Athens County Historical Society & Museum

Athens, Ohio


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Athens, the county seat of Athens County, Ohio, is located along the Hocking River in the southeastern part of Ohio. A historic college town, Athens is home to Ohio University. Athens is also a qualified Tree City USA as recognized by the National Arbor Day Foundation.

The Athens County Historical Society and Museum, a not-for-profit organization open to the public, works to collect, protect, exhibit, and educate the public about the history and heritage, culture and people, and the related and relevant artifacts of the Athens County area.  The ACHS&M provides an organizational structure for affiliations by groups with similar interests.

Nearly all items in the exhibits come from the organization’s own collection, which continues to grow. All are donated since it is the policy of the ACHS&M to buy no artifact. All of the exhibits, except for the King Midget exhibit, are hands-on and interactive in nature. School groups sign up for the Artifact Exploration lesson. The ACHS&M Collection currently represent over 40,000 objects -- much more than the 5,000 to 7,000 objects a historical society and museum its size usually has.

It's always fun for a museum docent to explain to people of the safety-and-electric-razor generations the necessity of the razor strop, as a straightedge razor is shown. Or to see a child's wide-eyed questioning when pointing to the chamber pot in the 19th century bedroom exhibit. "Why didn't they just go to the bathroom?"  It is hard for any of us to envision life unlike our own, and a visit to our museum is often a real awakening for some of the many students who come through each year.

The Museum also has a library of local genealogy and histories. The genealogy records, which have been, and are constantly being developed and made available, are considered among the best in the state.  It seems that the Athens County area was rather like a funnel, accepting pioneers from eastern states and after several years or generations sending them on west. Now researchers and family members have a place to come and find their history and loved ones burial place.

Athens History

Athens is located in what was once the eastern region of the two major Native American mound-building groups, the Adena culture from c. 1000 B.C. to A.D. 200 and the Ohio Hopewell tradition, c. 300 B.C. to A.D. 700.

By the middle of the eighteenth century, the Shawnee, an Algonquian tribe, were the primary tribe of Native Americans living in what would become Athens County. No settlement is shown in the Athens area during the time immediately prior to the founding of Athens, according to a 1794 map by Thomas Kitchin.

The first permanent European settlers arrived in Athens in 1797. In 1800, the town site was first surveyed and plotted, but it was not incorporated as a village until 1811. In the meantime, Ohio had become a state in 1803 and Ohio University was chartered in 1804, the first public institution of higher learning in the Northwest Territory.

Originally, large tracts of land in Athens and Alexander Townships were set aside through a contract between the Congress (under the Articles of Confederation) and the Ohio Company of Associates, a group of American Revolutionary War veterans. These lands were given to Ohio University by the Federal government. This was the first federal land grant for a university, pre-dating the Morrill Act by more than 70 years. At first, lands were mostly leased out, but the failure of many lessors to pay their rents resulted in most of the land being sold. The sale of these lands funded the growth of Ohio University.

Today, Ohio University is one of the largest institutions of higher learning in Ohio, with an enrollment of over 19,000 on the Athens campus and over 28,000 for all campuses.

Open Tue - Sat   12 to 4 pm

Athens County Historical Society and Museum
65 North Court Street
Athens, Ohio


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A Visit to the Athens Historical Society & Museum




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