Waterville Historical Society

your connection to the past

The Waterville Historical Society collects, preserves, provides access to, interprets and fosters an appreciation of history that has an impact on the Waterville, Ohio and surrounding area.

The Majestic Theatre researched by Randy Studer

                 Courtesy of Bud Bauman

The Majestic Theatre located at 6778 Providence St. , Whitehouse, Ohio.  Former names: Empress, Town, Whitehouse Theatre

In 1925, Henry A. Sipher, who was a prominent businessman in Whitehouse, Ohio, built and operated the Empress Theatre as a silent picture theatre with seating for 299 people. The opening day feature was the 1923 silent movie version of “The Ten Commandments” with Theodore Roberts, Charles de Rochefort and Estelle Taylor. Henry managed all aspects of the theatre. Fred Sipher, who was Henry’s son, was the manager and projectionist. It was a complete Sipher family affair with Fred's daughters Fritzie Sipher Schifferly and Christie Sipher helping to run the theatre. Their mother Ann also pitched in. It was their job to sell tickets and clean up the theatre after the movies. Twice a year, the family would go to Cleveland’s Film Row district to book films, an event Fritzie looked forward to with great excitement. Her father would go from one film booker to another to select movies he felt Whitehouse and the community would enjoy. Film salesmen would stop in Whitehouse during the year to visit Mr. Sipher and would enjoy eating at Mrs. Kordy’s Whitehouse Inn across the street from Townsends Drug Store.

    Showman's Trade Review March 15, 1941

Mary Koenigseker and Burton Bender were the silent theatre’s pianists. Mary remembers playing five nights a week for silent stars such as Vilma Bankey, Norma and Constance Talmadge, and Claudette Colbert. “There was a touch of glamour in my job, although it only paid $2.50 a night. I felt a great rapport with Hollywood, it sort of served as an introduction to life”. Burton recalls the times the film broke and the pianist had to rush back to the keys to quiet the crowd, “Lots of foot stamping and whistling then.” From an article in the Swanton Express dated January I, 1931 it is stated a midnight show at the Empress Theatre Whitehouse, Ohio will start at 10:40. Floyd Merrill, relief operator at the theatre states that “the Empress has installed new sound equipment. The sound works from the side of the film and ensures the picture being in register at all times.” In July of 1940, A. Milo DeHaven and his wife came to Whitehouse to operate the Empress. De Haven, who was an experienced theatreman, signed a 10 year lease for the Empress. The first thing De Haven did was to rename the Empress to the Town Theatre. Next he brought the Town Theatre up to the standards expected of theatres in the 1940s.

The theatre was completely renovated, including painting and installation of a new lighting system and a new RCA sound system with projection equipment and a new screen. The Town Theatre featured live entertainment with dance recitals between the first and second movies, sometimes featuring tap dancing students Jerry Kiger and Yvonne Bauman Walters on stage. Yvonne Bauman Walters recalled that Mr. DeHaven did give the students a friendly warning to be careful and “don’t kick the movie screen when dancing or fall off the stage.” In January of 1942, DeHaven took out a five year lease on the Grand Rapids Theatre. He renamed the theatre to the Town Theatre, Grand Rapids, Ohio. Janice Sullivan Witte worked at the Town Theatre as an usher, ticket taker, and concession stand. Janis worked there from the winter of 1942 to fall of 1943. Since gasoline rationing was in effect during the war years, most of the theatre seats were full most movie nights. In late 1948, DeHaven left the Town Theatre to become the manager of the new Woodville Drive-In Theatre, which opened on April 25, 1949.

In November of 1957 Carroll W. Harris leased the theatre from C. M. Townsend. Harris also operated the Skyline Drive-In and the Rex Theatres in Morenci, Michigan and The LaFrance Theater in Swanton, Ohio. Harris completely redecorated the Town Theatre and would have a contest in the future to rename it. It was advertised as the Whitehouse Theatre in the meantime. On March 7, 1958, it reopened featuring “Hollywood or Bust” starring Jerry Lewis and Dean Martin. It screened movies on Friday, Saturday and Sunday only. On January 20, 1961, the old Town Theatre reopened as the Majestic Theatre. The Marquee was changed to reflect the new name of the Majestic Theatre. The Majestic screened movies up into 1962, but could not compete with the advent of television and newer indoor and drive in theatres. This was the end of many of the small town theatres like the old Majestic and it finally closed for good.

Over the years the old theatre has been rented out to various stores and businesses. It has been a chiropractor’s office, tax service office, lawyer’s office, and auto detail/hobby shop. The old theatre building is still standing with the overhang still in place. One of the coming attractions boards is still in place waiting for the next movie poster to be displayed. From the bright lights shining from the marquee, to looking at the coming attractions boards for upcoming movies, to enjoying eating popcorn, candy and soda from the concession stand, meeting your family and friends, screening the latest movies, the excitement of going to the Empress-Town-Majestic Theatre in the Village of Whitehouse, Ohio is long gone.

