Thursday, November 29, 2012

Ship Building in Huron: Fairbanks Church

Since moving to Huron, I have been intrigued by the shipbuilders, ship captains, fishermen, and lighthouse keepers of this town on the shore of Lake Erie. Hence, I was thrilled to come across the name of Fairbanks Church in my current project. Of course, my curiousity led me to research (on my own time) beyond was necessary for the house history. Here is a bit of what I discovered:

Captain Fairbanks Church came to Ohio around 1820 from Connecticut. He and Captain Augustus Jones established shipyards at Lorain and Huron and began building innovative vessels that were better at sailing and could carry large tonage. Captain Church had a prolific shipbuilding career in Huron. He built steamers, including the DeWitt Clinton and Great Western, and the 2-mast brig, Henry Clay. Captain Church died in 1843 at the age of 52.

The Great Western:

Monday, November 19, 2012

Underground Railroad Reminiscences

One of my current projects has given me the amazing opportunity to learn about the Underground Railroad and the incredible events that took place in Erie County, Ohio, and beyond. I found the following account presented to the Firelands Historical Society in 1887 to be particularly moving.

On December 25, 1859 or 1860 when H.F. Paden was a passenger conductor on the old Sandusky, Mansfield and Newark Railroad, he assisted nine fugitive slaves in their journey to freedom in Canada. Paden got the men as far as the Sandusky, Ohio, where he observed the following:

“Between them and their goal lay Lake Erie, its waters congealed by the forces of nature into a mighty bridge, thirty miles across, treacherous withal, liable to be swept by furious winds and cruel blinding storms of snow. To the certain and uncertain places of this bridge, alike unknown to them, with a pocket compass for their sole guide, these men were about to commit themselves, their hopes, their dearest interests, their very lives, with trustful confidence in a God of freedom, for one grand, final effort to achieve ownership of their own bodies and souls.”

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Political Cartoons have been Around a Long Time

Here is an example of political humor following the 1912 Presidential Election in which Woodrow Wilson (D) won in a landslide defeat over Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive Party), William Taft (R), and Eugene Debs (Socialist Party). (From the November 8, 1912 issue of the Sandusky Register.)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Consider Giving a Gift of History This Year

House histories and family histories make great gifts. These gifts are unique and very personal. I have completed many histories for gifts, and all have been well-received. If you are considering giving a gift of history this year, please plan ahead. Researching a house or a family takes time, so I set October 31 as my cutoff date for beginning Christmas gifts. Gift certificates are also available.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Jabez Wright: Huron’s Connection to the Underground Railroad

            Huron can take pride in having been the home of an amazing pioneer, civic leader, and integral figure in the antislavery movement, Jabez Wright.  Wright came from New York to the Firelands with Almon Ruggles in 1809.  Wright and Ruggles had been hired to survey the area of the Connecticut Western Reserve that became known as the Firelands.  This land was to be distributed as compensation to those who experienced a significant loss of property during the Revolutionary War.  Wright apparently liked the area and settled on the west bank of the Huron River about 2.5 miles from the shores of Lake Erie, in Huron Township.  On May 11, 1811, he married Tamar Ruggles, niece of Almon Ruggles, and together they had five children: Winthrop, Douglass, Lucy, Abigail, and Ruggles.  Around 1815, Wright relocated to a large parcel of land located on the north side of what is today known as Cleveland Road, West, just east of Rye Beach Road.  On this property around 1822, Wright built the first brick house in Huron Township.  This impressive home contained eight rooms and a basement.

