The Automobile in Zanesville

Zanesville was limited in population until the automobile allowed people to live anywhere and commute to their jobs. That is not to say that Zanesville grew simply as a town to pass through. Zanesville developed as the population grew and has become more of a car-friendly town than a pedestrian-friendly place. In 1910, before the explosion of the automobile on the national stage, Zanesville only had about 28,026 people within its city limits. The population grew by a substantial amount between 1910 and 1950. By 1950, the population had grown to over 40,000, nearly doubling the total from 1900 (23,538).

1910 Runabout

1910 Ford Model T Runabout

Zanesville did not have almost any roads before 1910. The roads that did exist were dirt and were used for horse and buggies that were commonly used throughout the earlier years. Roads that were previously dirt included; Old National Road, National Old Trails Road, and other roads such as Maple Avenue that run through town and provide easy access to stores. The development of these dirt roads was at first based on closeness to people’s homes and the terrain that the drivers of the horse and buggies experienced. These paths gradually formed over time from use and were perfect to put roads over because they were already relatively flat and people knew them fairly well already.

The growth of the population of Zanesville and the development of the dirt roads contributed to the ability of the city to have National Old Trails Road run through it. This road ran from Baltimore to Los Angeles and was started in the early 1910s, specifically 1912. The road itself spanned over 3,000 miles and ran through Zanesville in the mid-1910s.

Map of the National Old Trails Road with several roads, such as the Oregon Trail

This map shows that the National Old Trails Road was an important cross country road that the government set up to run through the easiest routes possible. Boosters selected a route over existing roads, gave it a colorful name, formed an association to promote the trail, and collected dues from businesses and towns along the way. The associations published trail guides, held  conventions, and promoted the improvement and use of their route. The goals were to promote the road, the good roads cause, and economic opportunity for the cities and businesses along the way. This shows that the roads were useful to the populace and that the associations consistently had to promote the roads at first in order to get people to embrace them.

Zanesville was slow to start buying cars in mass but the city ultimately became a central hub for cars. In 1916 only 2% of the population of the entire Muskingum County had cars, which is about 1600-1700 people. This shows that even after the development of the National Old Trails Road, the people of Muskingum County were reluctant to make the investment in a car. People still value their horse and buggies because they did not see the value in driving to other towns when they had all they needed within a short distance. The car allowed for the people to move further away and allowed for the creation of suburban areas. The Zanesville city has a large number of suburban houses because of its rapid development with the creation of the National Old Trails Road and during the post-war period. As aforementioned, the 1950 population of Zanesville was much larger than the 1910 population count. This was because the post-war period saw the veterans coming back and people wanted to live in houses. The city thus decided to build suburban homes which forced people to buy cars to get to their jobs on time and travel to vacation spots. Thus, people began buying cars much more than they once had and Zanesville adapted by creating more asphalt roads and created one way streets to streamline traffic to make it quicker to drive through Zanesville if the need arose. This is how the car impacted Zanesville, Ohio.






National Road -Old Trails

Dirt Roads

History of National Road


Picture Sources:

Model T






Zanesville in the 90s – Disdain for the East Coast?

Paul and Mary Debolt have led a life that has been split between Baltimore, Maryland and Zanesville, Ohio. They moved to Zanesville in the early nineties after getting married in Maryland on March 11, 1989. Today, the couple have been the parents of six children with only two of those children being born in Zanesville and the two oldest being born to a different father. Paul Debolt runs the company he founded since he arrived in the city while Mary is a housewife that maintains the household. The couple have led a mostly quiet life and have always worked hard for everything they own. However, upon their settling in Zansville, some people of the area proved to be less than hospitable.

We moved to Zanesville on February 29, 1992. There were no other relatives of ours that lived within the area until a few years after we moved into the house when Paul’s father and his wife moved into the area. Paul and I had decided to live on the outskirts of the city since he wanted a larger area for the kids to play in and for the dog to run freely. At the time we had 4 kids: Keith, Chantelle, Arin, and Noelle. Keith, the oldest, was starting high school as a freshman at the West Muskingum High School while Chantelle was about to start middle school. Arin and Noelle were both very young with Arin being only 2 years old and Noelle being 3 months old.

