Ohio River at Manchester, Ohio, circa 1930s-1940s. Originally called Massie's Station, Manchester was the first permanent white settlement within the Virginia Military District, built along the Ohio River in 1790 and near the "Three Islands".
Massie's Station was the first permanent white settlement within the Virginia Military District, built along the Ohio River in 1790. It was built near three islands which Native Americans used to attack settlers traveling down the Ohio River. Numerous settlers lost their lives in these attacks. The community was named after Nathaniel Massie, a land speculator who helped survey the Virginia Military District. Massie offered nineteen men property if they would settle in the town. He used the settlement as a base for his survey work in the district. In 1791, Massie's Station became known as Manchester, Ohio. Massie named the community after Manchester, England. It was the fourth permanent settlement established in the Northwest Territory. By 1791, residents had completely encircled the community with a stockade to provide protection from Native Americans. This was the last town in what would become Ohio to be enclosed by fortifications. Manchester served as the county seat for Adams County from 1797 to 1803, when residents moved the local government to West Union.
Located on the Ohio River across from the slaveholding state of Kentucky, Manchester proved an important community along the Underground Railroad. African-American slaves hoping for freedom in the North commonly found aid among the town's residents during the first part of the nineteenth century. The town also prospered during this time period as a stop for steamboats as they traveled along the Ohio River between Portsmouth and Cincinnati. Most industries in the community were affiliated with agriculture. During the nineteenth century, a tobacco warehouse, pork-processing company, a buggy manufacturer, a mill, and a nursery operated in Manchester for varying lengths of time. By the 1840s, Manchester had become the largest town in Adams County.
In 1908, the Manchester Button Factory began operation. It was located in the town due to the abundance of mussels in the Ohio River, which could be used to manufacture the buttons. At its peak, the plant employed 125 men. In 1934, Alfred Holbrook College moved to the town from Lebanon, Ohio. It operated for only seven years. During the twentieth century, Manchester's prominence declined. Today, Manchester remains a relatively small community. In 1990, just over two thousand people resided in the town. The town's days as a prosperous river community have ended, however, Residents still hold to the past. Until recently, Manchester hosted the "Kinfolk's Landing Days," a festival that celebrated the town's heyday as an important stop on the Ohio River. The Kinfolk's Landing Days festival was recently replaced by the Manchester River Days festival.