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
During the 50 some years that the First Presbyterian Church stood at the southwest corner of South Main and West Lincoln streets, the words “Byal Chapel” in large block letters were just below the stained glass windows of the church along South Main Street.
They were there to disignate a memorial gift made to the church at the time of its construction in 1901 by Henry Byal, a prominent pioneer citizen of the community and a long-time member of the church. The memorial constituted a remembrance on his part of deceased members of his family.
THE LIFE AND EXPERIENCES of Mr. Byal have always held much interest locally. He came to Hancock County in 1832 from his native Stark County in eastern Ohio and lived here until 1905, when he passed away at the age of 88.
His family home, for a long time, was on East Sandusky Street at Beech Avenue, on the southeast corner. His home subsequently became the manse of the First Presbyterian Church, occupied by pastors and their families for a number of years.
The Byal family originally came from Maryland, having been established on these shores during the colonial period of American history. His father was John Byal, who had been born in 1791. The John Byal family moved to Ohio in the early 1800s, and then in 1832 moved further west into Hancock County, which was just being opened up at that time. The father had come here they year before and had taken out land three miles west of Findlay in the area of the old county home in Liberty Township. He built a cabin, returned to Stark County, and then brought his family to Hancock County in 1832.
The father, not long after coming here, built a saw mill on the bank of the Blanchard River near where the bridge crosses the stream near where the county home stood. He had bought 150 acres of land in the area for $600. The lumber for many of the pioneer buildings in Findlay was cut at the Byal mill, and Mr. Byal’s son, Henry, was one of the workers at the mill. A short time later, Mr. Byal erected a grist mill alongside the saw mill. In those days, the miller was allowed one-fourth of the gain for toll. State law regulated the toll.
THE SON, HENRY, ENGAGED in various other lines of work as a young man. He helped cut out trees from the road that is now Main Street, as the area just south of Sandusky Street was being cleared. The trees were largely elms.
He secured employment in Mercer County near St. Marys in the construction of the canal which was being dug then between Cincinnti and Toledo.
At the age of 25, he was married and began working on the Byal farm, spending four years in this manner. He then decided to engage in the mechandising business in Ottawa, Ohio, going to Putnam County with Edson Goit, who was Findlay’s first lawyer and who also engaged in other lines of endeavor. Mr. Byal became postmaster of Ottawa. He and Mr. Goit extended their business interests to several other towns in Putnam County, including Gilboa. In 1853, he decided to return to Findlay and he and Mr. Goit engaged in a mercantile business here.
Mr. Byal had extensive from interests, owning more than 1,000 acres of land at one time in Hancock, Wood and Henry counties.
HE WAS ELECTED JUSTICE of the peace the year after he moved to Findlay and continued to hold this public office for nine years. He became popularly known as “Squire Byal,” in view of the office he held.
Mr. Byal was married three times, his first wife passing away in 1860 and his second wife in 1900. He married for a third time in 1901 in his 84th year.
A daughter by his first wife married Samuel D. Houpt, a prominent Findlay business leader who also was quite well known as an inventor.
Next Week: More About Henry Byal and His Father.