Joseph Vance Instrumental In Bringing First Railroad Here

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.






After Joseph Vance, one of Findlay’s founders, had served as governor of Ohio and as a member of the House of Representatives in Washington, he retired from public life and returned to his home in Urbana.

He devoted his time to his farm which he had stocked with thoroughbred animals.

He did take time to serve as the president of a railroad. It was the Mad River and Lake Erie line, which ran between Sandusky on the lake and Dayton and Cincinnati through Carey, Kenton, Bellefontaine, Springfield and Urbana. It was the first railroad in that area.

He was president of the railroad when a branch line was constructed into Findlay from Carey through Vanlue. The fact that he had been one of the three men who had bought the land that was to become Findlay from the federal government, undoubtedly made him very sympathetic with the idea of an extension of the Mad River into Findlay in 1849.

In 1850, Mr. Vance undertook his last public service when he became a representative of the Ohio constitutional convention in Columbus, the second ever held within the Buckeye state. Delegates to this convention were elected at the polls. Hancock County’s representative was Judge John Ewing.

Returning home from the convention for a recess, Vance was stricken with paralysis and had to give up his duties. He died Aug. 24, 1852, at his home in Urbana and is buried in Oak Dale Cemetery there.

“Governor Vance was a forceful and capable man with a rich, strong voice which gave him stature as a speaker,” says Ohio Cues, the publication of the Maumee Valley Historical Society, which has been reviewing the lives of Ohio’s governors in recent issues (1967).

“He was a pleasant, talkative man, a stocky five foot, ten inches, with a large head, heavy eyebrows and a right eye that nearly closed.”

Since beginning this series of articles with regard to Joseph Vance, we have discovered evidence that two other men were members of the group that purchased the Findlay site from the federal government. They were John McIlvaine, of Columbus, and Major William Oliver, of Cincinnati.

In his “History of the Maumee Valley,” published in 1877, H.S. Knapp lists the five men as the original purchasers of the Findlay land, but adds that Oliver, and McIlvaine, and William Neil, one of the others, sold their interest to Vance and Elnathan Cory.

Knapp describes Wilson Vance, brother of Joseph Vance, as coming to Findlay as representative, under a power of attorney, of the one-fifth interest of his brother. It was Wilson Vance who laid out the town and remained here until his death in the 1860s. He and his wife are buried in Maple Grove Cemetery.

The Knapp history describes Mr. Vance as “a gentleman indeed and in truth, pointing out that he was the first postmaster, receiving for his services the sum of $3.18 the first year.


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