Evolution of Transportation and Communication
North Central Ohio Biographies



Changes in communication and transportation are being made so rapidly that one can scarcely keep up with the development. Main highways have all been improved to meet the demands of increased motor travel. In some parts of North Central Ohio most of the secondary roads have been improved and in other sections this work is going forward. Airplane travel is increasing, new lines of mail and passenger planes are being established and new airports in this section of the state. There are airports near Elyria, Lorain, Mansfield, Ashland, Loudonville, Medina, Mt. Vernon, New London, Orrville, Willard, Wooster and probably by the time this history comes from the press, more will have been established. Along the airways are lines of beacons and south of Ashland is the largest and best improved emergency airplane field of more than 300 in four states. It is at the junction point for planes from Philadelphia and Pittsburgh and from Cleveland, Akron and Columbus. From this place there will be hourly radio broadcasts of weather indications for mail plane pilots.

This writer can recall when a fourteen mile journey to Mansfield and back could scarcely be accomplished in less than half a day, when there were no telephones, very few paved streets and no paved highways in this section of the state. Now even auto travel at fifty to seventy five miles an hour covering hundreds of miles in a day is too slow and more and more people are traveling by plane. It was a long time after telephones were invented before they came into general use in this part of the state. Now the news of the world is received by radio in homes everywhere a few moments after the event. And television for the masses is promised in the days to come.

This history tells of the blazing of trails through the forest, the establishment of crude roads through the forest, how the building of canals aided so materially in the development of this and other sections of Ohio; how the Sandusky, Mansfield & Newark R. R. was built, the Toledo, Norwalk & Cleveland, the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne and Chicago, the Bee Line, the Atlantic & Great Western and other railroads in this section of the state. One of the railroads projected in the late 30s was the Vermilion and Ashland Railroad, never consummated. Near Fitchville can be seen embankments of the old Continental Railway project, which occasioned many bright visions which were destined not to be realized, the project being abandoned about 1856.

The railroad from the north into Mansfield brought passengers to the town in 1846 and a few years later extension of the road to the south was completed. Through the enterprise of Norwalk people, who became officials of the railroad, the Toledo, Norwalk and Cleveland line was finished in 1851-52, Norwalk taking advantage of the opportunity that Milanites ignored. The obstacles overcome in the construction of the railroad from Cleveland to Columbus are narrated further in this chapter. Similar difficulties were overcome in the construction of the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne & Chicago, the first passenger train on which line arrived at Wooster August 10, 1852. A national salute was fired at sunrise. At three o'clock in the afternoon a dispatch was received from Massillon that two trains were coming with 600 passengers, 500 of them invited guests from Pittsburgh and Allegheny. Before the arrival of the train 15,000 to 20,000 people had assembled at the depot, it is stated. After the visitors had arrived a procession was formed in charge of the marshals of the day, Col. R. K. Porter and J. H. Kauke, and proceeded to a grove northeast of the depot where Landlord Howard of the American House had prepared a banquet. Judge Dean gave the address of welcome and General Robinson, president of the road, delivered an address A series of toasts followed the dinner in the evening. The fire companies had a big parade, the engines drawn by matched horses caparisoned with flowers, plumes and floating banners. "Three other roads have penetrated Wayne County," said Historian Douglass years ago, "but to the Pittsburgh, Ft. Wayne & Chicago Railroad we owe the rapid growth, development and material prosperity of the county. It was a colossal enterprise, boldly conceived, vigorously executed, a monument to its projectors." The other railroads through the county are the C. A. & C., the Erie and the Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling.


As the result of the enterprise of men like John Gardiner, C. L. Boalt and Timothy Baker in the early 50s, Norwalk became a prominent railroad town. In the late 70s when the Wheeling & Lake Erie was built through Norwalk the citizens showed the same spirit that the Norwalk leaders of an earlier day had shown, raising $72,000 toward the construction of the line and to insure the building of railroad shops in Norwalk.


