Ironton is the county seat of Lawrence County, Ohio. The Ohio Iron and Coal Company established the town for its workers in 1848. An abundance of coal and iron ore exist in the region, with the first iron being smelted in 1815. Before Ironton became the county seat in 1852, Burlington served as Lawrence County’s seat of government.
Ironton grew quickly as coal and iron ore miners flocked to the region. Located along the Ohio River and two railroad lines, the town also became a trade center. In 1880, 8,857 resided in Ironton, and ten years later, 10,939 people inhabited the town. In 1886, Ironton contained four newspaper offices, sixteen churches, and at least three banks. Numerous businesses existed in the town, most of which were affiliated with the iron and coal industries. Ironton’s largest employer was the Kelly Nail and Iron Company with 375 employees in 1886. The Lawrence Iron and Steel Company was the town’s second largest firm, with three hundred employees.
During the twentieth century, the iron and coal industry in southern Ohio stagnated, as miners had excavated much of the area’s natural resources. In 2000, Ironton’s population was just 11,211 people, virtually the same as it was in 1890. Ironton was Lawrence County’s largest community in 2000. In recent years, Ironton leaders have actively sought new businesses to move to their community.