In the years after the American Revolution, the Shawnee were the most prominent residents of west central Ohio, growing in numbers and permanency after the 1794 Treaty of Greenville.By 1817, the United States had created the Hog Creek Reservation for the local Shawnee, covering portions of what would become Allen and Auglaize counties, and including part of present-day Lima.The Ohio legislature mandated that a county seat be established and "Lima" was the result. In 1854, the first train appeared in Lima, a harbinger of later economic success.The name "Lima" was reputedly chosen in a nod to the Peruvian capital, which during the 1800s was a major source of quinine, an anti-malaria drug for which there had been a demand in the region, an area known as the Great Black Swamp. Also in 1854, a cholera outbreak in Delphos (a town in Allen County northwest of Lima) spread throughout west central Ohio.Since 1831, Lima has been the center of government for Allen County, the first of its three courthouses erected in the city's first year. Countywide problems caused by the contaminated water supply were not solved until 1886 when Lima started a municipal water system.
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The Lima Agricultural Works began operations in 1869.
As of the 2010 census, the city had a population of 38,771.
It is the principal city of and is included in the Lima, Ohio Metropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Lima-Van Wert–Wapakoneta, Ohio, Combined Statistical Area. The Lima Army Tank Plant, built in 1941, is the sole producer of the M1 Abrams.
The creation of the Shawnee reservation freed other lands in the area for settlement, and in February 1820, the Ohio legislature formally established Allen County.In 1831 the Shawnee were forced to surrender all their land in the area to the United States and relocated to Kansas, opening all of Allen County to settlement.