Hello to the New Waterville Bridge

We have written recently about the demise of our old steel truss bridge. While we will miss the simple beauty of the old bridge there are things we will not miss. The bridge seems brutally narrow when crossing against an on-coming large vehicle or in traffic at night. It is dangerous to cross on a bicycle and impassable for trucks with a high load as a few of its faults.

Waterville folks cheered when the old 1888 iron wagon bridge collapsed in 1941. It had been condemned for years. They cheered again when we finally opened a new bridge in 1947 after having to spend the war years without one. Then we were very unhappy when the bridge was closed for much of 1988 for reconstruction. Fortunately the new river crossing will only need a short closure when the new bridge will have to be connected to existing roadways.

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This new bridge has been carefully planned, with a great deal of input from the city administration and public groups including Waterville Historical Society. The alignment of the bridge and many of the aesthetic aspects were presented to these groups by O.D.O.T. for a vote, leading to the final plans. The details of this bridge have recently been published in the local news media so I will only mention a few. Wide traffic lanes will be separated from pedestrian and bicycle lanes on both sides of the bridge. The outer railing will be wrought iron for a better river view. There will be bump-out pedestrian overlooks where folks can stop and admire or photograph the river view. There will be architectural elements molded into the concrete and in the iron railings that reflect some iconic Waterville features such as the arches and posts of the Roche de Boeuf bridge. These will make our bridge both attractive and unique to Waterville, a bridge to which we can feel a proud ownership.

Note: There are plans and paperwork regarding the new bridge on file in Wakeman Archives available to anyone who would like to know more.

The Waterville Bridge Revisited

It will soon be gone. The lovely old steel truss bridge that graces our river view will be obscured by the construction of our new re-enforced concrete structure this year. Much comment is already appearing in the media so we would like to revisit this subject. Our previous series on “Crossing the River” ran about a year ago, in which we presented the history of our river bridges.

This bridge was built and opened in 1947, when peace time prosperity allowed replacement of the old iron truss bridge that collapsed in 1941. The bridge was built on the stone piers of the old wagon bridge which were widened and reinforced on the upstream side. Forty or so years later it was in bad shape and did not meet the demands of modern highway traffic. In 1988 the bridge was closed while a new and stronger deck was installed and the overhead clearance was increased to accommodate larger trucks and farm vehicles. This extensive re-build was captured on film by Emery Noward, whose photo album of this project can be found in the Wakeman Archives. The result of this work is our current bridge except that, like all steel bridges, it needed to be repainted from time-to-time. The color may have changed over the years but the structure remains the same. The current nearly white color makes a lovely picture against the skyline. Enjoy the view while it remains.

Our Great River Road

It started as an Indian trail extending the length of the Maumee River, carrying foot traffic from village to hunting grounds to village.

As English settlers moved into the valley the trail widened to accommodate wagons and beasts of burden. When the village of Waterville was founded in 1831 the road had developed into the main freight and stage route connecting Fort Detroit, the fledgling City of Maumee, and Fort Defiance. The road as it passed through Waterville became Main Street in John Pray’s new village. Not surprisingly, entrepreneurs established hotels to accommodate travelers on this slow and arduous rout, including John Pray and his enduring Columbian House. When the canal opened in 1843, business on Main Street slowed considerably but the River Road followed the river and the canal for much of its length so stage and horseback travel did not completely go away.

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The great revival for this road came in the early 1900s with the arrival and mass acceptance of the automobile. Still a dirt road (mud in wet weather) it remained the only direct route from the larger and thriving city of Toledo to and through Waterville. Business again bloomed along Main Street. First there were “tea houses” such as the Ging Tea House and the Downs Tea House. These were houses that served fancy gourmet meals in their parlors, catering to wealthy Toledoans who liked to take a chauffeured ride along the scenic River Road to Waterville for a great meal. The road was soon improved with crushed stone to make auto travel easier and numbered state routes were established for the traveling public. Service stations and restaurants appeared on Main Street from North Street to the southern boundary where River Road crossed the canal. At one time there were gas stations on three of four corners at Mechanic Street where route 64 crossed the river and Main Street (the early route 24.) One of these became a restaurant about 1946. (See Randy Studer’s article on the River Road Grill/Kam Wah restaurant.)

The canal was filled in by WPA workers in the 1930s to become the Anthony Wayne Trail and Route 24 moved over to the new road. However, the fill ended at our northern border and Route 24 turned onto Mechanic Street to Main Street (River Road) and south to the junction with the old road at the Quarry. The Antony Wayne Trail that we know today was not completed until 1950/1951 and the River Road became a scenic drive and Main Street again a quiet residential street.

Authors note: When the new bridge is built and our village square park occupies the riverfront, will our “Main Street” see a new resurgence of business?

The Peter Ullrich Harness Shop ------circa 1900

                 Peter Ullrich Harness Shop

This shop was used for the manufacture and sale of harnesses. We are indebted to Florence Wheelden donating this picture to us. We offer this sketch to learn a little about Peter and how he came to America. Peter Ullrich was born in 1839 in Germany. He came to America in 1864 and stayed briefly with his two sisters in Birmingham, PA to improve his English language and acquaint himself with life in America.

