Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Lake Shore Route Association

Pictured above is a picture the Official Information Car of the Lake Shore Route Association, taken in the 1930s.  The Lake Shore Route Association promoted the Lake Shore Route as the shortest, safest, most scenic automobile route between Buffalo, New York and Chicago, Illinois. The opening of the old Sandusky Bay Bridge on February 2, 1929 allowed automobiles to travel in a direct route from Erie County to Ottawa County across Sandusky Bay. The Sandusky Bay Bridge was a key component of the Lake Shore Route in the 1930s.

 In June of 1933, three members of the Lake Shore Association took an automobile tour along the Lake Shore Route, en route to the World’s Fair in Chicago. Along the way, members distributed maps and brochures promoting the Sandusky Bay Bridge, Cedar Point, Lakeside, and other points of interest in Erie and Ottawa Counties. In 1939 the Lake Shore Route Association compiled a booklet which promoted the Lake Erie area. Highlighted were beaches, Camp Perry, the Blue Hole, Cedar Point, campsites, and areas for fishing and boating.

 According to an article which appeared in the January 29, 1931 issue of the Sandusky Register, a very early Lake Shore Route was built in 1808 from Cleveland to Sandusky. Geauga County Commissioners were instrumental in creating the plan for a road to extend from the west bank of the Cuyahoga River to the western most lands of the Firelands. Seven hundred dollars were appropriated for digging and the building of bridges over brooks and creeks. The contractor requested extra funds for the construction of a log bridge to be built over Old Woman’s Creek. By the 1940s, the Lake Erie Islands region was promoted as Vacationland. Today Lake Erie’s Shores and Islands is instrumental in providing information about the many attractions and natural features of Erie and Ottawa Counties.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Flood of June 1937

The June 26, 1937 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that nearly six inches of rain fell in the 24 hour period between the evenings of June 24 and June 25. Hundreds of people were without electricity and telephone service. The Erie County Engineer reported that practically every road in the area was impassable at some point, because of high water. Sandusky was isolated from the rest of the world, as the subways at Hayes Avenue (pictured above), Camp Street, Columbus Avenue, and Tiffin Avenue were flooded. Trucks were stranded in the flooded subway on Tiffin Avenue:

 Making the most of a difficult situation, some youngsters went swimming in the high waters.

 Several local factories had to cancel operations because of damage to stock and materials, including the Madison Street plant of the Hinde and Dauch Company, the Farrell-Cheek Foundry, the Holland-Rieger Company, and the G. & C Foundry. Providence Hospital incurred over $50,000 worth of damages. The Emergency Room, X-Ray Department, medical supplies room, and kitchen were all under water. Bellevue was the hardest hit community in the June flood. A young man, Emerson Zippernick, drowned while swimming in a pond during the extreme downpour of rain. National Guard troops were called in  to Bellevue to help avoid a railroad embankment from giving way.

Earlier in 1937, the OhioRiver flooded, causing the deaths of over three hundred people, and leaving thousands homeless. 

The Sandusky Register and Sandusky Star Journal provided extensive coverage of the northern Ohio flood of June, 1937. Visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center to read about this event. The Archives Research Center has in its holdings microfilmed copies of Sandusky newspapers dating back to 1822.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Convention of the Association of Ohio Cemetery Superintendents Held in Sandusky

On June 23 and June 24, 1909, the eighth annual convention of the Association of Ohio Cemetery Superintendents was held in Sandusky, Ohio. The first session of the convention was held on June 23 at the Sloane House hotel. After the opening address, roll call, and the annual report, the group went by trolley to Oakland Cemetery, where another brief meeting was held at the chapel.

 The group toured Oakland Cemetery after the meeting ended.

Evening sessions of the convention continued at the Sloane House. Frederick Green of Cleveland presented a paper on “Digging Graves,” illustrated with lantern slides. A paper by John Perrin of Toledo was entitled “The Seven Rs – Refractory Relatives Require Resolute Reasonable Restraining Rules.” Meetings on Thursday were held at Cedar Point. Topics covered included “Underground Drainage in Cemeteries” and “ Revenues of Cemeteries.” Twenty years after the 1909 Convention of the Ohio Cemetery Superintendents Association, the Sandusky Register stated in its “Twenty Years Ago” column that a good time was being had by all, in reference to the convention attendees.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Early Telephone Service in Sandusky

An article by Harvey Butler from the Twin Anniversary Edition of the Sandusky Register and Star News, from November 24, 1947 reported that in 1884, there were more than four hundred telephones in operation in Sandusky, Ohio. Four operators worked to handle all the connections from those phones. From the early part of the twentieth century until about 1922, there were two telephone companies in Sandusky. The Central Union Telephone was located on Washington Row, and the Sandusky Telephone Company was on the fourth floor of the Kingsbury Block (Columbus Avenue and Washington Row). There were two exchanges at that time. Central Union Telephone customers used the Bell exchange, and the Sandusky Telephone Company used the Harrison Exchange. Dr. Henry Graefe’s listing in the 1919 Sandusky City Directory had two phone numbers, so that customers from either company could contact his office. His phone numbers were: Bell Main 75 and Harrison 57.  About 1921, the Central Union Telephone Company changed its name to the Ohio Bell Telephone Company. By 1923, there was only one telephone company in Sandusky, the Ohio Bell Telephone Company. These switchboard operators were working at Ohio Bell in 1930.

