DELPHOS — The old man was dying. In the gathering darkness of an early spring evening in 1898, 102 years after his birth during the presidency of George Washington, “Pioneer” William Scott breathed his last at the home of his son-in-law in Delphos.
“Peacefully, like falling into slumber, his life ebbed away, the heart’s action became weaker, finally ceased and Delphos’ grand old man passed from life to death,” the Delphos Daily Herald wrote April 2, 1898. “Father Scott had much to do with the early interests of Northwestern Ohio, and in his younger days was most active.”
Six weeks before his death, on Feb. 19, 1898, Scott’s birthday, a reporter from the Herald visited him. “His mind is not so good as a year ago,” the reporter wrote, “but at times his memory seems freshened and he recounts happenings of early days when he was a young man and this country a vast wilderness.”
Scott was born Feb. 19, 1796, in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Around 1831, the Scott family crossed into Ohio, settling in Fairfield County in time, according to an 1896 biography, “to legalize his vote for Gen. Jackson in 1832, he being a strong Jackson democrat, and he is yet an ardent admirer of Old Hickory.”
On his 39th birthday in 1835, he came to the “vast wilderness” of northwestern Ohio, buying 205 acres of canal lands along the Auglaize River in what was then Putnam County at $1.25 per acre, according to the biography.
Scott helped forge a road through the forest to Delphos and Van Wert and, until failing health forced him to move in with relatives in the mid-1880s, farmed his land. He also served as an early Putnam County commissioner, county clerk, coroner and justice of the peace. He left his name on a tombstone in Walnut Grove Cemetery and the nearby crossroads where he’d lived.
By the time of Scott’s death, Scott’s Crossing, near the present-day intersection of State Road and state Route 309 in Marion Township, had a post office, a cluster of houses, a store and a water tank used by locomotives of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne and Chicago Railroad, which was laid through Scott’s land in the 1850s as the Ohio & Indiana Railroad. The railroad bridge over the Auglaize River contributed “Crossing” to the town’s name.
To Allen County, which the community eventually became part of, Scott’s Crossing was not always Scott’s Crossing. An 1880 map of the county shows the town of “Auglaize” at the site. On schedules for the Fort Wayne, Van Wert & Lima interurban line, which ran parallel to the railroad, the Scott’s Crossing station was listed as “Auglaize Station” as late as 1915.
Contrary to interurban schedules and county maps, the post office, which opened in 1873, was identified on maps in the 1880s as Scott’s Crossing. In 1902, Tobias and Agnes Luttrell lived on the triangle of land bounded by the railroad, State Road and Old Delphos Road. Tobias Luttrell was postmaster at Scott’s Crossing, but not for long.
“Postmaster Luttrell at Scott’s Crossing has been notified that the post office there will be discontinued June 30, 1902,” the Herald reported June 25, 1902. “Several years ago a rural mail route was established out of Elida which was the means of mail being delivered and taken up in the immediate vicinity of Scott’s Crossing, and Route No. 1 out of Delphos makes delivery within a quarter mile of the place.”
Scott’s Crossing lost its post office, but it had oil. “As soon as the weather permits there will be 30 oil wells drilled in the Scott’s Crossing territory, 15 north and 15 south of the track,” the Herald wrote March 12, 1903. “The oil business in that vicinity is going to hum this summer.”
Beginning in 1905, Scott’s Crossing also had the interurban which enhanced the area’s popularity as a picnic spot with its Riverside Park, nearby Buettner’s Grove and the Auglaize River, which was a favorite spot for fishing, and occasionally baptisms. “Several members of the Main Street U.B. church were baptized by immersion in the Auglaize River, near Scott’s Crossing Sunday, by Rev. W.E. Strete,” the Herald reported May 22, 1900.
The railroad and interurban put Scott’s Crossing on the map and, at times, it seemed as if the town was there only to provide a dateline for the terrible accidents that occurred there. Trains, and later the interurban, collided with other vehicles with alarming frequency at the country crossings in the vicinity of the town.
“John Shenk and son met with an accident at Scott’s Crossing this morning, near the P., F.W. & C. railroad track,” the Herald reported Oct. 18, 1899. “Their horse was nearly onto the railroad when they saw an engine approaching at a rapid gait from the east. In their endeavor to turn around the buggy was upset into the ditch. Mr. Shenk and his son were dragged for some distance but escaped without injury to themselves. The buggy and harness were somewhat damaged. It was a narrow escape from another terrible grade crossing accident.”
The terrible grade crossing accidents increased as the automobile became common, as did calls for something to be done at what the News in 1927 called “the deadly crossing” where the Harding Highway (now state Route 309) intersected the railroad and interurban tracks. On June 21, 1926, the News reported a Woodville woman killed and her fiancé seriously injured, “their romance shattered less than a week before their wedding date,” when their car was struck by a speeding Pennsylvania Railroad passenger train. In March 1927, three members of a Wapakoneta family were killed at the crossing.
A 1923 plan for an underpass was shelved when the Pennsylvania Railroad balked at the cost. On July 27, 1927, Ohio’s public utilities commission approved a watchman for the crossing.
On June 30, 1932, the last interurban car headed west from Lima to Fort Wayne. Almost four years later, in April 1936, workers began rerouting the Harding Highway from Elida to Scott’s Crossing on the abandoned interurban right of way. The new highway, dedicated in the summer of 1938, placed the highway parallel to the Pennsylvania Railroad between Elida and Delphos, eliminating the dangerous crossing.
In the 1940s, Scott’s Crossing was home to a pair of popular night spots. On one side of the highway was the Century Club, which according to a story in the Oct. 6, 1945, edition of the News, “caters mostly to the middle-aged group of folks, serves sandwiches and all kinds of mixed drinks and of course, beer and wine.”
On opposite side, along Old Delphos Road, was the White Dove. “Have you ever seen and heard the Arizona Rangers?” the News asked Nov. 15, 1941. “Those boys really cut capers, musical and comical, at White Dove Inn, Scott’s Crossing, along the Auglaize River and just south of U.S. Route 30 S, every Friday and Saturday night, illuminated arrows indicate direction from the highway.” Both spots were closed by the 1980s.
Leslie Peltier spent most of his life looking for illuminated things in the night sky. “Long famous for his astronomical discoveries, Leslie C. Peltier, 41-year-old Scott’s Crossing amateur astronomer and mechanic, has added another laurel to his large collection with the joint discovery of a new comet, he disclosed Wednesday,” the News wrote Nov. 28, 1945. “Still not visible to the naked eye, this new comet was discovered in his observatory near Scott’s Crossing last Saturday …” Peltier is credited as co-discoverer of 12 comets, 10 of which bear his name. He died in 1980.
Reach Greg Hoersten at TLNinfo@civitasmedia.com.