ASHLAND -- In 1788, General Rufus Putman who was labeled the “Father of Ohio” and 47 adventurers landed at a site near what is now Marietta and claimed 1.5 million acres of land for the New England Ohio Company.
The area was named Washington after George Washington who was serving at that time as the president of the Constitutional Convention and had given the explorers his blessing to go out and explore the northwest. And that’s how Ohio’s first county got its name.
Over the next 63 years, 87 more counties were laid out in the Buckeye State. Their names were mostly based on famous landmarks, Indian tribes, Revolutionary War heroes and early settlers. The size of each county was determined based on old frontier Democracy from Europe. If a farmer couldn’t get up in the morning, complete his chores, milk his cows, get to the county seat to do his business and then return home, the county area was considered too large.
Ashland County was formed from areas of Huron, Lorain, Richland and Wayne counties on Feb. 24, 1846 after a bit of political controversy and a tight vote. The following lists how each county in Ohio got its name and some names are very unique.
Adams (1797) – named after President John Adams during his administration.
Allen (1820) – named for Ethan Allen, a Revolutionary War Hero.
Ashland (1846) – named for “Ashland” which was the home of Henry Clay near Lexington, Kentucky. Clay was a prominent member of the Whig party during the mid-1800s.
Ashtabula (1808) – named for the Ashtabula River which is an Indian word meaning “fish river.”
Athens (1805) – site of the first institution of higher learning in the Northwest Territory.
Auglaize (1848) – named after the Auglaize River, an Indian name meaning “fallen timbers.”
Belmont (1801) – comes from the French words “belle monte” meaning “beautiful mountain.”
Brown (1818) – named for General Jacob Brown who defeated the British in the Battle of Lundy’s Lane.
Butler (1803) – named in honor of General Richard Butler who was killed by Indians.
Carroll (1833) – named after the last surviving signer of the Declaration of Independence, Charles Carroll.
Champaign (1805) – derives from the French word “a plain” which describes its land.
Clark (1818) – named after General George Rogers Clark who defeated the Indians near Springfield.
Clermont (1800) – comes from the French words “clear mountain.”
Clinton (1810) – Named for George Clinton who was the U.S. Vice-President at the time it was organized.
Columbiana (1803) – A fancy combination of the names Columbus and Anna.
Coshocton (1810) – Indian word meaning “Black Bear Town.”
Crawford (1820) - named in honor of Colonel William Crawford who was burned at the stake by area Indians.
Cuyahoga (1810) – named after the Cuyahoga River and an Indian word meaning “crooked” or winding stream.”
Darke (1809) – named for General William Darke who was a Revolutionary War hero.
Defiance (1845) – named after Fort Defiance, built by General Anthony Wayne.
Delaware (1808) – named after the Delaware Indian Tribe.
Erie (1838) – Indian word meaning “the cat” or “nation of the cats” which represented the Erie Indians.
Fairfield (1800) – Governor Arthur St. Clair named the county for the beauty of its “fair fields.”
Fayette (1810) – named in honor of General Marquis de LaFayette, who was a Revolutionary War hero.
Franklin (1803) – named after inventor Benjamin Franklin and a Founding Father of the United States.
Fulton (1850) – named after the inventor of the steamboat, Robert Fulton.
Gallia (1803) – from the ancient French name “Gaul” and settled by the famous “French 500.”
Geauga (1805) – signifies the Indian word “raccoon.”
Greene (1803) – named after General Nathaniel Greene, a Revolutionary War hero.
Guernsey (1810) – named for the Isle of Guernsey (near Normandy, France) where many of its settlers came.
Hamilton (1790) – named after Alexander Hamilton who was U.S. Secretary of Treasury at that time.
Hancock (1820) – named in honor of John Hancock, signed of the Declaration of Independence and President of the Continental Congress.
Hardin (1820) – named for General John Hardin who while on a peace mission in that area during the Revolutionary War, was killed by Indians.
Harrison (1813) – named in honor of General William Henry Harrison, War of 1812 hero.
Henry (1820) – named for Patrol Henry who was a popular statesman and orator from the Revolutionary War period.
Highland (1805) – named after the county’s terrain.
Hocking (1818) – a shortened Indian word for “hockhocking” meaning “bottle river.”
Holmes (1824) – named after Major Andrew Holmes who was killed at Fort Mackinac during the War of 1812.
Huron (1809) – the French settlers gave the Wyandot Indians this name in their area.
Jackson (1816) – named after General Andrew Jackson who won a great victory over the British in New Orleans in 1815.
Jefferson (1797) – named in honor of Thomas Jefferson, U.S. Vice-President when the county was formed.
Knox (1840) – named for General Henry Knox who was U.S. War Secretary under President George Washington.
Lake (1840) – named for its location along Lake Erie.
Lawrence (1815) – named after Naval Captain James Lawrence during the War of 1812.
Licking (1808) – created by white men for the many salt licks in the area and after the Licking River.
