Jefferson is the county seat of Ashtabula County, Ohio. The first permanent residents of Jefferson arrived in 1805. Since the creation of Ashtabula County in 1807, Jefferson has served as the county seat, with the first courthouse constructed by 1811.
Although located near Lake Erie, as well as on a railroad, Jefferson grew slowly. Forty years after Jefferson’s founding, the community had four churches and just seventy-three homes. The village served as a place for farmers in the surrounding countryside to purchase seed and other items at the town’s three stores. By 1880, approximately one thousand people resided in Jefferson. In 1886, the town had two newspapers, five churches, and two banks. Jefferson’s two most famous residents were United States Congressman Joshua R. Giddings and United States Senator Benjamin Franklin Wade. Both men were buried in Jefferson.
Jefferson continued to grow slowly during the twentieth century, with nearby cities of Ashtabula and Conneaut containing significantly larger populations. In 2000, Jefferson contained just over 3,300 people. Most of these residents worked in Ashtabula County’s larger cities or in local government positions. Typical of many of Ohio’s smaller municipalities, Jefferson lost over two hundred residents between 1990 and 2000. Many of these people sought better lives and greater opportunities in Ohio’s larger cities.