OHIO'S FIRST STATE ROAD--
If you look closely you will see a street name sign on the south side of SR 39 as it heads east out of Millersburg toward Berlin. It advertises "Port Washington Rd". I've been curious about that road name since my days of delivering corrugated products in what is now very well known as Amish territory.
Port Washington, then and now, after all, is a mere village 26 miles from Millersburg as the crow flys. If you are inclined to follow the roads you will travel 41 miles. Yup, roads tend to snake up and down and all around in that neck of the woods.
The second curiosity is how in the heck did it come to be considered "Ohio's First State Road" as announced in the sign above and dozens of others like it along it's route.
Turns out there is a fairly good reason for the name.
The road began as a buffalo trail which the Indians followed when traveling basically north-south in this area. After Ohio became a state in 1803 Millersburg was first platted as a town in 1815. Ultimately lots of local farmers began clearing the land and raising both subsistence and marketable crops.
About the same time a canal system was growing across OH and the most convenient one for those local farmers to use passed through Port Washington on its way to the Ohio River.
So, the old buffalo/Indian trail slowly morphed into a road capable of supporting horse-drawn wagons loaded with products headed to far-away markets.
That road continued to be an important link in the local economy and passed through present day Baltic, OH. When a railroad arrived in Millersburg and Baltic in 1852 the days of canal importance were doomed.
The canals continued to decline in the second half of the 19th Century and were pronounced dead when huge storms in 1913 destroyed most of their infrastructure.
Ironically, all three of those towns, Millersburg, Baltic and Port Washington, failed to ever achieve "city" status and remain villages to this day.
Meanwhile, back to our sign. History reveals Port Washington Road was the first official state road in Ohio. It was designated as Road Number 20 by the state on February 6, 1832.
How can it be Road Number 20 and, at the same time, be Ohio's first official road?
My head began to hurt as I ricocheted through web sites in pursuit of that answer.
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Still curious? Here's a detailed description of the current route Click! in the event you would like to take a ride through incredibly bucolic Amish Country in Holmes and Tuscarawas counties in Ohio. We did a series of 10 geocaches which largely, but not exactly, followed the route of this road. Therefore, my field notes do not reveal the actual location of the above picture.