Ironton by Miss Fulwiler

Miss Fulwiler Has Interesting Paper On Ironton History

Submitted by Peggy A. Wells

Ironton Evening Tribune, 9 April 1949
Saturday, Page 3

Miss Mary Fulwiler, 181 south Sixth street, a former teacher in the Ironton school system and well known in educational circles has submitted to The Tribune the following article for publication in connection with the Centennial celebration which will be held next October.

Miss Fulwiler wrote the paper on “Ironton” several years ago and presented it before an organization of which she was a member. Miss Fulwiler knew the men who were active in Ironton’s founding and the growth and development of this city. Her paper contains a great deal of her personal knowledge, also other material gathered in preparation of the paper, which follows:

The Ohio Iron and Coal Company was incorporated in March 1849 and on the third day of May 1849 its directors resolved that John Campbell, Caleb Briggs and W. D. Kelly be authorized to lay out a town on the land of the company above the mouth of Storms Creek for the purpose of encouraging and causing the erection of manufacturing establishment and other buildings connected with the operators of the Company; the said town shall be called Ironton; that suitable ground shall be appropriated for the laying off of said town for a market, a courthouse and offices; and for public buildings of the said town.

First Lot Sale

Ironton was platted and the first sale of lots on the town site was in June 1849.

Then, as now, when lots are sold there are some boasting as to why this was a fine location for a new town called Ironton, situated at the terminus of the Iron railroad on the Ohio River, three miles above Hanging Rock, Lawrence county, situated above floods of 1832 and 1847, in a beautiful bottom that is about three-quarters of a mile wide and three miles long; dry and healthy. the landing is good the whole length of the town for the largest boat.

There were upward of thirty iron furnaces within twenty five miles of it, yielding about 50,000 tons per year of as good iron as the world affords, nine of which were bringing their iron to that point as soon as the Ironton railroad was completed.

Were these not good reasons for a town at this location, but how sad! Not one of these old furnaces, at present, is in operation.

When the ground was surveyed the briars were so thick that Mr. John Campbell carried a scythe most of the time to cut a way to pull the measure through and Mr. Kelly was a good second with an axe. It was John, Bill and George Davidson and Smith who carried the chain most of the time. I had known John Campbell since I was a girl and he a young man. I now think he was one of the wisest, if not the wisest man I ever knew. Will Kelly, like me, believed in John’s ability and we profited by it.

City Was Named

Now, as to how our city received its name. Charles Campbell, son of John Campbell, said he had heard his father say, I want the name to have the words iron and ton. He would repeat “a ton of iron, and iron-ton”. In 1901 George F. Walton of Burden, Kansas wrote to the Ironton Register that it might be interesting for you to know how our city got its name. He wrote: “My father made a topographic survey of the land above Storms Creek under the direction of John Campbell and W. D. Kelly. I made a rough plat of the ground and soon there was a meeting of the directors of the town company at the offices of Campbell, Ellison and Company at Hanging Rock. The plat I had drawn was accepted with some modification. The name of the town was then discussed and several names were suggested. I sat listening and conjuring up names. We wanted a name that would suggest a business of the city, to be, I thought as the original of my family name was Wall-Town, why not name the new city Iron Town, abbreviated as my name had been? I wrote the name Ironton on a piece of paper and handed it to John Campbell. He jumped up as quick as thought and said in his emphatic way, “That is it, George; that’s the name, Ironton. Yes, Ironton is the name. Write it on the map, George.”

No vote was taken, no question was asked. The first time that word was written, I wrote it. It must have pleased Mr. Kelly for in a few days he named his new boy Ironton Austin Kelly.

The brightest days for Hanging Rock as an industrial center, and for Burlington as a shipping point and as the county seat has passed.

Pass Petition

John Campbell, W. K. Kemp and William Lambert, the three most energetic capitalists of the town, circulated a petition for the removal of the county seat from Burlington to Ironton.