            Wright was instrumental in the development of the Firelands region, and according to his obituary, he was “universally esteemed”.  Further, the 1874 Combined Atlas Map of Erie County states that Wright was “a good citizen, an exemplary Christian, and an enterprising pioneer.”  As evidence of his good character and civic responsibility, Wright was elected as one of the first two county commissioners for the Village of Cleveland and, in 1815, was elected as one of the first three associate judges for the Court of Common Pleas in Huron County (Erie County was carved out of part of Huron County in 1838).  Wright also was elected to serve as Justice of the Peace for Huron Township.  In 1820, Wright lost his bid for Ohio State Representative, but in 1823 he was elected to the position of Ohio State Senator for the Ashtabula District, which included Cuyahoga, Geauga, Portage, Huron, Medina, and Sandusky counties.  Wright served in this capacity for two terms from 1822-1825.  In 1836, he was nominated as the Whig party’s candidate for Representative for the 14th Congressional District, a position which Wright did not obtain.  Wright also worked as a surveyor, land agent, and farmer.

In addition to his public service, Wright’s exceptional character was also evident in the fact that he was one of the first residents of Firelands and the state of Ohio to aid fugitive slaves.  Wright risked his reputation and financial well-being to do what was morally right, though in violation of state and federal statutes.  His large home served as a regular station or depot on the Underground Railroad.  Beneath Wright's farmhouse was a 16-foot wide and 90-foot long tunnel.  Fugitive slaves entered the passage through a trap door in the home's basement and exited into a corn crib located about 100 feet from Lake Erie.  There, these families and individuals awaited the arrival of rowboats that would transport them to vessels headed to Canada and, subsequently, freedom.  Alternately, after resting at Wright’s home, the slaves would make their way to Sandusky or Detroit to await a ship headed to Canada.  In a speech before the Firelands Historical Society in 1888, Honorable Rush R. Sloane described Jabez Wright as follows: “He never failed when opportunity offered to lend a helping hand to the fugitives, secreting them when necessary, feeding them when they were hungry, clothing them and employing them.”  Wright's home was a common resting stop for Josiah Henson, the man upon whom Harriet Beeacher Stowe based her character of Uncle Tom, during his conducting journeys on the Underground Railroad.

            Wright died on December 16, 1840 at the age of 61.  According to an account of his death, he “left his house early in the evening of the 16th December, with the intention of transacting some business in the village, and going out in front of his house for the purpose of getting down to the beach, he fell from the bank, and struck his head against some timber in a crib erected in front of his residence, a distance of eighty feet.  He apparently made every effort to regain the bank, having succeeded in finding his way to the place where his family would usually go down to the lake for water-but the coldness of the night and the loss of blood paralyzed his efforts.  His lifeless body was washed off by the waves and floated opposite the village, where it was found on the morning of the 17th.”  Following the death of Jabez Wright, his sons, Winthrop and Douglass, continued the work of their father in aiding slaves in their bid for freedom.  It is unknown as to how many fugitive slaves found refuge in the home of Jabez Wright, but his name should forever be remembered for his many acts of kindness. 

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Upcoming Event by Historical Research Partners

Join Lisa Yako of Historical Research Partners, Huron, Ohio, for the program, Researching the History of Your Historic Home in Lorain County.  This event will be held at the Avon Lake Public Library on  Wednesday, October 3 from 7-8:30 PM. Registration is required- 440-933-8128, ext. 249.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The End of an Era in Huron

History was made today in Huron, Ohio, as the last structure at the former ConAgra site fell.  New history will soon be made as the plans for re-development unfold.  This is an exciting time for Huron!

Monday, July 9, 2012

Rare Eliot Ness Memorabilia Collection

This photo, taken in 1947, is one piece of the Rare Eliot Ness Memorabilia Collection that will be soon be part of an auction conducted by Central Mass Auctions, Inc. The photo was taken in Cleveland during Ness' unsuccessful bid for mayor. This is of particular interest to me because the store in the background was owned by my family. So cool! History truly is everywhere.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Huron's Old Plat Neighborhood

Huron's Old Plat neighborhood is an ecletic mix of interesting houses and even more interesting people.  There is an optional neighborhood association, the Old Plat Association, through which social events like an Easter egg hunt, summer picinic, and Christmas carolling events are planned.  Also, there is an annual neighborhood garage sale (This will take place on Saturday, May 19 from 8-2 with 20+ houses participating.).  We also have a self-guided walking tour brochure should you want to stroll around our neighborhood.  Copies of this can be found at the Huron Public Library, the Huron Chamber of Commerce, or online (

