Ceredo is located on U.S. 60 in Wayne County, in the westernmost part of West Virginia. Reformer Eli Thayer established the town in 1857. Initially a ‘‘Free Soil’’ politician and later a Republican congressman from Massachusetts, Thayer believed that slavery could eventually be eliminated by limiting its spread to new territories. When Thayer turned his attention toward establishing a model freelabor community in the South, he acquired the property of Thomas Jordan, a slave holder who owned land between the mouths of Twelvepole Creek and the Big Sandy River. Abolitionists under the auspices of Thayer’s Emigrant Aid Company moved there and founded Ceredo. The new town, on the banks of the Ohio River, was poised on the boundary between slave territory and free.
According to a 1917 newspaper article, early Ceredo had 500 settlers and several industries, including a shoe factory, match plant, iron foundry, grist mill, and woolen mill. Named for Ceres, the goddess of agriculture, the town was an experiment, meant to demonstrate that industry and free labor could prosper in the South. In 1861, when the Civil War erupted, Ceredo became a Union stronghold with recruitment camps and the headquarters of the 5th (West) Virginia Infantry under Col. John Ziegler.
Unfortunately, the war brought hard times to Ceredo. Only a handful of the original New England anti-slavery settlers stayed, and the majority of the industries failed. The population dropped to 125. Thayer experienced financial difficulties that forced him in 1868 to sell his interest in Ceredo to his mortgage holder, Charles B. Hoard. In the 1890s, the Norfolk & Western Railroad moved its western terminus to neighboring Kenova. Ceredo is the location of the historic Ramsdell House, and was the location of the Pilgrim Glass Company until 2002. Ceredo had 1,450 residents in 2010.