Logan (1818) – named after General Benjamin Logan who destroyed the Mac-o-chee Indian towns in the area.
Lorain (1829) – named after the Province of Lorain in France.
Lucas (1835) – named for 12th Ohio Governor Robert Lucas who sent the militia to this disputed area during the Ohio-Michigan boundary claims.
Madison (1810) – named for President James Madison who was in office when the county was organized.
Mahoning – (1846) derived from the name of the Mahoning River which is a combination of the Indian words “Mahoni” which means a “lick” or “Mahonink” which means “at the lick.”
Marion (1820) – named in honor of General Francis “Swamp Fox” Marion from the Revolutionary War.
Medina (1812) – named after Medina in Arabia, the town from which Mohammad fled from Mecca.
Meigs (1819) – named for a two-term Governor from neighboring Washington County, Return Washington Meigs, who was Postmaster General when the county was organized.
Mercer (1820) – named after General Hugh Mercer who was killed during the Battle of Princeton in 1777.
Miami (1807) – signifies “mother” in Ottawa Indian language.
Monroe (1813) – named for James Monroe, the fifth U.S. President, who was a candidate for the presidential candidate when the county was formed.
Montgomery (1803) – named for General Richard Montgomery who died during the attack on Quebec during the Revolutionary War.
Morgan (1817) – named in honor of General Daniel Morgan of Revolutionary War fame.
Morrow (1848) – named for ninth Ohio Governor and U.S. Senator Jeremiah Morrow.
Muskingum (1804) – has several meanings. In Indian it signifies “the eye of an elk” or “glare from the eye of an elk.” In the Delaware Indian language it means “town at the river’s side.”
Noble (1851) – named in honor of James Noble, one of the first settlers in the area.
Ottawa (1840) – named for the Ottawa Indians. In their language it means “trader.”
Paulding (1820) – named for John Paulding who was one of the captors of Major John Andre, a British spy during the Revolutionary War.
Perry (1818) - this county bears its name after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, who defeated the British in the strategic naval Battle at Lake Erie.
Pickaway (1810) – this name is a misspelling of the word “Piqua” which means “a man formed out of ashes.” It was a Shawnee Indian word.
Pike (1815) – named after Brig. Gen. Zebulon Montgomery Pike, who discovered the mountain named “Pike’s Peak” in Colorado.
Portage (1807) – derived after the old Indian “Portage Path” which is about seven miles long and runs between the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas Rivers.
Preble (1808) – named for Captain Edward Preble who was a naval commander during the Revolutionary War and the War with Tripoli.
Putnam (1820) – named after General Israel Putnam who fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill in the Revolutionary War and also served in the French and Indian War.
Richland (1808) – named because of its rich soil.
Ross (1798) – named for James Ross from Pennsylvania who was a candidate for governor in that state in 1798.
Sandusky (1820) – This Indian name means “cold water.” In Wyandot and Huron Indian language it means “Sa-un-dos-tee” or “water within water pools.” In Shawnee language it means “Po-ta-ke-sepe” or “rapid river.”
Scioto (1803) – In the Indian language Scioto means “Deer” and the country received its name after the Scioto River.
Seneca (1820) – Named for the Seneca Indians who had a reservation here.
Shelby (1820) – named for Isaac Shelby who was an officer in the Revolutionary War and became the first governor of Kentucky.
Stark (1808) – named after General John Stark from Revolutionary War fame.
Summit (1840) – named because it had the highest land on the line of the Ohio Canal, which was originally referred to as the “Portage Summit.”
Trumbull (1800) – named for Jonathan Trumbull, who was the Connecticut governor when the county was formed.
Tuscarawas (1803) – got its name from the river with the same name which is an Indian word meaning “open mouth.”
Union (1820) – the name was selected because the county was made up of portions of Delaware, Franklin, Madison and Logan Counties.
Van Wert (1820) – named after Isaac Van Wert who was a captor of British spy Major John Andre.
Vinton (1850) – the county was named for Samuel Finley Vinton, an Ohio statesman who is known as the “Father of the Department of the Interior” and created this section of government.
Warren (1803) – named for General Joseph Warren who was a leader in the fight for U.S. independence and encouraged Paul Revere and William Dawes to take their famous midnight ride.
Washington (1788) – Named after George Washington, president of the Constitutional Convention when the county was organized and elected as the first U.S. President in 1789.
Wayne (1808) – named for General “Mad Anthony” Wayne of Revolutionary War fame. He was famous for his campaigns against the Indians in Ohio.
Williams (1820) – named after David Williams, who was another captor of British spy Maj. John Andre.
Wood (1820) – the county was named after Colonel Eleazer Darby Wood who was General William Henry Harrison’s engineer during the War of 1812 and builder of Fort Meigs, which lies in Wood County.
Wyandot (1845) – named after the Wyandot Indian Tribe which was the last to leave Ohio for a reservation west of the Mississippi in 1843.