Peter joined in the American Civil War then raging in the Southeast. He enlisted with the 5th Penn Vol. Cavalry on April 4, 1865 when the war was nearly over. He was discharged May 21, 1865 and had sustained a foot injury during the 1 month and 14 days that he had served. We cannot be sure why Peter enlisted in our Civil War. Perhaps there was an enlistment bonus or perhaps it was a quicker path to citizenship. After the war he made his way to Waterville and established his harness shop on the corner of Third and Farnsworth Road where the Waterville State Saving Bank stood at one time. He had completed apprentice training in harness making in Germany. In the horse and wagon or buggy era the harness maker was as essential as the blacksmith. As soon as his business was established he sent to Germany for his betrothed Sophie Schneider, and they were married in 1865 in Waterville. The young couple settled in the home at River Road and South Street, now occupied by Dick Dean, and are said to have introduced Waterville to some of their German customs, such as a decorated Christmas tree. Peter and Sophie remained in Waterville the rest of their lives and are buried in Wakeman Cemetery. The couple had a family of five girls and one boy and some of their descendants still live in the area.

Note: After the harness shop there would be a two story early bank building on that corner which was later moved (about 1925) to Third Street by the I.O.O.F. for their building. This was followed by the brick building that stands on the site today. To learn more about the Ullrich families visit the Wakeman Archives and also read Waterville, Ohio Memorial Profiles.

The Silver Spring Sanitarium --- Mystery #3

                    Dr. C. Sumner Emery

A number of us “older folks” remember a strange old relic, a narrow wooden building squeezed between River Road and the Maumee River near the rapids. It was across the road from where the Turkey Foot Rock was originally located and some people knew the area as Presque Isle Hill. Presque Isle Hill would be River Road rising southward from the end of Jerome Road. The ruins were supported on concrete pillars and today only remnants of these pillars remain. The group working in the archives had much discussion about this place which led to a major research project. It seems that there is (or was) a running sulfur water spring at that location. Around 1910, Dr. C. Sumner Emery, a native of Maumee and practicing Toledo physician, purchased this property. He built and developed a health spa there which he called Silver Springs Sanitarium.  He believed that drinking and soaking in the mineral waters could cure various ailments. Dr. Emery and a partner Dr. Butler also had a health “spa” in Toledo on Dorr Street and in Sarasota, Florida.

Just up the hill from the spa was an old, three story hotel, said to have been a stage coach stop in earlier days. One source of information, a man who lived near there as a youth prior to 1958, remembers the hotel as abandoned and in bad shape and the old spa as a ramshackle house lived in a by poor family. The old hotel burned in March of 1967, a probable arson fire and the remains later torn down. At that time it was owned by W.H. Cook. It should be noted that the River Road was the principal route from Toledo to Waterville and beyond. On some of our old maps it is called the Toledo-Napoleon Road.

River Road 02 1929-30.jpg

One of our sources remembers a low concrete structure around the sulfur spring which seems to still be there. Lois Waffle, in our oral histories collection remembers walking up from Maumee and stopping at “old Doc Emery’s place” for a drink of sulfur water. A Monclova history suggests these buildings at one time may have had a darker history. The only photographs we can find of the sanitarium building were taken between 1929 and 1932 during ice jams and flooding along the river. Found in the Rulapaugh photo album, the attached photo shows the sanitarium may have morphed into a roadhouse covered with garish advertisements.  A recently discovered newspaper obituary dated January 2, 1947 states that John Cline was found dead in the old sanitarium building having lived there for seventeen years. Perhaps these frequent flooding events discouraged the sanitarium business or maybe the crash of 1929 forced it to close. Whatever the reason, these buildings had begun their slide into oblivion.  Today the Silver Springs Sanitarium is only a collection of concrete pillars and rubble and of faulty memories. New houses overlook the river up Presque Isle Hill. We have created a file of known information and photographs of the old sanitarium and hotel. We are still in research mode so if anyone has a memory, photograph, story or information please contact us through the website or visit us at the Wakeman Archives.

Waterville History Detective - Mystery No. 2: The Cave

Recently a Waterville homeowner came to the archives to see if we knew anything about a “cave” that existed under his garage at the rear of his property. No record of such in the archives so Randy Studer went to check it out. What he found was an exquisitely made large underground room formed of limestone slabs laid up to form a weight-supporting arched ceiling possibly built in the 1800s. There was a large room about 41” x 18” x 16 ft. with a smaller room behind. There was a central ceiling vent and a floor level vent built into each side that could possibly have served as a chimney. A narrow stairway entered the room from the rear and there was a large opening built into the ceiling of the small room that is now covered over with a concrete driveway slab.  Old canal photographs show a large barn on the property over the “cave.” It currently has a concrete floor with a drainage trough down the center to the outside. There was a dug well in one corner. The property backed to the early Miami and Erie Canal and may have had steps leading down to the canal.

