Martins Ferry is a city located in Belmont County, Ohio, United States, on the Ohio River. A part of the Wheeling, West Virginia Metropolitan Statistical Area, it is the largest city in Belmont County. The population was 6,915 as of the 2010 census.
Martins Ferry enjoys the honor of being the oldest settlement in the state of Ohio, having been settled at least as early as 1779. The community was a westward extension of the city of Wheeling, Virginia (now West Virginia), but at that time, settlement on the west bank of the Ohio River was not permitted. The town was disbanded a couple of times before finally becoming permanent in 1785.
Unlike Marietta, Ohio's oldest city, Martins Ferry remained an unincorporated settlement for a relatively long time. It did not officially become a city until 1865, a full 77 years after Marietta. Through the years, it has been known as Hoglinstown, Mercertown, Norristown, Jefferson, Martinsville, and Martin's Ferry (the apostrophe between "Martin" and "s" is no longer used).
In 1835, Ebenezer Martin, the son of Absalom Martin, one of the city's earliest settlers, redesigned the town with a grid system of streets, much of which survives to this day. It was from this family that Martins Ferry took its name.
The city developed as an important industrial center during the late 19th century and early 20th century. It became an important rail hub and river port from where products were shipped all over the United States and beyond. Over the past 50 years, the town's population has decreased significantly as industries have closed or moved elsewhere. Today, the city's population is less than half of what it once was.