Early Findlay had refuse problems

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 city of Findlay has been having its difficulties with the matter of disposal of refuse and waste material in recent months (in 1964) and in fact over a few years.

So did those who were Findlay residents years ago. The historical records reveal interesting information regarding the troubles that developed 60 and 70 years ago, locally, in this area.

The information came to light through an indirect reference in the “Historical Highlights” column a couple months ago to a “crematory” matter within the city. Reference was made that it was an issue before the authorities around 1900, but no details were at hand.

(The late) Don E. Smith, who has an interesting hobby of delving into Findlay’s past history as revealed by the pages of the old files of the Morning Republican, has furnished the information that tells the story of Findlay’s refuse and waste problems of boom and post-boom days. The facts as stated below come from Mr. Smith.

The papers of those early days spoke of a “crematory,” which was the burning of garbage, dead animals and the like. Today it would be termed an incinerator.

“To get the whole crematory story it is necessary to go back to the year 1889 in Findlay’s history,” says Mr. Smith. “The gas boom was at its height and the population of the city was somewhere between 18,000 and 20,000. What with all the horses and other livestock then housed in town, along with the absence of a great many sanitary sewers, things must have been pretty terrible.

“It was proposed to city council that the city build a crematory to help clean up the situation. A contract was let to the Eagle crematory for the construction of a plant, on condition that if the plant was successful, the city would purchase it.

“The plant was built on land leased from Dr. A.L. Davis. The location of the site would be about the rear of 707 E. Main Cross St. on a slight hill east of Lye Creek. Jerry Ferguson had the building contract. Construction of the building and furnaces were soon completed and a test run was made on July 15, 1889. The test proved successful and in due time the municipality purchased the plant.

“Almost from the very start of the crematory, the residents of that end of town filed complaints against its operation and wanted it moved or closed down. Their complaints were not so much against the operation of the furnace as it was against the large amounts of garbage, dead animals and other refuse piled up around the place waiting to be burned.

“In January 1892, Dr. M.M. Carrothers, the head of the Findlay board of health, read a paper at a meeting of the state board of health in Columbus on the cost and operation of the Findlay crematory. From Dr. Carrothers’ paper, the following figures come:

“The first cost of the plant was about $6,000. Labor to run the plant a year for two men cost $1,281. Consumed at the plant were 3,422 loads of garbage, 3,718 barrels of night soil, 130 dead horses, 23 dead cows, 119 dead dogs and 44 dead hogs.

“The crematory was a rather large affair. Dr. Carrothers told the state board there were two furnaces. The larger one, for garbage and night soil, was 22 feet long and 6 feet wide. The smaller, or stock furnace, was 10 feet long and 4 feet wide. These two furnaces sat at right angles to each other and joined at the smoke stack.

“The interior of the furnace was divided by grate bars made of heavy railroad iron. Fire was placed beneath the grates; also fire was applied to the material to be destroyed. The smoke, gases and foul odors caused in the burning process were made to pass through a small furnace heated to nearly a white heat by a flame near the entrance to the stack. There was therefore practically no unpleasant odor either from the garbage or stock furnaces.”


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