|Tracing a T to Tampa|
Woodington, Ohio is where the Florida trip begins and ends. It is basically a cluster of houses. A sort of "don't blink or you'll miss it" place. It is not a cross-roads town in the normal sense because the intersection of its main thoroughfare, State Route 49, and the Hillgrove-Woodington Road is beyond the northern limit sign. The east end of Hillgrove-Woodington really is at the town of Hillgrove but the other is 4 miles beyond Woodington at US 127. SR 49 can be followed from Dayton to Michigan.
This section of Route 49 is part of the Wayne Parkway that follows the 1794 path of General "Mad" Anthony Wayne north from Fort Washington (Cincinnati). Both Wayne, and St. Clair before him, were following an even older path known as the Wabash Trail. As settlers appeared, this became the Greenville-Fort Recovery Pike. In 1849, the Columbus, Piqua, & Indiana Railroad Company was chartered to connect Ohio's capitol with Union City on the Indiana state line. This was accomplished ten years later and the rails intersected the Fort Recovery Pike to form the "cross-roads" that truly marked the future location of Woodington. The town was platted in 1871 on land purchased from John Woodington in 1818.
Both railroad and town grew through the end of that century and the start of the next but not, at least for the railroad, without some bumps. The name changed with a financially forced reorganization in 1863 and a series of consolidations followed. The reorganization produced the Columbus & Indianapolis Railroad Company. The 1875 and 1888 diagrams show the Pittsburgh, Columbus, & St Louis name and the track had several other owners including the Pennsylvania Railroad. The route was part of Con-Rail when it was retired in 1983.
Woodington was home, seemingly from its very beginning, to commercial enterprises. Only four years after the town's official birth, we find a tile manufacturer and a steam powered saw mill operating there along with a dry goods store. The town could also claim, probably associated with the store, an agent for "Dr. Ashbaugh's Remedies". By 1888, a church had been built and population growth had earned a post office. Eventually, a school appeared and, in typical small Ohio town fashion, a grain elevator became Woodington's commercial focal point.
But, like similar communities everywhere, the need for Woodington to be self-sufficient slipped away as it became easier and easier to get to the big city. Today, except for the white Christian Church, the town is completely residential. The school house and major portions of the elevator complex remain but the school is now a home and the elevator is, essentially, deserted. The path that the Columbus, Piqua & Indiana carved out is still visible as graded embankments sliced through by the highway but the rails and ties that gave those embankments purpose have all been taken away.
In 1892, Lowell Thomas was born in Woodington and, a day short of fifty-five years later, so was I. Technically, my birth occurred some 6 miles south in the Greenville hospital but I've always considered Woodington my starting point. Lowell didn't stay in Woodington very long and neither did I. Before long, my parents exchanged houses with my grandparents and we moved to a farm a few miles from Woodington. Lowell moved a bit further than that.
Between the Thomas's departure and my arrival, my great-grandparents moved into and out of the house where Lowell was born. I know for a fact that this was their home during the middle of the decade but, as I write this, I have not been able to verify that they were there as early as 1920. But, even if the Florida trip preceded their moving into this house, it was only by a couple of years and their departure point no more than a few hundred yards away. Due to its historical significance, the house has been restored and moved to the grounds of the Garst Museum in Greenville. Whether or not Frank and Gertrude started and ended their four-month excursion from the front steps of this house, its fortunate preservation provides a rather vivid glimpse at another part of their world.
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