Ohio Biographies

Judge John Davisson

Some important history of early Lawrence County, and of the beginnings of Ironton, is illustrated by the career of Judge John Davisson, one of the most prominent pioneers of the Hanging Rock Iron Region, and a man whose memory is gratefully cherished by his many descendants in this section and whose work and influence should not pass unmentioned in any history of the locality.

Judge John Davisson was born in Maryland in 1777, came to Ohio and about 1801 settled on a tract of land beginning with the south bank of Storms Creek, following the Ohio River south to a point near where the D. T. & I. depot now stands, thence by a due east line out over the "Chronacher Hill" near the tunnel on Park Avenue. He was one of the pioneers who cleared away the timber and farmed the land on which the lower portion of Ironton now stands. He built his first log cabin about where the "old mill" used to stand, and set out fruit trees around it. Each year saw more land cleared and brought under cultivation until in 1812 he built a modern hewn log house, which stood about where Buckhorn Street crosses Fourth Street. Being one of the most prosperous farmers in this neighborhood, in 1822 he built the first brick house ever erected in this part of the country. For that purpose he brought brickmakers from Columbus, and they made and burned the brick on his own land and laid them in the walls. This was a two-story residence and marked a new era in home building for the surrounding neighborhood, and attracted no little attention. It stood just back of the present New Excelsior shoe factory, fronting the river. It was occupied by his widow and family after his death until 1848, when the farm was sold for a townsite for Ironton, and the first lots were sold in June, 1849. This old house stood as a landmark long after the town started, but was torn down in 1892 to make way for improvements.

Judge Davisson was one of the most influential men in the public life of the county, serving as squire for many years before Lawrence County was organized, in what was then Upper Township of Scioto County, taking its name from its position as the upper township in that county. Portsmouth then was the metropolis of this section. When Lawrence County was organized in 1817, Judge Davisson with two other gentlemen—Miller and Kerr—were made associate judges for the new county, Mr. Davisson being chosen presiding judge. He held court at Burlington, the new county seat, for a number of years. Between 1821 and 1826 he served three terms in the State Legislature, first at Chillicothe and last at Columbus. He made the trips to the capital on horseback, and stayed there all winter or throughout the session. The year he died—1831—he was to have stood for the state senatorship, but a malignant disease cut short his useful life in its prime. In early life Judge Davisson was a splendid marksman and a great wolf hunter.

His wife was Susanah Lambert, born in New Jersey just twenty days after the Declaration of Independence. She died in 1848. They reared a splendid family of twelve children, nine sons and three daughters, who in turn have founded some of the best families of this region and in western states.


From "A Standing History of the Hanging Rock Iron Region of Ohio" by Eugene B. Willard, Daniel W. Williams, George O. Newman and Charles B. Taylor.  Published by Lewis Publishing Company, 1916