First 100 Years of Ironton

 The Battle of  Dots and Dashes
The First 100 Years of Ironton, Ohio

Written by Charles & Harry Collett

The Irontonian 1948

This is a series of columns which were written by Charles Collett and his brother Harry. It was in celebration of Ironton’s 100th Birthday and ran in the Irontonian newspaper in 1949. We hope you enjoy these stories. 

November 21, 1948

The Centennial of the City of Ironton in 1949 is to an event of historical importance, and the time is fast approaching for united action by all Ironton… The Centennial committee was named last May and honor was given by a small group of citizens by City Council, at the suggestion of the Board of Trade, to set the dates, name the committees for action, and this has been done… This event must not be considered a mere fair or festival… It is an event of great importance to the city of Ironton and all former citizens, and it would be a small “world’s fair” for the tri-state community as well as visitors and former Irontonians from afar.

A 100 year anniversary occurs only once in history of any nation, state or city, and most of us living today will not be here to take part in a Sesquicentennial fifty years hence, so it behooves all of us to get the spirit of the times of today … Our idea of a centennial is not a six day celebration only on the days named for the festival and homecoming… October 9 to 15 are to be the gala days, but throughout the coming year will be several centennial dates – the founding of Ironton, the first church, the first school, the first lot sale, the first industry, the first bank and so on… All this gives opportunity for many minor celebrations among ourselves, with the rest of the nation invited for the gala parade and pageant days in October.

The big job right now is finances, and the goal as we understand it has been set at $40,000 to put on the show… The success or failure of 1949 depends upon 1948 subscriptions to the finance committee… The committee in charge of finances are representative of five financial institutions in the city —- Messrs Harry W. Eckhart, B. F. Scherer, A. O. Davidson, Don Lewis and A. T. Turnbull… Announcement of their plans is awaited momentarily.

The history of Ironton begins almost a quarter of a century before 1849… In 1826, John Means, a citizen of Spartanburg, S. C., moved to this section of Ohio, and built a charcoal furnace near his home at Hanging Rock and begun the manufacture of pig iron … The Union, as he named the first furnace north of the Ohio river in this district, attracted many, among them a young man of 21 years old in 1829. This young man came from Ripley, Ohio, and his name was John Campbell… It was John Campbell and associates that organized a company in 1848, and began to plan for a railroad which was incorporated in 1849, with a new city, called Ironton as its terminus on the Ohio river … Thus begun the first 100 years of Ironton…Starting tomorrow, and continuing for the next 300 issues, a paragraph – “The First 100 Years,” will be a part of this daily column… The paragraphs will not be in sequence – the more important events coming first and the lesser later … The paragraphs will be short, yet if made into a scrap book, will make a very historical picture of the city.


November 22, 1948
Gold was discovered in California January 14, 1848, and men looking for riches and easy money were trying it the “hard way,” over land, mountains and the desert to reach the West Coast, 100 years ago today … Other men were dreaming of development of the nation’s other ores and metals more plentiful than gold, and it was men of that thinking that lived in and near Hanging Rock … Iron was the base of steel upon which the nation had to be built, and iron ore had been found in abundance in the eastern section of Lawrence County … The hills were covered with timber to make fine charcoal for use in the furnaces, and the Ohio river was ready for the transportation of the pig iron to the larger industrial centers… Men with vision knew that this spot on the river was ideal for a place to produce wealth of equal importance to gold, and that is how Ironton next year will celebrate a Centennial… Ironton is the “cradle” of the nation’s pig iron industry… Ironton has had rail transportation since 1850… From 1875 to 1898, Ironton was the home of the largest blast furnace in the world… Ironton is an industrial city that pioneered in helping build the nation with iron, nails, lumber, brick and cement… All these things should be kept in mind as we prepare for the Centennial in 1949… More tomorrow.

November 23, 1948
One hundred years ago today, Zachary Taylor had been elected president of the United States… Along the river bank there was a horse path and wagon tracks, where residents of Hanging Rock drove to reach Burlington, the county seat, where it was necessary to travel to pay taxes and attend court… Most of the land, about the mouth of Storms creek, which crossing was a ford, was an apple orchard… The better roads in the county over which the ox carts traveled, loaded with pig iron for river shipment, led to Hanging Rock… The pig iron furnaces then were all in a north and western direction from the mouth of Storms creek, where in 1849, the town of Ironton was laid out… Those furnaces of Lawrence county were Union, northwest of Hanging Rock, built in 1826; Pine Grove, 3 miles north of Hanging Rock, built in 1828; Little Etna just over the hill from Pine Grove, built in 1833… Hecla, which was the nearest to the mouth of Storms Creek was also built in 1833… The same year, Mt. Vernon and Buckhorn were erected and their locations were getting further and further away from the Ohio river, as was Lawrence, built in 1834 and Center in 1836… In 1846 Messrs. John Campbell and John Peters and associates built Olive Furnace, which was considerable distance from the river… Realizing the need of transportation faster than ox carts to deliver the iron from the furnaces to the river, where it was shipped by boat, the talk one hundred years ago, was of a railroad… It must be remembered that the first steam locomotive in the United Sates was on August 9, 1831 from Albany to Schenectady, N. Y., and this period of 100 years ago in Lawrence county was just 17 years after the first railway in the nation… Some may doubt this statement, but the first passenger railroad in the U. S. (The Baltimore and Ohio) was begun July 4, 1828 and the first 14 miles was not completed until May 24, 1830, and the trains were horse drawn on a track… Thus, in 1848, when John Campbell and associates at Hanging Rock were thinking of building a railroad, they were men ahead of their times, in this community… More tomorrow.

November 24, 1948
Ironton Austin Kelley was the first child born in Ironton after the town was given a name in 1849… However, Clay Henry was born in 1848, just a year before Ironton was laid out, and on the very day when W. D. Kelley bought the Davidson farm upon which Ironton was started… Judge John Davidson was grandfather of Clay Henry on whose farm he was born… Clay Henry grew up in Ironton, learned the watch making trade under E. Bixby, the city’s first jeweler, and in 1874 established his own jewelry business, which was later passed on to his son Walter Henry, now of Port Huron, Mich…. Five grandchildren of Mr. Clay Henry, Mrs. Helen McAfee, Mrs. Jean Wilson, Mrs. Ruth Ulrich, Robert and Clay Henry, no doubt will be among those in attendance at the Centennial and Home Coming next year, and all can claim honors as descendants of one of the oldest family names in Ironton…. More tomorrow.

Today, this newspaper has opportunity to mention its 49th birthday, as it starts the 50th year of publication… The author of this column as well as Harry L. Collett, who assisted in getting out the first issue in 1899, look back upon the years with much to be thankful for, and there is no opportune time than Thanksgiving to again say, “thanks for the memories”… It is with a lot of anticipated pleasure that we look forward to Ironton’s Centennial next year and 365 days from now when The News, as well as the boys who started it, might call it a Golden Jubilee day.

So many of us have so much to be thankful for today, that none of us should forget Him from whom all blessings flow… However, in the lighter vein, many of us don’t have the same things to be thankful for, and perhaps many do not realize how thankful some are for the minor things in life… In observing every day events, we mention only one that comes to our attention –For example, Rev. Father Smith, at St. Joseph Church is thankful to the Marine recruiting office stationed in the post office lobby, whose chair he borrows to stand on to see if there is any mail in his box, which is among the top row of boxes.

November 25, 1948
One hundred years ago today, on Thanksgiving, two men who had been very successful with business adventures in the Hanging Rock region, were living neighbors in Hanging Rock… Their names were John Campbell and Dr. Caleb Briggs… It was these two gentlemen who dreamed of a new community just three miles east of Hanging Rock… This new place was to be a railroad terminus, offering more flat ground than was available on the river front in the vicinity of the “Rock.”

