A billboard in Toledo, Wash., welcomes visitors. Rich in history, recreation, and volunteerism, it has about 725 residents.
ROBERT ASHWORTH NOT BLADE PHOTO
At one time, Toledo was all over the map.
Not only in Ohio, but across America, where upward of 20 Toledo towns dotted the countryside decades ago. By the 1950s, just shy of a dozen remained.
Several once-bustling towns tagged as Toledo lacked staying power for a variety of reasons, such as population drift as canal boats, railroad lines, and local industries came and then went, replaced with memories and historical notations of what once was.
Today? Lists of states with populated places named Toledo include Ohio, Missouri, Washington, Iowa, and Illinois, but some are suspect (read on).
By far, the Buckeye State’s Toledo is the biggest of the bunch; population, an estimated 284,000 or so in 2012. A few hundred to a couple thousand people live in the other Toledo clan of communities.
No matter the tallies, a favorite pops to the top: Toledo, Iowa. You just have to give a shout out to a city known for its popular Stop Light Festival.
And speaking of Toledo ... a white pages phone book (and youngsters ask as one: a what?), lists several Toledoans with last names of Toledo. One of the Toledo Toledoans actually is named Mary Jane Roberts. In error, the city where she lives was printed as her last name, said Mrs. Roberts, who has received mail addressed to Mary Jane Toledo. She was unaware of other places named Toledo in the United States. “I just knew about Toledo, Spain.”
Webster’s dictionary lists two Toledos: one a city and port in northwest Ohio on Lake Erie; the other, a city in central Spain.
Now back to the Iowa and its Toledo, population 2,341, county seat of Tama County.
Julie Wilkerson, Toledo city clerk, said the annual Stop Light Festival began after a proposal to replace the Main Street stop light with stop signs prompted a public outcry. “Residents wanted to leave it because it has always been here, and the city is known for its stop light,” she said, noting, “you can have your picture taken near the stop light during the festival.”
The city’s local history says a mail drop-off site in the 1850s was named Toledo by James Hollen (he was responsible for the mail), influenced by a book he was reading, Knight of Toledo in Spain. Then, in 1853, during a meeting to locate a seat of justice for Tama County, the oldest person present, Adam Zehrung, was given the honor of naming the new county seat. A former Toledoan from Ohio, he favored Toledo, and others agreed, particularly because the Toledo post office would be relocated to the new county seat.
Soon, laws were in place: Hogs were prohibited from running at large, cattle had to be penned at night, and burdocks, pesky weeds with burrs, were declared a nuisance.
In Illinois, Toledo is listed as a village with a population of 1,238 in 2010, down 72 people from the 2000 census. It is Cumberland County’s county seat.
Although Toledo in Missouri is supposedly still a populated place, it has been called a ghost town in recent decades. In the heart of the Ozarks, hemmed in on three sides by mountains and by the Little North Fork River on the fourth side, the location itself perhaps did the town in. In the 1950s, its population was down to a single digit: eight.
Toledo, N.C., was a town with a general store and 100 residents several decades ago. Now, it’s a dot on maps of Yancy County.
In Georgia, Toledo never was a city or town, but rather a settlement for workers in the labor-intensive pine-product business, said Joe Hopkins, 61, president of the 101-year-old Toledo Manufacturing Co. Inc., who has heard stories all his life about the early days of Toledo, situated near the Okefenokee Swamp straddling the Georgia–Florida border.
At one time, some 200 workers, most employed by Toledo Manufacturing, lived in the settlement on one of the first tracts purchased for the resin and turpentine industry in that area, Mr. Hopkins said. When the settlement was set up, “they needed a name,” Mr. Hopkins said, and it was based on where a crew foreman had lived in Ohio.
An old commissary from the turpentine days, a trio or so of “turpentine houses,” and fewer than a dozen folks remain, said Mr. Hopkins, recently named president of the Forest Landowners Association, a national organization. Toledo Manufacturing today is a timberland management firm.
Some Toledos exist essentially in name only.
In the Lone Star State, two one-time T-Towns are now ghost riders.
One Toledo was situated on the Toledo bend of the Sabine River separating Texas from Louisiana. The former steamboat landing possibly was named by settlers from Toledo, Ohio, who arrived in the 1840s. The place was known for its nuts, pecans to be precise. Its population, roughly 100 in the 1950s, apparently died off or packed up and left.
The other Toledo was in Fayette County in south-central Texas. Its population today is listed as zero.
Toledo, Wash., by comparison, thrives. Rich in history, recreation, and volunteerism, it has about 725 residents. Its special festival? An annual three-day slice — lots of slices, actually — of Americana: Toledo Cheese Days with the coronation of the “Big Cheese,” free cheese sandwiches, and oodles of other activities. Incorporated on Oct. 10, 1892, Toledo was named after a pioneer side-wheel paddle steamer on the Cowlitz River.
Back in Ohio, the city’s name carries a question mark: Who actually decided that the new town, a merger of Port Lawrence and Vistula, be named Toledo? The only certainty and the only point on which historians agree is that the name was taken from Toledo, Spain, according to information from the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
Although several Toledos have been erased from maps of thriving communities, Toledo, Ohio, has staying power for many reasons.
David Schlaudecker, executive director of Leadership Toledo, put it this way: “Our Toledo survives because of the talented people who choose to live here. From our founders and early leaders to those impacting the community today, there exists compassion and a real interest in identifying and solving the needs and challenges of all residents.
“Plus, there are just a lot of fun, hassle-free things to do in our Toledo. Eat at one of the incredible restaurants before enjoying a performance at the Peristyle, Stranahan, or Valentine. Take in a Rockets, Mud Hens, or Walleye game. Stroll through the world-class Museum of Art, zoo, and art galleries. Our Toledo thrives because its leaders never were and are not now content to remain unchanged. Plus, some of us really do enjoy the weather here ... and if you don’t, just wait a minute.”
Contact Janet Romaker at: email@example.com or 419-724-6006.