Reflections: Tale of the sinking road

By Evelyn Long - Contributing Columnist

I wonder how many readers have heard of “The Sinking Road.” A story published in the August 19, 1931 edition of the Union Register describes the “Sinking Road North Mount Gilead that Baffles Engineers for Years.”

The story describes a section of the Mount Gilead-Galion (today State Route 61) Road that had baffled construction experts for more than 50 years. A section of this road had refused to stay put for more than a few months during the entire history of the road.

The stretch was located three and one half miles north of Mount Gilead at the M. W. McKibben farm.

The state highway department recently raised this section to a new height level by filling it in with an aggregate of stone and tar. For years the road had a habit of sinking in the short section between two small hills or knolls.

On each side is a swamp and the original solution of the crossing worked out more than 50 years ago was a corduroy road and hundreds of logs placed there when the road was first put through. They are still imbedded under the original surface but have sunk many feet below the surface. The ground underlying the road was of a composite of soil never found in this area, being of pure peat.”

The story notes “ A pole could be struck as deep as 25 feet without striking a solid foundation. Innumerable fires had started in the peat in summer months during dry spells and could not be extinguished for days.”

McKibben said, “A remarkable engineering feat had been accomplished in cultivating the ground the previous 40 years. Because it was impossible to put horses on the ground because they would sink in, the horses were put on solid ground and hitched to the plow with long ropes. For many years corn was planted on this ground but only produced long stalks without a single ear of corn, due to lack of potash in the soil.”

“The original corduroy road across the swamp was piked in 1909 and within a few months had sunk several inches. It was filled several times and holes filled up continually until a concrete road was built in 1923. At that time it was believed that the concrete had sufficient solid foundation to hold up, but within a short time it had sunk. The surface of the road has dropped at least two feet during the past eight years but during the last year the highway department has again filled the depression. Engineers stated the problem of keeping a road there will never be solved until a long bridge or viaduct is constructed.

“Sufficient soil has been washed into the swamp surface by erosion to form an apparently solid ground which is deceptive as the soil underneath is still composed only of the peat, vegetable substance which affords no foundation for the road.”

I checked with the Morrow County office of the State Highway Department and they had no knowledge of a problem with this section of State Route 61; so the problem has been resolved through the years.

Looking back

80 years ago: Ray Sperry, SOHIO dealer on Gilead Street, won the Standard Oil Company’s award of excellence for his station’s clean, modern restrooms.

40 years ago: The Cincinnati Firm of Pflum, Klausmeir and Wagner was retained by village officials as the planning consultant firm for the redevelopment of Cardington. The same firm performed planning work for the community of Xenia after a devastating tornado hit that city in 1974.

By Evelyn Long

Contributing Columnist