From Ohio History Central
Delaware, the county seat of Delaware County, is located to the north of the state capitol of Columbus along the bank of the Olentangy River.
Colonel Moses Byxbe and Henry Baldwin founded the community in 1808. The two men sold lots within the town for thirty dollars each. Although houses began to spring up as early as 1807 and 1808, it was not until 1815 that the town was officially incorporated. In addition to a number of houses and businesses, there was also a courthouse built at that point. Among the earliest settlers was a Baptist minister, but within the first few decades of settlement a number of other religious groups established churches, including the Methodists, the Presbyterians, the Episcopalians, and the Lutherans.
Because of its location on the Olentangy River and proximity to Columbus, Delaware prospered from its early years of settlement. In addition to a number of local stores and taverns, the town also supported a number of early industries, including sawmills, a flour mill, and a woolen factory. A number of lawyers and doctors called the community home, as well as about two thousand other inhabitants by the 1840s.
These early businesses prospered due to Delaware's proximity to numerous transportation routes. In 1851, the first railroad passed through Delaware. It connected the community with both Columbus and Cleveland. Numerous other railroads eventually came to Delaware, expanding the city's reach and influence even further. Delaware grew so quickly that the community established its own streetcar system by the beginning of the twentieth century. There also was an inter-urban service that ferried people between Columbus and Marion. This system provided Delaware residents even more access to nearby communities.
There were two newspapers in Delaware during the 1840s, the Olentangy Gazette, which presented the Whig Party's view of current events, and the Loco Foco, which presented the Democratic Party's opinions. The town also contained a number of social organizations, including the Masons and two temperance societies. As industrialization continued to grow in the state of Ohio, additional industries emerged in Delaware as well, such as cigar makers, a chair company, and several carriage makers. Delaware's close proximity to railroads encouraged the economic growth of the community.
The Methodists also founded Ohio Wesleyan University in Delaware in 1842. Before becoming an institution for higher education, Ohio Wesleyan was a resort. Visitors came to town to enjoy the sulfur spring that existed on the resort grounds. Originally Ohio Wesleyan only admitted men, and women attended the Ohio Wesleyan Female College starting in 1853. In 1877, the two schools combined and Ohio Wesleyan University became a coeducational institution. At this point, women started to take the same classes as men.
Partly due to the presence of this Methodist institution, prior to the Civil War, Delaware residents played important roles in the Underground Railroad. Many residents helped runaway slaves find safety in the North from the slaveowners. Delaware eventually had a sizable African-American population. Many blacks felt safe in this welcoming community.
The most famous resident of Delaware was President Rutherford B. Hayes, who was born in the town on October 4, 1822. Hayes lived in Delaware until the age of five, when his family moved further north to Fremont, Ohio. He returned to Delaware to take classes at Ohio Wesleyan University. It was at Ohio Wesleyan where Hayes met his future wife, Lucy Hayes. Hayes became the nineteenth president of the United States in the election of 1876.
Today, Delaware remains a vibrant city with numerous educational and occupational opportunities. In 2000, almost twenty-five thousand people called the city home. Ohio Wesleyan University continues to operate in the community. In addition, The Ohio State University now offers classes in the city. Numerous manufacturing establishments operate in or nearby Delaware. Among the most important are Honda, American Showa, PPG, Nippert Company, Trus Joist, and the Liebert Corporation. Numerous employment opportunities exist in Delaware and in its surrounding communities, but many residents commute to Columbus. Although they work in Ohio's capital city, these residents prefer to live in the smaller city of Delaware.
Delaware also is famous for hosting the "Little Brown Jug" each year at the Delaware County Fair. Begun in 1946, the "Little Brown Jug" has become one of the premier races in the harness-racing triple crown. It attracts more than fifty thousand people to Delaware every fall.