This city at the junction of the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers in northwest Ohio bills itself as a place “where friends, families and the rivers meet” while embracing its history as a canal town along the Ohio Revolutionary Memorial Trail.
In 1794, U.S. General “Mad” Anthony Wayne established a fort here and worked to end British and Native American control of the area.
Wayne boasted about the fort’s ability to withstand attacks, reportedly saying “I defy the English, the Indians, and all the devils in Hell to take it”.
And so the army outpost became Fort Defiance.
Wayne abandoned the fort in 1796 after victory at the Battle of Fallen Timbers secured the Northwest Territory (present-day Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin) for the U.S.
Fort Defiance was an American trading post, becoming one of America’s westernmost outposts used by General William Henry Harrison during the War of 1812.
Many historical markers in Defiance share the town’s early battlefield history and its mid-nineteenth-century era as a canal town, but we also found plenty of other interesting things to see and do in Defiance.
Here are some highlights from our recent tour of town:
- Independence Dam State Park-Historical markers and 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps-built structures line the park’s scenic access road along the Maumee River. The road crosses the remains of Canal Lock 13, which served the Miami & Erie and Wabash & Erie Canals. A three-mile hiking trail at the end of the road follows the route of an old Miami and Erie Canal towpath. Visitors can go boating, disc golfing, fishing, picnicking, bird watching, ice skating and cross-country skiing in the park.
- Defiance Public Library-The city’s Carnegie Library is a 1904 Tudor Revival-style building with picture windows overlooking the rivers. Check to see if the library has a copy of “The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio”, the story of Evelyn Ryan using her prize-winning prowess to help support her family during the 1950s and 1960s. Be sure to look up when you go inside to see the building’s stained-glass ceiling dome!
- Fort Defiance-The Fort Defiance gateway site, cannons marking the mounded outline of the fort’s walls and several historical markers are next to the library.
- Downtown Defiance-We saw lots of activity as we strolled downtown along Clinton St. with workers repairing and restoring vintage store facades and sidewalks as part of a streetscape improvement project. Check out downtown shops, stop at Cabin Fever Coffee for an ice tea, head over to Kissner’s for a burger and a beer or try The Black Lantern for a leisurely dinner.
Dinner at the Black Lantern
- Defiance College-This liberal arts college began as the Defiance Female Seminary in 1850. It offers more than 40 areas of study to 1,000 students pursuing bachelors, masters and associate degrees. Watch a concert, catch a sporting event at this NCAA Division III school with the Yellow Jackets’ men’s and women’s teams or walk in the 200-acre Thoreau Wildlife Sanctuary.
- Auglaize Village & Farm Museum-This re-created rural farming community in northwest Ohio of the 1800s, established by the Defiance County Historical Society in 1966, is three miles west of Defiance. The village offers tours and events featuring costumed re-enactors and craftspeople. Upcoming events include a traditional Christmas meal and Christmas Light drives through the village.
- Riding Route 424-We could see why Harley-Davidson Inc. named the 18-mile stretch of road (formerly State Route 424) between Defiance and Napoleon as one of the nation’s best motorcycle touring roads. The gently rolling and curving road runs along the Maumee River and has far less traffic that the more heavily-traveled US 24 running parallel to it through Defiance and Henry Counties.