The first European explorers to explore the region were the French. Until 1763, the Ohio region was part of the French colony of New France, then under British control. With the independence of the United States in 1783, the United States came to control the region. Ohio became the first territory in the Northwest Territory to be elevated to state status, and the 17th to enter the Union, on March 1, 1803. Westward expansion and the construction of numerous railroads in the state, the discovery of numerous coal beds, and a strong agricultural industry led Ohio to convert in the mid- 1800s. into a great industrial power. Ulysses S. Grant, a native of Ohio, was one of the main leaders of the Union during the American Civil War.
The Louisiana Purchase, made in 1803, caused the state’s economy to grow rapidly, since the products produced in the state could be easily transported through the Mississippi River and its tributaries to the port of New Orleans. Annually, large numbers of ships sailed between New Orleans and the small port centers in Ohio, transporting agricultural products produced in that state to New Orleans, from where they were taken to other regions.
In 1812, the War of 1812 began, between the United States and the United Kingdom. Ohio was the scene of one of the most important and famous battles of the war, the Battle of Lake Erie, carried out on September 10, 1813. In this battle, nine American ships, commanded by Commander Oliver H. Perry, fought six British ships, in Lake Erie, a battle that resulted in victory for the United States. The results of this victory were the American dominance of the waters of Lake Erie, as well as the American control of the Northwest Territory, and dramatically increased the morale of the American population and soldiers, after a series of defeats in the development of war.
After the end of the war, the continued development of the Ohio economy caused Ohio’s population to skyrocket. Thousands of people settled annually in the state, in addition to many other people from other states, and immigrants from European countries, especially Germans and British. In 1835, a war was almost started between Michigan and Ohio, over a dispute over a narrow strip of land in the far northwestern corner of Ohio. This war, which was called the Toledo War, did not occur due to the intervention of the federal government. In 1836, the government ceded this piece of land to Ohio. This sector of land houses the city of Toledo, which gave its name to the “war.” It was then that Ohio’s borders acquired their current boundaries.
Riverine trade between Ohio and New Orleans continued, and the need for cheaper and more efficient ships caused steamboats to replace the old sailing ships. The first steamboat to sail the Mississippi was the New Orleans in 1811, and the first to sail Lake Erie was the Walk-in-the-Water in 1818. In 1825, the Erie Canal was inaugurated and in 1832, an extension of it, the Ohio Canal, was completed, connecting Cleveland and Portsmouth.  In 1845, another extension of the Erie Canal, the Miami Canal, was inaugurated, connecting Toledo and Cincinnati.
Ohio’s many river channels served as trade routes for more than 25 years. Starting in the 1830s, railways began to be built in large numbers. The extensive modern rail and river transportation system caused the state’s agricultural industry to develop dramatically during the 1840s, making Ohio a leader in America’s agricultural industry. The state’s economy would diversify, with the increasing expansion of the state’s transportation system, and manufacturing would quickly become a major source of income as well. In 1841, William Henry Harrison became the first Ohio native to assume the presidency of the United States.
Ohio played an essential role in the American Civil War. Most of the population of the state was abolitionist, that is, they were against slavery. Many abolitionists helped thousands of slaves flee, both before and during the Civil War, being transported from the abolitionist states to Ohio or Canada via the Mississippi River and the Ohio River, or via railroad tracks.
Several key people in the Union forces were Ohioans, including Generals Ulysses S. Grant and William T. Sherman. In addition to that, Ohio supplied about 320,000 soldiers, more than the quota requested by President Abraham Lincoln for that state. The only armed conflict in Ohio occurred in 1863, when Confederate troops, led by General John Hunt Morgan, raided north, destroying any American infrastructure at the front. Morgan would be captured in Ohio, but managed to flee and return safely to the Confederacy.
After the end of the American Civil War, Ohio’s economic growth increased again. Tens of thousands of people from other states in the United States and from other countries came to settle in the state. The manufacturing industry developed rapidly, surpassing agriculture as the state’s main source of income in the 1870s. In 1869, the Cincinnati Red Stockings – now the Cincinnati Reds – became the nation’s first professional baseball team. The great industrial growth of Ohio would also promote a technological revolution in the state, not in vain many world-renowned inventors are from Ohio, and would have made their inventions in the state. Among them, Thomas Edison stands out.
The presence of natural resources such as coal also helped Ohio become a great industrial power. During the late 1800s, four Ohioans assumed the presidency of the United States. These people were Ulysses S. Grant — the Union Lieutenant General during the Civil War — Rutherford B. Hayes, James A. Garfield, and Benjamin Harrison. William McKinley, although not a native of Ohio (born in Virginia, although he spent most of his childhood in Ohio), assumed the presidency of the country in 1897. Another Ohio native, William Howard Taft, became the seventh person that state to assume the US presidency, in 1909.