- Amish Country
The town is built on two basic plateaus situated between a hill and the Ohio River. The lower of the plateaus, along the river, is dominated by a large industrial park, the Martins Ferry Football Stadium and by Ohio Route 7, a four lane traffic artery that runs from north to south across eastern Ohio. The higher plateau, which is the larger of the two, is predominantly residential and commercial, and is home to most of the city's residents. It gradually rises to a rather steep hillside in the west that forms a natural wall.
Directly across the river lies the city of Wheeling, West Virginia, and just 11 miles to the east is the Pennsylvania state line. The city of Columbus, Ohio is 125 miles to the west, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is only 38 miles northeast of the city. On the southern end of town, Martins Ferry is directly connected to the village of Bridgeport.
known as Hoglinstown, Mercertown, Norristown, Jefferson, Martinsville, and Martin's Ferry (the apostrophe between "Martin" and "s" is no longer used).
The 44 year old Ebenezer Martin laid out the official plat that would be recorded with the state in early 1835. He wanted to name the town Martinsville, but when requesting postal service be established here, he was told the name Martinsville was already taken. Ebenezer opted for the town name to be Martin's Ferry. In time that apostrophe would be dropped.
His father, Captain Absalom Martin, had been given the right to lay out a town here back in 1788. It would take him seven years to layout the required number of lots and streets to form a town. Absalom Martin named his new community "Jefferson." Over the next 40 years the little town along the Ohio River would also be called Hoglinstown, Mercertown, Norristown, and Martinsville. It did not officially become a city until 1865
In 1835, Ebenezer Martin, the son of Absalom Martin, redesigned the town with a grid system of streets, much of which survives to this day. It was from this family that Martins Ferry took its name.
During the late 1800s the city developed as an important industrial center and an important railroad hub and river port. From here products were shipped all over the United States and beyond. Over the past 50 years, the town's population has decreased significantly as industries have closed or moved elsewhere. Today the city's population is less than half of what it once was, and work is relatively scarce.
Several notable celebrities were born in Martins Ferry, including James Arlington Wright, the Pulitzer Prize winning author and poet, and Cleveland Brown's Hall of Fame member Lou Groza.
Although Fort Henry was directly across the Ohio River from where Martins Ferry would later be established, it was an important factor in why Martins Ferry was established here.
The fort was built in June 1774, 2 years before the American Revolution began. At that time the biggest threat on the frontier was from American's crossing the Ohio River and taking Native American land that had by agreement between the British and Native American groups, would remain forever in their control. The fort was constructed to an immediate response by Native Americans who were attacking and killing settlers on the eastern side of the Ohio River, even though they had a treaty agreeing not to make such attacks.
The fort was built here because there was a British settlement here before the Revolutionary War and during an armed conflict between settlers and Native Americans the governor of Virginia sent a military force of 400 soldiers under the command of Colonel Crawford to help this settlement by improving their defenses with a new fort. Originally, the fort was named Fort Fincastle in honor of Lord Dunmore When war broke out between the American colonies and the British, the Americans renamed the fort to Fort Henry in honor of Patrick Henry, an outspoken Virginian orator.
The new fort provided protection during a turbulent period of time. Settlers arriving from the east, began putting down roots here. In time the hostilities in the Ohio Country eased in this area and some of the settlers moved across the river. One of those was Colonel Absalom Martin who set up ferry service between the fort and the western side of the Ohio River.
Before the 1800s, Ebenezer Zane laid out the town of Wheeling.