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Matamoras Minute: Better roads

Those familiar with Main and Front Streets in Matamoras observe the height from the road surface to the sidewalk. It varies from 25 inches to nearly level. The greatest step height is 14 inches. The first three blocks of Main Street heading west and Front Street traveling north require anyone over the age of 15 to give an extra boost to their step when attempting to reach the sidewalk.

This difference between the lower elevation of the road up to the sidewalk is a feature rather unique to Matamoras. The severe grading was done in 1912 as William Howard Taft, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, and Eugene Debs were vying for the presidency. Politics and excavation were both on the minds of the citizens of the town.

The reason for such extreme dirt removal was the need for proper drainage. Picures of Matamoras reveal the tendency of mud to abound in certain blocks of downtown due to moisture conditions below ground level. A side benefit of the excavation was the ease of bounding onto the back of a horse. Although such flamboyance was about to become arcade as the automobile was making roads as the new mode of transportation.

In May of 1912 bids were opened for the paving of streets with the firm of Rosser and Harper winning the contract. Work was begun immediately and by July three blocks of Main Street had been finished. Some excess dirt was gathered by residents to fill and improve their property. Other amounts were taken to the wharf boat site to fight erosion.

In November 1914 the Matamoras Enterprise reported that a delegation from Matamoras had been invited to Marietta to take part in a meeting called “Better Roads.” At this time when streets were modernized each homeowner paid for the section of the street being improved in front of their property. So it was hoped that residents of Matamoras could persuade other municipalities’ citizens as to the advantages of such financial commitments.

Matamoras citizens also hoped to encourage the county commissioners to pave the roads leading into town. After all if the residents of the village could rally the community to improve the incorporated entity’s streets surely the county could muster the resources to connect the county by a system of improved roads.

The quest will be taken up in the next column.

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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