The Lake Shore & Tuscarawas Valley R. R. was incorporated in 1870 and in October, 1872, bought from the Elyria & Black River R. R. Company the eight mile line from Elyria to Black River Harbor (later Lorain). Later this line became the Cleveland, Lorain & Wheeling, after the sale of the C. T. V. & W. Railway Company. The Wheeling & Lake Erie was incorporated in 1871; in receivership 1878, and sold in 1880. The Milan to Massillon line was opened in 1882 and Norwalk to Toledo the same year. The New York Central shops at Norwalk employed several hundred men but about 1903 were moved to Collinwood. The Wheeling & Lake Erie shops, also formerly at Norwalk, are now at Brewster.


In 1880 the Toledo & Ohio Central R. R. was built to Centerburg, Knox County, and in the early 90s the Cleveland, Akron & Columbus R. R. line, now the Pennsylvania, was constructed into Knox County.

The first street car with overhead trolley in Ohio was operated in Mansfield Aug. 8, 1887, by Rufus Hale, who for a great many years, was a motorman on the Mansfield line.


The Nickel Plate and other steam roads in Northern Ohio were built and then came the era of Interurban Electric lines, hundreds of miles of these roads being built in Ohio between 1895 and 1900. The interurban line from Mansfield to Shelby was begun in 1900 and on June 19 of the following year a party of Mansfield people including Reed Carpenter, S. N. Ford, Frank Fast, C. L. Slough and this writer were with A. J. Haycox, superintendent of the line, on the first trolley car into Shelby. In 1904 the Sandusky, Norwalk & Mansfield Traction line construction was begun and finished late in the following year. The Southwestern Traction line was finished through Ashland and Mansfield early in August, 1908, in which year there were 2,300 miles of trolley lines in the State of Ohio.


And then came the auto era, the construction of paved roads, the business of the trolley lines suffered more and more, lines here and there were discontinued and in this present year, the Southwestern quit. Now we have the systems of auto bus lines, and airplanes, traveling across the state, are seen daily.


And now let us go back to the early days of steam road construction in Ohio and read of the building of the Bee Line:

Though the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad Company was incorporated March 14, 1836, with a capital stock of $3,000,000, and John W. Allen as first president, it was not until more than eleven years later that the actual building of the road was begun. It was four years more until the road was in operation. On February 21, 1851, 428 people including state officials, members of the General Assembly and the city councils of Cincinnati and Columbus, participated in an excursion over the line from Columbus to Cleveland, the party stopping at Shelby for a turkey dinner. As the train entered Cleveland, bands played and cannon boomed, says William B. Thom, former Huron County writer, now of New York City, in an article in the Firelands Pioneer on Early History of the Old Bee Line Railroad. There was a parade next day with a. meeting in the public square, Mayor Case presiding and Samuel Starkweather delivering the address. There was a banquet at the Weddell House and a torchlight procession that evening. Preaching the following day to the Cincinnati and Columbus excursionists, the Rev. Samuel C. Aiken, Cleveland minister, taking his text from Nahum 2:4, said: "In a moral and religious, as well as in a social and commercial point of view, there is something both solemn and sublime in the completion of a great thoroughfare. It indicates not only the march of mind and a higher type of society, but the evolution of a divine purpose."

Due partly to the financial panic of 1837, there were two failures in attempts to construct the line within the required time, Mr. Thom says. March 12, 1845, the charter was revived but it was not until two years later than Alfred Kelley, who has been spoken of as the greatest constructive statesman of the first half century of Ohio history, being for over forty years almost continuously in the service of the state as member of the General Assembly, canal commissioner and canal fund commissioner, came to the rescue of the Cleveland, Columbus & Cincinnati Railroad project, accepting the presidency of the company and bringing about the completion of the road.