Paul runs his own company, Debolt Machine Inc., nad has done so ever since we arrived here. In fact, it was our reason for moving from Baltimore. Paul had decided that it would be best for us to move into the Midwest so that he could have his business and the house close together. He also wanted to move to the Zanesville area because of the convenience it provided for his business. Machine shows were more common in the Midwestern states and it was a difficult drive from Maryland to states like Indiana, or even Michigan. He builds model engines and does machine work for larger companies like Producers or Flow-Liner.

When we moved into the neighborhood along Route 40, the initial reaction of the neighbors was seemingly less than happy. We had a huge amount of trouble with our first set of neighbors. At first it seemed like they simply would ignore us and that seemed fine for a time. Then they started parking their cars on our property, causing us parking troubles in the process. So we had a property survey done in order to ensure that they couldn’t dispute where the property lines were. They got hostile when we did that and that woman was nuts. She ranted at Paul, so he laid down the law. They were no longer permitted be on our property. One time, however, when Paul left town for a show, I caught the son of the neighbors peering into the windows of our house suspiciously. Not only that, these people would walk across our porch to reach the store on the other side of our house.

These horrible people did not stop there. Their reckless driving almost caused them to hit Arin when he was just a toddler of 3 years old. They shouted slurs at us constantly as we walked outside, to our cars, or even shouted loudly at night while we tried to sleep. They made wolf calls to me and consistently told me to go back where I came from. They were always trying to get Paul to fight them and the kids even harassed Keith while at school. The constant harassment, trespassing, and trying to incite violence eventually caused us to take them to court in 1994 or 1995, I can’t remember which. But we were even met with opposition from the local judge as he told Paul that “we don’t do things that way here.” But, legally, he had to side with us, so we won the case. After this first set of neighbors moved out, we found out that they had been growing drugs in their basement and in the woods back behind the property. Marijuana I believe they said it was.

The conflict mostly died down after these neighbors moved away. As the years went by we had two more children: William Henry and Ethan. Will-Henry was born in late 1994 and Ethan was born in early 1997. They grew up and as the years went by, Paul and I had begun to need more money to support their desires to play sports, as the West Muskingum District had begun the pay-to-play program when they were in middle school. The district continually tried to force levies on the people of the area and it was continually failing. So our option was bingo night. Every Sunday evening from about 4 pm to around 9 pm, there would be a bingo session in the Booster Hall that was run by the School District. They brought on volunteers like us who could not afford to pay for their kids to play sports at the school. The pay was in credit to the school and it was  mediocre at that but it helped get our kids through high school and allowed them to play all four years.

We did end up having a problem with the School District however. When Noelle was a freshman at the high school in 2006, Paul had gotten us kicked out of the bingo sessions. The School District employees did not take kindly to his strong political view on the levies that the school was consistently trying to pass. They expelled us from the bingo nights which put Noelle’s, Ethan’s and Will’s athletic future in question. However, thanks to some lobbying by a good friend in the system, we were allowed back into the bingo nights. Coach Bob Paul of the girls soccer team convinced the School District not to punish our children for the sake of politics. Paul, to change the district, decided to run for school board that year so that he could put down the levy system for good. He almost won too because people were just as tired of the levies as he was.

Other than that, we have not really had much trouble around here. There was never a really strong “welcome” feeling from the neighbors around us at first, but people warmed up to us later. The kids were honestly a big help with that since they were always wanting to do hangouts with friends or go to social events that required us to go as well. The people here grew to like us just as much as we grew to like them and we have never thought of leaving here for over a decade. Now we have a son with his own family and a daughter with her own family. The rest of the kids grew up as well since Ethan is now 20 years old. I don’t regret our move to Zanesville because I feel Paul and I have led a good life together.