The seat of Hancock County, and originally settled by Frenchman Jean Jacques Blanchard in 1769, “Fort Findley” began as an outpost in the War of 1812, and was named for Cincinnati native Colonel James Findley. The fort sheltered troops in the Great Black Swamp region of Ohio.
After the war, development began around the fort and the first lots were laid out in 1821 by (future Ohio Governor) Joseph Vance and Elnathan Corry. The name “Findley” was bestowed upon the village by Wilson Vance. In 1828 a Post Office was established.
John Adams (a local cabinet and chair maker, not the former President) served as the first Mayor in 1838. There were nearly one hundred families in the vicinity by the 1840s. Prior to the Civil War, Findley was a stop on the underground railroad for slaves escaping to Canada. In 1870, the modern spelling “Findlay” was adopted.
The discovery of natural gas in the 1880s created notoriety for the village. The Great Karg Well (January 20, 1886 – at Liberty and River Streets) caused the nickname the “City of Light” because it burned so brightly, both day and night.
The prevalence of natural gas in Findlay (and the city’s offer of free land) greatly contributed to the five glass factories which produced fine tableware from 1886-1902. Skilled workers from Belgium, France, and Germany found employment here, while the companies enjoyed unlimited use of the natural resource. These companies included: Columbia Glass, Bellaire Goblet, Dalzell Gilmore & Leighton, Model Flint, and the Findlay Flint Glass Company.
During this great gas boom, many of the gorgeous homes along S. Main Street were constructed. It was also during this time that Findlay opened its first public library (1890), and Riverside Park opened in 1906, complete with a movie theater, concessions, a swimming beach, a miniature train, and a “Shoot the Chutes” ride.
Findlay High School graduated its first class in 1873 with eight students – two men and six women. Findlay College opened in 1886, with 95 students enrolled. (By 1989, Findlay College had grown and changed its name to the University of Findlay.)
Findlay is well-known for being home the home of Cooper Tire, and Whirlpool. It is also home to Tall Timbers, a thriving foreign trade zone. The oil industry has played a key role in Findlay’s growth through Marathon Petroleum Corporation, and MPLX LP. What began as The Ohio Oil Company in 1887, was purchased by Rockefeller’s Standard Oil in 1889 with James C. Donnell as director. By 1911 the US Government’s landmark antitrust case broke up Standard Oil, and The Ohio Oil Company began an independent operation with Mr. Donnell as President. In 1930 the company bought Transcontinental Oil and established the “Marathon” brand name. In 1962, the name “Marathon” was adopted at the company name.
A landmark of Downtown Findlay is the Hancock County Courthouse, which is found at the intersection of Main and Main Cross Streets. The sandstone structure was dedicated October 27, 1888. Look for the John Hancock statue standing on top of the cupola – it can be seen from many directions.
While you are downtown, check out the 960-seat Marathon Center for the Performing Arts, which was opened in December 2015 from the former Central Middle School. This beautiful space has hosted performances by Chicago, Darius Rucker, the Boston Brass, as well as local groups like the Findlay Civic Concert Band.
Due to the efforts of John Cooke who believed every American should fly the American Flag on Flag Day, Findlay has a well-known designation. Mr. Cooke worked to get everyone in the community a small flag, and Findlay became known as “Flag City USA” due to passage of a resolution by the US House of Representatives on May 7, 1974.
Public-private partnerships are a strength of Flag City USA, and many of these have caused significant growth and economic development projects over the past 30 years. Findlay has been named the country’s Top Micropolitan Community for six years in a row by Site Selection Magazine.
Famous Findlay natives include Tell Taylor who wrote “Down by the Old Millstream” in 1910. JoAnn Davidson, Ohio’s first female Speaker of the House hails from the Flag City, as do athletes Peggy Kirk Bell, Grant “Home Run” Johnson, and Tony Award Winner Gavin Creel.
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