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On This Date in History: Ironton post office established in 1850

In January of 1850, when Ironton was in its infancy, a post office for the new town was established at Third and Lawrence streets, with Caleb Briggs as the first postmaster.

In 1853, the post office was moved to Union Hall at Second and Lawrence streets. In 1859, it was located at Second and Railroad streets, and in 1900, it was operating in the old Goldcamp Building at Fourth and Center streets, across from the courthouse.

Several years later, it was moved to its own building at Fifth and Center streets, now the Ironton Board of Education building.

Born in 1810 in Massachusetts, Dr. Caleb Briggs began his career as a physician, but quickly took an interest in geology. He assisted Ohio state geologist Professor W. W. Mather in surveying Lawrence County, as well as other areas in the Hanging Rock Iron Region. In addition to being a stock holder in the Ohio Iron & Coal Company and the director of the Iron Railroad Company, he also contributed financially to start a school in Ironton.

In 1881, by way of a trust deed, he donated $25,000 for a public library in Ironton. Adjusted for inflation, that would be nearly $630,000 today. After Dr. Briggs’ death in 1884, his bequest was made public. Under the terms of the trust, no part of the fund should be used for a building until the fund had reached $80,000.

In 1892, more funding was raised to start a new library that included 700 new books and a couple thousand donated books. On March 17, 1893, the library, which was housed in the brand-new Memorial Hall, was opened to the public. The library was named the Briggs Library Institute. In its first year, the library had nearly 92,000 visitors.

In 1960, the present Briggs Lawrence County Public Library was constructed in Ironton at Fourth and Washington streets. In 1988, the library erected a flagpole in memory of Dr. Briggs.

Dr. Caleb Briggs passed away in 1884. His dream for a public library lives on. In addition to the Ironton branch, the library now has branches in South Point, Chesapeake, Proctorville and Willow Wood, and still serves thousands of patrons each week.

Nicole Cox is a trustee at the Lawrence County Museum and Historical Society and owner of LawrenceCountyOhio.com. She can be reached at nsratliff@gmail.com