 Some digging in the archives revealed a February 27, 1953 newspaper article called “Down Memory Lane” written by George G. Cooper who grew up in Waterville in the late 1800s. He mentions “the old Beis home at North Street and the canal, just north of the Beis brewery.” The location was right so more checking on George Beis. We have heard that George Beis had a Brewery in Waterville as seen on the 1870 Waterville Township census stating he was a brewer and lived in that area. By 1880 he had moved to Providence Township and was a farmer. Possibly the brewery business wasn’t successful. From the A Standard History of Erie County by Hawson Lindsley Peeke, we find that George had learned the brewery business when he had an apprenticeship for the brewer’s trade in Galion, Crawford County, Ohio, at a time when the business was conducted on a much smaller scale. At that time they would make their own barrels so he became proficient in both brewing and coopering. We have read he engaged in the brewing business until 1873 when he bought land and became a farmer. The mystery is was this underground room used for the brewery and why was it so carefully built. Was it used for something else later after Mr. Beis left the area and moved to Providence Township?

Other possibilities still exist. Property records show that the property was owned by L.L. Morehouse and James Brigham before Beis. They were the builders  of the great Pekin Mill on the canal and Third Street and had an extensive mercantile business from Waterville to Toledo. Perhaps Morehouse built the underground room for cool storage of produce or other goods to ship on canal boats. At this time we don’t know who so carefully built this underground room or why. There seems little doubt that the Beis Brewery used this site for some time but did he build it? What, if anything, was it after Beis left? So this mystery remains unsolved although we know much more than when we started.


Waterville's History Detectives -- Waterville Dam

If you have watched the history detectives on WGTE Channel 30 you know they can find the answer to a history puzzle in less than one hour. We know of course it isn’t that easy and if they failed it would not make a very interesting program. Waterville has some very interesting history puzzles and when the Historical Society comes across (or stumbles upon usually) such a puzzle we have several members ready to take it on. We don’t have a paid staff of professional researchers and a multi-thousand dollar budget, but our volunteers will dig in with great enthusiasm. We often find more questions than answers but always know more than when we started. We will present a series of those “history detective” mysteries and hope that perhaps some of our readers may know more than we have so far found and will volunteer some additional information. All comments are welcome. Volunteer Randy Studer and Bob Chapman are our usual researchers assisted at times by Scott Duncan.

Mystery NO. 1: What and Where was the Waterville Dam? This one has a happy ending. We have encountered in various sources reference to “the Waterville Dam.”  None of us knew Waterville ever had a dam across the Maumee, hence the puzzle. We have found in working on another mystery the foundation of a concrete dam across the Maumee at the foot of Jerome Road that is prominent in Google Earth photos and easily seen in low water time. But our “Waterville Dam” Existed in the mid-1800s, too early for concrete. Then along came Gary Franks of Perrysburg, who visited the archives to do research on the Perrysburg Hydraulic Canal and everything fell into place. The Waterville Dam was built one mile north of Waterville at the edge of the Cobb farm in 1850 to provide a water source for a hydraulic canal (for water power only, not navigation) to power Perrysburg industries some five and one-half mile to the north. The dam was a timber dam and the remains are hard to see, consisting of only smoothing of the limestone river bed to anchor the base timbers. Armed with this knowledge our researchers visited the site. It ran across the river from the foot of Dutch Road (which no longer runs to the river) and of Roachton Road on the Wood County side. The canal and dam were abandoned in the early 1890s. We were able to provide Mr. Franks with photograph of the Wood County end of the dam dating to around 1884. Mr. Franks book on the Perrysburg Hydraulic Canal can be examined in the Wakeman Archives and will provide more details about the Waterville Dam.

Note: Watch for our next Waterville mystery.

Gas Station to a Restaurant ......Now a Memory

In 1929 a small gas station was built on River Road in Waterville, Ohio at the base of the Waterville Bridge. Since River Road was the main road going north to Maumee and Toledo, and south to Napoleon and Defiance it would be good location for a new gas station. Christian Haulund from Maumee, Ohio chose this location in Waterville for his new Hi-Speed Gas Station. He was a partner of the Greenwalt and Hauland Distributing Company from Maumee.  They had four Hi-Speed Gas stations, one in Waterville, one in Grand Rapids, Ohio and two in Maumee. Hi-Speed Gas was the brand name of gas and oil products from the Hickok Oil Company from Toledo. Grover Johnston, a WW I veteran from Waterville, was the operator of the Waterville Hi-Speed gas station. During WW II Haulund had to cut back in his gas and oil business because of gasoline rationing and shortages, so he closed his Waterville and Grand Rapids locations.  Grandson Thomas D. Hauland remembers riding along on the tanker truck hauling gas from Hickok Oil to his gas stations.

The old gas station building sat empty for a number of years during and after the war. Gordon Fritz and Cal Rady from Toledo remodeled the building and opened it on July 18, 1949 as the River Road Grill. Cal Rady was a partner in the Village Kitchen on South River Road for the previous four years. Gordon did an extensive remodeling of the old gas station building to be used as a restaurant. It had a small basement which I believe had been the grease pit that was used for lubricating cars when it was a gas station. This was turned in to a storage area and the water heater was located there also.

