Created By: Licking County Library
The Ohio and Erie Canal flourished in the mid-nineteenth century and brought commerce and travelers through Licking County. Canal boats not only brought passengers and goods, but they brought their captains and crew as well. These men worked from town to town with little permanency and the southern side of Newark’s square developed two industries to cater to them: boarding houses and taverns. Legend claims that one boat captain who came to the area south of Newark’s square—which was called Gingerbread Row after a popular snack—never departed, and his ghost haunts the Row to this day. After a night out at the taverns, the Captain returned to his rented room, only to be murdered in the night. Some claim his unsettled spirit still haunts the contemporary buildings more than 150 years later.
If the Captain's ghost lacks details such as dates and a name, do not let that dissuade you from the belief that life along the canal did not come without risk. In 1835, a German immigrant passing through Newark was accused of drowning his wife in the manmade waterway. A local jury allegedly acquitted him in a peculiar form of trial by ordeal—his innocence proven to the jury when he touched his wife’s corpse with no effect.
Railroaders and factory workers replaced canal men in the taverns and bars. Fights, brawls, murders and even a lynching would occur in what remained a notorious section of town. Though the days of the canal would end around the turn of the twentieth century, the canal’s stories, and perhaps its ghosts, live on.
Image 1: View of the canal at south Third Street.
Image 2: Depiction of the canal and "Gingerbread Row" neighborhood from 1853 map of Newark.
Image 3: View of the canal in Newark near Second Street.
Image 4: Interior of John Koos' billiard parlor in 1875. Providing an example of an upscale establishment that a canal boat captain might have visited.
Image 5: The canal and canal boat near Fifth and Walnut Streets from 1895. Biederman's saloon stands in the background on Walnut Street.
This point of interest is part of the tour: Haunted Newark: A Ghostly Walking Tour