Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Dart Boat: A Revered Classic

Restored Dart Boats
(Courtesy of Ramsey Brothers Restoration)

On August 23rd the Toledo Antique and Classic Boat Society held its annual show at International Park. Featured are antique and classic wooden boats built from the 1920s to the 1960s. Many have been lovingly and painstakingly restored to their former glory by skilled craftsmen. One of the truly revered classics is the Dart. Manufactured by the hundreds and sold around the world, the inboard mahogany runabouts were known for their speed, durability, and seaworthiness.

The Dart was originally built by Lima’s Indian Lake Boat Company. In 1928, a group of businessmen, headed by Admiral Webb C. Hayes, grandson of President Hayes, purchased the rights to build the Dart. Located on Summit St. in Toledo, the company eventually employed nearly 100 craftsmen led by the Dart’s original designer Hocky Holler.

The Dart’s closely spaced frames were constructed of clear white ash. Its hull was strengthened with steam bent white oak. The beautifully balanced Dart also featured a laminated double bottom with a layer of canvas duck between its inner and outer mahogany bottoms. Its deep “V” shape and planing hull were perfect for cutting through the choppy waters of Lake Erie at high speed. Every boat featured the racy chrome Dart “arrow” logo that came to symbolize speed and quality among boaters worldwide. “More speed per horsepower” became the company’s motto. The Dart was a favorite of “bootleggers” who were “hauling the mail” across Lake Erie during the days of Prohibition. Even fully loaded (75 cases of liquor), the Dart could speed across the lake at night, outrunning any and every Coast Guard vessel.

Burdened with the construction of a new plant on Haynes Street, Hayes and his partners had limited time for marketing. But the Dart’s reputation for speed needed little promotion. She gained international attention in 1929 when a 26-foot Silver Dart runabout raced along the River Ouse against England’s fastest train, the famous “Flying Scotsman.” The sleek and sophisticated Dart runabout won hands down. Photographs of the event soon hit boating magazines. Sales skyrocketed. Orders came in from as far away as Jerusalem, where a Dart runabout became the first speedboat to cruise the waters of the Dead Sea.

One of Admiral Webb C. Hayes' sons off Lake Erie's Mouse Island in a Dart Boat, ca. 1929
(Hayes Family Album)

To fill their back orders and meet growing demand, Hayes and his partners planned a 24-hour work schedule that would allow the company to manufacture three boats per day. The company offered four models – an 18 ½-foot; 22 ½-foot; 26-foot and 30-foot, ranging in price from $1,500 to $5,000. There were three-cockpit, split-cockpit, open and sedan models to choose from. The queen of the fleet was the 30-foot Gold Dart with its 125 horsepower Chrysler Imperial engine.

But just as rapidly as sales soared, they quickly nosedived. The Great Depression devastated the company. Hayes tried to forestall liquidation, but by late1933 the Dart Boat Company faded into history. Today, it is estimated that only 30 to 40 of the sleek, graceful Dart runabouts survive.

Play the video and watch Admiral Webb C. Hayes and Hayes Family members in a Dart Boat on the Maumee River at Toledo, Ohio and on Lake Erie at Put-in-Bay and Middle Bass Island. The video is a segment of a film made by the family of Admiral Webb C. Hayes. The film is part of the Hayes Family Collection at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

This article first appeared in Lifestyles2000.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The "S. O. S." or Charles B. Stilwell's Self Opening Sack

“Would you like paper or plastic?” We’ve all been asked that question many times (although much less frequently of late). For more than a hundred years, our choice for hauling groceries was the durable, inexpensive brown paper bag. Once we’d unloaded our purchases, we found all sorts of second and third uses for that square-bottomed sack. From trash to lunches, schoolbooks, or clothes for an overnight stay, the versatile brown paper bag did it all – and we never gave it much thought. But one man did - Charles B. Stilwell, the son of one of Sandusky County’s most prominent pioneer physicians.

Born in 1845, Stilwell grew up in Fremont. At the age of 17, he defied his parents’ wishes and went off to fight for the Union in the Civil War. At war’s end, he studied mechanical engineering, eventually settling in Watertown, New York where he worked for a paper manufacturer. It was in Watertown that Stilwell began thinking about improvements to the conventional paper bag – an odd-shaped tubular affair that had to be pasted together by hand. Its V-shaped bottom made it inconvenient for packing; clerks found it difficult to stack and store.

In 1883, Stilwell was awarded a patent for his invention – a machine that produced a square, flat-bottomed paper bag with pleated sides. He dubbed it the “S.O.S.” or Self-Opening Sack. It quickly became a favorite of grocers, who discovered that with a flick of the wrist, the “S.O.S.” popped open and stood alone on the counter while they packed in more items than they ever thought possible. Collapsible, the “S.O.S.” could be stacked and conveniently stored. Customers liked it too. One man thought it was the “greatest invention of all time!”

The following year, Stilwell moved to Philadelphia where he married and raised a family. Working for the Union Paper Bag Machine Company, he continued to improve his invention, while securing patents for another machine, one that printed on oil cloth, and a map for charting the course of the stars.

Charles Stilwell’s “S.O.S.” revolutionized the paper bag industry, but it really came into its own in the 1930s when freezers, refrigerators, supermarkets, and cars emerged as part of the American lifestyle. It was then that families began shopping and transporting in a single trip, enough food for an entire week. The “S.O.S.” became a staple of the industry and proved indispensable to shoppers, who found a million and one uses for the brown paper bag once they’d unloaded the groceries.

Stilwell’s invention did not bring him wealth, but it did provide him with a comfortable lifestyle – one that allowed him to travel to England and indulge his passion for William Shakespeare. He died in Wayne, Pennsylvania in 1919. In accordance with his wishes, his ashes were interred at Oakwood Cemetery in his boyhood home of Fremont.

Nettie Cronise Lutes: Ohio’s First Woman Lawyer

On that spring morning in 1873, Nettie Cronise appeared poised and confident as she stood before three judges of the Ohio Common Pleas Court. Beneath the calm exterior was a nervous, apprehensive young woman. The judges’ decision would shape not only her future, but also that of hundreds of other Ohio women in the years ahead. Despite her fears, Nettie was ready to present her qualifications for admission to the Ohio Bar Association.

With her she carried recommendations from four of Seneca County’s most prominent attorneys. They had offered to present the application on her behalf. Her colleagues knew that most judges opposed the idea of women lawyers. Indeed, at the very moment Ohio legislators were launching a successful campaign against all women seeking the right to vote.

While grateful to her colleagues for their offer, Nettie chose to confront the challenge personally. To her great joy and relief, the panel granted her a license. Nettie Cronise became the first woman in Ohio to practice law! Six months later, her younger sister Florence would follow in her footsteps.

Born in Republic, Ohio, in 1843, Nettie was the daughter of Dr. Jacob and Katharine Staub. While she was still a child, her parents divorced. Nettie and Florence moved with their mother to the home of their grandfather Judge Henry Cronise. Nettie attended school in Tiffin and studied at Heidelberg College and the State Normal School in Bloomington, Illinois. Nettie taught for a short time in Illinois, but returned to Tiffin to read law at the firm of Warren P. Noble.

After Florence’s admission to the bar, the Cronise sisters opened their own practice in Tiffin. A year later, Nettie married fellow attorney Nelson Lutes. When Nelson began to lose his hearing, Nettie dissolved her partnership with her sister and joined her husband’s firm. Through extraordinary teamwork, they developed a thriving corporate law practice in federal and district courts throughout Ohio, Indiana, and Michigan.

Nelson’s deafness demanded the couple have an especially thorough knowledge of their briefs, the evidence, and their opponent’s trial strategy. In the courtroom, Nettie silently repeated testimony to Nelson, enabling him to deliver opening and closing arguments and examine witnesses. Their skill and preparation made them a formidable team. Few courtroom observers ever realized that Nelson was totally deaf. The “Lutes Combination,” as they were known in legal circles, continued their highly successful practice until Nelson’s death in 1900.

