Just 80 miles east of Columbus, in East central Ohio, lies the city of Cambridge, the county seat of Guernsey County. Located at the base of the Appalachian Mountains, and at the intersection of interstates 70 and 77, Cambridge is often referred to as the "crossroads of Ohio" and is not only home to 70 and 77, but also U.S. Routes 22 and 40 and State Route 209, making it an easy destination to get to. Half of the U.S. population is located within 500 miles of Guernsey County in Ohio, and because of the location, more than 2.5 million people visit Guernsey County each year.
Historically, Guernsey County was home to several Native American tribes, like the Delaware, Shawnee, Wyandotte, Miami, Chippewa and Mingo. The Mingo tribe formed a town across a creek in the area. Several families traveled to the U.S. from the island of Guernsey, off the coast of France, and settled in what is now Guernsey County. Thirty years after the settlements of the , when funding for a road between Kentucky and Ohio was received in the late 1700s, called "Zane's Trace," several settlements were formed, including one where the Mingo tribe settled, which later became known as Cambridge. It was named in honor of Cambridge, Maryland. It is also home to the first bridge authorized by the Northwest Territory, as well as many other bridges, including curved "S" bridges.
Guernsey County is 521 square miles and is home to over 40,000 people. Approximately 13,000 people live in the city of Cambridge, which is the only incorporated city in the county. Several sources of higher education are located near Cambridge, including Marietta College, Kent State University, Muskingum College, Zane State Community College and Washington State Community College.
In the early 1900s, Guernsey County and Cambridge became well known for glass production, which has since ended, although there are still glass museums and factories which are open for visitors today, including the National Museum of Cambridge Glass, which is home to a 6,000 piece display of glass manufactured between 1903 and 1958.
Although glass is mostly what Cambridge is known for, coal mining was another huge part of Cambridge, as there were many coal mines located just south of the city. Coal mining served as the main source of industry in Cambridge for many years, and drew hundreds of immigrants to the area to work, after the establishment of the railroad. The Marietta Branch of the Pennsylvania Railroad was built to transport coal. Today, the Byesville Scenic Railway takes visitors on a scenic trip among part of the original Pennsylvania Railroad line and past several of the coal mines, and educates people about the coal mining country.
Guernsey County was also the birthplace of John Glenn, the U.S. Senator and astronaut and actor Hopalong Cassidy. Visitors can explore the childhood home of Glenn and learn about life during WWII, or visit the Hopalong Cassidy Museum, which houses one of the largest collections of cowboy memorabilia in the country.
Nature lovers will enjoy Salt Fork State Park, Ohio's largest state park, whose name comes from a salt well used by the Native Americans in the area. Salt Fork provides camping, a lodge and golfing among other recreational activities. Another attraction at Salt Fork is the Kennedy house, which was built by one of the early settlers to the area. Salt Fork is also the home of one of the two major lakes in Guernsey County. The lake was originally built with the intent of using it as a water source for the city, but later it was decided to build the state park instead. The other major lake in the county is Seneca Lake, the third largest inland lake in Ohio. The lakes provide boating, swimming and fishing, which are popular activities.
Also in Guernsey County is the Wilds, a huge wildlife conservation center located near Cambridge. Visitors can take a "safari" trip through the nearly 10,000 acres of land and view the rare and endangered species living there, including rhinos and zebras. Another popular attraction is the "Living World" outdoor drama, which is an outdoor play that re-enacts the last three years in the life of Christ and incorporates important events in history like the Last Supper and the crucifixion of Christ. During the winter months, downtown Cambridge is decorated like a Victorian village, with life-like figures re-enacting different scenes in Dickens stories and different free events to entertain the crowds.
Although it's not a major city, or a place many would think of as a tourist spot, tourism accounts for nearly $2 million of the annual economy in Guernsey County. There are plenty of attractions for people of all ages and all interests. Many antique shops and small restaurants line the main street in downtown Cambridge, providing rainy day activities. Guernsey County is a must-see!
Story and photos by: Katherine Foster
Learn more about Cambridge
City of Cambridge (opens in new window)
Cambridge and Guernsey County Visitor's Bureau (opens in new window)
Cambridge Chamber of Commerce (opens in new window)