Henry County is located in an area once known as “The Great Black Swamp.” The area was composed of dense forests, water sources and rich, black soil. Settlers found the area to be a great source for fish, furs and wild game. Native American Tribes (such as the Miami, Ottawa, Shawnee and the Pottawattamie) inhabited the deep forests along the Maumee River at one time.
Traders, hunters and trappers began to enter the area in the late 1700s and the Native American tribes disliked the newcomers intruding on their land. Due to rising conflict, General Anthony Wayne was dispatched to negotiate treaties and attempt to open the Northwest for settlement. Making his way north to the Maumee River, Wayne set up forts throughout the river basin. His victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers 40 miles northeast of Napoleon, opened the entire Northwest Territory (Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin) to settlement by the fledgling United States of America.
In April of 1820, Henry County was formed. The county was named after Virginia statesman Patrick Henry (“Give me Liberty or give me Death!”). Twelve years after the official establishment of Henry County, the City of Napoleon (named for the military commander and emperor of France — Napoleon Bonaparte) was platted and soon incorporated. The Miami and Erie Canal was dug following the winding Maumee River and led to the establishment of communities. The railroad boom led to the establishment of others — such as Liberty Center, Deshler, Holgate and more. Agriculture remained the backbone of Henry County as farmers took advantage of the rich soils left by the Great Black Swamp. Herculean efforts to clear the land of forest and swamp led to great prosperity and formed the framework of the hardworking Henry County of today.