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Director's Column

PLSJC Director Alan Hall writes a weekly column discussing library and community news, history, and other interesting subjects.

County histories

By Alan Hall, Director, PLSJ
Publish Date - Sunday, September 24, 2006


County histories are common to nearly every county in the Midwestern United States.


Most were published between 1880-1920 and are commonly thick books that were developed and published by subscription.


The payment by families to include their genealogy often defrayed the high costs of printing and publication of the book.


Jefferson County is blessed with an excellent county history whose title is "20th Century History of Steubenville and Jefferson County, Ohio and Representative Citizens."


The Richmond-Arnold Publishing Company published the book in 1910, authored by Joseph Beatty Doyle, 1849-1927.


In the library, we commonly call it "Doyle's history."


Our county is fortunate to also have the 1880 history of two counties, titled "History of Belmont and Jefferson Counties, Ohio, and incidentally historical collections pertaining to the early settlement of the adjacent portion of the Ohio Valley."


That history was authored by John Alexander Caldwell, and has a different scope from Doyle's history.


Researching the production of county histories, they usually "ran late" in publication as the workload exceeded the expectation.


People who had purchased them prior to actual publication worried that their investment was foolish when the product was late in being available.


After publication, complaints would be received regarding errors and omissions, or statements by the author, which others felt were inaccurate.


As time passed, these issues faded and the books have become the historical cornerstone of many communities.


Joseph B. Doyle was Editor of local newspapers for thirty-five years, and later turned his attention to the county history and other local publications.


He served as a member of the Library Board from 1910 until his death.


There will probably not be another round of county histories written, the cost today prohibits most ventures of these types.


Instead, smaller, more specific published works will develop local history and genealogy.


An example in our area is Mary Donaldson Sinclair's "Pioneer Days," published 22 years after her death.


In the early 1930s, she produced a series of articles about the early families of the area, which were published in the "Herald-Star."


Realizing the importance to local history, the articles were published in 1962 in one book, complete with an index.


Aside from the genealogy contained in her publication, the book provides interesting insights into life in our area during the first century.


The cost of candles to keep the courthouse lighted was $ 1.00


In 1802, bounties were paid for panthers and wolves, considered a menace in the county.


In 1880, a narrow-gauge railroad was planned to connect Richmond to the Ohio River, but it was never completed.


Early county settlers were from France, Germany, and the British Isles.


Brothers James and Joseph Sarratt were in business with the Sarratt Jewelry Store for many years.


Joseph Sarratt died in 1899, and his house at 4th and Slack Streets was purchased as the site for the new city library.


Local history is important to the local community.  Each publication is a piece of the whole history, and together they make the heritage for the community.