Our community is indebted to Charles Goslin for preserving Lancaster and Fairfield County history. He published books and countless newspaper articles. While working on a local history project recently and searching Goslin’s material, this writer had the good fortune of finding a “lost” resource. It was like falling down an historic rabbit hole, and too good not to share with readers. Back on Nov. 2, 1968 (when this writer was in high school) the EG published one of Goslin’s articles about the Hocking Canal. Thankfully, he concluded his article this way: “For those who may be interested, much of the above information was obtained from Williams’ Circleville & Lancaster Directory published in 1859.”
We have local histories published in the 1870s, 1880s and since, but to find this “gem” of details actually compiled and printed before the Civil War was amazing. Our local library does not have a copy, but it is available online from the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, IN.
Our local library does have local newspapers on microfilm and this announcement appeared in the Lancaster Gazette, Jan. 27, 1859: “Mr. HT Bennett, agent of CS Williams, publisher of the Cincinnati Directory is now here soliciting subscribers…and preparing material for a directory of our city and Circleville. The work will contain an alphabetical list of all our citizens, a directory of the streets, a list of churches, and locations, municipal and other public officers…Subscription price $1.50, payable on delivery.”
As an example of one way this directory can be used is illustrated in today’s story. The canal through Lancaster was built down from the north and the section from Carroll to Lancaster, the Lancaster Lateral Canal, was completed in 1834 with the first canal boat arriving on July 4. By 1843 the canal was open to Athens. “Lancaster now had water connections to New Orleans, New York City, and from there to ports all over the world…[causing] dramatic growth in its population between 1830 and 1840—from 1,530 to 3,272…” (Contosta, Lancaster, Ohio 1800-2000, p.39).
The canal in Lancaster was located on the west side of Columbus St. By the time the 1859 Lancaster Directory was published, the locations of manufacturing companies, blacksmith shops, mills and warehouses were given in relation to their locations along the canal. For example, ads for the Bickford & Davis Woolen Factory and the Lyons, Son & Co. Flour Mill directed buyers “to the foot of Broad Street,” just south of the railroad track, but north side of the canal. The flour mill was on the west side of Broad St., and the woolen mill on the east side.
Gilbert Devol built a foundry on the west side of the canal “a few rods south of the Main Street crossing.” Philip Benadum was the first “lumber merchant” along the canal, and was located between Wheeling and Mulberry. George Carter had a lumber and coal yard on the east side of the canal between Main and Chestnut. Also, along the canal were the Morlock & Pairan Brewery (west side), Henry Sehne a shoemaker, Giesy’s grain and coal business, blacksmiths, coopers, the Younghans Brewery, and several warehouses.
“With coal plentiful, a Lancaster ordinance in 1855 provided for establishing a gasworks in the city. This industry converted coal to artificial gas and coke” (Goslin, Vol. 1, p.69). The Lancaster Gas, Light and Coke Co. was incorporated in 1856, and its brick building was on the west side of the canal opposite what was then Jail Street (today Chestnut St.).
“Progress” brought the decline of the canal. In 1869, only 35 years after the first canal boat had arrived in Lancaster, the Hocking Valley Railroad was able to transport passengers (and freight) from Lancaster to Columbus in two hours. The trip by canal boat had taken an entire day. Speed was money. The Hocking Canal was officially abandoned in 1894, and no one living today remembers a boat on the canal in Lancaster.
Readers may contact Harvey at[email protected]