Nettie Cronise Lutes’ remarkable accomplishments have not been forgotten. In recognition of her groundbreaking efforts, the women of the Ohio Bar Association present an award each year in her honor. The Nettie Cronise Lutes Award is presented to a woman lawyer who has “improved the legal profession through her own high level of professionalism and a commitment to opening doors for girls and women.”

E. W. Scripps: Hermit of the Seas

The Detroit
Built by the Matthews Boat Company

Beginning as a copy boy at the “Detroit News,” E. W. Scripps rose to prominence as one of America’s great newspaper publishers. He founded the Scripps-Howard news syndicate, and established the United Press International, better known today as the UPI. The multi-talented publisher was also the founder and engine designer of the Scripps Marine Motor Company. Scripps served as the commodore of the Detroit Yacht Club and built “Miramar,” his enormous retirement home near San Diego.

Despite his successes, Scripps remained an eccentric, reclusive individual, who was most comfortable sailing the world aboard his yachts, the “Kenah” and the “Ohio.” He often referred to himself as the “hermit of the seas.” In 1912, Scripps found a way to thrill readers of his dozens of newspapers and promote his gasoline marine engine while spending time on the high seas.

Scripps would demonstrate the reliability of his company’s marine engine by using it to power the smallest boat to ever cross the Atlantic Ocean. He contacted the Matthews Boat Company of Port Clinton to design a vessel capable of such a voyage. Known around the world for quality construction, Scott Matthews took on the challenge. “The Rudder” magazine called the finished product a “trans-Atlantic liner,” but others called it an “oversized lifeboat.” Indeed, the 35-foot vessel was a double-ender that was heavily built - much like a lifeboat. Scripps christened her the “Detroit.” She was driven by one of his company’s 16-horsepower, two-cylinder model engines that could move the boat at 5 to 6 knots.

Five stainless steel fuel tanks, holding 1,000 gallons of gasoline, were fastened under the deck midship. Another 1,275 gallons was stored on deck. (No doubt the necessity of a smoking ban posed a problem for Scripps, who was known to smoke up to fifty cigars a day.) The “Detroit” also carried engine oil, 200 gallons of water, food for ninety days, and sails and a mast in case of engine failure..

Captained by Thomas F. Day, editor of “The Rudder,” she began her voyage from Detroit on July 12th. Scripps and two others rounded out the crew. The boat passed through Lake Erie, the Erie Canal, the Hudson River and Long Island Sound. On July 16th, the “Detroit” set out on her 4,000-mile transatlantic journey from New Rochelle, New York. Other than engine inspections that took place every few days and a single incident of water in the fuel, the engine ran continuously. Twenty-one days later the “Detroit” arrived in Cobh, Ireland – the smallest boat with a gasoline-powered engine to cross the Atlantic. After a few weeks rest and re-fitting, Scripps decided to head to Europe. From there, the “Detroit” journeyed to St. Petersburg, Russia, making port on Sept. 13th.

Scripps lived another 14 years after the “Detroit’s” transatlantic voyage. Much of that time was spent roaming the world aboard his yachts. He died off the coast of Liberia in 1926 at the age of 72. He was buried at sea.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Civil War Musician Henry Hunsinger, 72nd and 186th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

Henry Hunsinger, Civil War Musician
(standing at left)
72nd and 186th Ohio Volunteer Infantry

A Hayes Presidential Center patron shared this print with us during a recent visit. The original is owned by relatives. The only individual identified is Henry Hunsinger, who is standing at left. Hunsinger was born May 30, 1845 in Fremont, Ohio. He enlisted as a drummer in Company B, 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in November 1861. He participated in the Battle of Shiloh and the Siege of Corinth. He was discharged due to disability in July 1862. Hunsinger re-enlisted in Company E, 186th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in January 1865. He was promoted to Principal Musician March 2, 1865.
This picture appears to have been taken after Hunsinger re-enlisted in the 186th Ohio Volunteer Infantry and was promoted to principal muscian as was James W. Smith. George Smith, George E. Lepert, William Vananda, Robert C. Day, and David Moore are some of the men of the 186th listed as musicians in the Ohio Civil War Roster. I would be most grateful for an email if you can identify any of these Civil War musicians.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Katie Huntington and Morgan's Raid

Katie Huntington

(from the George Buckland Collection)

The following letter was written during the Civil War by nine-year-old Katie Huntington to her father John Caldwell Huntington of Cincinnati, Ohio. Visiting relatives near Glendale, Ohio, Katie recounts the events of July 13, 1863 when Confederate General John Hunt Morgan and his cavalry entered Ohio near the Hamilton-Butler County line. Morgan led his men to the outskirts of Cincinnati, where he spent the night of July 13, in sight of the Union Army's Camp Dennsion. From the perspective of a young child, Katie tells of the excitement and fear Morgan's Raid generated among family and friends.

Tuesday Morning July 14th, 1863

My Dear Father

I was very much pleased your letter which I received last evening. I suppose that it is too late for me to answer Aunt Sarah’s letter and send it to Marys-ville but if I am not too tired after I have finished your letter I will write her one and put it in the same envelope.

I go down to the depot every evening and sometimes in the morning. Last evening I went down as usual with Annie and Cora to meet their father at the depot, but the train that was due from the north at six-oclock did not arrive before half past seven in the evening. We have breakfast at quarter to seven. Last night I went to bed earlier than usual and about two oclock in the morning while I was asleep John Morgan (but I don’t think he deserves the name John) and about three thousand of his troops passed through Glendale right by the College and about half a dozen of them went into the barn and took Mr. Drake’s horse (it was a very fine one the nicest one in the barn).

This morning I went down to the depot and Mrs. Fox and Elisa were down there and I said that I wouldn’t go home then for anything because if there was going to be a mob I should like to see it. Just then a man rode up on a white horse and said that some rebels were coming in full gallop and another man that was there said ladies and children take care out of the way because they may fire and Mrs. Fox took 7 or 8 of the children in to her house and told the girl to lock the house all up and we all went up in the garret and looked out of the garret windows and Mrs. Fox made us all be still for fear that we would attract attention to the house.

In a little while they rode up there were four of them well armed on horses. Mr. Bogart had two pistols that would shoot 6 times and, two muskets and he told they men to stop and they did not and so he fired of[f] one of his pistols up in the air so as to make them stop and then they stopped and began to sware dreadfully and said that Gen. Burnside’s sent them and all of a sudden three of them put spur’s to their horses and went off at full gallop. But too of the union soldiers went at the side of the one that staid and began to talk to him and all of a sudden just like that the other three went off very fast but after a little while we found that they were some union men.

I forgot to tell you that in the morning they took five of Morgans men prisoners and they sent them down to Carthage on the hand car. When we were in the midst of dinner (it was the same day) all of a sudden we heard a great noise and every person jumped up from [the] table and there was about 7 thousand of our cavalry passed during the afternoon. And we were to have had pie for desert but we gave it all to the soldiers they were chasing, Morgan and said that they might overtake him.

That night one of the soldier[s] kissed Annie and Cora and me and said that he would always remember the children of the union. They gave them all this square bread and biscuit and ham and cold meat and cake and cold water, some tea, pie. bring my cat out with you and tell Mother that I have decided to stay another week. I have received your letter and want you to come out here so that I can tell you some things that I can not write because my hand is tired.

from Katie

Friday, October 3, 2008

Heights Consolidated School, Ballville Twp. Sandusky County, Ohio

Heights Consolidated School, Ballville Twp., Sandusky County, Ohio
(Elmer A. Whitney Collection)

Sandusky County, Ohio photographer Elmer A. Whitney took this picture of the Heights Consolidated School students and staff in October 1919, only months after the "modern two-room building" was opened. The building, located on South Buckland, was the first attempt of Sandusky County citizens to provide better facilities for its students. While some objected to the cost and the school's distance from Fremont, others felt that the consolidation of 74 students from three rural schools - Glen Spring, Krugh, and Ballville Village - provided cost savings in maintenance and staff. Even though the building and land cost $17,000, the Board of Education believed that two teachers instructing grades one through four in a single structure was more cost-effective than three teachers teaching grades one through eight in three separate buildings.

