The Gazette provided the following announcement on May 12, 1836: “It gives us much satisfaction to lay before our readers the proceedings of the Commissioners of the Little Miami Rail Road held at Waynesville. The utmost harmony and good feeling prevailed amongst the members of the board . . . The people on the route of the contemplated road are deeply interested in it and if each landholder considers his own interest in a proper manner; he will be convinced that nothing could be contemplated calculated to increase his property in value so much as the completion of the Little Miami Rail Road …”
Interestingly, this same paper provided the obituary for General Simon Kenton, well-known frontiersman who spent considerable time in Greene County. He was born April 3, 1754 and died in Logan County April 29, 1836. He is buried in Urbana.
No doubt then as now, some folks were against having the railroad tracks come through their property, but construction began in 1837 and by August of 1845, the tracks were laid to Xenia. The Little Miami Railroad Company was organized under charter on March 11, 1836 to construct and maintain a railway from Springfield to Cincinnati, by way of Xenia.
Representatives from the counties of Hamilton, Warren, Greene and Clark Counties were listed in the Charter as commissioners. The price of the shares was $50. This could be paid over a period of time provided an initial $5 had been recorded.
In order to determine the best and most practical route for the new train, Ormsby M. Mitchell, a young professor at the Cincinnati College, was hired to survey the route. He initially rode his horse the entire 88 mile stretch then began the survey in Xenia in June 1837, using the surveyor’s instruments of the day. His work was completed at the end of August when he estimated that the road could be completed and ready for the locomotive for a cost of $596,000.
At that time, flouring mills were located all along the route. This was to be very advantageous for the millers as well as the railroad. There were 50 mills which produced about 100,000 barrels of flour annually. Additionally, there were 20 saw mills, six distilleries, three paper mills and a cotton factory.
The stagecoach provided transportation from Cincinnati to Springfield for from 40 to 60 passengers daily, but the ride was bumpy and tiring. It was estimated that the train would carry many more passengers in addition to freight.
Cincinnati provided $100,000 which was to be repaid in 1880. Greene Count provided $50,000 with the provision that those funds be spent on the line as it passed through the county. Later, Clark County provided $25,000 and the Ohio Legislature provided a loan. This along with private investors brought the available funding to just over $525,000.
The tracks were laid at a distance of 4-feet 10 inches apart, making this a narrow gauge railroad. At first wooden rails were tried, but the company quickly agreed that iron would be the best material for the tracks. In later years, the width of the tracks became a standard 56 and half inches throughout the United States.
In the early years of construction a financial panic took hold in the country during the early years of the construction. Many of the stockholders were unable to pay the installments on the stock while others lost their money. The legislature repealed the act authorizing loans to such companies and no further aid from the State could be expected. Contractors who had finished their work could not be paid. Laborers demanded their money. Notes at six percent interest were given to some of the workers. Some of the machinery which was to be used for the construction had to be sold. Farmers who had invested often had to settle the debt by giving up their cattle, which in some instances was used to feed the laborers.
Chairman Morrow was certain this project could and would succeed. In order to keep the company alive, the property was put into the hands of a trustee on July 1, 1843. Property on Front Street in Cincinnati which had been set aside for use for a depot was sold, and so the railroad traqcks continued to be laid. Morrow had saved the railroad! The town of Morrow is named in his honor.
This was a long and arduous venture, but 10 years after the Charter had been granted, the first train pulled into Springfield on August 10, 1846.
“At Xenia, James Gowdy settled a row as to where the road should run, by donating his house and lot on Detroit St., just one block from the Court House square, for a depot.”
Thus the track was laid on the East side of the street. Eventually, the Little Miami railroad was absorbed by the Pennsylvania Railroad and the company ceased to be an operating company. However, the stockholders had done very well with their investment over the years.
Eventually, the station was razed, and the tracks removed in Xenia. Trains still traverse part of the county, but it seems the heyday of rail transportation is behind us.
Joan Baxter is a local resident and weekly historical columnist.