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Mercer County, Ohio
History & Genealogy


GRAND LAKE ST. MARYS A little History about Mercer and Celina area.  The lake lies between Auglaize and Mercer Counties.  St. Marys is on the Auglaize County and Celina is the county seat for Mercer County.
This area has lots of beautiful domed Catholic churches.
Grand Lake St. Marys came into being as a reservoir to supply water for the Miami & Erie Canal.  It was begun in 1837, long before the days of mechanized equipment.
The lake was constructed by men wielding shovels and axes - they cut down trees in the great swamp, which was to be a natural storage place for the water needed to supply the canal and operate its locks.
Seventeen hundred men, mostly Irish and German immigrants, were employed in building the east and west banks of the reservoir.
They worked from sunrise to sunset.  Their wages amounted to 30 cents a day plus one jigger of whisky (much relied on to combat malaria).
The lake was completed in 1845 at a cost of $600,000 and, for many years the 17,500-acre reservoir was the largest artificial body of water in the world.
The lake has 52 miles of shoreline and is approximately nine miles long and three miles wide.  It is still the largest artificial body of water in the world built without the use of machinery.
With the opening of the canal, men and women of German heritage came here on canal boats from Cincinnati, and soon had acquired land for farming.
Early settlers were mostly of English, Irish and French heritage.  Mercer and Auglaize both depend on farming but there were several tire and bicycle plants around.  Some of those plants have closed down in the last few years..
The completion of the canal and its fee-reservoir also made a vast difference in living costs.  Freight rates dropped from $1.00 for hauling a bushel of wheat 100 miles to 15 cents for hauling a ton of wheat the same distance.
The canal did a thriving business until it was supplanted by the railroads (the Norfolk and Western Railway was constructed through St. Marys in the late 1860's)
In 1888 and 1889, oil was discovered in the St. Mary area and many wells were drilled during the oil boom that followed.  Some of the wells were drilled in Great Lake St. Mary's, whose surface was once studded with derricks.
Grand Lake St. Marys is part of the divide between north and south waterways of the canal.  Water flowing out of the canal to the east went eventually to Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes, while water flowing south and west found its way into streams and rivers (the Ohio River, for one) that are a part of the Mississippi River system.
From its completion in 1845 until 1915, the lake provided this area with some of its most colorful history.
In 1915, however, the lake was no longer needed to feed the canal.  The Ohio General Assembly at that time passed an act through which this body of water and adjacent lands owned by the state were dedicated and set apart forever for the use of the public, as public parks or pleasure resorts.  Grand Lake St. Marys State Park is one of the busiest tourist areas in Ohio with approximately 1.053 million visitors to the park.
Celina Celina was founded in 1834 in a swampy, wooded area that had to be drained and cleared before it could be settled.  What remained was a level town surrounded by rich farm fields.  When one of the town's founding fathers was traveling through New York state to get the town plat lithographed, he came across the town of Salina situated on the edge of Onondaga Lake near Syracuse.  Noting the similarity between Salina and the newly founded settlement in Ohio, he named the new town Celina.  The spelling was changed to avoid confusion at the post office, or so the story is told from past legends.
Fort Recovery Fort Recovery was first established in 1793 under the orders from General Anthony wane.  It is near the township of Recovery.
Mendon      Mendon is a small village nestled in farm country, population 720, located in the northern part of Mercer County on State Route 707. It is 35 miles west of Lima, Ohio; 60 miles Southeast of Ft. Wayne, IN; 20 miles South of Van Wert, OH; and 10 miles North of Celina, OH. Mendon can be reached by way of State Routes 707 or 127. There are many other country roads coming off of State Route 33 that will also bring you into Mendon.
     There are interesting sites to see in Mendon, from the Civil War Cannon at the town park and historic town hall; an antique shop; craft and flower shop; to retail stores and local eateries offering good, home cooking.
     Mendon has just received a grant to build a new water treatment plant which is almost completed. The town is always striving to make improvements for its citizens and businesses.
     The lake was constructed from 1837 to 1845 as a feeder for the Miami-Erie Canal System. It has 52 miles miles of shoreline and is approximately 9 miles long and 3 miles wide.
Rockford Rockford, Ohio is the oldest town in Mercer County. In the early 1800's, Anthony Shane, a half breed French Ottawa Indian, was a scout for the army of General Anthony Wayne. As a reward for his services, Shane was given a land grant by the U.S. Government. Shanes Grant took in the area now known as the village of Rockford as well as additional land north of the St. Marys River. The St. Marys was a very important trail between Piqua and Fort Wayne, Indiana. Originally it was known by the names Second Crossing of the St. Marys, and Half Way Cross. . On June 23, 1820, Anthony Shane, who operated a trading post near the river, filed his plot to the town known as Shanesville. Shane lived in Shanesville until 1832 when he acted as a government agent, accompanying the Shawnee Indians to Kansas. On June 5, 1866, the village was incorporated and the name was changed to Shanes Crossing. Then, in 1890 the post office department decided it should have a new name. A vote was taken and the majority favored the name of Lacine, but the post office department decided that the villages name should be called Rockford, and so it was.
     Rockford was the original county seat and a bustling town in its early days. It was the first town in the county to have street lights and had its own power plant, built in 1899. Underground pipes were laid to connect the power plant to village stores and churches, which was their source of heat from the steam that escaped from the dynamos . Many early businesses included a hotel, opera house, stave factory, sawmill, handle factory, airport, etc.
St. Henry  

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