Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Wehrle Hall on Middle Bass Island

The Wehrle family founded the wine business that first gave Middle Bass Island its fame. The winery Wehrle, Werk, and Sons was one of the earliest businesses on the island. The elder Andrew Wehrle emigrated from Germany in 1852, and established the business on Middle Bass. Achieving success, he erected a large hotel and dance pavilion on the island (shown above). It is said the Grover Cleveland made the Wehrle Hotel his headquarters during his fishing trips on Lake Erie. The Wehrle family ended operation of the winery shortly after Andrew Wehrle, Sr.'s death in 1896; the business was eventually taken over by the Golden Eagle Wine Cellars. In the 1920's a fire destroyed the wine cellars, hotel and dancing pavilion.

Andrew Wehrle, Jr. was said to be the first child born Middle Bass Island. He achieved his own prominence through a coal business in Sandusky, which he operated until 1900. The old steamer A. Wehrle, Jr. was named after him. Andrew Wehrle, Jr. died on Jan. 4, 1931.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Program Announcement: Early Adventures at Put-in-Bay, Middle Bass and Johnson's Island

Join us in the Library Program Room on Saturday, August 23, at 11:00 a.m. when Michael Gora gives a presentation on Lake Erie Islands history and his new book Early Adventures at Put-in-Bay, Middle Bass and Johnson's Island. This new book is a collection of true stories of the Lake Erie Islands covering the period 1786-1865. About half the stories are from pre-1830 newspapers and have not been in print anywhere in over 175 years. Michael is the Middle Bass Island Historian for the Lake Erie Islands Historical Society. He also operates the Middle Bass Island website at, which has placed many island photos on the web as well as a good bit of island history. A retired software engineer, he has edited Lake Erie Islands: Sketches and Stories, one of the largest compilations of island history, and was also the editor of the revised edition of Lonz of Middle Bass. Copies of the books will be available for purchase and signing at the program.
Registration is requested but not required. To register, call 419-625-3834 and press 0 to speak with a switchboard operator (9-5, Monday-Friday) or press Option 6 to leave a message.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Cigar Making in Sandusky

Back in the days when it seemed like nearly everyone smoked (long before the Surgeon General's report), cigar manufacturing was a major industry in Sandusky. An article in the January 30, 1904 issue of the Sandusky Evening Star reported that nearly three million cigars a year were produced in Sandusky! Eighteen factories in the city produced these cigars, employing about 175 workers. The article went on to note that "Sandusky stands second to Tiffin, where there are several big factories which make stogies. Sandusky has no stogie factories."Many of the factories had their own retail stores. The Dietz & Mischler company, shown above, was at 224 Columbus Avenue. They might be best known for the statue of Puck holding a bundle of cigars in the store window. The Henry Ritter & Sons store, at 139 Columbus Avenue, had a wooden statue of Punch outside its door to entice customers. Both Punch and Puck can been seen today in the Follett House Museum.

Here is a view of activity at the Ritter factory in 1903:
Ritter's store, circa 1890:

And here are members of the Cigar Makers International Union, Sandusky Local, in 1905:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


An incorporated community called “Homeville” sprung up in the late 1800’s near the Ohio Soldiers and Sailors Home, now the Ohio Veterans Home. The area is located between Woodlawn Avenue and the Veterans Home, and is bordered by Columbus Avenue and Milan Road. Many streets were named for military leaders, such as Generals Grant, John Beatty, and Manning Force. Paxton and Dill Avenues were named after Thomas Paxton and Thomas Dill, both members of the first Board of Trustees of the Soldiers Home.

August Speir had a store on Dewitt Avenue in 1900, pictured below.
Later the Homeville Big Store was located at 113 and 115 Dewitt Avenue. It was owned and operated by Otto Luedtke in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and featured a barber shop in the rear of the building. The Scheid family operated a store and rooming house in Homeville in the 1920’s.

In 1916 Rev. Edward Burton and his wife Caroline began having church services at the Homeville Union Gospel Mission. The Sandusky Star Journal of January 6, 1917 reported on the new mission. There was to be Bible class, catechism, and Charley Tyree would provide mandolin music. After Rev. and Mrs. Burton died, there was a Pentecostal Mission in Homeville.

The local newspapers frequently ran articles about events in Homeville, usually in the same column as news of the Veterans Home. There was news about weddings, funerals, and social affairs. On January 15, 1901, the Sandusky Daily Star had a story about a medium who conducted seances. There were frequent articles about new homes and businesses, and the population increasing. A 1919 article stated that the residents of Force and Dill Avenues in Homeville “will soon be putting on city airs as wires are now being strung in those avenues by the Sandusky Superior Electric Company.”

