A Brief Timeline
A Brief History
The Founding of Wauseon, Ohio
The railway extending west from Cleveland begins the story of Wauseon. Two young engineers, Epaphras Lord Barber and John Sargeant, saw the potential inspite of malaria and dense forest overgrowth. Thomas Bayes, the first settler in this area, sold a portion of his land to Nathaniel Legett and William Hall, a one hundered and sixty acre tract on the railroad frontage. The railroad station was the key to the success of the investment. Barber insisted as the town was layed out that the main street should be a full 100 feet wide, to this width, merchants later added eight foot wide sidewalks to display merchandise. North and south streets were named after famous Americans; east and west streets were named after local species of trees. E. L. Hayes was the first merchant to build a store, locating at the corner of Birch and Fulton Streets. The Estelle Hotel was the next building to appear.
The Railroad and Growth of the Historic Downtown District
The rails reached the new town in1855 and the first rail passenger arrived. The growth of the town accelerated. More merchants began to set out their businesses. There was controvercy concerning a potential name for the town, Litchfield, Hayesville and others. Eventually the town was named for an Ottowa Chief, Wauseon. Nathaniel Leggett was the first mayor, and at his passing, the Union cemetery site was selected. Perhaps a tribute to the foresight of this entrepreneur, the business life in Wauseon was booming. The Lyon and Brigham flour mill stirred development, offering local farmers a close location to grind wheat. In 1856 the "White School" was erected, and in 1868, a three story high school was constructed on Monroe Street. On Fulton Street, one of the earliest forms of an indoor mall was constructed, the Brigham and Guilford store, filling in the majority of the Northwest block of North Fulton Street between Depot and the corner of North Fulton and Elm Street.
In 1869, citizens voted to move theFulton County seat to Wauseon, but the courthouse building was not complete and offices moved until 1872. A normal school for training teachers was erected in 1888. A new high school was built in 1907. The original high school was renovated to house the first county hospital. The Carnegie Library was added to the downtown in 1904. From the beginning, the town fathers had a sense of saving areas for public space. The first park, South Park opened in 1854. Churches built structures that, like the early schools, were replaced with more modern facilities. The first bank, established by the town founder, eventually failed due to the Panic of 1907. Jim Brailey, a son of a Wauseon Founder and an attorney considered the expiring Bell patents, and in Wauseon he established the first independent telephone company in the United States! Unfortunately, the expanding business closed when the Barber bank failed.
The early industry of the town used drilled wells for a water source. When a major canning company offered to locate in Wauseon, two reservoirs were constructed. Wauseon continued to build new schools. The Elm Street Elementary School was constructed at the site of the former Normal School. The new Detwiler Hospital was constructed on South Fulton Street. In 1941, a public swimming pool was dedicated at Reighard Park. A new Wauseon High School was built by Reighard Park and Harmon Field. The former high school served as a middle school until an explosion demolished much of the building. After that historic event, a new school building, housing both elementary students and the Junior High was hastily constructed on Burr Road. The remaining portion of the school on Clinton Street was renovated, initially to house the city offices and later to be expanded becoming the home of the Wauseon Fire Department.
After World War II, many industries were thriving in Wauseon. The Sheridan Manufacturing Company, The Wauseon Foundry, The Wauseon Manufacturing Company, The Fulton Manufacturing company, The McCord Corporation, B&C Engineering, The Multicast Company, The Perfection Finishing Company, Wauseon Woodworking and the Fraker Seat Company. Sadly, many of the industries that were thriving after the great war have relocated or closed their productions entirely. In more recent years, the German Village Factory, J.C.I.M., Haas Door, Wauseon Machine and Manufacturing, International Automotive Components, Triangular Processing, E & J Demark, and Riley Tractor Parts have opened for business in the locations of earlier industrial plants.
