First office holders in county came in 1820s

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following 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

 

The first occupants of the officers of county treasurer, sheriff, coroner and county commissioner all came into Hancock County within a few years after the first settlers. The initial election of county officials took place in 1823, seven years after Wilson Vance undertook to organize the little Findlay settlement.

John P. Hamilton, one of the three commissioners elected in 1828, settled here in 1821, only a short while after Vance arrived. He and his wife were natives of Virginia and upon coming to Ohio first settled in Gallia County, along the Ohio River, later moving north into Hancock County.

“He was one of the most progressive men of his day and took an active interest in all the early public business of the county,” says the Brown history. He died in 1857.

Godfrey Wolford, another of the first set of commissioners, arrived in 1825, settling in Delaware Township. He was a blacksmith and built the first sawmill in the county. He was defeated for re-election as commissioner.

John Long, the other member of the county’s first board of county commissioners, settled in Biglick Township in 1826.

Thomas Slight, the first coroner, settled here in 1822, his land adjoining that of Mr. Hamilton. He was elected coroner in 1828 and re-elected in 1832 and 1835. At that time there was no requirement that the holder of the office have a medical education. He was a native of Maryland and most of his family moved on from here to Indiana.

Joshua Hedges, the first treasurer, came to Hancock County from Fairfield County in 1824 to reside, although he had been here in 1822 and entered some land. He was a native of Virginia. In 1826 he was elected justice of the peace and later re-elected. In 1828, he was elected treasurer of the county, when the county’s first public officials were elected, after the county’s establishment. In 1840, he was elected to the office of coroner and served one term.

He passed away in 1845. Brown’s history describes him as “tall, muscular and energetic, very hospitable.”

Don Alonzo Hamlin, the county’s first sheriff, arrived in Delaware Township in 1824 from Wyandot County. He was elected sheriff in 1828 by the narrow margin of four votes. The ballots stood 38 to 34. He married a daughter of Thomas Slight, the county’s first coroner.

Another early pioneer who reached the little Findlay settlement early in the 1830s was James H. Wilson, a native of Pennsylvania. He worked at the carpenter’s trade for a year, then became a clerk in the store of Squire and Parlee Carlin. Eighteen months later, he embarked in the mercantile business for himself.

He experienced all the hardships of the early businesman. To obtain goods for his store, he made trips to New York in the following manner: wagon to Sandusky, Ohio; boat to Buffalo on Lake Erie; stage to Lockport, N.Y.; canal to Albany, and down the Hudson River to New York.

Mr. Wilson later erected a building which was the largest in the city. It was known as “Melodeon Hall,” and was located at the northeast corner of South Main Street and East Crawford Street. It consisted of three stories, containing two store rooms on the first floor, offices on the second and a large public hall on the third. Entertainments were held on the third floor, providing the village with its first such place.

The building was later razed to make room for a block which was to be occupied by the dry goods store of T. and R. Carnahan on this same corner, which is now (1960) the location of the First National Bank of Findlay. The building was torn down in the later 1920s when the new bank structure went up.

Mr. Wilson eventually retired from the mercantile business and entered the farming and real estate business. He laid out what is now known as East Findlay and developed that area. Wilson Street is named in his honor.

He was a stockholder and director of the First National Bank, which had been established in 1863. He was active in civic affairs and served as a member of the village council for some time.

Mr. Wilson died in 1892, when 88 years old.

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