Ohio History Journal

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Associate Professor of History, College of Mines and Metallurgy,

University of Texas

The financial history of early railroads in the United States is

nowhere better illustrated than in the history of railroad building

in Ohio. The lack of trained engineers and the consequent indefi-

niteness of plans, the insufficiency of the original capitalization, the

use of state, county, and municipal credit, and the issuance of

mortgage bonds as the chief means of raising capital, were charac-

teristics of the railroads not only of Ohio but also of other middle-

western states and even of some of the southern and New England

states. It should be remembered, however, that railroads in this

country were comparatively young in 1860, scarcely more than

thirty years of age. It is small wonder therefore that so many roads

were brought into existence with inexperienced engineers and boards

of directors.

From the first settlement the people of Ohio manifested a

lively interest in the subject of transportation. Although the lands

bordering on the Ohio River were the first to be populated, settlers

soon pressed forward into the interior. Thus with the growth of

population1 and the consequent increased production the need for

markets became increasingly important. The route down the Ohio

and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans was never entirely satis-

factory and moreover did not afford an outlet for the interior

settlements. The state and counties built roads, generally to afford

access to navigable waterways, and in 1825 the state began con-

structing canals. These ran north and south, connecting the Ohio

River with Lake Erie and thereby providing a route to the eastern

seaboard by way of the Erie Canal. Nevertheless many of the

interior towns and villages remained without transportation facil-

ities and consequently began demanding that railroads be built as

supplementary or feeder lines to the canals. Because the state was


1 The population of Ohio in 1800 was 45,365. Twenty years later it was