Five routes had been considered via Massillon, Wooster, Mr. Vernon, Elyria and Marion. The last two lines included King's Corners, now New London. Columbus and Cleveland had been reproached for lack of interest in the railroad project, Mr. Thom says. J. H. Sargent, a Cleveland ciyu engineer, called attention, in a letter to the Cleveland Plain Dealer early in 1846, to the dangerous rivalry of Sandusky, then pushing a railroad to the south. This is said to have had considerable effect in increasing interest in the proposed railroad. But the promoters still had difficulty in obtaining subscriptions for the road. Some investors expressed the belief that if Alfred Kelley, under whose supervision the Ohio Canal had been constructed, would take charge of the project the road would be built and the matter was taken up with him. They found him disposed to decline the offer on account of his long public service during which his private affairs had been somewhat neglected, his need of rest and his desire to spend the remainder of his life with his family. Mrs. Kelley urged him not to accept but after it had been mentioned how very important the project was, not only to Cleveland but to the entire state, he told his interviewers that he would think about it and see them again next day, at which time he told them that he felt it was his duty to yield to their request. The president then in office resigned and on Aug. 13, 1847, Mr. Kelley was made president. He found that the people were not yet thoroughly aroused to the importance of building the road. It was decided by the directors to make a show of work on the line already surveyed, so the officials met at Scranton's Point, Cleveland, Sept. 30, 1847. Looking upon nothing but unbroken meadows, their courage was at low ebb when President Kelley seized a shovel, filled a wheelbarrow with dirt and dumped it a few yards to the south. Hailing with a shout of joy, the beginning of work, other members of the party followed Kelley's example. To hold the charter one man was employed at the same work that fall and winter until he fell a victim of sciatica and threw down his shovel. But a start had been made, Kelley presented the advantages of the road and more subscriptions were obtained. Opposition among the farmers along the proposed route was strong, Mr. Thom says. They had oxen, horses and wagons; they didn't need any railroad. But Kelley persisted. It is narrated that one farmer who had repeatedly refused to grant right of way finally asked who was at the head of the undertaking. When told that it was Alfred Kelley, he said: "All right, you can have it. When Kelley starts a thing, he finishes it; no use trying to block him."


Frederick Harbach, Amasa Stone and Stillman Witt received the contract for building the road. Iron rails for the road were bought in Wales. Steel rails were not laid until 1867. Mr. Thom says that the first locomotive seen in Cleveland drew a work train of flat cars up the River Street grade. This was on November 3, 1849. So many boys boarded the cars that it became necessary to stop the train and put them off. The first coaches arrived by boat from Springfield, Mass., the same year. The Cuyahoga Steam Furnace Company of Cleveland built the engines.

When the line reached Berea, excursionists who rode out from Cleveland spoke of the wildness of the country, says Mr. Thom further. The first freight taken to Wellington by steam May 16, 1850, consisted of several cars of merchandise. A little later King's Corners' travelers walked a mile northeast of town to the end of the line where they boarded the construction train for Wellington, which beginning July 10, 1850, had two trains a day to Cleveland. About November 12, of that year, the road reached Shelby. Construction of the line from Columbus toward Cleveland had been going forward and when the first engine reached Cardington, people in great numbers came from miles around to see the engine. They came "with well filled baskets" until the scene resembled a southern barbecue.

When the construction forces, working toward each other, met in a forest at Iberia Feb. 18, 1851, five hundred people were on hand to see the last rail laid and the last spike driven. Conductor Phineas B. Pease was in charge of an excursion train from Columbus. When President Kelley drove the last spike, cannon were fired, engine whistles blew and the crowd cheered. The cost of the road, appurtenances and equipment as represented by capital stock, funded and unfunded debts up to March 3, 1851, was $3,025,888.27. The company was practically out of debt in two years.


At New London the railroad passed through Capt. Henry King's orchard and where the station was erected in 1862, trees once drooped under the weight of apples. The laying of iron rails was the signal for a rush of townsfolk to see the construction train, "men, women and children forming in line along the track and holding hands as a precaution against contact with the incoming locomotive." Engineer Horatio Swan and Fireman William A. Needham, in charge of the first engine to enter the town, married New London girls. Charles Knowlton told Mr. Thom that the first railroad passengers he remembers seeing arrive in New London were two men and two women, all stylishly dressed, seated on benches on a flat car. A line of daily coaches between Norwalk and New London to connect with the Bee Line was started in May, 1851, by Jones, Pantlind & Co. W. P. Curtiss said his father furnished all the stone for the Washburn bridge over the Vermillion River, two and a half miles west of Fiddler's Green, south of New London. From a dozen to twenty Irishmen boarded at his father's house while they were quarrying and cutting stone for that bridge and culverts. Quite a number of men who helped to build the road and worked on the section afterward, bought farms near New London and eventually became prosperous citizens.


