September 7, 1887
The people of Toledo celebrate today the most important step which has ever been taken in the material progress of their city. The event we are considering is beyond all question a long stride forward and upward. The magnitude of its probable results fully justifies the attention it receives from the press, the businessmen, the property owners and the general public. It must be confessed at the threshold that the growth of Toledo during the last twenty-five or thirty years has not been as rapid as friends hoped and expected at the beginning of that period. This was natural and inevitable. The location of Toledo, on the map, is decidedly and unmistakably favorable to the rapid building up of a great city. It is on the noblest freshwater highway in the world – the highway formed by the great lakes of North America and the matchless rivers which connect them with each other, and with the ocean. On this highway Toledo sits near its middle point, at the mouth of the largest river that enters from the south the waters of the lakes, surrounded on three sides by the richest lands of Ohio, Indiana and Michigan, and at the southwest end of Lake Erie – that one of the central lakes whose shores are more densely peopled and more productive than any other lands on the great water highway of the best of all of the Continents of the globe. The promise which the map made for Toledo was so large and so boundless that, by reason of a single element which the map did not show, it could not in the nature of things be immediately and fully realized. Performance did not equal the promise. It is true, to be sure, that at all times the progress of Toledo has been solid and encouraging – a growth amply sufficient to prevent disappointment if the expectations of its friends had not been so large. In 1860 the population by the census was 13,768, in 1870 it had increased to 31, 584, and in 1880 it was 50,143.
Now, it is reasonably estimated from the usual data that it exceeds 80,000. At all times in the history of Toledo its business has greatly exceeded that which is usually found in cities of the same population. The plain truth is that the increase of population and business has always been strong and healthy, but it did not equal the sanguine predictions of its friends. Hence disappointment, and a disposition with some to underrate the real advantage of the city. One explanation of this is that a mere map can not show all the elements of progress in our modern civilization. In the early days of the city a famous pamphlet was published entitled “The Future Great City.” The author was a shrewd observer, and a clear and forcible writer. He presented very intelligently the different elements which enter into the making of a large city. But there was one omission. In the original edition there was no such word as COAL. During the early history of this city, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Columbus and Cincinnati all had cheap coal and Toledo had not. These cities had that which “moves the world along” - STEAM, cheaper and more abundant than Toledo. In recent years, however, and gradually this enterprising city by railroads, one-two-three and more has reached all of the best coal fields of Ohio, and has now taken her proper place in the competitive march between the cities of this part of the United States.
Here is a city of more than 80,000 people; with water communications with all of the Great Lakes, with the rivers connecting them and with the Ocean; with canals uniting the lake system of navigation to the Mississippi system; with 17 railroads having 124 daily passenger trains; with yearly receipts of grain 45,000,000 bushels; with yearly receipts of lumber and staves 459, 000, 000 feet; with yearly receipts of coal 2,500,000 tons; with yearly receipts of iron ore 250,000 tons with 750 manufacturing establishments; with an increasing volume of trade and commerce of every description fully corresponding to the foregoing figures; with a healthful location, a good climate, cheap advantages and others not named, for a cap stone to the common representing the attractions of Toledo, now comes to this favored spot in profuse abundance the best and cheapest fuel ever used in the world.
At this point we reach the only doubt – the gravest question touching the future. Will this beautiful, this delightful, this matchless fuel last? Has it come to stay? Will it be exhausted in ten years – or twenty years – will it out last the present generation of men?
This question, vital as it seems, Toledo, at least, can safely consider with the utmost calmness and impartiality. When natural gas disappears, if it must disappear, the rock on which the prosperity of Toledo rests will still remain. This city will still be on the world’s highway, with the resources I have suggested, and with a large patch of as good country as the sun shines upon still immediately tributary to her.
Returning to the question, will Black Swamp from her depths continue to give this city Natural Gas? This may be confidently said: Nobody absolutely knows. But a number of things may be mentioned which will aid us in our conjectures as to what is probable. Two companies which we may assume are in part, at least, composed of long headed and level headed men, have invested on their faith in the permacy of the gas supply about five millions of dollars.
Again, the last volume of Appleton’s Annual Cyclopedia has a short but interesting article on the whole question and concludes with this moderate statement:
“Whether the supply is destined shortly to give out, in consequence of the increasing of and wasteful demands made upon it, is purely problematical; but the unvarying flow of the best wells seems to indicate that for many years to come no fears need be entertained of exhausting the supply.”
On this statement of the Cyclopedia I wish to make only this comment: The companies which supply Toledo do not depend on a single, nor a few wells. If indeed in a few years, the wells now in use give out these companies have the means to draw from others already secured in a succession almost indefinite.
Without pursuing further the inquiry as to the staying qualities of the new fuel let me conclude with a few words about its utility for the factory and for domestic purposes. I quote from an intelligent presentation of the whole subject by the secretary of the businessmen’s committee, Mr. Wm. II. Maher:
“Gas is the ideal fuel, and its use strikes from the pay-roll of every factory a long list of heavy expenses, from the horses carting the coal, teamsters, laborers, firemen, down to the man who wheels out the ashes and cinders. It does away with monthly expense bills of grate-bars and fire-brick, and when used in furnaces for reducing metals sends out a product much increased in value in the markets. It cannot, like coal, be shipped to all parts of the land. It cannot, like oil, be barreled or piped a long distance. It must be used in the territory that it blesses with its presence; they who would avail themselves of its beneficial advantages must say to it, in the words of Ruth, “Thy country shall be my country.”
“As a home comfort natural gas is the perfection of fuel. No dust; no ashes; carpets, curtains and ceilings are saved; uniformity of temperature secured insuring freedom from colds and other complaints due to the alternation of heat and cold. No cellars to be filled dusty coal, no broken backs from lifting, no trouble with kindling on a cold morning; the lighting of a match and behold the fire.”
There needs to be unfriendly rivalry between the cities and towns which have the new fuel. It is found in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and probably in other States. It has brightened and glorified Pittsburgh and Wheeling. It is believed that the enterprising businessmen of Indianapolis will soon carry it to that beautiful and attractive city. A group of towns near enough to Toledo to share its prosperity, and to contribute by their growth to their prosperity of this city, are all in greater or less degree in possession of the coveted prize. Notably Findlay, the original discoverer of this field, has been and for year will be made thriving and happy by the manifest advantages they have secured. Bowling Green, Fostoria, Fremont, Oak Harbor and Tiffin all enjoy in a marked degree the benefits of the new fuel. Fortunately there is enough prosperity in it for all who possess it. If any man in any part of our country is seeking advancement in his vocation, or comfort and luxury in his home, let him come to the Ohio natural gas field – let him investigate for himself and he will surely here find what he seeks.
In conclusion, the ground upon which Toledo may well be congratulated on this occasion can be summoned up in a single sentence. Where natural gas is abundant and cheap, other conditions being favorable, population will surely and rapidly increase, all legitimate industries and business will flourish, and lands and lots and buildings will, like wheat, command a market.