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How the village came to be

August 28, 2008

When Thomas Hutchins began surveying the Seven Ranges in 1785 he probably had no idea of the future cities, towns and villages that would later exist in this area of Ohio.

He certainly had no idea of the industries that would come later since his notes on the survey failed to mention the large banks of clay and the coal seams.

He did, however, recognize and mention the rich soil, the abundance of walnut, chestnut, oak and maple trees and the numerous streams suitable for grain mills.

In 1785, this was Indian country, and it was not until the late 1790s that it became relatively safe for the settlers to take up residence in Wintersville and surrounding communities.

Fur trappers and hunters were the first visitors, followed by the farmers who sought level parcels of ground near a stream to build their log cabins on and to plant their crops.

Historians note that Jacob Walker came from Brooke County, Va., in 1765 and made a tomahawk claim for land in what is now the north end of Steubenville.

Records state that he was the first white man to claim land in this area of the Northwest Territory and to attempt to farm and later settle here.

Before Thomas Hutchins and his crew of surveyors completed the task of mapping the Seven Ranges, the government began selling the land to the hardiest frontiersmen.

In 1785, the price of the most desirable land was set at $1 per acre with a minimum purchase of 640 acres. In 1795, the price was raised to $2 per acre for a minimum purchase of 640 acres. In 1800, the minimum purchase was reduced to 320 acres, but the price remained at $2 per acre.

Tax records in 1797 show that in the six townships of Jefferson County (Kirkwood, Knox, St. Clair, Warren, Wayne and York) there were 925 heads of families and 181 single people.

As more settlers arrived in eastern Ohio, a crude road was opened from Steubenville westward across Jefferson County, and, for the most part, it followed the bison and deer paths which were later used by the Indians.

It could hardly be called a road. It was more of a path, barely wide enough for a wagon in some areas, but it was a way for settlers to cross Jefferson County. The road passed through Sections 18 and 24 of Township 6 in Range 2 where, in 1831, John Winters would lay out and sell lots.

Cross Creek Township had been set off by authorization of and incorporated by the county commissioners on June 4, 1806. The first meeting in the new township was scheduled to take place at John McCollough's house located in Section 16.

At the same time, the commissioners ordered that the seventh township of the Second Range be set off and incorporated as Island Creek Township. The first meeting of Island Creek Township was held at the home of Daniel Viers.

In 1797, some of the first settlers living in the area that would become Cross Creek Township included the McElroys, Ekeys, Permars, Dunlevys, Whitecrafts and Mahons.

They were followed in 1798 by the Johnsons, Scotts, Whites, Weldays and Bickerstaffs.

At the same time, some of the first settlers to Island Creek Township were the Viers, Hout, Cable, Jackman, Ault, Alban, Shane, Lee and Palmer families.

Nathaniel McGrew built the first water mill in 1806, and George Mahon built the first hand-operated grain grinding mill in 1810. A saw mill, built by Charles Maxwell, was in operation in 1807, an all on Cross Creek.

Even as hard as survival was in Cross Creek Township, there were two other important things in the lives of these settlers - religion and education.

The first Episcopal Church was St. James, built in 1800. Long's M.E. Church was opened by 1807.

William Roberts' home was the site of the organization of the Wintersville M.E. Church in 1835. The Cross Creek Presbyterian Church was holding services in the members' homes as early as 1816; George Day donated land where their first church was built in 1837.

The first schoolhouse was built on the Stark farm in 1804. Bantam Ridge School, a little one-room cabin located about a quarter mile from the present school, opened in 1806.

(Charlie Green is a member of the Jefferson County Historical Association, 426 Franklin Ave., Steubenville.)

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