That dream of one hundred years ago, begun to bear fruit early the next spring, and thus begins the concrete history of Ironton… Throughout the years, full credit has been given to Mr. Campbell, as the founder of Ironton… However, Mr. E. B. Willard, who wrote a history of the Hanging Rock Iron Region, which was published in 1916, has this to say in his book… “It was primarily at Dr. Briggs suggestion that Ironton, instead of Hanging Rock, was the terminus of the Ironton Railroad, which was the pioneer transportation line of the region.”

Mr. Willard in no way was attempting to take any of the honor and credit from Mr. Campbell, who was recognized for his great ingenuity in the manufacture of iron… John Campbell made the change of placing the boilers and hot blast over the tunnel head, thus utilizing the waste gases – a procedure gradually adopted by all charcoal furnaces… In 1837 through the guarantee against any loss by Mr. Campbell and other iron masters, Vesuvius furnace owners were induced to test the hot blast principal and it worked… Thus, this community became the birth place of the first hot blast iron furnace in America…. More tomorrow.

November 27, 1948
The original plans of a railroad to connect the Lawrence county furnaces of 1848 with the Ohio river, were for the railroad to wind among the hills with Hanging Rock as the starting point… History tells that, as we quote, “but for some difficulty between John Campbell and his associate, Robert Hamilton, Ironton would have been an up-river extension of Hanging Rock.

Hanging Rock, since 1826 had suffered heavy flood losses… On February 1832, the flood covered the entire village, but this was new to the people, and they didn’t think it would ever occur again… In 1847 the river came up four different times during the winter to cover the bottom lands, and thus gave the people food for thought … It was these floods that turned the people’s thoughts to higher lands, and the location of Ironton (the city to be) was estimated to be ten feet higher along the river bank, than the Rock… Then too, the dock facilities appeared much more favorable for boat landings.

Although John Campbell had been working in and about Hanging Rock since 1834, he did not build a home and move his family to that place until he had made a success in blast furnaces, which was in 1846… At that time he wrote these words regarding Hanging Rock… “We could soon have a town with 10,000 inhabitants here… We could extend one branch of the railroad through the headwaters of Raccoon, where there is crib timber; another fork through Ross county to Chillicothe, and so on to Columbus, intersecting with other roads running north…In this way we could take freight and travel from the Canal, and make Hanging Rock the largest town between Columbus and Wheeling — the railroad would cut off all trade from Gallipolis and Portsmouth — then it would have no opposition to contend with… Provisions would come cheap from the interior… It would be far enough from any other city to become one of the largest in the west … On our own energy all would depend… Why shouldn’t it not go on? … Why should we not be the actors in this? … We have the capital… We have the capacity… Why should we not have the energy?” … Much of the letter quoted and all the enthusiasm manifest in it, might be applied to Mr. Campbell’s attitude toward the proposed new town above Hanging Rock, so explained Mr. E. B. Willard, in writing the history in 1916… And it did but not until other things happened, which will be told in tomorrow’s installment.

A dozen copper pennies, which will be 100 years old next year, were recently purchased by the Centennial Finance Committee… The pennies, all with the date 1849, the year of Ironton’s beginning, were owned by Colonel Robert Lee Cole, of South Point… Further announcement about these old pennies will be made as plans for the Centennial advance… By the way, have you any coins date of 1849?


November 28, 1948
These paragraphs are a continuation of the year 1848… In mid-summer that year, while we dream of a new town (Ironton) was getting very warm at Hanging Rock, Ralph Leete, and Dr. C. Hall, both citizens of Burlington, the county seat of Lawrence and John Campbell of Hanging Rock, as the political leaders, left the Democratic party over the issue of slavery… At the same time, J. F. Wheeler, the Proctor brothers and James O. Willard, three other prominent citizens of the county, deserted the Whig party because of its national stand on acquiring territory from Mexico.

A county convention was called at Burlington, to elect delegates to the Free Soil convention at Buffalo, N. Y…. Strong resolutions were adopted against the admission of any more slave states to the Union, and among the delegates appointed to the Buffalo convention were Messrs. Campbell and Willard… They left in June, 1848 and assisted in the nomination of Van Buren and Adams… Zachary Taylor, the Whig, won the election, was inaugurated before Ironton was laid out, and died in 1850 in the White House.

This bit of politics had much to do with Ironton’s history … An active and aggressive campaign was made in Lawrence county, during which Mr. Ralph Leete who later became a citizen of the new town of Ironton, and Dr. Hall addressed thirty meetings… The Buffalo ticket received only 56 votes in Lawrence county, but this was the birth of the Republican party… While Mr. Campbell and J. O. Willard were at Buffalo, and busy with their election campaign a large part of the present site of Ironton changed hands… William D. Kelly bought the Davidson farm, and other lands… John Campbell had intended to buy that property for the founding of a town at the mouth of Storms Creek… Charles Campbell later said: “My father thought that farm would sell for half price, and was very much disappointed when it sold during his absence from the county.”

This wasn’t the only set-back Mr. Campbell had as result of his entry into politics… He had been named president of the proposed Hanging Rock and Chillicothe Railroad, with J. W. Dempsey secretary … Robert Hamilton was urging prompt action on this railroad, and disagreed with some of Campbell’s ideas, so quietly Mr. Campbell urged Mr. Dempsey and Mr. Willard to act as his agents to purchase the land at the mouth of Storms creek, which became Ironton.

It was on the evening of October 21, 1848, James O. Willard and John Peters met upon the road as they were passing to and fro from Hanging Rock and their prospective furnaces… They stopped and talked about the failure of the scheme to build the new railroad and of Mr. Campbell’s project to build a new town further up the river… Says E. B. Willard in his writings of Lawrence county, “These two gentlemen turned their horses’ heads toward the Rock, and riding all night, awoke Mr. Campbell just before daylight… His astonishment at the sudden awakening was great, but he was delighted to find that they were in favor of the new town.”

The next day, November 1, 1848 an article was drawn up in which they agreed to stand by Mr. Campbell in his purchase of lands for the new town… At that time Dr. Caleb Briggs had his office beside Mr. Campbell, and he also signed the agreement… James W. Means, a brother-in-law of Mr. Campbell, also signed making five signers in all… More tomorrow.

November 29, 1948
The year is still 1848… Yesterday, we told of how the agreement was signed on November 1, to proceed with the purchase of land for the site of a new town, which later became Ironton… Mr. Campbell lost no time in arranging with Mr. W. D. Kelly to buy the Davidson farm… The following is said to be the exact wording of the letter — “Hanging Rock, Nov. 1, 1848 — Mr. William D. Kelly — Dear Sir– I accept your offer to sell to me your two farms above the mouth of Storms Creek, and your offer to sell the right of stone coal in your hill lands on the conditions expressed in the agreement made by us on the 18th of October, 1848, which agreement was binding on you if accepted by me in fourteen days provided you could buy the farms of Neff, Copenhaver, Collins and Davidson, and a lot from Adams. You will buy these farms as low as you can in your name, not to exceed $35 per acre, and the Adams lot at not over $300; also buy Jones’ land at not over $13 per acre and Lyenbarger’s two acres at not over $800… If you cannot get them at these prices come to see me… Get as long time as you can on all payments, and do the best in every way you can for the company… I can and will give you $2,500 at any time in three day’s notice to assist you in buying… I have signed your offer and wrote on it that I accepted of the offer… Respectfully yours, John Campbell.”

