History of Ohio: Lesson for Kids

Instructor: Abby Federico

Abby has taught elementary special education and has her master's degree in this area.

This lesson will teach you the history of the state of Ohio, the 17th state to join the Union. You'll learn about Ohio's early inhabitants, the arrival of European settlers, how they became part of the United States, and some current facts.

Early People and Native Americans of Ohio

People lived in Ohio for many years before European settlers arrived, and WAY before you or I were around. The earliest people to have lived there were the Hopewell, followed by the Fort Ancient peoples. By the 1600s, when Europeans first came to Ohio, there were several Native American tribes occupying the land. The Iroquois were the biggest, along with the Delaware, Shawnee, and Miami tribes. These Native Americans lived off the land and hunted beavers for their furs.

The Europeans Arrive

When they showed up in 1669, the French were the first Europeans to arrive in Ohio. They created trading posts to trade fur and built forts, including Fort Miami and Fort Sandusky. By the 1700s, the British had also arrived in the area. The French and British both wanted to hunt and trade furs, which lead to fighting between them.

The French and Indian War occurred between 1754 and 1763. Although it was called the French and Indian War, it was really fought between the French and British, with different Native American tribes fighting for different sides. The British won the war in 1763, therefore winning the land of Ohio.

Becoming Part of the United States

When the American colonists defeated the British at the end of the American Revolutionary War in 1783, Ohio became a United States territory. It was part of what the U.S. called the Northwest Territory, which included Ohio and many of the surrounding regions. As more settlers began moving to the area, Ohio was finally admitted into the Union as the 17th state on March 1, 1803. Columbus became Ohio's capital in 1816, and is still the capital today.

A map of the United States, with Ohio highlighted in red

More Wars

Ohio's history continued to be marked by wars and battles. In one instance, the Native Americans wanted the lands returned that they believed had been stolen from them. The famous Chief Tecumseh and his Shawnee warriors attempted to take these lands back, but were defeated. And during the War of 1812, many battles were fought in the land of Ohio. The United States was ultimately able to keep control of its lands, including Ohio.

During the American Civil War, Ohio remained in the Union and fought for the North. Ohio had already established itself as a 'free state' even before the war started, which meant that they did not accept slavery and had outlawed it. Many escaped slaves used the Underground Railroad to escape to Ohio.

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