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
It was at the very end of the 19th century that a movement was inaugurated for a dam on the Blanchard River west of the present Norfolk Southern Railroad. The outgrowth of the movement is the present Liberty Street dam.
The river dam at Riverside Park is older. It dates back to around 1888, when the city built its first waterworks.
On Sept. 19, 1899, a group of citizens went before the city council to urge action to relieve a sanitary situation that had gotten acute within the city. The very low level of water in the river through the heart of the city produced a condition that left much to be desired, from the standpoint of health. In those days sewers were emptying directly into the stream.
It was suggested by the group which visited council that a dam be constructed on the west section of the river beyond what was then the Lake Erie and Western Railroad bridge. This would back up sufficient water in the river as it traveled through the center of the city to cover the river bed better and keep the stream in an improved sanitary condition, council was told.
A petition was presented to council urging action. It contained the names of 150 prominent citizens who strongly recommended favorable action.
Before council adjourned that evening, a committee of 10 citizens was appointed to look into the matter and submit a proposal to handle the problem. The committee consisted of five members of council and five from petitioners.
The council members named were Clinton S. Corthell, Jason Blackford, John Hamlin, Charles E. Watson and Daniel W. Reese.
The five others were William J. Frey, Frank Karst, Elmer Bolton, W.D. McCaughey and W.F. Hosler.
Mr. Corthell was an oil producer; Mr. Blackford, a lawyer; Mr. Hamlin, a lawyer; Mr. Watson was connected with a local industry; and Mr. Reese an insurance man and real estate broker. Mr. Watson was to become Findlay’s mayor in the ensuing 1900 municipal election. Mr. Frey was a Findlay druggist who later became mayor of the city; Mr. Karst, a grocer. Mr. Bolton had been Hancock County engineer and was again to become county engineer in 1900. Mr. McCaughey was a business consultant and Mr. Hosler was a Findlay banker.
The construction of the present Liberty Street dam came about from this start.
At this time, little did the proponents of the dam realize that their activities would make possible a river development later on that played a big role in community affairs. Riverside Park came into being into 1908 and with it came a Blanchard River fleet of launches and other water craft to transport the people to and from the park. That was before the days of general automobile ownership and the boats on the river provided the means of visiting the newly opened park.
Without the Liberty Street dam, the water in the Blanchard would never have been high enough to enable the river craft to operate. So, on a long range basis, the Liberty Street dam has multiple benefits.
The Riverside Park dam was built as part of the city’s new water system which evolved in 1888. A waterworks pumping plant was built where the present Tell Taylor memorial is now located. This was originally used to pump water from the river and fill water transmission lines over the city for use of the fire department and also for in homes which wished to have the water piped in. It was not used for drinking purposes, since it came directly from the river without treatment. People had their own water wells at their homes for drinking water.
A reservoir was constructed to the north of the river and a vertical filter dam built between the stream and the reservoir, which was located adjacent to the waterworks plant. Until the river became somewhat polluted with oil and other material, the filter dam operated successfully, but later was of no use.
The Riverside Park dam was built to back up the water in the river to help fill the reservoir and provide a supply of water for the pumping station.