In the early years of America, pioneers were looking for ways to make their way across the land. A system of canals was built to allow boats to go from big waterway to big waterway. One of these canals was the Ohio and Erie Canal which connected Lake Erie to the Ohio River. One of the towns the canal was to pass through was Roscoe. Originally established in 1816 and named Caldersburgh after James Calder, the town’s founder who happened to be a bankrupt merchant and established the town hoping to attract the local farmers who did not wish to pay for a ferry ride across the Muskegon River to nearby Coshocton. It was later named Roscoe after an English historian named William Roscoe who was also a poet and also happened to be an abolitionist. When the first boat arrived by canal in 1830, the town of Roscoe was a thriving canal town, and it was the fourth largest port on the Ohio and Erie Canal. Today, you can visit the Historic Roscoe Village which has been restored to what the town once was.
Now some of you are saying, “This is so nice. How wonderful it is to see how a canal helped a town thrive. However, there is one problem. There are no railroads in the Historic Roscoe Village. Therefore, I will not be visiting this place.”
The Historic Roscoe Village was an original town on a canal system that connected inland towns to the major port cities on the Atlantic seaboard, and they canal made Roscoe a very thriving town, but the Ohio and Erie Canal, like many other canals of the day, became less efficient when another form of transportation was able to get goods across the nation much faster than the canal boats ever could. That form of transportation was the railroad which stopped in the nearby town of Coshocton. This took commerce away from Roscoe and the canal which caused the town to decline. In 1913, there was a state wide flood that destroyed the canal, and it was let to ruin. Today, only the lock ruins, basins filled with trees and the tow path remains.
Now you are saying, “So the railroad doomed the canals. However, if you visit the Historic Roscoe Village, you will not see any railroads.”
You will not see any railroads in the Historic Roscoe Village, but that was not always the case.
The Historic Roscoe Village is built to resemble the canal town that it once was. On the east side of the village, you can see remnants of the original canal at least the parts that were not succumb to Ohio State Highway 16. On the north side of the village, some of the canal was preserved to include the basin where the Walhonding Canal, a feeder canal, connected with the Ohio and Erie Canal. As boats entered this canal, it had to pass through a triple lock. (Most canals mainly pass through one lock at a time.) From there it continued north. Years later, the canal was doomed and ceased operation.
Here is the moment of truth.
When Walhonding Canal was abandoned, the canal bed became the road bed for the Walhonding Valley Railroad. It was controversial in the beginning as there were those who did not wish the railroad to be built on the old canal property, but it was built in four years, and a place where there were once boats now had trains with bridges built over the old canal. Railroad service continued until 1936. If you were to visit the Triple Locks today, you will see very little evidence of a railroad right-of-way, but you can get a sense of something that once was.
The Historic Roscoe Village consists of many old structures along the main street. There are many restaurants and shops throughout the village. There is no admission charge to walk through the village itself, but you will need to pay admission to enter into select structures to include a print shop, broom shop, blacksmith shop, doctor’s office and home, a school, a toll house and a weave shop. Most of the docents are dress in period costume to give you a feel of the time period. Other sites include the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum located in the village and a canal boat ride on the Monticello III along a section of the canal that has been restored. The Visitor Center also has a small museum where you can see a photo of the old railroad bridge crossing the Muskegon River, and you can stroll through the garden outside and gaze at the waterfall. The Triple Lock Ruins are a short walk from the Visitor Center. The village also has venues to hosts events like parties and weddings. They also have events throughout the year. The Historic Roscoe Village is operated by the Montgomery Foundation and the Roscoe Village Foundation to bring the Canal Era to the present day.
Historic Roscoe Village is located in the town of Coshocton, Ohio. It is just off Ohio Route 16 and south of U.S. 36. There is parking in the town and plenty of parking at the Visitor Center. The village is open from 10:00am to 4:00pm seven days a week. You can get more information and to read more about the history of the village at https://www.roscoevillage.com. If you have a little extra time, you can go into the town of Coshocton and visit the old train depot and freight house and grab a drink at the Railroad Saloon.
The next time you hear about the Historic Roscoe Village, do not just think of it as just a canal town. Think of it as a place where a train once passed through.
[Looking across the basin at the Triple Locks. The railroad passed right through here.]