Once upon a time, Wood County was not
a flat, windswept land of farms and fields. It was a dark,
brooding morass of monstrous trees, bottomless mud holes,
and fetid marshes crisscrossed by sand ridges, limestone
outcroppings, and oak openings. Today, little to none of
that virgin landscape remains, a testament to one of the
largest public works projects undertaken by our young nation.
It all began when General Mad Anthony Wayne defeated a coalition
of Indian forces at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794.
The Indians were forced to cede their lands to the U.S.
and move westward. Settlers quickly moved in and started
making land claims. But the treacherous Great Black Swamp
remained unsettled, owing to the fact that almost every
person who traveled through the Swamp came out with tales
of terror, dread, and despair.
In the early 1800s settlers managed to build 3 roads through
the Swamp. In 1808 they paved The Western Reserve Road (now
U.S. 20) stretching between Fort Meigs (Perrysburg) and
Findlay. During the War of 1812, General William Hull blazed
a trail through the Swamp on his way to Detroit; his route
became HullÕs Trace (now U.S. 25). A third road went
south from Fort Meigs to the old town of McCutchenville.
All of these roads became nearly impassible in the winter
and spring, and to remedy this ditches were dug along the
sides of the road to help drain the surface water.
The Western Reserve Road quickly became known as the worst
patch of roadway in the entire nation, famous for having
35 inns situated along it's 35 miles. The road was so horrendous,
that it was considered fortunate if one was able to travel
more than a mile in a day. Attempts to pave the road with
wood planks and limestone slabs resulted in small improvements,
but nothing seemed prevent the mud from eventually swallowing
up everything that was laid upon it.
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