Belle Prairie, French for beautiful meadow, was surveyed in the fall of 1788 under the direction of Return Johnathan Meigs, Sr. Cabins were constructed and in early April of 1789, families began living in Belpre, the second permanent American settlement in the territory north and west of the Ohio River. The Ohio Territory was opened to expansion following the passage of the Northwest Territory Ordinance of 1787.

The New England farmers who had served their country in the Revolutionary War, formed the Ohio Company and purchased land in the Ohio country. Those that settled Belpre chose this place to make their homes because it was adaptive to agriculture. They were anxious to establish farms and orchards, build a new town, raise families and develop this new country for which they had fought to unite.

Education being very important to these early Belpre residents, the community hired Bathsheba Rouse to teach their children. She was later hired by the Ohio Company to continue teaching when the families had to take refuge during the Indian uprising, 1791-95. The fortification at Belpre was called Farmers Castle.

In 1791 a Floating Mill was constructed by Capt Johnathan Devol in the Ohio River making the task of grinding grains much easier. In 1795 the Putnam family began lending their books, and subscription shares were purchased in what became “The Belpre Farmers Library.”

Many settlers flowed over the rivers into Ohio’s first frontier, bringing their dreams for a better life. Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, a wealthy aristocratic couple from Ireland, came to the area in 1798 to purchase an island and build a mansion. The site of Blennerhassett Island became nationally famous when Aaron Burr visited in 1805. Controversy clouded Burr’s mysterious expedition to the Southwest. The Blennerhassett Mansion has been restored and is a major tourist attraction in the area.
The village of Belpre grew like other small communities – roads, larger homes, bridges, family businesses, schools, and churches. Plantings and harvests, famines and floods, oil boom, steamboats, then railroads helped shape the character of the people. Through the trying times of the Civil War, the danger of the Underground Railroad, the great depression, more wars, Belpre has endured.

Evolving from an agrarian society and truck farms into manufacturing and chemical industries, the principals of those first settlers remain. People living daily routines, building one generation on another, developing from year to year a community anyone would be proud to live in.

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