These purchases were the actual beginning of Ironton, although the city was not laid out until the Spring of 1849… Mr. Kelly reported to Mr. Campbell daily as he passed Hanging Rock from his home below on the river… One of the questions asked of neighbors between themselves at that time, was never answered in history — “Where did Mr. Campbell get the money for such large purchase?” … The proposed Hanging Rock Railroad was to be from Pine Grove Furnace, it being a continuation of the narrow gauge from the river a distance of almost three miles. All future plans for this short railroad were abandoned, when the Ohio Iron & Coal Co. was organized.

From that time on, the interests of Mr. Campbell and Mr. Hamilton diverged… From that time on, the interests of John Campbell were placed in the confidence of Dr. Caleb Briggs, who was a diplomat… In the Spring of 1849 it was Dr. Briggs who went to Columbus as Mr. Campbell’s personal representative to seek legislation to incorporate the Iron Railroad and the lands for the development of the new town… The result was the passage of an act on March 23, 1849, by which the Ohio Iron & Coal Co. was incorporated… More tomorrow.

November 30, 1948
The city of Ironton was named before the town site was purchased… John Campbell and William D. Kelly gave more time to the paper work in organizing the new town than did others, and their office, Campbell, Ellison and Company at Hanging Rock, was the headquarters of the new company… The story was told by Charles Campbell, son of the founder, almost 50 years after the town was founded, that his father had several times stated that in naming the new town he wished to include the name “iron” but didn’t want a two word name like Hanging Rock, and they had talked about iron being sold by the ton, yet they did not combine the two, but referred to the new iron town.

It was in February, 1901, that George T. Walton wrote from Burden, Kansas, to an Ironton newspaper and gave the following information… “After my father, Thomas Walton, made a topographic survey of the lands above Storms Creek, under the direction of John Campbell, William D. Kelly and others, I made a rough plat of grounds and there was a meeting of the directors of the town company called to meet at the office. I think of Campbell, Ellison & Co., at Hanging Rock… There were present John Campbell, W. D. Kelly, Dr. Briggs and the other members, and I had a plat that I had drawn… The general plat was accepted, subject to modifications, upon actual measurement of the grounds.

“The naming of the town was then discussed, pro and con, and a number of names were suggested. … I sat listening and conjuring up names… They wanted a name… one that would suggest business of the new city to be… I thought, as the original of my family name was Wall-Town, why not write the city Iron Town, abbreviated as my name, to Ironton… I wrote the name on a piece of paper and handed it to John Campbell… He jumped up as quick as thought and said in his emphatic manner, “That’s it, George; that is the name — Ironton… Write it on the map, George.”

“No vote was taken, or question put… I suppose right there, at the office of Campbell, Ellison & co., the first time that word was ever written, I wrote it… It must have pleased Mr. Kelly, for in a few days he named his new baby boy, Ironton Austin Kelly.”

The same letter contained this paragraph: “I had known John Campbell ever since I was a boy, and he a young man… I now think he was one of the wisest, if not the wisest man, I ever knew… He was the only man of the dozen or so of the company who fully comprehended the mighty structure that they were laying the foundation for… Will Kelly, like me, believed in John’s ability and profited by it… Ironton will probably never realize the true greatness of its founder, John Campbell” … This is the eighth in the Centennial series — more tomorrow. — C.L.C.

December 1, 1948
The year is 1849, and the winter had been a most severe one… As the days begun to get longer, prominent citizens of Hanging Rock were often seen enroute up the river bank on horse-back… They came as far as Storms Creek… There were no newspaper reporters to inquire into their business and not a Walter Winchell to give land owners the scoop on the radio, that these citizens of Hanging Rock were planning a railroad to follow Storms creek to the banks of the Ohio River… When spring came, these busy men were ready to incorporate their company, and instead of calling it a railroad corporation, they asked for a charter under the name of the Ohio Iron & Coal Co.

This charter was granted on March 17, and the capital was $500,000… The proposed line of the Iron Railway was from a point in Upper Township, on the Ohio river, north to the southern line of Jackson county, with power to extend it north to Hamden Junction, where it would connect with the Marietta and Cincinnati railway… On April 9, the Ohio river terminus was fixed at Ironton, thus began the name Ironton.

On April 23, these stockholders met, organized and dated their organization papers using the new name, Ironton… On May 3 the new company purchased the LaGrange furnace lands at the mouth of Storms Creek on the Ohio river… This land purchase included all the land on the river bank from Storms Creek as far up the river, a distance we now know as “South” to Jefferson street… On June 20, the first public land sale for the new city of Ironton was held.

Whether or not iron would be manufactured in the new town of Ironton was of little importance… There were then nine pig iron furnaces in operation within a ten mile radius of the new town, which spelled prosperity for the new town, since the railroad terminal would bring the product of the industries to Ironton for river shipment. In turn, these men were shrewd enough to know that the people who used the railroad would come to the river shipping point to see that their goods were promptly transferred from railway cars to boats, and this meant that boarding and rooming houses, would be established and while here those people would seek amusement of some type, and spend money otherwise.

The 24 men who organized the Ohio Iron & Coal Co., were John Campbell, William Ellison, D. T. Woodrow, John Ellison, James Rodgers, Hiram Campbell, William D. Kelly, John Culbertson, John Peters, Dr. Caleb Briggs, William H. Kelly, Andrew Dempsey, Henry S. Willard, George Steece, Henry Blake, Joseph W. Dempsey, Washington Irwin, James W. Means, James A. Richey, James O. Willard, John E. Clark, Robert B. Hamilton, Smith Ashcraft and H. C. Rodgers… More tomorrow… This is the ninth article on the Centennial series.

December 2, 1948
On May 12, 1849, less than three weeks after the organization of the Ohio Iron & Coal Co., John Campbell, as president of the new company made a report on the progress of the company and the purchase of lands for the new town… The original document reads: “John Campbell, as agent for part of the stockholders of the Ohio Iron & Coal Co., authorized William D. Kelly to buy the following lands on the following terms for the use of the said company, the title of which lands are in the said Kelly:

The farm of Isaac Davidson, 49 ½ acres, on which he paid 13th December, 1848, $819, and executed his note, payable in nine months from the 13th of December, with interest $800… Elizabeth Copenhaver’s farm, 23 acres – cash, November 25, 1848, $550; gave his note payable on demand and interest $550 … Daniel Fort’s farm, 100 acres — cash, February 4, $400, note at one year $400 … P. Lionbarger, 2 ½ acres — cash, $248 … E. E. Adams, one acre — cash $100; same in April $200; his note at three years, with interest $100… J. L. Collins, farm 66 acres – due 1st of June $1,500. Note due Feb. 1849, with interest, $1,500.

His own farm, known as Davison and Lienberger farms, 325 acres, at $33 per acre, $10,725; which he is to convey to the company and retain 100 acres off the upper end of the whole tract, $3,300; Kelly’s stone coal, $300 … Total, $17,692, all of which said Kelly is bound to convey to the said Campbell, and for which he said Campbell is bound to pay the said Kelly and to make him title to those lots in the town… I wish the Ohio Iron & Coal Co., to assume all liabilities for the above and take all the contracts for their own as if they had made them by lawful agent in their own name.” … This was signed by John Campbell, May 12, 1849, at Hanging Rock, O.

Altogether, there were 350 lots platted in the original site in the announcement put forward by the Ohio Iron & Coal Co. for a lot sale… It was stated in the sale announcement, that certain lands were being reserved for industrial, manufacturing, church and park sites… Later, it was learned that one of these was the square now occupied by the courthouse… Upon one of the farms was a large brick house, which had been erected 25 years before… This home was built in 1824 by Judge Davisson, who presided in the early courts at Burlington, then the county seat… The home was located on the river bank near what later became Buckhorn street… At that time of the land purchase, John N. Kemp, father of W. E. R. Kemp, who later laid out the Whitwell and Lombard sub-divisions in the city.

