The route of the 1928 Lincoln Highway between Delphos and Van Wert is the second of three sections in Ohio which closely follow—at least in part—the beach ridge of the Maumee Glacial Lake. This beach ridge was one of the prehistoric boundaries of what we now know as Lake Erie. It also defined the south edge of the Great Black Swamp, and was supposedly an early path for migrating herds of buffalo and the Indians which followed them. While driving through Van Wert County, note how the lands to the north of the road slope down and away from this ridge, toward the old lake bed. Except for a short segment in the vicinity of Delphos, the beach ridge is followed closely by the route of the Lincoln Highway from a point near Gomer (1.5 miles westerly from the schoolhouse) to a point in New Haven, Indiana—a distance of over 48 miles.

The present roadway from the city limits of Delphos to the city limits of Van Wert appears to be a complete reconstruction of the original Lincoln Highway alignment. This twelve miles of reconstruction appears to have been performed in at least two phases, based on right-of-way plans from both the late 1930s and the early 1940s. The new alignment featured fifteen gentle and sweeping curves, including one curve over 6300 feet in length. The prior alignment had been characterized by several sharp curves and deflections (a change of direction without a curve) which had become inadequate for handling both increasing speeds and increasing traffic.

These old road remnants at the Dutch Mill (left) and Ridge Church (below) are two of a few between Delphos and Van Wert.These old road remnants at the Dutch Mill (left) and Ridge Church (below) are two of a few between Delphos and Van Wert.

As a result of this extensive reconstruction, there are four places in this section where remnants of the old Lincoln Highway alignment can still be found. From east to west, these remnants are as follows:

1. At the old Dutch Mill north of Middle Point;
2. At a point 100 yards south of the Ringwald Road intersection;
3. At the Lincolnway County Home; and
4. At the Ridge United Methodist Church.

These old road remnants at the Dutch Mill (above) and Ridge Church are two of a few between Delphos and Van Wert.Another remnant of sorts can also be found west of Delphos at the site of the old Mox Curve at West Jennings Creek. Now the location of the Mox Nursery, keen-eyed travelers can still observe a grassy strip of old roadbed running west from the creek for about fifty yards. Because the creek was extensively rebuilt and relocated, no traces remain of the old bridge abutments.

The tourist should also watch closely for several places in this section where the line of utility poles on the north side of the road skews away from the pavement. This is an excellent way to determine the right-of-way line and alignment of the original highway. The locations of these "pole line diversions," plus all four remnants, are more specifically described in the odometer charts for this section. As always, use caution when leaving and rejoining the main road, and use courtesy when approaching private properties.

Years before the Lincoln Highway, this path at the beach ridge had been called the South Ridge Road. Much of it was first surveyed in 1835 as part of the Bucyrus and Fort Wayne State Road. At that time, the surveyors, in their field notes, called the high ground Cherry Ridge, although this author has not yet found a continued use of that name in this area. Interestingly, there is a Walnut Ridge Farm between Delphos and Van Wert, and a Sugar Ridge Cemetery west of Van Wert, near the town of Convoy, perhaps owing their names to groves of trees at those specific locations.

In 1912, when Ohio prepared its first map of Inter-County Highways, this same route was designated I.C.H. #418, or Van Wert-Delphos Road. It was also part of Main Market Route No. 3, and is the first section of the 1928 route west of Wooster to be in the same corridor as the route called for at the time of the route's original proclamation. In the 1920s, this same route was assigned the typical numbering of State Route 5, and then U.S. Route 30.

There is one short segment of the present roadway in the vicinity of Delphos which is not at the crest of the beach ridge. It includes an area from the old Second Street intersection to a point about 3.7miles west of town. Not coincidentally, this is also the only part of the route in Van Wert County which does not follow the 1835 survey of the Bucyrus and Fort Wayne State Road, which had been laid out nine years before the first lots were platted in what is now Delphos (1844). The east-west line of the Bucyrus Road became the first Main Street in the new canal town of Delphos, and is the same street now known as Second Street (Main Street is now a north-south street, one-half block easterly from and parallel with the canal). The early road took a west-southwesterly course out of Delphos—somewhat like State Route 697 today—meeting the beach ridge two miles from town. Thus, the junction point of the 1835 road with the beach ridge is actually two miles southeasterly from the junction points of 1928 and today.

The westerly extension of what is now Fifth Street did not occur until the Section Ten County Road was laid out in 1847. The "Section Ten" name came from a part of the Miami and Erie Canal, and was also one of four separately-platted towns which were combined to form Delphos. Owing to its location away from the beach ridge, this same segment of roadway now includes the only part of the alignment between Delphos and Van Wert that is straight for more than two miles. This "long tangent" of 2.21 miles is between the first and second curves west of Delphos—the Mox Curve at West Jennings Creek, and an unnamed curve at the Little Auglaize River.

In late 1994, the Van Wert County Commissioners officially changed the name of this section of road from Ridge Road to Lincoln Highway. New versions of the traditional red, white, and blue signs, with the big "L" and "LINCOLN HIGHWAY" lettered in blue on the white center, were posted shortly thereafter, one in each direction from every intersection. These signs are nostalgic reminders of both the early pole markings and the concrete posts placed by the Boy Scouts. Unfortunately, not one of those concrete posts remains in place in this section. However, two posts in good condition have been recovered from throughout the county, and are now on the grounds of the Van Wert Historical Society, at 602 N.Washington Street. In 1997, a restored concrete post was erected opposite the Brumback Library in Fountain Park.

Also in 1994, the Van Wert County Historical Society placed four sets of Burma-Shave signs along the highway. There are two sets of six signs near the Lincolnway County Home, and also two sets west of Van Wert. The tourist will soon realize that there is much interest in the Lincoln Highway in Van Wert County, and will also understand why Van Wert was chosen to be the host city of the first annual convention of the Buckeye State Lincoln Highway League in April 1995 (this organization was renamed the Ohio Lincoln Highway League in October 1995).

Within the city of Van Wert, many of the fine buildings called for in the early Guides remain today. On the east edge of the city, the Marsh Foundation continues its work in one of the most photogenic stretches of the route in Ohio, where dozens of attractive walnut trees line both sides of the highway. In town on Main Street, both the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. still serve as important centers of activity, and the Marsh Hotel—long a "control station" for the original odometer charts of the Lincoln Highway—has new signs for that same purpose today. Across from the hotel is the Van Wert County Court House, with its beautifully restored interior, and two blocks In the early Lincoln Highway Guides, the Marsh Hotel was designated as the control station in Van Wert, which is recalled with new signs posted by the county historical society.west is the Brumback Library—established in 1901 as the first county library in the United States.

In the early Lincoln Highway Guides, the Marsh Hotel (right) was designated as the control station in Van Wert, which is recalled with new signs posted by the county historical society.


Balyeat's Coffee Shop (left), a popular gathering place on VanWert's Main Street, has been "nationally famous since 1924." Nearby is the VanWert County Court House, a structure of SecondEmpire style that was opened in 1876 and restored in the 1990s.

It is fair to say that the section of the Lincoln Highway between Delphos and Van Wert is one of the finest examples in Ohio of highway engineering and construction from its period. Despite the loss of bridge landmarks and concrete posts, it is still this author's favorite section to drive in the entire state. The smoothed and superelevated curves, wide right-of-way, and level path at the beach ridge (an elevation range of no more than 20 feet, between 770 feet and 790 feet above sea level), together make it a very pleasurable diversion from the monotonous four lanes of new U.S. Route 30, which was opened as a parallel route in the late 1970s.

Odometer chart for this section

Strip Maps for this section