The charming town of Marietta, Ohio.

8 Oldest Founded Towns To Visit In Ohio

Ohio, founded in 1816, is fondly called the "Buckeye State" after the Ohio Buckeye Trees. Many charming towns that stand as a testament to Ohio's rich history are sprinkled throughout the state. History lovers will love exploring the downtowns and historical districts of these towns that transport visitors back in time. The many museums in these towns serve as treasure troves for knowledge seekers. Outdoor lovers can also experience the unique offerings of these towns, where open-air archeological sites, trails, and hikes through historical sites are on offer. So, here is a list of nine such oldest towns in Ohio that are waiting to be explored!


The charming town of Marietta, Ohio.
The charming town of Marietta, Ohio. Editorial credit: Wendy van Overstreet /

Marietta stands as the oldest town in Ohio. Founded in 1788 by the Ohio Company of Associates. It was originally known as "Adelphia," meaning "Brotherhood," the town was later renamed "Marietta" after the then Queen of France, Marie Antoinette. Changing the town's name was done in honor of the efforts of France in giving America victory during the American Revolution. 

This historic town has a lot of significant sites in the State's history. One of the many historical landmarks is the Marietta Earthworks, an over 1500-year-old archaeological field created by people of the Hopewell Tradition. One of the prominent earthworks in this area is the Great Mound, around which the town's founders created the Mound Cemetery. The iconic annual Ohio River Sternwheel Festival, founded in 1976, features several Sternwheeler ships on the Ohio River. At the Ohio and Muskingum rivers around the town, visitors and residents can enjoy outdoor activities like boating, kayaking, bike riding, and lots more.


Downtown Gallipolis, Ohio.
Downtown Gallipolis, Ohio.

Gallipolis is the county seat of Gallia County. This town was first settled in 1790 by Europeans. The town is located along the Ohio River in the Appalachian region. It is the third-oldest European settlement in Ohio. In the central part of the city, Gallipolis City Park was originally settled by 18th-century French refugees. The city park now hosts many community events, like the "Gallipolis Light." There are three historical site markers: the Kerr Memorial Fountain, the Bandstand, and the Spirit of the American Doughboy. The Gallia County Hike and Bike Trail is an 8.5-mile trail passing through farmlands and ends at Haskin Memorial Park near the river. 


Ross County Courthouse in Chillicothe, Ohio.
Ross County Courthouse in Chillicothe, Ohio.

Chillicothe is between the Scioto River and Paint Creek. This town was incorporated in 1798. Locals describe the town's area as the foothills of the Appalachians. There are several historical sites to visit in the ancient, charming town. The Hopewell Culture National Historical Park is a historical park with earthworks and mounds made by the people of the Hopewell tradition dating as far back as 200 BC. The park has about five earthwork complexes, including the High Bank Works. The ancient Ohio Trail takes you on a path to discover the major earthworks in the State. Tour the Adena Mansion and Gardens home of Thomas Worthington, the sixth governor of Ohio.  


The Market Street Bridge in the Ohio Valley that connects the towns of Steubenville, Ohio and Wellsburg, West Virginia.
The Market Street Bridge in the Ohio Valley that connects the towns of Steubenville, Ohio and Wellsburg, West Virginia.

Steubenville is located along the Ohio River, a Jefferson County town founded in 1797. The town was once referred to as the "Beautiful City." It was named after Fort Steuben, which was named in honor of Baron Steuben, a Prussian military officer. This town has a lot of historic sites. 

One of the historic sites in Steubenville is Fort Steuben, an 18th-century fort overlooking the Ohio River. This Fort housed 150 men of the 1st American Regiment. The Fort was reconstructed, and the surrounding areas were turned into Fort Steuben Park, including the Veteran Memorial Fountain. Dimitrios Akis created an "Ohio Valley Steelworker" statue as a tribute to Ohio Valley Steelworkers. Nicknamed the "City of Murals," Downtown Steubenville has more than 25 Downtown murals. Make a stop at Steubenville Nutcracker Village while you are in town. Also, Downtown Steubenville has a statue in honor of President Abraham Lincoln's secretary of war, Edwin Stanton, who was born and raised in this town. 


Aerial view of Zanesville, Ohio.
Aerial view of Zanesville, Ohio.

At the Muskingum and Licking River Juncture is Zanesville, a town and a county seat of Muskingum County. This town was founded and named after Ebenezer Zane in 1799. At the confluence of the Licking River and Muskingum River is the Y-bridge. It is one of the rarest bridges in the country. Two of the National Historic Civil Engineering Landmarks, the Muskingum River Canal and the Muskingum River Parkway, are found in this historic town. The Muskingum County Courthouse has a bell made by the same company that made the Liberty Bell. Enjoy the beautiful outdoor arts, the most prominent being the "The Panorama of Downtown."


Lancaster, Ohio.
Rock Mill Park containing the historic Rock Hill gristmill built in 1824 and the Rock Mill Covered Bridge in Lancaster, Ohio.

Lancaster, founded in 1800, is located close to the Hocking River. It hosts the Fairfield County Fair, a weeklong county fair in Ohio where you can enjoy activities like horse riding, concerts, food, etc. Step into the 1830s on your visit to the Georgian Museum, a house built for the McCracken Family in 1832. The house where William Sherman, a Lancaster General, and his brother were born has been converted into a museum. The museum exhibits artifacts related to General Sherman's life and the Civil War. Downtown Lancaster is a beauty to behold. Take a tour of its shops and historic sites. 


Market Street Plaza in the Boneyfiddle Commercial District in Portsmouth, Ohio.
Market Street Plaza in the Boneyfiddle Commercial District in Portsmouth, Ohio. Image credit: Nyttend, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Located in Southern Ohio is the quaint town of Portsmouth that sits at the confluence of the Ohio, Scioto and little Scioto Rivers. Over the years, Portsmouth has lost a lot of historical places due to lack of proper maintenance and fire but there are so many historical spots still standing where you can visit and learn about the town's history. Visit the Spartans Stadium (originally opened as the original home of the Portsmouth Spartans) and the Boneyfiddle Historic District (settled by the German immigrants in the 19th century). Before leaving this old town be sure to hang a star at the floodwall, erected to protect the town from floods.


Ohio University building in Athens, Ohio.
Ohio University building in Athens, Ohio.

Athens is Home to Ohio University. It is a small university town located along the Hocking River within the Appalachians. It is surrounded by many hills. Oftentimes, the Ohio University has been referred to as the most haunted institution. During Halloween, this town hosts the annual "Halloween Block Party" , a massive party covered by broadcast channels. This party, as well as other scary statistics, has earned Athens the Reputation as one of the most terrifying places in the world.

Away from the scary, there are a lot of activities tourists can do to have the best of their experience in Athens, from visiting the Ohio Valley Museum of Discovery to hiking along the several miles of trail path on the Athens Trail network. Crown your adventure at the Athens Skate Park, the second-largest concrete skatepark in Ohio.

Ohio, a state where Western life meets history and arts, is worth visiting. The State played a significant role in the American Revolution, leaving the State swamped with several historic sites. From Marietta Earthworks to Fort Steuben, there is so much to see in the Buckeye State. Explore these fun places with your friends and family to get the best of Ohio. 

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