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Traveling was tough in the early years of this area.

By Henry Timman • Jun 15, 2018 at 11:01 AM

Life wasn’t always easy for our ancestors, especially when they needed to travel any distance from home. A number of short stories on this subject have appeared in my “to be used” file, so I’ll share them with you.

In December of 1894, the night telegrapher on the Wheeling & Lake Erie Railroad at Monroeville received word that a man wanted for housebreaking was on a train en route from Clyde. Monroeville’s night watchman, James Farr, was sent for, but the train arrived before he did. The telegrapher managed to detain the suspect until Farr arrived to effect the arrest.

The suspect said he’d go with Farr to the police station, but when they got outside he started to run across the W & LE bridge over the Huron River. Farr promptly shot and wounded him, causing him to drop to the bridge planks. Later, at the jail, Dr. Kreider extracted a .38 caliber slug from the man’s left side. The moral of this story was: don’t mess with James Farr.

A few months earlier at Huron, a serendipitous discovery prevented a terrible tragedy. A young man was crossing the Huron River on the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad bridge and stumbled over a tie placed on the westbound track. An eastbound passenger train was due soon. The young man hurried to the depot and alerted the night telegrapher of his discovery. They started out to search the eastbound track when the headlight of the Atlantic Express appeared to the west.

The telegrapher threw a switch and signaled the engineer in time for the train to be brought to a halt just a car length from the middle of the bridge. A further search found a number of ties piled on both rails of the eastbound track. Had the train struck them at full speed, no doubt the train would have plunged the 30 feet to the river below, which was very deep at that point. A railroad detective came to Huron immediately, but I was unable to learn whether the miscreant ever was found.

Boating was no safer than riding a train. Just before Christmas of 1852, three young men from Huron went to Cedar Point in a small boat to cut some greens for church decorations for the holidays. On the way back, a gale came up and blew them across the lake nearly to the Canadian shore.

When the gale abated, they managed to reach Kelley’s Island and obtain some food and warmth. They then headed for Sandusky and were further delayed by ice for about 56 hours near Johnson’s Island. Eventually they returned home to Huron, having suffered greatly from exposure.

The advent of the automobile brought even greater dangers, of course, due to the higher power of an auto engine and the carelessness of some early drivers. One of the most dangerous intersections in the county was at Standartsburg, just south of Monroeville.

One of the first traffic control signs ever put up in Huron County was installed at Standartsburg in 1915. It was about 4 by 6 feet and painted black, with the word STOP in white letters. I don’t know how successful it was, but county officials had high hopes that it would help to control traffic.

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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.

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