Beverly’s railroad: mid-1881

By February 1881 The Beverly Dispatch was recommending the people support the Zanesville and Southeastern Railroad and let Zanesville take the lead “and we will follow.” Possibly Beverly would have been better off to continue their support of Mooney’s Bellaire and Southwestern. At the least, Beverly should have taken the lead and not depend on Zanesville, who might decide to build the railroad elsewhere – say to Caldwell, which is what happened. Beverly was already predicting the railroad from Zanesville would be finished by Thanksgiving 1882. With this, Beverly would have control of the trade over the entire Meigs Creek Valley.

While seemingly lagging on the Zanesville end, the Dispatch wrote on Feb. 25, 1881, “If Zanesville doesn’t help, just run the road up Olive Green and see how that strikes her.” The Olive Green Creek route was one of the first considered for the extension of the B. & S. W. (later B. Z. & C., see picture of engine, courtesy of Monroe County Historical Society). Furthermore, the paper noted, “As long as you allow Zanesville to think the road cannot be built without her aid, you will be without it.” By early March Thomas B. Townsend, a Zanesville businessman who grew up in Beverly, brought news that was almost too good to be true. The Zanesville and Southeastern Railway Company was willing to build a standard gauge railroad to Unionville on Meigs Creek and down the Muskingum River to Beverly. Speakers in Beverly often called this the Zanesville and Beverly Railroad, or Z. and B., and sometimes B. and Z., but these were never official names.

By mid-March Beverly leaders learned that the Bellaire-Woodsfield group wanted $60,000 to build the road, but the Zanesville group only wanted $25,000. This persuaded enough people and soon the Bellaire line was put on the back burner and the Zanesville line was moved to the front. On May 13 the Dispatch noted bad news followed by possible good news. “An engineer for some Chicago railroad company, who was sent out to survey a route by the way of Waterford to the northern part of the State, got off the line and come [sic] to Beverly last Saturday, but took a back tract upon discovery of his mistake,” wrote the newspaper. This was the beginning of the railroad that followed the west side of the Muskingum, the only one that successfully followed this river. The same paper noted, “Citizens of Zanesville approved selling of bonds to build the railroad through south Muskingum Co. and the continuation to Beverly or McConnelsville or Caldwell.”

Headlines in the March 11, 1881, issue of the Dispatch read, “Beverly and Zanesville join.” A large and enthusiastic crowd met at the mayor’s office. Dr. Henry S. Clark was elected chairman and C. E. F. Miller, secretary. Thomas B. Townsend told the group that Zanesville held $150,000 in the B. & O. stock, which if the state legislature and the voters of Muskingum County approved, could be used to construct the railroad. Beverly’s obligations would be at least $25,000. Oliver Tucker spoke to the group, “The B. & S. W. wants $60,000 of Beverly to run their extension, which is too much – but we can raise what Zanesville requires of us.” Now two railroad companies wanted Beverly on their line. Beverly had placed one, the Bellaire and Southwestern, on hold, but they were hot and heavy after the other one, the Zanesville and Southeastern.

The Dispatch was all in favor of the route from Zanesville on March 18. “The people favor,” the paper wrote, “any railroad that will make Beverly a main point, not a branch.” Also, “Zanesville is the only party that has made us a well-defined proposal.” Besides, the paper added, Sullivan’s B. & S. W. was contemplating crossing the Muskingum River at Windsor (Stockport).

By this time Col. Sullivan had proposed a new railroad, the Bellaire, Beaver Valley and Shawnee Railroad, or the B., B. V. & S. The Dispatch wrote, “Build the road to Zanesville, and then if the B. & S. W. or the [B.], B. V. & S. roads want to join and come down Meigs creek with the B. & Z. [Beverly and Zanesville] we have no objection.” Many in Beverly considered the B., B. V. & S. a “paper railroad,” just another one of Sullivan” schemes that had not started laying tracts yet. Now three railroad companies had on eye on Beverly.

Phillip L. Crane, a Waterford resident and Marietta history teacher for 32 years, shares historical events in the Lower Muskingum Valley.