Archaeologists know that people have lived in the land now called Ohio for at least 13,000 years, thanks to discoveries such as some Ice Age ground sloth bones marked by human tools at least that old. Many thousands of years after these ancient hunters lived, other Native American tribes including the Erie, Kickapoo, and Shawnee lived on the land.
The first known non-native person to reach the area was French explorer Robert de La Salle, who arrived around 1670. French fur traders followed and began to settle in the area, but in 1763 the British claimed the area after winning the French and Indian War. After the Revolutionary War ended in 1783, Ohio became part of the American territory.
Ohio became the 17th state in 1803. The Ohio and Lake Erie Canal opened almost 30 years later and connected Lake Erie with the Ohio River. That made it much less expensive to ship goods from the east, so more settlers started arriving in the state.
Most people from Ohio fought for the Union during the Civil War. Those who were against the war and refused to fight were called Copperheads because they were thought of as poisonous snakes lying in wait to attack in favor of the south.
WHY'S IT CALLED THAT?
No one is sure where Ohio’s name came from, but some experts think it comes from the Iroquois word oyo, which means roughly “the great river,” and refers to the Ohio River (the river is formed in present-day Pennsylvania, where the Iroquois lived.)
The Buckeye State gets its nickname from a common tree in Ohio called a buckeye. Its nuts look like a deer’s eye—that is, a buck’s eye.
GEOGRAPHY AND LANDFORMS
Ohio is bordered by Michigan and Lake Erie in the north, Pennsylvania and West Virginia in the east, Kentucky and West Virginia in the south, and Indiana in the west. The state is mostly made up of plains but it can be divided into five geographical regions.
The northern Great Lakes Plains region is a fertile lowland, while the Lake Erie Shoreline has sandy and clay beaches, tall clay bluffs, and sand dunes that run along the shore.
The Till Plains is a large area in the west and center of the state that’s also very fertile. In fact so much corn grows there that it’s considered the beginning of America’s corn belt. The lowland region contains the highest point in Ohio—Campbell Hill—but it’s not even high enough to be considered a mountain.
The Appalachian Plateau is Ohio’s largest region and covers almost the entire eastern half of the state. It’s also the state’s most rugged area, with high hills and plunging valleys.
The Bluegrass Region is a small area in the south, with steep cliffs and deep valleys. Sinkholes and caves dot the land. You can also see the five-mile Serpent Mound Meteor Crater, which scientists think could have been formed by a meteor crash millions of years ago.
Black bears, coyotes, bobcats, American beavers, and white-tailed deer (the state animal) are some of Ohio’s most common mammals. Ring-necked pheasants, wild turkeys, great horned owls, red-headed woodpeckers, blue jays, and American robins are among the approximately 350 species of birds spotted throughout the state.
Ohio’s reptiles include the black racer, a non-venomous snake that’s also the state reptile. Other reptiles here include Lake Erie water snakes and woodland box turtles. Amphibians like western chorus frogs, red-spotted newts, and American toads all hop through the state.
Beech, aspen, pawpaw, boxelder, American elm, and slippery elm are a few common trees that grow in Ohio. The state is also filled with wildflowers, including multiple types of phlox, trillium, aster, and wild lily.
Besides Ohio’s fertile soil, the state is also known for coal, natural gas, and rock salt called halite. Mined from beneath Lake Erie, the state produces about five million tons of the salt a year.
—Pawpaw is an edible tree fruit that grows in Ohio and has its own festival every year.
—Seven U.S. presidents were born in Ohio: Ulysses S. Grant, Rutherford B. Hayes, James Garfield, Benjamin Harrison, William McKinley, William H. Taft, and Warren G. Harding.
—Cleveland’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is filled with music artifacts like Elvis Presley’s car, Jimi Hendrix’s couch, and John Lennon’s glasses.
—The Ohio and Erie Canalway is a national heritage site that stretches 110 miles. Visitors can drive it, hike it, or take the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad, a three-hour trip with stops along the way.
—Carillon Historical Park in Dayton is a complex of historical buildings and museums that include a bell tower, a one-room schoolhouse, a covered bridge, a gristmill, a 1930s-style cafeteria, and a carousel celebrating Dayton factories and companies where visitors can ride on a giant bag of potato chips!
—At Cincinnati’s National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, visitors can learn about the Underground Railroad, a network of people who helped bring enslaved people to freedom in the early- to mid-1800s.