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I-70 East
Richmond, Indiana to Columbus, OHIO

          As we begin our journey through Ohio, we’re entering a state that has developed largely along man-made transportation routes. When the first settlers arrived, this territory was just about impossible to get through: over 90% of the Ohio country was covered in dense forest, and natural waterways did not reach easily into the interior. Then in about the 1830’s, the National Road cut through central Ohio. It was the first highway in this region wide enough to carry wagons and stage coaches. The National Road ran from Cumberland, Maryland, and ultimately made it as far as Vandalia, Illinois, bringing a steady stream of settlers heading west, some of whom stopped in Ohio and stayed. The highway we’re traveling right now, Interstate 70, runs about parallel to the path of the old National Road, and many of the communities we encounter along this highway—towns both big and small—either had their beginnings as stagecoach stops along the National Road, or they came into their own thanks to National Road traffic.

·        The first section of our journey takes us just south of what was called the Greenville Line, so named because it was established at a meeting between American officials and Native American chiefs at Fort Greenville (now, the town of Greenville). After defeats at the hands of American troops, the Indians surrendered large sections of their territory. The Greenville Line designated northwest Ohio for Native American use; the rest was made available to settlers. This section we’re driving through was first secured for settlement by the Treaty of Greenville.

·        The Treaty of Greenville created separate lands for use by Native Americans and settlers. But it wasn’t long before the settlers violated the treaties and again crossed over into Indian lands. This led to more battles, more Native American defeats, more surrendering of territory. By the 1830s, there was no more Native American land in Ohio.

·        As we travel the eastern section of this route, we’ll see a lot of corn. This is nothing new. Native Americans grew corn long before the American settlers arrived; General Anthony Wayne remarked in wonder that he had never seen such vast fields of corn. For settlers, too, corn became a staple, which they consumed in many forms. There were corn dodgers, Johnny cakes, corn pone, and corn mush. The need for food was so great that even green corn was ground and eaten, while surplus corn was distilled into corn whiskey. As we drive this route today, the corn we see is mostly field corn used for animal feed—in this area hogs and pigs are the primary consumers. But then we are, once corn is converted into pork, ham and bacon.

·        As we pass to the north of Dayton, we’ll see signs for the Wright Brothers sites and the WPAFB, that is, the Wright Patterson Air Force Base. We’ll also pass to the north of Huffman Prairie, where the Wright Brothers refined their flying machine after its initial success at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The thing about the first flight in December of 1903: that plane shouldn’t have flown. Computer simulations of the capacities of that airplane plus testimony by experienced flyers contend that it was virtually uncontrollable. But it did fly, without a trained pilot at the helm. At the time, of course, there were no trained pilots to test the thing. So the task fell to its inventors: two brothers, bicycle mechanics, minister’s sons who didn’t even possess college degrees. How was it, then, that these two unlikely prospects became the first in flight—in an airplane that shouldn’t have flown?

·        After passing to the south of Springfield, I-70 takes us into the Virginia Military District. Virginia? What’s Virginia doing in the middle of Ohio? To answer that question, we have to go back to the years just following the American Revolution. Virginia had a claim on a good hunk of land in the Ohio Territory, based on its original charter granted by the King of England in the early 1600s. Besides, since Federal troops were stretched to the limits, the Virginia Militia provided much of what security there was in this section of Ohio. But Virginia chose not to press its claims in exchange for a favor: the right to pay Virginia veterans in Ohio land. By 1850, there were more native Virginians living in Ohio than any other state—besides Virginia. And in this Virginia Military District, everyday life had a distinctly Southern feeling to it.

·        As we approach Columbus, we’ll be entering the hometown of what many historians consider the world’s first fast food chain—one that everybody else in the business has copied. The primary item on the menu was a 5 cent hamburger, but back then most middle class American’s didn’t eat hamburger. They didn’t trust what might be in ground meat. An initial challenge, then, was to convince people that this ground meat was different from other ground meat. So they chose a name for the chain that suggested purity and cleanliness. Another challenge was to convince consumers that this was not just another fly-by-night hamburger shack. They did this also with both a name and architecture that suggested stability, maybe even a touch of elegance. Purity and stability: that’s the message conveyed in name of this first fast food chain. Can you guess it? One more hint: it’s still going strong, almost 100 years after the chain got its start.

This program is available for purchase on CD. The narration runs for about 80 minutes in 5 segments that take you from Richmond, Indiana to Columbus, Ohio on I-70. The CD sells for $9.95.

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