There are a few historic homes for sale in the neighborhood, and we are looking for new homeowners who will cherish these old houses and be true to their history.  Previously, I discussed the house located at 125 Center Street.  This house is still for sale.  Another great house that has recently come on the market is located at 125 Williams Street.  This home, built circa 1838, was the longtime home of Rev. Samuel Marks.  Marks was the minister at Christ Episcopal Church in Huron for many years and was well-loved by the entire community.  The current owners have emassed quite a history on Samuel Marks and are willing to share this with the new owners.  Here is a link to the listing:  As the president of the Old Plat Association, I am happy to answer any questions you might have about the neighborhood or Huron in general.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Portraits of Huron’s Past: Andrew and Emma (Frye) Linker

            A series of tragic events led Andrew F. Linker to Huron, Ohio, in the late 1800s.  Andrew Phoenix Linker was born on a farm on Galloway Road in Perkins Township on May 22, 1870, to John C. and Margaret Linker.  Andrew’s mother, Margaret, died in 1878, and his father, John, died in 1888 after being run over by a train.  Since adulthood, in the legal context, was not reached until age 21 at this time, Andrew came under the guardianship of family friend, Gustavus Graham.  Soon, Andrew came to live with the Graham family and helped maintain their farm at 3419 Cleveland Road in Huron Township (currently owned by the Barnes family).  Further, Andrew became the sole heir of Gustavus Graham after the Graham’s only daughter, Cora, committed suicide in December of 1888.
            In 1902, Andrew married Emma Josephine Frye.  Emma, the daughter of Jacob and Emma Frye, was born in April of 1878, was raised in Huron, and graduated from Huron High School in 1894.  She attended college in Berea, Ohio, where she obtained a teaching certificate.  Emma taught in a one-room school house in Huron prior to and after her marriage.  After Andrew and Emma’s wedding, the newlyweds lived with the Graham family.  Andrew and Emma were blessed with three children, Lurella Belle born in 1904, Ivan Graham born in 1905, and Donna Rose born in 1921.
            The Linkers were quite active in the community and served on many committees.  Their involvement included the Erie County Grange, the juvenile Grange, the Women’s Council of National Defense, the County Health League, the Erie County Fair, the Knights of Pythias, the Rye Beach Food Club, the Farm Bureau, and the Sandusky Library Trustees. 

            Tragedy visited the Linker family when Ivan Linker died in July of 1919, at the age of 13.  Ivan had been swimming with some friends at Rye Beach.  The waves were large and the strong undertow caught Ivan and pulled him out of reach of his friends.  His body was not recovered until the following morning. 
            Andrew’s primary occupation was farming; yet, as the hard times of the Great Depression overtook the country, the Linkers, like most American families, could not survive on farming alone.  Around 1930, the Linkers opened their home to tourists as the Ridgewell Inn.  In addition, two chicken coops that sat north of the house were converted to cabins and then rented to tourists.  Later, the Linkers added a gas station to their offerings, which was located across the street on the corner of Cleveland Road and Camp Street.  Later, the Ridgewell Inn also offered tennis courts and a miniature golf course for the guests.  The Linker’s continued to welcome tourists into their home until Andrew’s death in 1942.

            After Andrew’s death, Emma remained in her home for the next eight years.  She was having difficulty maintaining the property and her daughters encouraged her to sell.  Being fiercely protective of her home, Emma would not sell the property to just anyone.  She especially would not sell her home to someone that intended to turn the house into a liquor establishment because she was strongly opposed to the use of alcohol.  In 1950, Harold Barnes was looking for land along the lakeshore upon which to grow roses.  Emma agreed to sell the property to Harold since his intentions were agricultural.  After selling the property to Harold, Emma moved to Sandusky.  She remained in Sandusky until the time of her death in 1959.  Emma was buried with Andrew and Ivan in the Oakland Cemetery in Sandusky.

