All posts by Nicole Cox

A new beginning for Southern Ohio and Iron Furnaces


Submitted by Martha J. (Kounse) Martin

In 1848, the land along the Ohio river a few miles above Hanging Rock was almost a wilderness. There were a few scattered homes, small farms and apple trees. The territory was well drained, there being two creeks, one named Storms which emptied into the river, and the other, Rachel, which paralleled the river for a mile, emptying into Storms near its mouth. This second creek was only about 800 feet north of the river, leaving but a narrow strip of land between the creek and river. Behind this creek was higher ground, which sloped from the high hill, a half mile away. Today, no one would select such a location as a site for a city, but little did our forefathers who named Ironton as the river terminus for the Iron Railroad in 1849, think of streets, avenues and alleys. Their thoughts were for a river wharf where that railroad could unload its cars of iron on boats, and in return transport provisions back out into the hills to the furnaces which produced the Iron.

At that time, within a radius of 13 miles back in the hills, rich in coal, timber, Iron ore and limestone, were 13 busy furnaces. John Campbell, who dreamed of Ironton, had helped build Keystone, Madison, Monroe, Howard and Gallia furnaces. But closer were Amanda In Greenup County, Kentucky, built in 1818. Union at Hanging Rock, built in 1826; Franklin in 1827; Pine Grove in 1828; Junior in 1832; Buckhorn, Hecla, Mount Vernon and Vesuvius, all built in 1833; Lawrence in 1834; LaGrange in 1836; Olive in 1846, and others. From 1818 until the time of the first World War there had been erected in the Hanging Rock Iron Region, 87 pig iron furnaces,

Just across Storms Creek (north approach of overhead railway crossing on north Second street, (U. S. Route 52) was a little frame church where Rev. John Lee, a Baptist minister held services. This was not in the first land purchase, but was the first church to serve the people living in Ironton, early in 1849. Thus we have a description of what John Campbell and associates saw, when they drove up the river bank from Hanging Rock, to view a new town site.


Gold was discovered in California January 14, 1848, and men seeking riches the “easy way” were enduring hardships over land, mountain and through the desert to reach the west coast, as our story begins. . . Men in Lawrence county were working with pick, shovel and ax, where timber for charcoal, coal and iron ore and limestone were plentiful. There were a few men, who owned the furnaces, known as “Iron Masters” and these men were dreaming of transportation. . . . They wanted a railroad to replace the ox carts, a slow way of hauling the pig iron to the river for shipment. . . . Iron was the base which our nation needed to build new industry and railroads.
A narrow gauge railroad was built from Hanging Rock to Newcastle In 1846…. The owners of this three mile railway were very enthused about extending the line to connect with the other prosperous pig iron furnaces of the county, all seeking an outlet to move their pig iron to the Ohio river for shipment.
Two leaders in this railway extension movement were Robert Hamilton and John Campbell, both iron masters of wealth…. When John Campbell went to Buffalo, N. Y., in the summer of 1848, to attend the national political convention which nominated Van Buren and Adams, who were defeated by Zachary Taylor and Millard Fillmore, , . . certain actions were taken during his absence, by the group of men promoting the new proposed railroad, which caused him to fall out with Mr. Hamilton, upon his return.
Dr. Caleb Briggs, who at the time was making a geological survey for the State of Ohio of the Hanging Rock-Ironton region, was taken into Mr. Campbell’s confidence, and became his personal representative to help engineer a survey for another railroad. . . . It was Dr. Brigg’s idea that the terminus of the proposed railroad be on the Ohio river, three miles east of Hanging Rock, which was higher ground, and offered better grades to reach the furnace lands back in the hills from the river. , . . Two other men of means, James 0. Willard and John Peters were quick to accept the idea suggested by Dr, Briggs. and the mouth of Storms Creek, was selected as the site for the new steam railroad,—Thus Ironton begins..

   See also: Prehistoric Ironton

Ironton History

Downtown Ironton Walking Tour { PDF }

Be sure and check out Sharon Kouns Website for more History!



  Index to some of Ironton’s old Businesses

City Directory

  Ironton City Directory 1882 – 1883

This link shows what was open in 1882-1883, including businesses, churches, companies, residential listings and much more. Submitted by the late Ken Clark.

