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Online History of Nelsonville, Ohio

Early History

Early settlers of the Ohio valley sought help from the colonial government in Williamsburg, Virginia to help their militia protect them from the Indians and make the land safe for settlement. In the summer of 1774 the royal governor of Virginia, John Murray, fourth earl of Dunmore, made plans to lead an army into the western territory. About 1200 men led by Lord Dunmore went to Pittsburgh and came down the Ohio River and landed at the confluence of the Ohio and Hocking Rivers. Here he built a crude stockade named Fort Gower for shelter and to store provisions. From here Dunmore followed the Hocking river west on their way to the Indian towns above the Scioto River. On their return trip Dunmore's troops stopped at various points along his route, one of which was a site near the west city limits of Nelsonville, Ohio. The site has been marked by a monument erected by the Daughtors of the American Revolution This monument was constructed using stones that were used as weights in the operation of a draw bridge at the Harper Street canal crossing.

The first recorded structure was a log cabin constructed in 1810. This log cabin was erected between West Washington and West Columbus streets and was probably built by hunters. The first permanent settlers were the families of traders named Johnson and Hulbert.

In August of 1814 Daniel Nelson and his wife Sarah Smith Nelson of Shrewsbury, Massachusetts bought about 200 acres of land in what is now the City of Nelsonville, Ohio. In June of 1818 he laid out 57 town lots 82.5 by 132 feet. Lot number one was located immediately west of the current American Legion building and with lots continuing to the Public Square. In 1823 Mr. Nelson also gave a lot for a school, a lot for a cemetary and also a lot in the center for the public square. The first streets were Columbus and Mulberry. Mulberry was later renamed as Washington street. By 1821 there were seven houses in the Nelsonville area.


Monument on old Central School lot honoring Daniel Nelson

The Nelsons were the parents of 12 children born between the years 1809 to 1832. Two of the children died in infancy, one of which died in 1814 enroute from Massachusetts to Ohio and was buried in Marietta, Ohio. The following are the names of the 10 children of Daniel and Sarah Nelson who survived and married in Athens County. Elizabeth Nelson married J. R. Howe, Sarah Nelson married Nathan Woodard, Mary Nelson married Lewis Steenrod, Eleanor Nelson married Ichabod Woodard, Daniel Nelson married Catherine Comstock, Aurilla Nelson married Cornelius Steenrod, Alexander Ward Nelson married Alpha Steenrod, Lucy Nelson married Judge Jacob C. Frost, Melissa Nelson married Judge Rudolph DeSteiguer and John S. Nelson married Ehilena Hamilton.

The first flour mill was built by Josiah Coe in 1816 which later became the Robbins Mill. About 1820 Thomas Thompson opened a tavern. James Knight opened the first store in 1822. The first tannery was opened by Samual Robbins in 1825.

In 1818 George Cortauld purchased what is now the east end of Nelsonville known as the Fourth Ward. This area was known as Englishtown and had the first post office in the city. After the sudden death of Mr. Cortauld the post office was moved to Nelsonville proper and Daniel Nelson was named postmaster in 1825.

Daniel Nelson built a home in 1820 on the lot which was the site of the former Hoodlet's store and is now occupied by the First National Bank. According to the publication, 125th Anniversary of Nelsonville, Ohio, published in 1963, the Nelson double-log house was moved from its original location around the corner to Columbus Street, and at that time it became a schoolhouse. In 1871 it was moved to Fayette Street where it reverted to a private dwelling. In 1902 it was moved again to an adjacent lot. During this move 10 to 12 feet were removed from the middle of the double log home. This historic building is still standing at 87-89 Fayette Street.

The Dew House Hotel was built by Thomas Dew in 1830. Mr. Dew had migrated from Maryland in 1819. The original building was a two story brick structure. The basement housed a tavern with steps leading to it from Columbus Street. James Dew, known as Senator Dew, aquired the hotel in 1876 and added the third story and later the porch. Teddy Roosevelt spoke in Nelsonville from the porch of the Dew House during his presidential campaign in 1912.

Cables Store, one of the oldest in Nelsonville, was founded in 1849. The first bank in Nelsonville was the Merchants and Miners Bank founded in 1873. The Masonic Lodge came in 1846.

The first telephone line in Nelsonville was from the Dew Hotel to the William Poston livery stable. The first brick plant was opened in 1871 by Thaddeus Longstreet in the Parkdale Addition. The first newspaper was the Miners Journal started in 1861.

Nelsonville was incorporated in 1838 with Charles Cable as its first mayor. The Central Elementary School was built in 1865 and razed in 1960. The East Elementary School was built in 1874 and razed in 1959. The West Elementary School was built in 1891 and razed in 1971. The Jr. High School was built in 1907. The Jr. High School and the Nelsonville High School still stand on Fayette Street just a few blocks from the Nelsonville Public Square.
Larger View
Historic Central Elementary School Photograph
submitted by Bernard and Roberta Carter

George W. Stuart built the Opera House in 1879. Nelsonville added street lights in 1888, the waterworks and sewer in 1894, telephone in 1895, gas in 1897 and the first paved street in 1898. The Public Square was paved in 1903. Mail delivery started in 1913.

Morgan's Raiders visited Nelsonville during the Civil War. An attack on Nelsonville took place on m Morgan's route through the area.


Historical Photograph Links

Hocking River Flood of Nelsonville, Ohio 1873
Teddy Roosevelt in Nelsonville 1912
Nelsonville Athens Electric Railway 1920s


Bibliography.

Elizabeth Grover Beatty and Marjorie S. Stone. GETTING TO KNOW Athens County. The Stone House. 1994.

Mary A. Davis and Virginia W. May. Nelsonville in Pictures 1938-1988. Author's Library. 1988.

Bob Vore and Bill Lawson. Nelsonville Nostalgia. Author's Library. 1973.

Ivan M. Tribe. Little Cities of Black Diamonds. Athens County Historical Society & Museum. 1988.

Remarks by Rev. William A. Mechem. Oct. 15, 1988 Sesquintennial Celebration on The Square. 1988.


This work is being compiled by Don Carter and is a work-in-progress.

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Last updated March 23, 2012.