Saturday, March 24, 2012


Hoover Shirts-

The decal on the shirt is a duplicate of the decal that was on each digger as it left the Hoover Manufacturing Company in Avery, Erie County, Ohio. Sizes available are Adult M, L, XL, XXL (add $1 for XXL). Please message or call me if you are interested in purchasing a shirt. Limited quantities are available. The cost is $16 (plus $5.15 shipping, if necessary). Online ordering will be available soon.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Dr. John Wesley Bond and Family

The Bond family is deeply ingrained in the history of both Toledo and Catawba Island primarily due to their willingness to invest in the lives of others. John W. Bond was born on May 8, 1824, in Baltimore, Maryland, to Dr. Thomas and Christiana (Birckhead) Bond. John Bond attended college in Maryland and then trained in the office of a Baltimore physician for several years. In 1852, he moved to Zanesville, Ohio, where, in June of 1854, he married Amanda Buckingham Sturges. In 1856, John and Amanda Bond moved to Keokuk, Iowa, and John opened a practice there.

Feeling an obligation to his country, Dr. Bond joined the 30th Iowa Volunteer Infantry Regiment during the Civil War. When mustered on September 23, 1862, this regiment included 967 men. Dr. Bond was appointed their head surgeon. The 30th Iowa Regiment first traveled from Iowa to St. Lois, Missouri, and then to Helena, Arkansas. On December 28 and 29, 1862, the regiment took part in the Battle of Chickasaw Bayou, a battle that was part of the campaign to capture the Confederate fortress at Vicksburg, Mississippi. Due to poor conditions, many soldiers, including Dr. Bond, became quite ill. Dr. Bond was forced to resign his post on March 20, 1863 and return to Keokuk, Iowa. After his recovery, Dr. Bond moved his family from Iowa to Toledo, Ohio.

Dr. Bond remained in Toledo the rest of his life and was an active member of the Toledo medical community for nearly half a century. In 1863, he was admitted to the Toledo Medical Association and began practicing medicine in Toledo in 1864. Dr. Bond’s community involvement began in 1868 when he was named a member of the Toledo Board of Health. From 1869 through 1872, Dr. Bond served the city of Toledo as its health officer, and in 1875, he was again appointed a member of the Toledo Board of Health. He was a member of the Board of Trustees of the Northwestern Ohio Medical College and, in 1876, became the first Chief of Staff at St. Vincent Hospital. In addition, he served as President of St. Vincent’s Medical Board.
Dr. Bond’s service as the first Chief of Staff at St. Vincent’s is evidenced both in records of his practice in Toledo and the development of the hospital. From its humble beginning in 1855 as a two-story frame building run by the Sisters of Charity, St. Vincent Hospital grew steadily to meet the demand of the growing Toledo community. By 1858, a new hospital, standing three stories high, was constructed. The hospital was again expanded in 1861, and more land was purchased during the period from 1863 through 1866, so as to allow for further expansion. By 1866, St. Vincent’s owned 12 acres. In March of 1875, the Sisters of Charity began yet another and more modern expansion of the hospital which was completed in July of 1876. With this expansion, the hospital formed its first medical staff which was composed of distinguished physicians and surgeons from the Toledo area.
Dr. Bond held the position of Chief of Staff or Surgeon in Chief until 1892 when he began losing his eyesight. He eventually became completely blind. Though unable to practice medicine any longer, Dr. Bond remained an active member of the medical community, serving as a consulting physician until a few months prior to his death in January of 1911.

Three children were born to John and Amanda Bond: Maria born in Iowa in 1859, James born in Iowa in 1861, and Amanda born in Toledo in 1864. The Bond family seemingly had a close relationship, with many members of the extended family joining John and Amanda Bond at their home at 2373 Glenwood Avenue in Toledo. The family’s closeness was exemplified when, after losing his eyesight, Dr. Bond’s daughter, Amanda, and niece, Alice Sturges, read to him to keep him informed of pertinent medical discoveries as well as worldly matters and literature.