Floods in Ironton


Flood Pictures of Ironton, Ohio – 1937
1            2            3           


Ironton’s Floods

1884 Flood


1887 Flood

  Huge Storm July 1900



  Former Ironton Newspaper Man Writes Of Good Old Days During His Time as Chronicler Of Local Events


Sixty years have passed since the writer answered an advertisement in the columns of The Tribune’s honored predecessor, The Ironton Register, resulting in his employment as a boy in the Register office. That was on February 6, 1874. I remained in the service of the Register twenty-seven years, until moving to Chicago. 


Telephone History in Ironton  –  Submitted by Sharon M. Kouns


W.E.R. Kemp was a carpenter and builder of some of the earlier homes and businesses in Ironton.   These are some of the articles that we found relating to his work. THIS FILE IS  A GREAT SOURCE OF INFORMATION IF YOU ARE RESEARCHING HOMES IN IRONTON!! Submitted by Sharon M. Kouns


Prehistoric Ironton  –  Submitted by Sharon M. Kouns


Ironton Trivial  – Submitted by Sharon M. Kouns

Lynching in Ironton


Street Cars – Misc. Newspaper Articles Submitted by Sharon M. Kouns


  What was happening in Ironton in 1888 – Submitted by Barbara Madden
  Ironton’s First 100 Years “Dots & Dashes” – by Charles Collett – 

  Series of stories written for Ironton’s 100th Birthday.
  “Ironton’s History” by Miss Mary Fulwiler, Submitted by Peggy Wells


Miss Fulwiler,  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.

Includes: how the City got its name, moving county seat to Ironton, Iron Railroad, first bank/school/church

  A New Beginning

  In 1848, the land along the Ohio river a few miles above Hanging Rock was almost a wilderness. There were a few scattered homes, small farms and apple trees. The territory was well drained ….
  Boys and Girls Don’t Know about Early Stories
  Whitwell May Be Annexed
  Ancient History of The City – Ironton Register, March 17, 1904
Early election, personal notes, Ironton Rolling Mill, Ironton’s population after 22 months
  Yesteryears – A series of short stories about Ironton’s past.
  Ironton Grew Up in a Hurry
  Seven Irontonians Get the Gold Rush Fever of 1898

  The Trail of ’98 recalls when seven Ironton young men, spurred on by the lust for gold, left their homes in this city, defied death and battled…..
  Soliloquy Series

  This is a series of short stories about the history of Ironton and Lawrence County, Ohio.  Written by Charles Collett.  These stories has a wealth of historical information on subjects you won’t find anywhere else.

Misc. Stories

  Grand Army

  This page is a listing of veterans buried in several cemeteries in and near Ironton, in 1900. It includes their names, military services and the date of death or burial of each soldier.


  Ironton’s Churches

  Our Churches, Their Strength, Their Finances and other Statistics
  Circus in Ironton
  City Council
  Ironton’s Firsts
  Statistics for 1887
  Iron Furnaces
  Ironton High School Alumni – 1867-1880
  Ironton Through the Years
  Ironton in a Nutshell
  Memorial Day Parade Committee
  Ironton’s Postmasters
  Elsberry Named Postmaster
  Julia Marlow Lived in Ironton
  Ironton’s First Baseball Team 
  Memorial Service for Deceased Members of the Watterson Council -1920 Ironton OH
  Moving the Courthouse From  Burlington to Ironton

  You must read the following interesting letter giving a copy of the minutes of a meeting to get the county seat moved from Burlington to Ironton in 1887…
  Nellie Gillen, a clerk in a store at Ironton, O., is a heroine in the eyes of the people of her city..
  Streetcars in Ironton
  Ironton Utilities

Early Pioneers of Ironton


I Remember John Campbell 

Autobiography of John Campbell

Hiram Campbell

  Let’s Get Acquainted – the life story of E.S. Culbertson
  Campbell Family Genealogy
  Col. George Noah Gray House / Lawrence County Historical Society

Former Irontonians – Where Did They Go (1875)

  McCauley Family – The McCauley Furniture Store is still in existence today and is now run by the Weber Family.
  David Nixon – His retirement story tells of the beginning of Ironton.
  John Connelly – Reminiscences of early days of Ironton.