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Judge established county’s river roads

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 improvement now (May 1965) in progress on the west edge of the city of Findlay involving the new bridge across the Blanchard River and an improved access route to the new senior high school will cause a change in the path of the South River Road at its eastern terminus. The elevation of the Cemetery Road as a phase of the improvement will make necessary a shift in the position of the River Road somewhat to the south on its east end.

This all recalls some historical background in connection with the River Road and its companion across the river, the North River Road.

The records show that the author of the idea of the roadways along the river banks was the late Judge Robert Strother, a pioneer settler in the community who also served as a public official. Miss Florence Blackford, Findlay newspaper woman of other days, told of the development of the river roads in an article she wrote for the old Morning Republican around the turn of the century.

“There are few who realize,” she wrote, “that these roads along the river are a monument to a pioneer’s love of the beautiful. They are not accidental. They were secured at the expense of much labor at the time and considerable vituperation afterward.

“The late Judge Robert Strother was quick to see the advantage to be derived from a driveway along the banks of the river. He had an eye for the beautiful and saw great possibilities in the change. In 1831, he was elected county commissioner and the first thing he did was to secure the necessary legislation to open up the road. He was successful in his undertaking and every generation has since profited by his foresight. Generation after generation since has slowly driven up and down these green fringed drives and watched the moonlight reflected in the waters. They have drunk in the soft spirit of calm that pervades the gloaming hours in a sentimental way that at one time threatened them with the names of ‘Lovers Lanes.’

“The drives are always in prime favor and suggestive of anecdotes. Probably the most characteristic is one of the oldest. It is told that one time a young man, variously named in various localities, was driving down one of the river roads, with a young lady. The young man was leaning back in the carriage drinking in the beauties of a perfect moonlit night with arm carelessly swung along the back of the seat of the carriage. The young lady was uneasy and at one point in the drive where the roadway was narrow she said, pointedly:

“Perhaps you had better take two hands,” meaning to drive properly. He however, said bluntly, “Well, who is to drive then?”

“The story, it can be relied upon, is authentic.”

The River Road on the south side follows the stream closely for quite a ways on beyond the county home. The road on the north side, now a state and federal highway — U.S. No. 224 and State Route No. 15 — does not follow the river so closely.

There is a River Road also on the east side of Findlay that follows the Blanchard closely. It runs from the area of the three-mile bridge on the south side of the river for quite a distance, meeting the Rosenbridge Road near the Sam B. Rose farm home.

Judge Strother is credited by Miss Blackford with having instigated the early improvement of the Findlay-Perrysburg Road directly north of Findlay when he was county commissioner in the early 1830s.

She also gives Judge Strother credit for being the “father of Findlay trade with the outside world.”

“He took a wagon load of ‘black salts’ from the ashery on the Hall farm in Hancock County to Licking County (Zanesville) and sold it there,” she said. “He brought in return a load of dried fruits, flour and such articles, which he disposed of in Findlay. It was the first product of the new county to go outside the county limits.”

The judge won his “judge” appellation through appointment as an associate judge in his later years. Under the judicial system of those days, two non-lawyer citizens were named to occupy the court bench with the elected judge to provide him with information about cases and Mr. Strother was one of these appointees. The custom of associate judges was done away with early in the 1850s, when the state adopted a new constitution.

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