There's More Than Meets the Eye on
Stories from the Road:
Interstate 70 west enters Ohio just after Wheeling, where it follows roughly the same path as two of the oldest routes in the region. First was Zane’s Trace, which mostly followed existing Native American trails and proceeded west to the location of today’s Zanesville. There it turned southwest, aiming for the Ohio River and points south. Then in the early 1830s, the National Road came through Ohio. The National Road started in Cumberland, Maryland, with ambitions of reaching St. Louis and beyond. It never made it though. Construction on the National Road was halted when it reached Vandalia, Illinois, 46 years after Congress authorized its construction. As we drive this segment of I-70, we will still pass by reminders of those earlier roads.
· We’ll pass by towns that were either founded when the National Road came through or that benefited from the traffic: St. Clairsville, Morristown, Hendrysburg, Fairview, Old Washington, Cambridge, etc. If you look at a map and follow US Route 40, which in most places succeeded the National Road, you’ll find towns evenly spaced along it. Most of those offered food, lodging and stables for National Road travelers. Some of the buildings where these services were offered still stand, having been converted to other uses, such as, businesses or residences.
· This route takes us through three distinct geographical regions. During the first section of our journey, the countryside is quite hilly as we make our way through the western edges of the Appalachian Mountain range. Then when we enter Licking County (soon after Zanesville), we’ll notice the land smoothing out. There are still hills and valleys, but now they are gentler. We’re still in the mountains, but this region was covered by glaciers that scraped down the higher peaks and filled in the deeper valleys. Finally, as we approach Columbus, we’ll find flat land as we enter the Midwestern plains. Now we’re no longer traveling through mountains but across what was once the bottom of a vast sea.
· Many of the first American settlers in this region were of German descent who entered by way of Pennsylvania. One remnant of this German heritage is found in the older barns along the route—called Pennsylvania barns. Their design is different from the barns we find in Northeast Ohio that were built by people of New England ancestry. Distinguishing features of the Pennsylvania barn include a stone foundation, an earthen entrance built up to the second floor, and a second floor that extends over the first floor.
· But Americans of European descent have lived in this region for just over 200 years. Native Americans are thought to have called this area home for almost 20,000 years before the Europeans showed up. We find usually rich areas of Native American heritage in the Newark area with its prehistoric mounds.
· Speaking of barns, we’ll pass several billboard barns along this route. Some of these are barns pointed with the Ohio Bicentennial logo. And just beyond exit 193 on our right, there is a classic: a Mail Pouch barn. Both the Ohio Bicentennial and Mail Pouch barns were painted by residents of Belmont County, which is the first Ohio country I-70 encounters after crossing the Pennsylvania border. Scott Hagan painted all 88 barns celebrating Ohio’s 2003 Bicentennial. The Mail Pouch barn was painted by Harley Warrick, who is said to have painted over 20,000 barns with the Mail Pouch insignia. Both the Bicentennial barns and the Mail Pouch barns were painted free hand—it’s not easy to do. Harley Warrick commented that that first 1,000 barns he painted were kind of rough. But after that, he said, he got the hang of it.
· Just after exit 118, as we approach Columbus, we’ll pass the community of Etna—look to your right after the exit and you should be able to spot the water tower. Etna claims a note of distinction in Ohio history because it was here that John Chapman, also known as Johnny Appleseed, made his first Ohio appearance. He was a real person, that’s for sure, who was regarded by settlers as a little odd. Yet, he supplied them with a valuable commodity: apple seedlings, which were in great demand on the Ohio frontier for reasons that you might not immediately suspect.
· As we approach Columbus, we’ll enter this city which is Ohio state capital and home to the Ohio State University. Columbus was uninhabited forest land east of the Scioto River when it was named Ohio state capital, replacing Chillicothe. And for the first decades of this city’s existence, it was a hard place to live with disease running rampant and tree stumps cluttering its main streets. But then transportation routes reached Columbus—canals, the National Road and then railroads—and then the place began to attract more people. People are still coming here: Columbus is Ohio’s fastest growing large metropolitan area.
This program is available for purchase on CD. The narration runs for about 80 minutes in 5 segments that take you from the Ohio/West Virginia border to Columbus on I-70. The CD sells for $9.95.
Museum of the Open Road, Inc
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