The Monuments of Crawford County, Ohio
By Esther M. Oyster
Standing in silent memorial to the Lincoln Highway and some of its strongest proponents, the remaining brick and stone monuments of Crawford County, Ohio, still mark the highway for the passing motorist and recall the era when the giants of the automotive industry promoted the building of this great thoroughfare.
Once there was a string of the pillars across the county, even extending into eastern Wyandot County - the "Stonehenge of Ohio," if you will. They served a definite purpose and today the remaining ones are treasured relics.
In the early days of the highway a few men in Bucyrus, notably John E. Hopley, the state consul; Ed J. Songer, mayor and county consul; R. O. Perrott, and Frank Hopley, saw a need for a more permanent marking system than the painted signs 1 and designed brick and stone pillars that would stand almost seven feet tall. The pillars were to be mile markers, marching out west and east from Bucyrus.
The first four monuments, ranging in price from $50 to $75 each, were erected in sets of two, and consisted of a foundation of a cubic yard of concrete on which was mounted a white cement base which resembled limestone, 33" wide, 12" high, and 22" deep. The top of the base was beveled to meet the line of the brick, a rough-finished, striated brick in shades from dark red to light red with an occasional light orange. The brick part of the column rose to a height slightly over five feet, and was surmounted with a cap of white cement, beveled, again closely resembling stone. In the face of the marker was set a permanent terra cotta Lincoln Highway sign, approximately 12" x 21 ", and made by the American Clay Company in Bucyrus, where Perrott and Frank Hopley worked. Set under it in some of the markers was a white marble dedicatory plaque.
The first two pillars were constructed in the fall of 1917 on the west side of Bucyrus, on the south side of the Lincoln Highway. The first was at the west corporation line, opposite where West Mary Street joins West Mansfield Street (Lincoln Way), and was dedicated to the state consul by his friends. This was a well kept secret, and Hopley was unaware it was to be "his" monument until he was taken to the unveiling. It was West Mile Marker One, and a photograph of it appears on page 187 of the 1924 Complete Official Road Guide. The inscription read:
The second column was erected a mile farther west, at the Frank O. Sears farm. It was dedicated to Henry C. Ostermann, and was to be shown to him on his next trip through. This second monument was laid up with yellow mortar instead of white. The tablet on the second monument read:
THIS MARKER DEDICATED TO HENRY C. OSTERMAN (sic)
For some unknown reason, perhaps a grudge against Ostermann, Sears did not want the marker in front of his farm. When it was first erected, he "ordered that it be taken down or he would himself remove it, but later more friendly talk prevailed and he consented to drop the matter."2
However, this was during World War I, and later it was reported that Sears was feeding wheat to his hogs, contrary to law, and the local Food Conservation Committee, unable to get straight answers from Sears, requested that the state authorities investigate the matter. Mayor Songer happened to be a member of the Food Conservation Committee, and the night after the wheat investigation by the local group, the inscription on the pillar was defaced with a coating of tar. Sears again ordered Songer to remove the monument or he would destroy it.
The night after the state officials and Songer had been at the farm, the monument was vandalized. Some bricks were removed and the marble plaque pried out. Following publication of a photograph of the damaged monument, which created a stream of cars driving by to see the damage, the pillar was completely knocked down.
This photo of the Ostermann Marker, published in the paper, brought a stream of motorists out to see the wanton destruction. Bucyrus Historical Museum.
Needing the marker at that spot, the highway officials rebuilt it on the same base on Monday, September 30, 1918. When Sears discovered it going back up he went to court to get a temporary injunction against Songer and Michael J. Lutz to halt the work.3 The injunction was granted but the paperwork had taken too long and the work was completed. Sears contended he owned the land to the highway, that Songer had not asked his permission to put the pillar there, that the erection of a marker was contrary to, and in addition to, the purpose for which the land was originally taken, and that he should have been compensated. He also claimed the pillar interfered with the ingress and egress to his land.
