Lancaster, Ohio was founded on November 10, 1800, by Colonel Ebenezer Zane of Wheeling, WV. Zane was a famous merchant, trail blazer, pioneer, and soldier. Following the defeat of the Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, and the Treaty of Greenville in 1796, settlement within the interior of Ohio became fairly safe from the Indians, and for the first time, legal. Zane knew that the interior of Ohio would fill rapidly with settlers and that if he personally owned land in the interior he might possibly cash in handsomely. Accordingly, in 1795, he petitioned Congress to grant him a contract to open a road through Ohio from Wheeling to Limestone, Kentucky, a distance of 266 miles. In payment, he requested three square mile tracts of land to be located at the crossings of the Muskingum, the Hockhocking, and the Scioto Rivers. Zane’s Trace, the first important road in Ohio, was blazed by 1797.
At the crossing of the Hockhocking, near the famous Standing Stone, now Mt. Pleasant, Zane located the second of his square mile tracts. Tarhe, Chief of the Wyandottes, and father-in-law of Ebenezer’s brother, Isaac, was camped here in 1797 and remained for some time after the coming of the first settlers.
Early in 1798, the first settlers came over the trace from both directions. By the fall of 1800, Zane determined that enough settlers had arrived in the Hocking Valley to warrant a sale of his real estate. He sent his sons Noah and John as his attorneys to lay out a town and sell lots. Chestnut, Main, Wheeling, and Mulberry Streets were laid out from Pearl Street on the east to Front Street on the west. The new town was called New Lancaster at the re qu est of Emanuel Carpenter who came from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, as did many of the predominately German early settlers.
Fairfield County, eighth county to be formed in the Northwest Territory, was created by the Governor and Council of the Northwest Territory, and was proclaimed by Governor Arthur St. Clair on December 9, 1800. Both county and seat of justice are older by three years than the State of Ohio. The land area of the new county included the present counties of Delaware, Knox, and Licking, with large portions of Franklin, Perry, Pickaway, and Hocking.
By act of legislature, the name of the town was shortened to Lancaster, in 1805. In 1831 the town was incorporated. The first newspaper, Der Ohio Alder, now the Lancaster Eagle Gazette, was founded around 1807. The Lancaster Lateral Canal opened to commerce in 1836. With canal transportation, markets were opened to the east, and with these new markets came wealth and opulence which is still evidenced by many fine, historical homes through out the county. The Lancaster Lateral Canal was acquired by the State of Ohio and by 1841 the Hocking Canal had been extended to Athens. In 1840, the first canal boat loads of coal arrived down the Hocking Valley and it was a great curiosity to most citizens for they had never seen stone coal before. At 4:30 p.m. on April 11, 1854, the first two trains puffed into town over the C.W.& Z. Railroad, now the Indiana & Ohio, with bands playing, cannon roaring, and 8,000 people shouting at the foot of Broad Street.
Lancaster has been most fortunate in the great men of national stature that lived here. General William T. Sherman, famous Civil War General, was born in Lancaster, as was his equally famous brother, John Sherman, U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of State, and father of the Sherman AntiTrust Act. Thomas Ewing, U.S. Senator, Secretary of the Treasury, and organizer and first Secretary of the Interior, Henry Stanbery, Attorney-General of the United States, and defender of President Andrew Johnson at his impeachment trial, and three Ohio governors. For many decades the early Lancaster legal bar was noted as the most brilliant in the state, and by some as the most brilliant in the nation. Lancaster is well known for its numerous well preserved early homes located for the most part on Main and Wheeling hills.