History of the Courthouse

History of Henry County

Geographically, Henry County is a creation of the Ice Age and is located 40 miles southwest of Toledo, OH. Henry County was part of the Great Black Swamp and its earliest settlers found it nearly uninhabitable.

The first people of this area were the Native Americans. The Ottawa Tribe lived along the banks of the Maumee River. Their village sites and burial grounds are scattered along the river.

The missionaries, traders, trappers, hunters and explorers entered the scene. The Native Americans, of course, resented the intrusion. The British, in and attempt to interfere with the successful formation of the United States Government, incited the Native Americans to fierce resistance to settlement. The white renegade British agent, Simon Girty who aided the Natives, cause this uprising in the 1780's and 1790's.

Girty served as a scout under Lord Dunsmore in Pennsylvania. It is said that he and another scout, Simon Kenton, served with merit. However, Girty, for some reason of his own, deserted his fellowmen, turned traitor and from that time on lived and fought with the Native Americans. He is supposed to have been adopted by the Seneca Tribe, the fiercest of the tribes composing the Iroquois alliance.

Up the river a distance about five miles from Napoleon is located "Girty Island" and "Girty's Point" which were his favorite places to retreat. Simon Girty fell from favor with the Native Americans and he retreated to the north bank of the river opposite the island where he built a cabin. Early settlers in the 1820's report finding the remains of his cabin. It was located on what now is the Gunn farm.

Although the State of Ohio was created in 1803, it was not until February 12, 1820 that Ohio created Henry County, named in honor of Patrick Henry. Henry County originally included all of what is now Fulton County, and also parts of Lucas and Defiance counties.

The Miami and Erie Canal was finished in 1843, along with political unrest in Europe. This brought the first wave of German immigrants to the county, placing an external stamp upon the ethnic makeup of the communities. These immigrants worked with diligence to drain the land and settle the area. The first communities were along the Maumee River, Damascus and Flatrock. Over time, drainage technology and improved transportation encouraged agriculture to flourish and the population steadily grew.

After the Civil War, small towns began to develop throughout the County and at commercial stops along the railroads. By the turn of the century, growth of a strong diversified economy was a reality.

Agriculture has left a permanent mark on Henry County as the heart of its economic growth. Today, the work ethic, inventive genius and skill of the people have led to a thriving economy based on industry, service engineering and warehousing as well as the traditional agriculture based economy.


History of the Courthouse

According to the "History of Henry and Fulton Counties" by Louis Cass Aldrich, written in 1888, the first courthouse was a log cabin, built in 1832 and owned by either Mr. Huston or Mr. Andrews. Two years later, George Stout joined the community and built a two-story log cabin that he opened for the traveling public. In the dining room of this tavern, the first two of three terms of the Common Pleas court were held. The first grand jury bedded down for the night in the haymow in the nearby barn. He erected a rear addition to this tavern for the administration of the affairs of the county. Napoleon has been the County Seat since 1835.

Stout's old log addition served the county's needs until 1844, when a plain frame two-story building with courtrooms on the second floor was built for $2000. This courthouse was destroyed by fire in April of 1847. The 'second' official Courthouse was built a few years later for $7,495. This new brick structure was small and quaint with an impressive entrance of white pillars, bell tower and spire. In 1879 the "white pillared" Courthouse was completely destroyed along with twenty-one other buildings by a fire that originated in the Reiser building on the corner of Perry and Main street.

The present Courthouse was complete in 1882 for $95,000 with Mr. David Gibbs as the architect. The County Jail was also constructed at this time for $20,000. Both structures are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.



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