RailsandTrails.com - Texts - 1854 Ohio Railroad Guide


COLUMBUS, the seat of Government for the State of Ohio, is 118 miles from Cincinnati, and 135 miles from Cleveland. We approach it by a bridge over the Scioto, with the Penitentiary in view, on the left.

View of Ohio Penitentiary and bridge across Scioto, Columbus.

THE SCIOTO RIVER is one of the principal streams in the State, and interlocks near the borders of Logan county, with the head waters of the Little Miami, up which we ascended by the Little Miami Railroad 60 miles. Since then, we have passed over the elevated plain, which divides the valleys of these streams. We came onto the waters of the Scioto 40 miles west of Columbus, and have since been in what geologists call the valley of the Scioto. The district of land between the Scioto and Little Miami, is called the " Virginia Military District." This was a body of land granted by Congress to the officers and soldiers of the Virginia line, in the revolutionary war. These lands were " located," as it is called, under warrants issued by the State of Virginia. As each man employed his own surveyor, and selected his own land, the result was a great deal of confusion; but fortunately for the State of Ohio, much less than in the State of Kentucky. The lands of the Military District are probably among the best in the United States. As the warrants were bought by "locators," surveyors, etc., from the original owners, this section of country became the scene of great speculation.

The Scioto valley, so called, comprehends in all, 7,000 square miles, about the size of the State of Massachusetts, and 350,000 inhabitants. The majority of the settlers were from Virginia and Kentucky, and have given to this region many of their peculiar characteristics.

Columbus is on the east bank of the Scioto, in the midst of the broad and beautiful plain, which constitutes the central and western portion of Ohio. The land in Franklin county was once the property of the Wyandot Indians. They had a large town here, and cultivated extensive fields of corn, where Franklinton now is. It is a curious fact, that all the considerable towns, which have grown up in the valley of the Ohio, are on the site of old Indian towns. It proves the sagacity of the Indians to be quite equal to that of the whites in this particular. It shows, also, that there are natural advantages in some places, for and cities, which cannot be overlooked. Just before Columbus was settled by the whites, it was the scene of a singular Indian tragedy, whose cause was not unfamiliar to the history of the whites, and shows that frail human nature is everywhere the same, however the habits and aptitudes of races may differ. The cause of the tragedy was a charge of witchcraft!

The unfortunate subject of this charge was a Wyandot chief, called Leatherlips ; and he was executed for the supposed crime of witchcraft, which seems to be outlawed in all countries. In June, 1810, Leatherlips was encamped on the Scioto, twelve miles above the present Columbus, where he was visited by six Wyandots, who, General Harrison said, were direct from Tippecanoe, by the orders of Tecumthe, and his brother, the Prophet. Sentence of death had been pronounced upon Leatherlips, when some whites, who were present, made an effort to save his life; but in vain. A council was held. The warriors spoke with warmth and bitterness; and he replied calmly and dispassionately. He was a second time condemned and soon executed. When sentence was again pronounced, the prisoner walked slowly to his camp; ate his dinner of jerked venison; arrayed himself in his best apparel, and painted his face. His dress was very rich, his hair gray, and his whole appearance graceful and commanding. When the hour of execution arrived, he shook hands in silence with the spectators. Then turning from his wigwam, with a voice of surpassing strength and melody, he commenced the chant of the death song. He was followed close by the Wyandot warriors, all timing with their slow and measured march, the music of his wild and melancholy dirge. The white men, too, joined, as silent followers, in that strange procession. At the distance of eighty yards from the camp, they came to a shallow grave, which had already been prepared. Here the old man knelt down, and in a solemn and elevated voice, addressed his prayer to the G-neat Spirit! Then the captain. of the Indians knelt down, and prayed in a similar manner,--the prayers of both being in the Wyandot tongue.

There was not a weapon of any kind to be seen in the party, when suddenly one of the warriors drew from beneath the skirts of his capote, a keen, bright tomahawk, walked rapidly up behind the chief, brandished it on high, and struck it into the head of his victim. Another blow, and Leatherlips was dead. The cold drops of sweat which were gathered on his neck and face, were pointed to, by his exultant executioners, as proofs of his guilt!

Such was an Indian execution, and all the circumstances about it prove how completely ignorance and superstition control the hearts of men, whether white, red, or black.

The seat of government, in Ohio, was not established till 1816. Prior to that, the sessions of the Legislature had been held at Chillicothe, and at Zanesville. In 1812, the proposals of Lyne Starling and others were accepted for the establishment of a permanent seat of government. The town was laid out in that year. On the 18th of June,-the same day on which war was declared with Great Britain, -the first public sale of lots was held. The first building erected for public worship, was built in 1814, for the Presbyterians. The first State House was built in 1814. The first session of the legislature held in Columbus, was in 1816. The first county Court House was built in 1819. The city charter was granted in 1834. Thus, though Columbus was laid out only forty years since in the woods, and had no mail for many years, yet it has grown up to be a large town. There are not more than thirty cities and towns in the United States, larger than Columbus. The progress of its growth has been thus:
In 1820, population 1,400
In 1830 " 2,437
In 1540 " 6,048
In 1850 " 17,100
In 1854 " 22,000

The causes of its growth are various. The erection of many great public buildings; and the expenditure of large sums of public money, is one cause. Manufactories, of which there are several large establishments, is another. The great fertility of the surrounding country, adds also largely to its resources. The number of persons in public institutions and in public employment here, cannot be less than 1,000. At the present time, Columbus is likely to be the centre of numerous railways crossing the State in various directions.

The public buildings are so numerous and remarkable, as to be worthy of special note. Indeed, if the traveler can afford time to spend a day here, and examine the Lunatic Asylum, the Deaf and Dumb Asylum, the Blind Asylum, and the Penitentiary, he will be amply repaid for his trouble.

