Bath Township, Ohio

 

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Roads and Transportation

The roads, canals, and railroads in and around Bath have played an important part in our past growth and previous economic situations.  Today the roads in Bath are continuing to increase in importance as the residences increase and the number of workers in the population travel to and from the urban areas.

Many of our present road facilities had their beginning in advance of the first settlers. For many years prior to the first settlement of Bath by Jonathan Hale, there were Indians within our township.  These Indians, through their varied activities, created the footpaths and trails between camps that later became roads for the settlers.

When the settlers arrived they found that these Indian footpaths were too narrow for their weigh-laden wagons.  Thus, they were forced to widen them.  These widened and improved wagon traces were later to be recognized as our first thoroughfares.  However, not every road was created in such a haphazard and unorganized manner.  Some roads, such as Bath and Ira Road today, are found to follow the old lot lines between two sections of property.  This accounts for the general encountered straight lines incorporated within their courses.  The exception to the proceeding, however, is found within the present broken-in path of Revere Road where it intersects Ira Road.

There also seems to have been a tendency to enclose the township within a margin or roads.  This tendency is illustrated by the roads now known as Sand Run, Medina Line, Everett, Smith and part of Route 18.  Each of these roads is a straight line, thus indicating a planned effort in their construction.

Due in part to the past importance of water and water power to industry, we find that Yellow Creek and Granger Roads roughly follow the course of the Yellow Creek as it flows through Ghent.  This conveniently accounts for their viciously winding curves.

In 1811 Jonathan Hale and Timothy Bishop decided that a road into their homesteads would be a very handy and convenient item.  In response to this need, Jonathan went to the county seat, then in Ravenna, with a petition signed by Hale and Bishop requesting a new road.  Jonathan's request was granted by the commissioners.  For the small fee of five dollars Jonathan was granted the right to construct the roads now known as Riverview and Oak Hill.  He constructed this eleven miles of road at his own expense from Pontey's Camp near the location of Columbia Road in Richfield to the Cuyahoga Portage.  This road, now known as Oak Hill, turned off at Everett and returned to Riverview Road at Botzum.  Among the first persons to travel on this new road were Jonathan's sister, brother-in-law, and the Hammonds.  This contingent was arriving from Glastonbury, Connecticut to settle in Bath.

One of the earliest roads to pass east and west through Bath is the road known as Smith Road in the southern extremity of the township.  It is said to have been a military supply trail built by General Smith during the War of 1812.  This road connected the Old Portage with Camp Avery in Huron County.

Another early and important road that is still vital today is the Cleveland-Massillon Road.  The importance and name of the earlier mentioned road stems from the fact that Cleveland-Massillon Road was at one time a stagecoach route between Cleveland and Massillon.  This route passed through Ghent on what is now Wye Road, where it created a need for stores and hotels that has been carried over into our own small commercial area, now also known as Ghent. 

Most roads were named through the use of a place-to-place symbolism.  Examples would include the Doylestown-Richfield Road (Medina Line Road), Bath-Stow-Kent Road (Bath Road) and Granger-Ghent Road (Granger Road).  Some of the roads were described by the name of a corner or landmark to a place.  The most outstanding examples of this symbolism includes Osborn Corners-Everett Road (Everett Road), Hammond's Corners-Ira Road (Ira Road), and Croton House, Richfield Road (Revere Road)

Neither the canals nor the railroads are within the confines of Bath Township, but since they are only three-hundred yards from the township, they did play an important part in our community's past growth and development.

The advent of the Ohio Canal, passing near Bath, was of great importance to the economic structure of the community.  This canal was opened from Cleveland to Akron in 1827 and by 1830 it was completed to the Ohio River.  Water and water transportation have always been considered among the cheapest and most efficient methods for the transport of especially large and heavy cargoes.  Thus the canal opened to farmers a cheap and efficient means of sending their produce to markets that were impossible to reach beforehand.  One of the settlers who collected immediate benefit from the canal was Jonathan Hale.  Hale used the canal to send his wool, whiskey, mixed and refined lime, and other products to destination as far away as New York.

The canal not only helped the farmer directly through cheaper access to markets, but it also helped him and his family to travel easier than had ever before been possible.  This idea was demonstrated several years after the opening of the canal by Mercy and Jonathan Hale who returned to revisit their home in Glastonbury, Connecticut.  To journey to Glastonbury they took a canal packet to Cleveland, a schooner to Buffalo, and a wagon to Connecticut.  This was the normal series of steps taken when shipping or traveling to the East.

