Steubenville is the county seat of Jefferson County, Ohio.
In 1786, the United States government built Fort Steuben within the area known as the Seven Ranges. The federal government had arranged for a survey of modern-day southeastern Ohio in order to prepare for the settlement of the Northwest Territory. Fort Steuben served two purposes. Troops stationed at the fort were supposed to keep illegal settlers from moving into Ohio, and surveyors used the fort as a base of operations. The fort was destroyed in a fire in 1790. The presence of the fort did not keep illegal settlers from moving into the Seven Ranges. After the fort was abandoned, some of these settlers established a town that became known as Steubenville. The increase in illegal settlers also led to conflicts with Native Americans in the region.
Bezaleel Wells founded Steubenville on the ruins of Fort Steuben in 1797. Most early settlers were squatters from Pennsylvania and Virginia. Wells selected Steubenville's location because it was centered in a valley with relatively fertile soil. Much of the Seven Ranges was hilly and had poor soil for productive farms. During the 1810s, Wells began to diversify his business interests. In 1815, he helped establish a woolen mill at Steubenville. The building was three stories high and approximately one hundred feet long. It employed approximately fifty men, thirty women, and forty children. The factory produced broadcloth, a dense woolen fabric with a lustrous finish. Broadcloth was expensive and many people could not afford to buy it. The factory closed during the Panic of 1819. Wells also opened the first bank in Steubenville.
By the late 1840s, Steubenville was a flourishing community of seven thousand people including a sizable number of African Americans. It had eleven churches, five woolen mills, two glass factories, a paper mill, and an iron foundry. Coal mined from the surrounding area powered most of these manufacturing establishments. There were also two private schools in Steubenville by 1846 -- one for boys and one for girls.
Beer brewing was a major industry in Steubenville for much of its history. A local resident established the first brewery in 1815. The Ohio River provided easy access to Wheeling and Pittsburgh, the brewers' major markets. By the 1870s, one brewery in Steubenville produced more than two thousand barrels of beer yearly. The brewers stored the beer while it aged in cellars dug more than one hundred feet into the sides of the hills surrounding Steubenville.
During the first decades of the 1900s, the brewers faced opposition from temperance organizations. In 1908, Jefferson County became a dry county. The county government prohibited the sale of alcohol within the county's borders. Local brewers continued to manufacture beer to sell in nearby counties that still permitted alcohol consumption. Many of these businesses suffered financially when Steubenville's eighty bars were forced to close. When the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution made manufacturing alcohol illegal nationwide in 1919, Steubenville's breweries closed for good.
Today, coal mining and steel production remain as two of Steubenville's most important businesses. Many of the community's 5,500 residents find employment with the Weirton Steel Company and the Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Company, as well as in the various coalmines operating in eastern Ohio and in nearby West Virginia. In recent years, Steubenville has experienced a declining population.
- Doyle, Joseph Beatty. Twentieth Century History of Steubenville and Jefferson County, Ohio and Representative Citizens. Evansville, IN: Unigraphic, 1976.
- Howe, Henry. Historical Collections of Ohio in Two Volumes. Vol. II. Cincinnati, OH: C.J. Krehbiel & Co., Printers and Binders, 1902.
- Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
- Ohio Writers' Project. The Ohio Guide. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1946.
- "City of Steubenville, Ohio." <a target="_blank" href="http://www.ci.steubenville.oh.us/">Http://www.ci.steubenville.oh.