A Brief History of Guernsey County

By Attorney Russell Booth Jr.

December 12, 2013

The earliest known inhabitants of Guernsey County were some Delaware Indians, 20 warriors and about 30 women and children, living in a dozen houses on the south side of Will's Creek in the vicinity of the viaduct in Cambridge. The year was 1763. The Mingo Trail crossed the creek at that point. Thirty-three years later the Indians were gone but a group of white men from Wheeling, led by Ebenezer Zane, crossed Will's Creek at the same ford where the Indian town had been located. They were laying out a post road, later called Zane's Trace.

By 1798, a ferry and a tavern had been established where the road crossed the creek, and in 1802, another road was built from the Steubenville area, largely following the Mingo Trail, to the ferry crossing of Will's Creek. In 1806, Zaccheus Beatty and Jacob Gomber platted the town of Cambridge, just east of the crossing.

It is at this point in our history that the people who would give our county its name came on the scene. They were several families from the island of Guernsey, just off the coast of France. Arriving at about the same time as the lots in Cambridge were being sold, they decided to stay here. The next year more people came from the same place, in all amounting to 15 or 20 families. With so many Guernseyites in the area, when the county was formed in 1810, it was decided to give it the name of their island home and we became Guernsey County. Since Cambridge was at the intersection of the two major roads coming from the east, it became the county seat.

In 1828 the National Road was constructed through Guernsey County. It was, by far, the finest road in the country, and many thousands of people, and animals, used it every day. Several of the stone bridges of the National Road are still in use.

Then, in 1854 the railroad came to Guernsey County. It would later be called the Baltimore & Ohio line. In 1873 another railroad, eventually called the Pennsylvania line, was established, thus giving the county excellent rail service in all directions. This happened just as coal was being successfully mined in the southern part of the county, and mining soon became our principle industry (outside of farming, of course). Many hundreds of immigrants from central Europe moved here to work in the coal mines.

Our most exciting days would have been in July of 1863, when the Civil War came to Guernsey County. About 600 Confederate cavalrymen under the command of General John H. Morgan entered the county at Cumberland, and were here for the next 30 hours, passing through Pleasant City, Buffalo, Senecaville, Lore City, Old Washington, Winterset, Antrim, Londonderry, and Smyrna. At Old Washington, there was a skirmish with pursuing Union cavalrymen, and three Confederates were killed. There is an appropriate monument at their grave site in the Old Washington cemetery.

In the early and middle 1900s, pottery and glass-making flourished in the county. Later the plastics and electronics industries came to the area, but with the construction of two interstate highways through the county, transportation still plays an important part in our story, just as it did over 200 years ago in the days of the Mingo Trail and Zane's Trace.

Keywords: history
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