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. Information for the articles on the Findlay Belt Line Railroad was provided by the late Don Smith.
By R.L. HEMINGER
One of the many problems that arose in the building of the Findlay Belt Line Railroad in the early 1890s in the local community involved the question of what to do with the bodies yet remaining in the city’s original cemetery just east of Eagle Creek between East Main Cross and East Sandusky streets.
This area had been established as the village’s burial ground when the town was being developed in the 1820s. It continued as such until late in the 1850s, when the present Maple Grove site was acquired and developed as a cemetery.
Most bodies were moved from the original burial ground to Maple Grove in the 1860s. But some were not and remained in the ground when the belt line began to take form.
The railroad promoters went to council about the matter. Council decided to sell the ground to the belt line for $400 and ordered relatives and friends of those yet interred to remove the bodies at once. This action was taken by ordinance March 14, 1892. In event of non-removal of bodies, the railroad was given authority to remove the bodies and place them in graves to be provided by Maple Grove.
A LEGAL ADVERTISEMENT WAS inserted in the local newspapers listing the names of those still interred in the old burial ground. There were nearly 50 names in the list.
There is an area in the west part of Maple Grove Cemetery where a number of bodies were interred together. This presumably is where railroad placed bodies it had to remove.
As the building of the belt line proceeded, the newspapers told of the great increase of freight on the railroads in the city and of the big need for a line to connect all systems and facilitate moving the freight cars.
In the year 1890, two years before the belt line began operations, a total of 20,155 freight cars were received and shipped from the various Findlay factories, it was made known. Payment of $3 or $4 was paid to transfer them from line to line. The belt line would greatly reduce this cost, it was felt.
In 1891, the freight business was up around 30 percent and expected to continue to increase each year. New factories were still coming to Findlay, attracted by the great supply of natural gas.
The belt line was to run from the Big Four railroad tracks, where Blanchard Street was crossed, north to the corporation limits, then cross North Main Street and eventually south on the west side of the northside of Findlay. The terminal eventually was established at Lester Avenue and plants further south were to be serviced by a connection with what was then the Cincinnati, Hamilton and Dayton Railroad — later the Baltimore and Ohio, this railroad running a track from its Findlay-McComb-Deshler main tracks on High Street in Findlay.
Plans were in the making to extend the belt line to West Park and the Carnahan Addition in southeastern Findlay along Blanchard Avenue to connect with the Findlay, Fort Wayne and Western Railroad, but these never developed. Surveys were made, but they never got much further.
THE REQUIRED BRIDGE ACROSS the Blanchard River took some time. It was one of the last segments of the belt line to be finished. On Aug. 8, 1892, the Morning Republican said “Shull and Parker Bros. have the contract to furnish the bridge timber for the Blanchard River bridge for the Belt Line railroad. The bridge abutments are now completed. The bridge will be 150 feet long, made of iron and wood.”
The bridge was a temporary one, to be replaced later on by a more permanent structure. After the belt line went out of business, the river bridge it used stopped for some time. One of the concrete abutments is still in the stream.
The belt line established its offices in rooms in the Cusac Block, at West Front and South Main streets. “They will be handsomely fitted and furnished,” the newspaper said.
Right-of-way problems and other complications continued to plague the line’s progress right down through the final months. There was much inter-railroad controversy, as each sought to preserve its own interests and protect its business.
Next Week: War Among Railroads Over Belt Line