ARCHBOLD - More than 100 years ago, log-laden wagons and horse-drawn surries slogged through deep mud along Archbold's main street.
In the spring, the street was a quagmire, according to a history book published by the Fulton County Historical Society. Known as North Defiance Street, the unimproved stretch of roadway was a source of much trouble to citizens and local officials.
Back then, North Defiance dried out by summertime, but the street then became coated with several inches of dust, and deep ruts made it difficult for area residents to reach mills and stores, the history book states, but Archbold council in 1896 decided to do something about it. Bonds were sold and contracts signed to have the street, extending from the railroad tracks to Holland Street, paved with brick.
Those old bricks, installed in 1896 and 1897, have resurfaced during the reconstruction project under way along North Defiance Street in the heart of the downtown business district. And area residents are scrambling to get their hands on a piece of the past.
A homeowner along North Defiance Street is paving his driveway with the bricks from the roadway, and some residents along the north end of the construction project have taken smaller quantities of bricks for use in home projects, said Dennis Howell, Archbold village administrator.
The contractor has been piling bricks at the village's street garage where some people have picked through the bricks to find good ones, Mr. Howell said. "We are thrilled that these pieces of Archbold's history are being used and preserved in the immediate area," he said.
Sauder Village has received 18 truck loads of bricks from the downtown street, and staff members were pleased with the good condition of the bricks.
Old bricks uncovered during a previous road project in Archbold were incorporated into a walkway in the garden of Sauder's Little Pioneers Homestead that opened in June, she said.
For now, the old bricks from the North Defiance Street project are being stored at Sauder Village. "It's a bunch of history in a pile" at this point, she said.
Installation of the bricks in 1896 and 1897 was described as "One of the most progressive steps in the history of the village," according to the historical society's publication. Wooden sidewalks, plank street crossings, and wooden hitching rails disappeared, and new sandstone slab sidewalks and stone curbing were installed.
"Archbold gained much prestige for having the first paved street of any town on the Air Line Division of the railroad extending from Toledo to Elkhart," according to the history book. A couple years later marked another milestone: installation of six oil lamps on street corners.