On December 21, 1815, the Ohio government authorized the creation of Lawrence County. Residents named the county in honor of James Lawrence, a hero of the War of 1812.
Lawrence County is located in southeastern Ohio. The county’s southern border lies along the Ohio River, and Lawrence County is Ohio’s southernmost county. It is predominantly rural, with three percent of the county’s 455 square miles consisting of urban areas. The county is also in the heart of Appalachia. The county seat is Ironton. With a population of 11,211 people, Ironton was the county’s largest community in 2000. Like many of Ohio’s more rural counties, Lawrence County experienced a decline in population—roughly one percent—between 1990 and 2000, reducing the total number of residents to 62,319 people. The county averages 137 people per square mile.
The largest employers in Lawrence County are government positions and retail businesses. Farming ranks third, with service industries a distant fourth. During the nineteenth century, county residents earned money especially through coal and iron mining. Former slave owner and eventual abolitionist John Means built the first iron blast furnace north of the Ohio River during the early 1820s. It was known as the Union Furnace and was located near Ironton. In 1999, the per capita income in the county was 17,691 dollars, with 20.1 percent of the people living in poverty. This is one of the highest poverty rates in Ohio.
Most voters in Lawrence County claim to be independents, yet in recent years, they have supported Republican Party candidates at the national level.