1800’s: WIlson Vance
By R.L. HEMINGER
The origin of Findlay as a community is generally held to have begun with the coming of Wilson Vance in November 1821, for it was he who set in motion the machinery which led to the establishment of the settlement as a town.
Col. James Findlay came through in June 1812 with his forces and built Fort Findlay on the banks of the Blanchard River. He left a small garrison here as he proceeded on toward Detroit. A few whites visited the fort in the next six or seven years, but it was not until 1821 that steps toward an organized town took form.
On July 3, 1821, Joseph Vance, William Neill and Elnathan Cory filed the first land entries in the area.
Vance, a brother of Wilson Vance, lived in Urbana, Ohio, and later became governor of Ohio. Neill’s home was in Columbus and Cory was from New Carlisle. Vance and Cory later bought Neill’s interests, becoming the owners of what was the original plat of the town.
Wilson Vance lived here 41 years, passing away in 1862. His grave at Maple Grove Cemetery is located in the forepart of the burial ground. He was living with a son in Orange Township at the time of his death.
In his four decades here, he accomplished much. He held a number of county offices and was one of the moving spirits in the early development of the community. A number of his descendants live here now, some bearing the name of Vance and others having a distant relationship through marriage.
He came to Findlay from Fort Meigs along the Maumee River to look after the large landed interests of his brother Joseph here and to lay out the town at the fort. The histories say he walked the entire distance from the Maumee, his wife riding on an Indian pony and carrying their small baby in her arms.
The Wilson Vances occupied a story and a half hewed-log house, which had been occupied by Benjamin Cox, a white settler who had come here earlier but who never was connected with the founding of the town. In fact, he left in 1823.
In the spring of 1822, Mr. Vance opened a small hotel or tavern, as they were known in those days. He obtained a license for such a business from the common pleas court of Wood County for $5, Hancock County not having been formed as yet and the area here coming under the jurisdiction of the larger Wood County area. His business establishment stood near the bridge on the east side.
The first grist mill and sawmill was constructed under the supervision of Mr. Vance in 1824. It was a great boon to the early settlers. He later erected other structures in the community and engaged in mercantile trade at one time. He also was interested in farming enterprises.
His official life had begun before he came to Findlay. He was appointed surveyor of Wood County in May 1820, while still living in the vicinity of Fort Meigs.
He became Findlay’s first postmaster, having received his appointment Feb. 8, 1823, continuing to handle the mails until the following July. At the first election held in Findlay Township July 1, 1823, he was chosen one of the two justices of the peace and at the succeeding election he was named township trustee and lister of property for tax purposes. In the latter position, he made the first assessment of taxable property in Hancock County. His own property, he reported, consisted of one horse and four head of cattle.
He was one of a very small company of individuals in the early days of the county to hold three elective public offices in the county government. He was clerk of the common pleas court from March 1828 to March 1835. He served as county recorder from the spring of 1828 to June 1835. He was the first to hold such offices in the county. He held both posts at the same time, something that could not take place today under present state laws.
As the first county recorder and the first clerk of courts, he had the responsibility of setting up the books of each office for the new county. Records bearing his name are on file in the offices to this day. Mr. Vance again served as county recorder from October 1835 to October 1838. He later served as county treasurer from June 1845 to June 1847.
Both he and Mrs. Vance were adherents of the Presbyterian faith and the denomination’s first organized worship was held in their home here.
He was a native of Kentucky, having been born in Mason County Jan. 19, 1796, his parents being of Irish ancestry. The family later came to Greene County in Ohio from Kentucky and then to Urbana, where he grew to maturity. In 1816 he went to Fort Meigs, where his brother Joseph was conducting a store. He undoubtedly passed through when is now Findlay on his way to Fort Meigs.
The Vances had eight sons and four daughters, all of whom were born in Findlay except two.
His name still continues on the official records of the county through an addition which bears his name.