A Brief History of Knox County

hay Before the treaty of 1785 was reestablished in 1795, Knox County was occupied almost entirely by Native Americans. The treaty of 1785 assigned the Native American tribes to the westward portion of Ohio, forcing them from their previous homeland. The area was steadily settled by pioneers, mostly from Pennsylvania beginning in the early 19th century. In 1805, Mount Vernon was laid out and named. On January 30th, 1808 Knox County was created. The area in which Knox County is located was appropriated as United Military lands by an act of Congress in 1796. The County was named for General Henry Knox, a distinguished officer in the revolutionary army.

During the mid-nineteenth century, Knox County grew in both strength as well as population. In the years preceeding the Civil War, racial prejudice was a major issue in Knox County. There were also many abolitionists in Knox County at this time, and the region served as a stop on the underground railroad, assisting many runaway slaves.

When the prohibition law was passed in January of 1920, the sale of alcohol had already been illegal in Knox County for almost fourteen years. Despite this, the new federal restrictions made bootlegging as common in Knox County as it was anywhere else in the nation. Death from poisoned, illegal alcohol was horifically common during these years.

The Great Depression did not hit Knox County until 1931, a year or so after the rest of the nation had begun to suffer. When troubles did begin, Knox County was hit very hard economically. Times were difficult until 1934, when Shellmar Products Corporation opened up, saving the local economy.

In 1973, the agricultural boom caused a second difficult period for Knox County's industry. This was the worst time for the county's economy since the Great Depression. In the late 1970s conditions began to improve, but even to this day the county suffers from the economic pressures of farming.

Click here for a timeline of important events in Knox County's history.

photo credit: Stephanie Martin

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