View of the State House and High St. Columbus, O. from the north.

THE CAPITOL of Ohio, now near completion, is one of the largest, and most beautiful public buildings in the United States. It is built of Ohio marble, (as it is called,) which is a light gray limestone, at once durable and handsome. It is the largest building of the kind in the country, except the Capitol of the United States, at Washington. The following are the dimensions of some of the State Capitols, as reported by the State House Commissioners:
The Capitol of Ohio, at Columbus, is 304 by 184 feet, and covers an area of 55,936 feet.
The Capitol of the U. S., at Washington, covers 61,693 "
The Capitol of Tennessee, at Nashville, is 240 by 135 feet, and covers 32.400 "
The Capitol at Raleigh, N. C. 14,940 "
The Capitol at Harrisburg, Penn. 14,400 "
The Capitol of Indiana; at Indianapolis 14,400 "
The Capitol of Vermont, at Montpelier 12,200 "

It will be seen that the Capitol of Ohio is but slightly less in area than that of the United States ;. while it is nearly double the Capitol of Tennessee, and quadruple the largest in other states.

Lunatic Asylum Columbus O.

THE OHIO LUNATIC ASYLUM is a noble structure, occupying a commanding position, in an open space of ground about a mile east of the Capitol. There are thirty acres of ground attached to it, with a lawn in front, ornamented with shrubbery.

The building is in the form of a hollow square, the main front being 376 feet in length. The centre is 296 feet by 46 in depth. The wings 40 feet each, project beyond the centre 11 feet, and extend back 218 feet, thus forming a large court in the rear. The superficial fronts, (three sides,) of the building thus extend 812 feet. It contains 440 rooms, and covers an acre of ground. The style of the structure is in good taste, and it presents a very imposing appearance.

This institution commenced operations in November, 1838. From that tune to 1851, there have been admitted 1,841 patients. Of these 897 have been cured.

Of the number of recent cases admitted to the Asylum, 75 per cent. recover, so that the chances of recovery from lunacy, when the patient is cared for in time, are A, cry nearly as great as in any other disorder. Many are carried to the Asylum who have been hopelessly maniacs, or idiotic, for years, and therefore ought not to be included in the number from whom cures are expected.

THE OHIO PENITENTIARY, is also a very interesting institution. The building is an imposing edifice, on the east bank of the Scioto, just above the railroad bridge, and in sight of the cars. It is built of Ohio marble, and contains 350 cells in each wing. The cells are constructed of solid stone, with iron doors. The Penitentiary generally contains about 500 prisoners, who are employed in useful manufactures, of various kinds. Many of them have been engaged in the erection of the Capitol, in which they have done good service.

The labor of the prisoners yields about $20,000 per annum to the State ; so that the cost of their support is not much. The discipline of the institution is very severe, and great effort is made to give the prisoners religious instruction. In some instances, no doubt, the instruction and discipline of the Penitentiary has proved useful, and there are those, who have come out reformed, and passed decent and respectable lives. But, on the whole, it is questionable whether penitentiary punishment is really beneficial. A large number of the prisoners learn more evil than good; and many come out more inveterate felons; than they went in; returning to the Penitentiary for new offences, two, three, and four times. Why can we not colonize our convicts in some Island of the Pacific ? We should then remove the offending cause of crime, and put away so much evil from the community.

THE OHIO ASYLUM FOR THE DEAF AND DUMB, is also a well conducted and interesting institution. The building is built of brick, plain, with wings. In 1852 it contained 129 pupils. The instruction in the Deaf and Dumb Asylum has been very successful.

THE OHIO INSTITUTION FOR THE EDUCATION OF THE BLIND, was established in 1837, and like the other public institutions, is supported by the State. In 1852 the number of pupils was 68, and the instruction successful.

In addition to these public institutions, Columbus has a great many buildings of its own, and is, in fact, a very handsome town. The COUNTY COURT HOUSE is a handsome building. The NEIL HOUSE is one of the largest hotels in the United States. There are many and fine churches, with several private residences, of the most imposing appearance. Notwithstanding Columbus seemed to have no special advantages, as a town, it has nevertheless grown with great rapidity; and is now the third city of Ohio.

Columbus is also one of the railroad centres of the State. The Little Miami and Xenia RR. R., on which we have been moving, here unites with the Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati R. R., making a continuous railroad line from Cincinnati to Cleveland, 252 miles in length.

THE COLUMBUS, PIQUA, AND INDIANA RAILROAD is between Columbus and Union, where it connects with the Indianapolis and Bellefontaine railroad; and thence to the Wabash and the Mississippi. It is 102 miles in length, and passes through Urbana and Piqua.

THE CENTRAL RAILROAD lies between Columbus and Wheeling, 140 miles. It passes through Newark and Zanesville; and is finished to Cambridge, 84 miles. The residue will be finished this year.

At Wheeling, the Central road will connect with the Baltimore and Ohio railroad, going to Baltimore, and with the Hempfield railroad, and thence to Philadelphia.

THE COLUMBUS AND CHILLICOTHE line is chartered and will be constructed.

From Columbus the traveler may proceed to all the most considerable towns in Ohio, and to all the cities of the Northern and Western States, by railway, reaching any of them in a very short time.

As a State Capital, Columbus will compare well with any of those in the older States. Of all the State Capitals, Columbus is the most populous, except Boston, Albany and Richmond; and in regard to public institutions and buildings, is thought to equal even them. When we reflect that it is only forty years since the town was laid out in a wilderness, this must be regarded as one of the most striking evidences of the rapid growth and prosperity of the Western people.