When the new town was laid out in lots, William D. Kelly purchased the house and lots, and it was there that the first child in the city was born – named Ironton Austin Kelly… In 1881, when the Norfolk & Western Railway bought rights-of-way up the river bank, this property became undesirable as a residential site, and was sold to John S. Goldcamp, of the Goldcamp Milling Co. who used it as a barrel storage house. In 1908 when the railroad double tracked, the house was razed… Some of the older citizens claim that Julia Marlowe, when a child lived in the house at the time she was taking part in entertainments at Union Hall, before she got her break to become famous as a stage actress.

A copy of a letter to a friend in one of the scrap books of John Campbell, he described the new town in these words: “The town is on the river bank, laying in three rolls or benches, of the ancient basin of the Ohio, and stretching from the river to the cliffs beyond, forms a location picturesque, delightful, healthful, with superior drainage and parts are beyond the reach of the highest floods.” … How true are those words, as many saw it in 1937, when the flood waters first came upon Fourth street, then Second, next Fifth and Sixth, but did not reach Seventh street, which was in that part of the town described by Mr. Campbell.

Another remarkable thing was the fact that Mr. Campbell set aside a public square in the center, midway between Storms Creek, and the east boundary at that time which was Jefferson street… That square today is the court house… More tomorrow. – C. L. C.

Thanks to Ricky Scherer, of Liberty Federal Savings and Loan for a clipping from Business Week of Nov. 27, in which mention is made of the purchase of the Ironton blast furnace at Provo, Utah, by the Kaiser-Frazer Co… This furnace, named for Ironton, has a monthly output of 16,000 tons a month, and all iron will be shipped east for auto production… This is further proof that the Centennial City of 1848 was the cradle of the Iron industry, and the fame spread to Utah, where the name Ironton was honored.

December 3, 1948
The Iron Railroad was the beginning of Ironton … It was started during the late spring of 1849, while the town was showing the first signs of real progress… Many lots had been sold at the public sale, and buildings were going up here and there before summer, the owners expecting a boom — and they were not mere shacks as one might expect in a new boom town… An example of one of the buildings is the Center house, still standing on Center street today, opposite the court house, which for fifty years was known as the Center House and then the name changed several times — Clutts House, Central and other names.

James O. Willard was the first elected president of the Iron Railroad … In organizing the Ohio Iron & Coal Co., for the purpose of establishing a town and a railroad and developing the coal, Mr. John Campbell realized that there was more money in land, than there was in a railroad, and to buy shares in the company, each investor had to take twice as much railroad stock as land stock… This proved a very fine move and perhaps saved the railroad an early bankruptcy because the land sales of town lots proved handsome dividends, while the railroad only paid two small cash dividends in thirty years.

The Iron Railroad was more expense than had been anticipated and took longer to construct on account of the long tunnel between its starting point and Pine Creek… This tunnel still in use today, was not completed until December 1851, or 29 months after the road was started… By this time, many things had happened in the new town of Ironton to convince the promoters of the project to realize that the town was to be a success… Work on the railroad progressed to Center Station, and there it was stopped on account of another long tunnel, which would be very costly, and capital was low.

The road was finally completed the entire distance of 13 miles where it was later met and junctioned with what became a branch of the Cincinnati Hamilton & Dayton line… The first locomotive for the railroad was purchased in the east, and arrived in Ironton on a river packet boat… Rails were laid up the river bank, and a yoke of oxen pulled it up the hill near Railroad street.

The Iron Railroad named its first steam engine for the Iron furnaces of the county – the Mt. Vernon, being one of the first named… The railroad being built 15 years before President Lincoln was assassinated, naturally the engines were models before the type of locomotive that pulled the Lincoln funeral train, which most readers have seen in pictures … No engine was ever replaced by using the same name the second time .. The last of the 4-wheel engines was the “Howard” named for Howard Furnace, and that engine was not replaced until 1897… The later model engines were named for the directors of the railroad — Thomas Means and others… The largest of the later type locomotives — the John Campbell blew up on the river incline operating to the transfer boat operating between Ironton and Ashland, near Vine street, in 1898… More tomorrow.

December 4, 1948
When the land for the new town was purchased, there was on the site near the mouth of Storms Creek, a little frame building where Rev. John Lee, a Baptist minister held services, and thereby the first church in Ironton was already established, when the community took on the name of Ironton in April, 1849… This small house of worship was used until 1854 by the Baptists, when it was found too small to meet the needs of the community, and the present First Baptist Church was erected on Fifth and Vernon streets… The two story brick church edifice is now 94 years in use.

The first church, before the town was laid out, was on the lower side of Storms Creek, near the river bank… When the ground was broken for the overhead highway crossing of the creek in 1936, some of the old grave yard was dug up, the contractors finding much evidence that the plot was once used for a burial ground… Records tell that most of the graves had been removed years before to the Henry, Kelly and Woodland cemeteries, when the lands were sold to the Norfolk and Western railroad… As late as 1920, when U. S. Highway 52 was included in what was known then as the A-P (Atlantic-Pacific) highway, the Chamber of Commerce rented this land for the first tourist camp in Ironton… During the depression days of ’28 and later, many jobless tourists parked there for weeks at a time.

Came early fall in ’49, it was found that there were 30 children of school age in the new town of Ironton, and Dr. J. J. Wood, established and taught the first school… it was located in the home of Burdine Blake, on Front street, attended only by the students able to pay.

While the year ’49 was eventful as far as getting the new railroad started, nothing of much other consequence occurred in the new town, nor the nation… Hunt invented and patented a new gadget called the “Safety Pin” which is still in use 100 years later, especially as a safety measure for baby’s pants… However, a terrible epidemic of cholera was sweeping southern Ohio, causing many deaths, and precautions were taken by the state authorities and doctors.

Printed warning with directions for the prevention and treatment of cholera from Dr. Lawson, of Cincinnati were posted in the village… It was the intention of these posters to call attention of free assistance for those who could not get the services of a doctor, or those unable to pay for a doctor’s call… It is not recorded who was the first doctor in Ironton, but presumed at this time, the nearest doctor was located at Hanging Rock… Records show that a fair sized amount was raised to provide medical attention for those in need… The post read: “John Campbell will furnish the necessary funds for this purpose, and the amounts subscribed will not be called for unless some loss should be sustained in carrying this plan into execution”… John Campbell subscribed $20; James Rodgers $10; William D. Kelly, $5; Caleb Briggs, $5; J. W. Means, $10; Robert Wood, $5; Andrew Dempsey $5; E. T. Chestnutwood, $5; James Martin, $5; H. Clark, $2; George E. Smith $2; N. F. Hurd, $2; and other smaller amounts.

Tomorrow the story of the private life of John Campbell will be printed, which will be the 13th in the Centennial series.

December 5, 1948
Today starts the third week in this series of Ironton’s history, which will follow the years from 1849 until next October, when Ironton’s Centennial is held… The first two weeks were events that led up to the first church and the first school… On Page 13 today, the story is printed of John Campbell’s private enterprises and his life, other than those within the city which he founded… Monday and throughout the coming week, the items will be about the events of 1850 and 1851… We want to take the space this morning to acknowledge thanks for the many nice letters received since starting this series… We appreciate the information contained in several of the letters… One of these letters we wish to call to the attention of the printers — it reads: “I am saving these articles and making a scrap book– and when the column is printed and continued in four different places as it was December 3 makes it difficult to attach in a scrap book” … We further wish to call attention to this series being a history of Ironton, and not the history of Lawrence county — hence, many line items received about events other than in Ironton, will have to be printed at some other time, as they do not fit into the picture of Ironton.

