As I’ve mentioned in earlier blog posts, you can find interesting map in the most unusual of places. Earlier this month I was up in northwestern Ohio visiting with my father and decided to take a few hours and check out the local history. I found myself in the delightful town of Perrysburg, right across the Maumee River from my hometown of Maumee. Perrysburg and Maumee ‘grew up’ together during the 1800’s and for much of their history were economic rivals, vying for the lucrative trade that moved up and down the river. In the end both lost out to Toledo, situated a few miles downriver where the Maumee empties into Lake Erie.
Perrysburg became what can best be described as bucolic, a sleepy little town that time and development passed by until one day about 40 years ago folks recognized that the town had a charm and a unique history unsullied by commercial development and tract housing. Suddenly Perrysburg became a trendy place to live and visit. The city worked hard to retain the unique flavor of the historic downtown, and they’ve done a great job.
The town was first established in 1812 on a bluff overlooking the Maumee River. In 1816 two US government General Land Office surveyors, Joseph Wampler and William Brookfield, laid out the town street pattern. Soon after the residents decided to change the town name to Perrysburgh to commemorate Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over British naval forces at the Battle of Lake Erie at Put-In-Bay. The ‘h’ was eventually dropped from the Perrysburg town name at some point lost to history.
Wampler and Brookfield appear to be some of the first government surveyors sent into what was known as the Northwest Territory after the War of 1812 to conduct official land surveys using the Public Land Survey System otherwise known as the township & range layout.
The federal government was eager to get this land surveyed, platted and sold. At the time land sales were a major source of revenue for the cash strapped US treasury, plus the government wanted to encourage settlement in the area to solidify American claims to territory ceded by the British and Native Americans under the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812.
Both Wampler and Brookfield were very competent surveyors and there are records of their work in both the National Archives and the state archives of Indiana, Ohio and Michigan. Wampler is cited by several sources for his efforts in correcting the sloppy work of other surveyors, particularly his work to establish two initial points for the Michigan surveys. Brookfield seems to have headed west from Perrysburg and eventually became a surveyor and later circuit court judge in St. Joseph County, Indiana.
What we don’t know is what induced these two gentlemen to lay out, or plat, the town of Perrysburg. Platting towns and settlements was not something surveyors in the employ of the GLO (General Land Office) did. My guess is that Wampler and Brookfield got specific instructions from the GLO to execute the survey after the town’s leading citizens petitioned their representatives back in Washington, D.C. How rare was it to have GLO surveyors plat a town? Well, there’s only four cities or towns in the United States that were platted by surveyors directly employed by the federal government. Perrysburg is one, Washington D.C., Croghansville (Fremont) Ohio and Shawneetown in the Illinois Territory are the others.
The notation in the lower right corner indicates that the plat was accepted into the General Land Office records on 18 March 1817 by Josiah Meigs, the Surveyor General of the United States. In 1816 the river was called the Miami River after the Miami Indian Tribe that inhabited the area
The layout and street pattern of Perrysburg as shown in the 1816 plat is still visible today on maps and aerial images. In fact, little has changed. Some lots have been combined, particularly along Louisiana Avenue, which became Perrysburg’s main street and commercial district, and some rail lines and secondary roads have intruded. But for the most part downtown Perrysburg is as Wampler and Brookfield laid it out almost 200 years ago.
To see just how little has changed in the old section of Perrysburg click on the image below to launch a web map that lets you compare 1816 to 2015. Have fun!
Update on the Perrysburg survey…I have now documented more than twelve (12) towns that were surveyed by the Federal Government: Anchorage, AK; Croghansville, OH; Fort Washington, OH; Gnadenhutten, OH; Juneau, AK; Perrysburg, OH; Port Angeles, WA; Salem, OH; Schoenbrun, OH; Shawneetown, IL; Upper Sandusky, OH; and Washington, DC. These surveys were all initiated by Acts of Congress directing the U.S. Surveyor General to perform them. The U.S. Bureau of Land Management Section 49.3.6 Records of Surveying Division documents many more. As part of Perrysburg’s 200th Birthday this year (2016), another engineer and I presented a lecture on April 13 entitled “The Survey and Founding of Perrysburg” revealing the true story. Another presentation is scheduled for May 5 as a result of an overflow crowd at the first presentation.
Gary L. Franks
Brian, I am responsible for the creation of the Perrysburg plaque. I wrote it and contacted my alma mater, the U of M to allow us to use their (our) map. The sources I used were obviously incorrect in the number of towns platted by the federal government surveyors
I recently received an email from Gary Franks, a civil engineer working in Perrysburg and who has intimate knowledge of the city’s history. He notes some inaccuracies in this blog post, and I’ll get those addressed. I want to thank Gary for for his input and clarifications!
I came across your webpage on Perrysburg while doing some research on local maps and surveys (https://oldtopographer.net/2015/06/21/perrysburg-plat-map/). The overlay map is really cool!
I created the artwork for the map on the plaque in Hood Park…the original image (which you also have on your post) is the property of the Clements Library at the University of Michigan and is copyright protected. You should add a note to the image indicating “Image courtesy of the William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan”.
Your description “The town was originally named Orleans and was first established in 1812 on a lowland area directly along the Maumee River (near where today’s Orleans Park is located).” is not correct. The town of Orleans co-existed with the town of Perrysburg until 1832 when Orleans residents finally conceded that the annual spring floods and ice floes had finally defeated them. Perrysburg’s original name was Perrysburgh, but the “h” was dropped at some point in time.
There is an error on the plaque that was only recently discovered….”How rare was it to have GLO surveyors plat a town? Well, there’s only two cities in the United States that were platted by surveyors directly employed by the federal government. Perrysburg is one, Washington D.C. is the other.” There are at least four (4) towns platted by the federal government” Perrysburg OH, Washington DC, Croghansville (Fremont) OH and Shawneetown, Illinois Territory. Obviously, Historic Perrysburg is not going to change the plaque, but there will be some local publications and presentations regarding this next year during the town’s 200th anniversary.
Gary L. Franks, PE