On January 29, 1813, the Ohio government authorized the creation of Monroe County. Residents named the county in honor of James Monroe, the current United States Secretary of State and eventually the fourth president of the United States. The county used to be parts of Belmont, Guernsey, and Washington Counties.
Monroe County is located in eastern Ohio. The county’s eastern border lies along the Ohio River. It is predominantly rural, with less than one percent of the county’s 456 square miles consisting of urban areas. The county is also in the heart of Appalachia. The county seat is Woodsfield. With a population of 2,598 people, Woodsfield was the county’s largest community in 2000. Like many of Ohio’s more rural counties, Monroe County’s population has declined in recent years. Between 1990 and 2000, the county’s population declined by two percent, reducing the total number of residents to 15,180 people in 2000. The county averages thirty-three people per square mile, making it one of Ohio’s least populous counties.
Agriculture is the largest employer in Monroe County, with manufacturing a close second. No other occupation draws more than one thousand workers. During the nineteenth century, county residents earned money especially through oil and gas drilling and coal mining. In 1999, the per capita income in the county was 17,702 dollars, with 16.9 percent of the people living in poverty.
Most voters in Monroe County claim to be independents, yet in recent years, they have supported Democratic Party candidates by slim margins at the national level.
Frontiersman Lewis Wetzel ranks as one of the county’s more famous residents.