Monroe County, Ohio has become known as the Switzerland of Ohio which is actually a school district covering all of Monroe County and parts of Belmont and Noble County. That name originally became associated with the area because of the large number of Swiss and German immigrants coming here during the early settlement years. Although most of the land was poor for farming, these immigrants from the old country knew how to grow crops in poor soil conditions.
Knowlton Covered Bridge, crossing the Little Muskingum River
Monroe County is also known for its scenic highways that cross over it. SR 7 and SR 26 are designated National Scenic Byways. Two other state routes (SR 78 and SR26) are also interesting roads. Monroe County is also known for its many covered bridges that still exist throughout the county. It is also known for its many quilt barns.
Monroe County is located in the extreme southeastern Ohio along the Ohio River. Monroe County is about halfway between Wheeling and Marietta. The Ohio legislature created the county in 1813, just 10 years after the state was formed. The county was named for U.S. secretary of State James Monroe who had only recently been governor of Virginia, the state from where many of the residents of the new county had come from. It would be three years later that James Monroe would become the 5th United States President.
Monroe County Courthouse, Woodsfield, Ohio
The county seat of Monroe County is Woodsfield, and was part of what was known as the Seven Ranges which divided up the land into grids.
After the Revolutionary War the newly formed United States didn't have any money to pay the past due wages for the military that fought the war. Instead, they were given the promise of land along the new frontier, land that although claimed by the United States as a spoil of the war with England, it did not actually have control over. American Indians were alive and well in Ohio and didn't like the new influx of settlers trying to lay claim to their hunting and fishing grounds. They took this as an act of war and responded as such and the early settlers were enemy combatants.
This meant that land in the Seven Ranges was extremely dangerous for any settler to try and claim a piece of land that according to the federal government was due them for services rendered. Instead of taking up the governments good wishes, many of these military men decided it would be wiser to sell their land for whatever they could get for it instead of risking their family's lives. Because the land was extremely hilly and wasn't well suited for farming, that the land remained unsettled for a much longer period of time. It wasn't until after the War of 1812 that families finally began laying claims on this land despite its unsuitability for anything but small scale farming, and logging. In the coming years, the residents of the area would find other resources that would be even more valuable than corn.
The Seven Ranges
The Seven Ranges referred to the first public land survey of what would become eastern Ohio. Imagine vertical lines being drawn on a flat map of the area creating 7 equal distant columns. Each of these columns were known as Ranges with Range 1 starting along the western Pennsylvania boundary. Each range is 42 miles wide with the extreme boundary, or the "base line" of this section was where the Pennsylvania border intersected the Ohio River.
The Ranges were then further divided into squares and each square was further divided into
townships that were 6 x 6 miles square. Each township was further divided into 36 sections with each section being 640 acres.
The map at right shows the Seven Ranges. Click on the map to see all of Ohio's various survey sections that helps explain the diversity of the state during its formation.
The Dark Hills of Old Monroe
Oil became a prosperous commodity for many of Monroe County farmers in the late 1800s. For those farmers living on some of the more viable ridges where oil had been discovered, they suddenly became very wealthy. For those not so lucky still found their fortunes increase as they became oil riggers working on the multiple oil wells being drilled throughout the county.
While the oil business is no longer quite as visible as it once was across Monroe County, it is still a highly profitable business for county landowners.