The petition said,”Ironton is and will be the commercial business center of the county. It is the chief town for trade and manufactures, consequently, the principal market to which the citizens will come to transact their business will be Ironton. It is nearer the center than any other point on the Ohio River. It is nearer to the center of population of the county than any other along the river. Ironton contains nearly one-half the population of the county.” This petition was signed by nearly 100 citizens. Prior to the time of voting on this question $1200 had been subscribed for the building of the courthouse and $400 for the building of the jail. Quite a number of specifications as to location of the building, as to how it should be placed and as to entrances accompanied the petition. The whole to be completed by 1852. This building was used until 1906.

John Campbell authorized W. D. Kelly to purchase the farms in this neighborhood for the site of Ironton.

The names of the farmers who sold their farms and how much each farmer received is recorded.

Ironton was divided into 350 lots and later on into seven wards for school purposes.

City, Railroad

Ironton and the Iron Railroad were twins and children of the furnaces. Before Ironton was laid out there had been eleven furnaces built in Lawrence county, namely; Union, Buckhorn, Etna, Center, Mt. Vernon, Olive, LaGrange, Vesuvius, Lawrence, Pine Grove and Hecla.

In 1851 a lot was donated to the Ironton Rolling Mill Company. Next came the Lawrence Rolling Mill, then the Star Mill and the Olive Machine Shop; all within two or three years after the town was laid out. The Ironton Register came into existence about the same time. Its name has been changed to the Ironton Evening Tribune. The old Register did its boosting for Ironton in its early years and is continuing to do so.

One thing it brought to the attention of the readers at home and abroad was that the nearness of Ironton to the natural resources enabled her to manufacture iron cheaper than other places along the Ohio river.

In later years Ironton had what was called Big Etna, Lawrence and Ironton Iron Furnace. Col. H. A. Marting was president of all three.

Bank Founded

Next came the founding of the Iron Bank in 1851 with a capital stock of $40,300. The first president was James O. Willard and the first cashier was James. O. Rodgers.

The first National Bank succeeded the Iron Bank in 1863 and the same year the Second National Bank was organized. The Citizens National Bank was organized in May 1890.

The Iron City Savings Bank was organized in July 1905.

A place for a public market, where the Memorial Hall is now located was used for that purpose a number of years.

A body of laws was promulgated under the authority of a legislative act on May 3, 1852. It was not incorporated until 1865. In 1859 the postoffice was moved to the Union Hall. Prior to this time it had been in four different places. After to occupation of Union Hall, it was located on Third street in Masonic Temple, it was then moved to the corner room of the Odd Fellows Temple on Fourth and Center street and then to its present home.

In 1858 there were two fire companies organized.

A new water works was constructed at the end of Vernon street. This system was put in and repaired and improved from year to year. At present we have a modern filtration plant which has been in operation 23 years or more.

Now as to our first school. In 1850 a small, frame building at the corner of Fourth and Center street. The money for this building was contributed by private parties. The list was headed by John Campbell giving $100 others giving smaller sums until they had $444. This building was enlarged in 1854. At this time Dr. N. K. Moxley was president of the school board.

First Superintendent

There were three school examiners and five visitors all of whom were ministers. First superintendent was John Beach. There was only three weeks vacation during the year. School was closed at 5 o’clock in the evening from Jan. 15 until Nov. 15, then two months of the year school closed at 4:30.

One of the visitors wrote to Mr. Campbell and made some suggestions about the superintendent and the teachers. The superintendent was removed and Mr. Charles Kingsbury was appointed in his place, which position he occupied until 1865.

The first brick school house erected was called Central. It was located where Kingsbury now stands.

It may be interesting to hear the names of the first graduating class. They are Julius Anderson, Mrs. Harriet Kingsbury Burr, Mrs. Clara Crawford Davidson, S. B. Steece, James Bull, Mrs. (Dr.) O. Ellison and Mr. E. S. Wilson all of them active and prominent citizens.

Dr. Briggs left Ironton in 1867 for his home in Massachusetts. The talk of a public library was begun. It is interesting to read the correspondence that took place between Dr. Caleb Briggs, John Campbell and W. W. Johnson. Others especially interested at this time were Charles Kingsbury and Rev. Creighton. All of these men were interested in everything that pertained to the welfare of the community. Their efforts at this time culminated in what they called “The Briggs Library Association.” In 1881, Dr. Briggs donated $25,000 for a free public library also a large number of books.