Sadly, James Bond died at the age of 2 in 1863. Maria Bond never married and died in Toledo in June of 1887 at the age of 28. After 32 years of marriage, Amanda Sturges Bond died in Toledo in August of 1887. Dr. Bond’s daughter, Amanda, never married, but remained at home until after her father’s death. Thereafter, she made her home on Catawba Island.

For many years, Amanda Bond was associated with the International Order of the King's Daughters and Sons. This order, founded in New York City on January 13, 1886 by Margaret Bottome, comprised a three-fold program of religion, education, and philanthropy to train its members for Christian Service. The organization supported ministries for the elderly, handicapped, and underprivileged. Between 1900 and 1940, the Ohio Branch of the International Order of the King's Daughters and Sons sponsored students, mostly women and girls, to summer educational camps at the Rock Ledge Inn which is located on Sand Road on Catawba Island. Likely, it was Amanda’s association with the King's Daughters and Sons that prompted her to purchase several properties near the Rock Ledge Inn in the early 1900's. In 1907, the Silver Cross Circle of the King's Daughters of Bowling Green, Ohio was organized by Mrs. Hulbert Rogers, a friend of Amanda. This chapter supported the work of the Ohio Branch of the King's Daughters and Sons at the Rock Ledge Inn, and Amanda was appointed to supervise activities there.

Around 1920, Amanda Bond built the house located at 2766 Sand Road on Catawba Island and named it Linden Lodge. Amanda made her residence at another home on her property, the Rock Ledge Farm, likely intending Linden Lodge to serve solely as housing for extra people associated with the Rock Ledge Inn. Amanda’s tie to the International Order of the King's Daughters and Sons was strong throughout the remainder of her life.

Though Amanda sold the property that contained both her residence and Linden Lodge (currently known as the Five Bells Inn Bed and Breakfast) to her cousins, Louis and Anita Dole of Bath, Maine, in 1948, she remained at her residence until her health prevented her from living alone. She died at the age of 89 in June of 1953 in a convalescent home in Toledo. She was buried at Woodlawn Cemetery in Zanesville, Ohio, in her family plot there.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pied Piper Ice Cream in Huron, Ohio

A small town just is not the same without a local ice cream stand. The Pied Piper in Huron, Ohio, has a long history and a big following. Here is its story that I published in the March 8, 2012, issue of Huron Hometown News: Pied Piper to Open March 14 Despite the crazy weather and the lack of a true winter, one thing residents of Huron can always count on as a harbinger of spring is the opening of Pied Piper. The official opening for 2012 is only a few days away and preparations are underway! The Pied Piper has been a fixture in Huron since 1952 when it was opened by Ellsworth and Helen Piper. According to Sheila Ehrhardt, the Pipers operated the Dairy Bar, a full-service restaurant that was located on Main Street in Huron. Ice cream was a big seller at the restaurant, and the children often followed Mr. Piper over to the ice cream cooler in mass to make their selection. Hence, Mr. Piper was frequently compared to the legendary Pied Piper. Thus, the name, Pied Piper, seemed fitting for the Piper’s new ice cream stand which they built at the corner of Cleveland Road and Huron Street. The Piper’s operated the Pied Piper for a few years before selling it to Carl Wechter. This was a fitting match since the Wechter family had long been in the dairy business. The Pied Piper has been in the Wechter family ever since. For the past approximately ten years, the Pied has been owned by Chris and Kelly Wechter. According to Chris Wechter, visitors to the Pied will not see any big changes this year, but all of the favorites will be back. So, if you are dreaming of a Nut Dip or a Turtle Sundae or even just a small cone with a face, you will not have long to wait!

Friday, March 2, 2012

Ice Harvesting on the Huron River

One hundred years ago, the village of Huron, Ohio, was bustling with fisherman. These fishermen relied on the ice harvest each winter to provide them with enough ice to store their catch throughout the fishing season. In February of 1912, the Huron River (Huron, OH) had 19 inches of ice, and it was still thickening. What a contrast to the 0 inches of ice we have had in 2012!

