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.

Crossing the River --A New Bridge at Last

The old 1888 wagon bridge was broken down in July of 1941 by a heavy milk truck. World War II began shortly thereafter and all steel and much of the labor force went into the war effort. New automobiles were not made, gasoline and tires were rationed, all of which made the long detour to Maumee or Grand Rapids to cross over the river very impractical. Motorists were once again forced to ford the river when possible. Fording routes were marked with orange barrels (a time when motorist were happy to see orange barrels). The state did assist in building approaches to the old trolley bridge and deck that bridge for use by motor vehicles. The route was narrow but served the public for about six years until a new bridge could be built.

With the end of the War in late 1945, rationing ended, military men and women came home and new cars were on the market again. New homes were built farther from a person’s work place, including in the Village of Waterville. Travel by automobile became increasingly popular and the need for a new Waterville bridge was recognized by the State of Ohio. The bridge went from drawing board to construction phase in 1947 and the new steel truss bridge was opened to traffic in 1948, looking much as it does now. Due to unforeseen increase in traffic volume and heavier trucks following route 64, this bridge was in need of repairs after twenty-five years of service. The bridge was closed in 1988 to be reinforced, re-decked and the overhead clearance increased. The process was documented on film by Emery Noward and his photo album is preserved in the Wakeman Archives. This improved Waterville bridge is the one we use today. The handsome steel truss bridge has become impractical for today’s traffic and the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has scheduled this bridge to be replaced, starting in 2018. A new bridge will be built right next to the old and the roadway will be closed for six to eight weeks to re-connect at either end, probably in 2020. Love it or hate it, this bridge will not grace our landscape much longer.

Crossing the River --------Waterville Bridge Celebration Week

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The old wagon bridge, built in 1888, collapsed under a heavy milk truck on July 24, 1941 and the people of Waterville rejoiced. They had petitioned the State of Ohio for years to replace the aging and inadequate structure. The state had condemned the bridge but failed to replace it. Now finally something had to be done. We are not sure who suggested a temporary fix but O.D.O.T. was now willing to help. The abandoned Ohio Electric Interurban Bridge was available and at that time in good condition. The State willingly decked over the old bridge for auto traffic and built approaches at each end to connect to existing roads. This was “the fix” until a new highway bridge could be built. Unfortunately, on December 7, 1941 Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and the United States entered World War II. There would be no steel for a new bridge until the war was over.

The temporary bridge finally opened to traffic in November 1941. The Waterville merchants were so happy to regain their Wood County customers they declared a week-long celebration. This was announced in the November 7, 1941 edition of the Standard newspaper in a special insert. Photographic images of several pages are included with this article. The merchants offered special sales or bargain rates for services (Note the Marathon station’s offer of complete fall changeover for $4.98)They also sponsored a free dance on Saturday November 15th at Witte’s Hall. This all shows how important a river crossing was to the economic well-being of the Village of Waterville. The “temporary” bridge served this community through the war and until the new bridge finally opened in 1947

Crossing the River -- The Iron Wagon Bridge

The need to cross the Maumee River barrier between Waterville and the near-by communities on the Wood County side has been with us from the beginning. The earlier methods of fording the river or crossing on the ferry barge were less than ideal and as the population increased totally inadequate. A bridge was needed. One or more wooden bridges were tried in the 1880s. These were fairly successful in Maumee City but the ice jams in late winter were more severe in this section of the river and the wooden bridges didn't last long. Even as today, technology came to the rescue. Better methods for making large iron structures led to replacing wooden trusses with iron. An iron truss bridge was built over the river in 1888 ushering in an era of unimpeded travel between the river communities. Because the mode of travel at that time was by foot or horse-drawn conveyances, this bridge is usually referred to as the “Wagon Bridge” by historians. Even through this bridge was stronger than wooden structures the, ice jams took out one or more spans on several occasions, but the bridge had become so important it was always repaired. The old wagon bridge carried the traffic between Waterville and Wood County for over fifty years, but the mode of transportation changed in that time. Automobiles and trucks were using a bridge designed for horse and wagon. In addition to that, this bridge had become part of the state highway system. By 1941 the old bridge had been condemned for many years but the state refused to replace it even though Waterville residents had petitioned for a replacement several times. Motorists ignored the signs for years, but finally in July 24, 1941 a truck carrying a load of milk broke down several spans of the bridge. Residents thought that finally the state would have to replace the bridge. But on Dec. 7, 1941 the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and World War II was on. The bridge was not replaced until 1948.

