Joseph Vance Was One Of The First Landowners In Findlay

EDITOR’S NOTE–This is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.






Findlay and Hancock County ought to know more of the three men who bought from the federal government the land where the new town and the new county were to be established.

It was on July 3, 1821, that Joseph Vance, William Neil and Elnathan Cory filed the first land entries in this area. Vance lived in Urbana, Neil in Columbus and Cory in New Carlisle.

All three pooled their interests to venture into the northwestern part of the state which was as yet unsettled because of the Great Black Swamp. We will discuss them in a series of articles, beginning now with Vance.

It was Vance who appeared to be the leader of the group. He had been through the area that is now Hancock County when a young man — he was still young when he was one of the land purchasers later on — having served as a guide, with his brother Wilson, for Gen. William Hull when the Hull army marched from Urbana to Detroit in the War of 1812.



JOSEPH VANCE WAS born March 21, 1786, in a town in Pennsylvania that bore the colorful name of Catfish. In the following years the name was changed to Washington and became the site of Washington and Jefferson University. The father had fought in the Revolutionary War. When the war was over the family decided to push westward and came down the Ohio River by flatboat and settled in Kentucky. Joseph was two years old at this time.

There was little opportunity for the young lad to receive an education. The six months instruction which he received from a traveling teacher was all the formal educational training he ever got. All his life, the records indicate, he regretted his lack of a fuller education and for this reason as a public official he worked hard to improve his educational standards.

When he was 15 years old, he bought an ox team and wagon with money he had earned chopping wood, of which there was plenty in those early days. He used his rig to peddle salt in Kentucky and when the Vance family moved across the Ohio River into Ohio in 1810, he continued to engage in this business. He developed independence and self-reliance as well as resourcefulness in this manner as he made his way through the swamps and camped along the trail, combating as he did wild animals such as wolves and occasionally Indians.

The Vance family had moved northward from the Ohio River and settled in Champaign County of which Urbana was the county seat. His father helped lay out the town of Urbana and constructed one of its first log cabins. At that time Champaign County extended northward to the Michigan state boundary line and included the area that was later to become Hancock County. So in his later movements north to Lake Erie and the Maumee River, he was still in his home county all the way.

He married an Urbana girl named Mary Lemen and took charge of his father’s farm near Urbana when the father died.



HIS PUBLIC CAREER, which was to extend over much of his adult life, began early. He was secretary of the board of county commissioners at Urbana, when a young lad. The duties of the office were considerably different in those days. One of his responsibilities was the collection of county taxes. He also had charge of the business of paying out bounties on the wolf and panther scalps which hunters brought in to the county seat.

The early records show that in 1807 a white man was murdered near Urbana and a vigilante group was organized for protection against such actions. Vance was named captain and leader of the group. Many times, the records indicate, this company of men was called out to quell Indian threats.

A blockhouse was constructed by the group at Quincy in Logan County, which bordered Champaign County, and this was always referred to as Vance’s blockhouse. This blockhouse became the center of activities of the group in meeting the perils of the forests and members frequently had to spend the night there in their efforts to thwart the Indians and to meet other dangers that were threatening the settlers.



(Next Week: More On Joseph Vance.)


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