Lorain County History
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HOW ELYRIA 

BECAME THE COUNTY SEAT

According to the LCHS Ely Papers, the formation of Lorain County with Elyria as its county seat involved a lengthy process.  Less than two years after Heman Ely settled Elyria, a letter from Justin Ely dated 13 January 1819, to his brother, Heman, mentions Heman's intention of making Elyria a county seat:  "Should you succeed in making Elyria a county Town, it must add considerable I should think to the value of your situation."   Unfortunately, another letter from Justin, dated 29 January 1820, consoling Heman on the Ohio Legislature's refusal to name Elyria a "County Town" gives the results of this first attempt at forming a new county.  Once again providing brotherly encouragement, Justin, on 14 March 1820, advises Heman to sell water rights to increase Elyria's population and to construct adequate buildings to increase the possibility of Elyria becoming a county seat.  Several other letter writers confirm that Heman actively sought the formation of a new county with Elyria as the county seat between April 1820 and January 1821.  Nevertheless, by 1 February 1821, the Ohio Legislature had again refused to organize a new county.  Undaunted, Heman again applied to the Ohio Legislature for a new county late in 1821.

On 26 December 1822 the Ohio Legislature finally acted to form the new county of Lorain from parts of Cuyahoga, Medina and Huron Counties.  Jeremiah McLene, the Ohio Secretary of State, gave Nehemiah King of Ashtabula County, Jesse Ladd of Geauga County, and Edward Paine, Jr. of Geauga County, each a commission on 1 January 1823 to choose Lorain County's permanent seat of justice.  The three communities of Black River (now Lorain), Elyria, and Sheffield emerged as top contenders.  Black River had the advantage of a harbor.  Sheffield offered land at the head of navigation on the Black River.  Heman Ely, the founder of Elyria and leading proponent of establishing Lorain County, offered to donate land adjacent to the park he had given to Elyria.  In addition, he offered to donate $2000 toward the construction of a permanent courthouse, to build a jail and sheriff's residence behind the courthouse, and to build a temporary courthouse to use until the permanent structure was completed.  Significantly, Elyria was also located closer to the center of the new county.  

The State Commissioners visited each community and heard each case during the first part of February 1823.  As a letter in the LCHS Ely Papers records, Heman Ely found this meeting so important that he told his wife he would be unable to meet her in Rochester, NY as she returned from a visit to her family in Massachusetts.  Finally, the State Commissioners met at Artemas Beebe's dwelling in Elyria and reported on 14 February 1823 that they had chosen Elyria.  Other LCHS Ely Papers reveal that on this same day, Edmund West signed a Declaration of Trust that when Ohio organized Lorain County he would convey land Heman Ely had given him (back on 22 February 1822) to the Lorain County commissioners.  Ebenezer Lane, on another receipt dated 14 February 1823, stated that he was given a deed between Heman Ely and Henry Brown for lots 1-2 and 6-7 to cover a bond to raise $3000 for Lorain County court buildings.

Almost a year after this decision, and five years after Heman Ely had first suggested a new county, Lorain officially began functioning as a county on 21 January 1824 with its seat of justice in Elyria, Ohio.


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