Included within the interesting details of the building of the canal is the story of the Irish workers.  When the canal was begun thousands of Irishmen who were driven from their homes to America due to a potato famine in Ireland, found their way into canal construction gangs.  The hard work, the wet and dirty surroundings, and their lack of immunity allowed typhoid fever to kill many of the Irish workmen.  These expended workers were buried in any convenient spot; some of them were buried in Hale Cemetery near Hale Homestead.  So many were buried in unmarked graves that it is not unusual today to uncover a shovel of remains when digging new graves in Hale Cemetery (Ira Cemetery).

Three of the best known locks on the Ohio Canal near Bath are the locks numbered 26, 27 and 28.  Lock number 26 is located just south of the intersection of Ira and Riverview Roads.  This lock was known to the early inhabitants of Bath as the Mud Catcher Lock as a result of its tendency to collect mud and sediment from the canal.  The locks numbered 27 and 28, located respectively in Everett and Peninsula, are connected with a very interesting story.  Shortly after the opening of the canal in 1827, there was a heavy rain that caused Furnace Run in Peninsula to swell to such heights and speeds that the water washed tons of mud and sand into lock numbers 27 and 28.  The mud and sand temporarily closed down these two locks thus trapping a boat in each lock.   Since the canal boats very seldom were caught between towns for extended periods of time, they carried only small amounts of corn meal and flour.  Since the people in lock 27 only had corn meal, they were forced to eat Johnnycakes (pancakes made from corn meal).  Since then lock 27 has been known as the Johnnycake Lock.  A similar situation was enacted within lock 28, but in this case they were forced to eat pancakes.  Thus lock 28 became locally known as Pancake Lock.

An ordinance that later ended the usefulness of the canal concerned the conditions involved in the retirement of the canal.  This ordinance said that any section of the canal that was not used for a period of one year was forfeited to its original owners.  After the evolution of and takeover by the railroads, the proceeding ordinances helped spell the end of the Ohio Canal.

The greatest problem with canal transportation arose from the fact that transportation by rail was faster and much more convenient than the slow travel by canal boat.  In 1910 the canal was dredged out, but little or no traffic passed through it for the next three years.  The canal was finally ruined when, during the flood of 1913, large segments of its banks were washed away and never replaced.

The people of Bath and surrounding areas played a part in Commodore Perry's victory against the British in Lake Erie on September 10, 1813.  Three of Commodore Perry's ships, the Portage, the Porcupine and the Hornet, were built in the vicinity of Bath on the Cuyahoga River.  The ships were floated down the river into Lake Erie where Commodore Perry used them in his battle.  The bombarding and booming of the engagement were so great that it has been said that the noise from the lake could be heard by the people of Bath.

The second half of the nineteenth century was a boom time for the construction of railroads all over the country.  Almost everyone was advancing plans for the building of a dream railroad that eventually would become only  a dream.  Bath experienced its own dream in 1853.

In that year there was a popular railroad known as the Clinton Line Railroad that connected Hudson, Ohio with several eastern and northern ports.  An enterprising and ambitious man, Henry N. Day, decided that it would be a good idea to build a ninety-four mile addition from the Hudson terminal to Tiffin, Ohio.

The railroad extension was to be known as the Clinton Air Line because of the novel idea that part of the railway roadbed should be constructed "in the air" on top of a trestle.  The company spent seventy thousand dollars to plan and grade the roadbed through Northampton across the Cuyahoga near James Brown's home, along the Yellow Creek Valley, through Ghent, and on to Tiffin.  The building of the railroad caused a temporary boom in Ghent, but when the firm ran into financial difficulties and fell apart in 1865 the boom ended.

Although the first proposed railroad was the Clinton Extension, it was not until 1880 that a railroad was actually constructed near Bath.  The first railroad was called the Canton Terminal Valley Railroad because it ran north from Canton to Cleveland through the Cuyahoga Valley.  With the arrival of the CTV Railroad Bath became a busy railroad center with easy access to three depots located in Northampton.  These three depots were located at Botzum, Ira, and Everett; two of which were outfitted with a telegraph.

Although the large Baltimore and Ohio Railroad did not buy the CTV until 1906, the traffic on the Canton Terminal Valley made Bath an important rail stop.  This path by way of Bath was made increasingly important as people moved west because all of the passenger traffic from Cleveland to Chicago had to go by way of Akron.  This meant that the trains had to go south by way of the Valley Railroad and then west on the Baltimore and Ohio.  This path is only thirteen miles longer than a track running along the Lake Erie shore.  Through the busy Valley Railroad, Bath was given early access to the benefits of travel and trade that only a railroad can bring a community.  Understandably, after the great invasion of the railroad the canal traffic slowly dropped until in 1913 the canal was abandoned.

