Corning, Ohio was established in 1879 when Joseph Rodgers, the
founder of the town, sold the entire town site in a period of seven
months. The reason for the sale of lots was that the Ohio Central Railroad
was arriving from the north, ready to transport the coal deposits of
the Sunday Creek Valley to coal markets to fuel the great Industrial
Revolution that was in full swing in the country. In 1871, an attempt
was made to form a town at this same site, but the steep range of hills
north of town required that a tunnel be built before the railroad could
enter this valley. That town was called Ferrara and grew to over 300
people who eventually left, frustrated with the failure of the railroad
The village of Corning grew fast. The 1880 census
reported 271 residents and by 1890 the town had grown to 1,551 persons.
Coal mines surrounded the town. A stone quarry and brick plant were
also established. The ethnic mix of miners to the Sunday Creek Valley
was one of the most diverse in the region. Experienced miners of Scotch-Irish,
Welsh and English descent had frequented area mines established nearby
in the 1870's, but labor strife and great influx of immigrants to America
in the 1880's and 1890's led to Corning becoming more ethnically diverse.
Germans, Italians, Hungarians and other eastern Europeans lived along
side one another in this narrow valley. Just to the north, the village
of Rendville became home to this ethnic mix as well as African Americans.
In 1880, miners from Corning and neighboring coal towns, marched north
from Corning toward the village of Rendville to rid the town of "Negro"
miners, who has been brought in to work for cheaper wages. This near
violent confrontation, resulted in the National Guard being summoned
to the town to avert what historians refer to as the "Corning War."
The disturbance was quelled and the African American miners remained,
allowing Rendville to become a historically significant community with
leaders of African descent becoming prominent leaders in local, state
and national circles.
Shortly after the railroad reached Corning, the Kanawha
and Michigan Railroad arrived from the south and connected with the
Toledo and Ohio Central and in 1917 became part of the New York Central
system that eventually merged to become the Penn Central Railroad and
then Conrail that is the only railroad line that remains to this day
(1998). The thirst for southeastern coal continued to grow, resulting
in new mines and the need for additional rail lines to reach the mines.
The Zanesville and Western Railroad reached the village in 1890 from
the northeast, resulting in the creation of another mining community,
Congo, just several miles to the east of town. A tunnel from Corning
to Congo was dug to open up this coal field. The Z & W moved westward
to the mining towns of Drakes, Buckingham, Hemlock, Ludington and Shawnee.
The intersection of the north-south T&OC line, and the east west
Z & W line, at Corning, resulted in this town becoming the railroading
center of the Hocking Valley Coal Fields, also know as the Little Cities
of Black Diamonds region.
By the turn of the century the primary source of employment
in Corning became that of railroad worker, rather than coal miner. The
local high school's ball teams were called the Railroaders. A round
house was built to the south of town, where train engines were placed
on a turntable, serviced and placed back on the track. The railroad
took over the town with numerous buildings including two depots, a freight
station, yard office, two signal towers, scale house, oil house, ice
house, sand house, tool shed and a telegraph office.
Although coal mining in the Little Cities of Black
Diamonds region had dwindled by the 1920's, Corning maintained its population
and commerce due to its tie to the railroad. It was not until the early
1950's when the steam engine was replaced by the diesel eliminating
many jobs, that the town began its rapid decline. This development,
along with the post war dominance of the automobile led to termination
of passenger train service to the town at the same time.
The other significant early economic influence played
upon the town was that of oil. When drilling for water for the new round
house in 1889, oil was discovered, setting off an oil boom in the area.
To this day, jobs in the local oil fields are a source of local employment.
Rugged hills and inadequate highways have blocked
any other significant industrial development in the community. Today,
the population of the town is approximately 750 people.