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About this collection

Black Swamp Memories is an online scrapbook of historical images and documents illustrating the history and development of the northwestern Ohio region formerly known as the Great Black Swamp. The first phase of the project focused on building a collection of photographs documenting the Oil and Gas Boom that took place in northwestern Ohio from the late 1800s through the early 1900s and which brought about dramatic changes to the landscape, economy, towns, and people of the region. In 2009, the primary geographic emphasis of the project narrowed to focus solely on people, places, and events in Wood County, Ohio.


Black Swamp Memories is a service of the Wood County District Public Library in partnership with the BGSU Center for Archival Collections, the Wood County Historical Center & Museum, the Northwest Regional Library System, and theWood County Genealogy Society.


Black Swamp Memories has been supported in part by federal Institute of Museum and Library Services LSTA funds, granted in March 2006 through the State Library of Ohio. A second project in 2009, led by the Northwest Regional Library System on behalf of its membership, resulted in a second LSTA-funded grant project that has allowed the Black Swamp Memories Project to merge with the Ohio History Connection's Ohio Memory Project.


What is the Great Black Swamp?

The Great Black Swamp, or simply the Black Swamp, was a glacially-caused wetland in northwest Ohio and northeast Indiana, that existed from the end of the Wisconsin glaciation until the late 19th century. It was comprised of extensive swamps and marshes, with some higher, drier ground interspersed, and occupied what was formerly the southwestern part of Glacial Lake Maumee, a holocene precursor to Lake Erie. It was gradually drained and settled in the second half of the 19th century and is now highly productive farm land. Its historical boundaries lie primarily within the watersheds of the Maumee, Auglaize, and Portage rivers in northwest Ohio. The boundary was determined primarily by ancient sandy beach ridges formed on the shores of Lakes Maumee and Whittlesey, after glacial retreat several thousand years ago. It stretched roughly from New Haven, Indiana in the west, to Toledo and Sandusky Ohio on the east. Additional watersheds partly or wholly within its former boundary include the Sandusky, Ottawa, Tiffin, and Blanchard rivers.


The area was not continuous swamp, but rather characterized by a variety of vegetation types. In the lowest, flattest areas, prone to permanent inundation, deciduous swamp forests predominated, characterized especially by species of ash, elm, cottonwood and sycamore. In slightly higher areas with some relief, beech, maples, basswood, tuliptree and other more mesic species were dominant. On elevated beach ridges and moraines with good drainage, species of oak and hickory were dominant. Dense, stunted arborvitae grew in areas with very shallow soil over limestone bedrock, mostly toward the eastern edge of the area. There were also non-forested wetlands, particularly marsh and wet prairies, with marshes particularly extensive along the Lake Erie shoreline. Some of these exist today in modified form in state and federal wildlife refuges.


Although much of the area to the east, south, and north was settled in the early 19th century, the difficulty of traveling through the swamp delayed its development by several decades. A corduroy road (from modern day Fremont to Perrysburg) was constructed in 1825 and paved with gravel in 1838, but travel in the wet season could still take days or even weeks. The impassability of the swamp became an obstacle during the Toledo War ( 1835-36), with Michigan militia members becoming lost and unable to confront Ohio forces armed for battle. Settlement of the region was inhibited by the presence of endemic malaria, which continued to plague residents of the region until the area was drained.In the 1850s an organized attempt to drain the swamp for agricultural use and ease of travel began which lasted for 40 years, and the area was largely settled over the next three decades. The development of railroads and a local drainage tile industry are thought to have contributed greatly to drainage and settlement.


This article was taken from Wikipedia at

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