Saturday, February 27, 2021

Harry Dane, Chief Clerk at Erie County Probate Court

Harry Dane was born in Sandusky, Ohio in 1871 to George W. Dane and his wife, the former Maria Robinson Blanchard. 

In August of 1900 an article in the Sandusky Star told of Harry Dane’s bravery in rescuing a young lady who had fallen in the waters of Sandusky Bay after slipping between the dock at Cedar Point and the Andrew Wehrle steamer. The article stated that the Harry Dane and Mabel Marks may have drowned, had it not been for the combination of “rare good fortune, heroism and skill.”

During World War I, Harry Dane served as clerk of the Erie County Draft Board. After the war, from 1919 until 1940, he was the chief deputy clerk of Erie County Probate Court, working under Judge John Ray, Judge John Tanney, and Judge John Baxter. During his years as clerk of the Court, Mr. Dane issued hundreds of marriage licenses. June was often busy for Erie County Probate Court with June brides; in 1931, he issued four marriage licenses on the first day of June. An article in the August 2, 1938 issue of the Sandusky Star Journal reported that at one point during the renovation of the Erie County Courthouse, Harry Dane was the only employee of Probate Court to be still working. The headline read “Harry Dane Does Duty for Cupid,” since he was available to issue marriage licenses in spite of the construction and renovation work being done at that time. 

What the Erie County Courthouse looked like when Harry Dane began working at Probate Court

The Courthouse as it looked at the end of his career

In spite of the fact that Harry Dane never owned a boat, he was a longtime member of the Sandusky Yacht Club, and served on its Board of Trustees. After his sudden death on May 20, 1940, the members of the Yacht Club paid tribute to Mr. Dane. An article in the June 11, 1940 issue of the Sandusky Star Journal read in part, 

“Harry B. Dane was undoubtedly the oldest member of the Sandusky Yacht Club, from the standpoint of years of continuous affiliation. Not even the oldest records still in existence go back to the time when he first became a member…Always modest and unassuming, Harry never aspired to wear a commodore’s stars, but no man gave more years of work and efficient service to yachting in general and the Sandusky Yacht Club in particular than he. For years he served as its secretary and treasurer, and did much to keep aglow the very feeble spark of life which alone remained of the club following the tornado of June 28, 1924. He was a member of the Board of Trustees for so many years that the memory of man runneth not to the contrary, and his counsel and advice were always sincere, and usually right. That he was able to live to see the present strong and virile club spring phoenix-like from the ashes of old was, we know, a source of great happiness and satisfaction to him. And so his surviving shipmates, fellow members and friends of the Sandusky Yacht Club, pause for a moment in silent mediation, while eight bells are sounding slowly on the night air, and give thanks that they have been privileged to know such a true yachtsman and sportsman as Harry Dane. While the burgee of the Sandusky Yacht Club flies, he will not be forgotten.”

On May 21, 1940, the flag at the Courthouse was flown at half-staff in memory of Harry Dane. Funeral services for Mr. Dane were held at the Keller Funeral Home, and burial was at Oakland Cemetery. Officers of the Sandusky Yacht Club served as pallbearers at the funeral service.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

Civil War Letter -- Black and White Fighting for Freedom


In the Sandusky Library's collections is a letter from a United States soldier during the Civil War to an acquaintance in his hometown of Huron, Ohio. The author, George Haskin (sometimes identified as Haskins), was at the time a sergeant in the 63rd Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Infantry, serving in the recently captured city of Corinth, Mississippi. He wrote with a passion for the cause of the Union and in support of the African American soldier.

Early in his letter, Sergeant Haskin expresses his contempt for those in the North who fail to support the war: "How, I want to ask, can you men of the North, how, in the name of God and Justice can you tolerate the traitors who are seeking to pollute the minds of the people in your midst?" He was especially angry that newspapers and correspondence sent to his fellow soldiers often encouraged "aid and comfort to traitors in arms," including encouraging desertion. His disgust even extended to some of the Army officers he served with: "We do not want them to have a chance to show their Plantation Breeding to us, and can easily spare such a traitorous few."  

