On February 20, 1805, the Ohio government authorized the creation of Champaign County. The county’s name came from the French word for “level land.” The county was originally parts of Greene and Franklin Counties. Among the county’s earlier residents were the Swedenborgians, a religious group that established Urbana University.
Champaign County is located in west central Ohio. It is predominantly rural, with less than one percent of the county’s 429 square miles consisting of urban areas. The county seat is Urbana. With a population of 11,613 people, Urbana was the county’s largest community in 2000. Unlike most of Ohio’s predominantly rural counties, Champaign County experienced an eight percent population growth rate between 1990 and 2000, bring the total number of residents up to 38,890. The county averages ninety people per square mile.
The largest employers in Champaign County are manufacturing businesses, followed closely by farming. Service industries, sales positions, and government are close behind the primary two employers. In 1999, the per capita income in the county was almost twenty-four thousand dollars, with 7.5 percent of the people living in poverty.
Most voters in Champaign County claim to be independents, yet in recent years, they have supported Republican Party candidates at the national level.
Among Champaign County’s more prominent residents was backwoodsmen Simon Kenton, who is buried in Urbana’s Oakdale Cemetery. John Quincy Adams Ward, a famous sculptor, was born in Urbana, as was Brand Whitlock, a novelist, Progressive, and eventual mayor of Toledo, Ohio.