MOUNT VERNON — The seeds of a battle between Knox and Richland counties over the vacating of a portion of Leedy Lane are planted deep in area history, according to paperwork found in various archives in Richland and Knox counties by Frank Nagy and Darla Holdkamp.
According to the earliest of these documents, a Mr. Thomas Hickman surveyed the site for a road straddling the county line on March 26, 1845, on a directive approved by the commissioners of both counties. Although the directives are clearly undertaken as joint ventures, the reality is the road that was subsequently built was highly subject to local geography.
Due to the location of a spring that had prompted the building of an adjacent house by Berlin Township resident John Mock, the new road curved a little to the north, then curved back south, crossing the East Branch of the Kokosing River with a bridge before resuming its normal east-west route along the county line. This little side-step meant that this small section of road was fully located in Jefferson Township of Richland County, although the resident lived in Berlin Township of Knox County. Eventually, the Leedy family moved into this house, and the entire road became known as Leedy Lane, later Leedy Road, although it also appears to have been known for periods of time as County Line Road, or County Road No. 24. While the part of Leedy Road near Palmyra has remained active over the years, and remains open today, this more easterly section saw little traffic.
The archives of the Knox County Engineering Department yielded a bridge card identifying the bridge on this road as county bridge No. 142. An earlier stub refers to a pay roll for undescribed services apparently related to the bridge in 1926 and 1927. A September 1938 file card says that the bridge was an 18-feet long steel lattice girder bridge floored with creosote-covered wooden planks and sitting on concrete abutments.
But by that time, a neighboring section of the road had already been vacated. On April 13, 1934, a resolution from the jointly convened boards of Richland and Knox commissioners vacated the 1.2-mile section of road just west of the intersection with Ohio 95, and thus west of the section currently in dispute. According to coverage in the following day’s edition of the Mount Vernon Republican News, some opposition was voiced in the county to the closing, but no residents made the trek to Mansfield to lodge a formal complaint at the joint hearing, and thus the road was vacated.
On April 27, 1959, the commissioners from both counties voted to vacate 2,640 feet of Leedy Road, stretching from Garber Road to the section line surveying pin closest to the old farm house. This is the section of the old road that is east of the currently disputed section. This time, the Mount Vernon News quoted Knox commissioner Harry S. Wright as saying that there was no opposition to vacating the road.
This, however, may not be the entire story. The odd decision to leave a tiny section of the road not vacated strongly implies that the owner of the property at the southeastern corner of Ohio 95 and Leedy Road objected to the vacation, at least insofar as it involved right-of-way to his property. Were the 700-feet section of road to be vacated, it would have left the resident with the county line running through his front yard, and his driveway on his northerly neighbor’s property.
Current resident Nagy suspects that the property owner in 1959 probably made an unofficial handshake deal with the then-current county commissioners to take no action on his section of road and that everyone involved left it at that, deferring potential legal wrangling to another day. Unfortunately, it appears that day has arrived.