Friday, May 31, 2024

Morris Platte: Baseball Star, Soldier in War, Victim of Influenza


On the left of this photograph of the Shamrocks baseball team is Morris "Baldy" Platte, star pitcher for the 1914 Sandusky city champions. He accomplished much in his tragically short life.

Born in Sandusky in 1891, the son of Adolph and Mary, Morris Platte married Elsie Ramm when they were both teenagers. The couple had their first child in 1911, before he had turned twenty years old, and they had three more children in quick succession. (Sadly, their second child died at birth.) He supported his family in jobs that included delivering ice for the City Ice Company in town. But life wasn't all work; he had a passion for baseball, and played for teams including the Sandusky Tool Company team (below) and the Shamrocks, where he helped lead the team from the mound to the city championship.

But after the United States entered the Great War, Morris Platte chose to serve his country and joined the Army. He went to Camp Sherman in Chillicothe for training in July 1918, and quickly advanced up the ranks to Sergeant. Later, he was transferred to Fort Benjamin Harrison for continued training. It was there that he faced the enemy that would defeat him.

During the First World War, nearly as many servicemen died from influenza as from war wounds. Approximately 45,000 died from the flu; 53,400 died in combat. Sadly, Morris Platte was one of the 45,000; he died on base in Indianapolis on October 9, 1918, about one month before the end of the war.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

The Spirit of the Times

In the archives of the Sandusky Library is a bound volume of a newspaper called the Spirit of the Times. It was published in Batavia, New York, beginning in 1819. You might wonder why this library in Ohio is holding a newspaper from New York in its collections. if you look closely, you will find the answer on the newspaper's masthead: "Published every Friday by O. Follett." 

Oran Follett probably when he was around 45-50 years old

Oran Follett was a prominent resident of Sandusky for about sixty years, until his death in 1894, but he was born in New York state, and lived in Batavia and Buffalo in his younger days. He founded the newspaper in 1821, when he was 22 years old, and managed it until 1825, when he turned it over to his brother, Frederick Follett. He then moved to Buffalo to become a co-editor of the Buffalo Journal. Around 1834, Mr. Follett moved to Sandusky, where he had purchased land. He continued in publishing while in Ohio, as an owner of Follett, Foster, and Co. (publishers of the Lincoln-Douglas Debates) and as editor of the Ohio Journal, but he was involved in several other ventures as well. 

The article above, from the Spirit of the Times, reports on the wreck of the Walk-in-the-Water, the first steamboat on the Great Lakes.

Wednesday, April 03, 2024

Esther Rose Miller, Educator and World Traveler

 Around 1912, Willard A. Bishop took this picture of Robert and Esther Rose Miller, who were the children of former city commissioner Charles  F. Miller and his wife Rose.  Robert C. Miller, about 15 years old in the picture, was an office supply salesman for the Denzer Company in Sandusky in adulthood. Esther R. Miller, about five years old here, became a teacher for Sandusky City Schools. In her later years of teaching,  she taught English and geography at Adams Junior High School. 

Miss Miller traveled extensively. Here is a travel document from Esther Miller’s trip to South America in 1961, retrieved from Ancestry Library Edition.

In 1963 she traveled to Greece and Turkey. In an article in the January 25, 1965 issue of the Sandusky Register, Miss Miller described her recent trip to Scandinavia, France and Germany. In the late 1960s, she traveled to Eastern Europe, Russia and Spain. On several occasions she gave presentations to the Sandusky Travel Club about her travels. After her retirement from Adams Junior High School, Esther Rose Miller worked as an assistant librarian at the Sandusky Library.  

Monday, March 25, 2024

A Visit from Sandusky's First Shopkeeper


On April 10, 1861, a special visitor checked into the West House hotel in downtown Sandusky; he was special enough that the desk clerk wrote a note in the guest register. After fifty years, John Garrison, at nearly 90 years old, paid a visit to his old homestead that became the city of Sandusky. 