Friday, February 24, 2012

Reminders of the Past: The Fox Road Schoolhouse, Huron Township, Ohio

One-room schoolhouses dot the landscape of Ohio and provide a reminder of what life was like for the children of rural areas, including Huron Township, at the beginning of the 20th century. Sadly, only two of the more than eight, one-room schoolhouses that once stood in Huron Township remain.

As early as 1841, a schoolhouse stood on Fox Road just west of Camp Road in Huron Township. In September of 1841, Squire Barrett sold a small plot of land in the north part of Lot 9, Section 3 to Huron Township for school purposes. As the population of Huron Township grew, so did the number of children attending the rural schools. In the early 1860s, there was an average of 25 students attending the school on Fox Road, known as the Sub-district No. 8 School. Hence, a new and improved schoolhouse was needed to accommodate the growing number of students.

In 1868, the director of the Sub-district No. 8 School, George W. Harris, suggested that a new schoolhouse be constructed in his district just to the west of the original schoolhouse. Hence, in May of 1868, the Board of Education of Huron Township resolved that a tax would be levied on all of the property of Sub-district No. 8 in the amount of $500, and a tax would be levied on all the taxable property of the Township (village exempt) in the amount of $700 for the purpose of purchasing a lot, building a 24’ x 30’ brick schoolhouse, digging a well, and fencing the ground in Sub-district No. 8. By April of 1869, the new schoolhouse was well underway. Unfortunately, the $1,200 in taxes that was collected from the residents of Huron Township was not enough to complete the new schoolhouse. Therefore, the Board of Education levied another $900 tax. The new schoolhouse was likely ready for use by the fall of 1869.

In 1868, a vote was put to the people of Huron Township and Huron Village to decide whether or not to build a central high school. The voters in the township voted against the measure; however, the people of the village voted in favor of it. Though defeated in 1868, efforts to centralize the schools continued nonetheless. In 1886, Huron built a large school in the village on the corner of Williams and Shirley streets. The younger grades were composed primarily of students residing in the village, but high school students came from all over the township.

In the early 1900s, August Scheid was appointed director of the school in Sub-district No. 8. Mr. Scheid, who had several children in the district, was a strong proponent of centralized schools. In 1911, Mr. Scheid personally provided the means for children to be brought into the village for school by purchasing a bus to transport students from Sub-District No. 8 into Huron each day. Mrs. Scheid designed the bus, and it was manufactured in Sandusky. Further, the Scheid’s son, Lyndon, who was to attend Huron High School, would be the bus driver. Hence, the schoolhouse in Sub-district No. 8 was no longer in use after September of 1911. A few of the other one-room schoolhouses survived the centralization effort for a short time, but all eventually succumbed.

From 1911 until 1941, the schoolhouse in Sub-district No. 8 sat vacant, but was still under the ownership of the Huron Township Board of Education. During the 1930s, the owner of the land upon which the schoolhouse sat allowed their pigs to use the structure for shelter. The once lovely schoolhouse was now in shambles. In March of 1941, Thurman, Katherine, and Emory Fox purchased 196 acres of land, including Lot 9, from the People’s Loan and Savings Company. The People’s Loan and Savings Company had recovered the property in 1931 in a suit against August Scheid who owed them $47,535. The Fox family likely challenged the Board of Education of Huron Township for ownership of ‘the schoolhouse lot’ since the schoolhouse was obviously not in use as a school, and, therefore, the land upon which the schoolhouse sat was supposed to revert back to the land owner. In June of 1941, ‘the school house lot’, containing 0.65 acres, was subsequently sold to Dennis C. Fox. By the time Dennis Fox came into possession of the schoolhouse, all of the windows and doors were gone. Yet, Mr. Fox had a vision for the old schoolhouse which included rehabilitating it and making it his home. Since that time, many others have made improvements to the schoolhouse and have called it home, but yet have lovingly respected the house’s unique past.

