When Ohio was admitted to the Union in 1803, the office of County Surveyor (predecessor to the County Engineer) was one of the first offices created. In those days the County Surveyor was a very important position. Ohio at that time was instrumental in establishing the Public Lands rectangular survey system. During the early 1800’s, one of the major functions of the County Surveyor was the clarification of the land titles and boundaries. Beginning around 1820, the County Surveyor became increasingly involved in the development of the state’s integrated system of roads and bridges.
In 1928, the County Engineer was empowered by the state legislature to be the caretaker of the County’s networks of roads, bridges, culverts, drainage ditches, and natural waterways as relates to his office under the direction of the Board of County Commissioners.
The County Engineer is required to be a registered engineer and surveyor licensed in the State of Ohio. The precise duties of the engineer are spelled out in the Revised Code of Ohio (Section 315.08).
There are four distinct highway systems in Ohio: The Ohio Department of Transportation is responsible for the 19,000 mile state highway system; all 88 counties are responsible for the 30,000 mile county highway system; the individual townships administer the 39,000 mile township system; and the various municipalities are responsible for the street (approximately 21,000 miles) and alleys within their boundaries. The County Engineer works with the County Commissioners and the Township Trustees to perform the various responsibilities in the following areas:
- County Highways: All maintenance, repair, widening, resurfacing, reconstruction, and construction of pavements and bridges on the county highway system is the County Engineer’s responsibility. This includes: traffic control and safety, mowing, guardrail repair and replacement, and snow control.
- Township Highways: The County Engineer is engineering advisor to township trustees for the maintenance, repair, widening, resurfacing, and reconstruction of their highways. The bridges over ten feet in length on the township highway systems are the full responsibility of the County.
- Municipalities: The County Engineer is responsible for the many bridges within the municipalities, including some on the state highway system. These bridges are further defined as all bridges on state routes within municipalities over streams and all bridges on county-purpose roadways leading into and through municipalities over streams.
The responsibility of the County Engineer for bridges, as mentioned above, includes the annual inspection and evaluation of the condition and load-carrying capacity of each bridge. The County Engineer also serves on County and Regional Planning Commissions and also is the tax map draftsman for the County.
During the Stone Age, this territory was inhabited by the Mound Builders - a race that had made considerable advances in civilization. French explorers traversed this area in 1669 and the first English traders visited the County between 1730 and 1740. By 1750 there were seven major tribes of Indians in Ohio: Mingo, Chippewa, Delaware, Shawnee, Miami, Ottawa, and Wyandot. Several important trails crossed the County long before the white man came. The two most famous were the Great Trail and the Muskinghum Trail.
Stark County was originally part of Columbiana County with the county seat at Lisbon. In 1808, the Columbiana County Commissioners formed Stark County with 22 townships. Stark County was named in honor of General John Stark of Revolutionary War fame, although he never set foot in the county. In 1834, Stark lost three townships to Carroll County and two townships to Summit County, leaving Stark County with its present 17 townships. Canton - the county's largest city - was laid out in 1805, incorporated as a village in 1822, as a city in 1854, and has been the site of three courthouses.