Athens is located just over an hour from Columbus, two from Cincinnati, and three from Pittsburgh. Athens County is a popular destination spot for avid outdoor enthusiasts, art lovers, history buffs and anyone looking to escape the fast pace of the city.
Members of the Ohio Company of Associates sent the first settlers into the area in 1797. At first, the newcomers cleared and farmed their land and made no attempt to build a town. After more settlers arrived in 1798, local residents established Athens and named it after Athens, Greece because it was historically a cultural center of the Greeks.
According to federal government's requirements, the Ohio Company was required to establish an institution of higher education within its land grant. The company leaders chose an area about 40 miles west of Marietta, where they had their offices, on a strip of land along the Hockhocking River (now Hocking River) and what would later become known as Athens. The new school was initially going to be called American Western University, but that name was dropped in favor of Ohio University in 1804 when the newly formed Ohio legislature approved the schools charter making it the first university in the Northwest Territory and Ohio.
The University opened in 1808 with one building, 3 students, and 1 professor, Jacob Lindley. One of the first two graduates of the University, Thomas Ewing, later became a United States Senator and distinguished himself as cabinet member or advisor to four presidents.
Because of the area's isolated location during the early days, funding was difficult and books were in short supply. Local residents hit upon the idea of trading furs for books and when several of the locals (Sam Brown and Manasseh Cutler) were going to make a trip back to Boston, they loaded up on pelts to sell. Their load consisted of bear, wolf and raccoon skins hanging from their saddles. The pair sold the furs to John Jacob Astor and were able to acquire 51 books for the community's new library. Although the library was called the Western Library Association and was located in Amesville, for years everyone called it The Coon Skin Library. The Coonskin Library became one of the state's first circulating libraries in Ohio.
Originally, Ohio University offered more of a high school course of study than a full college education. The main reason for this was the lack of a skilled faculty. The instructors at Ohio University generally had a basic education in a wide variety of topics. In 1822, Ohio University began to offer a traditional college program.
Like many of the surrounding communities in the mid 1800s, coal was a prime industry in the area. Besides coal, agriculture and the arts have played a role in Athens and Athens County. That tradition lives on today with plenty of locations to browse over the work of present day craftsmen and farmers.
Athens Farmers Market
The market is open from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm every Saturday year-round and from 10:00 am to 1:00 pm Wednesdays April through November. Located on East State Street in Athens. Called one of the nation's best markets by Audubon Magazine, the Athens Farmers Market is a must-see for any lover of food and culture. Find fresh and local flowers, fruit, vegetables, meats, baked goods, and more. Listen to live music and visit with friends at the Farmers Market Cafe which offers hot coffee and freshly prepared seasonal cuisine.
From SR 33, take the East State Street exit, turn just past the Hampton Inn, the Farmers Market will be in front of University Mall.
Athens County Historical Society & Museum
The Athens County Historical Society & Museum works to collect, preserve, and display items of historical nature and to promote the study, interpretation, and understanding of the history of Athens County and its people, and to provide an organizational structure for affiliations by groups with similar interests.