Lima is the county seat of Allen County, Ohio. Established in 1831, the community’s first white resident was Absalom Brown. Brown’s daughter, Marion Brown was the first Caucasian child born in the town. Lima became the county seat in 1831, eleven years after the formation of Allen County. Lima was named after Lima, Peru.
Fifty years after Lima’s establishment, the community had grown immensely. Thanks to five railroads coming through the town, Lima’s population soared from 2,354 residents in 1860 to 7,567 people in 1880. By 1886, Lima boasted five newspapers, thirteen churches, and three banks. Numerous manufacturing establishments existed in the town, including several that produced oil drilling machinery for a booming oil industry in the surrounding countryside. Oil was discovered in 1885, and the Lima’s population soared to approximately eighteen thousand residents by 1886, with over seventy producing oil wells in Lima alone. Other local businesses produced train locomotives, paper products, crackers, and woodwork. In 1887, Lima also became the first city in Ohio to have an electrified street car system in place.
During the twentieth century, Lima experienced the typical boom and bust years of Ohio’s other industrialized cities. In the early twentieth century, the oil industry continued to prosper as did Lima’s production of railroad products. As the oilfields dried up and Americans chose car and truck over railroad traffic, Lima suffered economically. Today, Lima is still struggling to break with its industrial past. In 2000, the city had just over forty thousand residents. This marked over a ten percent decline in population since 1990, as many residents sought better fortunes in other parts of Ohio and the United States. Service industry positions, such as health care and education, had surpassed manufacturing jobs but only be a small margin. Many Lima workers find employment producing school buses, Ford automobile engines, heavy machinery, and steel. The Ohio State University has a campus in Lima.