All Aboard to Centerburg
Welcome to Centerburg located in Hilliar Township and known as the Geographical Center of Ohio. It is also home to the Heart of Ohio multi-use trail where our first Point of Interest begins. As you visit the Heart of Ohio Trail, we want you to learn of the history of Ohio Railroads and their significance to the growth of these towns. In the late ’90s, Knox County began to explore the idea of taking the abandoned rail beds and converting them to a multi-use recreational trail. As you discover areas on the Heart of Ohio Trail, imagine the importance and many benefits of the railroad through our trail towns. Before automobiles and good roads, recreational day trips of any distance were chosen if the desired destination was reasonably close to a railroad. The alternative means of travel simply were too slow and would consume much of an outing, therefore, leaving little time to socialize, picnic, or swim. Can you picture vast woodlands of Black Walnut and Sugar Maples or a possible encounter with Native Americans.
The History of Centerburg
In 1829 Ohio passed an act to build a road from Columbus to Mount Vernon. Now known as Route 3 & 36 also known as the 3-C highway as it stretched from Cincinnati, Columbus and Cleveland. During this period, travel from the Lake Region to Columbus passed on this road. Early travelers referred the Hilliar Township stretch of road as the seven-mile woods and between Mount Vernon, and Columbus, horses were changed three times.
As travel and freight increased there was a need for taverns, liveries, and hotels and the competition for business began. In 1835, Jacob Houck built a sawmill, and traces of the sawmill can be still be found today. Other businesses included shoe and harness making, blacksmiths, brick and tile, as well as hotels, doctors, bakers, groceries, barbers, and millenary.
In 1830, Centerburg was platted and later filed in December 1834. As early as 1815 Centerburg was a crossroads for early-stage and freight lines between the Ohio River and the Great Lakes and the new capital in Columbus. The tavern located in the town gave food and rest to travelers, and their 6-horse team wagons carrying merchandise. Harvey Jones ran the local tavern and stated “no man should determine the name of the town but merely document the geographical location.” Therefore, Centerburg became known as the geographical center of Ohio.
In the early 1830s the first railroad companies were incorporated by the Ohio General Assembly. The Cleveland, Mt. Vernon and Delaware Railroad had its inception in 1835 and the railroad went from Hudson, near Cleveland to Millersburg, Mount Vernon, Delaware and eventually on to Columbus. You will notice stone mile markers along the trail with a “H” and number which represents the distance to Hudson from that location.
In 1874, Centerburg began to flourish as the construction of a railway continued. The “Cleveland, Mt. Vernon and Delaware Railroad Company was finally developed, and the first passenger train was operational on September 1, 1874. With the construction of the rail bed and roads, town lots that were once valued at $20 began to sell for $200 and the population grew from 60 to 1,101 people. Large cities and small villages alike would prosper from the railroads and many local citizens quickly invested their money along with the state’s money to get the routes built. In 1880 the former Cleveland, Mt Vernon, Delaware railroad went bankrupt and the railroad company was sold to the Cleveland, Akron, Columbus (C.A. & C.) railway and eventually became the Pennsylvania Railroad in late 1899. Local farmers had a way to ship their grain and livestock to market.
Andrew Lintner Harris visited one of the C.A.& C. Depot located in Centerburg for a campaign speech as he was running for Ohio Governor. Andrew became one of the heroes of the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War and served as the 44th Governor of Ohio. Today we celebrate the rail line as part of a 326-mile multi-use Trail called the Ohio to Erie Trail which spans from Cincinnati to Cleveland. Knox County is proud to be a part of this trail system comprised of the Heart of Ohio Trail, the Kokosing Gap Trail, and the Mohican Valley Trail.