I found in the August 23, 1949 issue of the Anthony Wayne Standard, a featured advertisement for a Sunday chicken dinner at the River Road Grill. Cecile Weckerly and Cecile Bierbaum (known as the two Cecile’s) did the cooking, along with the River Road Grill girls- Doris Amstutz, Carol Gingrich, Jean Kerr and Jean Lahr. Bonnie Heminger was reminiscing to me one day and told me that she and her then boyfriend used to stop in 1951 at the River Road Grill. She said “Gordon sat down and talked to us like we were old friends,” and “Gordon reminded me of Arthur Godfrey.”

In August of 1957 the River Road Grille was sold to James M. & Lela L. Poole.  The Poole’s were the former proprietors of the Johnny’s Sandwich shop in Maumee. Apparently the Pooles could not make a go of it, so the property went back to Gordon Fritz in February of 1960 (per the property card).  In September of 1960 Tom and Clara Reynolds from Toledo took over the operation of the River Road Grill. They did not operate it very long ether. Richard “Dick” Neely took over the operation of the River Road Grille in 1961. In the mid 1960’s it was known has Neelys River Road Grill. Phyllis Witzler recalled it was breakfast hangout for older men and guys that played golf at Riverby Hills Golf Club on Saturday’s.

Dick Neely bought the business and property on February 6, 1968 from Madelyn Fritz. I believe a short time later he renamed the restaurant the Village Inn. I have pictures of the restaurant from that time frame and it shows the business as the Village Inn. That is the name I remember it by in 1971-78. In 1991 Joseph and Jennifer Lee bought the Village Inn and renamed it to Lee’s Restaurant featuring Chinese & American food. They also built an addition onto the front of the building for additional seating. I believe they added a bar at that time to serve alcohol also.

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 In 1992, Pearl and Henry Fok opened The Kam Wah Chinese Restaurant which was located at 105 S 3rd Street where Shawn's Irish Tavern is located at now. In May of 1999, Jennifer Lee sold Pearl and Henry Fok the property at 38 N River and they moved the Kam Wah Chinese Restaurant to the new location. In 2016 the State of Ohio bought the restaurant property along with the house behind it for the approach for the new Waterville Bridge to be built alongside on the old bridge. Both buildings will be demolished in 2018. Today, January 16, 2018 the restaurant was taken down.

Note: written by Randy Studer

A Simple Gift Proves Very Important

We recently received a simple donation of a cemetery lot deed for Whitehouse Cemetery. The purchaser in 1928 was one James R. Hall. Since Waterville had two, seemingly unrelated, pioneer Hall families, we wondered if the name on this deed had a Waterville connection.

Some diligent internet research revealed that James Romaine Hall, born 1880, was the son of James M. Hall of Whitehouse and more interestingly he had two younger brothers, Newell born 1887 and Joseph Emmons Hall born 1892. Now those of you who are expert at Waterville history know that Joseph Emmons (J.E.) Hall was an early Waterville pioneer, well known as proprietor of the J.E. Hall Canal Store (located where Pray Park is now) and was also the first Mayor of Waterville in 1882. So what is the connection with James M. Hall and his two youngest sons? Waterville historians write that J.E. Hall and his brother Newell Hall came to Waterville in 1836 as young men and opened a taylor shop. Both soon became involved in other enterprises. Newell, we read, was the supervisor of a work gang doing canal construction and his young wife, who didn’t like to stay home alone in our wilderness, cooked for them. Newell later worked for the railroad and had a farm near Whitehouse. Joseph E. was involved in many enterprises besides his canal store and was a partner with John Lansing Pray at one time, operating the Whitehouse stone quarry.

Census records show that Newell Hall is the father of James M. Hall and that James M. Hall is the father of James Romaine Hall who bought the cemetery lot and also the two young brothers who were named after their grandfather and great-uncle respectively. James M. Hall is buried in the Whitehouse cemetery but the original Hall brothers, Joseph Emmons and Newell, are both in the Wakeman Cemetery. The simple gift of a cemetery deed has given us a three or more generation link to our prominent pioneer Hall families and also illustrates the strong historical link between our neighboring communities of Waterville and Whitehouse.


Every one of us has delightful memories of Christmas time that we cherish. Each year at this season in the same way as we unwrap and hang upon the tree our treasured ornaments, these Christmas days past are recalled and become a part of our Christmas Present. Here are some remembrances of Christmas as it was in Waterville years ago. In those days not every family had a Christmas tree. The exceptions were the German families. They all had a tree and from their example the custom spread. The families who decorated trees would go out into the country and cut their own. Isham’s Woods, located in the area bounded by Neowash Road, River Road and the Bucher farm was one of the favorite sites. The horse would be hitched to the sleigh, everyone would be bundled up and away they would go to find just the right tree. They cut small trees and also extra boughs to trim the homes with. The only large trees were those in the churches.

