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 important role of the Blanchard River in the life of the local community extends into many fields. We viewed some of them last week. There are more.
The course of the waterway through Hancock County is interesting. The stream, of course, rises in northern Hardin County and entering section No. 36 of Delaware Township south of Mount Blanchard flows directly north, skirting the west edge of the village. It is interesting that there are two Blanchard River bridges in Mount Blanchard. The traveler usually only sees one, which is just off the main thoroughfare in the north end of the town. There is another on the extreme west side of Mount Blanchard which escapes the attention of those going through the village.
The river proceeds on north through the southeast section — No. 35 — of Jackson Township and then veers east somewhat to go on through Amanda Township, coming back into Jackson Township in section two just before entering Marion Township. When the river is about halfway through Marion Township on its way north, it strikes the bluff along Ohio 568 and turns directly west, a course followed through the remainder of its journey through Hancock County. The turn is a right angle one that keeps the stream from taking what would be its ordinary course on north to Lake Erie.
Had the river gone on straight north, it would have been of material help in draining what became the Great Black Swamp in northern Hancock and most of Wood counties, as well as in other areas on west and north. As it was, this extensive area was without drainage and became an almost impassable area for a long time, until an extensive drainage system was inaugurated in the early 1800s. There are no waterways of any size flowing north between the Sandusky River in Seneca and Sandusky counties on the east and the Auglaize and Maumee on the west. The Portage River and its various branches are within the northern area but they are not large, especially in their originating areas.
After leaving Findlay, the river continues on westward through Liberty Township on a winding course and then through Blanchard Township on the west side of Hancock County. It touches Gilboa and Ottawa on its westward journey and winds up near Dupont in Putnam County, joining the Auglaize, which soon meets the Maumee River at Defiance.
The confluence of the Blanchard and the Auglaize rivers is in a large farm field, quite a distance from any road. The writer, with his father, once journeyed to the scene and after climbing several fences were able to view the actual union of the two streams.
The river has contributed to the community’s well-being in a variety of ways. Findlay’s supply of water now comes largely from the river and becomes purified in the municipality’s modern water works plant, which has just been enlarged. Few cities are as fortunate as is Findlay to have a supply of good water so close at hand. Then, there’s the matter of food. The Blanchard River has furnished a substantial volume of fish for many residents through the years. For a long time, the river’s ice in the winter time kept people cool in the summer.
Joe Chamberlain, an early pioneer, in his volume of “Personal Reminiscences,” written a couple decades after he and his family came here, wrote of the fish in the Blanchard River at some length. “Fish were very plentiful in the river,” he said. “White and black suckers, ‘red horse’ sturgeon, white and black bass, pike, pickerel, catheads, gars, and catfish were caught in great numbers. The smaller kinds were easily caught with seine, dip-net, hook and line or fish rack, while the larger fish were usually gigged.
“My father once took to secure a large sturgeon which he found in the ripple just below the mill-dam in Findlay. (This was the grist mill on the north side of the river near where the Main Street bridge is now located.) He struck his gig into it and attempted to press it to the bottom but the fish instantly darted from under the gig, which precipitated my father full length into the river. He hastily got up, and seeing the fish struggling in shallow water and trying to escape, he ran and overtook it. Another of the same kind, caught afterward, weighed 70 pounds.”
Seventy-pound fish would be quite a catch in the Blanchard today. Those days appear to have gone forever.