Urbana is the county seat of Champaign County, Ohio. Established in 1805, the town became the county seat with Champaign County’s creation in 1805. The town’s founder, William Ward, named Urbana after the word urbanity.
Urbana grew slowly. In 1840, the town had just 1,070 residents. Twenty retail stores, four churches, two newspapers, two machine shops, an iron foundry, and a woolen mill existed in the community. With the completion of three railroads, which connected Urbana to the rest of the state more easily, the city’s population soared to 6,252 people in 1880. Five newspapers, eleven churches, four banks, and numerous manufacturing establishments existed in the town in 1886. The town contained three broom manufacturers, while other businesses produced stoves, carriages, leather, machinery, iron castings, and numerous other items. Urbana was also home to Urbana University, established in 1850 by the Swedenborgians. During the nineteenth century, frontiersman Simon Kenton and Ohio Governor Joseph Vance both resided in Urbana. They are also both buried in a local cemetery in the town. John Quincy Adams Ward, a famous sculptor, was born in Urbana, as was Brand Whitlock, a novelist, Progressive, and eventual mayor of Toledo, Ohio.
During the twentieth century, Urbana continued to grow. In 2000, 11,613 people resided in the town. Only eleven percent of the city’s residents over twenty-five years of age had graduated from a four-year institution by 2000. A significant number of residents find employment in manufacturing positions, with retail positions following in second place.