The trees were trimmed with ropes of cranberries and popcorn and tiny strings of miniature sleigh bells. Candles 5” to 6” in size were fitted into holder. The candles were only lit for a few minutes at a time, usually when the family gathered around the tree in the evening and sang Christmas hymns. The high point of the year would be the Christmas Eve service held in the churches: the Presbyterian Church at the northeast corner of River Road and North Street; the Methodist Church at the northwest corner of River Road and Mechanic Street; and the Lutheran Church then as now, on Second Street. Everyone attended church that evening. The sanctuaries would be lit by many candles and in the front would be a huge tree trimmed much the same as the ones at home. One of the members would be delegated to stand by with buckets of sand and water in case of fire. Christmas hymns were sung and then came the children’s part in the program. Various recitations were given, tableaux were arranged or simple re-enactments of the first Christmas would be presented. There would be a story for the children from the pastor. At the close of the service hard candy, nuts and oranges were given to all the children.

At that time almost every home had a fireplace from which to hang stocking and such stockings! Long cotton stockings were worn by both boys and girls and the older the child the more stocking there was to be filled. In the toe a large Brazil nut was usually to be found. There would be a fat peppermint stick; walnuts, butternuts, hickory and hazelnuts; an orange, which was always a special treat; mittens, made by mother or grandmother and perhaps a top or a small doll. Gifts were few and simple and were given mostly to the children; such as blocks, or jack-in-the-box, or slates with slate pencils, or jack straws for instance. Many gifts were handmade including items of clothing made by the women in the families as; sweaters, mufflers and stocking cap; or sleds or doll cradles made by the father.

Note: Christmas 1890, written by Mary Helen Huebner was found in an old scrapbook donated to the Archives recently.

A Souvenir from France

When the United States entered World War I in 1917 young men and women from this corner of Ohio, who never dreamed of even traveling to New York, found themselves on the way to France. Some found themselves mired in the unpleasant and dangerous muddy trenches at “the front,” Others had duties behind the front lines and the really lucky ones went through rigorous training in the United States but arrived in France late in 1918 after the major fighting was over. Most of these soldiers at some time in their duties got to see Paris and perhaps other major cities. As is common in war-torn areas with many friendly foreign troops around, a great number of “cottage industries” sprang up producing souvenir items to sell to eager foreign buyers. These included beautifully stitched and embroidered handkerchiefs and pillow covers to send home to loved ones, such as the one pictured here, carefully marked “Souvenir de France”. Many featured crossed French and American flags. Other popular items were photograph albums and picture postcards of war scenes, damaged buildings, or scenes of Paris.

One such avid souvenir buyer was Waterville’s own Albert Graf who volunteered for the army at age eighteen, arrived in France late in 1818 and was retained in France through much of 1819 with U.S. reconstruction forces. Albert was able to travel through much of France and his collection of military and French souvenirs was recently donated to the Wakeman Archives where they have been carefully preserved. These souvenir items, especially photographs, tell us much about the history of W.W. I and may be studied by the public anytime the Wakeman Archives is open.

To Stay or Leave or Escape

                Toledo House of Correction

The Toledo Welfare Farm also known as the “Workhouse” was located on Schadel Road near Whitehouse. They had one man who didn’t want to leave. His name was John Summit. It was not his real name. No one knew what his name was really. He was found on Summit Street in a dazed condition and couldn’t tell them his name in this condition. John was an immigrant from Austria with a poor command of English. He may have had family back in Austria. After spending a year at the workhouse for chronic vagrancy, he asked on February 2, 1925 at the age of 56 to stay there the rest of his life. He lived there for 33 years and died on October 14, 1958. He was an excellent farmer, kept a garden and built himself a home out of scrap lumber. He made a concrete cross where he worshiped and placed near his home. The cross could be seen at one time as you drove down Schadel Road near the complex.

Now there were others that didn’t want to stay. It has been said there was never a “break out” from this place but history in news articles tells us a different story. One inmate got a hacksaw, cut the bars of his cell but then stayed in the cell when he realized it was too cold outside and he had no coat. Some walked away during the outdoor recreation time, working in the quarry, etc. Several pried loose a bar and broke a dormitory window, wriggled through a 12” x 16” opening and dropped 10 feet to the ground.  In 1956 nine escaped with seven returned, eight in 1955 with five returned. The most that escaped in one year was 16. Of these eight escaped from work gangs, two were trustees assigned to the workhouse barn and six escaped from the dormitories between midnight and 1:00 a.m. but most of the escapees were recaptured. Usually when someone escaped the workhouse whistle would blow so neighboring farmers would know to be on the lookout. In one episode an 11-man posse stalked two escaped prisoners through five miles of muddy fields. They were captured as they were crawling in a soybean field near Whitehouse-Archbold Road by tracking them through the muddy field.

The grounds of the former Toledo House of Corrections or the Workhouse is now part of the Metroparks of the Toledo Area and the Blue Creek Conservation Area.

World War I Ends - Armistice Day

    Toledo Blade Extra - November 11, 1918

Armistice Day, the day the agreement to end the war was signed on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918. It was called the “great war” and the “war to end all wars” because the warfare was so terrible and the death toll so great from machine gun fire, heavy artillery, poison gas, submarine attacks, etc. that surely mankind could never sustain such a conflict again. How naive we were! The next generation would have to live through it all again.

