Window to the Past
A look at early roads in Delphos Area
By BOB HOLDGREVE
The oldest road in Putnam County was the Anthony Wayne Trail, cut through the county, along the west bank of the Auglaize River, from Fort Recovery to Defiance by General Wayne in 1794. It was the first post road (a road on which mail was carried) in the county, and was later called the Defiance and Wapakoneta Free Turnpike Road (now Defiance Trail).
Some of the oldest state routes established by acts of the legislative in Putnam County about 1830-1835 were the Wyondot-Bryan Road beginning at Carey and routed through Findlay, Ottawa, Defiance, now State Route 15, commonly called the Defiance Pike; the Findlay-Delphos Road, connecting Pandora, Columbus Grove, Vaughnsville, Fort Jennings and Delphos, now State Route 106 and 189; State Route 190 from Delphos to Fort Jennings and further along the Auglaize River and what is now Federal Route 224 were also among the earliest established, of which accurate records are not available.
Extension of Route 189 from Fort Jennings to Ottoville was established in 1931.
One of the earliest improved pavements was constructed in 1911, on State Route 189, just west of Vaughnsville. This was the first concrete pavement to be built and was only 1,000 feet in length. The pavement is still (1934) in good condition.
— From Putnam County Centennial History 1873-1973.
A number of the farmers living northeast of Delphos in the vicinity of the Auglaize River are petitioning the Commissioners of Putnam County to have a bridge erected over the river at a point about one half mile north of the Allen and Putnam County line. If the bridge is constructed, the Jameson Road will be opened through the Fort Jennings Pike. In connection with the improvement, pressure will be brought to bear to have the Plankenhorn Road opened through to the Fort Jennings Road, to a point immediately east of the Wrocklege farm. The improvement will be an appreciative one for all the people who come to Delphos, and will do away with crossing the railroads at the different points. By opening up the new way the Rushmore people would save a mile and a half roadway from their place to Delphos. The Commissioners of both counties should work to make the improvement. The citizens of Delphos should push for it and the farmer residents should demand the new way opened up.
— Delphos Herald January 1904
The first road in Washington township, Van Wert County, was the Bucyrus and Fort Wayne that followed the Indian Trail from Upper Sandusky to Fort Wayne. For many years this was known as the Sugar Ridge Road, and now the Lincoln Highway. James and Adam Gilliland, brothers, along with several helpers, cut and cleared this first wilderness road from the Auglaize River to within five miles east of Van Wert. They cleared 18 miles to an 18-foot right-of-way. This took them 44 days. This trail was heavily traveled by both man and wild animals, and had many deep ruts. Most of them were filled with water. They filled these ruts with rocks and dirt so wagons could pass through.
Delphos, in the early 1800s, was a village to be envied throughout pioneer Ohio. Its transportation facilities were unequaled. Besides being located on the famous Miami and Erie Canal, it was near the Mad Anthony Wayne’s Trail to the north and south and by the Ohio State Military Road to the east and west.
The old Ohio State Military Road which connected Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Ohio with Indiana, Illinois, and Iowa is now the Lincoln Highway.
In 1835, Josiah Clawson erected a log tavern at the intersection of Mad Anthony Wayne’s Trail and the Military Road, It was at this point that the great forest to the west began. After leaving Clawson’s Tavern, travelers went west for more than 10 miles through dense wilderness without sighting a single house.
When Edward Geise (deceased) was a boy (around 1910) he said that the Lincoln Highway was a gravel road. It was a single lane and when two people met, one would have to get over to the side, sometimes in a mudhole to let the other person pass.
Local farmers would drive a team of horses pulling a stonebed wagon to the Middle Point stone quarry and shovel a load of stone onto the wagon by hand. When they unloaded the stone on the road, they would pull a board out of the bottom of the wagon box, one at a time to unload the stone. Then they would need to level it out with a shovel. They would get paid $2 a load for this.
Mr. Geise also stated that around this same period, Pohlman Road between Shenk Road and Brickner Road, was built.
That Road Case
A mention was made last week of the case of Casper Holdgreve and other against Wm. Alspaugh and others. The action being on the question of damages and compensation for lands appropriated for a new road in Washington Township, the property owners being dissatisfied with the adjustments made by the trustees, appealed to the probate court and the case was heard by a special grand jury last Thursday, which awarded the following compensation to land owners along the line of said road.
Casper Holdgreve, property taken - $34.10
Mathias Holdgreve, property taken - $34.10
Henry Longmier, property taken - $70.25
Frank Lindeman, property taken - $70.25
Theresa Lindeman, property taken - $60.50
Magdalen Baumgarte, property taken - $60.50
Ferdinand Trentman, property taken - $104.50
Ferdinand Trentman, damages $24.00
— Delphos Herald April 28, 1899
The above road ran from the Lincoln Highway (where Brickner road had already run north) to Dolt Road on the south, where, according to an 1886 map, Dolt Road no longer exists.
The 1886 map also shows Gerdeman Road continuing southeast from State Route 697 to Brickner and Delphos Jennings Road. This section also no longer exists.
