We Bring History to Life
Welcome to yesterday! Life 200 years ago was quite different from what we experience today. While we can’t turn the clocks back to that era, we can visit Roscoe Village in Coshocton to catch a glimpse of life on the Ohio and Erie Canal during that time.
Back in 1816, James Calder laid out the port town that was to become Roscoe. He followed a hunch that farmers would rather do business at Calder’s General Store along the Muskingum River than pay twenty-five cents to take the ferryboat to Coshocton.
He named the town Caldersburgh, but it was later renamed Roscoe, in honor of William Roscoe, an English historian and leading abolitionist. Roscoe never visited America and probably never knew he had a town named after him.
When the Ohio and Erie Canal was constructed in the 1820s, business in the village expanded and the golden age of Roscoe began. The first canal boat, the Monticello, landed at Roscoe on August 21, 1830. Roscoe was one of the largest wheat ports along the 350-mile canal that went from Lake Erie to the Ohio River.
Roscoe thrived until the 1860s when the canals gave way to railroads. The canal boats continued to operate on a smaller scale until the disastrous flood of 1913, which swept away the port of Roscoe.
Today the restored Roscoe Village is a reminder of Ohio’s canal era thanks to the dedication of prominent Coshocton industrialist, Edward Montgomery and his wife, Frances. A painting, “Canal Days”, which depicts the Roscoe area and can still be seen in the Chase Bank building at 120 S. Fourth Street, captured the imagination of the Montgomerys.
Their role began back in 1961 when they purchased the 1840 Toll House and decided to create “a living museum” on the banks of the Muskingum River. They endeavored to revive, restore and reclaim the then-burgeoning port town to a time when the Ohio and Erie Canal bustled with boats and barges.
When you visit Roscoe Village today, you can stroll through the gardens, visit their many historic buildings, and take a horse-drawn canal boat ride on a portion of that old Ohio and Erie Canal. You’ll feel like you’re living a chapter of American history.
Begin your tour at the Visitors’ Center where you can view a film, “Ditches of Destiny”, which describes those early days on the Ohio and Erie Canal. Then take a self-guided tour of the village to see costumed interpreters in historic buildings describing what life was like in those old canal days. Stop at the restored 19th-century buildings, which house The Famous Shops of Roscoe Village. Most businesses are open seven days a week throughout the year.
Don’t forget to visit the Johnson-Humrickhouse Museum where you will learn interesting facts about Ohio history. Here displays tell you stories of the American Indians, Ohio artifacts, and Decorative Arts. There’s also a wonderful collection of East Asian artifacts that were collected by the owner.
Stroll through the Gardens that Frances Montgomery lovingly left for visitors to enjoy. Meander down its paths to see the beautiful blossoms and herbs that have been popular for ages. Beauty blooms in the gardens every season of the year.
A ride down the Ohio and Erie Canal is the smoothest ride you can imagine drawn by two strong horses on the towpath. You’ll hear stories of how people traveled the canal in those early days. Some are quite unusual and exciting.
Stop by Roscoe Village this summer and join in their 45th Anniversary. We need to remember the history of our area and how those early settlers developed a foundation for the world we live in today.
Perhaps Captain P. R. Nye, who operated a canal boat at Roscoe’s Lock Twenty-Seven, says it best: “The Silver Ribbon – the Ohio Canal – was the best of life a man ever had.”
Historic Roscoe Village is located at 600 N Whitewoman Street in Coshocton, Ohio. From I-77, take exit 65, which is US-36 W. Follow 35 West to Whitewoman Street approximately 18 miles. It will be on the right-hand side of the road.