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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

How Ohio Was Named

Contributor:
Dallas Bogan on 29 September 2004
Source:
The following is taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

When, Where and By Whom a Great State Was Given It's Name.

The First Convention of 1802 By Authority of Congress Christened the First of the Northwestern States, and
Congress Recognized the New State as the "State of Ohio," Feb. 19, 1803.

May 4, 1916

The youth of Ohio in schools and colleges who are interested in the history of their state or of their own locality, will find that historical facts can often be associated with the names of places. The origin of geographical names is always a subject of interest. I shall here attempt not to give the origin of any Ohio names, but to consider when and by whom some of them were selected.

Who Gave the State of Ohio Its Name?

The question who named the state of Ohio? is one not directly answered by writers on the history of our state. It is of course well known that the state was named after the large river which forms its southern boundary, and that the river bore this name long before white men made their first permanent settlements on its banks. But the question remains who gave the name of the beautiful river to the state?
Most of our states admitted into the Union after the adoption of the Federal constitution were named by congress. Nearly all of them had been territories formed by congress and these territories had been given the names they afterward bore as states. Thus, in the Northwest Territory, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin were all territories bearing the same names they now bear and these names were given by authority of congress. But there never was any territorial division called Ohio. The Buckeye state formed a part of the territory named by the Continental congress "The Territory Northwest of the River Ohio," and when congress divided this large territory into two parts, the western part was given the name of Indiana Territory, but the eastern part was not given a new name and was called in acts of congress the eastern division of the Northwest Territory. On April 30, 1802, when congress past an act to enable the people of this eastern division to form a state government, no name was provided for the new state, but the inhabitants were authorized to form for themselves a constitution and state government and "to assume such name as they shall deem proper."
It therefore devolved on the members of the first constitutional convention of Ohio which met at Chillicothe in November, 1802 to fix upon a name for the new state. The phrase "the State of Ohio" first appears in the preamble of the constitution of 1802. The preamble begins with "We, the people" and ends with the words: "and do mutually agree with each other to form ourselves into a free and independent state, by the name of The State of Ohio."
The name of the new state first appeared in national legislation on February 19, 1803, when congress passed an act providing for the due execution of the laws of the United States within the state of Ohio. The preamble of this act recites that the people of the eastern division of the Northwest Territory did on November 29, 1802, form for themselves a constitution and state government "and did give to the said state the name of the State of Ohio" in pursuance of an act of congress.
Notwithstanding this express recognition of the new state by congress on February 19, 1803, and the express declaration of the act that "the said state has become one of the United States of America," some studious and able historians of Ohio have arrived at the strange conclusion that Ohio did not become in the Union until March 1, 1803, the date of the meeting of the first general assembly of the state.
We thus find that our state was given its name at Chillicothe on November 29, 1802, when the first constitution of the state was signed and became effective without being submitted to the voters for their ratification, and that congress first recognized Ohio as a state in the Union on February 19, 1803.

Naming Ohio's Capital City.

Ten years after the first constitutional convention named the state, the general assembly was called on to name the permanent capital city. Columbus is, I think, the only city in Ohio named by the Legislature. The history of the selection and christening of Ohio's capital is interesting.
When Ohio became a state the three most important towns within its limits were Marietta, the oldest, Cincinnati, the largest, and Chillicothe, the most central. The constitution of 1802 made Chillicothe the seat of government for five years, that is until 1808, and it also provided that no money should be raised before 1809 for erecting public buildings for the accommodation of the legislature, and as long as Chillicothe was the seat of government, the legislature met in the Ross county courthouse. As early as 1801 steps were taken to provide for a permanent capital at a central point and in that year a commission was chosen to select the most eligible spot considering the natural advantages of the state and providing that "It shall not be more than forty miles from what may be deemed the common center of the state, to be ascertained by Mansfield's map thereof."
At that time the center of the state was believed to be within Franklin county, at or near the village of Worthington, nine miles north of the site of Columbus. Franklinton on the west side of the Scioto was then the county seat of Franklin county. Four citizens of Franklinton formed a company to establish the state capital on the high bank of the Scioto opposite Franklinton. The villages of Dublin, Worthington and Delaware, all within a few miles of the state's center were competitors, but the advantages of the "High Bank" on the east side of the Scioto were such that they prevailed and here was established the permanent capital of Ohio.
The owners of the site selected agreed to convey to the state a square of ten acres for the state house and another lot of ten acres for the penitentiary and to erect at their own expense such a state house and offices and penitentiary as should be directed by the legislature by joint resolution, appointed Joel Wright, of Warren county, director, whose duty it should be to superintend the surveying and laying out of the town and direct the width of the streets and alleys therein, and also to select the square for public buildings and the lot for the penitentiary and depencies according to the proposals; Joseph Vance, of Franklin county, was selected to assist him.
The site of Ohio's capital having been selected and a director chosen to superintend the laying out of the city, it remained that a name be chosen for the new city. On February 20, the following resolution was offered in the senate and at once sent to the house:
"Resolved by the General Assembly of the state of Ohio that the seat of government in this state shall be known and distinguished by the name of_________."
The name "Ohio City" was proposed in the house but was voted down by a vote 19 yeas to 24 nays. In the senate the name of Columbus was agreed to. This name was proposed by Joseph Foos, senator from Franklin county. The house afterward agreed to this name by a vote of 24 yeas to 10 nays. Thus Ohio's seat of government was given a local habitation and a name.
As to the first name proposed for Ohio's capital, it may be said that the name of Indiana's capital was formed in much the same way as "Ohio City." In 1821 the legislature chose Indianapolis as the capital and at the same time gave it a name formed by adding to the name of the state "polos," the Greek word for city.

Names of Counties.

The ten oldest counties of Ohio were formed and named by the territorial governor, Arthur St. Clair. They were, in the order of their formation, Washington, Hamilton, Wayne, Adams, Jefferson, Ross, Trumbull, Clermont, Fairfield and Belmont. After the organization of the state government, the legislature formed and named the new counties.
Of the 88 counties, 51 were named after men. As few citizens of Ohio had distinguished themselves in the early history of the state, only six Ohio men have been honored by having counties named after them. These six were Gen. Wm. H. Harrison in 1814, Ex-Governor R.J. Meigs in 1819, Gov. Robert Lucas in 1835, Ex-Gov. Jeremiah Morrow in 1848, Hon. .Samuel F. Vinton in 1850, and James Noble, a pioneer, in 1851. All these six men were living when counties named in their honor were organized.
The larger streams within the state, as well as Lake Erie and Ohio, were named by early explorers and white traders and generally bear Indian names.


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This page created 29 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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