Long before the City of Delaware came into existence, Mingo, and Shawnee Indian tribes lived in the area and settlements were established where the future town would develop.
In 1804, Moses Byxbe arrived in central Ohio from Berkshire County,
Massachusetts. He had acquired a large number of land grants which were part of the United States Military lands, given in payment to Revolutionary War soldiers. In the spring of 1808, Byxbe laid out a town on the east bank of the Olentangy River but a few days later changed his mind about the most suitable location and platted the town on the west bank.
On May 9, 1808, Byxbe filed or, “platted” the, “plan of the town of Delaware,” marking the real beginning of the present City of Delaware.
Byxbe (1756-1826) was a man of exceptional energy, courage and drive who shaped the City of Delaware’s future during its formative years. He accomplished a great deal in a little more than 20 years on the Ohio frontier – Delaware’s founding and planning, growing a local economy, the enlistment of capable civic partners, and even an attempt to locate Ohio’s capital in Delaware. The tough-mindedness that served Byxbe well in Delaware’s early days also drew its share of detractors, but there is general agreement that Byxbe excelled at attracting high-caliber settlers who formed the basic population upon which Delaware was founded.
Following the War of 1812, settlers began arriving at a faster pace, including the parents of Rutherford B. Hayes, 19th President of the United States. Hayes was born in Delaware and met his future wife, Lucy, at Ohio Wesleyan University. Ohio Wesleyan was founded in 1842 by Methodists seeking to establish a liberal arts college.
Prior to the Civil War, Delaware had Northern sympathies and abolitionists brought the Underground Railway through the area. The local Africa Road owes it name to this era. Camp Delaware, a Civil War-era camp for soldiers was one of the few from which African-American soldiers deployed to fight for the Union. During and following the War, railroads played an important role in expanding the markets of Delaware. By 1900, Delaware had its own electric street railway, and an electric interurban rail connected the community with Columbus and Marion, located about 20 miles to the north.
In the modern era, residential and industrial development has flourished. The proximity to Columbus, as well as historic periods of growth and prosperity, has greatly influenced the Delaware economy. Its history, however, is carefully preserved in its many 19th century buildings and homes, its comfortable scale and “home town” pace of life.