Findlay’s Express Businesses

EDITOR’S NOTE–This is another article on Findlay-area history adapted from a series written from 1959 to 1974 by the late R.L. Heminger, publisher and editor of The Courier.

 

 

By R.L. HEMINGER

 

 

An institution that was a fixture in the city of Findlay going back to 1849 is here no more.

We refer to the express business. At the end of 1966, the Railway Express Agency wound up its affairs in Findlay and consolidated the local office with that in Fostoria.

Findlay’s first express came into the town when the community’s first railroad began to operate between here and Carey, 15 miles to the southeast. This was in 1849. The conductor of the railroad attended to the business, the historical records indicate. He probably just deposited the express at the railroad depot and in some manner word got to the addressees that they had some packages at the depot which was located at the foot of East Crawford Street at East Street.

Express came ahead of the telegraph and the telephone, historically speaking. It was in the 1860s that the first telegraph line was built, running along the tracks of the railroad that connected Findlay and Fremont. It was in the 1880s that the town saw its first telephone.

In August, 1857, Cunningham Hazlett, the records show, opened a private express office at the Exchange Bank which had been started in the town by Mr. Hazlett. The first regular office was established in April, 1858, by the United States Express Co., with A.R. Belden as agent. The office was at the depot of the branch railroad. A firm known as the Merchants Union also had an express office here in those times and the U.S. Express and the Union firms later merged their interests.

Later other express concerns were to come. One was known as the American Express Co. There also was the Adams Express and the Wells, Fargo and Co. All three were operating at one time locally.

The American and Adams later on joined forces and were located at 523 S. Main St. The location was beside the alley which runs along the north side of the Marathon Oil Co. building and the building in which the express firms were situated occupied the extreme north end of the present Marathon property.

Wells, Fargo and Co. was located at 113 W. Crawford St. The United States Express Co. had its headquarters at 112 W. Main Cross St.

John G. Shaler was the agent for both the American and Adams express firms. He lived at 1012 Hurd Ave. His daughter became a famous theatrical star. Her stage name was Elizabeth Brice.

Mr. Belden, the agent who handled the United States and Wells and Fargo businesses here in early years, was a prominent Findlay citizen. He was a native of New London, Conn., a famous seaport. He became interested in a seafaring career and doubled Cape Horn four times and the Cape of Good Hope twice in his experience. He came to Sandusky, Ohio, engaging in the drug trade and in 1858 came to Findlay. The R.C. Brown history of Hancock County says that while he was in charge of the Findlay-Carey railroad and express business here, he took in on a single day 10,000 bushels of wheat off the farmers’ wagons and would average between 400,000 and 500,000 bushels a year.

“He paid out to farmers for grain as much as any other person living here,” says historian Brown.

Mr. Belden married Sadie E. Bope, of Lancaster, a sister of Col. James A. Bope, prominent Findlay attorney and Civil War regimental commander.

The home of the Beldens was at 822 S. Main St., where he constructed a residence of very unusual design, resembling a ship in some respects, in outward appearance. The home was later owned by the Harlan A. Burkets. The residence was later removed after the First Evangelical United Brethren Church was built on the Lima Street corner, the Belden-Burkett home site becoming a parking lot for the church.

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