As early as 1835, the town was linked with Sandusky by a primitive railroad, which was one of the first in the United States. It eventually became a part of the Baltimore and Ohio system and extended south from Monroeville into southern Ohio. In 1853, what was later the New York Central (now the fine walking trail) opened east and west, paralleled by the Wheeling and Lake Erie steam line in 1881. By 1900, a fourth line — the Lake Shore Electric interurban — also served Monroeville. Their depots were on South Ridge, and people had to be conveyed to the business district or make their way on foot. Perhaps if the depots had been downtown there would have been more growth.
A major business in Monroeville in the 19th century was brewing and distilling alcohol. The federal government taxed liquor during the Civil War. In 1864, the sum of $158,160 was collected in Monroeville and Bellevue alone. These operations especially were subject to fire, and most were thus destroyed and not rebuilt by 1890. The distilleries were good news as well as bad news in that they did furnish employment, but the leftover mash was either thrown into the river to make its smelly way downtown, or else it was fed to pigs penned along the river. The latter method also created a smelly environment and one which could engender disease such as cholera.
In 1866, the county commissioners were petitioned to incorporate the village and establish a local government. This was rejected because it wasn’t signed by a majority of the residents within the proposed limits. Two years later a new petition was presented and after a public hearing was allowed effective May 20, 1868. James Green, one of the chief petitioners, was elected the first mayor.
Ten years later there still was no organized fire department, although one was formed later in that year of 1878. Five thousand dollars was raised by selling bonds to buy an engine and hose and to build cisterns for a water supply. Two hose companies were formed to complement the new engine.
In 1897, the village council acted to build a water plant for a municipal system. At the same time, an electric plant was built and with water and power first available on June 8, 1898. While building the original water plant on Monroe Street, it was decided to dig the settling well a few feet deeper. Here a fine spring was found. This water was utilized for domestic use, and the river water was directed to the fire hydrants. A new facility with filtering capabilities replaced the original in 1938.
We can see that Monroeville has persevered and improved over time, as any community should. There are many other stories of the town which will be available in the souvenir book being prepared for the 150th anniversary of the corporation this year.
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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.