December 6, 1948
Number 14

When the city of Ironton was laid out, the streets were named for the pig iron furnaces of the county… Those streets paralleling the river were called First, Second, etc., while those from the river to the hill starting at Storms Creek south to Jefferson were given the furnace names… The first named was John Campbell’s favorite furnace — Vesuvius… It was at that furnace Mr. Campbell’s “hot blast” idea worked successfully, hence this was his favorite furnace… The next street named was Hecla then Buckhorn, Lawrence, all for the furnaces… The builders of Ironton expected the railroad to be the dividing line in mid city, so that street took the name Railroad… Next came Center, Oliver, Vernon, Washington, Adams and Jefferson… Three of these were names of Presidents, but they were also names of well-known furnaces in 1849… Just why the name of Olive street was changed to Park ave. fifty years later is not known… We know of only one other Olive street — that being the one of the leading streets in St. Louis.

On Nov. 20, 1849, William Kelly presented to the Ohio Iron and Coal Co. a map, which included land from the river to Sixth street, in that section between Jefferson and Chestnut streets… His proposal was to dedicate to the town land needed for the extension of all streets from the river to Sixth, and new streets and alleys, with the exception of within two blocks between Fourth and Fifth streets, … The map shows that section of the city described above, with all streets and alleys named… The Ohio Iron & Coal Co. accepted the plot, but did not adopt the names of the streets, as set forth on the map… Had the map been adopted, today Ironton would have an Iron street, Mine street and a farmer street, as those were the names used on the map, for Madison, Monroe and Quincy streets… However Mr. Kelly did name Chestnut street on his map, and that name was adopted.

The inscription on the map, written in long hand with pen and ink reads: “Know all men by these presents that we, Wm. Kelly and Sarah Kelly, his wife, proprietors of Kelly’s addition to the City of Ironton do hereby donate to the public all streets and alleys designated in the plat of said addition of the city of Ironton with the exceptions of alleys comprised in lots number 43 to 66 inclusive… Given under our hand and seals this 20th day of November A. D. 1849” … The signatures were subscribed to in the presence of Elias Nigh, Esq. Notary Public.

A close study of the map shows that lots 43 to 66 are on Fourth street and include the lands from Monroe streets to Chestnut of which a part is now the Deaconess hospital, which was the Kelly home at that time… Whether the streets named on the map by Mr. Kelly were ever called by those names is not clear, but the Iron street became Madison, Mine street, Monroe, and Farmer Street, Quincy, while Chestnut street continued with that name… No doubt the directors of the Ohio Iron & Coal Co. decided that since several of the streets had already been named for the early presidents, that they would continue from Jefferson, and name the streets, Madison, Monroe and then came the bump – the town already had an Adams, so they selected the middle name of John Quincy Adams, and left Chestnut remain as Mr. Kelly had named it.

The next plots or sub-divisions to be adopted followed the street naming policy… Those in West Ironton adopted names of Union for a furnace, Eagle for the Ironton Mills, and Mill street…. In the south they took on tree names starting at Chestnut – Mulberry, Walnut, Spruce, pine, Maple, Oak, Heplar, etc…. later as new streets were opened in west Ironton, and they took on tree names — Sycamore, Elm and Orchard…. Tomorrow begins the year 1850.

P.S. At the request of several readers, the Centennial series will be numbered daily, starting with the 14th today.

Number 15

The original site on which Ironton was built, was not an ideal location for building streets — the names of which were described yesterday…. Rachel creek paralleled the Ohio river just about 1000 feet from the top of the bank until it reached Storms creek… This made it necessary to build a bridge for the Iron Railroad before the tracks got a good start away from the river bank… The same was true of every cross street in the town from Vesuvius to Jefferson Street — Rachel Creek had to be bridged… On Railroad street, a fill was made for the railroad tracks, and in later years this served as a model for the other streets, as culverts were built and the streets filled in to replace the little wooden bridges… Most of the first buildings in the town were either on Second street or between Fourth and Sixth street where the ground was higher.

The Ohio Iron & Coal Co. announced at the start that a lot would be donated free to every religious denomination wanting to build a church… The Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians and Episcopalians selected Fifth street… The Catholics and Lutherans selected Sixth street… The big dip in Rachel creek was toward Third street — the higher bank was toward Fourth… Many of the older large homes today are on Fourth Street facing the river… The builders of these homes perhaps had an idea that the creek would always separate the business section of the city from residential, and that some day this creek bank would be a public park.

The last of the wooden bridges over the creek along the streets to be replaced was the one on Jefferson street, and this writer remembers playing on the rail of this bridge some few dozen years back… Many of the wooden bridges across the creek in the alleys were not replaced until the storm sewer was built in the twentieth century, and the creek proper was not filled and made a paved alley until after the 1913 flood… One nice feature about the early days of the city was that mill ashes and furnace slag was plentiful and cheap, and this was excellent material for making fills for streets and alleys.

As this series starts down through the years of Ironton’s history, from 1849 toward the goal (the Centennial in October 1849) we invite additions to what is written… Our research may have escaped some important mention, which we will be happy to add as a part of the record for that year… However, it is impossible to cover all minor details in all matters which will be mentioned… Our information has been gathered from newspaper files, scrap books, and history books, previously published, and we hope to add only such information as might be provided from such records… We now extend our thanks to those who have loaned records and to those who may loan additional records for the articles to come, assuring return of all such loans… Later we will mention those fine citizens who have given or may later give assistance. C. L. C.

Congressman Thomas A. Jenkins is one of the interested readers of the “First 100 Years,” and took time out yesterday to state that he, as an attorney, made the final settlement of John Campbell’s estate since he was elected to Congress…. Mr. Campbell died in 1891, yet it required more than 30 years to close his estate.

It was learned yesterday that the theme of the Ironton High School Class Annual or Year Book in ’49 will be the Ironton Centennial, and that much space will be devoted to the history of the high school, since its beginning.

The building of Park Ave. tunnel is one event in Ironton’s history we have thus far been unable to find in all of our research which started last May for these articles… Perhaps some reader may have some clippings or scrap book articles on this… Thanks… More tomorrow.

Number 16
The year is 1850… Zachary Taylor, twelfth president of the United States elected on the Whig ticket in 1848, had been in office just one year and six months when he died in the White House, on July 9… Millard Fillmore became the president… Reuben Wood, elected on the Democratic ticket as governor of Ohio took office in January and Jenny Lind was making her first concert tour of the United States and was the talk everywhere, having just sang her debut in New York City… The federal census taken every ten years, gave the new town Ironton a population of 574 people.

The Ironton post office was established on January 14, on Third and Lawrence streets with Caleb Briggs, the first postmaster… Early in February, the first Methodist services were held… Rev. John C. Maddy, junior preacher of the Hanging Rock circuit delivered the first sermon and conducted services for the assembled Methodists at a residence on Fourth street between Center and Railroad… Two weeks later Rev. T. T. Holliday, considered the first local pastor, organized a class of seven members at the same place; they were Ebenezer Corwin and wife, Shepard and Sarah Gillen, Burdine and Mary Blake, and Mary Murray… Shortly thereafter, the class met at a brick house on Front street below Lawrence and when the new school house was built on Fourth and Center, held services there… Thus, the Methodist followed the Baptists in being the second church established in the new town of Ironton… Early in the fall, the first quarterly conference meeting was held in the little Baptist church, with Rev. Spencer, the elder conducting the services… The next year, when a little church was built, near Fifth and Center, it was named Spencer Chapel.

On July 27, the First Presbyterian Church was organized with Joseph M. Chester, pastor in charge thereby becoming the third church of the city… More will be printed about all the churches, as the first 100 years unfold.

