has the Reflector (which you’re reading right now) which was Whig, and opposed the county; and the Experiment, which was Democrat-Republican and apparently in favor of the new county. The Experiment editorially urged Democrat-Republicans in the new county to support candidates for office in the new county.
Meanwhile, Samuel Preston, as editor of the Reflector, commented that Huron County had been “clipped” of some territory and that “the county (Erie) is made up of land and water, and may not improperly be called an Amphibious County. We expect there were great rejoicings at Sandusky City, as we could hear the ‘big guns.’
So, the lesson here is that politics favor so many changes, and that few changes come about easily.
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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at Colonial Flower and Gift Shoppe at 7 W. Main St. in Uptown Norwalk. These preserve my earlier columns in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.