The busy train tracks that split North and South Wauseon were an economic blessing, but emergency fire and ambulance services were frequently disrupted at closed train track crossings. In 1968, an underpass was completed, opening the door to expansion of commerce on Shoop Avenue. The Fulton County Health Center opened on South Shoop in 1973. McDonalds opened its franchise on North Shoop. The Wauseon Plaza opened, and and a large Bargain City Plaza opened at the north end of Shoop Avenue. A strip mall was added to the anchor Chief Supermarket at the intersection of Shoop and Linfoot. More "fast food" franchises began to open doors as the city annexed the land north of Shoop Avenue to include the new Wal-Mart store. Businesses began to close on Fulton Street as commerce moved outward toward the northern edge of the city and the Ohio Turnpike exit. Large "box stores" began to replace the enterprise of the small town owners. As the city had grown in the 1800s in response to attaining the Fulton County Seat, a new spurt of growth in the late twentieth century would bring many guests from the surrounding small towns in the county to shop in the westward and northward expanding Shoop Avenue business district. Wauseon followed the path chosen by many small towns in America. As the international businesses opened their doors and shopping became increasingly convenient to the mobile population, the city's historic downtown shopping district began to atrophy. Several of the oldest landmark buildings in the downtown were lost to fire including the Blair Hotel, the Arcade building, (also an early predecessor to the modern indoor malls), and tragically, nearly a city block that was originally the site of the Brigham and Guilford department store.
Many Wauseon events, including the Wauseon Homecoming, Farmers' Market, Chili Cook-Off, Christmas Parade and Amazing Race continue to bring a focus to the Historic Wauseon Downtown. Residents rejoice as construction and renovation return new business to the downtown area. The residents of Wauseon replaced the Elm Street School and Burr Road Schools with an efficient new building located to the East of the High School. Biddle Park, now the newest and largest of the Wauseon Parks, replaced former Wauseon Parks and Recreation baseball fields with new diamonds. Multiple soccer fields and basketball courts were also added. A new pool facility is planned to replace the razed Reighard Park public pool. The population of Wauseon continues to grow, even during a time of national economic downturn. The Fulton County Health Center, Fulton County offices and tourist traffic from the Sauder Village and the Fulton County Fairgrounds continue to support the expanding Wauseon economy.
The Underpass and Shoop Avenue Expansion
1835 First House / Thomas Bayes
1854 Wauseon City Plat Laid Out and First Merchant Building Erected by E. L. Hayes
1854 First Railroad Cars Pass Through Wauseon
1855 First Church Founded (Methodist) / First Store Opens / First Newspapaper Published
1863 First Fire Engine
1857 Incorporated as a Village
1858 First Council Meeting
1865 South Park Founded
1869 Wauseon Becomes The
1895 Wauseon Women's Club Forms
1903 Wauseon Floods / FIrst Hospital Opens
1862 Union Cemetery Founded
1888 Normal School Opens
1904 Carnegie Library Opens / South Park Founded
1920 Exchange Club Founded
1854 First Post Office Opened By Nathaniel Leggett
1897 The Wauseon Homecoming Tradition Begins On Fulton Street
1937 Toldeo Edison Christmas Star Makes First Appearance
1957 Wauseon Turnpike Exit 3 Opens
1962 Rotary Club Forms
1930 DeEtta Detwiler Hospital Opens
1975 Wauseon High School Pool and Auditorium Open
1940 Reighard Park Dedicated
1941 Wauseon Pool Opens
1973 Fulton County Health Center Opens
1968 Underpass Constructed
1975 - Present
Wauseon Business expands northward on Shoop Avenue, A new water tower extends the city lines, Indoor tennnis facility opens, A new water plant is constructed and waterlines extend to Delta and Napoleon, New Independent Churches join the community, New Schools are Constructed, New housing additions open, Biddle Park is developed, New restaurants open in the Historic Downtown Business District, The Imagination Kingdom opens at Reighard Park, New Pool For Wauseon Planning Continues, The Wauseon Foundation supports community growth.