Local History and Genealogy

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Angola Grows With Coming Railroad

 Spurred by the enthusiasm growing out of an unusual building program the people of Angola had big dreams of a large growing city. But one thing was lacking -- there was no railroad.  For ten years they had relied solely on the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana railroad with Waterloo the nearest point of contact.  This was 14 miles away over roads which were sometimes abominable.  The railroad made overtures for a road from Waterloo, but the cost was outrageous.  Frequent meetings were held with the view to getting Michigan lines interested in building a railroad from the central part of that state down through Angola to Fort Wayne.  A sample of the spirit and feeling is reflected in this item in the Republican on June 11, 1867.

Railroad Meeting

A meeting will be held in Angola at one o'clock p.m.on Saturday, 22nd last inst. for the purpose of considering what is necessary to secure Steuben county the blessings of a railroad.  Let no man or woman who is interested in promoting the best interests of the county fail to come.  Distinguished speakers from abroad will be present, and a Brass Band in attendance.

Come one.  Come all.  This is our last opportunity to secure the blessings of a Railroad and destroy outrageous monopoly which the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad now exercises over us.  Again, let everyone be present.

Finally a railroad was projected as the Fort Wayne, Jackson &  Saginaw Railroad, with the expectation of commanding patronage from Bay City and Lake Michigan.  Subscription lists were circulated and thousands of dollars subscribed to finance the new enterprise, the subscribers to take stock certificates for the money invested.  Several of these stock certificates are still in existence in this area, and annual meetings of the stockholders are still held in Jackson, Michigan.  Railroad prospects were the topic of nearly every conversation and all sorts of matters came up for discussion.  Here is a sample taken from the Republican of December 17, 1868:  "It is not known on what side of town our railroad will be located - whether on the east or west.  The chief surveyor is now here and will run a survey on the west of town." But finally the railroad came into operation, the first train coming into Angola on January 3, 1870.  Said the Republican of that event:
"The first passenger train, with the officers of the road on board, arrived on the Ft.W.J.S. Railway  at noon today and notwithstanding the cold weather, nearly every man, woman and child in town and vicinity, have turned out to see it.  It is a welcome visitor, and never have our people felt a greater pride in any one thing than they do this opening up of railroad communication with the great Saginaw valley and the country at large.  We can only compare this event to the breaking of the clouds during a storm when the bright rays of the sun burst forth, sending a thrill of joy to every heart.  It is certainly an event which will be long remembered by our citizens and the people of Steuben County.  And now let the glad tidings go forth to all the world that Angola is now a railroad town!"

Locomotives on the new railroad were wood burners, and wood yards were established at intervals along the line, and the train crew had the job of filling the tender with firewood whenever the train stopped to "wood up".  The railroad never reached a high state of patronage throughout the line, and it was finally absorbed by the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railway, which had consolidated several lines of the Michigan Southern and Northern Indiana Railroad, eventually to become a cog in the wheel of the great New York Central system.  The railroad continues to operate in through Angola, formerly doing a big business before the day of the automobile, but now reduced to meager freight traffic.

With the coming of the railroad to Angola there was an immediate response in the development and growth of the town, particularly  in the western section.  On February 2, 1870, the Republican printed the following: "We learn that J.A. Woodhull Esq. had purchased the Bart Cary farm west of the depot grounds in this place, and that he contemplates laying off an addition to the town.  those desiring building lots will do well to call and see him before purchasing elsewhere.  The location is the most pleasant of any in or about town:.

Within two months the plat for the Woodhull addition west of the railroad was filled, according to the newspaper item of April 20, which reads:  "We noticed in the Recorder's office the other day a fine plat of Woodhull's addition to the village of Angola.  One of the leading features is the width of its streets and alleys; the former are 66 and the later 33 feet.  Add this to the warm, dry soil and the view of the town, railroad, and surrounding country, and we can understand why the lots in this addition are selling so fast."

Mr Woodhull for the most part named streets for in his addition for prominent men who bought lots in the area.  However three streets were named after the railroad -- Fort Wayne, Jackson, and Saginaw.  The name Fort Wayne was later changed to Moss, and these streets still bear these names.

Herald Republican October 23, 1957