Allen County Early Roads
The first road through Delphos was opened by William Scott and William Brady and passed through the "Ten Mile Woods" as it was then called. Between Scott’s Farm and Van Wert there was not then a single dwelling.
In 1846, F.J. Lye and family came here from Tiffin in a wagon as far as the Auglaize, where they were rowed across the river with their household goods, continuing their journey to Delphos over what was known as the corduroy road. They drove to within a few feet of Main Street where the wagon became fast in the mud and the family was carried one by one to a little hut directly in back of where the City Building now stands. This hut was owned by the Daub family.
Transportation by land in northwestern Ohio, where swampy conditions prevailed, was a serious matter. In the muddy season it was next to impossible. To alleviate the condition, an era of plank roads swept the country in the 1840s and ’50s. Timber was abundant in every section, so the cost of construction was low.
The newspapers everywhere encouraged their construction. Liberal tolls were charged, a fair example being: a loaded two-horse wagon, two cents per mile, and half that if empty; single carriage, one cent per mile; a horse and rig were taxed a cent for each mile. However, settlers were scarce and though travel was not heavy and even these refused to pay any toll when the roads were bad.
It is said that profanity reached its highest range when the plank roads were used. There were cases where an angry driver managed to hitch on to the tollgate and drag it a mile or two down the road. The court records show many cases for the "malicious destruction of property," the property being the tollgate. The jurors could not refuse the verdict for the company, but, feeling sorry for the driver, usually fixed the damages at one cent. As a result, some of the plank roads were never renewed, and all of them disappeared in a couple of decades.
From 1851 until 1904, the counties and townships were responsible for all road building. In 1824, highway right-of-way were established; the state roads being 66 feet, county roads 60 feet, and township roads 40 feet in width.
— The above was taken from various sources
Compare this 2,000 Year Old Road to Today
Perhaps the most celebrated road in all history is the Appian Way, built in 313 B.C., leading south from Rome, "straight as the eagle’s flight." Parts of this road are in just as good condition as when constructed over 2,000 years ago.
In Allen County, a movement called, the "Allen County Good Roads Association" was formed in a demand for better roads. A plan of construction is now under consideration that there should be two roads, side by side across the county, one a dirt road for summer use, the other a high-grade macadamized road, both well drained and elevated.
On the Appian Way, the manner of construction was as follows: much time and expense was put upon the foundation. The ground was thoroughly drained, then all soil was removed, then various layers of fine stone cemented by lime was put down. Lastly came the pavement of large, hood blocks of basalter lava, or marble, and so perfectly joined that it is yet impossible for one to discover the joints. The workmanship is marvelous.
— Robert Holdgreve is a local historian. He compiles past stories on various issues for this monthly column.
Compiled by Robert Holdgreve
Delphos Historical Society
August 28, 2004 Delphos Herald Newspaper
Early roads, old-time cons and more
By BOB HOLDGREVE
Notice is hereby given that a petition will be presented to the commissioners of Allen County, Ohio, praying for the vocation of a certain road dedicated by private persons to public use, commencing at the east line of a County Road, running north and south between sections No. 31 and 32, known as the Kiggins County Road, from thence east with the quarter line, through the southwest quarter of section 32, town 2, range 5 east, along the lines of land owned by Frank Kunz, J. Fair, and C. W. H. King.
Frank Kunz, Principal petitioner
Delphos Herald - May 29, 1879
Marion Township Stoning Notice
One-half mile on Bucyrus road commencing at the terminal of stoning near Leatherwood schoolhouse thence west.
Twenty-one rods Lima and Delphos road, commencing at the Spencerville road near J. Suthoff’s, thense east.
Fifty rods more or less, Lima and Delphos road commencing near W.R. Cochran’s thence south to Morris Chapel.
About 3/4 mile, more or less, on Delphos and Spencer road commencing at the terminal of stoning, thence south.
Delphos Herald - April 29, 1880
The citizens of Paulding are trying to have a plank road laid to Charloe. It would be a good improvement.
Delphos Herald - Dec. 13, 1877
Other Area News
A Seductive Swindle
Now it is a fence swindle. The plan is to offer to give the farmer fifty rods of new fence, if he will put it along the road, where it will be seen, and serve as an advertisement, and the farmer is to have the sole agency for the town, and to be paid a handsome commission on all orders he may take. The farmer accepts the proposal, and the agent tells him it will take two coils of wire for which the farmer willingly signs an order. In a few days a stranger comes along to collect a bill for wire fencing, and wishes immediate payment. The farmer explains that he put up the fence as an advertisement and was to have it free. He is told that he was to have fifty rods free, but he has ordered outright one hundred and fifty rods, and must pay for this at four cents a foot. If the farmer is timid, he settles with him somehow, perhaps gives the note for $200 to pay for wire that he did not order.