Folding doors separated the classrooms. When opened, the two rooms were transformed into an "auditorium" large enough for community gatherings. The building boasted a 75-barrel cistern, movable chairs and desks, windows on either side, a library and reading room, piano, furnace, and two "lavatories equipped with soap and sanitary towels." Perhaps most appealing to the students was the two-acre playground

Even though its capacity was 96 pupils, the structure apparently was outdated within 15 years. During Sandusky County's building program, the school was replaced by Lutz Elementary, located across Buckland Avenue. E. H. Buchman bought the building and property. In 1936, the Edgar Thurston American Legion Post purchased the structure. Through the years, the American Legion added to the original two-room brick structure.

Monday, September 29, 2008

James A. Dickinson in the Civil War's Brown Water Navy

James A Dickinson
U.S. Mississippi River Squadron

Fortunately for thirteen-year-old James Alpheus Dickinson, zero tolerance was a policy that no one considered in 1863. Had such a disciplinary code existed, the life of this bright but rebellious teen surely would have taken a different course.

The youngest child of U.S. Congressman Rudolphus Dickinson, James grew up fatherless in Fremont, Ohio. His birth occurred just months after his father's untimely death in Washington, D.C. By 1863, ideas of manhood, warfare, and adventure captivated the young boy's imagination. Dickinson ran away from home, planning to enlist in the U.S. Army. His rejection (due to his small size) was undoubtedly a severe disappointment, but Dickinson remained determined to serve his country. He signed on for a year's service in the U.S. Navy. Within a week, he found himself aboard a gunboat patrolling the Mississippi River, fending off the attacks of Rebel guerrillas on Union supply channels.

Dickinson reveled in his newfound freedom. He proudly recorded in his diary incidents of smoking, missing church, and chewing "because all sailors chew tobacco."

Disciplinary measures did not deter Dickinson from jumping ship to enjoy nightlong drinking sprees in towns along the Mississippi. Despite swift, severe punishment, the young sailor continued his wild ways - missing inspections, drinking, enjoying forbidden night swims, and stealing food. Yet he performed his duties admirably. Even with a painful shrapnel injury, he continued to return sniper fire. Dickinson withstood a bullet wound to the knee and endured frozen toes, the result of long hours on guard duty in the cold. He wrote his mother regularly. She responded with her own letters and issues of the Catholic Telegraph.

A year later, his Civil War service complete, the high-spirited Dickinson returned to Fremont where he spent his first few weeks fishing and dancing with his boyhood friends. We can only guess what forces molded the rebellious teen into a man. But at age sixteen, Dickinson took a positive step and entered Notre Dame. He graduated with a law degree in 1869. He practiced law in Fremont until he took a position with the U.S. Treasury in Washington, D.C. and then the Department of Labor. While supporting a family, Dickinson returned to school and earned a degree in medicine from Howard University in 1889. He moved to North Carolina where he practiced medicine.

Upon his death in 1922, Dr. James A. Dickinson was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

One-Eyed Charley Parkhurst's Secret

Charley Darkey Parkhurst
Pioneer Cemetery, Watsonville, California
(Courtesy of Find a Grave)

On December 12, 1879, one of the great “whips” of California’s Gold Rush days died just outside Santa Cruz. Charley Parkhurst, a legend among Wells Fargo stagecoach drivers, passed away quietly, having suffered the ravages of rheumatism and cancer. When friends prepared Parkhurst’s body for burial, they were startled to discover that “Charley” was a woman!

Born in New Hampshire, “Charlotte” Parkhurst spent her early years in an orphanage. The independent teen soon ran away. Dressed as a boy, she found work at a livery stable where she became adept at handling horses. In 1851, a former employer offered her a position driving a stage route amidst California’s gold fields. For the next twenty years, Parkhurst drove for nearly every line around the Mother Lode. Parkhurst confronted robbers, Indians, runaway teams, and narrow mountain passes, eventually gaining a reputation as one of Wells Fargo’s fastest and safest drivers.

A kick from a horse cost Parkhurst an eye. From then on, nearly everyone called the tough little driver “One-Eyed Charley.” Sporting a black patch and a great coat of buffalo hide, Parkhurst drank, chewed, and gambled with the best of them – all the while keeping her secret.

Charley Parkhurst’s name appears on a list of registered voters in the 1868 presidential election of Ulysses S. Grant – some fifty years before women were legally allowed to vote! Californians contend that Parkhurst was the first woman to vote in the state and possibly the first in the nation.

In 1886, the Santa Cruz Surf stated that Charlotte was the daughter of one Frederick M. Parkhurst. Friends attempting to settle Parkhurst’s estate reported that in 1848 Charlotte was living with a Parkhurst family near Sandusky, Ohio. Indeed, the 1850 census of Townsend Twp., Sandusky County, Ohio lists a Charlotte L. Parkhurst, aged 16, living with the prominent Parkhurst family of Sandusky County. Yet, no local descendants have ever been able to place her.

Although the facts of Parkhurst’s early years remain elusive, she continues to hold a unique place in the rich history of California’s wild Gold Rush days. Students examine her extraordinary life in women’s studies courses. A ballad commemorates her Wells Fargo adventures. Women re-enactors drive six-hitch teams over her old Santa Cruz route. And today a monument near her grave declares “One-Eyed Charley” the first woman to vote in the United States.

John Garvin: U. S. Naval Academy Midshipman

John Garvin: U. S. Naval Academy

After helping defend Washington, D.C. during the last months of the Civil War, sixteen- year-old John Garvin of Fremont, Ohio, was certain he wanted a career in the United States Navy. Aided by his older brother Jacob, he received an appointment to the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis.

But aboard the frigate Santee, preparing for his first cruise, he was no longer sure. He wrote his brother, "The midshipmen play some pretty rough practical jokes on the green ones. The naval school is not such a fine thing as people at home think".

A week later, young John was convinced he was entirely unfitted for the Navy. He told Jacob, “My ardor for a military life is completely quenched." He wanted out! Knowing brother Jacob would be a tough sell, John wrote his brother, anticipating his every argument.

John claimed, "We are ordered around like dogs. A person might almost as well be in the States prison. As I do not like it here, I of course will not feel like applying myself much and will possibly fall behind and get expelled." And finally, if those weren't reasons enough to come home, he told Jacob, "The graduates from here are sadly corrupt in their morals and not only swear, chew & smoke, but drink to excess."

The following morning, John wrote again in desperation. This time he used a positive approach. He assured Jacob he would be happy in Fremont. Then, John must have wondered if Jacob might not want him at home? Well - that would be fine too! He pleaded, "IF I ONLY GET AWAY FROM HERE. Please send permission to leave …as I am sick and disgusted with the whole Navy and not merely the school."

Later that same day, desperate and angry, John fired off another letter. This time he issued an ultimatum. If Jacob didn't respond within one week, he would resign with or without his permission!

It must have been a relief to Jacob when the letters stopped coming. Whether the frigate put to sea or young John gave up trying to convince his brother, history does not record. But Garvin continued at the academy and became a fine naval officer, who loved life on the high seas. As he sailed the world, he wrote his brother delightful letters, filled with descriptions of exotic cities, dangerous hurricanes, and life aboard ship.

When not at sea, Garvin taught mathematics at Annapolis and inspected naval weaponry. He returned to Fremont and married Maude Edgerton in 1876. For the next eighteen years, whenever Garvin was stationed at U. S. ports, Maude and the couple’s children traveled there to be with him.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Martha Treat Canfield in the Civil War

Martha Treat Canfield
(General Ralph P. Buckland Collection)

"The ravages, the desolation, the misery, the horrors of war forced us to construct a religion of our own. If there was any heaven, a soldier who had endured the things we endured, would be very liable to go there, no matter if he had never heard of a creed or a catechism,” explained John Lemmon, captain of a company of northwest Ohio soldiers in the Civil War.

Shiloh had taught them harsh lessons: death did not discriminate between young and old, strong and weak, brave and cowardly, or righteous and sinner. Civil War soldiers, of whom 90 percent saw combat, became contemptuous of chaplains who, as Lemmon put it, “did not stay year. All went home long before the war ended.”