NOTE: Historical Research Partners was hired in 2009 to research the history of this great schoolhouse, now a home.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Vaudeville and Kelleys Island, Ohio

Toward the end of the 19th century, Kelleys Island was a playground for the wealthy, whose visits often lasted several weeks to several months of the summer. Many of these wealthy visitors to the island stayed at the Himmelein Hotel. The Himmelien, like other former hotels on the island, offered exclusive amenities that enticed the elite, such as third-floor accommodations for patron’s servants.

John Himmelein, born on the island in 1868 to hotel proprietors, Johann and Johanna Himmelein, helped with his family’s hotel until approximately 1886, when he left home to attend business college in Evansville, Indiana. Upon completion of his studies, John returned to the island to assist with the hotel operations. There, he was introduced to various Vaudevillian acting companies that lodged at the Himmelein Hotel during visits to the island to practice their repertoires. John’s growing intrigue with the entertainment industry would eventually lead to a new career.

In 1890, John left the family hotel business and began working with Howard Wall’s Ideals Stock Company as the company’s agent. Soon, Wall and Himmelein formed a partnership with Wall focusing on the shows and Himmelein focusing on the business. By the start of the 1892-1893 season, Howard Wall and John Himmelein had organized two complete acting companies, the Robert Wayne Theatrical Company, managed by John, and The Ideals, managed by Wall.

By December of 1892, Himmelein’s company was faltering, and John decided that he needed to hire a soubrette. He learned of a young actress named Bertha Wiles, whom he hired. Bertha Wiles, born in 1869 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, graduated from the Cincinnati College of Music and first pursued an operatic career with the Spencer Opera Company of St. Louis. Using the stage name of "Beatrice Earle," Bertha soon expanded her repertoire and performed as a dramatic actress, comedian and vaudevillian. Her contributions to the Robert Wayne Theatrical Company, beginning in the 1893-1894 season, resulted in great success for John Himmelein and lead to a life-long partnership. On June 6, 1894, John and Bertha were married at the English Hotel in Indianapolis, after the company’s regular evening performance. By the start of the 1894-1895 season, John Himmelein had purchased Howard Wall’s company and thus began John A. Himmelein ‘s Imperial Stock Company, also known as The Ideals.

Despite his travels, John Himmelein never lost his love for Kelleys Island. In 1905, John and Bertha purchased a choice lakefront lot on the island and constructed a grand home. Bertha christened the home, Cricket Lodge, after one of her favorite stage portrayals from the children’s play, Fauchon The Cricket. While most of the year was spent traveling with their stock company, the Himmeleins always summered at Cricket Lodge.

On December 28, 1909, the Himmeleins only child, Dorothy, was born in Sandusky, Ohio. Thereafter, Bertha left the stage as a full-time actress. Also in 1909, John Himmelein began directing operations of his stock companies, then considered the largest stock-show operation in the country, from New York City. On November 28, 1930, Bertha gave her final stage performance as Mrs. Schultz in the Robertson Young Players rendition of Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch at the Sandusky Theater. However, despite her retirement from the professional stage, Bertha continued to entertain family and friends for the rest of her life. She was often known to begin performing at any given moment, an attribute much enjoyed by her grandchildren.

At the end of 1930, John Himmelein shut down his stock companies, and his reign as “King of the Repertoire” ended with the advent of the movies. Several of the theaters owned by the Himmeleins were subsequently converted to movie houses. In 1942, after 52 years in the theater business, John Himmelein officially retired.

Throughout his life, John Himmelein owned 10 stock companies, five of which were traveling companies, while the other five were permanent companies in Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Texas and Maryland. He also owned two theaters in Sandusky, one in Elyria, Ohio, and financed the building of a theatre in Tiffin, Ohio. In addition, he served as a Sandusky City Commissioner, an officer in Sandusky’s Commercial Bank, and as Vice President and Director of Sandusky’s Western Security Bank, which he helped to found. Bertha Himmelein was an accomplished singer and actress who garnered glowing reviews and was behind much of the success of her husband’s first stock company. On October 6, 1955, Bertha Himmelein died at the age of 86. John Himmelein died on July 23, 1956 at the age of 88.

