NOTE: For previous stories in our “Mansfield on the Map” series, click on any of the following:
We continue our look at “Mansfield on the Map” by moving to the year 1854 and the publication of one of the first maps of Ohio to include rail lines, “Colton’s railroad & township map of the state of Ohio, drawn by George W. Colton, and engraved by J M. Atwood.”
The first completed rail line in Ohio was the Mad River and Lake Erie Railroad. Construction began in 1835 in Sandusky and was completed through Tiffin, Kenton, and Springfield by the late 1840s.
Not too many years passed before Mansfield and Richland County sought a connection to this busy line. The Sandusky and Mansfield Railroad was started in 1846 and over 170 years later some sections remain in their original locations, including that from Mansfield to Willard. Later extended to reach Newark, the line eventually became part of the Baltimore & Ohio (B&O) Railroad.
The original rail lines were ribbons of thin iron placed on wood an inch wide, all of which were based on a heavier foundation, also of wood.
According to an 1880s newspaper account, the names of the first engines operating out of Mansfield on this line had the nicknames the “Empire”, “Richland”, “Knox”, “Bellville”, “Licking” and “Mansfield.” The account shared the following: “These engines were very small, having only two drive-wheels about four feet high on each side. The first construction engine was called the “Vigilant” and weighed about twelve tons. These engines carried a hand-wheel, and as wood was burned in those days, the trainmen would stop at nearly every woods and saw their own wood. The engines did not have any cow-catchers, but a long fork instead, which projected out and instead of pushing obstructions off of the track, it simply caught them and held them. Headlights had never been thought of. Mr. John Hoover states that on many a dark and stormy night he walked in front of the engine and carried a lantern.”
About 1851 the east-wine rail line of Richland County appeared, known as the Pittsburgh & Fort Wayne Railroad (later the Pennsylvania Railroad).
In the early 1850s, another line appeared, the Atlantic & Great Western, which ran through Warren, Ravenna, Akron, Mansfield, Galion, and Dayton.
The railroads soon brought nationally known figures to Mansfield, including Ralph Waldo Emerson, famous acting troupes, and authors.
This was the state of rail transportation in the area at the time this map was created in 1854. In addition to railroads, this is one of the first maps in Ohio history to include township identification. Some of the original place names continue from previous maps, and Shelby Station, Rome, and Newville all appear – as does “Belleville” with the extra “e.”
This map was published during the time that the Sandusky, Mansfield, and Newark Railroad actually aided slaves fleeing north on the Underground Railroad — the railroad on the railroad, as it were. The story is told by an Erie County historian that on Christmas night in 1859, nine fugitives scattered among the crowd at the depot in Utica, hoping to board without being seen. As passengers left the train at each stop, which would have included Mansfield, the slaves made their way to the rear car and laid low hoping to escape notice during the inspection in Sandusky. The group then managed to escape across the ice to Canada.
Sources: Mansfield Weekly News; Wikipedia; “Many on the ‘Underground Railroad’ did get here by train” by Randy Koch, Sandusky Register. Photo: Library of Congress, Geography and Map Division.