John Jay Garrison was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1772, but like many easterners of his time, the lure of plentiful land in the west led him eventually to Ohio. In 1810 he bought four thousand acres of land in what was then Huron County, at ninety cents an acre (about $22 an acre in today's money). But when he arrived to claim his land, much of it was underwater, and it was twelve miles from Lake Erie. So he set out to find better land nearby along the shore. 

He settled on a spot along Sandusky Bay that he thought would develop into a significant place for business, but was then occupied by camps of native people, most likely Wyandot and/or Ottawa. It was known by many settlers as Ogontz Village (seen here on a map from 1808). He set up a shop there and conducted most of his business with the native people and settlers traveling through the area.

But within the year, with war brewing between the Americans and the British and their native allies, Garrison decided it would be unwise to stay along what was then the frontier between combatants. On the advice of a Native man named Semo whom he befriended, he left the Sandusky bay area, not to return until his visit fifty years later. 

Image from Find a Grave

In his later life, Mr. Garrison spent time in Michigan and Illinois, until ultimately settling in Cedar Falls, Iowa, where he died on January 18, 1865.

Friday, March 15, 2024

Doctors Edwin Gillard, Sr. and Jr.

The pencil sketch pictured above was done by Edwin Eugene Gillard in 1889 at around age 16, when he was a student in the Sandusky Public Schools. The son of Dr. Edwin and Ida (Stroud) Gillard, Edwin Eugene Gillard also became a physician. In the 1917 Sandusky City Directory, father and son, both named Dr. Edwin Gillard, shared a medical practice in Sandusky at 503 West Washington Street. Sadly, the elder Dr. Edwin Gillard died in 1917, and the younger Dr. Edwin Gillard died in 1918, at the age of 43.

This photograph of the elder Dr. Edwin Gillard was taken by Sandusky photographer Willard A. Bishop.

The elder Edwin Gillard was born in Venice, Ohio (now the western end of Sandusky) in 1845. He graduated from the Cleveland Homeopathic College in 1872. Dr. Gillard was a physician in Sandusky for many years, and served as Erie County Coroner from 1879 through 1881. Dr. Gillard married Miss Ida Stroud in 1869; her father was area dentist Dr. Charles Stroud. They were the parents of three children, Cora, Edwin, and John Gillard.

In 1884, Dr. Gillard opened the Electro-Medical and Surgical Sanitarium on Washington Street. The January 1, 1884 issue of the Sandusky Daily Register describes the Sanitarium in detail. 

The Sanitarium was “made as complete in all the appointments for a Sanitarium as money and skill could effect.”  Each room and hallway was heated with steam, and the floors were insulated from noise by layers of concrete. The facility featured an electro-thermal bath, and the “Holtz Toepler” electric machine for administering electrotherapeutic treatment for nervous diseases, rheumatism, and neuralgia.

The Electro-Medical and Surgical Sanitarium ceased operating in 1886, though Dr. Gillard continued his practice as a physician. On October 2. 1912, the New York Times featured an article about the doctor and his brave efforts to treat Mrs. Charles Barney, the daughter of Jay Cooke. Dr. Gillard and Mr. C. B. Lockwood took a small motor boat to Gibraltar Island during gale winds. Mrs. Barney did indeed recover. 

In 1896, the building at 609 West Washington Street served as the Lake Erie Sanitarium, and later it was occupied by a boarding house. Helen Hansen tells us in the book At Home in Early Sandusky that for many years the building was known as “The Gillard Hotel.”

Friday, March 08, 2024

The Only Legal Execution in Sandusky

On a day in May 1840, the peaceful life in Sandusky was shattered by an unprovoked, unmotivated murder in the heart of downtown. Four months later, the murderer paid for his crime in a field on the east side of the city. 