Instead of these "plantation-bred" officers, Sergeant Haskin instead placed his trust in the African American soldier, and praises the service and bravery of African American men: "And only give us the privilege of putting Arms in their hands and you men at home keep the traitors in check there, we can soon finish the Rebs here."  As he noted in his letter, African American men served ably in the Revolution and the War of 1812, and were once again serving bravely in his war.

Sergeant Haskin's hope for the creation of "Negro Regiments" was fulfilled shortly after he wrote this letter. On May 18, 1863, he was promoted to Lieutenant in the First Regiment of the Alabama Colored Troops

Image in Public Domain

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Dr. Jeanne Spurlock, a Leader in Psychiatric Medicine and Social Activism

Born in Sandusky in 1921, the first child of Frank and Glodena Spurlock, Jeanne Spurlock spent her early childhood in Sandusky before moving to the Detroit area, where she attended high school. When she was nine years old, she became determined to dedicate her life to promoting caring and empathy in the medical profession, after receiving indifferent care in a hospital when she broke a leg. At first she thought she should become a teacher because she didn't think she could afford medical school, but she eventually achieved both dreams by becoming a highly regarded psychiatrist and educator.

After high school, receiving a scholarship, she enrolled in Spelman College in Atlanta, later transferring to Roosevelt College in Chicago. In 1943, she enrolled in the Howard University College of Medicine, and received her medical degree in 1947. 

By 1950, Dr. Spurlock became a staff psychiatrist in a Chicago hospital, and began a long career in medicine, education, and human services. Among her specializations in her early career in Chicago was child psychiatry, serving in hospitals, academia, and private practice. She later was on the faculty of Meharry Medical College in Nashville. In the 1970s, she was appointed to the National Institute of Mental Health and became Deputy Medical Director of the American Psychiatric Association, serving in the position until 1991. In her biography at the website of the National Institute of Health said that Dr. Spurlock "made significant contributions in focusing the medical community's attention on the stresses of poverty, sexism, racism, and discrimination that effect women, minorities, gays, and lesbians." 

After Dr. Spurlock's death in 1999, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry named two fellowships in her honor; the American Psychiatric Association created the Jeanne Spurlock Minority Fellowship Achievement Award, and, in 2002, the Jeanne Spurlock Congressional Fellowship.

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

Frederick W. Cogswell, Prosecuting Attorney for Erie County

Frederick Whittlesey Cogswell was the oldest child of Mr. and Mrs. William Cogswell, born in Connecticut in 1823. He graduated from Yale University in 1849. After briefly studying law in Connecticut, F. W. Cogswell became ill, and he moved to Cleveland, Ohio where he sought treatment at the Cleveland Water Cure with Dr. T. T. Seele. By the early 1850s, Mr. Cogswell began practicing law in Sandusky, Ohio. He served as Sandusky’s City Clerk for a number of years, and he was Erie County’s Prosecuting Attorney from 1860 through 1873. During the Civil War, he achieved the rank of Second Lieutenant while serving in the 145th Ohio Volunteer Infantry.

In 1871, Frederick W. Cogswell married Julia Radcliffe. They had a family of four children, but two of the daughters died in early childhood. In the late 1880s, Mr. Cogswell suffered injuries from a fall, from which he never fully recovered. He died on January 4, 1893. Below is a portion of the lengthy obituary for Mr. Cogswell appeared in the January 5, 1893 issue of the Sandusky Register.

The following resolution from the McMeens Post, Grand Army of the Republic, was published in the January 21, 1893 issue of the Sandusky Register.

Frederick W. Cogswell

Another comrade has answered the last roll call,

Another soldier has gone the way of all.

WHEREAS, By the order of the Grand Commander of all the armies, our respected comrade Frederick W. Cogswell, late of Co. D 145th Regiment O.V.I. has been ordered to answer the last muster and roll call to meet the comrades who have gone before, therefore be it 

Resolved, That while we regret his loss and extend our heartfelt sympathy to his bereaved family, we hope and trust that our loss is his gain, that as he answered the last roll call on January 4, 1893, and his ashes now rest with those who preceded him, we hope and trust that in the spirit he has been duly mustered in as an honorable and worthy soldier, in that Grand Army above, where there is no more warring and dying in battle, where the tents are all set in the eternal camping ground, where the banners are never furled, and the sound of the surgeon’s call, the long roll and taps are never heard, where songs of joy do never cease, where the flowers of life do ever bloom, and eternal sun of everlasting day never sets, and when we are called may we meet and rejoice with him forever where a thousand years are but as a day. That a copy hereof be sent to his widow and bereaved children.

