Robb Hyde will present Child of Steam: Alliance’s Birth at The Crossing – a look at the early days of the railroads in Northeast Ohio and the founding of Alliance, Ohio. Sponsored by the Alliance Historical Society, the program will take place on Monday, Mar. 2, at 7 p.m., in Rodman Library’s Main Auditorium. The title of the program comes from Levi L. Lamborn, one of the founding fathers of the city, who wrote in 1873 that Alliance was “an offspring of the locomotive, a legitimate child of steam” in his “History of Lexington Township.”
Child of Steam will trace the opening of the young state of Ohio on muddy roads, rivers and streams through primal landscapes. These eventually gave way to canals, and then led to an all-out race in the 1850s to build railroads through the Buckeye State to Chicago, St. Louis and the Far West. Powerful backers in Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York City were each determined to make their city the powerhouse of westward transport. Third-place in the race West was held by individuals from Philadelphia, who joined with the interests of Pittsburgh, and the much smaller promoters of towns such as Cleveland, Ravenna, Salem, Canton, Massillon and Wooster to make their stand by traversing the wheat-rich table lands of Ohio. By 1849, the sleepy hamlets of Williamsport, Mount Union and Freedom were expectant beneficiaries of the railroad boom. The crossing of the tracks of the Cleveland & Pittsburgh Railroad and the Ohio & Pennsylvania Railroad was near these small villages, but in none of them. A new identity would appear, but it came from a source previously unknown to our local historians.
Hyde’s program will detail the efforts to survey and build the new railroads through the area. It will highlight the broad changes brought to Ohio and the entire nation by what became known as the Iron Horse. It will also detail local tales that may be familiar to residents’ ears, adding new points of interest and intrigue to the stories of the first, cursed union railroad station; the far-reaching popularity of the second union station due to the talents of Daniel and Eliza Sourbeck; the Day Lincoln Came to Town; and the efforts of city fathers such as Elisha Teeters, Mathias Hester and Levi Lamborn to build a prosperous community at a place where fortune shined, and agriculture and industry could grow.
Robb Hyde is the former president of the Alliance Area Preservation Society, the group best known for operating Alliance’s Haines House. He is the retired director of the Wayne Center for the Arts in Wooster, and previously spent fifteen years at the Canton Museum of Art as director of marketing and development. He holds a BA in Communications from Mount Union College, and an MBA in Marketing from the University of Pittsburgh. He is a former president of the Ohio Museums Association; served as chair for Leave a Legacy Stark County; and served on the City of Alliance’s Historic Preservation Commission and the Castle Crusaders’ Capital Campaign Committee.
Child of Steam is the first part of a two-part series of programs on Alliance Railroad History debuting at the University of Mount Union’s Continuing Learning Program. The second program, Crossroads on the Standard Railroad of the World, is set for April 7, 2020, at 10 a.m. For more information, call the Main Library at 330-821-2665, ext. 101.