Briggs Library brings local history to life

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, July 10, 2024

By Terry L. Hapney, Jr.
The Ironton Tribune

The one-stop collection of all things Lawrence County history is in the local history and genealogy room at the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library.
Lori Shafer, a librarian at Briggs, said the library has a variety of resources about Lawrence County, including birth and death records dating back to 1868. The library’s newspaper archives date back to 1850.
Shafer said the library offers community members a variety of historical books on sports and sporting teams in the local area. It even has records on some of the cemeteries in the county, including documentation on the tombstones for those buried there.
“We have Woodland interment records from the very beginning until 2009,” Shafer said.
Those go back as far as the 1870s for the earliest burials and include anyone who was transferred from other cemeteries to Woodland.
“A lot of prominent families who were buried elsewhere were moved to Woodland,” Shafer said. “People buried in some of the smaller cemeteries—as the city began to expand—were moved to Woodland.”
The library has nearly 300 books that people have written about their families through the research they have done. It also has yearbooks for Ironton City Schools dating to 1910.
“We don’t have as many of the other schools; they are hit and miss,” Shafer said.
Library patrons have access to and Fold3, which allows users to access military records. For instance, someone might be able to find an ancestor’s record for when they mustered in for the Civil War.
“If they applied for a pension, sometimes you’ll find the pension records,” Shafer said. “I’ve seen them go up to 20-some pages—individual proof that they did serve and the connections to people when getting a pension.”
There is a variety of local history books at the library, in addition to a photo collection that includes Nazor Studio’s photographs.
“(Ralph Nazor) worked for the (Ironton) Tribune at one point,” Shafer said. “He also did the school yearbook photos.”
Shafer said working with local history and genealogy creates some interesting interactions with community members. A woman stopped by the library a few months ago. She was a child when her mother killed her father. She was looking for information about the murder.
“She was raised by someone else,” Shafer said. “Just about a month later a woman came in looking for documents about a murder; her mother-in-law had killed her first husband. It turned out that this woman’s husband was the brother of the first lady. There was no connection; (the two patrons) didn’t know each other.”
Most people, Shafer said, are looking for information on crimes. The library has a file on the FBI raid that occurred in the red-light district. This is in addition to several three-ring binders full of information on murders that happened in Lawrence County.
“It’s in the newspaper, but we’ve pulled it out because people have asked about it over the years,” she said.
As part of its collection, the library has DVDs of old movies with content about Ohio, Lawrence County and the surrounding area.
“While we focus on Lawrence County, we collect stuff from the Tri-State area,” Shafer said. “People traveled. Just because you lived in Lawrence County you may have gone to Gallia County to get married or Huntington.”
Shafer said many people went to Boyd County because Catlettsburg was the place for folks who wanted to elope.
“We collected that information as well,” she said.
Every week, Shafer does a short Facebook video on a historical fact about Lawrence County. She said much of it comes from when she is looking for information for other people and she comes across interesting articles.
“If you go through these old newspapers they’re fascinating,” she said. “You’ll find things you never looked for. They’re not indexed; you can’t just look up a topic. Usually, you have to page through them.”
The main branch of the Briggs Lawrence County Public Library is located at 321 S. 4th St. in Ironton. For more information, visit or call 740-532-1124.

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