The Land Office is important to Defiance County as one of the few Hicksville buildings left from the settlement days. To many, it symbolizes Hicksville’s emergence from The Great Black Swamp.
When Ephraim Burwell was sent to this area in 1836, he had orders to set up a town named for the Hicks family, whose business had purchased well over 100,000 acres here. The idea was to sell off the timber, and then the land, before taxes were due on the holdings. Burwell spent plenty of money but sold no land. He had to be replaced.
In 1837, the Hicks Company of New York chose one of their young bookkeepers, A. P. Edgerton, to take over the business in Ohio. He arrived in April to find four cabins, an underbrushed road, and some Potawattamies roasting porcupine on the high ridge of land that ran southwest through the area.
At the crossing on the high ridge stood a double cabin in which Edgerton stayed, setting up shop in a bureau at one end. He began by selling land to the few settlers that were already nearby.
The next year, Edgerton brought the first mail route off the main line into Hicksville and acted as its first postmaster.
By 1840, Edgerton’s land and timber sales had outgrown his bureau. He directed the building of a one-story square office in the Greek Revival style. Its temple front featured four square columns with capitals. Windows and doors were surrounded with wide hand carved trim. The high ceilings and hardwood walls were impressive.
The Land Office was a center of area commerce with Edgerton then a general trader and community leader. He redesigned Hicksville in 1842, consolidating blocks and rearranging streets. He built the first mills and had them rebuilt following fires.
A. P. established the first toll road in the Maumee Basin, the Antwerp Pike, now Route 49 south.
Later, in the 1800’s, a wing was added to the side of the building. After A. P. Edgerton’s death in 1897, a variety of businesses occupied the building. The Hicksville Building, Loan, and Savings was there the longest (1899–1959). The Land Office was moved one lot north when the Building and Loan expanded. Thirty years later, they moved The Land Office back to High Street and gave it to the library. By then, the Land Office had been moved four times and was just across the street from its original location. It currently houses Historical Society collections.
The Land Office is important as the place from which A. P. Edgerton sold over 140,000 acres of land to settlers, an amount topped only by the government. Development of these lands from swampy forests to highly productive farmland changed the face of northwest Ohio forever. The Land Office was where it all began.
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