The community was founded in 1796 and was originally named Newellstown in honor of its founder, David Newell. According to reports, Newell in 1802 renamed the town in honor of his cousin General Arthur St. Clair, who was the first governor of the Northwest Territory, a confidant of George Washington, and President of the First Continental Congress. Founded in 1802 as St. Clairsville, it had 400 residents at the time of its incorporation in 1807. The town was incorporated a second time in 1818. In 1977, the village attained its current status as a city.