From Ohio History Central
New Lexington is the county seat of Perry County. Residents named the town after Lexington, Massachusetts. Somerset originally was the county seat, but during the 1850s, a struggle ensued between Somerset residents and New Lexington residents over the seat of government’s location. By the outbreak of the American Civil War, residents agreed to move the county seat to New Lexington.
James Comley established New Lexington in 1817. The town grew slowly, having only 1,357 inhabitants in 1880. In 1886, residents were still in the process of completing the county courthouse. That same year, two newspaper offices and six churches served the community. A few manufacturing businesses existed in the town, with most of these firms providing services or products to farmers in the surrounding countryside. New Lexington’s largest employer was the Starr Manufacturing Company, with eighteen employees. This business manufactured feed grinders.
New Lexington continued to grow during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The period of greatest growth came in the 1880s and 1890s, when coal mining boomed in Perry County. With the demise of the coal industry, New Lexington and Perry County residents, in general, have struggled to find a replacement for this lucrative business. Some mining continues today, but not to the extent that it once did. Most New Lexington residents find employment in retail sales or in the health care industry. In 2000, New Lexington was Perry County’s largest community, with a population of 4,689 people.