Marion is the county seat of Marion County, Ohio. Eber Baker and Alexander Holmes established the town in 1821. By 1840, 570 people resided in the town. Six years later, Marion boasted a population of eight hundred people. Three churches, a private academy, two newspaper offices, twenty-one stores, one sawmill, one fulling mill, and one carding mill also existed in the town in 1846.
Over the next several decades, Marion continued to grow. One of the chief reasons for this growth was Marion’s location along two railroads. In 1880, 3,899 people inhabited the town. This number increased to 8,327 people in 1890. In 1886, three newspapers operated in the town, including the Marion Star, with Warren G. Harding, eventual president of the United States serving as this paper’s editor. In addition to the newspapers, fifteen churches and four banks existed in the community. Numerous manufacturing establishments existed in the town, with most businesses providing services or products to farmers in the surrounding countryside. In 1886, the largest employer was the Marion Steam Shovel Company, with eighty employees. This business manufactured steam shovels, including some that were used to dig the Panama Canal.
Marion and its residents continued to prosper during the twentieth century. In 2000, Marion was the largest population center in Marion County, with a total population of thirty-eight thousand residents. This marked a ten percent growth in the town’s population since 1990, and the county, itself, experienced a three percent growth rate, to a total population of 66,217 people, during this same time period. Much of this growth resulted from Franklin County and Delaware County residents trying to escape the busyness of Columbus. The Marion Power Shovel Company, formerly known as the Marion Steam Shovel Company, was historically one of the county’s largest employers, but by 2003, only three hundred people worked for this business. The Ohio State University Marion also employs numerous residents.
Marion’s most famous resident was Warren G. Harding, the twenty-ninth president of the United States and a former United States senator from Ohio. Harding won election as president in 1920. He became known as a poor manager of the federal government, and numerous improprieties erupted during his administration. Harding died in office. The Ohio History Connection now operates Harding’s home as a museum. Harding is also buried in the county.