Editor's Note: This article was written in response to a reader-submitted question. To submit a question to our newsroom, see Open Source.
ASHLAND -- The city of Ashland turns 206 years old in 2021, according to the Ashland County Historical Society.
Ashland Source set out to highlight the city’s earliest history after a reader used Open Source to ask, “How old is the city of Ashland?”
The reader-submitted question, prompted the staff to reach out to the current leadership at the local historical society, its former director and several others who had helped plan the city’s bicentennial celebration in 2015.
It was 1815 when a man named William Montgomery laid out 41 lots on what is now the city’s Main Street. The one-street village featured a few shops that served the local farming population. A handful of cabins were spread out on either side of the dirt road.
According to Jennifer Marquette of the Ashland County Historical Society, the street included at least a blacksmith, a shoe shop, a distillery, an inn and a weaver.
Originally, the village was named Uniontown, but that changed in 1822, Marquette said.
“The village petitioned for a post office, but they were denied because there were already other Uniontown's in existence, so the name Ashland was chosen,” she said.
At this time Ashland was still part of Richland County.
Those living in the village continued to call their home Uniontown for several years, but eventually adjusted to the change, conforming with the name used by the post office.
The town was incorporated in 1844. The charter of the city of Ashland is dated March 4, 1844.
According to a official guide book compiled in honor of Ashland’s bicentennial, the first record of any municipal government shows Charles Demming as acting mayor.
Two years later in 1846, the county of Ashland was established. Ashland was chosen over Jeromesville and Hayesville as the county seat. It was a close call between Ashland and Hayesville -- only a difference of 680 votes.
Ashland County was the 87th county formed in Ohio. The county included territory taken from Wayne, Richland, Huron and Lorain counties.
Celebrating 200 years
The city’s 200th birthday was celebrated in 2015 with more than a year of festivities.
The historical society’s former director of operations Chris Box, the Ashland Area Chamber of Commerce’s current executive director Amy Daubenspeck and Ashland Main Street’s executive director Sandra Tunnell were among the committee planning the bicentennial celebration.
“Amy, Sandra and I were on the core committee of the bicentennial celebration. Each of us were in charge of our own division/category,” Box said. “My job was to organize all events, and this became a bigger job than I imagined.”
Events included downtown old fashion days with music and beer gardens, a beard growing contest, reenactors depicting early pioneers, a civil war reenactment, a time capsule and a massive Fourth of July parade.
“The best Fourth of July parade that the city has ever seen,” Box said.
Daubenspeck even arranged for the Budweiser Clydesdales to visit for the occasion and participate in the parade.
The planning process began more than five years before the event.
“I remember Chris coming to me, and saying, we need to start thinking about this,” Daubenspeck said. She was the head of the visitor’s bureau (Explore Ashland) at that time.
“As time drew nearer more and more folks learned that this would be a celebration unlike any before us. Our community was excited to be involved, excited to be a part of a celebration that will be remembered in the history of Ashland many, many years from now,” Box said.
The next celebration is years away, but to learn more about Ashland’s history today, visit the Ashland County Historical Society Museum.
“As each and every year passes, it becomes easier and easier to forget our past. Without these celebrations, future generations will easily forget our past and those men and women that came before us to make Ashland what it is today,” Box said.