By Barbara Shrodes
2001 marks Belmont County’s 200th birthday. The county is planning on celebrating its bicentennial with events and festivities in many local communities. Events will include live music, dancing, car shows, auctions, ice cream socials, parades, and basketball tournaments. Martins Ferry will center its celebration around Betty Zane Days August 7 - 11. The Martins Ferry Area Historical Society and the Lions Club will sponsor a cemetery walk at Walnut Grove Cemetery August 12th.
Even before Ohio became a state, Belmont County had a county seat, a court house, a jail, and a pound for stray animals.
Belmont County was organized November 7, 1801, the tenth county of the Northwest Territory, and the last county to be organized before Ohio was admitted into the Union. Originally, its area included the present territory of Monroe, Noble and part of Guernsey counties. Its name is derived from the French words Belle and Monte meaning “Beautiful Mountain”, an appropriate name.
At first Belmont County consisted of four townships- Pultney, Kirkwood, and York along the Ohio River, and Salem Township that covered the entire western half. The first county seat was awarded to Pultney, a small town south of Bellaire, although Jefferson, now Martins Ferry vied for the honor. St. Clairsville became the center of county government in 1803.
Along with its beautiful and productive farms, Belmont County has had many industries. The first blast furnace in the county was built by Cyrus and Moses Mendenhall and George K. Jenkins near Martins Ferry. The first foundry, “The Ohio Valley Agricultural Works” made threshing machines. Bellaire’s first glass factory was built in 1861, and in the 1870’s glass was the city’s leading industry. The “Centerville Whip” was known far and wide by drovers.The Watt Car and Wheel Company in Barnesville made stoves, grates, and coal car wheels. Throughout the county there were coal mines, mills, and factories.
The population of Belmont County in 1800 was 600 people. By 1810, it had increased to 11,097.
Some early settlers of Belmont County were: Captain Absalom Martin, Martins Ferry; Captain Robert Kirkwood, Kirkwood; Colonel David Lockwood, Dilles Bottom; Jacob Davis, Bellaire; David Newell, St. Clairsville; and James Barnes, Barnesville.