Exterior of Zanesville’s Dr. Increase Mathews House (photo by Bryan Blau)

Visit the Oldest Home in Muskingum County

The Dr. Increase Mathews House in Zanesville, widely considered the oldest home in the county, today serves as a museum dedicated to the area’s history.

When Increase Mathews arrived in Muskingum County in 1801, Ohio wasn’t even a state yet. He had made the journey west from his native Massachusetts at the behest of his uncle, Rufus Putnam, who had served with distinction in the French & Indian War and the American Revolution, rising to the rank of brigadier general.

Putnam settled Marietta along the Ohio River and became known as the Father of the Northwest Territory. He encouraged his nephew to buy land in the area, which was being sold at 25 cents an acre, and to form a town, which was initially called Springfield.

Mathews became the first medical doctor in the area and made a significant impact in the community by inoculating residents during an 1809 smallpox outbreak. In 1805, he built a single-story sandstone house that still stands today as a museum named for him.

“It’s claimed to be the oldest house in Muskingum County, but you never know what’s hiding behind clapboards out there,” says Mitch Taylor, museum director for Muskingum County History, which comprises the Dr. Increase Mathews House and the Stone Academy, an 1809 building that served as a site on the Underground Railroad.

Mathews lived in the home for the rest of his life, watching the town he co-founded get renamed Putnam in 1814 for his uncle. The town was ultimately merged into Zanesville in 1872, 16 years after Mathews’ death.

In 1884, Mathews’ descendants added a wood frame and two additional stories to the home. It was damaged by a flood in 1913 (Taylor says there are markers that show how high the waters came) and briefly abandoned in the early 1930s. The house was restored in 1937 and continued to be used as a private residence until it was donated to the historical society in 1970.

Today, the home is a museum dedicated to the history of the area with displays commemorating Zanesville native Zane Grey, a military exhibit that informs visitors about Morgan’s Raid, which made its way through Muskingum County during the Civil War, and artifacts commemorating Zanesville’s history as a manufacturing center — a feat made possible by the rivers and canals that helped transport goods to the Great Lakes as well as the east coast.

“[Zanesville was] the art pottery capital of the world at one point,” Taylor says. “[It was] the largest brick-producing city in the world and the largest tile producer in the world. It was a good place to manufacture goods that could be shipped all over the country.”

304 Woodlawn Ave., Zanesville 43701, 740/454-9500, muskingumcountyhistory.org