Memorial Hall

Through lawful proceedings, Market Square became the site for Memorial Hall. The hall was built and dedicated in October, 1892. J. K. Richards, a prominent lawyer of that time made the dedicatory speech. Memorial Hall was partially destroyed by fire in 1905. Second time for the loss of books by fire.

The hall was rebuilt and in February, 1910, the Briggs Free Public Library was thrown open to the city that year, also. The foundation fund at this time was $67,000. Mrs. Winifred Morton Fell was librarian.

Prior to 1852, Dr. Briggs had helped to organize a library society which was then in operation with a small, but well selected lot of books for circulation among its members. In 1852-54 a new association was formed, into which the existing library was merged and to which its books were transferred. The membership embraced nearly all the heads of families in Ironton with annual membership fee of $3.00. This association opened the public reading room and library and 300 new books and other reading material were placed there. Owing to the financial depression which lasted six years and the Civil War, the library suspended operation. These books were boxed to await more favorable times and in 1865 were destroyed by fire. The names of men connected with the library organization were; Dr. Briggs, John Campbell, Rev. Joseph Chester, J. O. Willard, Edward Jordan, H. S. Neal, C. G. Hawley, Ralph Leete and Dr. Sloan. Then before the Briggs Library was started another attempt was made for a public library or as we called it, a reading room. That was along in the 90’s.

Miss Nettie Anderson, an Ohio Wesleyan graduate, came home one summer and was enthused with the idea or organizing a YWCA. It was organized with a fair number of members and one of the main objectives was to have a reading room. We met in a room on Second street where the Bunn furniture store now stands. Ed Wilson was in charge of the books, which Mr. Briggs had left for the library stored in the Register office. Mrs. Mayme Batham Bothwell and I were appointed to go over these books and select those we thought the public in general would read. To this collection we gathered books from all parts of town.

Mrs. Hattie Kingsbury Burr left her residence, corner of Sixth and Jefferson streets for the library and it was moved there in 1910.

Church Histories

Some forty years before the founding of Ironton, the Baptists had held services in a log church built just below the mouth of Storms Creek on the river side of the road. Rev. John Lee and family, his wife and five daughters had bought a farm near by. In 1820 the banks of the river washed away to such an extent that the log cabin had to be abandoned. A frame church was built across the road from the old church, and around this church was a graveyard.

In 1854 the present brick church was built. This church was very strict in the observance of its discipline.

The Methodist was the next church organization. In 1850 this church developed into Spencer Chapel.

In 1872 forty members withdrew and formed Wesley Chapel. In 1913 Wesley was partially destroyed by fire and then instead of rebuilding, the Spencer and Wesley churches united and it was called First Methodist Episcopal Church. Since the union of all Methodist churches, the word Episcopal has been dropped.

The same year 1850, the Presbyterian Church was organized and the present church is in the same location as the original church.

The first Catholic Church, built in 1853, stood at the corner of Seventh and Center. Now it is located at Sixth and Center.

Christ Episcopal Church was organized in 1854, located at Park and Fifth. These churches were the first churches to be organized, all located centrally. At present there are in the neighborhood of 25 churches in Ironton.


We have three hospitals, the Charles Gray Deaconess, the Marting Hospital and the General Hospital.


The first and secret and benevolent society to organize was Lawrence Lodge No. 198. It was begun in Hanging Rock and moved to Ironton October 18, 1850. There are a number of women organizations of long standing, as well as men’s groups.

Ironton is noted for its beautiful shaded streets, its beautiful churches, fine swimming pool, stadium. Ironton is noted for its hospitality.

Have questions? Contact Nicole Cox at (740) 646-4104. We hope to see you there!

COVID-19 Information: Serving our community SAFELY is our #1 priority during this difficult time. The Museum is open and operating with certain restrictions, such as occupancy limits and increased sanitization practices. We encourage you to visit wearing a mask and practicing safe social distancing. Docents are available to answer any questions you may have. We look forward to seeing you soon!

Check out some of our most popular links:

To report a problem or to submit content, send me an email here.

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. 

%d bloggers like this: