Mercer County, Ohio
GRAND LAKE ST. MARYS
A little History about Mercer and Celina area. The lake lies between Auglaize and Mercer Counties. St. Marys is on the Auglaize County and Celina is the county seat for Mercer County.
This area has lots of beautiful domed Catholic churches.
Grand Lake St. Marys came into being as a reservoir to supply water for the Miami & Erie Canal. It was begun in 1837, long before the days of mechanized equipment.
The lake was constructed by men wielding shovels and axes - they cut down trees in the great swamp, which was to be a natural storage place for the water needed to supply the canal and operate its locks.
Seventeen hundred men, mostly Irish and German immigrants, were employed in building the east and west banks of the reservoir.
They worked from sunrise to sunset. Their wages amounted to 30 cents a day plus one jigger of whisky (much relied on to combat malaria).
The lake was completed in 1845 at a cost of $600,000 and, for many years the 17,500-acre reservoir was the largest artificial body of water in the world.
The lake has 52 miles of shoreline and is approximately nine miles long and three miles wide. It is still the largest artificial body of water in the world built without the use of machinery.
With the opening of the canal, men and women of German heritage came here on canal boats from Cincinnati, and soon had acquired land for farming.
Early settlers were mostly of English, Irish and French heritage. Mercer and Auglaize both depend on farming but there were several tire and bicycle plants around. Some of those plants have closed down in the last few years..
The completion of the canal and its fee-reservoir also made a vast difference in living costs. Freight rates dropped from $1.00 for hauling a bushel of wheat 100 miles to 15 cents for hauling a ton of wheat the same distance.
The canal did a thriving business until it was supplanted by the railroads (the Norfolk and Western Railway was constructed through St. Marys in the late 1860's)
In 1888 and 1889, oil was discovered in the St. Mary area and many wells were drilled during the oil boom that followed. Some of the wells were drilled in Great Lake St. Mary's, whose surface was once studded with derricks.
Grand Lake St. Marys is part of the divide between north and south waterways of the canal. Water flowing out of the canal to the east went eventually to Lake Erie and the other Great Lakes, while water flowing south and west found its way into streams and rivers (the Ohio River, for one) that are a part of the Mississippi River system.
From its completion in 1845 until 1915, the lake provided this area with some of its most colorful history.
In 1915, however, the lake was no longer needed to feed the canal. The Ohio General Assembly at that time passed an act through which this body of water and adjacent lands owned by the state were dedicated and set apart forever for the use of the public, as public parks or pleasure resorts. Grand Lake St. Marys State Park is one of the busiest tourist areas in Ohio with approximately 1.053 million visitors to the park.
Celina was founded in 1834 in a swampy, wooded area that had to be drained and cleared before it could be settled. What remained was a level town surrounded by rich farm fields. When one of the town's founding fathers was traveling through New York state to get the town plat lithographed, he came across the town of Salina situated on the edge of Onondaga Lake near Syracuse. Noting the similarity between Salina and the newly founded settlement in Ohio, he named the new town Celina. The spelling was changed to avoid confusion at the post office, or so the story is told from past legends.
Fort Recovery was first established in 1793 under the orders from General Anthony wane. It is near the township of Recovery.
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