Then and Now: Three Mile and Sloan roads

By Sheryl Virts - Champaign County Historical Society

This sketch is from the 1874 Champaign County Atlas.

This sketch is from the 1874 Champaign County Atlas.

Submitted photos

This “Now” photo shows that the southwest corner of Three Mile and Sloan roads has not changed much.

Submitted photos

The “Then” sketch of the residence of Mr. John Showers on Three Mile Road now has an address of 3095 Sloan Road, Urbana Township, Champaign County, Ohio. This old home is located on the southwest corner of Three Mile Road and now Sloan Road. (Sloan Road did not exist at the time of this sketch) The Showers estate was drawn by local artist William M. De Voe for the 1874 Atlas of Champaign County.

As you study the sketch it appears from the perspective of a higher elevation looking Southwest even though the terrain to the north is level. But then “birdseye” views were popular even back “Then.” The house has a distinctive designed roof which still appears to exist on the roof, if you look carefully at the “now” photo. The fancy top structure is gone (too costly to maintain these days perhaps) and the roof colors are more muted, but it appears to be the same pattern. The lane no longer circles in front of the house to return to Three Mile Road but goes behind the home and out to Sloan Road. The porch and its roof in the “Now” has been abbreviated in width and “Now smaller porch has a second story walk out balcony above it, with a door replacing the middle upper window. Two chimneys can still be seen coming out of the rooftop both “Then and Now.” A white picket fence no longer is used to outline the landscaped yard, perhaps again because board fences are very labor intensive to maintain.

While no name was given to the farm back in 1874, it is now known as one of the Oak View Farms owned by the Bud and Mark Runyan families. Their other farm location, on State Route 54, just outside the city limits of Urbana, was featured on the 2016 Historic Home and Garden Tour last summer (sponsored by a sister organization, Champaign County Preservation Alliance.)

“Then” and “Now” pictures show this to be a solidly built country residence located on a farm with an active livestock-raising business, along with the field crops production. Not all farms “now” days raise livestock. Actually not all farms of the past have raised livestock in great numbers as the Runyans do “Now.” Most farms of the past would have at least one or two animals, especially a horse and a cow or a goat for milk, and a few ducks and chickens, and maybe a pig, or beef cow for meat and sheep for wool and to keep the high grasses trimmed down. All of these animals were mainly for the farmer’s own consumption. Remember driving to town for daily supplies wasn’t as easy as it is now days and before refrigeration existed food preparation was quite different. Imagine living in 1874, where there was no electricity, or telephone, no indoor plumbing, and no motorized transportation means other than the few railroads. So while the houses look much the same from the outside, I am sure the daily living was quite different then as it is now days.

Arrived in county as teenager

Early pioneer families had a hard life. This farmer, John Showers came to Champaign County at the age of 14. He was son of Abraham Showers of the state of Virginia, and Elizabeth Miller of Maryland. He was born in Virginia in 1820 and lived in Maryland until 1834 when the family came to Champaign County and bought farmland. John was number six of eleven children to come to Champaign County. In 1846, he married a neighbor girl, Martha A. Osborn, and worked as a carpenter for six years. (It is not known if he built this house during this time.) His father died in 1847, soon after John’s marriage, his child died in 1848 and his wife Martha in 1852. Trying times. John took a second wife, Elizabeth Heffleblower, in 1853, and became an active farmer. They had four children. After losing two teenage children to death in 1872 and 1875, the family moved into Urbana in 1877, where his second wife, Elizabeth, died in March 1878. More trying times.

John Showers married a third time in 1881 to Catherine Pence. He died in 1893 outliving three children and two wives. His last son Abraham Earl Hefflebower Showers died four years after him in 1897 never having married. No more “Showers” in John’s line to carry on his name, but his blood line did continue through his daughter Carrie Hanah Showers who married Samuel Echol the same year her father married Catherine Pence. Carrie’s husband was from the south and that is where they went to live and raise their family of one daughter and three sons. Before John died, according to the 1894 plat book, W. H. Sloan owned the Showers’ farmland along Three Mile Road because no Sloan Road existed yet.

In the years to come, a small township road by the name of Sloan Road came into being, creating a shortcut from Three Mile Road, across South Dugan to what is now called Shortcut Road and to the southern part of our county seat of Urbana. It was not surprisingly named Sloan Road as that is where it began. Perhaps Mr. Sloan had something to do with its coming into existence. (That also reminds me that Shortcut Road was created earlier as a shortcut to Urbana from State Route 54 by a Samuel Robinson who owned a farm on the southeast end of Shortcut Road along State Route 54. That tidbit of history was revealed by Robinson’s great granddaughter, Mary Robinson Hess, who is over 100 years old, demonstrating that we never get too old to share what history we know. The 1894 plat map also shows the name of Shortcut Road as part of Urbana – Pretty Prairie Pike that now ends at the corner of State Route 54 and Dolly Varden Road. In 1894, State Route 54 did not exist and that section of the road was all called Urbana Pretty Prairie Pike. By the way, does anyone know why Dolly Varden Road was named after a fish and why it is used in other counties as a road name? There seems to always be more to learn about our history!

This sketch is from the 1874 Champaign County Atlas. sketch is from the 1874 Champaign County Atlas. Submitted photos

This “Now” photo shows that the southwest corner of Three Mile and Sloan roads has not changed much. “Now” photo shows that the southwest corner of Three Mile and Sloan roads has not changed much. Submitted photos

By Sheryl Virts

Champaign County Historical Society

Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.

Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.