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
A look of the record years ago with regard to the condition of highways within Hancock County illustrates the vast progress that has been achieved since then in providing good roads.
In the old Morning Republican in the spring of 1899 appears an article describing the status of roads on main travel arteries within the county. It is exceedingly interesting and furnished a basis for comparison in seeing how far we have come in providing improved thoroughfares for travel.
By 1899, some progress had been made in improving roads leading into the city of Findlay, but these improvements did not extend very far out in most instances. In no cases, did they extend to any of the villages at that time.
THE SURFACE TREATMENT consisted of stone placed upon the road and then smoothed over to form what was known as a macadam pavement. This got the road out of the dirt and provided a surface that was a big improvement over the way nature left the highways, but of course it was a far cry from present-day pavement standards.
The 1899 newspaper showed the extent of the macadam pavement from Findlay out toward the villages on the various main roads as follow (with modern highway number designations, roads having been known then only by the name of the town toward which they went):
– U.S. 68, south, seven miles, this meaning to within a couple miles of Arlington;
– State Highway 37, southwest, four and a half miles toward Mount Blanchard, with some “strips” beyond in some places;
– State Highway 568, three miles beyond Lye Creek, toward Carey, with some patches in places;
– U.S. 224, east, four miles beyond Penn-Central Railroad crossing, toward Tiffin;
– State Highway 12, two and a half miles beyond U.S. 224 junction, with one bad break within this distance. This road also improved somewhat for a few miles leading into Fostoria;
– U.S. 224, west, six miles toward McComb, Ottawa and Defiance;
– State Highway 12, west, six miles toward Benton Ridge;
– U.S. 25, southwest, six miles toward Lima; and
– Port Clinton Road (County Road 18), five miles toward Bloomdale.
No mention was made of the road north to North Findlay and Van Buren, due probably to an oversight. A portion of this was macadamized undoubtedly for about the same length as the others.
The article said there were short stretches of surfaced roadway scattered over the county, amounting to a mile or so in each case.
The county was levying an extra tax of 11/2 mills for road improvement, amounting to approximately $30,000 a year. Commissioners had such authority under existing laws.
LIBERTY, UNION, ORANGE, Blanchard and Eagle townships, according to the newspaper, were the townships that were exhibiting the most interest in good roads. Some of them were levying a special tax of their own in addition to the county levy for road work. All of these townships lie on the west side of the county, three of them — Orange, Union, Blanchard — extending along the Putnam and Allen boundaries. Liberty is just west of Findlay and Eagle southwest.
The county was giving the city some of the funds derived from the extra tax levy to help improve streets leading to the rural roads.
The newspaper article described the method of macadamizing. A stone base was laid. Then a top dressing of very fine stone was applied to smooth out the surface. At first there was no such top application and the rough stone roads were found difficult for horses to travel, being avoided as much as possible in many areas until they had firmed up somewhat. In many areas there were dirt roads alongside the new stone highways.
It was to be nearly 20 years after the year 1899 that the first hard-surfaced roads as we know them today came into being. By the end of the 1920s, all main highways out of Findlay and the Lincoln Highway, and other state roads not touching Findlay, had been improved, much like they are now.