History of Moonville and Moonville Tunnel
Moonville Tunnel came into existence with the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad whose tracks crossed Vinton County right around 1856. Later, in 1883, the railway would change ownership to the Baltimore and Ohio. The town name is most likely from an early farming family in the region by the name of Moon, a common surname in the region in the 1800s.
If ever a place had reason to be haunted, it would be this tiny town of Moonville just outside Zaleski, Ohio. Hikers walking the rugged dirt trail these days seldom notice the few remnants of the town once thriving in this sleepy hollow – a mound of foundation stones, an old brick-lined well hidden beneath undergrowth and side roads grown over with poison ivy and thick brush.
But Moonville was not always hidden in the thick arms of an overgrown forest. Coal and clay abundant in the hilly terrain of southeastern Ohio were a means of income for those lucky enough to find rich pockets located on their property. In the mid 1800’s Samuel Coe, a mill owner, knowing that his property was rich in these natural resources, granted permission for the Marietta and Cincinnati Railroad to develop a railroad for free through his isolated land. He had already talked the county into building a road to his mill in 1858 to open up business for the community. In return, he had an economical means to ship his coal to buyers. Earlier plans had the Cincinnati Marietta Railroad mapped around Hope Hollow. But financially strapped, the railway rerouted into Coe and Ferguson property.
And so around 1856, the sleepy town of Moonville began its existence as a simple railroad and coal and clay mining town. At its peak, the largest number of residents recorded living in the area was about one hundred mining employees and families during the mid to late 1800’s.
The site of Coe's Mill near the bridge.
The rugged trail that was once the Ferguson property and is now on land run by Ohio Division of Forestry. It leads to Moonville Tunnel.
Many of these residents were scattered about a couple mile area, their homes tucked into hollows and hills wherever land would allow them to build a home. There were folks like the Shirkeys, the Kennards and the Fergusons. Most of them worked in the Coe’s mines or in the small towns surrounding them.
The town itself had a saloon, depot, schoolhouse, strip of homes, and a cemetery. A tunnel was built through a hillside on the Henry Ferguson property, the infamous Moonville Tunnel. The town remained a little less than a hundred years until the last family left, leaving it nothing more than a ghost town among many in the declining economy of the 1940’s.
The town and surrounding area may not have ever been large, but it always seemed to have more than its share of tragic deaths. The small, rundown cemetery just up the road is bursting with graves from both young and old. If lung fever or cholera didn’t get them, the railroad running through town took its share of folks.
Now the immediate property of the tunnel, the tracks and within 10 - 20 feet of the tracks is owned by Vinton County. The Ohio Division of Forestry owns the area where the town of Moonville once stood and the area immediately outside the tracks and tunnel.
These images are from a time when the tracks were still in use.
This is how the train tracks look now without the trestle.
Downtown Moonville Station today.
Types of buildings that were once in or near Moonville include:
Matt Lockhart's Saloon (close to Hope). Ed Dunn's Saloon Moonville Schoolhouse, Lawerence Store, grist mill, Depot, Still in the 1940s atop the tunnel, post office
Coe, Dunn, Sharp, Pinney, Stillwell, Burritt, Clifford, Dexter, Jones, Ferguson (also spelled Furgison in census records), Ross, Kinnard, Adkins, Lawerence, Mace, Thompson, Brenizen, Bowen, Betts
Bridge over Raccoon Creek looking toward the area where Coe's Mill would have stood.
Little remains to remind us families once thrived in Moonville. However, tiny treasures like this bucket and field stone where a house most likely stood belonging to the Fergusons crop up once in a while.
Moonville Tunnel Access:
Moonville Tunnel Access: There is now a bridge crossing from a parking area to the tunnel located here: (39.308458, -82.324539). Simply cross the steel bridge and continue up the hill. It will be on the left.
For a larger view of the map, please click on the + at the bottom right corner.