Ohio Grease Company

A locomotive passes the Ohio Grease Company, Black Town lies on the opposite side of the tracks.

LOUDONVILLE -- One Loudonville neighborhood was once -- and occasionally still is -- referred to as Black Town. Despite what many may think, this designation was not derived from the skin color of its inhabitants, nor the color of the soil ... but rather from the passing trains.

Early locomotives expelled large black clouds of soot and ash which then fell on the town -- this section in particular.

Located between North Spring Street and the Black Fork River, south of the rail lines, Black Town fell victim to the majority of the smoke and soot. Trains arriving from the west slowed down and idled at the depot directly to the east, or heading west would once again have to get up to speed when departing.

The worst offenders, however, were those trains that backed onto the spur line just north of Black Town, servicing the Ohio Grease Company and the flour mill. Over time, a thick layer of soot covered the homes, giving them a grayish-black appearance, and in turn providing the namesake for the neighborhood's moniker.

The problem was finally solved, ironically by a Loudonville native, when Charles Kettering helped perfect the diesel locomotive. Though Black Town was likely far from Kettering's mind when he did it, his new diesel engine ended the reign of steam locomotives and their billowing clouds of soot.

Black Town was saved, but the name stuck.

More information on the Cleo Redd Fisher Museum can be found at this link.

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