On the banks of the mighty Ohio River is a picturesque little town known as Belpre, or “Belle Prairie”. The people that settled the “Belle Prairie” Belpre area were New England farmers who had served their country during the Revolutionary War. Many had served as officers, and most were well educated. Belpre, part of the Ohio Company land purchase, was surveyed and platted in the winter of 1788-89, and was the second organized American settlement in the Northwest Territory (the land north and west of the Ohio River, 1787 Ordinance). April 11, 1789 is the accepted date as cabins were first occupied that spring.
Education was very important to those first settlers. Bathsheba Rouse is credited as the first Woman School Teacher in the Northwest Territory, State of Ohio. She was employed by the community to teach their children and later was hired by the Ohio Company to teach in Farmers’ Castle Fort during the Indian uprisings (1791-1795).
Colonel Israel Putnam, son of General Israel Putnam, brought his share of books from the family library in Promfret, Connecticut on his second trip to the Ohio country in 1795. These books became the nucleus of the Putnam Family/Farmers Library, the first circulating library in the Northwest Territory, State of Ohio.
Captain Jonathan Stone and Griffin Greene developed the first Floating Mill, utilizing the Ohio River’s current to turn the millwheel, which was mounted between two canoe type boats. The Captain’s home still stands on Blennerhassett Avenue. Many first settlers’ names are preserved on special bricks in the patio of the Historical Society museum; generations of those families remain in this area.
Many settlers flowed over the rivers into Ohio’s first frontier, bringing their dreams for a better life. Harman and Margaret Blennerhassett, a wealthy aristocratic couple from Ireland, came to the area in 1798 to purchase an island and build a mansion. The site of Blennerhassett Island became nationally famous when Aaron Burr visited in 1805. Controversy clouded Burr’s mysterious expedition to the Southwest. The Blennerhassett mansion has been rebuilt and is a major tourist attraction. The street that runs parallel to the river facing the Island is named after the Blennerhassetts, and the view of the Island from Belpre is an important part of our river attraction.
The next 200 years brought increasing population and a timeline of historical events that reflected the development of the United States, Ohio and Belpre. The village of Belpre grew like other small communities- roads, larger homes, bridges, family businesses, schools and churches. Plantings and harvests, famines and floods, oil boom, steamboats, then railroads helped shape the character of the people. Through the trying times of the Civil War, the danger of the Underground Railroad, the great depression, and more wars, Belpre has endured.
Evolving from an agrarian society and truck farms into manufacturing and chemical industries, the principles of those first settlers remain. Tree lined streets throughout the city help frame charming older homes that testify to the history of Belpre and a community anyone would be proud to call home. Loyalty runs deep, and many young residents leave to pursue their education and their dreams, only to return home when it is time to raise their own children.
We welcome all visitors to our city!