First railroad and the preacher

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.




The story of the evolution and construction of Findlay’s first railroad is an absorbing one. The line was the road which ran between Findlay and Carey, a distance of some 15 miles. It was completed in 1849. It opened a new chapter in the life of the local community.

In one of her interesting and informative articles in the old Morning Republican in the 1890s, Miss Florence Blackford, for a number of years, a member of the news staff of the paper, describes the background of the origin of the railroad, which was known as the Mad River Line at the start, the name coming from a waterway in the vicinity of Bellefontaine.

Miss Blackford obtained much of her information from Dr. R.H. Hollyday, an early pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Findlay, who was here when the road was built.

“Speaking of the old Mad River strap iron railroad,” wrote Miss Blackford, “Dr. R.H. Hollyday entertainingly the other day laid claim to a fair share of the responsibility for securing the road. Dr. Hollyday is probably the best known living pioneer in the county. He traveled its length and breadth in ministering to the spiritual needs of the people of the county. His life work has been such as is permitted to a few men and while his great efficacy as a minister of the gospel and a conscientious worker in the cause of right is acknowledged and recognized on all sides, his instrumentality in helping secure the Mad River branch of the Findlay-Carey railroad is in all probability forgotten.

“It was about 58 years ago that Dr. Hollyday was married to a daughter of Robert Patterson, of Bellfontaine, and came here to be the spiritual head of the Presbyterian Church, then holding services in the church’s building on West Crawford St., at that time the fashionable thoroughfare of the community. The Rev. George Van Eman had been instrumental in building the church, the structure being erected in 1838, seven years after a Cincinnati missionary had organized the religious society.

“In the fall of 1842, Dr. Hollyday took charge. They were fairly well settled in their new Findlay home when Mrs. Hollyday’s father, Robert Patterson of Bellfontaine, came to see them. He was one of the originators of the old Mad River railroad which at that time had Tiffin as its terminus. (Later it ran on to Sandusky on Lake Erie, extending south and west to Bellefontaine and Springfield).

“Mr. Patterson was director of the company and at different times in his successful career held the position of secretary and treasurer. He was thoroughly interested in the subject of railroads. He saw great possibilities for Findlay if the town could but reach his Mad River road, then not far away, with Carey the nearest town on the line. Mr. Patterson talked the matter over enthusiastically and with eventual success.

It took a half dozen years to bring about the coming of the railroad into Findlay, since it was not until 1849 that the line was completed and the trains started running.”

Dr. Hollyday, in talking to Miss Blackford about the railroad’s history, “jocularly” remarked, she wrote, that if he and his wife had not come to Findlay in 1842 from Bellfontaine, there might not have been a railroad so early in the community’s life. He was referring to the fact that if he had not come here to preach, his father-in-law, Mr. Patterson, would not have come, in all probability, and there would have been no local interest, so early, in a railroad connection.

Also sharing in the honor of having helped stimulate interest in a railroad for early Findlay was Joseph S. Patterson, a son of the elder Patterson and a brother of Mrs. Hollyday. He came to Findlay from Bellfontaine in 1843, a year after the Hollydays arrived, becoming interested in the mercantile field and later being responsible for the origin of the Patterson Department Store in 1849, the same year the railroad came. He joined in strongly urging the railroad cause and was active in the efforts to secure the line for Findlay.

Mr. Patterson continued to reside in Findlay during the rest of his life. He was to become an official of the railroad later on.

Next Week: More about community’s first railroad.


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