John Ritter, a veteran of the War of 1812, operated a grocery store and saloon in an alley that ran east of the Lucas Beecher house, bisecting the block west of Columbus Avenue from Washington Row to Market Street. He had a large family, and was well-liked in the neighborhood. Fewer than two thousand people lived in Sandusky at this time.

Next to Ritter's shop was a tailor shop. The owner of the shop had an assistant with long experience in tailoring, but who had been in Sandusky less than a few weeks. 

Although the alley where Ritter's shop was no longer appears to exist in this 1875 photo, it was on this block that the murder occurred in 1840

John Evans never stayed in one place for very long. Born in Newfoundland in 1811, his childhood was marked by frequent changes of address and the loss of both parents before he reached his teens. He spent the remainder of his youth in bound servitude, first in farming -- where he lost a leg -- then as a tailor. It was as a tailor that he spent the remainder of his working life, when he worked at all. From his youth, he lived an itinerant life, traveling from New England to the South, up and down the Mississippi, and eventually to Ohio. Finally, in late April 1840, he arrived in Sandusky to try his luck here. Being addicted to alcohol, and with a violent temper, he needed some luck, and some self-control, but he lost at both.

On May 5, 1840, John Evans lost control of his life and ended the life of John Ritter. By Evans' own account:

Having been in the place only eight or ten days, I got into a "spree," spending my money freely, offered my bundle of clothing for twenty-five cents, attempted to burn, and finally did burn it, when my employer becoming alarmed with my threats, called in an officer to arrest me.

Ritter went into the alley to see what was the commotion, and was confronted by Evans, who stabbed him in the heart "with a Spanish knife" (possibly a folding-blade "Navaja" style knife). Other reports claim that Evans had demanded liquor from Ritter, who refused to serve him. Evans was quickly apprehended and placed on trial for the murder.

Evans was convicted by a jury on July 5, and on July 12 was sentenced by the court to be executed by hanging on September 30. Before the date of his execution, he composed his "confession," describing the tragic circumstances of his life and his plea for forgiveness from Mrs. Ritter. This confession was published as a pamphlet and is now in the collections of the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center. (The first page is above. You can read the full text of the confession in our online archives catalog.)

The execution of John Evans was probably conducted in the unoccupied block to the left of the railroad tracks.

On the day of the execution, sometime between 9:00 AM and 4:00 PM, Evans was brought to an open plot of land south of Jefferson Street and east of the railroad tracks on Warren Street. (Today, this is the block within Jefferson, Perry, Madison, and Warren Streets. Some reports have said that the execution was actually at the nearby Huron Park.) He was then hanged in front of a crowd of onlookers. A Sandusky Register article from 1885 claimed that Evans "was buried near the railroad and probably soon carried off by the body snatchers."

Saturday, March 02, 2024

Mary Schott's Autograph Album

The Sandusky Library Archives Research Center has in its collections an autograph book owned by Sandusky resident Mary Schott, with autographs collected when she was a young woman. She was born in 1860; the album covers the years 1881 and 1882. By looking through the pages of the album, one can learn about her friends and acquaintances, as well as discover the style of writing and humor of the late nineteenth century, often known as the "Victorian Era."

On June 9, 1881, Mary’s friend Teresa Missig wrote to Mary:

“There is no death of kindness

In this world of ours,

Only in often blindness

We gather thorns for flowers.”

 Beside Teresa’s poem is a sentence written in the shape of an anchor:

“May Faith Hope and Charity Anchor thee safe into eternity.”


Lizzie Zipfel, later Lizzie Feick, wrote a verse to Mary on Oct. 12, 1881:


“Don’t forget me when you are happy,

Keep for me one little spot,

In the depths of thy affection,

Plant one sweet “forget me not.”

Lizzie Zipfel was about 17 when she wrote her message to Mary. She is pictured here later, when she was Mrs. Feick

Fred Westerhold wrote to Mary on March 4, 1882:


“On life’s rugged road,

As we journey each day

Far, far more of sunshine

Would brighten the way.

