Monday, September 19, 2016

The Plank Road Revisited – Part 3

I’ve been getting a lot of emails in the past few days about my posts featuring T. Derby’s challenging of the long-accepted 1833 timeline of the plank road and tollgate.

The question most often posed to me is: “Where did the Nathan Perry Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution get that 1833 date on their memorial tablet anyway?”

That’s a good question. We may never know.

Both Drew Penfield and Rick Kurish noticed that the 1833 date is found in Early Days of Lorain, a written history by William G. Wickens, written in 1927. Writing about early storekeepers, Wickens mentions Naham B. Gates. Wickens wrote, “In 1850 Gates became superintendent for the Lorain-Elyria Plank Road Company.

“The plank road to Elyria has been built in 1833. It had been a great and progressive undertaking. That road, made of split logs, was projected to the county seat by local capital and various toll houses were erected along the way about two miles apart to assure a return to the builders.

“This was the first “paved road” out of Lorain, if one will so call those crude rough-split open logs. No other efforts at paving were made after 1833 for almost sixty years.”

Although the Wickens history is well-written and includes some sources and references, there are none listed for the 1833 date. It’s just presented as fact.

But in view of the claim that “no other efforts at paving were made after 1833 for almost sixty years” – which we know is simply not true based on the articles I posted on Friday – it doesn’t make sense.

There had been planking going on around Penfield in southern Lorain County around 1836, according to History of Lorain County (1879); perhaps that's the root of all this confusion.

But if you’re still not convinced that the first plank road between Elyria and Lorain wasn’t built until the late 1840s, our history pal Rick Kurish came up with the ultimate evidence over the weekend.

In an email, he wrote, "Here is the definitive timeline on the Lorain Plank Road. The information is found in Google Books, Acts of the State of Ohio, years 1848 /1849. The bill to incorporate the Lorain Plank Road Company was passed by the Ohio Assembly on January 28, 1848. An amendment to their charter was passed February 10, 1849. The amendment not only authorized the company to construct and extend a plank road from Elyria to Charleston, but also authorized them to construct and extend branches to any point they may see fit in the Counties of Lorain, Medina, Wayne or Ashland.”

Rick also found an article that makes reference to Elyria’s dire need for a plank road. The article, which ran in the March 4, 1845 edition of an Elyria newspaper called the Buckeye Sentinel, states, “Plank road Companies have been incorporated upon all sides of us, until we of Elyria have become almost environed with charters for such roads. Perhaps when the best trade to this place, shall, by these easy conveyances be taken elsewhere, the uncommon amount of public spirit which prevails our citizens will be aroused in vain efforts to recover their lost bread.”

Thus we can pretty much accept that Elyria had no plank road yet as of 1845 – but would have one leading to Lorain within a few years.

Next: The Penfield Connection


Loraine Ritchey said...

I just drove past this a couple of hours ago - I didn't get a chance to read the blog posts until just now. I thought as I drive past how sad that triangle looked and unkempt. and then I returned home to read your blog and catch up - another history mystery of Lorain - I look forward to the solving thereof ;)

Dan Brady said...

Hi Loraine!
I agree, unkempt is a pretty good way to describe it. Plus the small park looks even more depressing with the Morning Journal building behind it plastered with AVAILABLE signs.

Loraine Ritchey said...

Yes and that parking lot from hell farther down where they added planter boxes with the whole big Broadway hoopla and coverage only to let the plants die and the boxes rot.. sorry Lorain lately has taken its TOLL ;)