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The Ohio River Valley was home to several Native American cultures before European settlement, including the Adena and Hopewell cultures. These cultures left behind many burial mounds and other archaeological sites that are now protected and preserved by the state of Ohio.
Portage County is located in northeastern Ohio and has a rich history that dates back thousands of years. The area was originally inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Delaware, Ottawa, and Wyandot, who relied on the abundant natural resources for their livelihoods.

The first European settlers arrived in the late 18th century, and the area that would become Portage County was established in 1807. The county was named after the ancient Indian portage path that crossed the region, connecting the Cuyahoga and Tuscarawas rivers. The portage path played a significant role in the development of the region, as it provided a route for fur traders and settlers to transport goods and travel between Lake Erie and the Ohio River.

In the early 19th century, Portage County experienced rapid growth and development. With the construction of the Ohio and Erie Canal in the 1820s, the county became a vital transportation hub, facilitating the movement of goods and people between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River. The canal brought increased trade and commerce to the region, leading to the establishment of towns and industries along its route.

During the mid-19th century, Portage County saw significant advancements in education and abolitionist movements. The county became known for its thriving educational institutions, such as Hiram College and the Western Reserve Eclectic Institute (present-day Kent State University). These institutions attracted students and scholars from all over, contributing to the intellectual and cultural development of the county.

In the 20th century, Portage County continued to evolve, particularly with the expansion of Kent State University. The university grew in size and prominence, becoming a significant educational and research institution. However, the county also experienced a tragic event in 1970 when four students were killed and nine injured during a Vietnam War protest on the Kent State University campus.

Today, Portage County is a vibrant and diverse community that embraces its history while looking towards the future. The county is known for its natural beauty, including the Portage County Ravenna Arsenal Park and Nelson Ledges State Park, which attract outdoor enthusiasts from around the region. Additionally, the county remains an educational hub, with Kent State University continuing to play a crucial role in the county's economy and cultural landscape.

This timeline provides a concise overview of the key events in the history of Portage County, Ohio.

  • 1805 - Portage County is established and named after the Portage path, an important Native American trail in the area.
  • 1808 - Kent, the first city in Portage County, is founded.
  • 1837 - Hiram College is established, becoming the oldest college in the county.
  • 1851 - The Atlantic and Great Western Railroad is completed, connecting Portage County to national transportation networks.
  • 1862 - The Kent State Normal School is established, later becoming Kent State University.
  • 1934 - The Kent State University Airport (now Kent State University Airport and Research Park) is established.
  • 1970 - The Kent State shooting occurs during a Vietnam War protest, resulting in the deaths of four students.
  • 1996 - The Portage County District Library is formed, merging several local libraries into one.
  • 2009 - The Center for Science and Technology at Kent State University is completed, becoming an iconic addition to the campus.