Farmers opposed city’s first railroad

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 campaign for and against Hancock County’s first railroad was bitterly fought. But, it was successful and the road was built, linking Findlay and Carey.

In last week’s article the beginning of the movement for the railroad was related, through excerpts from an article appearing in the old Morning Republican in the 1880s, written by Miss Florence Blackford, for a number of years a news staff member of the paper. She tells of the election campaign which followed the decision of the Hancock County commissioners to submit a bond issue to the people for fund with which to help build the road.

“Strange as it may seem,” wrote Miss Blackford, “the campaign preceding the election in 1845 was one of the most vigorous ever held in the county. It never reached the dignity of a discussion from the taxpayers’ point of view. It was from an economic viewpoint that it was debated and not the right to tax a few for benefits accruing to someone else. It was solely engaged with the ups and downs in the prices of commodities that would be affected by this great upheaval of economic conditions. No street railway or telephone franchise, no right-of-way, no road question was more vigorously opposed than was the first proposition in the county’s history to bond the county. The sum involved was $60,000.

“Those were the days when the farmers hauled their grain to Tiffin largely. They were the times when teamsters were teamsters by profession and they were the most important factors in the community. These men and their farmer employers were the first to see the proposed measure a menace to their interests. They objected to railroads and they objected strenuously. They did not want the railroad and if they could help it they would not have any railroad.

“As the farmers thought about it they did not believe it would be a good thing for them. It would make the price of his horses go down. Each farmer had five or six usually and he could not unload them in time to avert a threatened panic in the horse market.

“Then someone put forward the argument that it would not be good for geese because the cars would shake the ground so that they could not set.

“The objectors further argued that it would be better to bond the county as proposed and build good gravel roads through to Tiffin. Such a measure, they insisted, would be more productive of benefits, and constituted a more practical solution of the difficulties arising from the transportation of grain.

“Inch by inch the ground was fought over that spring of 1845, when the county had only been organized less than 20 years. On April 11, the test of strength came when the voting took place. The proposition carried by 1,055 votes for it and 764 against.”

Dr. R.H. Hollyday, pastor of the First Presbyterian Church at the time and whose father-in-law, Robert Patterson, of Bellefontaine, was urging the issue strongly as an official of the railroad already going through Carey between Sandusky and Springfield, with which the proposed Findlay line was connected, was some distance from town when the election polls closed, Miss Blackford relates.

“He had been very anxious as to the result for he was certain of the benefits that would flow from a railroad for Findlay. In the midst of his solicitude on his trip into town, he heard the booming of the village cannon and he knew at once that it meant victory for the measure. On his reaching home, he found the result as he had hoped, the booming of the cannon expressing the gratification of the public-spirited citizens over the assured success of the venture and the lifting of the hamlet to the dignity of a village.”

Findlay at that time was a town of only some 600 inhabitants. Within the whole county there were some 10,000 people, however.

Next Week: Concluding Article on First Railroad

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