Johann Christian Heyl (1788-1877), the first German and first Lutheran to settle in Columbus, was one of the original 15 settlers of the city. A baker by trade, Heyl came to bake for the soldiers quartered in Franklinton during the War of 1812. He founded the city's first Lutheran Church and helped financially underwrite the German Theological Seminary, which later became Capital University. An early civic leader, Heyl served on City Council for 14 years, was County Treasurer for 8 years, an associate judge in the Court of Common Pleas for 14 years, was appointed to the first public school board, and was the first Chief of the Fire Department. His Sunbury Road home was a stop on the Underground Railroad.
Johann Christian Heyl operated a hostelry at Rich and High streets for 28 years in the early 1800s, first known as the Swan and later as Franklin House. Due to its close proximity to the Statehouse and location just north of the entrance to the National Road on High Street, it was a popular stop for members of the General Assembly and center of many civic events. One such notable event was the Great Squirrel Hunt. Heyl organized the hunt at a time when squirrels were overrunning Columbus and farmers' crops were threatened. On Saturday, August 31, 1822, at two in the afternoon, hunters gathered at Franklin House and within hours collected 19,600 scalps.