ELIDA — Elida was moving up in the world.
It was incorporated as a village in 1878 and was perched at the ready for rail. A freight line was already in place, and a new development was soon on the horizon: the interurban.
Turn-of-the-century newspapers carried stories about this, beginning with the struggle of where to site the passenger train. It ended up running parallel with the freight line, which remains today.
The Fort Wayne, Van Wert and Lima Interurban Line came through the area securing the relatively straight shot from Lima to Fort Wayne, Ind. Tracks would be built, and electric power plants would be started to run a high-speed line as well as a local. The controlling interests changed several times, but the project came to fruition.
“The installation of regular service over the Lima-Ft. Wayne traction line between Delphos and Lima starts off with great promise. Cars were operated on the schedule of every hour Saturday and Sunday, and in spite of the disagreeable weather yesterday, the company enjoyed a large patronage,” according to an Oct. 3, 1904, newspaper story.
The interurban line also brought profits to the village, as a newspaper story reported:
“To add to the difficulties of the trolly line ... a farmer west of the village demanded, and received, a grade crossing on his land in return for granting the necessary right of way. This meant that the farmer, in effect, had a private stop on his land, since the company had advertised it would stop for passengers at all grade crossings. On the inaugural run to Fort Wayne the farmer and his wife boarded the car and, en route, distributed apples from their orchard to the passengers.”
But the traction line was relatively short-lived — operating until 1920 — and highway travel began to take over.
Before the current U.S. 30 was built, the original highway through the Elida area was Piquad Road. Later, the highway was split into 30N and 30S, with 30S coming through Elida. The Lincoln Highway would become 30N.
The change would also correct dangerous bits of road and prevent highway traffic from having to cross the freight rail line.
“Work will be started within the next few days on the straightening of the two dangerous curves between Elida and Scott’s Crossing, on the Harding Highway west of Lima,” a May 24, 1933, story reported. “Other improvements will be made to this stretch of the Harding, to make it safer for the large amount of traffic using the route each year.”
People from this area protested the new northern piece of U.S. 30, concerned that tourists would pass the area by. But the state went ahead as planned.
“That part of the improvement in the vicinity of Elida, for which approval has already been requested, will be a relocation of the route through Elida to Scotts Crossing, following the abandoned right-of-way of the old Lima-Defiance interurban line,” a Sept. 25, 1935, story reported.
In the late 1950s, the state widened 30S and resurfaced it from Elida to Lima. Its name became state Route 309.
How the roads affected the cemeteries
Greenlawn Cemetery on today’s Dutch Hollow Road was out of the way of the new highway. The biggest change it had to deal with was the renaming of its road from Allentown to Dutch Hollow.
But looking in Elida proper, the roads caused some serious changes at both the Methodist and Lutheran churches.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church was established in 1837, and this church’s current building was built in 1876 on West Main Street. Its founding pastor, the Rev. Abraham Doner, was buried at the church cemetery. By 1880, the cemetery was full and burials stopped.
In 1976, after the cemetery had fallen into considerable neglect, the stones were removed and the land was worked so a playground could be built for the church’s new kindergarten.
The church erected a memorial stone was erected for Doner and the others and placed a plaque inside the church.
Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church and Peace Lutheran Church merged to become New Creation Lutheran Church in 2001.
The Lutherans’ neighbor to the south, the Methodists, were even more greatly affected.
The Methodist Episcopal Church began in 1831 using home prayer meetings and circuit-riding preachers to start. One of the hosts was Griffith John, the man who platted the village.
This church was tucked just behind the Lutheran church, which fronted the main thoroughfare of West Main Street. The church bought its current location and built its current building, St. Paul United Methodist Church, and the old site was mainly forgotten. The frame church was sold to the grain elevator, which moved it and used it for storage, but the cemetery remained.
And now, it’s all highway. Not a clue remains of its history to the passerby.
When the highway came through on the old rail location, the perspective of how visitors looked at Elida changed drastically. Suddenly, visitors were peering into the backside of town instead of being welcomed by a wide, comfortable main street — all the while, driving over history.
Sources: Land records, church histories, family histories, newspapers and “A Look at Our History and a Vision of Our Future” by the Elida Historical Committee.