The Story of Portsmouth: In the Beginning

By Audrey Stratton | Local Happenings

Story's inspired from "The Story of Portsmouth" by Elmer Sword.


This new blog series dives deep into the rich history that surrounds Portsmouth. From the beginning in 1799 to the Atomic Boom of 1952, this series will give you the history of our area that you may have never known.


So what mysterious history surrounds us? Follow along our “Did You Know” series every Monday!


Our information comes from Elmer Sword in his book, “The Story of Portsmouth”. Mr. Sword was born in Scioto County where he attended both Portsmouth and Clay schools.


He was a proud United States Air Force veteran. He served during the Korean conflict from 1951 to 1961.


Mr. Sword was married to the love of his life, Marilyn M Bayless, who was also a native of Portsmouth. Together, they have a beautiful son and daughter.


Mr. Sword dedicated this book to his wife and so that we all may understand a bit more about our county’s history.


In the beginning of Portsmouth’s history, there were recorded inhabitants back before Christopher Columbus discovered the New World in 1492. These inhabitants were called “Mound Builders”.


They are responsible for the mound located in Mound Park. This particular mound was in the form of a giant horseshoe and can still be seen on the west side of the park to this very day.


This particular set of mounds were known as The Citadel. It is believed that the large mounds were foundations of some sort of building and the smaller mounds were sentry boxes to prevent unwanted visitors.


Soon after the Mound Builders all dissipated, the Wyandot Indians came to claim the land. They named the (Scioto) river the “o-he-uh” river which gives us the name, Ohio. The Wyandots came to our land around 1650. Today, the tribe now lives in Oklahoma on a reservation.


When the Wyandots left, the Shawnee Indians displaced them. This was around 1745 and shortly after, they renamed the river Scioto. They also named the Ohio River “Kiskepila Sepe”, or Eagle River, because of the American Eagles that were often seen along the banks.


These Shawnee Indians were a little more hostile than the Wyandots. They were warriors and were determined to keep the “white man” from ever settling into this area. They fought many battles until one day, they were defeated.


They also now live on reservations out in Oklahoma.


Fast-forwarding to 1609, Ohio was once a part of the colony of Virginia. A charter issued by King James that extended the colony’s boundaries from the Atlantic ocean west to the Pacific ocean.


This included all of southern Ohio.


In 1769, a new county, Botetourt, was created. Botetourt included what is present day Scioto County. This remained a part of Virginia until March of 1784 when Virginia deeded the land to the government that was set up under the Articles of Confederation.


The future site of the city of Portsmouth became a part of Washington county in July of 1788. Portsmouth remained in Washington county until July 10, 1797 when Adams county was formed.


Portsmouth remained a part of Adams county until May 1, 1802 when Scioto County was founded.

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