Crossing the River with John Ovitt

During the mid-1800s folks living on the Wood County side of the Maumee, especially Miltonville and Haskins, found it necessary to shop and trade in Waterville where there were stores and a mill. Crossing the river to do so was the problem. When the water level was low, fording the river on foot or by horse and wagon was easy and at high water times, impossible. For light loads a rowboat or skiff was used. Crossing on the ice in winter was also possible although sometimes dangerous. A working bridge over the river at Waterville wasn’t accomplished until 1888. The solution before that was a ferry service. This document from the Wakeman Archives and shown here indicates that entrepreneur John Ovitt of Miltonville received approval in the Wood County Court of Common Pleas to establish a ferry service from Miltonville to Waterville and the fees to be charged were set by the court. His ferry was a simple cable ferry, a shallow barge that ran along a cable stretched from bank to bank.

Remembering the Old School

Waterville schools changed over the years as did the educational needs of society. The one room schools run by a single teacher gradually changed into a graded school system with multiple teachers. The 1852 school (Herb Mericle House) was a 2 room school with primary school downstairs and secondary upstairs. The expanding population of course had an effect on school needs. The school system was graded into primary, intermediate and high school departments of four years each in 1884 and 1885 resulting in the first high school commencement in 1885.

The 1886 school building, the first on the site of the village square, was designed by Edward O. Fallis a Toledo architect and was a source of great pride to Watervillians .  A twelve year program was offered in 1885, but changed back to only ten in 1895 to 1898, then back to a twelve year school again by 1898. Since the one room schools in the rural areas could not offer high school level instruction a busing system was started, horse drawn at first but soon motorized with rise of the automobile in the early 1900s. The last school on this site, the one so many folks attended and remember, started as an addition to the 1886 school in 1923 which included the combination auditorium/gymnasium.

A rapidly expanding population and increasing expectation that nearly all should have twelve years of education had pushed the old building over its capacity. This more modern looking addition (see photo) soon also became crowded and sometimes portable classrooms were used. Two of these portable classrooms eventually became the home of the Waterville American Legion on Mechanic Street. At one time the Columbian house was rented for classroom space. In 1930 the beautiful, but old and inadequate 1886 building was torn down and a new structure, still attached to the 1923 addition, was built in its place. The school at this time became the building so many “older” residents spent twelve years attending and our younger folks remember as their grade school. Now it has followed its 1886 predecessor, becoming crumbling, old and an inadequate building for modern education and, alas, it is no more.

Ed. Note: For the nostalgic and the history minded, the Waterville Historical Society has preserved a few artifacts from the old school which will be on display at the Robbins House Museum this year. There are also many photographs preserved at the Wakeman Archives.

The Village Square Returns

The original plot of the Village of Waterville as designed by John Pray in 1831 contained fifty lots of approximately ¼ acre in size and at the center a large village green or public square. The public square was a fixture in New England towns as our founder was well acquainted. The square belonged to the people. It was a place where they could tether the family cow to graze or perhaps a few sheep if they owned such. A frontier town had little to offer in the way of mercantile enterprises and the townsfolk had to be quite self-sufficient. Most kept some livestock for winter food supplies, wool to make needed clothing and of course the family cow for milk, cream and butter. Most townsfolk had a farm plot outside of town for at least subsistence farming. Even Welcome Pray, one of our earliest town doctors, farmed for subsistence and a little extra cash. It seems many of his patients had little with which to pay for his services. The public square then served an important role in the life of our young village.

By 1885 nobody in the village needed to keep cows or sheep. The public square provided a very nice empty space to build a new school. The school was completed in 1886 and the village square became the village school yard. It has remained so even as school buildings were changed or replaced over the years, aged and finally abandoned. Now in 2017 the school building will be torn down. The property will be used by ODOT as the staging area for the construction of a new Waterville bridge. Once the bridge is complete, sometime in 2020, the village will convert the property to a park, thus returning the village square to the people. This is great news. Just don’t plan on tethering your cow in the new village square.


The Rural One Room Schools

We have all seen them. Small rectangular buildings usually frame but sometimes brick. Often they are found at an intersection, sometimes back in a field. Sometimes they still have a tell-tale bell tower or two front doors. Some are preserved as a residence; some are being repurposed as storage sheds. One room school houses were a testament to the value we placed on education even in the rural population. They were placed every two or three miles, depending or the rural population, so that every child could walk to a school. They all had a name, usually that of the farmer who donated the land or owned the property where they school was located but sometimes for a near-by town. In Waterville Township there was the Hutchinson School (gone without a trace) on the Hutchinson farm, the Long School on the George Long farm (brick and crumbling away at the corner of Heller and Neowash Road), the Neowash School (also gone) that was a mile up the road from the town of Neowash and many more. The Box School from neighboring Providence Township has been preserved and restored by becoming part of the Maumee Valley Historical Society museum complex in Maumee. There one can see, and at times experience, what it was like to be educated in a one room school with one teacher (schoolmaster or schoolmarm) who taught all grades. The names and location of these schools can be found on the old maps and atlases found at libraries and archives throughout the country and locally at the Wakeman Archives.

