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Defiance was founded in 1832. The city is named for the nearby Fort Defiance built by General Anthony Wayne, who fought Native Americans during the Northwest Indian War. It was incorporated as a village in 1838 and as a city on February 22, 1890. The first European-American settlers arrived around 1812; they were migrants from eastern areas of Ohio and Pennsylvania seeking land cleared by the government under its "Western Reserve" policy to encourage settlement of new lands ceded to it after Britain's defeat in 1783 at Yorktown ended its threat to American independence during the Revolutionary War (1775–1783).