The perpetrator sought to put an end to the sightseeing by totally destroying the pillar two days later. Bucyrus Historical Museum
That night the highway consuls put two guards on the structure to protect it until Hopley could go to court the next day and get an injunction 4 enjoining Sears from destroying it; that injunction was granted.
The two cases were joined for trial and were heard on July 18, 1919. The court took the matter under advisement, and on July 29 found for the plaintiffs, making their injunction permanent.
Sears took the matter to the court of appeals, 5 which found that "the erection in a public highway of a stone and brick monument to indicate that the highway is a part of a particular international highway system, and to serve as a memorial to an official of the highway association, is not an additional burden on the fee." In other words, the appellate court found that Sears was not entitled to any compensation as the marker was well within the highway right-of-way, that it advised the traveling public that the road was a part of the Lincoln Highway, and that it did not interfere with access to the property. As to the dedicatory plaque, the court stated: "We are unable to comprehend why the additional superscription to Osterman (sic) could possibly cause an additional burden to the Plaintiff-in-error as an abutting landowner."
The next option for Sears was the Ohio Supreme Court, and he took it. The case was reviewed and decision rendered on June 21, 1921, 6 which affirmed the lower court's finding.
It is unknown at this time what eventually happened to the pillar.
The Hopley marker stood until Sunday evening, October 22, 1922, when it was hit by a car and demolished. The newspaper account 7 stated that the driver of the big 1920 Buick touring car, DeLoss Riedel, who was approaching on West Mary Street intending to turn right onto West Mansfield Street, lost control when a car from behind crowded in and passed on the wrong side, striking their machine. Their car "drove straight for the monument, banged over the curb, and struck it square."
The article continues, "The blow must have been terrific, for the brick. stone and concrete monument, nearly three feet square and six feet high, was knocked off its base and the big block which formed the base, a block weighing 800 pounds, was hurled 20 feet away. The 250-pound capstone was hurled in the air and dropped on the top of the car, directly over the driver's seat, crushing the top down to within four inches of the back of the seat. Had Riedel not been thrown headlong a moment before, he would surely have been crushed to death by the heavy stone."
John E. Hopley (center) and E. J. Songer survey the accident scene that demolished Hopley's marker on October 22, 1922. Bucyrus Historical Museum, Photo #K-341.
"The machine, with the rear wheels still over the curb, stopped within eight feet of where it struck the monument, with the nose against a small tree." Of the four young men in the car, only the one in the front passenger seat was slightly injured.
A follow-up item a week later stated that the driver's father would pay to have the pillar rebuilt. Presumably this was done, and the fate of this marker is unknown.
The base of the Hopley pillar remains along the Lincoln Way on the west edge of Bucyrus. E. M. Oyster
The large, white base of this pillar remains at the site today, turned a quarter turn on its foundation. The marble plaque is in the Bucyrus Historical Museum.
1 Letter, December 4, 1918, J. Hopley to Seiberling: "We have so thoroughly appreciated the Lincoln Highway and its coming importance and possibilities that we thought it merited a much more permanent and creditable marker than the painted telephone poles." Also, the Bucyrus Journal, Friday, July 25, 1919: "The Lincoln Highway is marked by the red, white and blue emblem on the telephone poles from the Atlantic to the Pacific. These require painting frequently to keep them looking bright. So Bucyrus conceived the idea of a permanent marker placed every mile through the county."
2 News clipping of May 28, 1918, paper unidentified.
3 Case No. 12528, Frank O. Sears vs. Ed J. Songer and Michael J. Lutz, Court of Common Pleas, Crawford County.
4 Case No. 125Z9, John E. Hopley and Edward J .Songer vs. Frank O. Sears.
5 Ohio State, 132 Northeastern 25.
6 American Law Reports Annotated, Vol. 16, W- 925-928.
7 Bucyrus Journal, Oct. 27, 1922.