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Matamoras Minute: Water Street

Photo provided by Jim Moore. This view of the river shows how drastically the water level would drop during the summer months before the lock and dam system was developed on the Ohio. Roads near the shoreline were easily flooded once the river became stabilized with regard to depth. This scene with the bridge is located upriver from Matamoras.

Rivers rise and shorelines change. Such an event forced Matamoras to give up one of the earliest streets used in the town. Water Street ran parallel to Front Street in the earliest days of the village.

As floods raged over the years followed by the construction of locks and dams to maintain a more consistent water level in the river the street ceased to exist.

The 1875 map of Matamoras reveals Water Street to have started from the alley above Taylor Street. It stretched downriver beyond what was then the limits of the town. At that point it turned into a road located on the river side of the older homes on what is now Park Avenue.

Some of those houses were built to face Water Street and their backyards reached to Grandview Avenue. When State Route 7 replaced Grandview Avenue and sliced through the yards of these homes, the area now known as Ferguson Park was outlined. This entire area is now within the town’s borders.

Since riverboats furnished all the transportation to and from Matamoras in the years prior to a railroad laid on the Virginia side of the Ohio River, the shoreline bustled. All cargo came by boat as did travelers. Wagons pulled by horses or oxen carried produce down to the wharfboat moored above H.C. May’s Hardware to be loaded for city markets both up and down the river. Then whatever products had arrived to be delivered to stores or customers were distributed from the boats.

At the foot of Broadway was Bradfield’s landing. A spot where cattle and other livestock were loaded for shipment.

Needless to say it was a noisy and lively place. The ferry for two legged passengers to travel across the river was at the foot of Main Street.

The Big A Mill, located on Water Street at the corner of Ferry, was the scene of much commerce. The mill was owned by Dave Brown and then purchased by Jesse Baxter. He operated it as a flour mill until Oce and Ray Baker bought the property.

The Baker brothers converted the building into a saw mill.

Years later when the saw mill burned down it was the last business operating on Water Street.

John Miller is president of the Matamoras Area Historical Society. Membership dues are $15 per year single/couple. Life membership is $150. Contact the society at P.O. Box 1846, New Matamoras, Ohio 45767. Much of this column is built on the work of Matamoras’ historian, the late Diana McMahan.

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