Eleutheros Cook founded the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad in 1826. He lived between 1787-1864 and was born in Washington County, New York, where he was admitted to the bar and studied law. He moved to Sandusky, Ohio in 1819.
He served in the Ohio legislature for three terms (1822-1823 and 1825) before beginning work on the Mad River & Lake Erie railroad, the first one granted a charter by a state legislature. He served in the United States Congress for one term (1831-1833) before focusing on his law practice. He died in Sandusky on December 27, 1864. His son, financier Jay Cooke, became one of the wealthiest men in America in the nineteenth century.
"Well, hyperbole, like smoke, has significance, and it is certain that he was one of the most active and efficient of the promoters of that enterprise. He favored it when it came before the State Legislature in 1829; he lobbied for it in 1831 and in 1836 he sponsored the revised charter. He gave the land in 1843 on which the town of Carey.
These are all conspicuous services but his inconspicuous labors were of no less importance, namely financial and moral support throughout the long and difficult struggle of this railroad to become a fact."
The completion of this canal to Dayton in 1829 was followed by state authorization of thirteen lines of railroad in the year 1832, the chief line being the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad, Dayton to Sandusky; this line, running through pretty much the same area as proposed canal extension north of Dayton was to traverse, aimed to head off the Miami Canal as a lakeward carrier; to a great extent this objective was attained.
At the time, the longest railroad in the world was only 136 miles, while the Mad River & Lake Erie was to span a distance of 175 miles! In that the canal stimulated railroad building, it contained the germ of its own destruction.
One hundred years ago dirt was turned for the old Mad River R.R. The citizens of Sandusky held a centennial celebration on 17 Sep 1935 to commemorate the project that had its inception in indignation over Toledo being chosen as the starting point of the then proposed Miami and Erie canal from Lake Erie to Cincinnati. That project seeded what became a vast network of modern American railroads. It was 100 years previously that dirt was turned for the Mad River & Lake Erie railroad and a short time later the first train, a dinkey that made more noise than it had power. It went on its first trip to Bellevue, 16 miles away. The following year it pushed over new rails to Dayton. Then more track was laid in succeeding years until eventually larger companies took over the pioneer road. In 1935 it was the Sandusky-Bellefontaine division of the Big Four. The Mad River & Lake Erie Corp. was the first railroad corporation west of the Alleghanies. It was formed after Sandusky citizens held a mass meeting in protest over alleged political maneuvering which led to Toledo being chosen as the terminal for the Ohio River-Lake Erie canal. It was 1845 before the subscribed stock total reached $250,000 required by the state before it would permit the corporation to begin activities. The railroad ran through Forest and when first built, the rails were timber on which were laid strips of strap iron. In the vicinity of the present depot and telegraph tower was a fish pond. A high platform was built along the track for passengers to enter and leave trains. The street parallelling the railroad in Forest was named after the first railroad, Mad River Avenue.
There is additional information about the Mad River R.R. off-site.
To the right is a partial view of the Mad River R.R. before the advent of the Pennsylvania railway. It was taken from a Map of the Central Ohio Railroad and Connecting Lines printed in 1850. The rail stop, Hardin, listed on the map was probably what is the town of Kenton currently.