How Napoleon got its name

Published: Northwest Signal, Monday, September 29, 2014

Editor’s note: This year marks the 180th anniversary of Napoleon. To mark the occasion, the Henry County Historicla Society is providing monthly looks at the city’s history.

(Reprinted with permission of the Northwest Signal)

Today is our final installment regarding the history of Napoleon. We live in a predominantly German community, yet here we are in a town with a French name! So how could this possibly happen?

French traders and trappers were some of the first white men to visit Henry County. It was the French, loyal followers of Emperor Napoleon, who first gave the name Napoleon to the township. Henry County was named for Patrick Henry and originally attached to Wood County for local government. When Henry County was formed, Napoleon was selected as the county seat. The village was platted in 1834, and by the summer of 1835, the town consisted of 4 acres of cleared land and a half dozen two story cabins.

In later years, a move to “Americanize” the name Napoleon was bitterly and successfully opposed by Augustin Pilliod, a pioneer Frenchman. In 1853, petitioners wanted to change the name Napoleon to Henry, once again after Patrick Henry. After petitioners received approval from the commissioners in June 1853, it was ordered the village be incorporated under the name of “Henry.” In October 1853, the day a new mayor and councilmen were to be elected for the newly incorporated village of Henry, Mr. Pilliod and friends of “Napoleon” made such a demonstration that the election could not proceed. The result: Napoleon remained Napoleon. The incorporation of the village of Napoleon was delayed for 10 years, until 1863. At that time, no mention was made for changing the name. So here we stand: Napoleon, Ohio.

On Wednesday, Oct. 15, we will be celebrating the 180th birthday of our fair city. The celebration will be held in front of the city building, beginning at 10:30. We will be hosting a special program for the unveiling of our latest double sided historical marker. It features the story of the near name change as well as the history of the river front industries. This event is open to the public, and we encourage you to be part of this history making event! We will be providing further information in theNorthwest Signal and on WNDH 103.1 radio. Listen for special historical business minutes and pop quiz questions during our week of celebration.

(Information courtesy of Russell Patterson and the Henry County Historical Society.)