It is hard to believe that only 99 years ago the world was such a different place. The copy of the Toledo Blade shown in our photo, dated November 11, 1918, talks of kings, princes, czars and other forms of royalty ruling much of Europe and mid-east at that time. Air warfare was in its infancy and played a minor role in that war. German submarines, on the other hand, took a terrible toll on shipping and led to shortages of food, fuel and some strategic materials. This, plus the need to supply our armed forces, led to rationing of food, fuel, rubber, etc. which the public supported with patriotic fervor. War bonds and saving stamps were sold to support the enormous cost of the war and women entered the labor force in large numbers for the first time in history. The end of the war under terms dictated the U.S. and allied forces changed the world map and many systems of government. The holiday known as Armistice Day has morphed into Veterans Day since World War II and subsequent conflicts.

Note: Next year will mark 100 years since World War I ended. The Waterville Historical Society will mark this significant event with displays of WW I artifacts, including this newspaper, at the Robbins House Museum. Watch our website and Facebook for information on these 2018 displays

Marjorie "Midge" Bucher Shufelt Campbell -- Waterville Historian

                Marjorie "Midge" Campbell

   Midge was one of our early historians. She amassed a large amount of information on families in the local area, Waterville area homes, plus history of her family. She also worked with other relatives of the Gunn and Isham families. She originally wanted to be an architect but in her day this was not a “woman’s job” and probably could not get a job in this field. This did not stop her from drawing plans for homes or remodeling homes. She restored three homes in the Waterville area.

   What Midge is most admired and remembered for here at the Wakeman Archives was her detailed research of families, homes, cemetery, etc. It seems that everything she touched she wrote down on 5 x 7 cards to await someone needing help in researching their family. What is great about these cards is that she always gives the source of the information; many times deed book and page number or who gave her the information. At one time she was a freelance writer for the Toledo Blade and Anthony Wayne Standard on the history of Waterville. Later she used these articles for her book Watervillore which was published just before she died. This volume is no longer in print but many copies exist. Many of the items in this book are about early Waterville settlers but they are also her early family relatives.

   All of her research is now located at the Toledo Lucas County Library at the Local History Department on the third floor. Anyone can view these many boxes by asking and signing a research paper for the Midge Campbell Collection #130. The Archives has a copy of the index that you can check out before making a trip to the library to see if there are things that you might want to view.

Rythm Ramblers Square Dance Club (1966‑200?)

Bea and Charlie Bard, Mary and Bill Kansorka, Ila Mae and Claren "Mouse" Mauer and Barbara and Dick Hahn. (Photo taken mid 1980s)

   The Rythm Ramblers Square Dance Club was a mainstream level club which meant that individuals who had graduated from the beginner lessons would be able to dance with them because the caller would be calling to that level. There were many levels of clubs, each level requiring more lessons and becoming more difficult. The western square dance lessons were taught by several different callers including; Bob Dibling of Fostoria, and Emett Iliff of Findlay. Harold “Sonny” McClellan of Bloomdale was the last one. The club callers called a dance for us once a month. The second dance of the month was called by a guest caller. They were usually from Ohio, Michigan or Indiana. During the summer Jerry Breckin (?) would call for Ramblers at Vollmer’s Park on Route 65 in Wood County.

   Club callers usually taught lessons. The classes were held in Waterville, Bowling Green, Perrysburg, Grand Rapids, Findlay (?) over the years. Each lesson lasting two and half hours at a cost of $3.50 per couple. The lessons were in a series of 15 lessons. Often the first lesson was free. The square dancing was not like what you may have learned at 4‑H camp or at school. This was modern Western dancing with new steps and new patterns that require the movement to music and new patterns to learn. It was stated that Western Square dancing was a growing hobby. In 1992 it was claimed there were over forty clubs listed in the Toledo Area Square Dance Callers Association Magazine. You first had to take lessons and then were prepared to attend regular dances by invitation to join. The club danced at Anthony Wayne South, and thenFallen Timbers School in Whitehouse on the first and third Saturdays during the winter and at Vollmar’s Park the same nights during the summer months.  In the later years they danced at the Waterville Recreation Building.  In 1996 they celebrated 30 years of dancing with a special event held at the Waterville Recreation Building.


Gold Star Mother's Day September 24, 2017

Gold Star Mother’s Day (September 24th this year) is observed in the United States on the last Sunday in September to honor our Gold Star Mothers. A Gold Star mother is a mother who has lost a son or daughter in active service of the United States Armed Forces. When a service person was on active duty, people would put a service flag in their window with blue stars for the number of family members in service. Then a service flag with a gold star denoted a family member had been killed while serving in the Armed Forces regardless of whether the circumstances of death involved hostile conflict or not. The practice started during World War I but a National organization of Gold Star Mothers was organized in 1928 which formalized the rules for membership and displaying the gold star service flag.

The Whitehouse American Legion Post 384 is looking for all Gold Star Mothers that are buried in the Anthony Wayne area. Those that been found in the Wakeman Cemetery are: Anna Sarah (Fischer) Noward, mother of Delvin Noward; Lydia (Studer) Christman, mother of Emery Christman; Evelyn Mae Kibbe Hussey, mother of Robert W. Infalt; Winnifred M. Buehler, mother of Conrad J. Buehler; Mary Helen Huebner, mother of Terry Lee Huebner, Agnes Graf, mother of Elsworth Graf; Bessie (Cobb) Waffle, mother of Leroy A. Waffle and Ella V. Campbell Gourley Fisher, mother of Robert Clark Gourley. Are there others that we have missed? Please send the information to the Waterville Historical Society.

