Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Portraits of Huron’s Past: George E. Rhinemiller

Ingenuity and good business sense never go out of style and are necessary components for success. Yet, success may not be all that it seems. One of the successful businesses owners of Huron, Ohio’s past was George Edward Rhinemiller. George was born on September 25, 1883 to John and Margaret Rhinemiller. The Rhinemiller homestead was located on Berlin Road in Huron. George attended the public schools in Huron and then completed a technical course through the International Correspondence School of Scranton, Pennsylvania. In addition, George likely received practical training from his father who was known as a respected and prosperous farmer who always employed the latest farm implements.

George’s first adventure in the business world was in 1908 when he established a farm implement trade in Huron. He sold the most innovative and modern farm implements available, including the Hoover Potato Digger, which was produced in Avery, Ohio. George’s next venture was a sand and cement business. George’s greatest business success, however, came when he established an automobile sales and service business. In 1912, he erected a three-story, brick building at 607 South Main Street, Huron, which housed a showroom, garage and repair shop that had the most modern mechanical equipment. George was an agent for Oldsmobile, Chandler, and Chevrolet motor cars and Vim light delivery cars.

By 1915, George had abandoned his other ventures to focus his efforts exclusively on his automobile business. George became known as one of the most successful automobile salesmen in northern Ohio. In addition, he employed assistant agents in both Berlin Heights and Norwalk.

Around 1904, George married Bertha Jarratt, the daughter of Isaac and Martha (Harris) Jarratt of Huron. A son, Edward George, was born to George and Bertha in 1909. In 1910, George and Bertha built “an attractive and modern house of nine rooms” located at 513 Williams Street. Of course, the Rhinemillers also constructed a garage for their automobile.

Though success came for George Rhinemiller in the form of a profitable business, his personal life was struck by tragedy. In 1917, George’s son, Edward, died at the age of eight after a short illness. This tragic event seemingly sent George’s life into a downward spiral. By 1918, George and Bertha were living at the Reiger Hotel in Sandusky, and George was running the Rhinemiller Garage located on Jackson Street in Sandusky. In 1920, George no longer had his own business and was employed as the manager of an auto store. By 1925, George and his wife, Bertha, had divorced.
According to the 1930 census, George had married a woman named Florence, fathered two children, Betty Jane and George, Jr., was living in Rochester, New York, and working as an automobile banker. (Bertha Rhinemiller had moved to Cleveland and worked as a waitress.) The difficult times of the Great Depression greatly affected the profitability of the automobile industry with automobile sales down by 75%. This decline personally affected George Rhinemiller. On May 24, 1933, apparently despondent over failed business transactions, George committed suicide. His body was returned to Huron for burial in the McMillen Cemetery. George’s life, like so many others during the Great Depression, ended so pointlessly.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Tufa Rock Houses

Have you ever seen the handful of houses in the Huron's Rye Beach neighborhood that are constructed using a strange-looking, porous rock and wondered what exactly it was? The rock is called tufa. Tufa is a porous rock formed by the deposition of calcium carbonate from supersaturated water. According to Mike Angle, a geologist with the Ohio Division of Geological Survey, tufa and its sister, marl, are “a bit of an enigma for geologists to classify.” These rocks differ from all other bedrocks in Ohio because, unlike limestone and other bedrocks that are millions of years old, they are still being formed. Tufa, a soft, volcanic-looking rock that ages and hardens in the sun, is essentially a porous deposit of calcium carbonate. “It will form anywhere where ground water is super-saturated with calcium carbonate” states retired Ohio geologist, Nate Fuller. When the precipitation of the calcium carbonate occurs underground, marl is formed. When it precipitates out above ground, tufa is formed. Upon settling, the carbonate encrusts those objects with which it comes in contact.

Large deposits of tufa and marl are fairly rare and not very widespread; yet, small quantities of tufa rock can be found throughout western and northern Ohio. Deposits of tufa and marl are associated with areas containing caves or caverns and/or seeps or springs along relatively steep slopes and valleys. In Ohio, the largest deposits of tufa were traditionally found at White’s Landing, the Resthaven Wildlife area just northeast of Castalia, and the area around Miller’s Blue Hole, all in Erie County near Sandusky Bay.

In all areas where it occurs, the majority of the tufa and marl has been mined. At Resthaven, the largest deposit in the state, tufa/marl initially covered an area of about 3,500 acres and averaged six feet deep. This area was mined extensively in the early 1900s by the Portland Cement Company of Sandusky for use in their cement products. At White’s Landing and other areas, including Huron’s Rye Beach neighborhood and the Catawba Cliffs neighborhood, the tufa/marl was used primarily in the construction of homes, most of which were constructed during the 1920s and 1930s. Today, tufa is used widely in rock gardens around the world and provides a perfect substrate upon which to grow plants including Dianthus, Hosta, and Phlox.