Location

Jefferson County is located in the eastern portion of Ohio. Its eastern border touches the Ohio River and helps form Ohio’s boundary with West Virginia.

Historic Fort Steuben

In 1786, the United States government built Fort Steuben within the area known as the Seven Ranges in what is now southeastern Ohio. The federal government had arranged for a survey of this area in order to prepare for the settlement of the Northwest Territory. Fort Steuben served two purposes. Troops stationed at the fort were supposed to keep illegal settlers from moving into Ohio. In addition, the surveyors of the Seven Ranges used the fort as a base of operations. The fort was destroyed in a fire in 1790. Ironically, the fort did not deter people from moving into the Seven Ranges. After the fort was abandoned, these settlers established a town, which became known as Steubenville. The growing number of settlers also contributed to increasing tensions with Native Americans in the region.

Northwest Territory

The government authorized the Northwest Territory creation of Jefferson County on July 29, 1797. It also established a form of government and specified how the various parts of the Northwest Territory could become states. Residents named the county in honor of Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the first United States Secretary of State. Historic Fort Steuben, now the site of Steubenville, contained the first federal land office in Ohio, which sold federal land to settlers as they migrated westward, spurring Ohio’s development.

The Northwest Ordinance required the creation of at least three but not more than five states from the Northwest Territory. The first state to be formed from the Northwest Territory was Ohio, the seventeenth state of the United States of America. While the United States government had now established how the Northwest Territory would be governed, Native Americans living in the area refused to agree to American control of the region. From the Northwest Territory's creation until well after Ohio statehood in 1803, bloodshed between white settlers and the Indians continued in the American Northwest.

Ohio River

The Ohio River is formed by the confluence of the Allegheny and Monongahela rivers at modern-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It ends approximately 900 miles downstream at Cairo, Illinois, where it flows into the Mississippi River. It received its English name from the Iroquois word, "O-Y-O," meaning "the great river". One of the first Europeans to see the Ohio River was Frenchman Rene Robert Cavelier Sieur de La Salle in 1669. He named the river "la belle riviere" or "the beautiful river."

During the 1600s and 1700s, the Ohio River served as the southern border of  what later came to be called the Northwest Territory. In several treaties, the river also served as a dividing line between English settlements in Kentucky and Native American communities in the Ohio Country. The English generally remained south of the river, while the Indians continued to live and hunt north of it until the end of the American Revolution. As settlers pushed west across the Appalachian Mountains, many of these people used the Ohio River to transport their families and belongings westward. Several of the first permanent settlements by people from the newly formed United States were founded on the river's banks. These places included the towns of Marietta, Steubenville and Cincinnati.

During the 1800s, the Ohio River became an important commercial route for residents in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana, and Illinois. Farmers and manufacturers sent their crops and finished products on flatboats and barges downstream to the Mississippi River and eventually on to New Orleans. Upon reaching New Orleans, freight was loaded on ocean-going vessels for delivery to eastern seaboard ports like Philadelphia, New York, and Boston. This water route was much faster and less expensive than taking goods by wagon over the Appalachian Mountains.

Despite the arrival of railroads, improved highways, and air travel, the Ohio River continues to serve as a major artery for transporting bulk items such as coal and grain. The northern bank of the Ohio River also is the southern boundary of Ohio, separating the state from West Virginia and Kentucky.

Steubenville

Steubenville is the county seat of Jefferson County, Ohio.

Bezaleel Wells founded Steubenville on the ruins of Fort Steuben in 1797. Most early settlers were squatters from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Wells selected Steubenville's location because it was centered in a valley with relatively fertile soil. Much of the Seven Ranges was hilly and had poor soil for productive farms. During the 1810s, Wells began to diversify his business interests. In 1815, he helped establish a woolen mill at Steubenville. The building was three stories high and approximately one hundred feet long. It employed approximately fifty men, thirty women, and forty children. The factory produced broadcloth, a dense woolen fabric with a lustrous finish. Broadcloth was expensive and many people could not afford to buy it. The factory closed during the Panic of 1819. Wells also opened the first bank in Steubenville.

By the late 1840s, Steubenville was a flourishing community of seven thousand people including a sizable number of African Americans. It had eleven churches, five woolen mills, two glass factories, a paper mill, and an iron foundry. Coal mined from the surrounding area powered most of these manufacturing establishments. There were also two private schools in Steubenville by 1846 -- one for boys and one for girls.

Beer brewing was a major industry in Steubenville for much of its history. A local resident established the first brewery in 1815. The Ohio River provided easy access to Wheeling and Pittsburgh, the brewers' major markets. By the 1870s, one brewery in Steubenville produced more than two thousand barrels of beer yearly. The brewers stored the beer while it aged in cellars dug more than one hundred feet into the sides of the hills surrounding Steubenville.

During the first decades of the 1900s, the brewers faced opposition from temperance organizations. In 1908, Jefferson County became a dry county. The county government prohibited the sale of alcohol within the county's borders. Local brewers continued to manufacture beer to sell in nearby counties that still permitted alcohol consumption. Many of these businesses suffered financially when Steubenville's eighty bars were forced to close. When the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution made manufacturing alcohol illegal nationwide in 1919, Steubenville's breweries closed for good.

Today, coal mining and steel production remain as two of Steubenville's most important businesses. Many of the community's 5,500 residents find employment with the Weirton Steel Company and the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Company, as well as in the various coalmines operating in eastern Ohio and in nearby West Virginia. In recent years, Steubenville has experienced a declining population.

Jefferson County Municipalities Include:
Steubenville, Toronto, Amsterdam, Bergholz, Bloomingdale, Dillonvale, Empire, Irondale, Mingo Junction, Mount Pleasant, New Alexandria, Rayland, Richmond, Smithfield, Stratton, Tiltonsville, Wintersville.

Jefferson County Has Fourteen Townships That Include:
Brush Creek, Cross Creek, Island Creek, Knox, Mount Pleasant, Ross, Salem, Saline, Smithfield, Springfield, Steubenville, Warren, Wayne, and Wells.

Other localities Include:
Brilliant, East Springfield, Hammondsville, Hopewell, New Somerset, Piney Fork, Wolf Run, and Weems.