The past becomes more meaningful as you journey along the historic trails of Jefferson County in eastern Ohio. Begin with one of the earliest settlements, in Steubenville: Historic Fort Steuben. A visit takes you back over 200 years to a time when hot showers and microwaves were never imagined. One of only two fully reconstructed forts in the state, Historic Fort Steuben recreates life on the early Ohio frontier in the ten wooden buildings within its picket walls, in the adjacent First Federal Land Office (an original log structure from 1801), and in the exhibits and programs in the Visitor Center.
Built on its original site overlooking the Ohio River, the Fort has an active archaeology dig and displays depicting the process of excavating, uncovering and recording the artifacts. A visitor can learn about early military drill and discipline, the skills and tools used by the frontiersmen, the hardships of camp life, and the methods of surveying that were critical in the first great mapping of land for sale and settlement. A more domestic picture is captured in the Land Office where early land owners registered their deeds. Besides the Exhibit Hall and the Museum Shop, the Fort Steuben Visitor Center is also home to the Steubenville/Jefferson County Visitor Center and is a resource for information on the attractions, dining, shopping and events in the area. On Thursday evenings from May 21 to July 30, free concerts are held in the Berkman Amphitheater in Fort Steuben Park, drawing hundreds to hear live entertainment. Be sure to plan a trip around the annual festival, Ohio Valley Frontier Days June 6-7, 2015 when the Fort swarms with soldier, settler, surveyor and Native American reenactors who vividly bring the period to life. Music, games, dance, crafts and food add to the fun. Get more details at www.oldfortsteuben.com.
The past is also depicted in the larger than life Murals of Steubenville, 23 artful presentations of important as well as everyday events and people of the city’s history that are painted on buildings throughout the downtown. A self-guided tour can be obtained at the Visitor Center. One of the most photographed is an enormous mural of Steubenville’s native son, entertainer Dean Martin along with some of his Rat Pack buddies. Dean’s memory lives on in the annual Dean Martin Festival (June 18-20, 2015) through musical tributes and entertainment. It culminates on June 20th with the Steubenville Hometown Celebration in the downtown with a classic car show, fun and games for the kids, balloons, mini-train rides, Trolley rides down Historic North Fourth Street, tours of historic mansions and churches and an Oldies Concert in the Berkman Amphitheater.
Downtown Steubenville is a busy place but you can find green space and a walking trail in Beatty Park or sit along the Ohio River and watch the barges and boats float by. Information on other recreational opportunities can be found at the Visitor Center.
Want to take a ride in the country? It’s only a few minutes away down St. Rt. 7 along the Ohio River before you find rolling green hills and rural back roads. The Jefferson County Scenic Byway begins at Rayland and is a combination of a greenway, a recreation trail and an area of historic interest. The 15-mile route follows Ohio 150 from Rayland on the east to US 250 on the west. Of particular historic interest is the village of Mount Pleasant, heavily involved with the Underground Railroad and the anti-slavery activities in the 19th century. The village contains a National Historic District which includes the Friends (Quakers) Yearly Meeting House, built in 1814, and the Free Labor Store, which refused to sell products made by slave labor. An annual open house and garden tour is held there the first weekend in August.
After strolling the quaint streets of Mount Pleasant, you should be ready for a hearty meal at the nearby Farm Restaurant in Adena which features delicious food as well as charming décor. Or maybe you would like to stop by Black Sheep Vineyard to enjoy a glass of their hand-crafted wine in a cozy country setting.