Frederick W. Cogswell’s final resting place was in the family lot at Oakland Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, a son, and a daughter. A silk bonnet, which once belonged to Mrs. Julia Radcliffe Cogswell, is now in the collections of the Follett House Museum.

Sunday, February 14, 2021

Sandusky’s Valentine was a Sleet Storm in 1909


Between February 14 and 16, 1909 a severe ice and sleet storm coated most of central and northern Ohio. Local weather official E.E. Nimmo reported that the track of the storm was very narrow, heading from east to west along the lake. Sandusky was in the very center of the storm’s fury. Many telephone, telegraph and electric wires were damaged, under the weight of three quarters to an inch of ice. Trains and interurbans were delayed, and the Lake Shore railroad had to resort to using manual signals, due to having no electricity.

John A. Giedeman, from the Sandusky Telephone Company, stated that “It is the worst storm of the kind we have ever had.”   The telephone company sent out ten men to work on the damaged wires. The electric company did not lose its ability to generate electricity, but it could not get that energy out to the local customers due to so many wires being damaged.  Residents and businesses resorted to using old gas lights and candles. The fire alarms in Sandusky were all out of service. Local police officers assisted in removing trees and downed wires that fell across the city’s streets and walks. The picture below shows a portion of Columbus Avenue, at the intersection of Hayes Avenue. 

In the picture postcard below, you can see Old Calvary Church on the left side of the picture, old fire engine house number 3 in the center, and Sycamore School can be seen in the background on the far right. There was severe damage to telephone poles and wires at this location, near the intersection of Sycamore Line and First Street.

Employees of the Lake Shore Electric Railway are seen  clearing the right of way on Camp Street in the postcard below.

An article in the February 16, 1909 issue of the Sandusky Register thanked those who helped the storm edition of the Register get to press. The Register staff had to hand-set the type. The Sandusky Democrat loaned a non-electric motor to the Register, and Ohio Motor Company brought in a 15 horsepower engine to help the press room get the paper out. 25,000 readers of the Sandusky Register got their papers delivered at 2 p.m. on Monday, the day after the big sleet storm first hit. 

To read more about Ohio’s severe sleet storm on 1909, visit the Sandusky Library Archives Research Center, where historical issues of local newspapers are available on microfilm and online.

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Poem by Confederate Lieutenant S. Boyer Davis, imprisoned at Johnson's Island

According to the book Rebels on Lake Erie, by Charles E. Frohman, Samuel Boyer Davis was sentenced, as a spy, to be executed by hanging on February 17, 1865, at Johnson’s Island Prison. According to a note written on the back page, the poem was given to "Pri. M. Hebblethwaite, USA" (possibly a guard at the prison?) on February 11, 1865, "on condition . . . that they are never made public." After 156 years, we think Lt. Davis would not mind the recognition we give him. 

Fate was kind to Lt. Davis, however, as President Abraham Lincoln commuted his sentence from execution to imprisonment for the duration of the war, with the prisoner only learning of his fate on the very day that the execution was to be carried out. He was transferred to a prison at Fort Delaware, on the Delaware River

Transcribed, the poem reads:


A Soldier boy from “Dixie” lay dreaming in his cell

He was far from home & kindred & those that he loved well

His feet were sore & weary & bound by iron chains

He dreamt of Far off Richmond lovely Richmond on the James.


No Sister sat beside him to sooth his troubled brow

No comrade now bent o’er him to whisper words of cheer

But his Soldier heart was fearless, Twas got him there had chained

And he dreamt of one in Richmond dear Richmond on the James.


He walked or thought he walked the old familiar path

He talked or thought he talked with friends of days gone past

But at each & every moment the clanging of his chains

Told he was far from Richmond old Richmond on the James.


