The Story of Portsmouth: "The Canal Comes to Portsmouth"

By Audrey Stratton | Local Happenings

Stories Inspired From "The Story of Portsmouth" by Elmer Sword

In our fourth edition of “Did You Know?” with local tales from our county’s history, we are heading back in time to “The Canal Comes to Portsmouth.”

In December of 1832 the opening ceremony of the canal was happening down in Portsmouth. The canal cost approximately five million dollars and it was 306 miles long. The building team consisted of 2,000 laborers and 3,000 teams.


The Canal Brings Business

The canal brought new business to the area. Produce was brought to Portsmouth through the canal where it was then transferred to the steamboats. This was the liveliest that Portsmouth had ever been.


A Flimsy Bridge

Around 1832 a private company had built the first bridge across the Scioto River. This bridge was kept as a toll bridge. After a few months of operation, the area saw a rise in the river and the bridge fell into the river. After the bridge had fallen, many people went back to using ferries for several years until someone came along and attempted building a new bridge.


The First Fire Department

In 1833 a group of volunteers came together to form the first fire department. This department consisted of one small hose engine that they called “Neptune”. This was organized after the first great fire in Portsmouth. This fire destroyed all property on the present day site of Union Mission at Front and Market Streets and extended over to several other buildings.


The Third Jail

In December of 1834 the third jail was completed with a cost of $3,500. It was a stone structure facing Sixth street and sitting on the southeast corner of the lot that the present day court house stands. This jail was used for 26 years until it was feasible to build another.


A New Courthouse

The new courthouse was completed in November of 1837 at a cost of around $13,000. It was a two story building that sat on the grounds of the current courthouse. This building was 68 feet long and 45 feet wide. It consisted of six polished stone columns with an octagon cupola (dome) on the roof. This courthouse was used for 90 years.


The First Public School

The first public school was built in 1839 at a cost of $6,600. Prior to this the schools were all privately owned. It was known as the Fourth street school because it sat at Fourth and Court street. This school was three stories high with six rooms and could accommodate 800 students. There were three grades and the boys and girls were taught separately in each grade. Anyone from age 4 through 21 could attend.


Join us next week as we head back in time to "The Civil War Period".

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