Ironton in a Nutshell

Ironton Soliloquy – Ironton Story In A Nut Shell
Herald Dispatch – November 8, 1964
Submitted by Lorna Marks

IRONTON, the county seat of Lawrence, named for Capt. James LAWRENCE, a naval officer in the war of 1812 . . County created by act of legislature Dec. 20, 1816 . . Ironton was founded March 17, 1849 by John CAMPBELL and 24 associates known as the Ohio Iron & Coal Co . . A railroad from the Ohio River 13 miles north over hill and thru tunnels was built to serve 11 charcoal pig iron furnaces in operation at outbreak of Civil War . . The railroad replaced ox carts and wagons, some requiring 6 and 8 yoke of oxen to get over hills . . The oldest was Union at Hanging Rock, built in 1826.

Most noted among furnaces, Hecla, build 1833 where iron for famous cannon known as “Swamp Angel” was cast . . The same year, Vesuvius, first hot blast furnace in America was build, now owned by U. S. Forest Service as Vesuvius Federal Recreation Area and Lake.

Name Ironton chosen because iron was sold by the ton . . Three iron industries for finished product were build in Ironton in 1850, a rolling mill, a cut nail mill and a machine shop for steamboat engines and railway locomotives . . Saw mills, flour mill, plow works, brick yards followed.

Ironton post office was established Jan. 14, 1850 . . First weekly newspaper, Aug. 1, 1850 . . The First National Bank organized as the Iron Bank of Ironton May 10, 1851 . . Court House build by public subscription and moved from Burlington to Ironton Oct. 23, 1852 . . Town had two newspapers Jan. 1, 1853 and four including 3 dailies in 1907.

First church was built by Methodists 1851, the Presbyterians, 1852, the Baptists, 1854 and the Catholics the same year . . First telegraph line to town 1864 . . First gas lamp posts on streets, 1867 . . Water Works was built in 1871 . . First telephone exchange 1879 . . First free reading library, 1877 . . First horse street cars July 4, 1888 . . First electric lights Dec. 21, 1889 . . City letter carriers Nov. 1, 1890 . . First paved streets, 1891 . . First electric trolley cars Nov. 1, 1896.

First highway bridge across river between Cincinnati and Wheeling, April 21, 1922 . . First traffic lights, 1926 . . City manager form of government Jan. 1, 1930 . . Municipal swimming pool since 1936 . . Complete flood protection from Ohio River 1938 . . Parking meters since 1945 . . Football stadium since Sept. 19, 1926.

The first school, a 2-room known as Pioneer School was built by public subscription of $440.00 in 1850 on corner at Fourth and Center . . At end of 1851, one hundred students were enrolled . . August 30, 1951 (1851?) Charles KINGSBURY became first superintendent . . Today, eleven school buildings, 9 public and 2 parochial including junior and senior high schools, one is named for Mr. KINGSBURY, another for John CAMPBELL, founder of city and another for Capt. James LAWRENCE employ over 150 teachers, and Ohio University has branch college.

That’s Ironton’s history as brief as can be told except for her noted personalities . . This is printed in response to scores of requests received for such information.

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

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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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