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100 Years Ago


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Lockington

David Mellinger filed a plat for the town of Locksport in November 1837, just as canal construction was moving north from Piqua. It is certain that Mellinger knew of the precise location of the canal, and he laid out the town to take advantage of the location at the series of locks. Piqua historian Jim Oda aptly described Mellinger's intent. "Its whole function was to be a boomtown for the Miami-Erie canal." Locksport, (later renamed Lockington because two other towns on canals in Ohio bore that name), fulfilled every wish of its founder.

The little village was situated at the site of the 6 locks, which enabled canal boats to be raised or lowered a total of 67 feet at the edge of the 'Loramie Summit.' At the height of the activity on the canal, scores of boats a day moved through the system of locks. This slow process (it took as long as five or six hours to traverse the locks) caused a backup of boat traffic, which in turn allowed travelers to go ashore for a period of time. Mrs. Joseph Avy, a long-time Lockington resident, recalled in a 1991 interview that boat captains would race to the first lock in the village, hoping the locktender would let them pass through first. This was especially helpful when the cargo was perishable goods. A collection of log houses and huts sprang up, first occupied by laborers working on the canal, and later by the owners of stores and other businesses. Chief among the enterprises were at least six saloons and a brothel. Jim Oda notes that the canalers came to town with "...one criteria, and that was to drink." The traditional tavern had two floors, one where the men would drink, and the other where they would sleep it off (usually with three or four men to each bed). One of the taverns, known as Fort Sumpter, was invaded by women armed with guns one night, but the bar was back in business the next night.

Locksport attained true 'boomtown' status about 1845 when the entire length of the canal was first opened. Business activity peaked close to 1860, and curtailed gradually as canal boat traffic declined. Construction of the railroads, which helped bring about the decline and eventual demise of the canal, spelled the end of dreams of Lockington's residents for it to become a large city.

Lockington Locks

'Canal' segment written in December, 1998 by Rich Wallace 

 

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