Others whom soldiers deemed more virtuous and selfless replaced them as religious counselors. For the 72nd Ohio, Martha Treat Canfield more than any other individual filled that role. She was the wife of Lt. Col. Herman Canfield, killed during the opening moments of the Battle of Shiloh. Despite her own grief, she comforted Julia Grant when her husband General Ulysses S. Grant came under severe criticism following the battle. That relationship gave Martha Canfield unique access to the 72nd and other Ohio regiments on the battlefield at a time when most thought women were “too delicate” for such work.

Intelligent, confident, and courageous, Martha Canfield acted as minister, nurse, and mother to thousands of Ohio soldiers. Captain Orin England of the 72nd claimed, “She did more good than all of the chaplains in the army. If we had one in every brigade, yes, one in every division, how much good they could do!”

With her young son in tow, she visited military hospitals in Memphis and Vicksburg where she found thousands dying for the lack of good food, clean water, and decent care. She sought help from Ohio’s governor and hundreds of aid societies. They responded with a continuous flow of medical supplies, nurses, and food to Union hospitals in the South. Ohioans funded her efforts to establish a hospital ship at Vicksburg and a waterworks system at the Memphis military hospital. “None excelled and few could equal the remarkable Martha Canfield on the battlefield or in the hospital,” claimed one admiring doctor.

When all else failed, she sought out General Ulysses S. Grant. Grant held Martha Canfield in such high regard that on one occasion, on her word alone, he cut through military red tape and ordered several thousand of the sickest soldiers onto boats, sending them North for better care.

When peace finally came, Martha Canfield’s efforts to help the sick and dying did not end. For the remainder of her life, she assisted at the Bristol, Rhode Island, hospital established by her physician sons.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Tragedy Along the Washita

Clara Harrington Blinn

Despite dangers and hardships, thousands of Americans settled in the West in the decade after the Civil War. Among them were Richard and Clara Blinn.

Clara Isabel Harrington was born in Elmore, Ohio, October 21, 1847. She was the daughter of William and Harriet Bosley Harrington, who owned the Baird House in Perrysburg, Ohio. On August 12, 1865, in Sandusky County, she married Civil War veteran Richard Blinn of Perrysburg. The couple spent their wedding night at the Croghan House in Fremont.

The Blinns settled in Colorado Territory, but hard times forced them to join a wagon train returning east to Kansas where Clara's father lived.

On October 9, 1868, near Lamar, Colorado, Cheyenne warriors attacked the train, carrying off Clara and two-year-old Willie Blinn. The warriors left their captives at the winter camp of Chief Black Kettle on the Washita River.

Charge of the U.S. Seventh Cavalry on Black Kettle's Village

(Harper's Weekly, December 19, 1868)

General Philip Sheridan ordered George Armstrong Custer to destroy the village in retaliation for raids throughout the region. Black Kettle pleaded for protection for his people from General William Hazen stationed at Fort Cobb. When Hazen learned that Clara and Willie were in Black Kettle's camp, he began negotiations for their release. His superior was of little help; Sheridan believed that Clara had been "subjected to fearful bestiality of perhaps the whole tribe; it is mock humanity to secure what is left of her for the consideration of five ponies."

Clara's feelings were decidedly different than those of Sheridan! A month after her capture, she smuggled a note to Hazen. Clara pleaded desperately for help - if not for herself, then for her son. Believing that her husband had died in the Cheyenne raid, Clara begged that someone notify her father in Franklin, Kansas.

Custer's troops struck the sleeping village before dawn on November 7. Black Kettle, his wife and 100 other Cheyennes died during the short but vicious battle. Two weeks later, Custer, accompanied by Sheridan, returned to the site of the massacre. There among the dead lay Clara - scalped, a bullet hole in her forehead, and her skull crushed. Nearby the generals found the thin, little body of Willie, bearing evidence of bruises about the head. Soldiers buried them at Fort Arbuckle.

Outraged by the deaths of Clara and Willie, General Hazen criticized the generals for attacking during his negotiations. Without eyewitnesses, the official inquiry proved futile.

Richard Blinn survived the Cheyenne raid. He was found on the plains, still searching for his loved ones. In his letter of condolence to Blinn, Sheridan enclosed a piece of Clara's dress and a lock of Willie's hair - remnants of the tragic end of Clara and Willie Blinn.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Van Horn/Hummel/Gephart/Fisher

Van Horn- Hummel-Gephart- Fisher
Sandusky County, Ohio
"Iomes (?) Grove." Sandusky Co, July 1908

The above photograph belongs to J. Derald Morgan of Madison Alabama. His grandmother, Leafy Fern Van Horn was born in Bettsville, Ohio, December 1886. Leafy Fern is seated sixth from the left, holding a small child on her lap.

Leafy Fern was the daughter of Samuel Cornelius and Emma Elizabeth Hummel Van Horn. Samuel had migrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio. He married Emma in Fremont, Ohio. Emma died in Bettsville on January 4, 1887, only a few weeks after Leafy Fern's birth. Samuel then married Emma's sister, Jennie. Emma and Jennie were two of the 12 children of Chrisitan and Margaret Ann (Fisher) Hummel (spelled Hoomel, Hommel, Hurnel, Harnel, and finally Hummel). Jennie (Hummel) Van Horn in Dalhart, Texas, August 14, 1929

Mary Hummel, an older sister of Emma and Jennie, married a Gephart. Other Hummel sisters married Rossenberger, Dicken, Keefer, Kiser, Young, Ludwig, and Rumpler.

Written on the back of the photo is the word "Iomes." However, it is difficult to read. If you know WHERE this picture was taken or WHO any of the individuals are, Dr. Morgan would appreciate your help. (DeraldM@knology.net)

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lake Erie's Ballast Island

The Cochran Cottage on Ballast Island, 1888

Lying a mile northeast of Put-in-Bay is Ballast, one of Lake Erie’s twenty islands. According to legend, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry used rocks from the island to provide ballast for his ships before sailing out to meet the British fleet during the War of 1812. A shallow reef connects the 13-acre island to a sliver of land known as Lost Ballast.

Life on Ballast was shaped by one of its earliest owners, commercial shipping magnate and two-time Cleveland mayor George W. Gardner. At age nine, he ran away from home to sail aboard a lake schooner bound for Buffalo. While still a teenager, Gardner became head clerk of the Northern Transportation Company, managing the accounts and cargoes of the firm’s Great Lakes vessels. After a 5-year stint in the banking business, Gardner purchased two tugs that plied the Cuyahoga River. In partnership with John Rockefeller and others, he shipped grain throughout the Great Lakes, making Cleveland one of the largest grain markets on the Great Lakes.

Cottage on Ballast's North Cliffs, 1888

Few men loved the water more than Gardner. Well before the Civil War, he founded the Ivanhoe Boat Club, bringing rowing to the Cuyahoga River. He later founded the Cleveland Yacht Club and organized the Inter-Lake Yachting Association. He canoed the Mississippi River from Cincinnati to New Orleans.

In 1874, Gardner purchased Ballast Island and a short time later sold undivided interests to his friends who enjoyed sailing nearly as much as he. Eventually, the cooperative association of wealthy friends built nine cottages along the east and west shores of the island. The Gardners’ cabin was built of logs from hackberry trees found on the island. A hotel and dining hall were constructed on the cliffs to the north. The families planted vineyards and fruit trees. At the invitation of Commodore Gardner, the Western Canoe Association transported its boat house from Ross Lake, Michigan to Ballast.

Lost Ballast Island, 1888

Those at Ballast formed their own canoe association, naming it the Longworth Canoe Club after the father-in-law of Alice Roosevelt Longworth. According to Commodore Gardner’s great granddaughter, Presidents Teddy Roosevelt, McKinley, Garfield, and Cleveland all visited at Ballast. And, each summer the resident canoe club and other canoe associations held their annual races in the sheltered waters surrounding Ballast.

Eventually, an ice house, caretaker's home, and work shed were added. All were protected by a curving breakwall made of log cribs filled with stone. Passing steamers and Ballast's proximity to South Bass Island made travel to and from the island convenient. Good friends, good conversation, and great sailing made summering on Ballast in these early years an idyllic time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Henry Pletscher and Lake Erie's Buckeye Island

Henry Pletscher

Buckeye Island is a small outcropping of glacial rock lying on the northeast tip of South Bass Island. For Henry Pletscher is was much more than rock and reef; it was his retreat –a place of peace and quiet where he spent long summer days tending his garden and fishing with friends and family.