When fall came, the first school building had been erected on Fourth and Center streets, where later the Odd Fellows Temple was erected… The first school building was erected by public subscription… Proof of this is from the scrap books of John Campbell… The paper is dated March 5, 1850, and its text is to this effect.

“We, the undersigned, will give the sums annexed to our respective names for the purpose of erecting a building to be used at present as a school house, in the town of Ironton, said house and lot, if one should be purchased, shall be placed in the hands of John Campbell, Shepherd Luke and William D. Kelly, trustees, and whenever sold, the proceeds of the same shall be paid over to the undersigned in proportion to the sums annexed to their respective names. It is understood that no sale shall take place unless those representing or owning more than one-half of the stock shall so order.” … The name in the amount above $5 were as follows: John Campbell, $100; W. D. Kelly, Stephen Daniels, James M. Merrill, Irwin J. Kelly and James W. Means, $25 each; Morris Jones, $20; H. Crawford, W. E. Kemp, Caleb Briggs and John K. Smith, $10 each, and smaller amounts… The total subscribed for the first school was $444.00… The first teacher employed for the school was Josiah McClain… Only students were those whose parents were able to pay tuition fees… The school became known as the “Pioneer House” and was used for church services by the Baptist, Methodist and Presbyterians at various times… More about the year 1850 tomorrow. — C. L. C.

We were in error about the names of Washington, Adams and Jefferson streets being named for furnaces in Lawrence county in 1849… Don E. Rist, one of the best informed students on the old iron furnaces writes… “Washington furnace was not built until 1853… There was no Adams furnace in the Hanging Rock Iron Region… Jefferson furnace was not erected until 1854… Our guess work on that paragraph was worse than the Gallup poll — thanks Don for the correction… Those streets were named for presidents.

The time appears now for action if the County Pioneer and Historical Society expect to collect relics… Every day – not one, but several citizens inform us of things they have in connection with the “First 100 Years”… More tomorrow. – C. L. C.

No one can camouflage behind Santa Claus whiskers better than our good friend Harry Eckhart, of the First Federal Savings & Loan Co… Nobody loves to do it better nor gets more enjoyment in doing it than Harry… Yesterday he was the center of attraction at the noon hour at Central school building when he visited the Sight Saving class taught by Miss Ann Mayenschein… This project is sponsored by the Lions Club, and club members accompanied old St. Nick when he visited the class and distributed worthwhile gifts… The students responded with a very clever program of their own to thank old Santa, as the flashlight camera looked on… There’s one thing that modern kiddies don’t understand – why doesn’t he wear glasses like grand daddy and other old men with whiskers … Understand that one little girl remarked that Harry wasn’t the real Santa because the real Santa doesn’t wear glasses… Mr. Eckhart’s “Santa” outfit is complete, from hair to boots, and the only thing lacking is that part of the story book where it says “his belly shakes like a bowl full of jelly.”

Speaking of whiskers, which were the vogue when Ironton was a tiny town back in ’49, the found John Campbell did not wear them… However, pictures of Caleb Briggs and Charles Kingsbury and others of that day sported quite a bushy crop of chin decorations… A little publicity goes a long way in the proper place … We learn that a paragraph in this column last week resulted in about two dozen non-fiction books being presented the Briggs library by citizens, for which all patrons of that institution extend thanks… Happy Birthday to Miss Thalia “Sis” Burke, who with her daddy and mother will soon occupy 115 South Fifth street, which happens to be the Sheriff’s residence.

Number 17
The year is 1850… Yesterday the establishment of the post office, the first religious and education institutions was told… There were two minor industries in operation at the beginning of the year… One of them was near Seventh and Lawrence known as the dry apple house, where in the fall of the year, many of the apples from the orchards on which the town site was started, were cured at this small industry… The other was the Ironton Foundry, known as Campbell, Ellison & Co… Little can be found in the records about this industry, although it is believed to be on the river bank just above the mouth of Storms Creek, which a few years later became the sites of the Star mills… Salvage & Merrill built the first saw mill in the city on the bank of the river at Jefferson street, which then was the upper corporation limit of the town… Strange to say, this spot remained the location of saw mills until after the 1937 flood, and was the scene of the start of some of Ironton’s most disastrous fires.

Every man seeking work could find a choice of plenty of jobs… The building of the Iron Railroad was giving employment to men, oxen, mules and wagons… Other jobs were plentiful in building and improving streets, and digging wells… One of the first town pumps for the convenience of the public was on the corner of Third and Center streets, and remained there until the water works was built almost 30 years later… There were many of these town pumps, with places to water livestock.

In mid-summer, H. M. Stimson and Hiram W. Parker formed a company to start a newspaper… Stimson, a law student from Marietta college, who had come to Hanging Rock in ’49 to practice law, formed a partnership with Parker, who was a printer from Chillicothe… Logan Steece was also a printer, and the three got out the first issue of the Ironton Register, about sunrise on August 1… The printing office was in a frame building on the corner of Third and Lawrence streets… it is an odd coincidence that almost 100 years later, the newspaper printing this history is located on the same corner where the first newspaper and first post office of the town were located, and the author of the “First 100 Years” is postmaster.

The printing press on which the first edition of the Weekly Register was issued was a Washington hand-power press… The partnership of Stimson & Parker lasted for eight years, and after Mr. Stimson took over, he sold the paper in June 1862 to John X. Davidson… More will be told about the Register and all Ironton newspapers later in this series… More tomorrow about 1850.

Number 18
Other events of the year 1850 – The Free and Accepted Masons, Lawrence Lodge 198 was organized this year at Hanging Rock on October 18, with Stephen Daniels, the first Master… The lodge was transferred to Ironton in less than two years thereafter… New citizens were arriving every week to establish homes in the town which was widely advertised above and below the river… The steam boats carried the mail, and most travel between the new town and the county seat at Burlington was via boat, there being two and some times three boats daily operating between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh… Some of the boats only went as far as Marietta while others were local boats between Gallipolis and Portsmouth… When the boats landed at the wharf, there was always an exchange of gossip, and matters of news between the clerks on the wharf boats and those on the steam boats… In this way, good and bad news traveled fast.

Three new citizens are recorded as establishing in business here in 1850… B. Beardsley established a tin shop and sold coal stoves for kitchens… Most of the homes had open grates for coal heating in the winter… Michael Holloran established a small store which was advertised as the “Boat Store”… The name was chosen because it was his intention to attract the stewards to buy the supplies for the boat, when it landed here to take on passengers and unload freight… Later, Mr. Holloran was in business on the corner of Third and Railroad streets for more than 50 years.

Mr. David Nixon was another of the newcomers in 1850… A citizen of Ironton for 57 years he became very widely known… A newspaper clipping found in a scrap book has this to say about this early citizen…

David Nixon, who came to Ironton in 1850, was long known as a man who followed his Master in business and in every day life… He was born in Lawrence county, at Burlington, Aug. 7, 1829, and when he moved to Ironton he engaged in real estate and furniture business… He sold many trunks, which were very handy traveling luggage in his day… After the war of 61-65, he erected a three story building on Second street just below Center, which was the only building that withstood the fire when the Masonic Temple burned in 1885… The building remains today as a part of the block occupied by the Masonic Temple, which was rebuilt twice following fires on the same location… Early in life Mr. Nixon united with the Presbyterian church, and was always a teacher in the Sunday school… For 40 years he carried the gospel to the county infirmary each Sunday, and right after church he could be seen driving the family carriage to the big building in Coal Grove… The story was printed at the time of his death that Mr. Nixon, on Sunday mornings, would frequently visit the different hotels for the purpose of inviting strangers to attend church… In this, and hundreds of other ways he labored for the Master… For many years his name was always the synonym of honesty and fair dealing… He retired in 1907, and died four years later.