In the days before the county assumed the responsibility for the maintenance of the county highways, there often occurred problems between adjoining townships over the repair of the bordering or town line roads.  To help remedy this inconvenient situation arising over the delegation of responsibility, Bath made agreements in 1876 with Richfield, Copley and Northampton.  A typical agreement would be similar to the 1867 agreement between Bath and Copley.  Under this agreement Bath was to repair the western section of Smith Road from where Bath Center Road intercepted it, and Copley would assume responsibility for the remaining eastern portion of the road.

The early roads in Bath Township were so rural and isolated that several plans for the road improvement were developed that would employ local workmen.  One of these plans allows the people who lived along a road to repair and maintain that particular section of the road.  This right entitled a man to a discount on his Road Tax.

In 1868 the Bath Township Trustees enacted a resolution that called for the establishment of road districts and for the appointment of a road supervisor to each district.  Bath established eight districts in 1868, but in later years this number fluctuated between twenty and twenty seven.

The old covered bridge on the corner of Everett and Oak Hill Roads is one of the most outstanding points of historical interest still intact within the vicinity.  Although this bridge is not situated within Bath Township, we mention it because it is one of the few bridges of similar construction still in existence in Ohio and is the only one left in Summit County.  It is one hundred and fifteen feet long and was constructed out of seven by ten inch timbers.  These massive timbers account for the long and useful life of this structure.

The turn of the century brought several new and revolutionary conveniences to Bath .  These included the automobile and the paved road.  The first automobiles in Bath were not owned by any of the residents of Bath, but they were noticed by everyone. These motor powered "buckboards" used to travel into Bath in groups of twelve on test runs.  During these runs the men would always stop at the old cider mill in Ghent for refreshment.

The first car to be owned by a resident of Bath was owned by Roswell Hopkins.  He bought a white Stanley Steamer in 1910 that was the object of many inquisitive looks from the pessimistic members of the community.  Another person who had one of the first cars was Dr. Bear  from Hammond's Corners.  Dr. Bear's car, the fist in Bath with an internal combustion engine, was a small noisy "buckboard" that he used for house calls during good weather.

The new cars that were starting to roll into the township required an improvement in the conditions of the always bumpy and usually muddy roads.  The feasibility of improving and paving all of the roads in Bath was considered seriously when in 1916 the township and county paved in Route 176.  Soon after many other roads were paved, including Granger Road and Route 21.  Common paving materials at this time were brick and crushed stone or slag.

Another transportation landmark was passed in 1910 when the township gave permission to Standard Oil Company to oil the roads at Hammond's Corners.  This appears to be the first use of oil for dust control in Bath.

The period from 1910 to the present has demonstrated the greatest attempts toward the recovery of our nation's economy led to the establishment of the Works Projects Administration (WPA).  This program created many new jobs for unemployed men.  Some of the men involved with this program in this area helped to construct and maintain our roads and bridges.  Some of the projects which were undertaken included the construction of a bridge on Crystal Lake Road, and the reconstruction of Martin Road.

The wages of 1935 and 1940 that were paid for road construction were very small in relation to today's high construction and repair costs.  In 1935 it was passed during a township meeting that the road superintendent should receive 45 cents per hour and that a common laborer should receive 35 cents per hour.  As the years progress the superintendent and workmen received a large raise so that by 1940 the superintendent was receiving 50 cents per hour and the workmen were given 40 cents per hour.

In any new allotment or on any road that is surfaced with slag, gravel, or limestone, one always finds that a dust problem arises.  July 5, 1943 marked another first in the area of dust control.  On this date, the township authorized the County Engineer to spread, for the first time in Bath, the dust controlling compound calcium chloride in front of all the homes situated along township roads.

The first mention of street lighting for the safety and convenience of township residents came in January of 1946.  This step was a great stride toward the great number of lights along our roads presently.  The best example of this is seen on Everett Road.

As our township grows in population and in the number of allotments, our roads will grow proportionately more extensive.  This is the pattern of the past and will probably continue to be the pattern in the future.  The over fifty allotments now in Bath have made their contributions to the township's road system with the addition of such roads as Martadale, Shade Park, Ranchwood, and Oak Knoll Drive.  The future residents of Bath will see many great improvements in our already adequate transportation facilities.

Written by John Warner

Township History