The Van Wert County Courthouse

Friday, Jul. 10, 2020

Last Paulding County forgotten RR towns

Editor’s note: This is one of a series on Paulding County history in commemoration of the county’s 200th birthday, and also the final article of several on the county’s forgotten railroad towns.

KIM SUTTON/for the Van Wert independent

PAULDING — All aboard as the history of Paulding County railroads and their forgotten towns is concluded.

The New York, Mahoning & Western Railroad was the last major railroad to cross Paulding County. It would later be called the Findlay, Fort Wayne and Western Railroad and nicknamed “The Tangent Line.” It entered Paulding County from the east in Washington Township and passed through Mandale, Roselms, Grover Hill, Haviland, Tipton, Batson, McGill, and Baldwin. Some of these settlements along the railroad no longer exist. They are the forgotten towns and will be the focus of this article.

Scene at the Tipton elevator circa 1912. Tipton was one of several small communities along the short-lived Findlay, Fort Wayne & Western Railway, nicknamed The Tangent Line. photos provided

The first mention of the railroad came in May 1888 when the Paulding Democrat newspaper reported exciting news out of Gilbert’s Mills: “Railroad crossing — look out for the cars! The New York, Mahoning & Western R.R. has passed through town (that is the surveyors,) on the south side of the section line road two miles north of the Van Wert and Paulding county line. Great excitement is caused by the prospects of the new road and a station house at this place. A large number of men and teams are working on the grade east of here. Track clearing will commence through here this week. The road will be completed to Ft. Wayne this summer and before snow flies Gilbert’s Mills will have one of the best railroads that ever traversed the state of Ohio.”

Due to financial problems, as happened on so many other railroads, work stopped and did not commence again until 1891. The Democrat, December 31, 1891, states: “The Mahoning railroad is still progressing. It is said they will lay iron to the canal next week.”

Today, Ohio 114 runs parallel with the old railroad. The railroad intersected the Miami & Erie Canal at Mandale. The location of the railroad drew residents and businesses away from the nearby canal town of Hamer and also from Gilbert’s Mills (which was a mile and a half south of present day Grover Hill).

The Paulding County Republican, dated November 20, 1892, reveals the excitement of another railroad passing through Paulding County: “Besides Grover Hill, the New York, Mahoning and Western Railway which is being built through this county, will open up several other good towns, of which the following will undoubtedly be the most important, Mandale, Haviland and Batson.”

The history of this railroad is short. It was in operation through Paulding County from 1892 and closed down during World War I. “The work of junking the [rail] line between this city [Findlay] and Fort Wayne will begin the latter part of the week,” The Van Wert Daily Bulletin stated on December 24, 1918. “Two crews are now on hand, the work starting at the Fort Wayne end first.”

The rails were removed by a hoist that was mounted on the rear of a gondola car. A gondola car is an open-topped rail car with low side walls, perfect for hauling sections of rail track. The engine pulled the gondola car; the hoist picked up the rails and placed them in the car as it moved along down the track.

The track between Haviland and Grover Hill was left alone and continued to be used between these two points until about June, 1920. The entire line was removed by 1920.

The first forgotten railroad town on the list is Tipton, located four miles west of Haviland. The town was platted on January 27, 1893, with 44 lots, streets, and alleys. It was located on both the north and south sides of the road. However, there is some indication that the community existed prior to the platted date. The general store is reported to have been in operation as early as 1865 and finally closed in 2001 after 135 years in business. The Paulding County Progress did a feature article on the closing of the Tipton store that was published on February 28, 2001.

One of the first newspaper reports out of Tipton was published in the Republican on December 6, 1888, introducing the small community and asking for a correspondent to furnish the news from this place. The article had high hopes for Tipton and is quoted: “There is no doubt that when the completion of the New York, Mahoning & Western R.R. is achieved this town will take a boom that will lay other small towns of Paulding County in the shade.”

At one time, the village of McGill in southwestern Paulding County was known for its ball team. This team photograph was taken in 1911.

