Portage County

From Ohio History Central

On February 10, 1807, the Ohio government authorized the creation of Portage County. It originally was a portion of the Connecticut Western Reserve. The county was named for the Indian portage between the Cuyahoga and the Tuscarawas Rivers.

Portage County is located in northeastern Ohio and covers 492 square miles. The county has grown in recent years, as residents of nearby Cleveland in Cuyahoga County have moved to Portage and surrounding counties to escape the busyness of the city. Between 1990 and 2000, Portage County’s population increased by 6.6 percent to a total of 152,061 residents in 2000. Ravenna is the county seat and the fourth largest community in the county, with 11,771 residents in 2000. Kent is the county’s largest urban center, with a population of 27,906 people in 2000. Portage County averages 309 residents per square mile.

Portage County is overwhelmingly rural, with only three percent of the county deemed to be urban, but most residents earn their livings by working in manufacturing, sales, or government positions. Farming ranks a distant fifth. Many residents also work at Hiram College or Kent State University. The county’s average income was 24,146 dollars per person in 1999, with 8.7 percent of the population living in poverty.

Most voters in Portage County claim to be independents, yet in recent years, they have supported Democratic Party candidates at the national level.

United States President James Garfield and abolitionist John Brown rank among Portage County’s more notable residents. The county also was the site of the Kent State Riot, which occurred when Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on Vietnam War protestors in 1970.

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