It was 119 years ago this week that Main Street Bluffton changed forever. It witnessed the arrival of the first interurban (electric trolley). Yes, as few people today realize, it came directly down Main Street.
This meant that a trip to Lima and return could take place in one morning or one afternoon. It meant a Bluffton resident could go to Cleveland and return the same day. The speed of these electric drive trolleys exceeded 55 miles per hour.
The Bluffton station was originally in today’s Brandon Blackford’s Edward Jones office, 107 S. Main St. As an unusual coincidence, at the time the building was owned by a Bluffton resident named Ed Jones, who also owned Jones Furniture in today's The Food Store.
The station eventually moved to what is today Root’s by Stratton’s, one building to the south. As you can see in the photo, that building was not yet constructed in 1905.
Note: The interurban's arrival meant many things and believe it or not, some Bluffton merchants predicted its arrival meant the end of the Main Street retail district. This prediction also took place when the Dixie Highway became a bypass in the mid-1950s. The prediction also took place when the Lima Mall opened in the 1960s. None of these things killed Bluffton's retail district - to our credit, we've adopted to the change.
Back to the interurban.
• It meant that fruit like bananas could come from Toledo the same day they arrived in a Toledo port.
• It meant that other goods from larger cities could be delivered here very quickly.
• It meant that school students along the line south of Bluffton could ride the interurban to school and return home each day.
• It meant Bluffton College sports teams could ride directly to Findlay, Bowling and Toledo to play basketball games.
• It meant that a Bluffton resident with diabetes could take a trolley to Lima, get a shot, and come home the same day (at least one resident we know with this condition did this.)
• It meant that suddenly Bluffton’s world became larger…and the world became smaller, more connected.
Here’s a rare photo of one of the very first trolleys to pass through town on the January morning in 1905. It is from the collection of Ray Mumma.
Can you imagine this schedule? You didn’t even need a time table:
• 14 interurbans stopping on Main Street from 6 a.m. to noon (5 days a week)
• 18 interurbans stopping on Main Street from noon to 6 p.m.
• 10 interurbans stopping on Main Street from 6 to 11 p.m.
The interurban through Bluffton continued until 1932, one year before the Dillinger bank robbery. The Great Depression, the rise of the automobile and other factors caused its demise.
Written on the back of this photo:
First interurban through Bluffton, 1905.
The following Bluffton News article was published in the 1940s. It is in pieces, meant to be read down beginning on the left column. The final segment jumps from the right column to the left.