 Information posted on this picture states that in 1930 there were 75 switchboard operators who handled 45,000 calls from 9,700 Sandusky subscribers.


In 1984, Ohio Bell became a part of Ameritech, which later became SBC/AT&T. Of course, millions of individuals all over the world now use cell phones. On several occasions the Ohio Telephone Pioneers, a non-profit organization made up telephone employees and retirees, held their annual meeting at Cedar Point.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Tenth Annual Reunion of the Sandusky High School Alumni Association

The tenth annual reunion of the Sandusky High School Alumni Association was held on June 17, 1890 at the Sloane House.

Charles F. Selkirk, a graduate of SHS in 1884, was the President of the Sandusky High School Alumni Association in 1890. After the orchestra played, Mr. Selkirk welcomed the banquet attendees.

Emily Forster recited a poem entitled “A Dream.” Miss Katharine S. Alvord presented an essay on “Higher Education of Girls.” Miss Alvord would go on to become DePauw University's first dean of women. Jessie Wilcox paid a memorial tribute to deceased members of the organization. Mr. A. J. Peters gave the banquet’s oration, which was entitled “Facts.” Albert James Peters was one of the co-founders of the Alvord & Peters Co., which published the Star Journal newspaper for a number of years in Sandusky.

The menu at the banquet was extensive, including spring chicken, Westphalia ham, pressed veal, buffalo tongue and sardines with lemon. Desserts included several types of cake, a variety of fruit, ice cream, and French confectionery with Edam and New York cream cheese.

Visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center to view yearbooks, historical photographs, alumni publications and graduation programs.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Otto H. Schell, First Swim Coach of Sandusky High School

From 1928 to 1936, Otto H. Schell was the swimming coach at Sandusky High School. Mr. Schell can be seen the far left of the top row in the picture above of the SHS swimming team from the 1930 Fram. Besides coaching the Sandusky High School swim teams during the school year, Coach Schell supervised public playgrounds and beaches during the summer months. He sponsored swimming and diving championships at Battery Park in the 1930s.

In August of 1934, Otto H. Schell coached swimmer Florence Brushaber as she attempted to swim from Ontario, Canada to Cedar Point, Ohio, a distance of 32 miles. Florence stopped swimming after covering 14 miles, and was taken aboard a Coast Guard cutter. She had become numb and sick from the tossing waves. In July of 1934, Florence swam from Kelleys Island to Cedar Point, covering a distance of nine miles in a little over five hours. 

An article in the July 14, 1936 issue of the Sandusky Register highlighted Mr. Schell’s accomplishments while in Sandusky. The article read in part: “Coach Otto H. Schell, Sandusky High School swimming instructor, who has done much to promote public aquatic events over a period of eight years here, and recognized as one of Ohio’s foremost authorities on water sports and Red Cross Life Saving, will not return here this fall, it was announced Monday.” Coach Schell had met with almost immediate success when he became the swimming coach at Sandusky High School. During dual meets, Coach Schell’s teams won 21 of 37 contests. He was engaged in competitive swimming for many years before coming to Sandusky. Below is a medal that he earned at the Cleveland Swimming Carnival in 1922.

From 1938 until 1948, Otto H. Schell served as the superintendent of the Erie County Children’s Home in Sandusky. He retired from that position due to ill health. He died in 1952 and was buried at the Oak Hill Burial Park in Lakeland, Florida. His descendants donated several photographs and news clippings about Mr. Schell’s many years of participation in water sports. To see these items, inquire at the Reference Services desk at the Sandusky Library.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Dr. Charles Hope Merz, Physician, Historian and Author

Dr. Charles Hope Merz was a leading physician in Sandusky, beginning his practice in Sandusky in 1899. He was the son of Karl Merz, well known music educator who taught at Oxford Female College and Wooster College. Charles Hope Merz was born in Oxford, Ohio on November 7, 1861. He graduated from the Western Reserve College of Medicine in 1885. An article in the November 26, 1900 issue of the Sandusky Daily Star reported that Dr. Merz had just placed an X-Ray machine in his office. At the time, it was the only apparatus of its kind in Sandusky. The machine was powered by six storage batteries. Sandusky residents were amazed that the doctor could see through one’s flesh to view their bones. The x-ray machine was expected to be helpful in surgical operations, and in locating foreign objects in patients.

