FULTON — Once known as Lincoln Center, this was a bustling center of enterprise in the south central part of Morrow County.
“In those days it was a thriving metropolis,” according to local resident and historian Bruce Fissell.
Lincoln Center became Fulton in 1881, named for James Fulton for his contributions to the early community, Fissell wrote in “The Threads of Time: A History of Morrow County.”
Ten years later the Fulton Hotel was constructed. The town’s population was around 300. That’s not varied much, as the population was 258 at the 2010 census.
“I moved here in ’57. I live in my fourth grade teacher’s old house,” said Fissell, who served as mayor from 1969-1979.
The Fulton Opera House, J.W. Caris & Sons General Store and A. L. Pipe’s Hardware Store operated around 1900. Those and other landmarks are long gone.
QUARRY LED TO GROWTH
At the time of the building of the T. & O. C. Railroad, Fulton is credited with soliciting the station many times to place the railroad in the town that would bear his name. Lincoln Center got the railroad and a few years later a new name.
The largest enterprise was the Lincoln Stone Quarry that began operating in 1863 on the farmland of David Stiner.
“It was big; it employed 125 men at one time,” Fissell said over lunch at Boondock’s Restaurant, along Ohio 61 east of the village.
News reports in 1917 said the quarry closed because of persistent flooding. But, Fissell contends, it was shut down because of two other factors.
“One was losing workers to World War I and the other was the advent of cement around that time.”
The Fulton Hotel was built in 1891. It was needed to house some of the single quarry workers and “drummers” or salesmen who came through town.
YESTERDAY & TODAY
A small convenience store, Fulton Carry-Out & Deli, remains the center of Fulton on Main Street.
The store, combined with Lincoln Township Hall, Fulton Post Office, Vineyard Church of Morrow County and residences, keeps the street fairly busy.
The post office, built in 1962, is one of the most uniquely designed in the country.
“You get to know a lot of the people. I’m originally from Tennessee,” Jerry Ruth said from behind the store’s counter. “But you meet a lot of people and grow roots here.”
Ruth is a U.S. Navy veteran who taught at Marion Technical College. Now he works part-time at the store.
“The people here … there is a down-home hospitality every bit as friendly and outgoing as where I came from,” he said.
Ruth greeted a Wednesday afternoon customer with a cheerful, ‘Hi, Kenny.’ “You know them by their first name and what they usually buy,” he said.
Fissell likewise rattles off names of several early families in Fulton. Some are buried at the cemetery and many of their descendants remain in the area.
“Native Americans were big into hunting and sugar making around here. They left the area in the 1830s,” he said.
Fulton housed the Toledo & Ohio Central Depot, next to where the post office is now. Development of railroads there began in 1868. Passenger train service ended in July 1935.
NEIGHBORS HELPING NEIGHBORS
A new playground and basketball court were dedicated last September with the official opening of the Lincoln Center Park, much to the delight of Village Mayor Terri Cox Hickman, who has lived in Fulton for more than 50 years.
The shelter project was truly completed from beginning to end with local donations and volunteer labor, Hickman said.
“I grew up in a city environment and moved to Fulton when I married my husband, Ken Hickman. It was quite a change for me, but, grew on me over time. I felt that Fulton was a place where people cared about each other — and still do.”
Hickman said that while Fulton has not grown in size, it has gained a lot.
“City water, sewer system and a park with a shelter and playground for all our neighbors and residents to enjoy.”
The Disciple Shop has operated out of the old grain elevator building since 1984 as an outreach center. Their mission is to offer gently-used donated items to those struggling or in need. They offer clothing, non-perishable foods, household goods, furniture and books.
These efforts suggest Fulton is a tight-knit and caring community, something Ruth sees at the carry-out on a daily basis.
“People come in to buy milk or bread and they share their day with you, and that’s a good thing.”
Reach Conchel at firstname.lastname@example.org.