Ashtabula County formed on February 10, 1807. It was the first county created in the Western Reserve. The county is named for an Indian word for fish. In 1796, Moses Cleaveland traveled through Ashtabula County on his way to establish the city of Cleveland for the Connecticut Land Company. Five of Cleaveland's traveling companions, James Kingsbury and his wife and three children, remained behind in what would become Ashtabula County. Mrs. Kingsbury gave birth to the first known white child in the Connecticut Western Reserve during the winter of 1796-1797.
Ashtabula County is located in the northeastern corner of Ohio and covers almost 703 square miles. The county has experienced a small decline in population, losing 2.9 percent of its 102,360 residents between 1995 and 2000. Ashtabula is the largest community in the county, with almost twenty-one thousand residents in 2000. The county seat of Jefferson ranks a distant fourth in size, with just over 3,300 residents in 2002. The county averages 146 residents per square mile. It also has more covered bridges than any other Ohio county.
Ashtabula County is overwhelmingly rural, but most residents earn their livings by working in manufacturing, sales, or service positions. Many people work in the shipping industry, transferring coal, iron ore, and steel across the Great Lakes. The county's average income was approximately 21,700 dollars per person in 1999, with just over thirteen percent of the population living in poverty.
Most voters in Ashtabula County claim to be independents, yet in recent years, they have supported Democratic candidates at the national level by a small margin.
Among the county's more famous residents are Betsy Cowles, an early women's rights advocate, and Joshua Giddings and Benjamin Wade, two of the earliest and most powerful Republicans during the 1850s, 1860s, and 1870s. Platt R. Spencer, the inventor of Spencerian writing, also was born here.