The Lincoln Highway Near Canton
By Jim Ross
Beautiful brick alignments of the Lincoln Highway, such as the one pictured above left, still exist east of Canton, Ohio. Originally paved in about 1919 -20, many sections of road were abandoned within 20 years because of the rough terrain on which the original road was laid. The section this article will concentrate is the 11 mile Minerva to East Canton stretch.
This is part of the Baywood section just southeast of Roberstville. It is a stretch just under 3 miles long, and about half of it still has exposed brick. (click to enlarge)
When the Lincoln Highway Association announced on September 1, 1913 that the route would run from Times Square in New York to Lincoln Park in San Francisco, cities and states along the proposed route were ecstatic for the recognition and commerce about to come their way. Those not on the route continued to fight for inclusion.
One battle for inclusion on the route was fought between the residents of northern and southern Paris Township in southeast Stark County. The northern residents of the township, and civic leaders from nearby towns such as Alliance, campaigned to change the planned route to follow what is now Route 172 through New Franklin and Paris. They pointed out that the road was wider, straighter, and better maintained than the proposed route to the south, Minerva to East Canton. The Lincoln Highway Association was not swayed, and the Association's president, Frank Seiberling of Akron, pointed out that there was considerable pressure on him from his town to move the highway even further north through Summit County.
The picture on the right was taken on the Robertsville to East Canton stretch. Lincoln Highway Collection, Transportation History Collection, Special Collections Library, University of Michigan. An interesting comparison of today's (still brick) road can be found in our Then and Now section
The Lincoln Highway was built with private and local funds because the Federal Government was not yet convinced of the value of such roads; rail was still the way to move people and freight over long distances. But those who had something to gain from such a route, such as Sieberling, founder of Goodyear Tire, and Henry B. Joy of Packard Motor Car Company donated large sums of money. It is interesting to note that Henry Ford was not interested in the highway despite the urging of friends Sieberling, Joy, and Thomas Edison.
The Lincoln Highway entered Stark County on what is now known as US 30 in Minerva. It continued west to Robertsville, Baywood Section East Canton and Canton on or near what is now known as Lincoln Street. Once inside Canton, it continued on toward Massillon on Tuscarawas Street, entering Massillon as Lincoln Way, and leaving the county near East Greenville as Lincoln Way again.
One of the most interesting sections of the old Lincoln Highway in the United States is the section between Minerva and East Canton. Most of the road we use today to travel between the two towns was not a part of the original Lincoln Highway. The original route in this section was a narrow twisting road built on farm lanes over hills and sometimes through woods. Parts of the 1913 dirt alignment, and the 1919 brick improvement can be found today.
In retrospect, those who called the Minerva to East Canton route inferior to the New Franklin to East Canton proposal were correct. By 1917, the Lincoln Highway in Ohio had 72 miles of brick pavement, 166 miles of other hard surfaces, and 18 miles of dirt. At least three miles of that dirt was in this section.
The original Minerva to East Canton leg was used from about 1913 to about 1940, but as cars became bigger and faster, the width and tight turns of the road became intolerable. Attempts were made in places to uproot the brick and spread them further apart to widen the road; but even this wasn't enough, and a whole new road was constructed with Federal funds between the two villages. With the construction of the new road, much of the original highway was relegated to residential street status, leaving us years later with several antique stretches of road.
By 1928, most of the Lincoln Highway was paved the length of the continent, and on September 1 of that year, the Boy Scouts of America marked the entire route with concrete highway posts about a mile apart. The state of Ohio had 241 of these markers, and only three of them can still be found at or near their original locations. One of the original markers is in East Canton on the south side of Nassau Street one half block west of Cedar Street. Another Stark County marker is in Minerva on the southeast corner of Lincoln Way and Market Street, however, it's original location is not known. Marker in East Canton
An afternoon exploring the road between East Canton and Minerva is worth the time for the historical minded, but it should be remembered that parts of the road are on private property and should not be trespassed, and starting and stopping on a busy highway such as this could be dangerous. A good tour of this section might begin at the mile marker in East Canton and end with a visit at the mile marker in Minerva.
There are two 'must see' sections of the highway for road enthusiasts. The first is a section of Cindell Street. Cindell It is just west of Sam Krabill Avenue and is still brick. The original road east of Sam Krabill is on private property.
Photo by Jerry Smith of Robertsville, Ohio
The picture to the right remains the favorite of the author. It was used in "Ford Restorer" in April 2001 and several advertisements in Ohio Magazine.
Just east of the intersection of Route 30 and Paris Avenue the old highway was on the left, now on private property. As you travel this stretch, note the telephone poles on the north side of the road. The original road ran along side of them, and you should also note the concrete culvert in front of the white barn.
A tour might end up at the mile marker at the intersection of state routes 30 and 183 in Minerva. You may find of interest the 1910's gas station near this corner which now serves as a gift shop. There is another concrete mile marker that has only recently been restored to this spot when the a family purchased a nearby farm and discovered it on their property.
By the end of 1928 the Federal Highway Commission decided not to refer to highways by names and this part of the Lincoln Highway simply became US Route 30. Through out the 1930's the Minerva to East Canton section was improved to it's present condition and the original superhighway of brick was retired for use as back streets or removed altogether.