If, forgetful of self

And our troubles, we had


The will, and would try

To make other hearts glad.”


Sometime after 1882, Mary Schott married Mr. Joseph Robertson, but by 1900 she was widowed, and living with her sister, Eva Schott Missig. Mrs. Mary Robertson died on her 90th birthday in 1950. She had been a lifelong member of St. Mary’s Church.

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Thomas R. McGeachie

The photograph above, taken by W.A. Bishop, appeared on page 21 of the 1903 publication, What: Souvenir of Sandusky, Ohio and the Islands of Lake Erie. In 1903 Thomas McGeachie was a general contractor, but in 1900 he was a foreman at George R. Butler and Company. The January 21, 1902 issue of the Sandusky Star Journal reported that he had been promoted to superintendent at the company. You can see a portion of this business in the picture below, taken in 1899. Started by Jay Butler, the company manufactured sashes, doors, and blinds in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Mr. McGeachie was also involved in local politics. According to an article in the Sandusky Star of May 18, 1899, he was appointed chairman of the Erie County Republican Party at the Third Ward Republican Caucus. The article stated: “This name is a new one in local politics but it jumped at once into prominence. He is a politician who has studied the art in Cleveland and showed the old timers a few pointers last night.” 

By about 1907, Thomas R. McGeachie and his wife Sarah returned to their native Canada, settling in Welland, Ontario, where he worked as a lumber merchant. Though he lived in Sandusky, Ohio for a relatively short time, his activity in business and political circles caused him to be remembered by many local residents after he left the Sandusky area.  Two sons remained in Ohio after their parents moved to Canada. Percy and Thomas McGeachie, Jr. are buried in Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery. 

See the book What: Souvenir of Sandusky, Ohio and the Islands of Lake Erie to learn more about the important people and businesses of Sandusky in 1903. Inquire at the Reference Services desk if you would like to see this historic publication.

Monday, February 12, 2024

Valentines Given to Ralph Spahn

Ralph Spahn was born in Sandusky, Ohio in 1891. He was the son of Fred Spahn and his wife, the former Philipine Hinkey. In the historical collections of the Sandusky Library and the Follett House Museum are two valentines given to Ralph by his cousin Ida Bunsey and another person named Carrie.

Ralph’s father Fred Spahn, a popular Sandusky barber who also had a shop on Johnson's Island, died in 1906 at the age of 38, from an accidental drowning. Sadly, Ralph Spahn passed away less than two years later on February 16, 1908, from typhoid fever. He was buried at Oakland Cemetery in Sandusky, Ohio.

Ralph’s mother, Philipine “Bena” Hinkey Spahn lived a long life. She died in 1956 at age 90, and was laid to rest in the family lot at Oakland Cemetery.

Monday, February 05, 2024

Mrs. Mary Buyer, Parochial School Teacher


Mary E. McGoldric (sometimes spelled McGoldrick) was born in Sandusky in 1843, to Irish immigrants, John and Ann McGoldric. Mary’s father and several siblings died in the Cholera epidemic of 1849. 

In 1866, Mary McGoldric married Anthony Buyer. Sadly he died in 1868. They had a daughter, Mary Buyer, who was the second wife of Charles J. Krupp, a local undertaker. In her later years, she lived at 404 Wayne Street with her daughter and son in law, Mrs. and Mrs. Charles J. Krupp. (this house was once the home of the Oran Follett family, and now is open to the public as a museum.)

An article in the August 10, 1929 issue of the Sandusky Star Journal reported that Mary McGoldric Buyer had been a pioneer teacher in the parochial schools. She taught at St. Vincent’s School in Akron, Saints Peter and Paul boys’ school in Sandusky, and at St. Anthony’s School in MilanOhio. In 1898, Mrs. Buyer retired from teaching.

Mary Buyer died at home in 1929 and was buried in St. Mary's Cemetery.