Born in Cleveland in 1842, Henry served with the 13th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in some of the Civil War’s fiercest battles. After 3 years’ service, he returned home to marry his childhood sweetheart. Following the death of their two-year-old son from diphtheria, Henry headed West in search of his brother. Gone for nearly two years, Henry discovered upon his arrival back in Ohio that his wife, believing him dead, had married again. Heartbroken, Henry set out for the West once more. He re-enlisted, serving in the U. S. Cavalry in the Dakotas and the Arizona Territory with famed Indian fighter General George Crook.

It was Henry’s stories of high adventure fighting the Apaches that held his nieces spellbound. In a 1991 article in the Put-in-Bay Gazette, niece Elsa Watters shared her childhood memories of summer afternoons with Uncle Henry, listening to his tales as they picked raspberries, caught crayfish, and searched for seagulls’ nests.

Henry Pletscher at his cabin on Buckeye Island

According to his niece, Henry purchased the island in 1909. There he built a cabin, tool shed, and dock for his fishing boat and those of the many relatives he invited to Buckeye. Sharing his special place was Henry’s way of repaying family members with whom he stayed each winter.

But Henry’s days on that idyllic island came to an end on his 76th birthday. After stopping for a drink, Henry mistakenly signed papers agreeing to sell Buckeye. The following day, after realizing what he had done, Henry was nearly overcome by the loss. But he knew his little retreat was gone forever. Elsa recalled that “after that day, he seemed to shrink in stature.” It wasn’t long after that he left his beloved island for the Sandusky Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home.

On their visits to Put-in-Bay, his nieces would often stop at Sandusky to see Uncle Henry. They thought he seemed content enough, but life was never the same for Hnery. As Elsa put it, “his sparkle was gone with his island.” Henry Pletscher died there in the spring of 1922.

Without Henry, the winds and waves of Lake Erie began to take their toll on the little island. The garden, cabin, and dock soon were gone. But for Elsa Watters and her sister, their childhood memories of summer days on Buckeye Island with Uncle Henry would remain forever.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

That Magical Place: The Blue Hole

Blue Hole by Ernst Niebergall

If you grew up in northern Ohio during the 40s and 50s, chances are you made a trip to the Blue Hole near Castalia. I know I did. In fact, I recall passing through the impressive tufa rock entrance many times as we made our way to that fascinating natural phenomenon.

In my mind’s eye, I can still see myself as a child, bending over the rail of the rustic foot bridge. Mesmerized by the encrusted stumps and vegetation, I would peer deeply into the quiet blue-green waters of that “spring without a bottom.” With the vivid imagination of a child, I often wondered if it went all the way to China. What would happen if I fell in? Would I disappear forever like the farmer with his wagon and team of horses? Even though I later learned that the story was the stuff of legend, I am still certain that one time I saw a wagon wheel far below the Blue Hole’s quiet surface!

Blue Hole by Ernst Niebergall

I wasn’t the only one who found the Blue Hole a magical place. Long before Ohio was Ohio, the Wyandots believed the clear, cold waters held curative powers. And in 1761, when Major Robert Rogers first recorded the discovery of springs surrounding the Blue Hole, he called it a “remarkable fine spring.”

Years passed before I discovered that my mysterious Blue Hole was in fact a funnel-shaped sink hole created when pioneer Dorastus Snow built a grist mill and dam on Cold Creek in 1810. Water pooled, causing the collapse of strata in the area of the Blue Hole, allowing water to “spring” through to the opening.

The spring puts forth an estimated 450,000 gallons of water every hour! The water’s constant temperature of 48 degrees prevents the Blue Hole from ever freezing. Its color comes from its mineral content - potassium, magnesium, lime, soda and iron. Without oxygen, nothing grows in the enchanting pool of water that today measures 75 feet in diameter.

Owned by the Castalia Trout Club, the Blue Hole opened as a tourist attraction in 1925. Improved with fences, footbridges, walkways, and benches, “Ohio’s Greatest Natural Wonder” attracted an estimated 150,000 visitors annually during its heyday. On sunny days, visitors could see to a depth of 50 to 60 feet below the surface. The sun illuminated the openings through which water surged from the underground streams. After more than six decades, interest in the Blue Hole began to wane. In 1990, the Castalia Trout Club closed it to the public.

Whenever I grow nostalgic for those long-ago visits to the Blue Hole, I look at the photographs Ernst Niebergall took around 1910. They are now preserved in the Charles E. Frohman Collection at the Hayes Presidential Center. I see the Blue Hole in its natural setting, but it is one that I never knew. Now thanks to Glenn Kuebeler, I can enjoy Niebergall’s photos and many others that do depict the Blue Hole just as I remember it. Pick up Glenn’s book, “Castalia, Cold Creek, and the Blue Hole.” You will enjoy a memorable journey back to that magical Blue Hole of our past!
[This post was first published in "History Notebook" in Lifestyles2000]

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Allison Gollehon: Free Lecture on Quilting, June 29th at the Hayes Presidential Center

The Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, in conjunction with its exclusive exhibit Patterns from the Past: Quilts of Northern Ohio, presents a series of lectures by talented Ohio quilt artists and quilt experts.

Join Allison Gollehon of the Black Swamp Quilt Shoppe in Millbury at 2 P.M. Sunday, June 29th in the Hayes Presidential Center auditorium for the first in a series of 4 free lectures on quilting, A gifted quilt artisan, Allison discusses her favorite quilt medium in her talk titled Using Wool in Quilts. Her shop specializes in quilting-wool and she shares project ideas past and present with those in attendance.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Patterns from the Past: Quilts of Northern Ohio

Patterns from the Past: Quilts of Northern Ohio

Opening June 17th at the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center, Patterns from the Past: Quilts of Northern Ohio explores the deep influences of community, geographic region, ethnicity, family tradition, and personal aesthetics women expressed by variations in style, patterns, and designs in their quilts. The more than 30 quilts in this exhibit were selected not for their beauty, but rather for the subtle reminders of the cultures and deeply held values of the diverse groups who made northern Ohio their home. Rich in color and detail, the quilts featured in Patterns from the Past are a reflection of the women and the communities that would shape the future of Northern Ohio.

Sponsored by the
Kate Doust Family
with additional funding provided by the
Jeanne Reed Foundation


Mr. J. Patrick Doust
Firelands Historical Society Museum
Follett House Museum
Ms. Gretchen Schultz
Sandusky Public Library
Historic Lyme Village
Mr. Larry Michaels
Dorothy Metzger Family
Mountain Mist
Ms. Ricky Clark
East Toledo Historical Society
Mr. Dennis Park
Mr. Henry R. Timman
Economy Plumbing Supply
Ohio Historical Society
Sauder Village
Wood County Historical Society
Hayes Ohio Star Quilters Guild

Friday, May 2, 2008

Ohio's One Room Schoolhouses

Section 8 Ballville Twp. Sandusky County Ohio
(date unknown)

We still see them. They dot the rural landscape of Northwest Ohio. But today most exist in a state of disrepair, silently crumbling beside a country road, buried in the underbrush. Some have been converted into homes, garages, township storage buildings, and grange halls. Yet their very presence evokes nostalgia for many who view them as symbols of a simpler time. “One-room schoolhouses,” according to educator Fred Schroeder, “are cherished symbols of an all but vanished lifestyle: independent, family-centered, and consciously tied to the soil.”

Uniform in design with bell towers and tall, narrow windows and often constructed of brick, these American icons are in fact third-generation structures built in the 1870s and 1880s and later. Their predecessors were generally made of logs with window openings covered with greased paper, and floors of dirt or puncheon. Others were wood-framed with clapboard siding and cedar shingles.