The famous Hungarian patriot, Louis Kossuth, after a triumphal reception at Cleveland where he addressed crowds at Melodeon Hall and a torchlight procession was given in his honor, journeyed Feb. 4, 1852, in a special car over the new Bee Line to present his cause to the people on his way to Columbus and Cincinnati. With him on the trip were twelve Hungarians, Governor Wood of Ohio and committees of prominent citizens of the state.

Crowds cheered him at Berea, Grafton, Wellington, New London, Shelby, at which latter place the Hungarians were banqueted in the railroad dining room. Delegations were present from Mansfield, Tiffin and other towns and Judge Jacob Brinkerhoff of Mansfield, congressman, author of the famous Wilimot Proviso, and judge of the state Supreme Court, addressed Kossuth in behalf of the people, handing him a purse of $57.50. The Galion mayor presented Kossuth a letter from the citizens and at Delaware the train halted while the famous Magyar addressed an audience in a church and Dr. Edward Thomson, president of Ohio Wesleyan University, in greeting Kossuth, said: "We welcome you as an Aristides in exile to the home of the oppressed. We welcome you as a Marshal of Europe's troops of freedom to the land of Washington." By the time the train reached Columbus at 6 o'clock that evening, Kossuth's donations amounted to $312.50, of which the Hungarian Society of Delaware gave $210.


The Legislature, which on Saturday of that week received Kossuth and suite when the two houses assembled in the hall of the House of Representatives, was the first elected under the constitution of 1851. The president of the Senate was Lieut. Governor Medill and the speaker of the House was James C Johnson of Medina County.

On July 7, 1852, four months after Kossuth's journey, the body of the statesman, Henry Clay, was carried southward over the Bee Line and Mr. Thom's article tells of many historic incidents in connection with this road. As early as 1851, the Bee Line, The Columbus & Xenia and the Little Miami, operated three trains between Cleveland and Cincinnati and a joint arrangement with the Cleveland, Painesville & Ashtabula opened a route to the east. For more than ten years, wood was the only fuel used. Woodsheds, each with a storage capacity of 9,000 cords, were built in 1852 at stations along the line. During 1857, 27,429 cords of wood in engines, station houses, etc., were consumed. The first Bee Line engine to burn coal was the "Pennsylvania" in 1861, but it was not until 1875 that all of them used coal.

In ante-bellum days, fugitive slaves on their way to liberty, are said to have been carried secretly. Mr. Thom says that his father at New London took runaway slaves from Bee Line box cars, hid them in his home and after dark, showed them the way to freedom. The Bee Line station agent at Greenwich, Hiram Townsend, is said to have aided the fugitive slaves, turning them over to Quakers in that region.


From the opening of the road in February, 1851, to 1860, not a passenger was killed or injured. Over this road April 17, 1861, the Cleveland Grays, on the way to war, traveled and from that time on during the conflict, large numbers of soldiers were carried. In 1863, the Bee Line carried 47,618 Union soldiers. Thousands drank at the New London station well and Mr. Thom says he never will forget the cheers with which they left New London on their way to the Southland or the jubilant days of their return. The first station agent at New London was David Kilburn. Later station agents were Ira Liggett, Stanley Foster, W A Smith and C. A. Hall. The telegraph operator there in 1860 was Charles Runyan. In 1863, a rail repair shop, working two fires, was built at New London. Oscar Townsend, who was president of the Bee Line from 1870 to 1873, was a son of Hiram Townsend, first station agent at Greenwich. Hiram M. Townsend, another son, was one of the first conductors on the Bee Line in 1852 and became superintendent of the Lake Shore & Tuscarawas Valley in 1872.

Bearing the body of the martyred President to Columbus, the President Lincoln funeral train, preceded by the pilot engine "Louisville," passed over the Bee Line in the early morning of April 29, 1865, leaving Cleveland at midnight. It consisted of nine coaches drawn by the engine "Nashville." The body of the President was in the ninth car. It stopped at New London about five minutes. Among the distinguished passengers were Governor Brough of Ohio and Major General Joseph Hooker. Mr. Thom says that as the train passed over the road that night, flags floated at half mast, bonfires and torches blazed, minute guns boomed, bells tolled and stations were thronged with sorrowing people.

History of North Central Ohio
Embracing Richland, Ashland, Wayne,
Medina, Lorin, Huron and Knox Counties
BY: William A. Duff
Historical Publishing Company
Topeka-Indianapolis 1931

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