Washington County, Ohio, is among 30 counties across the U.S. that were named for George Washington, Revolutionary War general and the nation’s first president.
“That could be a problem and given this age of the Internet I’m surprised there’s not more confusion, but in all the time I’ve been here my office has maybe received a handful of emails that had to be redirected to another Washington County,” said county auditor Bill McFarland.
County recorder Tracey Wright said the name can also create confusion with similarly-named places within the state.
“People seem to have a lot of confusion between Washington County and the town of Washington Courthouse, Ohio,” she said. “We often receive mail that has to be sent back because it was for Washington Courthouse.”
Reading from “Ohio Lands, A Short History,” by former Ohio Auditor Thomas Ferguson, McFarland said at the time Washington County was formed, George Washington would have been serving as president of the U.S. Constitutional Convention of 1787-88.
According to online encyclopedia Ohio History Central, Washington County was the first of 88 counties to be created in what would eventually become the state of Ohio, and Washington County originally covered nearly half of the state as it exists today.
Washington’s name also graces a community across the Ohio River, Washington, W.Va., according to local history buff and Wood County Administrator Marty Seufer.
“I’m amazed at the number of people who don’t realize how often George Washington came through this area,” he said.
Washington had just completed his term as the nation’s first president when Wood County, W.Va.— then part of Virgina— was created.
“The county was named for James Wood, governor of Virginia from 1796 to 1799,” Seufer said. “At that time Parkersburg (the county seat) was known as Newport.”
One curiosity about James Wood is that there seems to have been no portrait ever made of the governor.
“Nobody can find a picture of Wood,” Seufer said. “We’ve looked high and low, contacted museums, libraries and even the statehouse, but no one has a portrait of him.”
According to information from the National Governors Association, Wood was elected to the Virginia House of Burgesses in 1775, served as a member of the Virginia Constitutional Convention in 1776 and was elected to the Virginia Council in 1784 to succeed John Marshall.
Wood was then elected by the state legislature to serve as governor for three one-year terms. He was an active member of the Virginia Society for Promoting the Abolition of Slavery and served as its vice president in 1797 and its president in 1801.
To this day it’s still not clear who was Noble County, Ohio’s namesake.
“There are two thoughts about that,” said Joy Flood, manager of the Noble County Historic Jail Museum and Noble County Information Center.
“This area was already called Noble Township in 1819 and was a subdivision of Morgan County,” she said. “Noble County was formed in 1851.”
Flood said John Noble, Sr., had moved into the area in 1811 from Lancaster, Pa., and had a homestead along the west fork of Duck Creek.
Noble and his family moved into a log cabin there a year later.
“It’s clear that the township was named for him,” Flood said. “But whether Noble County was also named for John Noble is not known.”
She said Warren Noble was chairman of new counties in the Ohio General Assembly when the petition was submitted to form Noble County.
“He always felt the county was named for him,” Flood said. “And it appears the county officials may have allowed him to believe that in order to gain some support in the state legislature from Warren Noble.”
Athens and Morgan Counties
Athens County takes its name from Athens, Greece, according to John Cunningham, a volunteer with the Athens County Historical Society and Museum.
“Athens, Greece was a classical center of education and culture,” he said, noting that the land in Athens County, Ohio, was also originally dedicated for a center of education when the county was formed in 1805. Ohio University was established there in 1804.
Athens County’s neighbor, Morgan County, was named in honor of Daniel Morgan, a leader of the American Revolution.
Morgan served with the colonial forces during the French and Indian War and Revolutionary War. In 1780 he became brigadier general in the Continental Army. He also served in the 5th U.S. Congress from 1797 to 1799.
Monroe County, located along the Ohio River north of Washington County, was named in honor of James Monroe, the nation’s fifth president, and the last of the nation’s founding fathers to become president.
The Ohio legislature formed Monroe County on Jan. 29, 1813, from parts of Washington, Guernsey and Belmont counties.
Settlers had established the county’s first permanent community, now known as Fly, in 1791 and in 1804 a ferry began crossing the Ohio River from there to Sistersville, Va. (now West Virginia).
The county was originally settled by German and Swiss immigrants who later gave it the nickname, “Switzerland of Ohio” due to the county’s rugged, hilly terrain.