The administration of these schools was handled by a district school board that was either appointed by the township supervisor or elected by the farmers in the district. School districts were formed by the township government as needed and an annual pupil and family count maintained. In the early years a per pupil tuition was charged each family. The names of these pupils and their families make an interesting historical and genealogical record. The complete record of the founding and ten or more years of Waterville Township school district number 4 can be viewed at the Wakeman Archives.

These rural one-room schools, some still used in the 1930s, are part of our historical and cultural heritage. Some of us may have a grandparent who attended such a school. Watch for those remaining old schools as you drive through the countryside and know you are looking at an important part of our history.




Have you missed the old cannon that, for longer than anyone can remember graced the lawn in front of the old school? The city has removed this little gem for safe-keeping as the old school building is scheduled to be torn down. The history of our cannon is shrouded in mystery. It is too small to be one of the Civil War type cannons that commonly exist in numerous places. It seems to have no markings to provide a clue to its manufacture and no one among us has any expertise in ancient arms or weaponry. Milo Downs, Jr. (1923-2000) related stories about his youth when they would fire empty Pet milk cans up Farnsworth Road from the old gun using large firecrackers for powder. He thought it to be an old naval gun and may have been on a wooden carriage at one time. We think this to be unlikely in his lifetime because we have a photograph of a lady perched on the cannon during the 1913 flood and it was on a concrete base then. So where did it come from and why is it there? We can speculate from some written clues. The present school and the one that preceded it were both built on what was the village square in John Pray’s plat of the village.


 We know from several sources that way back in the 1850s Waterville had a militia group known as the Brady Guards and they did military drill routines on the village square. We read in The Soldier Spirit of Waterville, penned (probably) by Civil War veteran John Lansing Pray, that Orson Gilbert Ballou commanded a village gun squad that fired salutes when a group of Waterville men left for service during the Civil War. Waterville’s small cannon may well be that gun used to fire salutes at that very same location. The Brady Guard cannon would have been mounted on some kind of carriage to be mobile and also have been made well before the Civil War. Why did our militia group have a cannon? Perhaps it was always intended to be only a ceremonial gun. When did the village acquire this relic and when was it mounted on the concrete base? Many questions remain unanswered about this old cannon but we look forward to seeing it restored to the village square again when it opens as a park.

Note: An expert from the Springfield Arsenal has reviewed photographs and determined that this is not a military weapon.

Early Education - The Red OX Mill School

The earliest pioneers who arrived in the Waterville area had to first focus on survival, then on things important to their culture. The Adams party and their neighbors who settled just north of present day Waterville knew that their grain crops had to be ground into flour or meal for their survival so they built a crude mill soon after their arrival in1818. The mill stone was turned by horses or oxen driven around in a circle. This crude structure was painted red and so was known as the Red Ox Mill. By 1825 John Pray had built a bigger and better water powered mill in Waterville but the folks in the Adams neighborhood had a new need. There were children and these folks wanted their children educated. In those days public education did not exist. The people taxed themselves to provide for a school building and to pay a teacher for at least three or four months of the year. So it was in 1825, that the second floor of the crude Red Ox Mill became the first classroom in this area. Hiram C. Barlow was the first schoolmaster there. This mill/school was located next to the river near what is now the end of Dutch Road. It was built on the Adams farm, later the Hutchinson farm.  About 1831 a log cabin near the mill was used and later on another one 20 rods up the river was used as a school. A few years later the Waterville Township government took ownership of public education and created school districts. There were just two at first, dividing the township into north and south districts, number one and number two. As the population grew more divisions were made creating more school districts. At this time the township received a small amount of money from Lucas County for public schools. (Lucas County was formed in 1835)


Card Table Top Advertising 1946

Card Table Top Advertising 1946 -- Patronize These Advertisers They Are Friends 

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SWING BOWL Waterville Fountain Sandwiches Sealtest Ice Cream Meet Your Friends Here - Ma & Pa McDonnnell; SOHIO GAS STATION River Road and Mechanic Street - Raymond Matthewson;

