A Time To Remember
Lawrence County was founded on December 20, 1816 and was named after naval hero Captain James Lawrence who commanded the U.S. Frigate Chesapeake during the War of 1812.
The county’s early settlers were Dutch, Irish, German and Scottish who had come from Pennsylvania, Virginia and Tennessee. Some early settlers were Dr. More, Robert Ross, Elias Webb, Abe Pancake and George Willis. James Webb, Sr. built the first cabin in 1806.
The first couple to marry was James and Sarah Webb, who were also the first parents to the first child who was named Tull Webb.
The first schoolhouse was built in 1835. It was a log cabin that measured 12 by 16 feet. By 1882, there were 10 schools located in the area, nine of which were frame. A post office was established in 1891.
Although many settlers were farmers, many more came here after hearing about the discovery of iron ore. Many settled and became furnace workers and miners. The great success of the iron industry and its allied manufacturing created men of great wealth. The affluence of those early days is reflected in many of Ironton’s homes and churches, attractive reminders of a gracious Victorian lifestyle.
Lawrence County makes up the widest part of the Hanging Rock Iron Region, which has the distinction of being the site of the first major expansion of iron manufacturing in the United States.
Ironton children, in early times, would play a game known as bullpen, which was played by throwing a rubber ball at fellow contestants. The youths of Ironton were also known to slip into the courthouse during the Civil War to pilfer biscuits from barrels that were meant for the soldiers who were stationed there off and on during the war.
As the youths grew older, many of them worked at the mills. As larger mills began operation, huge rafts of logs floated down the Ohio River and later were converted into lumber.
The Ohio River and Lawrence County were an important element to the Underground Railroad. Bands of runaway slaves frequently crossed the river on their way north of the Mason Dixon Line.
The Ohio River at Burlington Township was once the route to freedom taken by 37 freed slaves from Madison County, Virginia. John Campbell, Ironton’s founder, served as a stationmaster who helped runaway slaves. He concealed them in two rooms under the roof of his home until he could finalize plans for their move farther north.
The Ohio River and its tributary, Symmes Creek, play a major role in the county’s rich agricultural region, providing rich farmlands and recreation to the rural areas. The Ohio River is one of the area’s greatest natural resources, supplying affordable transportation, reliable water-cooling to industry and recreation to all residents.
Chesapeake was once home to the famous Continental Night Club and gambling casino which hosted performers such as George Goble and Mickey Rooney. The Continental was one of the largest entertainment casinos in the Eastern United States!
Lawrence County also has a strong history in team sports. The Waterloo Wonders basketball team captured fame in the 1934-35 season with two consecutive state championship titles. The Ironton Tanks, founded in 1919, played teams from the American Professional Football Association, which became the NFL in 1930. The Tanks accumulated an 88-17-15 record during the team’s 12-year existence. The team was disbanded in 1931 and many of its players went on to play in the NFL. The Tanks Memorial Stadium can be visited throughout the year in Ironton.