Sawmills, gristmills and waterpower shaped a region for Native Americans and settlers, carving a country out of the Ohio wilderness bounded by rivers and the Great Black Swamp. The 1910’s ballad “Down by the Old Mill Stream” by local songwriter Tell Taylor is a signature of the times, giving its name to the scenic byway.
Since 1998, designation of a scenic byway in the Blanchard River Valley along the “pathway of the pioneers” has been a cooperative effort of a public-private partnership. The Ohio Department of Transportation recognized the scenery and heritage of Ohio’s last frontier with a prior designation of US 224 as a state “scenic highway”. Then in 2004, ODOT assistance helped create a two-county steering committee supported by local agencies, government officials, business / civic leaders and inspired volunteers.
The Old Mill Stream Scenic Byway stretches 52 miles over Hancock and Putnam Counties, linking the Lincoln Highway National Historic Byway to small villages, parks and landmarks. The scenic byway is more than a road, it is an experience with Ohio’s heritage and opportunities for travel as a connection for people - it’s a Sunday Drive, every day, all seasons of the year!
History abounds along the Byway
The Old Mill Stream Scenic Byway was recently designated as Northwest Ohio’s newest byway in 2006. The 52-mile route follows the Blanchard River Greenway as it meanders the countryside through Glandorf, Ottawa and Gilboa in Putnam County and continues through Findlay and Mt. Blanchard in Hancock County.
The Village of Glandorf was founded in 1834 by a group of individuals who came from Glandorf, Kreis Osnabrueck, Germany, to find a counterpart of their native village on American soil. The town was laid out by Father Horstmann and was located on lands previously attached to the Ottawa Indian Reservation, between the Blanchard River and the Cranberry Creek. During the 19th century Glandorf became known as “Little Germany”, for the number of German immigrants who settled there bringing the same industriousness they had learned in Germany. Shoemaking, woolen manufacturing, and wooden shoe making, saw mills, blacksmithing, milling and general mercantile – all backed by a strong tradition in agriculture helped make “New Glandorf” as it is still in Glandorf, Germany. Residents invite you to stop and explore their unique German community. Who knows you just might hear a bit of “Plattdeutcsch,” the Northern German dialect is still spoken there.
Located on the site of the last village of the Ottawa Indians, the Village of Ottawa is in an area of northwest Ohio known as the Great Black Swamp. In 1777, a treaty at “The Foot of the Rapids of the Maumee of the Lakes” established a reserve for the Ottawa Indians, in exchange for their land in northwest Ohio. The 5-mile square reserve encompassed the area where the Blanchard River intersects an Indian Trace near old State Route 65. It included the Ottawa villages known as Upper Tauwas and Lower Tauwas. The Ottawa Indians ceded their reserve to the United States in 1831. In 1831, the land was offered for sale to settlers, and the Village of Ottawa, established in 1832, was platted on the site of the Lower Tauwas. A post office, established in 1837, was called Buckeye, since there was already an Ottawa in the state. In 1862, it officially became Ottawa. In 1866, by popular vote, the county seat was moved to Ottawa. The village is proud of its heritage, and this pride is evident in its appearance and the people of the community as residents welcome travelers to visit their hometown.
In 1832, Joseph Hickerson founded the village of Gilboa at the present site on the Blanchard River and lots were laid out in 1834. The name “Gilboa’ is said to honor an old Indian chief of the same name. Early settlers, though, like to credit the village name from Mt. Gilboa which is mentioned in the Bible. Early settlers came from Fairfield County in Ohio, traveling through the wilderness on nothing but Indian trails. As more settlers arrive, Gilboa began to develop and thrive. Some of the early businesses included a grist mill and saw mill that were powered by the water from the Blanchard River. Gilboa has undergone many changes and challenges over the years, but the town has never experienced what might be termed a “boom”. US Highway 224 for many years went through the heart of the town, but has long since bypassed this little village. The determined spirit of the early settlers and current residents still lives on today.
The first settlement in Hancock County owes both its location and its name to the War of 1812. In 1812, Colonel James Findlay commanded a regiment for General Hull and moved the Ohio Frontier Army from Dayton to Detroit. In the process, a road was opened to the Blanchard River and a stockade called Fort Findlay was built. The new stockade stood west of the Main Street Bridge, which now crosses the Blanchard River. Findlay was founded around 1826. In 1886 the city’s population quadrupled when gas and oil were discovered. The famous “gas wells” also drew thousands of visitors to the City and the first practical use of gas in mechanical arts was developed in Findlay. Initially 19 welled were drilled with the most recognized being the great Karg well. Findlay has a true appreciation of the past, and a strong community spirit attests to the deep commitment to the area, and is evident in the preservation of the community’s unique heritage while still fostering their prosperity. The Greater Findlay area prides itself on being an area with significant international flavor and forward-thinking technology. Findlay was officially designated “Flag City USA” in 1974 and the American flag waves throughout the City as it welcomes visitors to stop, shop and play.
The Village of Mt. Blanchard and the river that runs through it are named for the Frenchman Jean Jacques Blanchard. A tailor by trade, Blanchard traveled to the area around 1760 and married a Shawnee maiden and raised a family of seven children just outside the village. Asa Lake, a veteran of the Revolutionary War under George Washington, and his wife Cloe, their son Asa M. and two daughters is recorded as being the first white settlers of the community in 1821. After arriving, over the next 15 years a steady flow of settlers followed as the area prospered and grew. Asa M. Lake is credited for entering 83.25 acres at the government land office in 1822 and purchasing 84.5 acres in 1829; which were located on the east and west side of the present Main Street. He also platted and recorded the original 53 lots of Mt. Blanchard in 1830. The Lakes are buried in the Mt. Blanchard Cemetery. The village is filled with history including a site where Johnny Appleseed’s established one of his apple nurseries near Island Park, and a monument at the park area honors him. Visitors will find a friendly village in Mt. Blanchard surrounded by an agricultural community that puts out the “red carpet” for those who visit.
Driving Instructions (pdf)
WHAT’S GOING ON ALONG THE BYWAY
Check out the following links to see what’s going on along the Byway. Links are updated as information is provided. Visitors are encourage to call ahead to confirm arrangements and details.