Oct. 25, 1877
Farmers should be on guard. A new dodge of swindling has been put in operation. Several strange men drive through a district, stop at all the farm houses and make a contract to buy all the butter the farmers could furnish at fifty cents per pound. It will be gathered and cash paid at the door. The pretense is that during the fall and winter the large cities will be overcrowded and butter will be scarce. The contract is to go in effect in two weeks. A few days after the departure of the men, a drove of cows comes along. They are fine milk cows. The farmers see a good thing, think they could use a few more cows. They try to buy them and the drover doesn’t seem anxious to sell. Finally, however, he is induced to sell two or three to each farmer, at prices considerably higher than the real market value. He then departs, meets his partner, who put up the butter job, and they divide the profits. That is the last the farmer hears of it. (Butter in 1874 was 18 cents per pound.)
Delphos Herald - Dec. 14, 1876
The Nevada Legislature has just made a law which empowers Judges at their discretion to sentence men who assault women, to stand a certain time in a public street, placarded in large letters, "Woman Beater."
Delphos Herald - May 3, 1877
The following item is from the Van Wert Bulletin.
Some of our citizens have decided to compel the Marshall to enforce the State law prohibiting cows from running at large. According to the law, Marshall Redrup has given notice that after the 7th he will arrest all cows found at large without permits in their possession from the township trustees to allow them to roam the streets.
Delphos Herald - June 10, 1880
Disposition of Important Case
About two years ago, James Himmelright, a millionaire drayman of Delphos, entered suit before Squire Marshall against R.B. Jervis, a well known grocery man of Delphos, the complaint being that the latter was justly owing the former a sum of money for professional services — otherwise draying. John Hughes appeared as attorney for the plaintiff and secured for his client a verdict. Mr. Jervis appealed his case to the Van Wert County Common Pleas Court an the verdict of the lower court was sustained. Judge Day gave it as the opinion of the Court that, in this country, the laborer is always worthy of his hire, and in this case not only entitled to the amount sued for, but also interest on the whole amount from date.
P.S. — It should be stated for the truth of history, that the sum sued for and for which judgment was obtained was fifteen cents.
Delphos Herald - May 20, 1880
The Republicans of Delphos raised a beautiful pole last Friday. Its length we believe is about one hundred and forty feet, and from its top floats the stripes and stars. Mr. John Feely, who had successfully directed the raising, was borne on the shoulders of a dozen stallwart and enthusiastic gentlemen to a convenient place where he was presented with an exquisite glass-edged volume. H.O. Glenn, Esq., of Van Wert, addressed the people who had assembled to witness the pole raising.
The Democracy of Delphos, inspired by their Republican brethren, will indulge this afternoon in elevating 190 feet of hickory, from the top of which will float a Tilden and Hendricks banner. Gen. A.V. Rice, the popular congressman from this district, and R.D. Marshall, Esq., of Wapakoneta, are expected to be present to address the people.
Delphos Herald - Oct. 26, 1876
Under the provision of the Seitz election law recently passed, any person who gives money or anything else of value to influence a voter is subject to imprisonment in the penitentiary. It further provides that a candidate who pays money or contributes anything of value to secure his election, forfeits his office, besides incurring the penalties of fine and imprisonment, and any voter who asks or receives money or anything else of value, even a ticket to a church fair, from a candidate, either directly or indirectly, subjects himself to a heavy fine and imprisonment.
Delphos Herald - June 5, 1879
(P.S. I wonder if this law is still in effect? R.H.)
The Sister’s School will open the first Monday in September. Having fitted up their new Convent they are now ready to receive boarders, offering them all the advantage of a common school education, besides instruction in all kinds of needlework.
Terms, including board, tuition, washing, lessons in needlework, etc., $25 a quarter.
For further particulars call on or address Sister Josephine.
Delphos Herald - 1874
The party who took a bunch of trees from the lot of Chas. Shaffer, belonging to Albert Mox, on Sunday night, is hereby notified to return the same or call at the undersigned and pay for the same at once, otherwise legal proceedings will be commenced, as the thief is known.
Delphos Herald - May 4, 1876
During the month of July, the Delphos Brewery disposed of eleven hundred kegs of beer in this place and paid the Government $300 toward the reduction of the national debt.
Delphos Herald - August 2, 1877
Farmers, bring in your jugs and kegs and have them filled with pure unadulterated whiskey, at prices to suit the times, at the Pioneer Liquor Store of Jos. Esch, four doors north of the post office.
Delphos Herald - Aug. 9, 1877
The Van Wert Times exults over a single strawberry, raised by Mr. Farnam of that place, that measures five inches in circumference. Mr. S.R. Baily, whose small fruit farm is situated three miles west of Delphos, has raised and sold in this market, this season, between 70 and 80 bushels of strawberries, bushel after bushel of which measured from five to seven inches in circumference.
Delphos Herald - June 28, 1877
Presentation of Medals
A very important feature of the proceedings of the Fourth was the presentation of a beautiful medal to the pupils of the Delphos Union School. It bears the following inscription: "Dedicated to the pupils of the Delphos Union School, July 4, 1876. 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence." About 500 were distributed.
Delphos Herald - July 6, 1876
(P.S. Are there any of these medals still round? R.H.)
Compiled by Robert Holdgreve
Delphos Historical Society
September 18, 2004 Delphos Herald Newspaper