Located in the Seven Ranges of Ohio, Harrison County is situated in the rolling Appalachian foothills in the east central part of the state. Conveniently located an hour from Pittsburgh, 1.5 hours from Cleveland, and 2 hours from Columbus, the area offers a wealth of opportunities for recreation, outdoor pursuits, and visiting sites of historical interest.
Harrison County's economy originally was based on agriculture, and the area served as a major wool producing region in the late nineteenth century. An oil boom hit the county in the early twentieth century, followed by a prolonged dependence on coal mining, which remains an important, albeit diminished, component of today's economy. Agriculture, manufacturing, timber resources, and tourism/recreation round out the Harrison County economic picture today.
Harrison County offers more than 4,200 acres of public water, with Clendening Lake, Tappan Lake, and part of Piedmont Lake located within its borders. These lakes are a part of the Muskingum Watershed Conservancy District ("MWCD"), which also offers 15,000 acres of public land, 600 campsites, boat launch ramps, rental cabins, and two full service marinas. Sally Buffalo Park in Cadiz offers lakes, trails, campsites, and cabins.
With so much public access to water and 20,000 acres of land open to public hunting, Harrison County offers many and varied hunting and fishing opportunities. The Ohio record muskellunge and flathead catfish were caught in Harrison County lakes, and the MWCD lakes provide excellent angling for large mouth bass, muskellunge, northern pike, small mouth bass, walleye, sauger, saugeye, catfish, and crappie. Turkey and deer hunting abound, with annual deer harvests exceeding 2,700 and turkey harvests exceeding 500.
If you prefer to hike, bike, or ride horseback, Harrison County is a superb destination. The Buckeye Trail travels more than 40 miles through the county, connecting the three MWCD lakes, and the trail is open to horses in the Tappan Lake area. This trail, which includes the route of the North Country Scenic Trail, a designated National Millennium Trail, crosses the Skull Fork Bridge, the only remaining covered bridge in the county, which is within a short walk of what is believed to be the only 16 sided barn in Ohio. Harrison State Forest offers 24 miles of hiking/bridle trails and campsites. The Conotton Creek Trail is a rail trail which runs 11.4 miles across the northern tier of the county, connecting the villages of Bowerston, Conotton, Scio, and Jewett. Add to this the trails in Tappan Lake Park, and there are 85 miles of public trails in Harrison County. These are complimented by miles of hiking and bridle trails located at Faith Ranch, a 4,000 acre family oriented equestrian center, and the course at Mickey's Mountain Bike Challenge, both of which are privately owned facilities which are open to the public. Additionally, ODOT has designated an on road bicycle route from Marietta to Conneaut which passes through Harrison County.
Harrison County's trails are not limited to hiking, biking, and horses; there are several "driving" trails that highlight scenic and historic points of interest. Two more of the sixteen National Millennium Trails incorporate sites in the county. The Underground Railroad Trail has multiple sites in the area, and the Civil War Discovery Trail includes the Custer Memorial in New Rumley. Currently under development are portions of the Morgan's Raid Trail, which follows the route of the deepest incursion of Confederate troops into the North during the Civil War, and which crosses the southern tier of Harrison County. Also in the planning stages is the Civil War in Eastern Ohio driving tour of historic sites in a five county area. The Tappan-Moravian Trail Scenic Byway travels through a large portion of the county and highlights the route traveled by the Delaware and Wyandot, and later by Moravian Missionaries as they made their way into the wilderness.
Favorite sons include Clark Gable, whose birthplace has been reconstructed and includes a gift shop and museum. Cadiz celebrates his birthday each year on the first weekend in February. General George Armstrong Custer and his brother Captain Thomas Ward Custer, who is one of only eighteen Americans to be awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor twice, were born in New Rumley, where there is a statue and historical site operated by a local foundation and the Ohio Historical Society. Moses Fleetwood Walker, who in 1884 became the first African American to play Major League Baseball, owned an opera house and movie theater in Cadiz following his retirement from baseball. Other former residents include Edwin M. Stanton, President Lincoln's Secretary of War; John Bingham, prosecutor of Lincoln's assassins; Bishop Mathew Simpson, Lincoln's spiritual advisor; and Union General Thomas M. Vincent, who attended to Lincoln while he was on his death bed.
Franklin College, located in New Athens, was a hotbed of abolitionist teaching during the years leading up to the Civil War. The building remains and is operated as a museum. Numerous other sites of historical interest include the Coal Museum in Cadiz, the Harrison County Historical Society, the Harrison County Genealogical Society, and the Scio Museum. Harrison Hills Cottage Industries sells the products of more than 60 artisans from Harrison County and the surrounding area at its shop in Cadiz. Ourant School is a restored one room schoolhouse which serves as a classroom for all second grade students in the local school district for one day each spring, affording them the opportunity to see what school was like in earlier times. The Harrison Coal and Reclamation Park offers an opportunity to see some of the equipment used in coal mining.
The Harrison County countryside is dotted with small villages containing bed and breakfast establishments, quaint restaurants, and gift shops. Most villages have an annual festival, and the Harrison County Fair is held during the second full week of July each year. The county's first winery opened recently, and two others are slated to open soon.