As the American Civil War came to an end in April 1865, Columbus was pleased with the victory but exhausted by the effort it took to achieve that victory.
The city of 18,000 people became a mobilization and training center for more than 30,000 Union troops training, equipping and marching off to war.
By the time the war ended, the population of Columbus had increased to meet the needs of a wartime supply center. Served by more than a dozen railroads, Columbus became a major location of trade and transportation during the conflict. Many people felt that a return to a more tranquil existence was long overdue.
They were to be disappointed in their expectations.
Columbus was on the verge of becoming a much larger and more complex place. The capital city was not alone in this expansion. In the years after the Civil War, most of the major cities of the Midwest, from Pittsburgh to Chicago and from Detroit to Cincinnati, were growing.
It was an age of industrialization, and Columbus was part of it.
Columbus had seen rapid change and evolution previously. At the end of the Civil War, some residents were old enough to remember the hectic time in the early 1830s when a village of 2,000 people became a city of 5,000 people in less than two years.
In 1831, the Ohio and Erie Canal and the National Road both reached the capital city. With their arrival, Columbus became a major transportation center. The streets of the city were filled with covered wagons arriving and stagecoaches departing. The Scioto River from Main Street to Broad Street was filled with canal boats loading and unloading at warehouses along the river.
These were busy years, and life became even busier with the arrival of the Columbus and Xenia Railroad in 1850. Within a few years, several railroads were serving the city from Union Station, where the Greater Columbus Convention Center is today.
Between the 1830s and the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, factories, warehouses and stores all were built in and around downtown Columbus on both sides of the Scioto River. To the casual observer, it might seem downtown would remain the place to be.
But the late 19th century was the age of industrialization in the United States. New industries came into being, and these new enterprises required people.
In the arrival of rural Ohioans from the farm to the city, and with large numbers of new immigrants, the new people were found.
Large sums of money were needed, as well. That money was provided by American and European banks and financiers to build a new United States.
Finally, new industries needed natural resources. Some industries, such as iron and steel, required large amounts of water. Central Ohio always had an ample supply of water, and in the 1870s, the Hocking Valley Railroad provided easy access to immense quantities of coal, iron and timber in southeast Ohio.
A pattern began to emerge in industrial development in Columbus. In 1875, the Iron Buggy Co. was founded in a small shop near the place where Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. is today. With success, the company became the Columbus Buggy Co.
By 1900, Columbus had 22 buggy companies. Columbus Buggy was the largest and built an expansive factory complex of more than 14 buildings north and west of downtown.
In 1876, Joseph Jeffrey bought the rights to a coal-mining machine and began making them in a downtown factory while continuing to work as a local banker. Soon, that company became successful and moved to a large open site north and east of downtown along Fourth Street. In time, the Jeffrey Manufacturing Co. became one of the largest makers of coal-mining equipment in the world.
By 1900, industrial development was skipping downtown and heading straight for open land.
In 1905, Civil War Capt. Wilbur Goodspeed was looking for a place to build a steel mill. In the land south of Columbus near the Groveport Pike split with Parsons Avenue, he found a large site with easy railroad access. With money from the Rockefeller family and leadership from a New Jersey native named Samuel Bush, Buckeye Steel Castings was underway.
The company soon was joined by three other steel mills and a glass factory. The entire neighborhood at the south end of Parsons Avenue came to be known as Steelton.
By 1910, Columbus was an industrial city of more than 180,000 people. The far-flung industries extending in all directions were linked to downtown by a safe and elaborate streetcar system and efficient police and fire forces. One worker in five was employed in these new industries.
Columbus never was a great industrial city like Cleveland or Detroit, but it was a successful town with a diverse economy. In the years to come, that diversity would become its greatest strength.
Local historian and author Ed Lentz writes the As It Were column for ThisWeek Community News.