SIDNEY — It’s a party that’s been 200 years in the making. The official kick off of Shelby County’s 200th birthday celebration Monday night, April 1, began a yearlong party for county residents.
Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine, the keynote speaker for the event held at Sidney Middle School, said he and Fran were happy to help the county celebrate its 200th birthday.
“Your bicentennial is a big deal,” said DeWine. “You’ve got great plant to celebrate it. You have a great history and you have a great future.”
The county’s history starts with family, he said.
“You have a great work ethic and you’re well situated off Interstate 75,” he said. “There’s no better manufacturing county in the state. There’s no better agricultural county in the state.
“The challenges you face are the same one faced in the rest of the state,” he said citing the lack of workers to fill jobs and the opioid problem.
He said he likes the partnership he sees between the schools and local businesses.
Sidney Mayor and Bicentennial co-chairman Mike Barhorst presented the DeWines numerous items which are made in Shelby County, including a pie from The Spot.
Shelby County Commissioner Julie Ehemann introduced the elected officials at the event.
“We are honored this evening to be joined by our governor, Mike DeWine, Justice Judi French, Sen. Matt Huffman, and State Reps. Nino Vitale and Susan Manchester,” said Ehemann. “Starting today, April 1, 2019, through February of 2020, we will have many opportunities to celebrate Shelby County’s rich history. So tonight, we launch a period of commemoration and discovery.”
“Commemorations will occur as we honor those whose contributions have made Shelby County into what it is today,” she continued. “Discoveries will be made as we explore the beginnings of our county. Who were the people that settled here and what were their attributes that resulted in our hardworking resilient community? How did an area of swamp and wilderness become a powerhouse for manufacturing and agriculture?
Ehemann shared some of the discoveries she hopes everyone learns about:
• That prior to the war of 1812, Shelby County was considered too dangerous to settle because of Indians,
• That Shelby County’s First Settler was James Thatcher and his family who lived along the Loramie Creek in 1805,
• That other groups settled including German immigrants that worked on the Miami Erie Canal,
• That the canal brought persons of English and French backgrounds who farmed and hunted and created commerce,
• That the County was named for Sir Isaac Shelby, a war hero and the first Governor of Kentucky,
• That the first county seat was in Hardin, named for a settler killed by Shawnee Indians,
• That the Village of Rumley was founded by free blacks, the Goings Brothers, who purchased 400 acres which was incorporated in 1837,
• That over 1000 Shelby County men served in the Civil War with 320 of them not returning home,
• That Amos Press began in 1876 when John Amos purchased “The Shelby County Democrat”,
• That other early Shelby County manufacturing included building school desks,
• That the Flood of 1913 destroyed much of the canal system forever ending that transportation mode,
• That today, Shelby County has more manufacturing jobs per capita than anywhere else in Ohio.
“What are the contributions of our community members, past and present, that make Shelby County this special place we call ‘home?’” asked Ehemann. “Tonight, we start the journey of understanding our past and looking to the future of Shelby County. I am so glad you are here to join us on this journey!”
Miami County Commissioner Gregory Simmons presented the county with a proclamation celebrating the bicentennial.
“It is truly a privilege and honor to be here tonight,” said Simmons, who as a child lived close to Lockington and had many friends in Shelby County.
“I look at Shelby County and I see a well balanced county in agriculture and industry,” he said. “I feel like I’m your big brother from Miami County. I wish we could have you back as part of Miami County.”
Shelby County Commissioner Bob Guillozet instructed State Rep. Susan Manchester, R-Waynesfield, 84th District, while Shelby County Commissioner Tony Bornhorst introduced Sen. Matt Huffman, R-Lima, 12th District. During his introduction of Huffman, Bornhorst noted it was Huffman and Shelby County Sheriff John Lenhart’s birthdays.
“Happy birthday Shelby County! I love a good celebration,” said Manchester. “This is a tribute to your past and a tribute to your future. I wonder what great ideas will come in the next 200 years?”
Huffman said he was surprised when he was contacted about the birthday celebration thinking the party was for him.
“When I was invited to the birthday party, I was told everybody was going to be here,” said Huffman. “I thought the celebration was a little much for a state senator.”
In all seriousness, Huffman said his parents lived in Sidney for a period of time after his dad returned from the Korean War. He served as a military recruiter in the county.
Huffman presented Ehemann with a proclamation from the Ohio Senate while Manchester and Rep. Nino Vitale, R-Urbana, 85th District, presented her one from the Ohio House of Representatives
Vitale led the group in the Pledge of Allegiance. The Rev. Steve Shoup, dean of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati Sidney Deanery, offered the invocation.
The Shelby County Sheriff’s Honor Guard posted and retired the colors. Local Boy Scouts assisted with greeting those in attendance.
The Shelby County Bicentennial Choir sang “The Star Spangled Banner,” “Beautiful Ohio” and “God Bless America.” Pastor Rodney Reynolds, senior pastor of Solid Rock Pentescostal Church of God, gave the 222benediction.
Reach the writer at 937-538-4822.