Canal Builders – The Labor Side

We have written about men who came to this area to contract or manage the building of the Wabash and Erie Canal. Canal laborers, mostly Irish, are often depicted as drunken, brawling and poverty stricken; perhaps even expendable laborers. We have long suspected that this view only represented a minority of these men and offer the story of Irish immigrant Daniel Hartnett. Daniel was born in Ireland about 1795. He moved to Canada at some point and married Mary (1807-1885) about 1837. In 1840 Daniel, Mary and two young sons were living in Waterville along with four young men, assumed to be other canal workers. Daniel must have been able to save some money as when the canal was finished he purchased forty acres in Washington Twp., Henry County, close to the canal and near the Lucas County line. He thus became like many other immigrant pioneers, working to clear his land and support his family by subsistence farming. In 1850 he had cleared only 10 acres and added three more children to the family. Ten years later most of the farm was cleared and the family raised potatoes, corn and wheat along with livestock. The family thrived, his children married into neighboring pioneer families and his youngest son, Daniel A. Hartnett, served in the Civil War. The devout Irish Catholic family attended church at St. Patrick’s in near-by Providence and when Daniel, Sr. died in 1861 he was buried in the church cemetery.

Michael McBride, another Canal Builder

               Canal south of Waterville 

Michael McBride, was born in 1806 in Pennsylvania and spent his early years in his native state and in Buffalo, N.Y. working as a stonecutter. In 1838 he engaged with Camp and Cammeron in the construction of a few sections of the Maumee canal.  It is possible that McBride cut some of the stone blocks still visible in the locks at Side Cut Park.

McBride, Camp and Co. were contractors on and completed sections No. 35, 36, 37, 38, and 39 Wabash and Erie Canal at a cost of $154,268 in which D. Camp was the principal partner. They had problems with some of the canal and were awarded a contract to stone the banks of their part of the canal to make up any losses. Michael McBride was listed on the 1840 Census for Waterville Twp., Lucas County, Ohio with 9 males 20-30 yrs. of age and 8 males 30-40 yrs. of age, along with 1 female age 10-15 and 1 female 20-30 years of age. He married Joanna Kaily, a young Irish immigrant at Waterville in 1839.

The McBride Camp and Co. is also listed on the 1840 Waterville Twp., Lucas County, Ohio census with 5 male under 5 years of age; 7 males 5-10 yrs.; 3 males 20-30 yrs. of age and 5 males from 30-40 yrs. The females in this household are 2 under 5 yrs. and 6 females from 20-30 years of age and 2 females 30-40 years of age. We are also noticing there are a number of names on this list that may be Irish. This would have been during time of building the canal.

The construction of the Western Reserve and Maumee Road (Fremont Pike) was contracted at nearly the same time as the canal and under the charge of the same state engineer, a Mr. Dickinson. It seems natural then that Michael McBride also contracted a portion of that project. We are not sure if David Camp continued with him on the road construction. McBride in 1841 bought a farm of 96 acres on section 35 of Woodville Township south of the pike. So it was that Michael McBride left Waterville and became prominent resident of what would become the town of Woodville. He is credited with building and maintaining a well-known inn along the busy road he helped construct. The inn was demolished in 1969 when Route 20 was widened.

Waterville’s Nation Wide Grocery Chain

       Third Street, Waterville, Ohio

Waterville had a Nation –Wide Grocery Store located on Third Street in at least the 1940s. Nation-Wide was organized in the summer of 1921 to combine several grocery stores into a chain. They could buy for the chain but each store would operate as their own. They would have the name Nation-Wide listed on the store. As you see in this picture the sign is over the door and under the windows. We have also seen photos of stores on the East side of Toledo and one was at the Albon-Airport Road corner. There were rules that were followed as to the training of the store managers, such as making sure everyone was courteous and knowledgeable of the things they sold. They were to never allow a bin or shelf to look like they had run out of an item and to make it looked like it was full. After the person was accepted they would be trained as store managers in a company school for 2 weeks. They would be paid as if they were working at a store and would be trained in salesmanship, courtesy, and learn how to tactfully suggest items for sale and please their customers. They also taught the person how to order merchandise. After the schooling was over they were given the “rule-book” which outlined the policies of the corporation. In the 1960s Paul Fey owned the store, that he had brought from a Mr. Hoffman, and it was known as Paul’s Market located at 34 N. Third Street. I am not sure how long the Nation Wide Store existed here in Waterville or if the Paul’s Market was still part of the chain store. Can anyone tell us more about the Nation - Wide Store or how long it was in existence here in Waterville.   Of course Nation-Wide was not the first chain grocery store as Kroger dates back to the late 1880s.


P.O. Box 263,  Waterville, OH  43566            whs43566@outlook.com

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