In 1911, Dr. Merz was instrumental in arranging for Harry Atwood making a landing in his airplane in Erie County. Besides being an aviation enthusiast, he was very fond of driving his automobile. The September 16, 1936 issue of the Sandusky Register reported that Dr. Merz had purchased his first automobile on June 7, 1904, and he had been driving for 32 years. The Erie County Auto Club believed that Dr. Merz held the record for the number of years of automobile driving in Erie County, Ohio in 1936.

Dr. Merz also was an outstanding Masonic scholar who wrote several books on that and other subjects, and served as editor of the Masonic Bulletin in Sandusky for nearly 28 years. He was a charter member of the National Masonic Research Society of Iowa, and an honorary life member of the Cincinnati Masonic Library Association. In 1892 Dr. Merz wrote a book about the history, etiology, diagnosis and treatment of influenza.  He also was a member of the National Association of Railway Surgeons. Dr. Merz married Sakie Emeline Prout, a longtime member of the Board of Trustees of the Sandusky Library, in 1892. Dr. Charles H. Merz died on October 14, 1947. He was buried in Oakland Cemetery.

The son of Dr. and Mrs. Merz, also named Charles Merz, was editor of the New York Times from 1938 until 1961. His editorials against American neutrality in the years prior to World War II and in opposition to Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s affected the way many Americans viewed current events of the time. Charles Merz also authored three books: Centerville, U.S.A., The Great American Bandwagon, and The Dry Decade.  Charles Merz, the author and editor, died in New York City on August 31, 1977.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Frank Ritter: Keeper of the Cedar Point Light

Frank Ritter served as the keeper of the Cedar Point Light from 1892 until his retirement on July 1, 1929. From mid 1890s until 1903, the Ritter family lived in a small house which stood on a crib about a quarter mile off shore, surrounded by water. Mr. Ritter, his wife, and two children lived in this small home, upon which was a range light, from the months of March through December.

 During the harsh winter months, the family lived at the Cedar Point Lighthouse on the mainland.

According to an article by Karl Kurtz, in his “Elderlies” column, in the May 21, 1977 issue of the Sandusky Register, lighthouse keeping in the Cedar Point area was very time consuming. There were inner range lights, outer range lights, beacon lights, and many others. Before electricity the lights had to be filled with oil and the wicks trimmed. The lighthouse keeper had to reach each of these lights via a boat. On the boat, Frank Ritter saved the lives of over thirty individuals who found themselves in rough lake waters. He had to keep a watch for distress flares from vessels out on the Sandusky Bay, even during storms and in the dark of night. 

After Mr. Ritter’s retirement, his son in law Henry Waibel took over as the Cedar Point Lighthouse keeper.   

An excellent article about the Cedar Point Lighthouse is found in the October 7, 1990 issue of the Sandusky Register, now on microfilm. The article reported that an act of Congress for the appropriation of a beacon light near the entrance of Sandusky Bay took place in 1837. In 1862, a limestone structure was built on the mainland of Cedar Point, replacing an earlier structure. The 1862 Cedar Point lighthouse is now a part of Lighthouse Point, at the Cedar Point amusement park. It is the oldest structure on the Cedar Point peninsula.

Visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center to view several articles about Frank Ritter and the Cedar Point Lighthouse in the historical files.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Former Home of Rush R. Sloane

Now privately owned, the house at 403 East Adams Street once was home to former Sandusky Mayor and abolitionist Rush R. Sloane.

According to the book At Home in Early Sandusky,  by Helen Hansen, the house was built for Samuel W. Torrey about 1850. Rush Sloane purchased it about 1854, and made additions to it. When the Sloane family lived there, a fountain and statues decorated the lawn, and there was a terrace on the east side of the house. It is believed that this home was once a “safe house” on the Underground Railroad.  From 1923 until 1949, the Sandusky Business College operated at 403 West Adams Street.

For several years, this structure served as a nursing home. To read more about the home at 403 East Adams, see Article Number 14 in At Home in Early Sandusky.

Saturday, June 01, 2013

Postcard Image of the Sandusky High School Class of 1913

A gift from one of the members of the class, Wilford Schleicher, this postcard pictures the 1913 graduating class of Sandusky High School. A class poem written by Bianca C. Scheuer and Elmer H. Wirth was featured in the graduation issue of the Fram.

If you have ancestors who graduated from Sandusky High School, the SHS Alumni Directory has a listing of the members of each graduating class, beginning with the year 1855. This can be helpful in determining the names of friends and classmates of your ancestors. Ask at the Reference Services desk if you would like to see the copies of the historical Frams or the Sandusky High School Alumni Directory.