By the 1920’s and 1930’s a large percentage of the population of Homeville was African American. Other areas of Sandusky where African Americans settled were Searsville, in Perkins Township, as well as a section of town from Hayes Avenue to Camp Street, known as the “South Side.” The February 8, 1998 issue of the Sandusky Register ran a feature article about Searsville, which was named for Rev. Sears, a minister who lived at Carbon Avenue, and lived to be a reported 102 years of age, after having been born into slavery in 1854. Rev. Silas Sears died in 1956, and you can read his obituary in the August 21, 1956 issue of the Register Star News.

Sandusky is rich in its history, and can truly be considered the proverbial “Melting Pot.” Visit the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library to learn more about Sandusky and the wide variety of individuals who have made Sandusky their home.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Thomas Edison’s Visit to Erie County

On August 11, 1923, Thomas Alva Edison visited his birthplace in Milan, Ohio. He was accompanied by Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, and Walker D. Hines. The group had recently attended the funeral of President Warren Harding in Marion, Ohio.

Judge Roy Williams, another former Milan resident, formally welcomed Thomas Edison. A crowd of two thousand people had gathered in Milan to get a glimpse of the famous inventor and his friends. A band played “Hail, Hail the Gang’s All Here.”
Judge Williams is pictured above, with two of the ladies from the first female jury in Erie County in 1920.

After visiting Milan, the men drove to Cedar Point, where they spent the night at the Hotel Breakers. On August 12, the men were dinner guests of Mrs. Edward Wheeler. As a boy, Thomas Edison had played with childhood friends at the Wheeler farm, which had been owned by Hiram Page during Edison’s youth. The Sandusky Register carried front page stories of the visit of Edison, Ford and Firestone on August 11 and August 12, 1923. Thomas Edison declined to address the crowd, saying “I’m too deaf to speak.” Henry Ford said “I’ve heard to so much talk that I don’t know what to say.” Harvey S. Firestone began his speech with: “Mrs. Firestone has all the hot air in our family. I’m no speaker, but upon this occasion I might say that I am here to reflect the glory of this occasion. I am proud to be known as a friend of the greatest man of the generation, Thomas A. Edison and as the friend of a benefactor of the nation, Henry Ford.”

The book Uncommon Friends, by James D. Newton, gives insight into the relationship of Thomas Edison with Henry Ford, Harvey Firestone, Alexis Carrel, and Charles Lindbergh. This book is available for loan through the ClevNet Consortium.

On February 19, 1927, Thomas Edison once again was in the newspaper regarding his ties to Erie County. Edison had written to Erie County Auditor Fred W. Bauer, questioning why his property in Milan had been reappraised by thirty percent.

In 1929, a floral mound honored Thomas A. Edison in Washington Park.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Dr. Clarence E. Thompson

Pictured above is the Monroe School’s third grade class in 1900. Clarence E. Thompson is number 38, and to his right is his brother Moses Thompson. Clarence and Moses were the sons of Moses and Frances Thompson. The whole family was very active in the St. Stephen A.M.E. Church, which was close to the family home on Neil Street.
Clarence Thompson was the Athletic Editor of The Fram in 1910. He was a member of the graduating class of 1910 ½, which actually had its graduation exercises in February of 1911. During the graduating class exercises, he gave a speech entitled “The True Mission of Nations.” Graduation was held at Sidley Memorial Hall, and the central theme of the ceremony was “Peace.”
Following graduation, Clarence E. Thompson attended the University of Michigan, along with another Sandusky High School graduate, Norbert Lange. After one year of college in Michigan, he transferred to Ohio State University, where he also attended medical school. In an article in the Sandusky Register, June 12, 1919, it was said that Clarence Thompson “made strenuous efforts to accomplish his purposes in life.”

Dr. Thompson began his internship at Provident Hospital in Chicago in September of 1919. He practiced medicine in Chicago for forty seven years. After a brief illness, he passed away in Provident Hospital on April 23, 1967.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

A View of Washington Row in 1906

Pictured below is a portion of Washington Row around 1906. The Odd Fellows Hall was built in 1889, by members of Ogontz Lodge No. 66. Like other lodge halls of this era
the Lodge met upstairs, and businesses rented space on the ground floor. John J. Marquart’s Undertaking Business is seen at the left of the photograph. George J. Doerzbach and John F. Renner were dealers in Pianos, Organs, and Musical Merchandise. Each gentleman’s name was featured above separate windows.

