At one time, the north-east corner section of property situated along side the railroad intersection at Bridge Street was once a hub of activity.
People passed through the railroad depot that was once located there, traveling to and from various towns and cities across the United States. During the mid-19th and early to mid-20th century, the railroad was a significant part of people's everyday lives. It was the main source of travel, as well as a transport modality for mail and other merchandise to various parts of the country.
Even though the Newcomerstown Depot which was built in 1851, is no longer standing, the site could still be considered a historic landmark due to a little known fact that most area residents are probably unaware of.
In 1861, President Abraham Lincoln actually stopped at the depot while passing through from Springfield, Ill., on his way to Washington D.C. The trip was significant for Lincoln as he was traveling to Washington for his inauguration as the 16th President of the United States. The inauguration would take place March 4, 1861.
In the midst of winter, Feb. 21, 1861 to be exact, the citizens of Newcomerstown gathered at the depot in hopes of possibly at least seeing his train pass by. Little did they know they would actually get to see the great man himself.
Early that morning, three young teenage boys namely, Aaron Hodge, Orin Mulvane and Daniel Miskimen, left their homes on foot and headed east towards the Village of Newcomerstown. The boys, all childhood friends, resided near each other on their family farms that were located in nearby Coshocton County. For some reason, the boys apparently did not get an early enough start with their journey to the depot as by the time they reached the covered railroad bridge (now the site of the steel railroad bridge that is still in use today), the train was exiting the covered structure. The boys were then almost ready to give up on their plan of going to the depot when the train slowed down and came to a stop. The surprised youths could not believe their eyes when Lincoln himself stepped out onto the train's platform. He greeted the boys, saying, "I suppose you came to see Abe Lincoln."
As Lincoln finished speaking to the boys, the train began moving on towards its destination. In later speculation, it was thought that Lincoln spotted the youths running through the field towards the train and ordered a brief stop so he could greet them.
When the Civil War began and many of Newcomerstown's sons were responding, Hedge, Mulvane and Miskimen all joined the Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The three youths never forgot their encounter with Lincoln.
When Lincoln's train arrived at the Newcomerstown Depot that day, he once again stepped out onto the train's platform to greet his admirers. Among the citizens that patiently awaited his arrival was the Dent family. Lincoln reportedly reached over and patted the curly head of little Mary Dent who was being held by her father. The train then proceeded on its way after loading coal and water which was the primary source of fuel for trains during the mid-19th century.
Throughout the years, the Newcomerstown Depot was the site of many other trains passing through, carrying famous persons. Among some of the individuals that reportedly passed through were Teddy Roosevelt, William Taft, Franklin D. Roosevelt. Years later in 1952, a train carrying Richard Nixon stopped at the Newcomerstown Depot.
The Newcomerstown Depot closed its doors to railroad traffic in the mid-1960s as railroad travel was gradually falling out of favor. The great freeways and skyways were now the preferred method for traveling. Practically everyone owned a vehicle by then and drove to the airport and traveled back and fourth across the country via the airlines.
The Newcomerstown Depot eventually was torn down by Conrail in March 1981. The freight station which was located on the south side of the railroad tracks across from the depot was demolished about 1970 after no longer being a useful structure and eventually falling into disrepair.
Behind the depot, on the corner of Church and Bridge streets, was one of the main hotels, the Fountain Hotel. It was a convenient place the train passengers could get a meal or spend the night. There were several other hotels in the village as well, The Cresant Hotel, Globe Hotel, Maurer Hotel, and Central Hotels were also very popular with travelers.
At one time, there were anywhere from four to 10 trains passing through Newcomerstown each day. There were two sets of railroad tracks, trains literally passed each other going in opposite directions, and at a fairly fast rate of speed. Yes, Newcomerstown's Depot was quite a busy place in the good old days!
(Editor's Note: Read next week's issue of the Newcomerstown News for a second part to this story.)