Some community ‘firsts’

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following 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

 

The local community has been the scene of the development of a remarkably long number of so-called “firsts” over the years. They fall into various categories. Put together, they make an impressive list.

It has been suggested that it might be well to assemble them for the sake of the record to the extent that they can be recalled at this time. The “firsts” would include the following happenings, with “firsts” referring to the United States or the whole world, for that matter:

(1) The discovery of natural gas in Findlay in the 1880s led to what was described as the first application in the world of such gas to the mechanical art. This took place in Findlay, with the utilization of natural gas in local glass and other industries.

(2) The oil wells and natural gas wells in the local community’s boom days in the late 1880s were the largest ever drilled throughout the world up to that time. The famous Karg gas well on the south bank of the Blanchard River at the foot of Liberty Street produced 12,000,000 cubic feet daily at the outset, setting a global record. Then, the Tippecanoe gas well on East Bigelow Avenue came in a little later with 31,000,000 cubic feet a day, constituting a new record. On top of these records, an oil well on the Hugh McMurray farm at Van Buren yielded 40,000 barrels of oil daily, a world record at the time.

(3) The country’s first congressional medals of honor for war-time bravery and courage went to the famous Andrews Raiders who captured a Confederate locomotive in Georgia in the Civil War. Four Hancock County men were among the recipients of the medals. Hancock County had more men in the raiding crew than any other Ohio county.

(4) A Findlay man, Israel Green, is generally regarded as the first to propose Abraham Lincoln for president. There are records to substantiate this claim.

(5) Findlay for a long time was the home of the only mask factory in the United States. Its papier-maché products, produced in the plant which stood on West Main Cross Street, were sold extensively over the United States and in foreign markets. The business belonged to the Kirsten family.

(6) The first winner of the famous Indianapolis 500-mile race was a Findlay man, Ray Harroun. The race tool place in 1911. Mr. Harroun died in the 1960s in Indiana.

(7) The Eagle Park roadside rest area that was located just south of Findlay at the intersection of U.S. 68 and Ohio 15 was the first such roadside center to be established in Ohio. It became the forerunner of many such areas now along Ohio’s highways.

(8) A Findlay attorney became the only citizen of the United States to later become a citizen of the Dominion of Canada and to possess the distinction of having been a member of legislative bodies in both countries. He was Thomas McConica, who served s a state senator from this district in the Ohio General Assembly and moved to Canada and was elected to the parliament from a district in Saskatchewan, one of the western provinces. Parliament corresponds to Congress in the United States.

(9) A stretch of Interstate 75 within Hancock County was one of three highway improvements officially listed as the first to be undertaken on the new Interstate system in the 1950s, after President Eisenhower signed the act of Congress creating the program. The other two improvements in the United States listed as in the “first” category were on the edge of Cincinnati and in Missouri. All three projects were just getting started when the Interstate system came into effect and they were immediately labeled the “first” bearing Interstate designation in the nation.

(10) The first women’s page in any daily newspaper in the country appeared in the old Morning Republican in Findlay in the 1890s. Miss Florence Blackford, who was on the editorial staff of the newspaper, was an active women’s club leader in the local community, and persuaded the paper’s editor to permit her to start writing up activities of local women’s organizations, on a special page daily.

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