By R.L. HEMINGER
There are believed to have been two Indian villages on the banks of the Blanchard River. The Wyandots lived in these settlements.
One was at the site of Fort Findlay. When the first white man came through the area in 1815 after the fort’s establishment in 1812, he found eight or 10 Indian families around and in the blockhouses of the first. They were tilling two fields in which they had planted grain.
The other village was further west on a site known as Indian Green on what was to become the Worden farm in Liberty Township, along U.S. 224, just north of the Old Blanchard Presbyterian Church. There was a clearing of some dozen acres here, whereon the Indians had a graveyard and a plum orchard. Many Indian relics were found along the riverbanks here.
The first bridge went across the river in 1843 when a wooden structure was built over the stream on what is now Findlay’s Main Street. At the same time a bridge was built near where the present three-mile bridge crosses the river east of Findlay.
Since World War II, there have been eight entirely new bridges constructed across the river within Hancock County. In addition, several older structures have been improved and rebuilt.The present (1966) Main Street bridge, erected in the 1930s, is a memorial to all who have gone from the local community to the various wars in which the country has engaged.
The Blanchard River came into the community’s consciousness to an emphatic extent after Riverside Park was opened in 1906 and a fleet of launches and other craft were on the waterway carrying passengers between the Main Street bridge and the resort. This was before the advent of the automobile and the boats provided the only means of getting to and from the park, outside of walking, use of a horse and carriage or in the very few motor cars that existed then locally. By the 1920s cars had arrived in such numbers that the boats disappeared for lack of use. It was a great era in Findlay’s history and will be long remembered.
It is interesting to recall that the first stone for improvement of Main Street back in the 1830s and 1840s came from the bed of the Blanchard River. Little did the settlers realize that they could have found stone in vast quantities had they gone a little further south and west in the community where the stone is very close to the surface.
The course of the Blanchard has been altered three times in recent years in straightening programs. Twice its kinks have been removed from the Rawson Park area and once just east of the Main Street bridge, to smooth out its flow.
Many old-timers will recall the old Athletic Park along the Blanchard just east of Main Street. Here the high school, college and other teams played their games for many years. The park area disappeared in the straightening process.
No history of the Blanchard’s influence upon the city is complete, of course, without mention of the great 1913 flood, which saw the stream’s banks extend to Lima Street on the south and to an area well toward Findlay College section on the north. One life was lost. Business was suspended for a number of days and the town was without light and power for nearly a week.
The river was named, of course, for a man named Jean Jacques Blanchard, a Frenchman, who lived with the Indians. He was a tailor by trade who married a Shawnee squaw. They had a dozen children. The father plied his trade up and down the river, which soon became known as his especial property.
The Blanchard River today has become the object of new interest, as an organization has been formed to clean up its banks and beautify its environment. The program will provide a new look for the stream, which had provided so much benefit and advantage to the local community through the years and which is deserving of a much better appearance than has been the case in recent years.