By Thomas Palmer

Over the last 48 hours, I have been involved in a social media exchange related to the name of Galion’s primary east-west street. You know the one – the one that goes through Public Square where it intersects with North and South Market Street.

Galion’s main street has had three names in its 193 year existence. Main Street, its original moniker; Lincoln Way East and West, a name it held for a short period of time in the early part of the last century; and finally Harding Way West and Harding Way East, its current incarnation.

Today, we’ll consider how the street’s name was changed the second time; at a future point we’ll turn the clock back a bit further and look at the Main Street to Lincoln Way switch.

In August, 1923, President Warren G. Harding died. Harding had strong Galion and Galion area connections, in addition to the better-known Marion ties. Harding was born a few miles southeast of Galion in Blooming Grove; if his birthplace was still standing, a letter sent to any resident would have a Galion, Ohio 44833 address. His parents, George Tryon and Phoebe Dickerson Harding, were actually married in Uptowne Galion at the “Methodist preacher’s house.” 

That wedding, by the way, was basically an elopement and done with parental knowledge – a good subject for a future Galion History Corner post.

L to R: First Lady Florence Harding; Dr. George T. Harding, Warren’s father; President Warren G. Harding

Those connections continued throughout Harding’s life. Several of his relatives lived here (and still do); the Harding Reunion, which brought together kinfolk from a wide area, was held in places like Seccaium Park. In 1922, when the time came for Harding to give his first campaign speech somewhere other than his front porch in Marion, he chose Galion for that purpose where he spoke to hundreds gathered in Heise Park for an Erie Railroad event.

His wife also had connections here. Galion was her home for a short time in the 1880s – another really good subject for a story.

In December, 1923, the Galion Inquirer carried news of a decision by City Council to honor the President, who had died suddenly that August. The headline, which ran across the entire front page, shared, “GALION’S PRINCIPAL STREET NOW CALLED HARDING WAY.” As the story shared, the move was to honor the President and also to correct what it referred to as a “misnomer,” in that Lincoln Way, what it was then called, was no longer on the official route of the Lincoln Highway.

It was noted that this was likely the first time in US history that a street had been named after Harding.

There were, fittingly, plans in place to improve and market the new multi-state Harding Highway to run from Washington, D.C. to San Francisco, which did go along the new Harding Way. C.J. Gugler, President of the Harding Highway Association, was at the Council meeting to answer questions.

Interestingly, a small notice was shared that the road from “the White church directly east of this city” to Blooming Grove as “Harding Boulevard.” There is no indication that this was ever accomplished.

Each Saturday, we share a post about local history. We call this series “Galion History Corner,” and we will be sharing not only stories about our shared heritage but also updates on history news here in southeast Crawford County.

This series is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Bernard M. Mansfield, whose “Your Historical Galion” was a fixture in weekend editions of the Galion Inquirer. Dr. Mansfield was a friend and family physician, and he inspired the current generation of Galion historians to continue his work.