All Aboard to Howard

Welcome to Howard, a village along the Kokosing Gap Trail. On this section of the trail, you will have located your last cache on the Kokosing Gap Trail. As you visit the area we want you to become engaged in 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.

The picturesque view at the Howard trailhead of the Kokosing Gap Trail is a unique one and a highly photographed area. The backdrop includes the Stone Arch which was built in 1874 and served as a bridge for the U.S. Route 36 over the old Columbus, Akron, and Cleveland Rail bed, now a part of the Kokosing Gap Trail.

Samuel Israel Sr. sold the right to quarry nearby stone to build the arch to Robert McKay and his son William who were local stonemason. They built the arch according to the contract with the railroad. The picture above shows the detail of the work involved of the men who built the arch. 

 William McKay was a veteran for100 days in the Civil War. It was not his intention to serve the front line as he was serving only in the Ohio National Guard Troop for Knox County known as the 22nd Battalion. This military group was organized to defend the local area if the Confederates ever invaded Ohio.

By late spring in 1864, the troop discovered that the South would not be making its way to central Ohio so McKay assumed his duties were fulfilled. The Northern Generals, however, still needed support for the war efforts in Virginia so a controversial decision was made to send some of the Ohio National Guard battalions to aid in the situation. Suddenly McKay, being 19 years old was faced to serve the war on the front line.

The National Guard troop was officially brought into Infantry by May 20, 1864, and Henry L Curtis (son of Henry B Curtis) was the Regiment Quartermaster at the time and was alarmed at the assignment to send the troops to the battlefront. As the battle continued into a long siege, the 142nd was always under fire and survived many Confederate attacks and none of their soldiers were killed in battle. Many of the men however were lost to disease such as malaria by the conditions of their travel. McKay died later at age 46 due to the health conditions he acquired during his military service.

McKay received a certificate of service and a letter of thanks signed by President Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton ( a Kenyon College graduate).

In April 2020 the Arch at Howard received an Ohio Historical Marker. The funding of the project was through David McKay a descendant to William McKay and the Knox County Park District (you can view the marker upon your visit).

President Lincoln’s Secretary of War, Edwin Stanton was a graduate of Kenyon College. He also organized the manhunt for President Lincoln’s assassin, John Wilkes Booth.

Today we celebrate the rail line as part of a 326-mile multi-use trail called the Ohio to Erie which spans from Cincinnati to Cleveland. Knox County is proud to be a part of this trail system which includes our Heart of Ohio Trail, Kokosing Gap Trail, and Mohican Valley Trail.