Tipton had a school, church (the church was later moved to McGill), grain elevator, tile mill, sawmill, grist mill, blacksmith shop, three saloons, barbershop and two general stores. The post office opened on January 3, 1889, and ran until August 31, 1916, then by rural delivery from Haviland.

Tipton was known for its ball teams. The girls’ softball team of 1950 had a good year as reported by the Paulding Progress of July 6, 1950: “The Tipton and Broughton Custom Canners girls’ team met at Harmon Field in Paulding Thursday night. Tipton defeated the Broughton girls 20-2. Ruth Stoller, Tipton’s catcher, got the longest hit of the game with a triple. Lulu Belle Sinn pitched for Tipton to give Tipton their 11th win.”

Today, there are just a few homes in Tipton. No remnants of the railroad remain.

The next town down the railroad track, about four miles west, was Batson. Located at the intersection of Road 33 and Ohio 114, like the railroad, Batson had a life of about 30 years from 1891 to about 1920. Properly platted in 1893, it was named for Andrew Batson, who was its first postmaster. The post office opened on June 1, 1891 and operated until April 25, 1911. Residents then receives their mail by rural delivery from Payne.

Batson’s best days were in the late 1800s and early 1900s, when it had a general store, post office, barber shop, blacksmith, grain elevator, stave mill, and sawmill that employed about 50 people. There were over a dozen homes at one time. There were two schools for the children. One was Benton Center, located a mile north, and the other was a mile south, named Logtown.

Today, the town has reverted to farmland and only one farm house is at the site.

Continuing a mile and a half to the west, we would find McGill. This little settlement was present in Benton Township even before the railroad came through. McGill was on the Star Route (mail delivery) that was established under President James Buchanan and ran from Paulding to Monroeville, Indiana, by way of McGill. The legislation establishing new mail service in 1845 called for contractors to carry the mail with “celerity, certainty, and security.” Weary of repeatedly writing these words in ledgers, postal clerks substituted three asterisks — * * * — and the phrase “Star Route” was born.

This first postal service opened in McGill on September 3, 1858, with Isaac Snyder Sr. as postmaster. The office operated until 1872. On August 19, 1878, the post office reopened and closed once again on November 11, 1886. With the railroad up and running, the post office once again reopened on March 3, 1893 and closed for the last time on March 31, 1913. Residents then received their mail by rural delivery from Payne.

The town was named after John McGill, who was a founding father of Benton Township. In its best days, it had a tile mill, a grain elevator, a church, and a good ball team. The church was moved from Tipton to McGill and is still standing. There are several homes located there today.

The last little town on the railroad was located at the Indiana state line and named Baldwin. In 1890, Timothy Baldwin laid out 24 lots and two streets. Like the other small railroad towns along this line, it was only in existence for about 20 years.

In its best days, the town had a hoop mill, a furnace that produced charcoal, a general store that operated two huckster wagons, a grocery store, a hardware store, a church, a school, a hotel, a grain elevator, and a depot. The Rharig School served Baldwin. It was closed in 1936.

Above the general store was the meeting place for the Red Men’s Lodge. The Improved Order of Red Men is a fraternal organization established in North America in 1834. Its rituals and regalia are modeled after those assumed by white men of the era to be used by Native Americans. Despite the name, the order was formed solely by, and for, white men. The organization claimed a membership of about half a million in 1935, but has declined to a little more than 15,000 today. Until 1974, the order was open to whites only. That year the 106th Great Council of the United States eliminated the all-white clause in what was called a “turning point for the order.”

After the Findlay, Fort Wayne and Western Railroad was abandoned, the elevator and the hay barn burned down. People left the area to find jobs. The Baldwin Hardware & Grocery store stayed around for a little while, but it eventually closed, too. There are a few homes at the location of Baldwin today.

Special thanks to Walter Lang, president of History Matters, for his help in researching the information for this article. 

More information on the bicentennial can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PauldingCounty200.

Next time: The Paulding County Fair.

POSTED: 06/01/20 at 7:52 am. FILED UNDER: News