To the east of Renner & Doerzbach, was the Central Union Telephone Company. A small bell is barely visible in the lower left window. The telephone company building had previously been the home of Lucas Beecher, a well known lawyer and abolitionist. This building has been identified as a station on the Underground Railroad. A “hair dressing parlor” was in operation on the floor level of the Sloane Hotel, immediately to the east of the telephone company.

Below is a page from the Sanborn Fire Maps containing the Washington Row block between Jackson Street and Columbus Avenue.
By gathering information from the Sanborn Maps, city directories, and local history books of the area, we can learn more about everyday life at the turn of the century in Sandusky, Ohio. The telephone was a relatively new device. Transportation modes included bicycles and the horse and buggy. The store selling pianos and organs lets us know that music was of cultural significance to community residents. A large hotel indicates that the city of Sandusky was frequented by out of town visitors.

Visit the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library to learn more about the people and businesses of Erie County. The Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps and Heritage Quest are two of the Research Databases which are accessible from home through the Ohio Public Library Information Network.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Cartes de Visite from Johnson's Island

While the 128th Ohio Volunteer Infantry, the Hoffman Battalion, was the main unit stationed at the Johnson’s Island Prison Camp during the Civil War, in 1864 other units were also brought in. Mrs. Charles Livingston Hubbard donated three carte-de-visites of Civil War soldiers to the Sandusky Library historical museum in 1920. Mrs. Hubbard was the daughter of William T. West, who built the West House hotel with his brother Abel West in 1858. William T. West and Philander Gregg received the government contract to build the initial buildings at Johnson’s Island Prison. William West appears in the image below in the late 1800’s.
The carte de visite was a small photograph, designed to be used in place of a calling card or as a pocket-sized memento of a loved one.

Captain George A. Bernard’s picture was taken by Sandusky photographer R. E. Weeks. A search in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database located a General George A. Bernard in the 65th New York Infantry. R. E. Weeks featured an advertisement in the 1858 Sandusky City Directory for his “Ambrotype & Daguerreotype Gallery,” located over Olds Book Store on Columbus Avenue. By 1869, Weeks was listed as a photographer.

Dr. Roller’s photograph was taken by C.V. Olds. Charles V. Olds had a bookselling business on Columbus Avenue, but during the Civil War, he also ran a “Union Photograph Gallery” at his bookstore. Dr. Charles W. Roller is listed as a surgeon with the Pennsylvania 23rd Infantry in the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors Database. A third Civil War soldier is Major A. E. King, whose photograph was taken by C. V. Olds. To date, his Civil War unit has not been identified. If anyone knows more details about Major King, please leave a comment on the blog. Mrs. Hubbard was only nine years of age when these photographs were taken, so they were most likely passed on to her from her parents. William T. West was a well-connected Sandusky businessman, and perhaps he encouraged local photographers to get to know the visiting soldiers, and promote the local economy as well.

Many resources pertaining to the Johnson’s Island Prison are available at the Archives Research Center of the Sandusky Library. Charles Frohman’s book Rebels on Lake Erie discusses prison life as well as the conspiracy of prisoners to escape. James E. Duffy’s Victim of Honor is a historical novel based on the plot engineered by Confederate officer John Yates Beall to free prisoners from the Johnson's Island Civil War Prison Camp.

The Follett House Museum has many artifacts from Johnson’s Island, including a barber chair that was built by the prisoners.

Friday, August 01, 2008

"Tin Can Tourists" Meet in Sandusky

From August 3 to 17, 1936, the Tin Can Tourists of America had their summer convention at the Erie County Fairgrounds in Sandusky, Ohio. Over 1,500 members traveled with their trailers for the outing. The Sandusky Chamber of Commerce cooperated with the Tin Can Tourists in planning the event, and the city of Sandusky provided fire protection.

The August 13 Sandusky Register reported that the cost for parking a trailer was one dollar per week, with fifty cents extra for those using electricity. A local committee, headed by Theodore J. Butts, organized outings to area attractions, such as Cedar Point, Crystal Rock Caves, the Blue Hole, and Edison’s Birthplace. Harry Bolus, a former member of the Al G. Fields Minstrels, was in charge of entertainment. Each night the tourists enjoyed dances and other special entertainment. The summer event featured the largest exhibit of trailer manufacturers “ever presented to trailerdom.”

The New York Times featured an article about the Tin Can Tourists on August 2, 1926, and Modern Mechanix carried an article entitled “Trailer Life Lures More Thousands” in its November 1936 issue. Peggy Riccelli is pictured in a toy automobile and trailer owned by the son of Dr. Lester Mylander. The Erie County Fairgrounds is still a popular gathering place. It served as the official campground for participants of the popular Ohio Bike Week.