By Thomas Palmer

One of the fundamentals of telling the story of Galion is talking about the “Father of Galion.”

Asa Hosford, the man traditionally given that nickname, was not the first person from the east to travel to this corner of Ohio. He was, however, one of the earliest to do so and he also played a remarkably important role in the early days of the local settlement.

Hosford’s honorary title is largely due to his role, as a member of the Ohio General Assembly, in securing the selection of Galion on the famed “3C” rail line connecting Cleveland, Columbus, and Cincinnati. This rail line, later known as the “Big Four,” was the Interstate 71 of its day and brought investment and growth to the southeast part of Crawford County.

There is another man, however, who might actually be given the same title, albeit with a bit of a “twist.” This time, as is referenced in the title of this post, the name of the city is in quotes. After all it was this man who, while serving as US Postmaster, pulled the name “Galion” out of thin air in 1825 and assigned it to the new settlement instead of “Goshen” or any other name submitted for consideration.

It turns out that this man made history in more than one way.

John McLean was an American lawyer, judge, and politician who held many offices over much of the early part of the 19th century. Originally from New Jersey, McLean’s family settled in Warren County, Ohio, from where he was elected to serve in the Ohio House of Representatives at the age of 28. Three years later, he was elected to serve on the Ohio Supreme Court.

His career included the following:

  • Commissioner of the General Land Office – 1822 to 1823
  • Postmaster General, appointed by President James Monroe – 1823 to 1829
  • Associate Justice of the US Supreme Court, appointed by Andrew Jackson – 1829 to 1861

McLean’s tenure on the US Supreme Court included the decision reached in the famous Dred Scott case, which held that the US Constitution did not extend American citizenship to people of black African descent. McLean actually provided a stinging dissent to that ruling, one of only two justices to do so. In it, he asserted that the argument that black people could not be citizens was “more a matter of taste than of law.”

In short, he was on the right side of history.

There is no evidence that John McLean ever made it to visit the city he named. Unlike Asa Hosford, however, this Father of “Galion” did live long enough to be photographed (see below). He died in 1861 and is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.

Meet the Father of “Galion.”

Each Saturday, we share a post about local history. We call this series “Galion History Corner,” and we will be sharing not only stories about our shared heritage but also updates on history news here in southeast Crawford County.

This series is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Bernard M. Mansfield, whose “Your Historical Galion” was a fixture in weekend editions of the Galion Inquirer. Dr. Mansfield was a friend and family physician, and he inspired the current generation of Galion historians to continue his work.

You can read previous Galion History Corner posts here.