By Thomas Palmer

With this weekend’s local ceremonial launch of the new year — the annual Pickle Drop — we thought it a good occasion today to repost our Galion History Corner article about Pickle Run, which gave rise to “all things pickle” in our community.

The spring fed waterway that has been variously described as a rivulet, stream, or wet spot over the last 130 plus years.

Those were the nice names, of course. From time to time, the naturally fed run carried more than pickles along its course which began not far from near the intersection of Atwood and Liberty Streets to what is now referred to as the Olentangy River in the general vicinity of the Columbus Street Bridge.

That was, allegedly, how the waterway got its name. A merchant along its banks supposedly emptied a pickle jar into the stream and said, “Look at those pickles run!” That is an apocryphal and non-verified story, but it’s bound to be something close to the truth.

Pickle Run pops up in local lore right after the Civil War. It was actually flowing under a bridge on Harding Way East, not far from the current intersection of Washington Street. By the 1880s, it was a problem. Here are some highlights from that era through World War II where the stream attracted local attention.

In 1891, the Inquirer claimed that “The mayor and marshal attempted to earn their salary by investigating the condition of pickle run” That year, arguments over use of the water for street sprinkling bubbled over into City Council (pardon the pun). The next year, a petition was circulated to turn Pickle Run into a sewer.

The next year, tensions over conditions worsened. In July, notice was given of a suit against the city of Galion by a local merchant. She claimed that prior to 1892, the creek was one where “…pure water flowed,” however the city had allowed, she claimed, coal oil and refuse from the electric works to be discharged into it. The smell was horrific, and her basement full of baked goods – bread, pretzels, biscuits, pies, etc. – was destroyed. She asked for $150 in damages.

In 1894, she prevailed and was awarded $98.56.

For the next few years, the Board of Health was busy with annual cleanups of Pickle Run, which was described as being polluted by “…all kinds of filth.” At one point, it was described this way by a Bucyrus newspaper, “It is currently reported that Galion is preserving the bouquet of Pickle Run to complete with specimens of effluvia furnished from Stink Creek at Crestline and Goose Creek at Marion, the contest to come off at the Galion Free Fair.”

The good news was that the cleaning bill ran about $3.

In 1895, City Council was approached with petitions asking that the stream be covered over; three options were identified by study, the leading one being placing much of it into a smaller sewer pipe.

Problems continued. In 1904, the “banks” of Pickle Run overflowed. In 1928, Council had had enough and began the long process of petitioning Crawford County to take care of improving the stream. Despite opposition from 64 nearby property owners, assessments were levied and Pickle Run was placed underground in a WPA project costing $19,300.

To this day, if one is in the basement of the 1881 Building on Harding Way East, or in the alley intersection behind St. Joseph’s Church, it is still possible to hear Pickle Run flowing north to the Olentangy.

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.

Image by Lukáš Jančička from Pixabay