Portage, the next oldest trading center in Wood County, and named for the Portage River, was incorporated on Dec 7, 1857.
In 1829, a store in a log cabin built by Collister Haskins was established and was located west of Main Street on the south bank of the Portage River. It was stocked with notions for the Indians and the needs of the pioneers. As the town grew, a hotel was built by Capt. Knaggs, in 1855, known as the Pioneer Hotel, and later known as the Bradford House. There was also a livery stable, three taverns, a drug store, a hardware store and a blacksmith shop. A restaurant, drug store, hardware store, grocery store, butcher shop and billiards hall have been destroyed by fire.
The first school was built about 1847 and was taught by Jane Dubbs and Almon Pray, whose average salary was $17 a month. There were approximately 100 pupils. A high school later was added and the first graduating class was in 1898, the graduates being Everitt Fryman and Elmer Dienst. In 1937 the school only had eight grades and the students of high school age went either to Bowling Green or Portage Center. Later, Portage petitioned Bowling Green for annexation to its district, which was granted. Portage is now in the Bowling Green School district, with six grades being maintained in the Portage building.
When Portage became settled enough to have mail service, the mail came through every two weeks until Collister Haskins petitioned for a post office which was granted in 1829, and he was the first Postmaster, serving 18 years. The first post office was on the south bank of the Portage River, and has been in several buildings since, until the new post office was built in May of 1962 on the corner of Main and Findlay streets. Mrs. Agnes Bingham is the postmistress and Leonard Davis the rural carrier.
In 1861, the Methodist Church was built on the ground where it still stands and Rev. Good was the pastor. The United Brethren Church was built in 1895 and later burned and a new one built. A merger with the Evangelicals was affected at a later date, and the church became known as the Evangelical United Brethren. In 1962 the two Portage churches merged into the Methodist Conference and became Portage Christ Methodist Church. The former Methodist Church is used as a youth center. Rev. Marvin Mulford is the pastor.
The American Legion was organized and granted a charter in October of 1947 with T. E. Shinew, commander and Richard Drain adjutant. Leonard Davis was the treasurer. Three months later the Auxiliary was granted a charter and Mrs. Ellwood Shinew was the president, and Mrs. E. N. Drain, the secretary. The legion now has a membership of 59 and the Auxiliary 106 members. Their hall is the former Falcon’s Nest of Bowling Green State University.
Clifford Schroeder is the present mayor.
A new Fire Hall was built in 1960 for the department of 23 trained men. From the hook and ladder days to the present time has been added radio and transmitter equipment with three mobile units and one base station water tanker; a Ford truck with a John Beam combination high pressure pump. In 1963 a 1,500watt generator used for auxiliary lighting and power was purchased. With the help of the Fire Jets, the auxiliary organization, new coats, hats, boots and brooms were purchased. An average of 25 calls a year is received although last year there were 59 calls. Harold Dulaney is the fire chief.
The B. and D. Salvage Co. was incorporated this year after its beginning two years ago. Blythe and Peggy Drain are the owners.
The Forget-Me-Not Shop started in 1950. Books, Bibles and gifts, including Sunday School and church supplies service the adjacent counties. Mrs. Mary Drain is the owner.
The town has two garages, two restaurants, a tire service, frozen food lockers, a hardware, two barber shops, two filling stations, a drive-in theater, a transit mix company, a beauty shop, a motel, a used goods and antique shop and a stone company.
The population now is approximately 425.