If the architectural styles of the early one-room schoolhouses varied over time, their geographic location on Ohio’s rural landscape did not. This was spelled out in the Land Ordinance of 1784 and the Northwest Ordinance of 1785. Profits from the sale or leasing of the lands of section 16 in each township of the Northwest Territory were set aside to finance public schools. But sales were slow due to the abundance of land available

Laws establishing township school districts, inspectors, school committees, and a land valuation tax system soon remedied the situation, setting off a building boom of one-room schoolhouses across the state. So that no student would be forced to walk more than a mile, district boundaries were required to be no more than 4 square miles with the schoolhouse located near the geographic center.

Township trustees and their school committees oversaw the maintenance of the buildings, use of supplies, and expenses incurred. They kept track of the names, ages, and number of students in their districts. They hired, fired, and paid teachers as well as arranged for their room and board. All the while, they monitored the teaching abilities, character, and personal conduct of their educators.

The schoolhouse continued to play a central role in the lives of students long after their education ended. It was here that neighborhood dances, elections, prayer services, quilting bees, weddings, political rallies, and militia meetings were held. For decades, they remained at the heart of American rural life. Now long gone from our lives, it is little wonder that the legacy of the rural one-room schoolhouse lives on, forever interwoven into the fabric of our national heritage.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Dillon House: A Legacy of Gracious Hospitality

72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry Reunion at the Dillon House
(date unknown)

(Captain Jonathan Harrington Collection)

Among the fine Victorian homes that grace the streets of Fremont, Ohio is the Dillon House on Buckland Avenue. The Towered Second Empire design was the creation of local architect John C. Johnson. While Johnson was best known throughout the Midwest for his public buildings, he also received commissions to design private homes. It was Charles and Ann Buckland Dillon who asked Johnson to provide them with plans for a structure that at once expressed both warmth and elegance - one in which their growing family would enjoy the comforts of home and yet where friends could experience their gracious hospitality.

Ann Buckland, the daughter of prominent attorney and Civil War General Ralph P. Buckland married Charles Dillon in 1868. Dillon, part owner of a hardware business, was a druggist who founded what is today Grund Drug in Fremont.

The site chosen by the Dillons was one of several lots owned by Ann's father. It lay across from the Hayes Home situated on the grounds of Spiegel Grove. In the fall of 1873, then former Governor Rutherford B. Hayes wrote his sons that "Mr. Dillon was putting down the foundaton of his fine large brick house opposite to Spiegel Grove."

While the Dillons hoped to complete their house early the following year, construction took longer than expected. It wasn't until the fall of 1875 that the Dillons finally moved to their new home. Even then, the house wasn't finished. Despite delays, the Dillons achieved their goal. The elaborate pediments adorning the windows and detnal molding and cornices accentuating the roofline embellished the structure's understated elegance. Black walnut double doors brought from Michigan by Mr. Dillon created an impressive entranceway. Butternut woodwork filled the home's foyer, cozy alcoves, and stately rooms with a warmth that nearly glowed.

Perhaps no event reflected the Dillons' refined entertainment more than the wedding of their eldest daughter Mary to Irvin Fangboner. More than a hundred guests celebrated the couple's marriage at a "white and green" event held during the holiday season of 1898. The home was a profusion of white roses, carnations, and chrysanthemums. A bower of greens graced the downstairs parlor along with palms, ferns, and holly. At the top of the stairway, Mr. Dillon installed a beautiful leaded glass window for the occasion. Carrying white roses, Mary descended the stairs to the front hall and entered the parlor where the couple said their vows beneath the bower.

Charles and Ann Dillon on the front steps of the Dillon House with their children Ralph and Charlotte
(date unknown)

After the death of General Buckland, Ann and her younger brother George hosted reunions for their father's Civil War comrades of the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry. The Dillon home nearly overflowed with veterans and their families. Food, drink, and song were the order of the day. Women chatted and children played games on the lawn while the old soldiers gathered on the porches to remember long ago days of hard fighting.

Members of the Dillon family called 1329 Buckland Avenue "home" until 1960, when Charlotte Dillon Ickes, the youngest of Charles and Ann's daughters passed away. Purchased by the Hayes Presidential Center two years later, the Dillon House remains a gracious setting for spedcial occasions, echoing the warmth and hospitality of its former owners.

The ambience that the Dillons once enjoyed can stll be experienced at a Dillon House Tea or through rental for private events or business functions.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Walleye - Ohio's Most Prized Game Fish

Lake Erie Walleye
(Courtesy Ohio Fish and Wildlife)

On May 22nd, Port Clinton, Ohio will once again lay claim to its rightful title as the official WALLEYE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD during its annual Walleye Festival at Water Works Park. Other cities as far away as Garrison, North Dakota vie for rights to the title. But it is Port Clinton, lying on the western basin of Lake Erie, that has been home to the walleye since prehistoric times.

Sometimes called pike-perch, walleyed pike, or jack salmon, the walleye have few distinguishing marks other than their sharp teeth and whitish eyes. In Ohio’s early history, walleye often reached 20 years of age and weights of more than 20 pounds. Millions spawned from mid-April to early May in the clear waters of the Maumee, Sandusky, St. Mary’s, Scioto, Auglaize, and Muskingum rivers.

By the 1840s commercial fishing on Lake Erie began to grow at a rapid pace in an effort to meet the ever-growing demand of the fish market. During the 1880s, the heydey of Great Lakes commercial fishing, walleye could be found in abundance in Lake Erie. But by the turn of the century fishermen began to realize that the supply was not limitless.

Unloading a catch for fertilizer during the heydey of
Lake Erie's commercial fishing
(Charles E. Frohman Collection)

Pollution and heavy harvesting sent walleye into a dramatic downward spiral. Catches at Lake Erie ports that once ranged from one to fifteen million pounds annually were reduced to a mere 163.000 pounds by 1966. Four years later, commercial fishing for walleye was banned in Ohio waters. Despite restocking and establishing catch limits, the walleye, the most prized fish of Lake Erie, remains in a precarious state. Their movements, spawning, and diet remain under close and constant scrutiny by conservationists and biologists.

Historically, the Sandusky River has always made a significant contribution to Lake Erie’s walleye harvest. Famous for its spring run, the river produces some of the largest of its species. Yet the walleye population has been declining for the past 30 years. For this reason, the river has become the focus of a 3-year study to learn more about walleye spawning behavior.

Biologists believe that the Ballville Dam, built on the Sandusky River in 1911, may limit spawning, confining walleye in an area downstream that contains one-tenth the suitable spawning habitat. Tracking walleye equipped with radio transmitters will provide a better understanding of spawning habits on the Sandusky River and out into the Sandusky Bay - and ultimately improve the population of Ohio's most prized game fish.

To learn more about Port Clinton's Walleye Festival go to http://www.walleyefestival.com/

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Lower Sandusky Temperance Society

Constitution of Lower Sandusky Temperance Society
By almost any standard, early Americans drank not only universally but in large quantities. According to historians, average annual consumption at the time of the Revolution equaled 3 ½ gallons of pure 200 proof alcohol per person. By 1830, hard liquor consumption reached nearly 9 gallons per every man, woman, and child – excluding ale, hard cider, and wine!

Historians tell us that a that a "keg or bottle of rum, whiskey, or gin was a staple at weddings, funerals, frolics, cabin raisings, and log rolling." Early Sandusky County pioneer Ezra Howland matter-of-factly reported that Lower Sanduskians “gathered early one SUNDAY morning with a keg of whiskey and proceeded in raising the courthouse.” Lawyers often drank before court. Physicians believed in liquor's curative effects.

List of signers of Lower Sandusky Temperance Pledge
As the problem grew, temperance societies formed throughout the country. The Lower Sandusky (Fremont) Temperance Society functioned much as other chapters across the nation in their attempts to control the “evils of drink.” The group raised funds for the national organization, presented a proclamation to the “town fathers,” and petitioned for better law enforcement. Interestingly, its first meeting took place on July 4, 1839. Nearly 200 Lower Sanduskians took the “pledge.”

Perhaps the success of the society was due in large part to one man – Ezra Williams. Williams had come “west” from New York in the early 1820s. By 1824, he was running the tavern of Israel Harrington. The following year, he built a distillery at “the foot of the east side hill just south of State Street” in Fremont, Ohio.

