MARTINS FERRY, whose beginnings are linked to Ohio's earliest history, has continued in modern times to be a pioneer in several areas.
The first sale of land for the Northwest Territory was in September of 1787 in New York City, and Revolutionary War veteran Absalom Martin purchased some land in the area which now bears his family name.
Prior to Martin's arrival that year, a community known as Hoglinstown or Mercerstown existed, and some consider it as the first organized and unauthorized settlement in Ohio while Marietta is the first legal organized settlement in the state.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Martins Ferry was a pioneer in several programs which later spread to the county and the area.
Included were public housing, senior citizens' programs and youth programs. The city also was the location for the first full-time Head Start facility in southeastern Ohio.
Although Martins Ferry's population has decreased in recent years, it still remains as Belmont County's largest city. Its industrial park includes companies geared to produce steel and fertilizer as well as involved in paving. The first crematory in the county also is another business in that area.
The newspaper business in Martins Ferry began in the late 1800s, and the city now is home for the main office of The Times Leader, which serves Belmont, Harrison, Jefferson and Monroe counties.
East Ohio Regional Hospital, which has been involved in expansion projects in recent years, is in the city.
Much of Martins Ferry's rich heritage is featured in the Sedgwick House Museum, which opened more than three decades ago.
The city's oldest landmark is Walnut Grove Cemetery, which includes the graves of Absalom Martin and his descendants as well as many members of the Zane family, which is noted in frontier history.
A statue of Betty Zane, whose famous dash for gunpowder saved Fort Henry (Wheeling) during the Revolutionary War, stands at the entrance of the cemetery, which also includes her grave as well as that of her brother, Ebenezer, who was involved in the settlement of three cities. He also carved Zane's Trace from Wheeling to Limestone, Ky. (now Maysville) to help in opening the territory to settlers.
Martins Ferry also is famed for its athletic tradition, and its natives include Lou "the Toe" Groza, Belmont County's only professional Football Hall of Famer, and Fred Bruney, who has been involved in coaching with several NFL teams including the world champion New York Giants.
Several schools, both public and private, are located in the city, and efforts are under way for the proposed construction of new buildings.
An annual celebration in the city is Betty Zane Frontier Days, which began in 1967.
Another attention-getting activity is the Martins Ferry Area Chamber of Commerce All American Soap Box Derby, marks its 10th anniversary this year.
Quick facts about Martin Ferry
Median Age: 41.4
Housing units: 3,680
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