Ohio - History and Heritage

Ohio has a rich heritage of people and places that helped shape North America. Through the remarkable feats, heart-wrenching struggles and inspired inventions, Ohioans have left an indelible mark on this country.

Although inhabited as far back as 20,000 years ago, Ohio's statehood dates back to 1797 and the creation of the Northwest Territory—unsettled land that encompassed what is now Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin and part of Minnesota. In 1802, Congress passed a bill authorizing the formation of a state government. Ohio was officially admitted to the Union in 1803.

Ohio, because of its rich soil, abundant wildlife and water resources, was a desirable home for people throughout history. As a conduit through which humankind has traversed to change the course of the nation, Ohio’s singular contribution to history is unmatched.

Once at the edge of the western expansion, in the pathways of escaping slaves and home to religious freedom seekers, Ohio is an ideal destination for travelers who seek to expand their minds, learn from the past and engage in the future.

Early on, the struggles between Native Americans and settlers brought conflict to Ohio’s lands. Visitors can see a number of sites where these people lived, worked and fought. Ohio’s fertile soil, abundance of water and wildlife made it an ideal place for these native communities.

The first ancient culture in Ohio is believed to be the Adena, who arrived about 1000 to 800 B.C. In 1902, an excavation at the Thomas Worthington home, called Adena, revealed that these people lived in villages and were primarily hunters, although evidence of farming was also found. It is from these people that the effigy mounds listed in this section were created. The Great Serpent Mound was their largest site. Another people, the Hopewell, who lived roughly at the same time, also built mounds that exist to this day.

In the 53 years between the Reconstruction Era and the Roaring Twenties, ten men inhabited the White House—eight from Ohio. This Gilded Age led to Ohio’s nickname, “The Mother of Presidents.” Ohio’s presidents were elected during a time of great change in the country, when the old agricultural economy was giving way to a new industrialized society. Because of Ohio’s leadership in manufacturing and industry, Ohioans were uniquely suited to lead the rest of the country into this new era.

The birthplace of aviation, Ohio holds a singular place among historians. A visit to Ohio can indulge anyone’s passion for the excitement of flight, up close and personal. Here enthusiasts can fly on a replica 1911 airplane while strapped to its wing or take the controls of a commercial jet in a flight simulator. A variety of locations throughout the state showcase Ohio's rich aviation heritage.

The Dayton area is where flight, as we know it today, began. Visitors can walk in the Wright brothers' creative footsteps and take in a host of exciting aviation destinations. The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, offers visitors the chance to explore The Wright Cycle Company, the Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center and other key sites in the origin of aviation.

Huffman Prairie Flying Field is part of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and looks remarkably similar to when the Wright brothers honed their flying skills while making hundreds of test flights during the development of the 1905 Wright Flyer III. Also at the base, the National Museum of the United States Air Force is the world's largest and oldest military aviation museum and the official museum of the United States Air Force, featuring over 17 acres of exhibits that showcase the power of U.S. military aircraft used throughout the 20th century. Visitors can also see the most noted pilots and astronauts at the National Aviation Hall of Fame, located at the museum.

From Ripley, Marietta and several other towns along the northern edge of the Ohio River, tracks were quickly lain to dozens of other communities throughout the state as part of this loose network of anti-slavery activism. Although it had nothing to do with trains, the Underground Railroad shared the language of the locomotives. Sites where fugitives were given shelter and food were known as “stations,” and those who ran these sites were “station masters.” The courageous individuals who took runaways from one station to another were “conductors.”

For visitors, the beginning of any exploration of Ohio’s freedom network begins at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. A visit to this inspiring facility helps all visitors to come to a stronger appreciation of the struggles made by the slaves and the continuing struggle for freedom experienced throughout the world today.

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