Lancaster (local pronunciation is /læŋkɨstər/ langk-i-stər (or even /læŋkstər/ langks-tər), rather than the wider American pronunciation /læn.kæstər/ lan-kast-ər) is a city in Fairfield County, Ohio, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city population was 35,335. It is located near the Hocking River, approximately 33 miles (53 km) southeast of Columbus, Ohio. It is the county seat of Fairfield County. The current mayor of Lancaster is Republican David S. Smith, who took office in January 2004. In November 2007, Smith won reelection to a second four-year term commencing in January 2008.
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. (See also: Serpent Mound and Hopewell Culture National Historic Park, which though not located in Fairfield County proper, are close by.)
Prior to and immediately after European settlement, the land today comprising Lancaster and Fairfield County, Ohio was inhabited variously by the Shawnee, Iroquois, Wyandot, and other Native American tribes. It served as a natural crossroads for the inter-tribal and intra-tribal wars fought at various times. (See also: Beaver Wars) Noted frontier explorer Christopher Gist reached the vicinity of Lancaster 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.