|This and That — Lincoln Highway II|
|Friday, November 29, 2013 9:22 PM|
Gomer became the center of national attention on Saturday 29 October 1939 when Admiral Byrd’s “Snow Cruiser,” traveling from Chicago to Boston on the Lincoln Highway, scraped the corner of a bridge just east of Gomer, went out of control and landed in muddy Pike Run, tearing down a farm fence and the bridge guardrail. The vehicle was “a 37-ton giant…55 feet long, 20 feet wide and 16 feet high.” It was designed by Dr. Thomas Poulter for Byrd’s Antarctic expedition. Poulter and nine other passengers were involved in the crash. The crash of the Snow Cruiser brought national media attention to Gomer, plus an estimated 125,000 spectators to the event over the weekend. The crash was blamed on a break in the hydraulic line that controlled the steering and breaks.
Earlier in the day, the Snow Cruiser traveled through Delphos, right down Fifth Street, part of the Lincoln Highway. My grandparents lived at 626 E. Fifth St., so at the age of 8, I had a “ringside spot.” I can remember the event just like it was yesterday. Naturally, Dad drove us to Gomer on Sunday to view the wreck. It was awesome.
Delphos was, and still is, blessed by having the Lincoln Highway going right through town. There were several gas stations and Maude’s Restaurant on Fifth Street. In fact, at the corner of Main and Fifth, there was Briggs’ Marathon on southwest corner and Kurtz Sohio right across the street to the east. Some say there was a gas station on the northwest corner also but I can’t recall that. There was German’s Shell at the corner of Fifth and Fort Jennings Road and other gas stations on the west end of Fifth Street. They were all “full-service” stations, where you got your oil checked and your windows washed for free.
There were several notable bridges along the Delphos – Gomer route. One was the an attractive old triple-arch bridge over the Ottawa River, just west of Gomer, and another was a unique structure with arched parapet walls, just east of the wreck site, also crossing Pike Run. There was also the bridge with several arches across the Auglaize, which was pictured in Lincoln Highway part one, in last week’s Herald.
Many homes, especially those on East Fifth Street, lost their front yards when the highway was widened to handle the increase in traffic. The Veterans Memorial is at the corner of Fifth and Main. There were other favorite spots near Delphos on the Lincoln Highway. There was the Lincoln Highway Dairy and the Lincoln Inn (also known as Steve’s), a favorite night club, just west of town. Glass milk bottles from the Lincoln Highway Dairy are still very collectable. At one time, the Lincoln Highway entered Delphos on East Second Street, turned north on Main Street until Fifth Street, where it turned west toward Van Wert. In or near Delphos, the Lincoln Highway crosses the Miami–Erie Canal, the Jennings Creek and the West Jennings Creek near Mox Nursery. This section of the road was known as Ridge Road for many years. It rides the beach ridge of the Old Lake Maumee a glacial lake. Riding the ridge is very noticeable for many miles as you head west. More “famous” spots between Delphos and Van Wert were the truck stop and the “Old Dutch Mill” near Middle Point. Just a few years back, there was the Wassenberg Peony Farm on the south side of the road, closer to Van Wert. There were acres and acres of pink, white and red peonies and many species of beautiful Iris in all colors. The first Van Wert Peony Festival was held in 1932 with a really big parade. Just as you enter Van Wert, you pass the Marsh Foundation (children’s home) and the headquarters for the Ohio State Patrol. Other spots in Van Wert are the Marsh Hotel, the Van Wert County Courthouse, Balyeat’s Coffee Shop and the beautiful Brumback Library. In 1919, it was a really big deal when a three-mile-long U. S. Army transportation convoy passed through Delphos and Van Wert from Washington, D.C., to its destination in San Francisco.
West of Van Wert, it crossed the Indiana State Line, continuing to Fort Wayne, then entering Illinois, where it by-passed Chicago. The state of Iowa capitalizes on the Lincoln Highway as it crosses near the center of the state. One special highway landmark in Iowa is the bridge in Tama with “LINCOLN HIGHWAY” cut into the cement on each side of the bridge. The headquarters for the National Lincoln Highway Association is in Iowa.
In Nebraska, the highway crossed the Platte River and on to Wyoming, where it crossed the Continental Divide, west of Cheyenne. In Utah, the route skirted the south end of the Great Salt Lake and then linked the Nevada towns of Ely, Eureka and Austin. The main route crossed the Donner Pass in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, near the state line between Nevada and California. It traveled on down to Sacramento, looped around to the south through Stockton to enter San Francisco via Oakland and the bay ferry.
There’s a story of an old man in one of the western states who made his home on a little muddy section of the Lincoln Highway where he sold gas and food. He had a good racket going where he would direct travelers to the shorter route where he used an old water spring to make a huge mud-hole. When the cars got stuck, he would charge to have his team of horses pull them out. He also charged a pretty penny for gas.
As time went by, the Federal Government created the system of numbering the roads or highways, with much of the Lincoln Highway becoming U. S. Route 30; later still, I-80 ran along side these routes from coast to coast. US 30 was constructed through Van Wert County in 1968. The four-lane Route 30 was being constructed around Delphos during the 1978 blizzard and completed Delphos in 1980. It was only in recent years when the four lane was completed east of Beaverdam.
Gary Levitt, in Curator Corner, reminded Delphos residents of all the treasures we have in our town. First of all, we were a part of the old Great Black Swamp with the beach area of the old glacial lake, Lake Maumee, skirting the north edge of town. This ridge road west of town became part of the Lincoln Highway. As a result, it is a garden spot for farmers with some of the most productive soil on Earth. The Miami–Erie Canal came through in 1845, then three or four great railroad systems and the Interurban criss-crossed our town. In 1834, the first road was cut through this dense woods from the Auglaize River, through the present site of Delphos to the village of Van Wert, by William Scott and William Brady. Then came the Lincoln Highway and the Harding Highway, along with other roads coming into Delphos like 190, 697, 66 and 309.
After all the transportation sources came many beautiful churches, several parks, the library, two great school systems, two museums, Veterans Memorial Park, the Microtel and the two murals painted by Oscar Velazquez. Soon, we will have a Bed & Breakfast on Bredeick Street where visitors can sit along the Jennings Creek in between visits to our many interesting sites. The list is endless. We should take every opportunity to capitalize on this.
The Western Ohio Lincoln Highway Association was recently formed. Local members include Bob Ebbeskotte, Linda Baker and Theresa Bradstock. Anyone interested in joining can contact Linda Baker. The next meeting for the group will be in Gomer on Dec. 17. The program will be the Snow Cruiser.
Our country celebrated Thanksgiving this past week and we sure have much to be thankful for. Now we are preparing for Christmas. The time between the holidays is very short this year. As we Christians prepare for Christmas, let us wish a Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends. Happy Hanukkah!
|Last Updated on Friday, November 29, 2013 9:25 PM|