Number 19
Newspaper advertising has always been recognized as paramount, and while there are many forms of advertising today, radio, sky writing from airplanes, direct mail, etc., the first advertising in Ironton Weekly Register, on August 1, 1850… Perhaps all business firms in the new town did not advertise in the first issue of the first newspaper, but the business cards appearing in that issue, give a good idea of the business establishments in the town at that time… The town had been established 15 months when the first newspaper was published, and a great amount of the advertising was representative of the business of the county seat, which at that time was at Burlington.

The first advertisement to attract the eye is that of the Ironton House on Front and Railroad street, E. Hurd, proprietor… A paragraph in this announcement reads: “The Baggage Master, Michael, will be on hand to convey promptly the baggage of travelers to and from the river.” … It must be kept in mind that the boats were the only transportation — there being no railroads and driving overland was over very bad roads… Another hotel, the Buckeye House, between Second and Third on Lawrence, T. Cochran, proprietor, also advertised for business of the traveling public.

An advertisement that catches the eye is that of Thomas Murdock, grocer… As they say on the radio today “We’re Tobacco Men — Not Medicine Men,” Mr. Murdock was a “tobacco man” … His advertisement starts off “Chew Chaw! Chaw Chew!” and tells about his big shipment of fine chewing tobaccos… Other grocers advertising included A. Ford, and Gillen & Brother — E. F. and M. Gillen, but the location of the business was not given.

Three doctors with business cards in the paper were J. Morris, M. D., office at Third and Olive streets… Dr. J. P. Bing, Front street and Dr. J. Scott, address not given… S. Silverman & Bros., advertised clothing… W. D. Green, merchant Tailor, gave his address as Third street… Burke’s saloon in the Ward building on Front street, advertised ice cream, lemonade, root beer, fruits, kisses, candy, cloves, spice and tobacco.

Simon Parker advertised buggies and harness, P. & U. Scott, edged tools and sharp axes, located on Third street between Buckhorn and Lawrence… The boat line — the Steamer Robert Wightman, with Sam Folson, Master, advertised for the exchange of freight and passengers between Ironton and Portsmouth… The boat left Ironton daily at 6 a.m. and returning left Portsmouth at 2 p.m.

The first barber of the town advertised with these words: “Tommy Jim, The Barber is on hand, ready to shave a gentleman’s face, cut the locks from his head, brush his clothes, black his boots, give him a grin and take a dime. Office on Front street adjoining the Ironton House, Give him a call.” … Irwin & Kelly advertised men’s ready made clothes and hats… Gillen Bros. (E. F. and M.) advertised furniture at Third and Lawrence… J. C. Mead was selling lumber on Front street just above the wharf.

The only attorney advertising his location as Ironton (all others Burlington, the county seat) was J. W. Roberts, Attorney and Solicitor in Chancery… The most advertising were short items throughout the paper about new stocks of dry goods at M. Jones location not given.

There were in this first edition, three items that could be classified as “local” news of the day… The first of these was about the construction of the new Union Block, on Second and Lawrence which was under way… The item stated that the building would be occupied, when completed by Benjamin R. Brush, boot and shoe store, and that Mr. Brush, would make his own shoes… E. Hurd & Co. would have a tinware store in one room and Irwin & Kelly dry goods and notions would occupy the third room… Another item told of the closing of the first term of school taught by Mr. and Mrs. McLain the week before (July)… The article said there was no “show off” or public demonstration by the students… The third item was about the prosperity of the town, and we quote… “There are now two saw mills and seven brick yards all busy making materials for new construction… Two brick business blocks are to be constructed this summer (it was then Aug. 1) each 50 feet by 132 feet, three stories high… Two foundries will be put up the coming season — one of them near the river will be a brick, fronting 90 feet and 2 stories height… This foundry will employ 100 persons… (This no doubt was the Olive Foundry later erected on Second and Etna)… The item ended by saying that the Ohio Iron & Coal Co. had given free a donation to the Presbyterians, Methodist, Baptist, United Brethren and – soon three churches would be ready… Thus you have read the first newspaper published in Ironton as far as local items were inserted… More tomorrow.

Number 20
The town of Ironton was created by act of the State Legislature on March 21, 1851… By this date, the new town was up and going, and widely advertised… Section 1 of the act reads: “Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Ohio, that so much of the township of Upper in the county of Lawrence, as is included within the following boundaries, to wit beginning at the lower line of the lands of Jacob Heplar on the Ohio river, thence with said line northerly to intersect the line of William D. Kelly and Henry Blake; thence east to a stake forty rods west of said Kelly’s northeast corner; thence north to the top of the river hill; thence westerly with the meanders of the top of the hill to the south end of railroad bridge across Storms creek; thence down Storms creek with the meanders thereof, to the lands of James M. Kelly; thence with the westerly line of said Kelly’s lands to the Ohio river; thence up the Ohio river with the southern boundary line of the State of Ohio to the beginning, be and the same is hereby declared a town corporate and politic, with perpetual succession, under the name and style of the town of Ironton, and as such shall be entitled to all privileges, and be subject to all the restrictions of an act entitles “an act for the regulation of incorporated towns,” passed February 16, 1838, and all such acts amendatory thereto.

2 – That John Campbell, James M. Merrill, Caleb Briggs, Eben Corwin and Hiram Campbell, shall be trustees to manage the concerns of said corporation, for the time being and until others shall be elected, as provided by law… The act was signed by John F. Morse, speaker of the House of Representatives and John C. Convers, speaker of the Senate, dated Columbus, Ohio, January 29, 18951… The act was not recorded in the court house at Burlington until March 21st, hence that date the town officially became Ironton.

On January 18, this same year, the Ironton Cemetery Association organized… The notice for the meeting read in part: “Members are requested to meet at the school house on Saturday evening next, at early candle lighting”… The report of the meeting read that the cemetery was to be located at the foot of the hill northeast of the town.” … This description is thought to be that of Kelly’s cemetery on Eleventh street back of Beechwood park, although the records do not so state.

New advertisement appearing in the weekly paper in January 1851 included Evan Jones & Richard O. Evans, boot and shoe factory, upper end of Union Block, upstairs… Sam McClure and James Steece dry goods, Murdock’s building on Third street… This firm advertised “Bay State Shawls,” which no doubt were something new and popular, as most ladies wore shawls… Another new store was J. M. & S. P. Merrill, wholesale and retail groceries, No. 3, Union Block… T. N. Davey, Hardware and Stove, No. 4 Enterprise block on Front street.

The new newspaper, the Register, moved on January 16th from Third and Lawrence to the lower end of Union Block, upstairs… In the same issue of the paper that carried the announcement of the removal, the Sons of Temperance, organized Council No. 542, to meet in the hall at the east end of Union Block, every Tuesday evening… J. S. Duke was the recording secretary… More tomorrow about 1851.

Number 21
Cash was of little circulation in Lawrence county when Ironton was organized in 1849… The pig iron furnaces all operated what were known as company stores, where the workers ran charge accounts for the necessities of life… Script was the principal medium of exchange at all these stores… Promissory notes were very common… Men with good reputation could easily obtain money on their note… However, from the very start of the town, the promoters of the town and railroad were very cognizant of the need of a banking institution.

Before the close of 1850, many business leaders had talked of organizing a bank, but nothing was done until early next year, and the first meeting was not held until 1851… The first newspaper item about the Iron Bank did not appear until the issue of Thursday, May 15th and we quote: “Liberal subscriptions having been made for the purpose of establishing a bank in Ironton, the stockholders held their first meeting Saturday last … The bank is to be known as “The Iron Bank of Ironton,” and is organized under the Free Banking Law of the State … The officers chosen to manage the affairs of the bank as follows: James Rodgers, John Peters, John Campbell, James O. Willard… Rodgers is to be the president; Willard the cashier.”

