Sidney is the county seat of Shelby County, Ohio. William Stewart was the first person to settle in the area of Sidney, but residents did not establish the town until 1819. Residents named the town after Sir Philip Sidney, a resident of Great Britain.
Sidney grew relatively quickly, having a population of 713 people in 1840. This growth was partly due to a canal that connected Sidney with the Miami and Erie Canal, providing local residents access to markets across the United States. In 1846, Sidney contained two newspaper offices, five churches, eighteen stores, one oil well, two carding mills, one fulling mill, three flourmills, and four sawmills.
Over the next several decades, Sidney continued to grow. In 1880, the town’s population was 3,823 people, with over one-third of the residents being school-aged children. Sidney was now a center of agricultural trade, with the canal and two railroad lines servicing the community. In 1888, two newspaper offices, ten churches, two banks, and numerous manufacturing businesses existed in the community. Most businesses provided services or products to farmers in the surrounding countryside. Sidney’s largest employer was John Loughlin, a school furniture manufacturer, who employed 147 workers.
During the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, Sidney has remained an important economic center. Most Shelby County residents are engaged in agriculture. Farmers rely on Sidney businesses for agricultural tools and other products. Sidney, with a population of 20,211 people in 2000, was the only Shelby County town with more than two thousand workers. Almost forty percent of all Shelby County residents live in Sidney.