Here Williams created some of the purest whiskey that could be had. His experienced distiller combined just the right amounts of corn and rye to produce an exceptional product. The distillery was the chief source of revenue for area farmers, who sold some 12,000 bushels of corn to Williams annually. Catherine Hawk Tillotson remembered that “Williams’ hogs filled themselves with the slops or swill or other refuse of the distillery…it was a dirty place, and a dirty business.”

But all of that changed when Williams found religion at a revival meeting. He abandoned his distillery and true to his new found faith became a charter member of the society. For the first time, the amount of liquor available in Sandusky County declined. Clearly the Lower Sandusky Temperance Society brought about the first real change in the drinking habits of the early pioneers.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Coverlet Weavers in Northwest Ohio

Unidentified Seneca County, Ohio children pose for their photograph before an overshot coverlet used as a backdrop

In a letter to her husband, then serving in the Civil War, young Josephine Hetrick of Washington Twp. Sandusky County, wrote, “I have been weaving all day and must go at it again tomorrow.” Weaving cloth on a hand loom for her family’s needs was a skill that was part of Josephine’s heritage. The tradition of producing cloth from wool, flax, and cotton was brought to Ohio by European immigrants and their descendants. From the 1820s through the Civil War era, these talented weavers played a key role in Ohio’s textile production.

Seneca County, with strong German influence, claimed more than a dozen professional weavers during this period including, John Bick of Rome: Henry Miller of McCutchenville; Jacob Sherman of Attica; Charles Schoch of Thompson Twp.; and Henry Brinkman, Jacob Kline, and John Gites of Hopewell Twp. These skilled artisans produced durable, colorful, and richly decorated coverlets for their families and communities.

Overshot coverlet woven in Ballville Twp., Sandusky County, Ohio
ca. 1850
weaver unknown
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Collection

By the 1830s, many professional weavers had purchased Jacquard attachments for their box frame looms. The series of punched cards with encoded designs (a forerunner of today’s digital technology) was attached to the hand loom, making it possible to control the warp and weft yarns. Traditional geometric patterns soon gave way to the complicated designs that could be created only with the Jacquard attachment: birds, flowers, buildings, trees, animals, patriotic emblems, and folk motifs.

Weavers could purchase sets of punched cards or they could punch their own to produce unique designs and their corner “signature” blocks. In the “signature” block, a Jacquard weaver could advertise his product and identify himself by giving his name; date; and the state, county, or township where he lived. Sometimes a weaver even included the name of his customer. Today, it is the “signature” block that provides clues to a coverlet’s origins.

Functional and relatively inexpensive, coverlets were very much a part of Ohio’s middle-class life. They were used commercially in railroad cars, Civil War hospitals, and servants’ quarters. They can often be seen in period photographs such as this one, where a coverlet serves as a backdrop for an image of three Seneca County children.

More sophisticated tastes and the development of the automatic loom shortly after the Civil War forced weavers to find new work or migrate to other areas. Yet in rural Ohio, Pennsylvania, Indiana, and New York - where the German influence remained strong – families continued to use these durable coverlets long after their creators had died or moved on. They can still be found in homes, museum collections, and antique shops. Today, because of their rich designs and inherent beauty, woven coverlets are no longer viewed as common household goods, but rather as works of art.

Jacquard coverlet by weaver P. Shreffler, Washington Twp. Sandusky County
date unknown
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Collection

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Bob Hines: Wildlife Artist

Bob Hines
(Courtesy of U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

For Bob Hines, the Sandusky River Valley’s wildlife proved an endless source of fascination. Camping, fishing, and hiking consumed his boyhood days. Little did he know that these experiences would dictate the course of his life.

Born in Columbus in 1912, Hines moved with his family to Fremont, Ohio, at the age of nine. He quickly transformed the Hines property into his personal “backyard zoo.” At any given time he could be found tending a menagerie of wild creatures – turtles, toads, fish, woodchucks, skunks, ducks, quail, and crow.

After graduating from Ross High School in 1928, Hines worked as a cook, inspector, and shipping clerk. Later, through a correspondence course, he learned taxidermy. Forced to rest during an illness, he took up drawing and painting the wildlife he so cherished.

In 1939, Hines was offered the position of staff artist of the Ohio Division of Conservation. When he discovered that his work would involve painting with oils, a medium he had never used, Hines contacted his high school art teacher Mary Williams. She provided a four-day crash course in oil painting. It was the last formal training Hines would ever have.

For nearly a decade, Hines illustrated the agency’s “Ohio Conservation Bulletin” and “Under Ohio Skies,” a wildlife education feature that appeared in 250 newspapers. Hines’ work caught the eye of Frank Dufresne, Chief of Information at the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Before long, Hines was in Washington working as an artist-illustrator for the Fish and Wildlife Service.

From simple pen-and-ink line drawings to large murals, Hines’ artwork graced brochures, newsletters, wildlife guides, scientific articles, posters, prints, books, and buildings. He created the first series of wildlife postage stamps. Hines also managed the celebrated Federal Duck Stamp competition. Especially gifted at painting and describing waterfowl, Hines' Ducks at a Distance became a classic waterfowl primer, selling two million copies.

Atlantic Salmon
(Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

In 1991, Hines completed his final commission – the 50th anniversary edition of Rachel Carson’s Under the Sea-Wind. Carson, marine biologist and founder of the modern environmental movement, came to know Hines during their years at the wildlife service. In 1955, she commissioned her friend and colleague to illustrate her second book The Edge of the Sea.

When Bob Hines died in 1994, an admirer of his work wrote that “he had left behind a visual legacy of the wonder and beauty of the natural world.” His exceptional talent and knowledge of pose, plumage, and habitat merged to create living, breathing works of art.

Hines’ work was the subject of a special exhibit at the prestigious Ward Museum of Wildfowl Art in Salisbury, Maryland, in 2003.

Acorn Woodpecker
(Courtesy of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

Kurt Ludwig: Nazi Spy

[Courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation]

Although he did not know it at the time, the life of Kurt Ludwig and his secret plans first began to unravel in one of America’s most public places – New York City’s Times Square. It was on March 18, 1941, near 7th Avenue, that Ludwig was to meet the man ordered to take control of the German spy ring he had organized for the Third Reich. But a freak traffic accident had left his counterpart dead and Ludwig fleeing the scene with documents intended for the Nazis.

Born in Fremont, Ohio, in 1903, Ludwig was taken to Germany by his parents as a small child. He visited the U. S. on several occasions in the 1920s and 1930s, but by 1938, Ludwig was in Austria spying for the Nazis. Discovered and detained, Ludwig remained in Austria until Hitler's takeover a month later. Returning to Germany, Ludwig was ordered to the U.S. to establish a spy network.

Ludwig recruited agents from New York’s German American Bund groups, many of whom were sympathetic to the Third Reich. Traveling the East Coast, Ludwig and his ring gathered data on U. S. shipping, aircraft production, troop strength, and munitions. Ludwig used couriers, short wave radio, invisible ink, code, and the alias "Joe K" to transmit his information to Berlin. High priority materials went directly to Heinrich Himmler.

Through British intelligence and the investigation of the Times Square accident, the FBI determined that Ludwig was indeed the Nazi spy known as "Joe K." Hoping to learn the identities of his agents, the FBI placed Ludwig under surveillance. It wasn’t until some months later that Ludwig realized that agents were watching his every move. In an attempt to escape, Ludwig led agents on a cross-country chase, finally stopping in Missoula, Montana to destroy evidence, store his car, and ship his luggage to East Coast relatives. Fearing that Ludwig would escape to Germany via Japan, FBI agents arrested him not far from Seattle.

Prosecutors indicted agents of the "Joe K" spy ring in Federal Court in New York City on charges of espionage and treasonable conspiracy. Eighteen-year-old Lucy Boehmler, who had joined the ring for "excitement," testified against her co-defendants. In January 1943, a jury deliberating just over two hours, found the entire "Joe K" spy ring guilty as charged.

Ludwig was sentenced to 20 years. He escaped the death penalty because his espionage activities were conducted before the U.S. declared war. Ludwig was imprisoned on Alcatraz Island until 1953 when he was released and then deported from the U.S.

