History of Ironton City Schools

History of Ironton City Schools

Compiled by: Nicole Cox

“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 [Iron] Railroad replaced ox carts and wagons, some requiring 6 and 8 yoke of oxen to get over hills. ¹

Early in the fall in 1849, 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 below Lawrence, attended only by the students able to pay. ²

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 [streets], where later the Odd Fellows Temple was erected. At the end of 1851, one hundred students were enrolled. [On] August 30, 1851, Charles Kingsbury became first superintendent.” 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… ¹

On May 22, 1851, the new town of Ironton held its 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. ²

Currently the Ironton City Schools serves roughly 1400 students under Superintendent Dean Nance. 4

According to their website, “The Ironton City Schools provide quality educational experiences for the students of Ironton, Ohio. Our community is located in the extreme south central part of Ohio and is part of the Tri-State Metropolitan Area with the communities of Ashland, Kentucky and Huntington, West Virginia. The district operates three schools: Ironton Elementary School, Ironton Middle School, and Ironton High School.” ³




¹ Collett, C. (1964, November 8). Ironton Story In A Nut Shell. The Herald-Dispatch.

² Collett, C., & Collett, H. (1948). Dots and Dashes. The Irontonian.

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.

³ (1999). Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://www.tigertown.com

4 O. (2015-2016). Ironton City Schools District Report. Retrieved February 13, 2017, from http://reportcard.education.ohio.gov/Pages/District-Report.aspx?DistrictIRN=044149

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