After John Himmelein’s death, ownership of Cricket Lodge was passed to the Himmelein’s daughter, Dorothy Himmelein Sun. In 1984, a year after her husband’s death, Dorothy Sun sold her treasured family home to Frank and Christine Yako. In 1985, the Yakos opened the doors of their home as Cricket Lodge Bed and Breakfast. Over the past 26 seasons of operating the bed and breakfast, the Yakos have become year-round residents of Kelleys Island, welcomed guests who now return as long-time friends, and continue to host visitors to their fine, historic home. Throughout this time, the Yakos have always respected their lovely historic home and have embraced its history, while becoming part of its history themselves.

Photos of Cricket Lodge and the Himmeleins can be found on the Kelleys Island Historical Society's website:

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Historic Huron Home For Sale

In 2009, homeowner, Ina Townsend Young, hired Historical Research Partners to research the history of her home so she could present the written history to her husband, Kevin, as a Christmas gift. As with most houses, the history of the house located at 125 Center Street in Huron, Ohio, was quite interesting. The house was constructed around 1851 by master shipbuilder, John F. Squier. From 1854 until 1883, Squier built or modified 30 ships and tugs, but his most outstanding contribution to Great Lakes commerce was the propeller, Ohio, which he built in 1875. The Ohio was known as the first four-masted ship to sail all of the Great Lakes. Squier primarily built ships in Huron, but also worked in Milan, Toledo, Vermilion, and Lorain. Squier’s ship building career ended in 1883 when he constructed one of the last ships to be built in Huron, the Sakie Shepard.

John Squier and his wife, Maria, lived at 125 Center Street with their three children (who were all likely born in the house) until 1861. Over the next six years, the property changed hands many times until it was purchased in 1867 by prominent Huron businessman, Christopher Krock. Krock and his wife, Susan, lived at the Center Street home with their 7 children. Both Christopher and Maria lived there for the remainder of their lives.

The next long-term residents of 125 Center Street were Edward and Blanche Shaffer. The Shaffers purchased the home in 1919 and remained there the rest of their days. Shaffer was a self-employed fisherman. He constructed the interesting stone building that sits just to the northwest of the house. Shaffer used this sturdy structure as his ice house and as a place to store his catch until it could be sold or shipped.

In 1987, Kevin Young purchased the Center Street home and has lived there ever since. Currently, the home is for sale as Kevin and Ina seek to spend their retired years in a warmer climate. So, who will be the next resident to add to the rich history associated with this fine Huron home?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

John Munson Boalt- A Life of Tragedy and Triumph

John Munson Boalt was born in Norwalk, CT, in 1814. His family settled in Norwalk, OH, in 1816, and then moved to Sandusky, OH, in 1824 where his father opened the Steamboat Hotel. In 1826, John’s father died, and the family returned to Norwalk. At the age of 14, John was orphaned; yet, he was an industrious young man, and soon found employment in Sandusky in the grain and shipping industry.

In 1842, John married Sarah Follett. Sadly, Sarah died in 1844 during childbirth, and their infant son, Edward, died six months later. John served on Sandusky’s first two city councils in 1845 and 1846. Around 1850, he moved to Milwaukee, WI, and then to Winona, MN. John returned to Sandusky in 1866 as a wealthy man and ordered construction of a new home located at 631 Wayne Street. The grand, Italianate-style home took two years to complete. John heavily invested in the Sandusky Wheel Co., a large producer of carriage wheels, and was named president in 1867. Upon completion of his new home in 1868, John again married, taking for his bride Francis (Fannie) Griswold. Through this union, three children were born, two of whom died in infancy.

In 1872, a fire destroyed most of the buildings and finished stock of the Sandusky Wheel Co. Presumably, this is why John filed for bankruptcy in 1873. Though John legally reached an agreement to pay his creditors a portion of what he owed them, he eventually repaid them in full, plus interest. From 1876 to 1880, John served as Postmaster for Sandusky. John died on May 4, 1890, at home at the age of 76. Services were held at the family home. Fannie Boalt moved from her home shortly after John’s death and rented the house until 1898 when she sold it.