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.
By R.L. HEMINGER
When Gen. William Hull appeared in Urbana early in 1812 to organize his forces for the march northward to Detroit in the War of 1812, one of the first individuals with whom he came in contact with was Joseph Vance, a resident of Urbana and already a leading citizen despite the fact that he was not yet 30 years old.
Joseph Vance and his brother Wilson Vance were just the men the general was looking for. The march northward which was ahead of his four regiments was going to be difficult for there were dense forests to be penetrated and Indians to be met. The two Vance brothers had been through the area to Maumee and Perrysburg and the Maumee River and knew the territory. They volunteered to guide Gen. Hull and his forces.
It was on these journeys through the forests that Vance and his brother probably got the idea that once the war was over, the area around the Blanchard River might be a good place to launch a settlement later on. Early in the 1820s, Joseph Vance did buy the land, together with two associates, and thus Findlay had its origin.
When Joseph Vance was only 26 years old he was elected to the state legislature from Champaign County, of which Urbana was the county seat. He was re-elected for three additional terms. It was while he was in the legislature that he and his brother Wilson engaged in the duties of a guide to Gen. Hull. The legislature was not in session just then and he was free for such service.
HE BECAME AN OFFICER in the War of 1812 and won promotion to the rank of brigadier general in the militia. His special duties consisted of guarding supplies and looking after the defense of the borders against Indian attacks.
In 1820, he was elected as a member of the House of Representatives of the United States Congress and served eight consecutive terms in Washington. He was in Congress at the time he and his two associates decided to buy the area that is now Findlay. So popular was he that from 1824 on he rarely had any opposing candidate for Congress, the records reveal. While in Congress he was a strong advocate of internal improvements such as canals and roads. He had firsthand knowledge of the need for such projects and devoted much time and attention to their advancement as a means of opening up the areas west of the Alleghenies.
Mr. Vance sponsored the measure that resulted in the first roads through the Great Black Swamp which existed in northwestern Ohio, visualizing this improvement as greatly needed for national defense purposes as well as for the convenience of the residents of the area. He supported legislation for a United States bank against a state bank program, voted for laws against dueling and opposed the spread of slavery. Mr. Vance also sponsored legislation straightening out the tangles that developed in surveys of what was known as the old Virginia military lands.
He was defeated for a ninth term in Congress in 1834 but continued to serve his fellow citizens. He was elected governor of Ohio in 1834. As chief executive of the state, he was a strong supporter of education and he had surplus funds of the state government turned over to the schools. He encouraged the building of canals. This was a day when railroads had not come into being to any extent and the waterways which were developed constituted the only means of transportation available within the state.
Gov. Vance favored the abolition of capital punishment and tried to get the state to do away with it, but without success.
He only served a single term as governor, having been defeated for a second term. He allowed the extradition of a man who had helped two slaves escape from Kentucky and this appeared to have lost him votes.
After his governorship, he continued to serve in public life, being elected for another term in Congress. While in Congress, he opposed the annexation of Texas and described the war with Mexico a war of aggression.