Looking Back at Orrville
he two Rs in the word Orrville might well stand for â€œRail Road.â€? The city was originally conceived as a railroad stop, and the railroad drove virtually every aspect of its development over the years. Even today, the most casual of visitors to the city cannot escape the presence of the railroad, as there is almost no way to reach the heart of the downtown without having to cross at least one set of tracks. It was in about 1845 that the rural area around what is today Orrville was struck by â€œrailroad fever,â€? and the phenomenon became the impetus for many meetings to debate its pros and cons. Judge Smith Orr, founder of the town â€“ and whose name it bears â€“ was the chief proponent of the railraods, pointing out they would help open up the wilderness and allow area farmers to reach broader markets than was possible with present transportation modes. Opponents of the railroads, however, did not want their farmlands ripped apart by construction for what they felt would be a passing fad. In 1848 when new railroad companies began looking to groups of private citizens to give them aid in crossing Ohio, Orr jumped at the chance to draw the railroad through Green and Baughman Townships in Wayne County. A deal was hammered out in which Orr was to get the residents of the two townships to raise $150,000 by buying stock at $50 per share. The City of Pittsburgh, Pa., was to raise $600,000 as its part of the deal. While Orr and partner Jesse Straughan readily raised the $150,000, Pittsburgh was unable to fulďŹ ll its part of the agreement. Straughan was then sent to Pittsburgh to represent the entire State of Ohioâ€™s railroad interests.
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A new plan was constructed under which the city councils of Pittsburgh and Allegheny were to subscribe $200,000, with citizens expected to come up with the remaining $400,000. That goal was reached by 1850. To ensure that Green and Baughman Townships would not be bypassed by the railroad, Orr promised the Ohio and Pennsylvania Railroad that he would construct a water tank, a sawmill, and furnish free wood for fuel and ties for track. This served as adequate encouragement for the railroad to build through Orrâ€™s area. Orrville probably owes its existence to the fact it is situated in a direct line between Wooster and Massillon, both established in the early 1800s and main targets of the railroad line. Orr then persuaded Robert Taggart in Baughman Township to take 10 acres of his land and lay out 42 town lots, which Taggart sold for $50 each. Those lots were located north of the railroad tracks and east of Main Street. Then Orr entered into a partnership with William Gailey and built the promised water tank and saw mill southeast of Mill Street.
â€œLook Backâ€? continued on page 61
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