Do you like to explore new places, wander down old roads and paths, or peek into dilapidated buildings? I have always been that type of person. Exploring new or very old trails in hopes that I might discover clues from the past is very exciting to me.
Several years ago, my friend and fellow Cleveland Metroparks cohort Carl Casavecchia, told me about a historic road that ran along Tinker’s Creek. In fact, the road was part of the Escape on the Underground Railroad program that was held near Hemlock Creek Picnic Area for 14 years by Garfield Park Nature Center staff and volunteers. It was while I was assisting in that program that I first became acquainted with this 189-year-old pathway, named Button Road.
Button Road circa 1920s - Taken from book, Bedford Vignettes - Dick Squire (Bedford Historical Society)
You see, Button Road was established in 1825 as a connector from Dunham Road in the lowland of Tinker’s Creek Valley to the town of Bedford which rose to higher elevation and ended at Main Street (West Grace and Broadway Ave.). This three-mile road from downtown Bedford to Dunham Road was a challenging, narrow dirt pathway that became muddy in the spring, icy in the winter and featured a 200-foot sloped section down into the valley.
Despite its treacherous grade going down and its strenuous incline heading up, this road became a very important connector to the Ohio & Erie Canal which opened in 1827. Folks in Bedford would haul their wagons of flour, cornmeal and other goods straight to the canal. Important note: Button Road changes names on the west side of Dunham Road to Tinker’s Creek Road.
Button Road? What a curious name. I wish I had an intriguing story to tell you, but it was simply named after Otis Button, the man who was one of the original land owners of 140 acres along the road. It is told that he raised wheat, corn and cattle on the hilltop before one gets into Bedford proper.
It is also told that because of the challenging ascent as one approached the town of Bedford, a nearby farmer would take advantage of the predicament and charged a fee to hook his horses or mules to their wagon to bring them safely up the hill. I guess every era has the spirit of entrepreneurship.
Heading up Button Road hill (Bedford Reservation) - 2014
View heading down Button Road (Bedford Reservation) - 2014
For 90 years, this narrow roadway supported wagon traffic and possibly a few horseless carriages. By 1915 the county engineers ceased to put funds towards its upkeep and by 1923, Button Road was no longer a through road. In the early twenties, Cleveland Metropolitan Park System began purchasing land in the valley of Tinker’s Creek and the surrounding areas in order to protect this beautiful resource.
Sketch taken from book - Village of Walton Hills :Tracing our Heritage - Jean and Robert Kainsinger
When Button Road became part of Bedford Reservation, it became a bridle path for rangers patrolling on horseback, and for riders from the stables called Circle Emerald at the top of the slope. Portions of the road became a service road and eventually an access road to Hemlock Creek Picnic Area and ball fields.
Today hikers still traverse this old road for relaxation, birding and exploration. However, the steep slope has eroded heavily through the years, so precautions must be taken. Old Button Road will still take you to the top of the hill leading to Bedford past Otis Button’s farmland.
Although it is a road less traveled for good reasons today, the stories of its uses are interesting. Who would have thought that an access road was so important to the early settlers of Bedford? Go take a hike and discover for yourself this old, historic road.
Button Road running alongside Tinker's Creek - (Bedford Reservation) 2014
Button Road and bridal trail converge (Bedford Reservation) - 2014