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Monroe County, Ohio
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MONROE COUNTY

     Establishment and boundaries:  The county was established Jan. 29, 1813, the older counties Washington, Belmont and Guernsey giving up portions of their territory to make the new county.  Monroe County in turn in 1851 surrendered four or five townships on its west side to contribute to Noble county's area.  All of Monroe County lies in the first surveyed portion of the United States public domain, the Seven Ranges.  The original survey therefore divided the land into blocks six miles square, bounded by range and township lines.  These lands were sold by the Government, at first at two dollars an acre, and in tracts not less than half a section.  The area is 448 square miles.

     Physical features:  This is part of the hill country of southeastern Ohio.  The original rock surface was worked upon by the chemical and mechanical agencies of weathering, and eroded by the action of water courses until the topography became a succession of ridges and valleys, in many places roughly picturesque, and elsewhere rolling off in waves from one horizon to another.  Geologically the rocks at the surface were those laid down in the Permian period, consisting of the Dunkard shales, sandstone and coal formations.  In the western part of the county the Monongahela formations of the Pennsylvanian period outcrop.  Coal was found in all portions of the county and approximately two thirds of the county's area is embraced in the Belmont coal field, producing the superior Pittsburgh or No. 8 coal.  The county, particularly the western half, is rich in the mineral resources of oil and gas, and this has been one of the leading petroleum producing counties in the State.
     On the eastern side of the county the drainage is directly into the Ohio through Sunfish creek and Opossum creek and other smaller streams.  Waters that fall on the northwest corner of the county find their way into Duck creek and reach the Ohio near Marietta.  The southern and southwestern parts of the county are drained into the various tributaries of the Little Muskingum River.

     First settlements:  Monroe County was off of the main routes of migration.  Pioneers who reache3d the Ohio in the vicinity of Wheeling traveled by Zane's Trace after 1796.  Those who embarked their goods on boats at Wheeling or at Pittsburgh seldom stopped short of Marietta.  In the Virginia country opposite Monroe County few settlements were made until after 1800.  Since the lands in Monroe County were held at the same standard price of two dollars an acre as in other portions of the Seven Ranges, better selections could be found in Belmont and Jefferson counties than in the region subsequently blocked off as Monroe.  One family settled along the Ohio in the southeastern corner of the county in 1791, and three years later some other pioneers selected bottom lands, and before the end of the century there was a small group of settlers near the mouth of Sunfish creek.  Settlements in the interior scarcely began before 1805, when some parties located along the forks of the Little Muskingum and also at the northern edge of the county at Beallsville.
     Two of the townships along the Ohio River are Switzerland, and Ohio, where in the spring of 1819 were planted some colonies of German-Swiss families, headed by their minister Jacob Tisher.  But most of the early settlers were from western Pennsylvania and western Virginia.
     The commissioners in 1815 selected a portion of the unbroken forest as the site of the county seat and the first task of the proprietors was to clear a street through the trees.  Woodsfield had only eleven householders by 1818 and two years later the town consisted of eighteen cabins.  In 1820, when the county's area was much larger than today, the total population was about 4,600, whereas the adjoining county of Belmont had more than 20,000.

     Transportation:  The Ohio River borders Monroe County for a distance of thirty miles and for over a century after the establishment of the county was the supreme artery of transportation.  There are several ferries but even yet no bridges from the Monroe County shore to the shores of West Virginia.  Only two improved roads lead from the banks of the Ohio inland toward Woodsfield, but a paved highway runs down the right bank of the Ohio and another paved highway leads into the county from the north to Woodsfield.
     Only one railroad was ever built in the county.  In 1875 was organized in Bellaire, Zanesville & Cincinnati, and it was built from Bellaire to Woodsfield as a narrow gauge.  In 1882 it was extended to Caldwell, but this portion of the road was long since abandoned.  After 1902 the line was operated under the name of Ohio River & Western, by the Pennsylvania system.  It was the last of Ohio's narrow gauge railroads.

     Economic interests:  Monroe County has only a small part of its original forest covering, and the greater part of the county's cultivation."  Its agriculture is typical of that of southeastern Ohio.  It was one of the early counties to cultivate tobacco on an extensive scale, and as late as 1923 its tobacco crop exceeded eight million pounds.  Sheep and wool growing were also early industries. 
     For thirty years or more the chief wealth of the county came from the mineral riches of petroleum.  The earliest drilling for oil in the county was in the district adjacent to Sistersville on the West Virginia side of the river.  The Sistersville field in 1893 was regarded as the greatest producing oil field in the world.  The first productive well in this district in Monroe County was put down in 1891.  In these early drillings it was difficult to keep the petroleum and salt brine separated.  The field opposite Sistersville was spread out to a considerable width along the Ohio and narrows as it extends inland into Perry township.  From this field development moved inland and by 1900 Graysville was one of the important centers of production and about the same time other wells were brought in at Lewisville and in two or three years the productive oil territory extended from the villages of Beallsville and Jerusalem on the northern edge of the county6 through Woodsfield to the southwest corner of the county.  East of Woodsfield were several small areas more distinctively gas than oil producing.  Here as elsewhere the oil and gas resources are subject to the law of diminishing returns.

     Population:  1820, 4,645; 1830, 8,768; 1840, 18,524; 1850, 28,351; 1860, 25,741; 1870, 25,779; 1880, 26, 496; 1890, 25,175; 1900, 27, 031; 1910, 24,244; 1920, 20,660; 1930, 18426.  After the county was reduced to its present boundaries the population was almost stationary, reaching a maximum in 1900, and since then gradually declining so that in 1930 there were more than 7,000 fewer people living in the county than in 1860.

     Villages:  The county has nine villages, the largest of them being Woodsfield, the county seat.  In 1900 Woodsfield's population was 1,801; in 1910, 2,502; in 1920, 2,394; and in 1930, 2,317.
     The other villages with population in 1930 were Stafford, 145; Jerusalem, 168; Miltonsburg, 69; Antioch, 138; Clarington, 506; Lewisville, 231; Beallsville, 479; Graysville, 192.
     Monroe County was the early seat of the Okey family in Ohio.  John W. Okey, one time Justice of the Supreme Court, was born there.

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