LISBON, Ohio — Before my trek on the Lincoln Highway, I had a hard time envisioning what was out here in this part of eastern Ohio. My previous travels through the Buckeye State had never taken me this way before. I just didn’t know what to expect, except maybe some Amish beard-cutting attacks.
East Liverpool was my creepy introduction to Ohio along the Lincoln Highway. As I continued along U.S. 30 en route to Canton, I encountered five black ravens eating roadkill in the span of two miles. Edgar Allan Poe might have found inspiration along this road.
This part of Ohio is pretty hilly, so when this stretch of the highway was improved to eliminate some bends here and there, the older sections were orphaned but still accessible from the main road. I had seen this in Pennsylvania as well, with the older portions signed with the Lincoln Highway standard. Just for kicks, I decided to follow one of these older narrow turnoffs knowing I’d get back on the main road in short order.
As I re-emerged onto U.S. 30, a hulking black pick-up truck with a big Confederate flag waving from its cab zoomed by at a high rate of speed.
Did he not know he was driving on the Lincoln Highway?
Then again, I had just driven in the vicinity of West Point, a tiny town just off the Lincoln Highway where Confederate Brigadier Gen. John Hunt Morgan, the “Thunderbolt of the Confederacy,” had surrendered to Union troops after his bold 1,000-mile summer 1864 raid of Kentucky, southern Indiana and Ohio ended at the nearby Battle of Salineville.
The Lincoln Highway in eastern Ohio, so far, had been full of strange surprises.
Then I entered Lisbon, a small village in Columbiana County founded in 1803 as New Lisbon, the year “America’s First Frontier” attained statehood.
According to the village’s website:
Originally known for its iron and whiskey production (sold at $0.25 per gallon), New Lisbon became a hodge-podge of mills, tanneries, a cement works, a salt works, carpenters, gunsmiths, hotels, clothiers, etc. The Village also claimed the county’s first bank, the Columbiana Bank of New Lisbon, its first insurance company, Columbiana County Mutual Insurance, and its first newspaper, a German paper called “Der Patriot am Ohio.”
The center of the village is divided into four quadrants with Lincoln Way, cutting through on the east-west axis. The Columbiana County Courthouse, which dates to 1870, sits in the southwest quadrant. The remaining quadrants are reserved as public space, home to a fountain, military monuments and a brick Lincoln Highway marker. Federal-style and Victorian commercial buildings frame this central space.
The 210-year-old Jacob Picking Building, the oldest brick building in Ohio, sits on Lincoln Way, just west of the town square. In 2006, Youngstown’s Vindicator newspaper reported that when the building was renovated, its interior walls were found to be a mixture of plaster and horse hair. A synthetic was used to replicate the equine building material.
Down the way, Silver Trolley Diner, was packed with Friday night crowds.
The 24-hour restaurant has a slogan on its website: “What Happens In Vegas … happens here too!” But I’m not so sure of that though. Lisbon does not have its own Cirque du Soleil.
Overall, when you think of quintessential small-town America, Lisbon fits the bill pretty well.