HISTORY OF LAWRENCE COUNTY OHIO
Lawrence County Ohio
Martha J. (Kounse) Martin
See a map of the
Editor's Note: This historical sketch of Lawrence
County, was written by the late Attorney H.M. Edwards, one of the
county's leading history students, and was presented to the
Tribune by him shortly before his death on Feb 19, 1939.
establishment of Ironton in 1851, the county seat was removed from
Burlington to Ironton
where it has remained. Geographically Lawrence County is divided
into fourteen townships, one city and six incorporated villages.
The townships are:
Aid, so named because of a dispute and was decided to
get the shortest name possible.
Decatur, in honor of Commodore Stephen Decatur who served
bravely as a naval officer in the War of 1812.
Hamilton, in honor of
Robert Hamilton, who was a pioneer iron master in that section.
Elizabeth, in honor of
Robert Hamilton's wife.
Fayette, in honor of Marquis Lafayette, who was a popular
hero of that time and who visited
Burlington in 1826.
Lawrence, named in honor
of Capt. James Lawrence, for whom the county is also named.
Mason, in honor of the Masonic fraternity and in
contradiction to the Anti-Masonic Party of that day.
Perry, in honor of Commodore Oliver H. Perry, who defeated
the British on Lake Erie in 1814.
Rome, because of the seven hills that coverage at LaBelle
like Rome on the Tibet.
Symmes, in honor of John Cleves Symmes, in whose honor
Symmes Creek was named.
Union, in honor of President Andrew Jackson, who saved the
Union from rebellion by promptly putting down the nullification of
Upper, so named because it was the uppermost township in
Adams County when that county extended to this section.
Windsor, in honor of
Windsor Connecticut, from whence its early settlers came.
Washington, in honor of
the father of the Country.
The six villages are Hanging
Rock, Coal Grove, South Point,
Proctorville and Athalia.
All other villages are unincorporated, such as
Burlington. There are
also places such as
Ridge which goes through several townships.
Much could be
said about the early political situation, the slavery question and
many other interesting incidents, but space at this time forbids,
but in order to give you an insight into living conditions of the
early days, I quote from a diary record kept by grandfather who
settled in this county very shortly after it was first settled.
"I was born
in Eastern Va in 1812 and when a very small lad, my father
decided to move west. He disposed of all his goods and chattels,
except some bed clothing and some necessary articles, which he
packed on a bay mare, then we started for Ohio, my mother riding
the mare, father and I walking accompanied by a dog and father
carrying a gun.
We crossed the Allegheny and Sewell Mountains and
stopped at Carnfax's Ferry, Nicholas County, Va, now WV, for the
Winter. Ours was the fourth family in that neighborhood and it
was several miles to the nearest settlement.
We all lived in common and passed the Winter very
pleasantly. Bear and game of all kinds was very plentiful and I
had the pleasure of accompanying the men to dig a bear out of
his den. When they killed the bear, it was divided into four
parts, each family taking a quarter.
We remained at this place the following Summer, raised a
small crop which was disposed of, then we proceeded on our
journey down the Kanawha Valley and crossed the Ohio River near
the mouth of the Big Sandy. Finding the people along the river
all shaking with ague, we moved into the hill country where it
was said it was healthier and where game was more plentiful.
Here we settled on the middle fork of Ice Creek in Perry
Township, Lawrence County, OH. Here we built our log cabin on
the public lands and began clearing out the forests, while our
flocks and herds roamed in the woods.
In my easy memory, things were in a very primitive
state. People threshed their wheat with a flail or trampled it
our by horses on the ground and blew the chaff out with a sheet.
The farming tools consisted of a shovel, plow, mattock,
scythe, cradle and hoes. Hay was gathered by hand rakes and
forked sticks were used as pitchforks. There were a few if any
wagons and a man with a light running sled was considerably well
fixed. There were a few wagons in the county along the river,
but a wagon at that time was rather a curiosity and when it was
known that one to pass the road, the youngsters would gather at
the roadside and follow it at some distance, in order to see its
great wheels roll on the ground. It was said that they expected
to see the big rear wheels catch up with the front ones.
Women made most of
the clothing, taking it through every process from the raw
material to the finished product. A smart woman was reckoned by
the amount of work she could do. Our only neighbors were the
Bruce's and Sperry's. The Bruce's and Sperry's were stone masons
and as there was not much stone masonry to do, they had to go
long distances from home in order to get work to do. John Sperry
built the stone jail at Burlington after the log jail burned
down. "There was a man who lived in that vicinity by the name of
William B. Morrison, who was a cabinet maker by trade as well as
as undertaker. He also practiced the medical profession, which
consisted mainly in bleeding the patient. This was the first
step in medical treatment and between a pint and a quart of
blood was the amount taken from the arm and usually for only
Another pioneer was
Jonathan Melvin, who when coming down the river in a small boat
stopped for the night on the bank of the Ohio River, just above
what is now Coal Grove. They had a small daughter and after
landing, built a temporary shed and went into camp for the
night. During the night a panther sprang upon the bed and took
the child. They succeeded in making it drop the child a short
distance from the shack with but slight harm. A few days later
the panther was killed by Poagues Negroes from KY. Mr. Melvin
remained and built a log cabin on the river bank, and being a
cooper by trade made pails, churns and other vessel from cedar
trees groaning near which were very much needed by the people.
He later settled in the vicinity of Rock Camp, where many of his
descendants still live. Getting the milling done was the one
great chore and a man who had a boy large enough to go to the
mill felt relieved of quite a burden. Many a boy was put at the
business very young and encountered many mishaps, often having
to go long distances across rising streams and over long hills,
where the sack of grain thrown across the horse would slip back
and he would have to turn the horse around and roll the sack
back to its place.
There was not much
system to the milling in those days and it depended a great deal
upon one's strength and ability to argue the case as to who gets
his milling done first and if a boy was lacking in either of
these, he usually found his sack in the bottom of the grist and
was very late at night in getting home. Mill boys in those days
had their ups and downs but they usually proved equal to any
emergency that arose.
In the early days,
there was no cooking utensils, except the pot and skillet and
the cooking was done in the open wood fire, the pot hanging from
a crane above the fire and the skillet covered among the live
However, very early in the history of the county a man
by the name of Davis, came to this county to live and almond his
household effects was a wood cook stove. The family had many
callers from near and far that they might get a peep at the
stove. The subject was one of the neighborhood gossip. Some
thought you would have to take lessons before you could cook
upon it, while others said that food cooked on it would not be
fit to eat and the general conclusion of all was that it was
just calculated to burn up the house.
Wood was the staple fuel and it was more than plentiful
while they were clearing the ground of the virgin timber.
Fireplaces were wide and and high. A huge log two or three feet
in diameter was used as the back log, while a smaller log was
the fore stick and the smaller wood was burned in the center.
Some houses had a door on each side of the house and would hitch
a horse to the back log and drag it into the house and while the
log was being rolled to the fireplace, the horse would go out at
the other door.
Most of the houses were built of hewn logs cut from
virgin timber and many of them still stand after more than a
century of wind and rain had beaten upon them. The roofs were of
clapboards rived from oak trees and the fences were built of
rails split from the trees that were cut in the clearing.
In those days, not more than one person in a community
took a newspaper and people would congregate at the county store
or post office and one man would read the paper aloud. Later,
however, roads were laid out and while none of them had hard
surfaces, settlers began to move in and by the time of the
Mexican War, things had taken a great step forward."