LIMA — In celebration of Allen County’s bicentennial, the Allen County Museum opened a new exhibit Wednesday afternoon featuring some of the county’s earliest documents and artifacts.
“This is just a great way to start looking at the beginning of the county,” Brittany Venturella, director of curatorial affairs, said during the event.
While Allen County was officially organized in 1831, the first mention of its name came for Ohio’s Land Act of 1820, which set into motion the county’s eventual founding. With that in mind, Museum Director Amy Craft said the day was a good way to highlight some of the county’s early history, when European settlers first started to come into the area.
Venturella said the time period featured two primary challenges for the settlers. The first was the removal of the land’s original inhabitants. Much of Northwest Ohio had been acquired by the state after signing the Treaty of Maumee Rapids, but Native Americans still existed throughout the area with major concentrations settled in two reserves located in modern day Shawnee Township and Wapakoneta.
The other challenge for the early settlers included setting up governmental structures and staking out boundary lines for the region, which changed throughout the years. The original Allen County extended much further south — past the Wapaghkonnetta reserve — until it assumed its final shape in 1848.
By the county’s official organization date in 1831, however, both historic challenges had been close to being resolved by the region’s settlers. Native Americans were forced out of the area in 1832, and the first commissioners had signed the founding documents and designated the City of Lima as a county seat.
Much of the museum’s exhibitions give insight into the process. Those with a good eye can pick out the legal language handwritten in cursive on the faded yellow documents, which name county and city founders.
Another highlight of the exhibit, Craft said, is the interactive wall of county firsts. Visitors can approach the exhibit and reveal old pictures of the region depicting a much different landscape and people than what exists today.
“I’d like to applaud (the curatorial staff) because they’ve done a fantastic job,” Craft said.
Outside of the exhibit’s opening, the day also featured the reading of a county proclamation signed by today’s Allen County Commissioners celebrating the bicentennial. Commissioner Greg Sneary took the opportunity and read a short excerpt from a document he found in the Allen County courthouse, which highlighted the bears, panthers, wolves, red deer and wild hogs that could be found during the county’s early era.
As for the county’s 1831 bicentennial, Craft said the museum is already making plans.
“It’s 11 years from now,” Craft said. “We’re already thinking about it.”
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.