He thought of those who loved him what pain they would endure

When they heard that he was missing from the old Potomac Shore

And Oh! it will be deeper when they hear he’s bound by chains

The sorrow at old Richmond at Richmond on the James.


He wakes! The light is growing dim darkness is falling fast

Another night of sorrow & anguish must be past.

How many many moments must he spend thus bound by chains

E’re again he goes to Richmond, to Richmond on the James.


After the war, Samuel Boyer Davis was released. He married Anna Mason, and died on September 14, 1914. They are buried at Ivy Hill Cemetery in AlexandriaVirginia.

Sunday, February 07, 2021

August Wilhelm’s Invitation to The White House in 1914

In 1914 Lieutenant and Mrs. August Wilhelm received an invitation to a reception to be held at the White House on February 24, when Woodrow Wilson was the President of the United States. The Army Navy Reception held at the White House was a formal affair with the Navy and Army officers in dress uniforms, and the ladies in long gowns.

August C. Wilhelm was the son of John and Elizabeth Wilhelm. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1906. He rose to the rank of Lieutenant Commander in the Navy, serving on the battleships Ohio, Baltimore, West Virginia, and Petrel. After serving in World War I, he entered the banking business. August C. Wilhelm was a charter member of the Commodore Denig Post 83, American Legion. Mr. Wilhelm passed away on May 28, 1970. He was preceded in death by his wife, the former Julia Zimmerman. He was survived by a son, daughter, and several other relatives. Burial was in Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery.

Thursday, February 04, 2021

August Guenther, Wholesale Dealer in Fine Whiskies

According to History of Erie County, Ohio, edited by Lewis Cass Aldrich (Mason and Co., 1889), August Guenther was born in Westphalia, Prussia in 1848 to Mr. and Mrs. John Guenther. He emigrated to the U.S. in 1869, first settling in Texas. Soon after arriving in Sandusky, Ohio in 1872, August Guenther became involved in the making of wine and grape brandy. The jug pictured above advertised "fine whiskies" made by Mr. Guenther as well. Below is a letterhead from his business, as seen on an online auction site.

During some of his time in business, August Guenther was in a partnership with his son Bruno. For several years his business partner was John J. Molter, former Sandusky Mayor. The company eventually went out of business due to the enactment of Prohibition laws.

In 1873 August Guenther married Sophia Kolbe. They had a family of three sons. Dr. Theodore Guenther became of physician with a practice in Brooklyn, New York. Son August E. Guenther was a professor of physiology at both the University of Michigan and the University of Nebraska. Sadly, Bruno Guenther died in 1910, after he suffered serious complications following a scratch from a copper wire. The elder August Guenther died on December 19, 1932, and he was buried in the family lot at Sandusky’s Oakland Cemetery.

Monday, February 01, 2021

Judge Moses H. Thompson, World War II Hero

From the 1940 Sandusky High School yearbook

Moses H. Thompson was the son of Moses C. Thompson and the former Marian Martin. During his time at Sandusky High School, Moses H. Thompson participated in both football and track for four years. After high school, Moses attended West Virginia State College, where he was on the boxing team. In 1942, he enlisted in the United States Army. While in Europe during World War II he was awarded a Bronze Star. He was discharged as a staff sergeant. 

An article in the Sandusky Register on December 26, 1944, read:

Staff Sergeant Moses H. Thompson, Signal Corps, has been decorated with the Bronze Star Medal in the European theater of operations. He is the son of Moses C. Thompson, 404 Tyler St. Sandusky. Sgt. Thompson was personally decorated by the commanding general of the Corps to which his unit is attached. The citation read: "for meritorious achievement in connection with military operations against the enemy in Germany on Dec. 1, 1944. In performance of duty as a non-commissioned officer in charge of a line survey crew. Sgt. Thompson completed a hazardous mission without loss of personnel or equipment. During this time he was under mortar and artillery fire, but with outstanding leadership and disregard for his personal safety the mission was successfully accomplished His display of initiative and ability has greatly contributed to the efficiency of his organization."

After serving in the Army, Moses H. Thompson moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law in 1954; he earned a doctorate in 1956. He served as an administrative law judge in Montgomery, Alabama before his retirement in Atlanta, where he died in 2005 at age 83.