An advertisement appeared in the same issue of the Weekly Register which said in part; The books for the subscription of capital stock are open at the office of the Iron Railroad Co. under supervision of C. Briggs and James A. Richey, Esquirers… An installment of 10 per centum on the amounts subscribed will be required payable before June 1st” … The charter for the bank was received on May 10, 1851, but the bank was not opened for public business until Friday, July 11, 1851.

The original stockholder, together with the amounts of their subscriptions, were as follows: James O. Willard, $26,300; James Rodgers, $11,000; John Campbell, $1,200; Hiram Campbell, $800; D. T. Woodrow, $1,000… Total $40,000… Within the following three years a number of stockholders were added to the original five, bringing the capital stock up to $64,850… James Rodgers was elected the first president of the bank and James O. Willard, the first cashier… The bank prospered from the very day it opened its doors for business… On November 1, 1852, the bank paid a 5 per cent dividend… The Iron Bank was the predecessor of the First National, which was chartered and took over the business in 1863… From about 1863 until 1930, the city had three and four banks each doing a big business… The Second National Bank was organized in 1863… The Exchange Bank in 1870 … The H. C. Burr & Co. in 1879… The Citizens National in 1890 and the Iron City Savings Bank in 1905… The Iron Bank was established on north second street between Lawrence and Buckhorn streets… More of the banking history will be told as the years unfold… Tomorrow we continue with the year 1851.

Number 22
The first city election held in Ironton was on Saturday, April 19, 1851… It was for the election of officers for the new town…. The newspaper stated that “the number of men over 21 years of age in the town is between 240 and 250, but owing to the short residence in the town and state of many of them, not more than one-half were entitled to vote…. The result of the first city election was as follows: Mayor, James M. Merrill, … Councilmen, John Campbell, J. S. Roadamour, Morris Jones, E. J. Folwell and Hugh Crawford.

On May 22, 1851, the new town of Ironton held it’s second election… The purpose was to adopt the new school law passed by the legislature in February 1849, thus adopting the state code for the town… The vote was 36 for and 1 against… The first school board members elected were John Campbell, John Peters, James Kelley, W. D. Kelly, S. R. Bush and Thomas Murdock… The first school examiners were Dr. Caleb Briggs, Neal McNeal and Dr. J. P. Bing… Charles Kingsbury was the first principal… The two teachers were Wm. Ward and Miss E. Wait… Mr. Kingsubury’s salary was fixed at $600 annually.

It had been the intention of the School Board to employ a principal and one teacher… However the enrollment was more than expected at the first free school, that the little school building erected on Fourth and Center was over crowded, and classes had to be held in the basement at the new Spencer chapel, one block away, therefore an assistant principal, Mr. Ward was employed… Rev. Joseph M. Chester, pastor of the Presbyterian & Rev. T. W. Hand pastor of the Methodist were named school visitors to look after the spiritual needs of the school…. The school term this year opened on September 17th.

In the early fall of this year, the Methodist had raised subscriptions amounting to over $2,000 for their new church… The site was selected by John Peters and donated by the Ohio Iron & Coal Co., and the basement of the chapel was occupied before cold weather set in… The first regular pastor of the church was Rev. W. C. Hand, and the membership was 90… Daniel Young was the local elder, Thomas Murdock, local pastor and Burdine Blake, exhorter. The main auditorium was completed and dedicated in the summer of 1852… More tomorrow.

November 23
The three most active citizens in behalf of the growth of the new town were John Campbell, George N. Kemp and William Lambert… They were the town’s most energetic capitalists, and it was these three gentlemen who circulated a petition to remove the county seat from Burlington to Ironton… The Ohio Iron & Coal Co., in 1849 had set aside a plot of ground to be known as the public square… with this land in mind, the three boosters worded their petition as follows:

“Ironton is and will be the commercial and business center of the county – the chief town of the county for trade manufactures, and consequently the principal market, and as such will be the point to which the citizens of the county will resort for business… Ironton is nearer the territorial center of the county than any point on the river, an air line of twenty miles in any direction reaching to the utmost limit of the county, with the exception of the back sections of Washington township; and nine of the thirteen townships of the county are nearer (or as near) to Ironton than to the present county seat, as also parts of the tenth township… Ironton is nearer the center of the population of the county than any other river point, more than two-thirds of the inhabitants of the whole county being nearer to Ironton, and the townships of Upper, Elizabeth, Decatur, Washington, and Symmes alone, all of which are much nearer Ironton than Burlington, contain nearly one-half of the inhabitants of the county.”

The petition went on to state that “the present court house is well known to be in a dilapidated condition, inadequate to the wants of the county, of insufficient size to contain but part of the county offices, and not affording convenience nor safe repository for the records of those it does contain; consequently a new courthouse must soon necessarily be erected, and for the erection of which the lower end of the county will pay the largest portion of the taxes that might be levied; but as a consideration for the erection of said building in Ironton during the year of 1852, a public square, beautifully located on high ground has been donated.”

The citizens of Ironton, before this petition was presented, had already subscribed $1,200 for the erection f the courthouse and $400 for the jail, conditional of course on the action of the voters as to the location of the county seat….The original of this petition was in the private scrap book of Charles Campbell, which no doubt will turn up, when the Lawrence County Historical Society organizes and functions…About 100 citizens signed it, some donating cash and other volunteering labor as stone workers, painting, hauling, iron work, etc….Thomas Murdock agreed to contribute $50 work of brick, and Messrs. Voglesang and Buchanan $30 in carpenter work each.

The largest subscriptions in cash were made by the following:

  • Ohio Iron & Coal Co.    $400
  • George N. Kemp    $100
  • Irwin Kelly
  • S. Silverman
  • H. & L. Cole
  • John Culbertson
  • J.E. Clark
  • John Ellison     each $50
  • Simon Parker    $30
  • Ralph Leete
  • E. J. Farwell
  •  A.T. Brattin
  • H. Crawford
  • J. H. Jones
  • S. McClure
  • M. Jones    each $25
  • G. R. Bush
  • George W. W…ward
  • James Sullivan

The subscriptions were payable to John Campbell, George N. Kemp and William Lambert, they put up a building suitable for a courthouse 70 feet in length, 345 feet wide and two stories high, 36 feet in height, which shall have 25 windows, 10 feet in height and large double doors in front.


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About Lawrence County, Ohio

Lawrence County, Ohio borders the Ohio River at the Southernmost part of the state. Six architecturally interesting bridges span the Ohio River, connecting Lawrence County with various locations in both Kentucky and West Virginia. Because of these bridges, metropolitan Ashland, KY and Huntington, WV are just minutes away from virtually anywhere in the county.

Lawrence County Ohio was organized December 20, 1816, the first Court of Common Pleas was organized March 4, 1817. In 2016, Lawrence County celebrated its Bicentennial… click here to view photos of the Grand Finale event.

The first election was held April 7, 1817, with Joseph Davidson, Joel Bowen, and David Spurlock elected county commissioners. Their first meeting was held Monday afternoon, April 21, 1817, at the home of Joseph Davidson in Burlington.

Lawrence County, Ohio was named after Capt. James Lawrence, a native of Burlington, NJ and a gallant naval officer of the War of 1812.

Lawrence County was home to 23 blast furnaces and was once the world leader in pig iron production.

The county seat is Ironton, where you will find our government offices, restaurants, museum, library, splash park, civic organizations, and is home of the famous Memorial Day Parade.

Check out what’s new in Lawrence County, with the Lawrence County Guide Book. 

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