The Oregon Trail

Eight miles east of Fremont, the town of Clyde (pop. 6,221) is a perfect little place, still the typical farm town that the New Deal-era WPA Guide to Ohio said might well have served as a model for one of Thomas Hart Benton’s murals of rural America: “Old Indian paths and sand ridges are now angular streets; cheek by jowl with an odd assortment of business houses is the railroad cutting across Main Street, gyved with station, elevator, and spur track; around the decorous houses are gardens, flowerbeds, and shrubbery tended by friendly and loquacious folk.”

Clyde’s brick-paved streets are still quiet, lined by mature trees and most of the same houses as when writer Sherwood Anderson, who was born in southern Ohio in 1876, grew up here in the 1880s and 1890s. Because the people of Clyde took offense at Anderson’s sharply drawn and only slightly disguised portraits of them in his groundbreaking book, Winesburg, Ohio—which was published in 1919, 20 years after Anderson left Clyde for Chicago—the town doesn’t celebrate him in any obvious way. The only real sign of Anderson is in the local library (222 W. Buckeye St., 419/547-7174, Mon.-Sat.), a block west of the town center, where visitors can examine a collection of his books and a short documentary video of his life and times. The library is also the best place to pick up the pamphlet that points out Anderson’s home and the sites of many scenes from Winesburg.

Besides the Winesburg legacy, Clyde also offers one very good road-food stop: the photogenic Twistee Treat (419/547-6996, daily), shaped like an ice-cream cone.