Flames twice destroyed refuse ‘crematories’

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

 

(This is the second of two articles recalling Findlay’s experience in solving its refuse problems 60 and 70 years ago. The information comes from the late Don E. Smith, whose search of the old files of the former Morning Republican has turned up much interesting data on various subjects.)

 

The operation of the city-built crematory on the banks of Lye Creek east of Findlay (it was built in 1889 at the height of the oil and gas boom) continued on a rather haphazard basis until April 1, 1897. On that date — April Fool’s Day — it mysteriously burned down. No insurance had been carried on the property.

The city fathers discussed the next step at some length. It was a question of whether to seek to rebuild the plant or look in some other direction for a solution to the troublesome problem.

Dr. Davis, owner of the ground on which the crematory had been built, was approached and he refused to renew the lease, nor would he sell it to the city. This ended Findlay’s direct participation in the crematory business as a municipal enterprise.

The Findlay board of health and the city council argued back and forth for several months as to what should be done, with the result that a virtual stalemate developed.

A private citizen came forth with a proposal to take over the matter, build a crematory and operate under a franchise to be granted by the municipality.

He made an agreement on July 20, 1897, with the city to take care of all the city’s refuse for a flat rate of $150 a month. He was granted a five-year franchise. The city reserved the privilege of purchasing the whole operation for the sum of $1,800, if it so elected.

The new crematory was built on grounds located along the Nickel Plate railroad on the west side of McManness Avenue in the northeast section of the city. This old site is still marked by a pile of brick and other material gathered up by a subsequent owner of the grounds.

The plant was completed and in operation by Jan. 7, 1898. The owner and the city did not agree at all times and the owner had troubles collecting his $150 a month at times.

Once again, fire settled the whole matter, or rather gave the city a new problem. The plant was destroyed by fire in June 1900. It was thought tramps accidentally set the property afire. The loss was estimated at $600 at the time. The crematory was not rebuilt.

In July 1900, Samuel Dixon, a Findlay man and the manufacturer of a patented crematory, had some dealings with the city concerning the construction of a new city crematory. Nothing ever came of the matter, however. After the summer of 1901, the whole matter of the need for a new crematory was dropped in council proceedings. Other means of disposing of refuse evidently were found.

The Dixon Crematory Co., which was established by Mr. Dixon here, grew to be quite a local business. The iron works for the furnaces were manufactured by Heck and Munslow Machine Co. and later by Heck and Marvin Machine at their shop at the northeast corner of North Cory and Fair Street. This machine shop was the forerunner of the later Buckeye Traction Ditcher Co., later the Findlay plant of Garwood Industries, Inc.

The special fire brick used to line the Dixon furnaces was manufactured by the old Findlay Clay Pot Co. in the large building now occupied by the Sausser Steel concern on Bolton Street.

Carloads of materials for the crematories were shipped from the local plant to all parts of the United States. At one time, Mr. Dixon had contracts to build 25 large plants in Cuba.

Mr. Dixon later sold his company to a Toledo firm, receiving some $40,000 for his patents and materials on hand at the time of the sale.

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