Cambridge City’s latest project is to stabilize the building located at 12 W. Main St. The building not only features the iconic Lincoln Funeral Train mural but has a rich history tied to the White Water Canal. Beneville Kline and Jacob Matthias constructed the Federal style brick building circa 1844. The original intention of the building was to function as a mercantile store for their dry goods business out of Hamilton, Ohio. At the time of construction, prior to the Vinton House, the building occupied a prominent corner lot at the intersection of the proposed Whitewater Canal and the National Road. The lot was prime real estate in 1844. Cambridge city was projected to experience significant growth as the original terminus for the canal (it was later extended to Hagerstown). Matthias and Kline set the ground work to create a successful business model in the town and entered into business with Casper Markle, an early businessman in Cambridge City. This would have been a natural relationship to establish ties to the canal’s terminus. They more than likely had business associations already in Cincinnati due to its proximity to Hamilton. Their operations began in 1844 with the construction of the building. They also sent one of their Hamilton store clerks, William Kline, to operate their Cambridge City store.
An 1886 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Cambridge City. The map was drawn 42 years after Matthias and Kline constructed their store (highlighted in red and marked Cigar Factory), but it still shows its prominent location in relation to the National Road (Cambridge City's Main St. just above the building outlines) and the White Water Canal. At the time of it's construction the Vinton House would not have been there.
The decision to locate a mercantile store in Cambridge City would have appeared to be a solid investment in 1844. Especially because Matthias and Kline had plans to run a canal line carrying goods from Cincinnati to Cambridge via the Whitewater Canal. The partners bought up a large number of properties in Cambridge City and started to run advertisements in the Cambridge City Reveille as early as July 16, 1845. The advertisements were for the “People’s Line: White Water Canal.” Featured in the advertisement is a statement from Matthias and Kline:
“The proprietors of this line respectfully announce to their customers and the public in general, that they have made such additions and improvements to their facilities for the transportation of Produce and Merchandise to and from Cincinnati and Cambridge City, that will guarantee satisfactory accommodations to all who may be pleased to honor them with their patronage.” Cambridge City Reveille July 16, 1845
The canal was open for operation in the Cambridge City area by 1846, but that same year the Duck Creek aqueduct was destroyed. Repairs were completed quickly to keep the canal operating but accidents similar to the Duck Creek aqueduct were frequent and slowed canal line operations. Slow operations meant reduced shipments. In 1846, the partners ceased operations of their mercantile store in 12 W. main and rented it to proprietor C.H. Raymond. Raymond opened Cambridge City’s first Hardware Store south of the main street adjoined to Reisor’s Mansion in 1844. Raymond’s move to the Matthias and Kline Co. building made sense. The building was highly visible on the well-traveled National Road and in closer proximity to other shops on Main Street.
A recent photo of the preserved Duck Creek Aqueduct in Franklin County, Indiana
Photo Credit: By Chris4682 at English Wikipedia - Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=22744317
The building was Mathias and Kline’s only property holding on Main Street near the canal. Two years after construction the firm was no longer operating the mercantile store in Cambridge. This did not signal the end of their business venture. Matthias and Kline continued to operate in Cambridge City and potentially supplied C.H. Raymond’s store with goods. Goods from Mathias, Kline and Co. were also featured in an advertisement for Temple’s American Liniment. However, by the start of 1848 the Cambridge City Reveille no longer ran advertisements for the People’s Line. The 1847 flood may have been the final nail in the coffin for Matthias and Kline Co.’s canal line.
The White Water Canal was besieged by major flooding on New Year’s Day in 1847. The destroyed multiple aqueducts and thousands of dollars’ worth of damage to the canal. The damage was extensive enough to shut the canal down for six months while the White Water Canal tried to acquire funding for the repairs. During this six month period the People’s Line would not have been operating, and a large part of the Mathias and Kline Co.’s operations was not producing revenue.
The financial situation surrounding Matthias and Kline’s Cambridge City investments did not improve. In, A Biographical History of Eminent and Self-made Men of the State of Indiana, it states that William Kline traveled west in 1848 during the gold rush to pursue other business ventures. This was probably a nice way of stating William skipped town when there was no longer a job for him. There is heavy evidence to suggest William left Cambridge City when Matthias and Kline ceased business operations there. By 1848 there appears to be little trace of the firm left in Cambridge City except for some property holdings.
The large brick building at 12 W. Main, their former store, was sold to Lebram Holland in 1848. Advertisements for the People’s Line ceased, and no research suggests they operated a business within the city. Their business listing and location in Cincinnati also does not appear in the 1848-1849 Cincinnati City Directory, or any later editions, suggesting their days operating a canal line were finished. The last mention of Matthias and Kline found in regards to Cambridge City is in the December 6th, 1855 issue of the Richmond Palladium. The partners went delinquent on their taxes for seven lots in Cambridge City. The research trail went cold on the partners afterward and it is unknown whether they continued to operate a store in Hamilton or not.
Even though Matthias and Kline’s canal business did not work out they have left a lasting legacy in Cambridge City. The Matthias and Kline building remains one of Cambridge City’s oldest standing buildings, and it is once again a prominent corner building. The building anchors the eastern gateway into downtown Cambridge City and features the Lincoln mural. Cambridge City Main Street’s dedication to improve the downtown continues with this project. Please check back on this page for additional updates on the project and more history on the Matthias and Kline building to come!