Union City Commercial Historic District - Listed Indiana Register of Historic Sites and Structures - 1999.
In 1848 five railroads were planned to meet at the states lines where the Union Cities now stand. It is difficult today to understand what an epoch-making event it was to bring five railroads to one focal point. At that time, there was only one railroad in all of Indiana. It went from Indianapolis to Madison, on the Ohio River; but was isolated and comparatively unimportant.
In those days it was necessary to transfer all goods at the termination of a railroad and railroads were not centrally owned. So, it seemed that this place where five railroads were eventually to meet was an ideal place for a town.
With the completion of these five railroads, Union City became "the most important railroad center in the state or even in the country." Railroad employees numbered 150 or more, and 16 passenger and 22 Freight trains arrived and departed every 24 hours. The business transacted by the different roads was most unbelievable.
Mr. Jeremiah Smith planned this town and the plat was recorded December 17, 1849. This original plat contained 160 acres, was half a mile square and was divided into 252 lots.
It was soon found that the plat needed changing, so it was correct -ed and enlarged. Lots were made smaller and more numerous. There were 483 lots in this new plat which was recorded February 6, 1854. This plat with numerous additions is still in use today.
Broadway, which is the present street beside the bank which deadends extended from Pearl Street south across the railroad tracks to Chestnut Street. Smith street went east and west and was to be the heart of the projected town, down the center of which was to run the railroad. With the growth of the railroads, and the passing of the years, the railroads have completely absorbed Smith Street. The Branham Hotel was built in 1855-56 and opened in 1856. It was located at the corner of Pearl and Broadway.
With the railroads coming together in Union City there was real activity in the new settlement. News of the railroads had filtered out throughout the country and people began to arrive searching for opportunities. With the many farms in the area and the railroad available, Grain become an important commodity.
Most of the City's population growth occurred between 1850 and 1900. The greatest influence after 1900 was the opportunities provided citizens through industrial development . Some of those corporations through the years were the Union City Body Company, Frank Miller Lumber Company, Westinghouse Corporation, Mengel Cabinets and The Sheller Globe Corporation. Union City continues to be the main offices for the Union City Body Company and a more recent addition, Workhorse Chasis operations.
The most notable resident to meet with success during the early years was Isaac P. Gray. A successful General Store proprietor, Indiana attorney and ultimately Governor then Senator from Indiana.
Property listed on the National Register of Historic Places:
One of the original paths through the wilderness that connected Ft. Wayne with Ft. Washington (Cincinnati) was the Deerfield Road. It later bacame known as one of the early "corduroy" roads (so named because of their rough surface). Cincinnati was one of the early market places and shipping points. People from this area and northern Indiana counties would drive their livestock (cattle, sheep and hogs) on foot to Cincinnati by way of the Deerfield Road.
Union City, Ohio was first platted in 1838; it was platted again in 1853 by Josiah Monger. Surveys were anchored on original 1798 federal government survey. (Interesting article on surveying in the area was written in the newspaper in July 1980 go to it).
The Darke County Atlas of 1875 records a part of Union City, Ohio, as Rail Road City. Rail Road City was located east of Division Street to the Deerfield Road between Elm Street and the Columbus, Piqua and Indiana Railroad.
Union City, Ohio was also known as Union. The town west of the State Line was called the Indiana Side. The town east of the State Line was called the Ohio Side.
When the village of Union City, Ohio, was first platted in 1838 and lots sold, a grocery store and other business houses were established on the Deerfield Road, west and north of the Haas Inn; but the records of Union City, Ohio, prior to 1850 were not all recorded in Greenville and are probably lost. It has been historically reported that herdsman would stay overnight in the Inn enroute to Cincinnati. Their animals would be put to pasture in the area where the A&W Restraurant now stands. Many locals can recall when that area dropped down and formed somewhat of a natural corral with the railroad bed to the South.
Mail was received at Hillgrove until the coming of the first railroad in 1852, when a post office was established on the Deerfield Road on the Ohio side. There are citizens today who remember a building that was demolished on the southside of the tracks which turned out to be of log construction.
The first school after the incorporation of Union City, Ohio, was taught in a room on the third floor of a large building on the corner of Sycamore Street and the railroad. Later a two story frame schoohouse was erected on the lot where the present East Side Building now stands. The two story structure had only two rooms, one down and one upstairs. This building was used until 1870 when it was moved North across the street on the east corner of North and Sycamore Streets. It was converted to a dwelling and for many years was owned by one of the Superintendents of the School, Mr. J. M. Bunger, and remained in the family for a number of years. Mr. Bunger is credited with developing a course of study which made it possible to have a graduating class every year.
It is interesting to note that during the developing years of the railroad that Union City, Ohio was "wet" and Indiana was "dry". An old wive's tale has it that for an exciting weekend individuals in Chicago and other locales would travel to Union City and stay in the Branham Hotel for a vacation.
These articles have been edited and written based on Old Centennial and Chamber of Commerce Booklets.