Lancaster (locally LANK-(ə-)stər) is a city in Fairfield County, Ohio, in the south central part of the state. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 38,780. The city is near the Hocking River, about 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Columbus and 38 miles (61 km) southwest of Zanesville. It is the county seat of Fairfield County.
The earliest known inhabitants of the southeastern and central Ohio region were the Hopewell, Adena, and Fort Ancient Native Americans, of whom little evidence survived, beyond the burial and ceremonial mounds built throughout the Ohio and Mississippi valleys. Many mounds and burial sites have also yielded archaeological artifacts. Serpent Mound and Hopewell Culture National Historical Park, though not in Fairfield County, are nearby.
Before and immediately after European settlement, the land today comprising Lancaster and Fairfield County was inhabited by the Shawnee, nations of the Iroquois, Wyandot, and other Native American tribes. It served as a natural crossroads for the inter- and intra-tribal wars fought at various times. Frontier explorer Christopher Gist reached Lancaster's vicinity on January 19, 1751, when he visited the small Delaware town of Hockhocking nearby. Leaving the area the next day, Gist rode southwest to Maguck, another Delaware town near Circleville.