You can read more about Kurt Ludwig and the "Joe K" spy ring on the FBI website.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

White House Easter Egg Roll

White House Easter Egg Roll
[Courtesy of the Library of Congress]
Slowly, silently, the White House gates opened. In dashed a group of small boys. Each carried a basket of brightly-colored Easter eggs. As they rushed across the freshly clipped grass of the South Lawn, their numbers multiplied. Out of nowhere, hordes of laughing, giggling children - some in dainty pinafores, others in tattered rags - flooded the White House lawn. Moments later, the grounds were alive with streams of color as thousands of Easter eggs rolled and bounced down the slopes. Behind them came hundreds of children, running, tumbling, screaming, and laughing all the way to the bottom. From inside the White House, President Rutherford B. Hayes and the First Lady watched with delight.

Washington's children always had claimed the grounds around the halls of government as their own on Easter Monday. Even before the Civil War, thousands of little ones gathered on the lawns of the U.S. Capitol to roll, race, toss, chase, and eat gaily-painted eggs. At noon government workers, nannies, and nurses came with picnic lunches to watch the fun. The afternoon was spent playing tag, croquet, skipping rope, racing, and floating eggshells. Only when the sun set did the celebration end.

But on Easter Monday in 1877, Congressmen were horrified to find the Capitol rotunda filled with screaming children, broken eggshells, and discarded sandwiches. Determined to return dignity to the hallowed halls, they signed a bill into law forbidding any such future events on the Capitol grounds. But even an act of Congress could not prevent the children of Washington from enjoying their East Egg Roll.

The following year, just before Easter, a boy bravely approached President Hayes and asked, "Are you going to let us roll eggs in your yard?" Unfamiliar with the event, Hayes answered, "I don't know, I'll have to see about that." When the White House staff explained the tradition, the President good-naturedly ordered the gates left unlocked on Easter Monday. Hidden from view, the Hayeses and their staff watched with amusement as children slipped through the gates to roll eggs on the South Lawn. The next year, the Easter Egg Roll became an official White House celebration and has remained so ever since.

Today the staff prepares 10,000 eggs for this unique event hosted by the First Lady, with each adding her personal touch to the 125-year-old tradition. Mrs. Nixon brought the Easter Bunny. Betty Ford introduced eggs decorated in the Ukrainian style. Rosalyn Carter presented souvenir eggs. Nancy Reagan autographed wooden eggs, and Hillary Clinton's featured the paw print of Socks the cat. More importantly, the White House Easter Egg Roll remains a fun-filled day especially for children - just as it did in President Hayes' time.

Monday, February 11, 2008

The Wild Wolf Hunt

Last Wolf in Sandusky County

The air was crisp and clear as dawn broke - a perfect day for a hunt. Right on schedule, men began arriving with guns and ammo packed. Within minutes, the caravan pulled out of Fremont, Ohio. The "wild wolf hunt" was on!

During the first weeks of 1917, the hen houses and barnyards of Jackson Township farmers had been the target of nighttime raids by what some thought was a wolf. Most were certain the culprit was a dog, as it had been years since anyone had seen a wolf roaming the countryside. Mass hunts, poison, traps, and the destruction of the forests had ended their reign.

Once common throughout the Black Swamp, wolves hunted in packs, working together to feed and care for their young. Their haunting howls echoed through the forests at night, sending shivers down the spines of little ones. Wolves found the livestock of early pioneers easy pickings. Skilled hunters, they became an ever-increasing threat to the very livelihood of farmers. To reduce their numbers, the state of Ohio established bounties of up to $15 for each wolf scalp. One record book from the 1830s shows Sandusky Countians claimed payment for no fewer than 85 wolves.

Arriving in Jackson Township, the hunters - more than 200 of them – organized into squads. It wasn’t long before they had flushed the animal from Jacob Gabel’s woods near the Greensburg Pike. Desperate to escape, the animal fled south across snow-covered fields toward Havens Station. In hot pursuit, the troops chased their prey for more than a mile as the squads to the south and east pushed forward. Excitement reached fever pitch as the cornered animal came into sight. Within minutes, the mighty hunters took aim and began blasting away.

Weapon used by William Long on the Wolf Hunt
Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center Collection

All 200 rushed to inspect the kill. Indeed it was a timber wolf! Ross Koleman finished him off with a few rounds from his revolver. Shots rang out in celebration, but minutes later an argument erupted. Charlie Pero, a crack shot, claimed to have brought him down with his Winchester. William Long was sure his 10-gauge shotgun had done the job. C. E. Hite, Clyde Mitchell, and Gene Swint also claimed the prize.

As the argument grew more heated, someone threw the riddled carcass into the trunk of a car and made ready for a quick getaway. A dozen angry men moved into action. They grabbed the back of the car, lifted it from the ground, and stopped it dead in its tracks.

Back in Fremont, the debate over who killed the timber wolf raged for days. Finally, with no resolution in sight, the men reluctantly agreed to have the wolf mounted and placed on public display in the Birchard Public Library. But before the prize was turned over, the hunters arranged for a series of photographs of themselves at the kill site. The photographs would document for all time when, where, and WHO had brought down the last wolf of Sandusky County, Ohio.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Rockwell Springs Trout Club: A Fisherman's Paradise

Two miles south of Castalia, near the Sandusky Erie County line, lies Rockwell Springs Trout Club. For more than a century, the club has been a fly fisherman's paradise and a place of respite for members, their families and guests. Organized in 1900, the club acquired title to property on Little Pickeral Creek previously owned by the Bellevue Trout Club. They named the club after the natural sink that feeds the stream with cold, clear waters.
Within a few short years, the organization erected a clubhouse and recreation building that included a fish hatchery in its basement. Speckled trout eggs shipped from Michigan were gently turned with feathers until they hatched. Fed a diet of ground liver, the hatchlings were released into ponds when they reached the fingerling stage. Members used metal plates pulled by mules to dig the original streambed. To maximize fishing habitat, the club developed channels that coil snakelike throughout the property.

Rockwell Springs ca. 1950

[from the Charles E. Frohman Collection]

Families came by train from Columbus, Cleveland, Akron, and Toledo. Met by the caretaker, they were transported to the grounds by horse and buggy. While the men fished, the women sewed, played cards, and chatted at the clubhouse. The children enjoyed croquet and swung from the big cottonwood tree out over the pond.

Rockwell Springs ca. 1950

[from the Charles E. Frohman Collection]

The Depression, declining membership, and the threat of development forced Rockwell Springs to re-organize several times. By 1940, George Ball of the Ball Mason Jar Company had taken title to the property in exchange for paying the club’s debts.

Inspired by the possibilities of reviving Rockwell Springs as a for profit Club, Sandusky’s former city manager Webb Sadler bought the property from Ball. Sadler was no stranger to establishing successful recreation areas. He was the driving force behind Sandusky’s Battery Park and later helped develop the Castalia Blue Hole and managed the Castalia Trout Club.

With Sadler at the helm, the club quickly grew to more than a thousand members. Critical to Sadler’s success was his relationship with neighboring trout clubs and his friendship with William Levis of Owens Illinois, owner of Castalia Farms. Levis shared his resources and exchanged information with Sadler. Through his influence wealthy executives, politicians, celebrities, and professional athletes found their way to Rockwell Springs.

Sadler transformed the property, renovating buildings, improving streambeds, and increasing water flow. After Sadler’s death in 1953, members purchased shares held by his estate and Rockwell Springs Trout Club became member owned and operated.

Rockwell Springs ca. 1950

[from the Charles E. Frohman Collection]

During the 50s and 60s, the club flourished. Its 600 members devoted themselves to creating the ultimate experience in fly fishing - whether expert or novice. They gradually purchased adjacent lands, more than doubling the size of the property. Streams, wells, and accommodations were added.

Today, more than 20,000 brook, brown, and rainbow trout swim the two and a half mile stream that wends its way through the 125-acre oasis of wildflowers, willow, honey locust, and tulip trees. Members, many from third generation families, come to test their skills against the skittish fish, enjoy Rockwell Springs' social life, and find peace and serenity in this trout paradise.