The History of

Willard, Ohio


The Baltimore and Ohio Railroad Company in the development of its properties and desiring to enter the competitive fields of commerce with the Pennsylvania, the New York Central and other lines, conceived the plan of connecting the iron, steel and coal industries of Pittsburgh and the East, with the great grain fields of the West.

The management of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was then in the hands of that “Master of Finance”, John W. Garrett, the President, assisted by John King, Jr., as first Vice President, and William Keyser, as second Vice President, men of great financial ability and energy. John K. Cowen was the General Counsel and James Randolph the Chief Engineer.

The company having obtained a controlling interest in the Central Ohio Railroad, and having leased the Sandusky, Mansfield and Newark Railroad, and organized and built the Newark, Somerset and Straitsville Railroad into the coal fields of southern Ohio, proposed to make these lines feed into the lines between Pittsburgh and Chicago.

It was the purpose of the President and his advisors to construct the line from the Sandusky, Mansfield and Newark Railroad first, and later to connect the two lines, but owing to financial difficulties the completion of the last link was deferred.


In pursuance of this plan, in the fall of 1871 the Chief Engineer was directed to organize a corp. of engineers and begin a preliminary survey. On the eleventh day of October an engineering corp., consisting of Beverly Randolph, Assistant Engineer, T. J. Frazier, Transit Man, and Robert Henderson, Level man, with the other employees, began the survey.

Work was begun on the Clinton Air Line, a railroad, which had been partially constructed between New London, in Huron County, and Republic, in Seneca County. This was abandoned and a survey was made through the Village of Havana and on west to Republic, to connect with the Mad River and Lake Erie Railway, a line, which had been abandoned. The line was surveyed from Republic to Tiffin and then to Fostoria, but on account of weather conditions further work was suspended until spring.


On the 25th of March, surveys were commenced, with Defiance as the objective point, through a country covered with heavy timber for 40 miles and with water a foot deep. This survey was commenced May 3rd, with all of the men sick with malaria, chills and fevers, except the transit man and the ax man, who were residents of the county. The transit man was instructed to organize a force of natives and make the final location.

The survey was completed in June, and, the sick men having returned to the field of action, at once began the preparation of maps and profiles preparatory to securing the right of way and the starting of the preliminary work incident to beginning construction.

In October, the work was let to contactors and preparations made for beginning active operations. Construction began about May 1, 1873, but work was delayed on account of continuous rains. Col. S.R. Johnson, an experienced engineer, was placed in general charge of construction, with T.J. Frazier, E.A. Jones and Robert Henderson, resident engineers: Frazier in charge from Defiance to Bascom: Henderson from Bascom to Republic, and Jones from republic to Chicago Junction. The construction of the line from Defiance to Chicago was I the hands of Charles Archenheit and George Crooker.

After the completion of the preliminary work in November, 1872, the Chief Engineer thought it desirable to change the location of the terminus from Havana to a point more desirable in the proposed extension to Pittsburgh, and to this end the engineers in the early part of December 1872, relocated the line from Republic through the present site of Chicago Junction. This established the final location of the village of Chicago Junction.


Grading began May 1, 1873, at Fostoria. Track laying and ballasting were begun at Fostoria under David Lee, Master of Road, July 1, 1873, on the division of T.J. Frazier, and the work was rushed with vigor. Track lying was continued east and west at the same time, and by December 15th, the rails were all laid between Chicago Junction and Deshler. The “Col. I.B. Riley” was the first engine used on construction. It was brought here from the Straitsville Division and delivered at Fostoria from Mansfield by the Pennsylvania Railroad. It was soon returned to Newark and replaced by Engine 902, with Billy Armstrong as Engineer.


1874 The first mixed train handling passengers and freight was put in service, January 1, 1874 – Wm. Land (Conductor) – was run over the line between Chicago Junction and Defiance, July 4, 1874: and over the entire line from Chicago Junction to Chicago, November 23, 1874, with O. L. Gurney as conductor.

1874 Town founded – Named Chicago, OH. Chicago Junction was used by B&O railroad and later was used to

incorporate the village to ease confusion with Chicago, Ill, for the mail service.

The first building erected at Chicago Junction for use of the company was a small frame structure located on the south end of the platform at the foot of Myrtle Avenue, and was used for passenger, freight and telegraph.

Near the present Main Street subway, in December, 1874, temporary shops were constructed consisting of an engine house building and two small buildings used as blacksmith and machine shops. About 60 men were employed in the shops.


Early in the spring of 1875, Daughtery and Furguson, contractors, laid the foundation for the Brick Depot and hotel building, which was opened to the public in September. During the summer they laid the foundation for the Brick Round House and machine shop. The bricks used were made on the grounds. In April, 1876, the machinery and tools were moved into the new buildings. About the same time were built a new turntable, coal tipple, water station, blacksmith shop and other frame buildings. Engineer T.J. Frazier was in charge of construction, he having been appointed the engineer in charge in the fall of 1875.

The stone used for the buildings was brought from Sandusky. The rails used in the construction of this road were of iron and made at the company’s rolling mill at Cumberland, Md., and weighed 64 pounds per yard. Freight yard tracks were constructed in the fall of 1874 and the spring and summer of 1875.

This railroad was organized and incorporated in 1872 under the name of Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Chicago Railway Company, with Ohio, Indiana and Illinois Divisions, and in 1878 was reorganized as the Baltimore and Ohio and Chicago Railroad Company.


First school was built showing education was important right from the start.


Eight years after founding Chicago Junction was incorporated with a population of 800 persons.

First mayor was Samuel Snyder.


The extension of this line was completed to Pittsburgh in 1891, under the name of the Akron and Chicago Junction Railroad Company. The first revenue train on this line was made up of eighteen freight cars which left Chicago Junction August 15, 1891, with James Lehan as conductor. The shops, yards and other businesses were under the supervision of the Newark Division until 1902, and were then taken over by the Chicago Division.


Name changed to Willard in honor of Daniel Willard, the President of the B&O Railroad and to eliminate the confusion in the mail service.


Willard became a City and has continued to prosper since its founding in 1874.