WATERVILLE FOOD MARKET Groceries Meats - Fruits, Dressed Chickens; WATERVILLE HDWE & FARM SUPPLY CO. Phone 2581 Waterville, Ohio; VOGUE BEAUTY SHOP Whitehouse, Ohio Elsie H. Downs Phone 5-5371; Compliments MILO BENNETT; SCHMID Quality Furniture Funeral Home and Ambulance Service Waterville O and Whitehouse O; MATHENY MOTOR SALES 1726 Broadway ToledoWaterville Phone2381 We buy all makes and models of used cars.- Highest legal price paid. Buyer will call at your door; Compliments WATERVILLE MACHINE COMPANY; WHITEHOUSE MOTOR SALES Bauman Bros. General Repairing - Body and Fender Repair - Wrecker Service Providence Street Whitehouse Ohio Phone Main 5-5313; G. F. BUERKPlumbing and Heating -  Furnaces and Spouting – Waterville;

WATERVILLE LODGE IOOF 766; FLOYD H. FROST Wholesale Poultry, Phone 2835; BENNY MOOSMAN Sunday Times; C.M.GRAY  Contractor; The Swing is to STICKNEY'S For Better Electrical ServiceFrigidaire - Maytag - Easy - Thor - Hoover - Sunbeam AppliancesMixmasters - Spartan - BendixPittsburgh Paint, Pipe and FittingsPhone 2601Waterville, Ohio; AMERICAN METALCRAFT CO. Phone 2521StampingsWaterville, Ohio; C.J.ROACH BarbershopGeneral Insurance; BROADWAY BAR  River Road, Waterville, Ohio; THE WATERVILLE HATCHERY Waterville, Ohio  Baby Chicks 20th Season Telephone: Hatchery 2821Residence 2023 Howard Squire, Owner; DISHER ELECTRIC STORE Whitehouse, OhioG.E. Appliances, Philco Radios, Farm Freezer Units, Farm Electric Equipment, Service and Repairs; KURTZ SUPER SERVICE Fleetwing Gas and OilsDeSoto and Plymouth Sales & ServicePhone 3111Waterville, Ohio; Compliments of PAGE DAIRY COMPANY Whitehouse, Ohio; WATERVILLE TIN & PLUMBING Spouting - Roofing - Heating - Plumbing - Lightning Rods Service and Installation   H. E. WilesPhone 2702Waterville; TOWN THEATER  Whitehouse, Ohio; FALLEN TIMBERS REBEKAH LODGE No. 691; C. TOWNSEND For Proprietory MedicinesStock & Poultry RemediesWallpaper - PaintsC.M. Townsend, Whitehouse, Ohio; HOLLIKER'S General MerchandisePhone 55342Whitehouse, Ohio; GRAF BROS' GARAGE  phone 2711 Waterville, Ohio; CORDY'S MODERN SHOE REPAIR "The Port of Lost Soles"; RUPP'S GENERAL STORE We specialize in made to order Window Shades; "Let's all pull together for Waterville" TOLEDO RUBBER PRODUCTS CORP.; WATERVILLE BEAUTY SHOPElsie H DownsPhone 2192; TILTON'S HARDWARE  Hardware - Paint - Glass HousewaresWhitehouse, Ohio; WEBSTER'S MARATHON SERVICE STATION Waterville, Ohio; Compliments of KENNETH M BROWNE M.D. Whitehouse, Ohio; Compliments of WHITEHOUSE STATE SAVINGS BANK Whitehouse, Ohio; Compliments ofDR. RAYMOND L. WRIGHT; LYTLE'S CABINS Route 64Waterville, Ohio; MALLENDICK MEAT MARKET  Fresh Meats - Fish and Oysters in Season Whitehouse,  Ohio; L.E. WYNOCKER  Realtor Waterville, Ohio Phone2891; H. M. ALLION  General Insurance Whitehouse, OhioTel.Off 5-5151Res. 5-5565; THE WATERVILLE STATE SAVINGS BANK CO. Waterville, Ohio; Compliments ofW.C. Suter - M.D.; Compliments of FARMER'S MARKET  Home Furnishings and Electric Appliances; WAFELDOG LunchTake 2 They're Small! Ted and Glad Moss; MARTIN & HUFF  Food Locker ServiceFresh MeatGroceriesWaterville - 3241Whitehouse 5339; J.L. METCALF OIL COMPANY Distributors of Fuel Oil, Gasoline, Motor Oil and AccessoriesElectrical Appliances   Phone 2941; Compliments STARKWEATHER STORE; THE KOCH LUMBER COMPANY; Lumber, Coal, Builders' Supplies, Builders' Hardware, Interior FinishMaumee - Perrysburg – Waterville; Compliments DR. R. H. HAMMANWaterville, Ohio; GUSTAVE A. DEDRICH  General InsuranceEstablished 1907Phone 2971 Waterville, Ohio; HERCULES POWDER & BLASTING SUPPLIES A.E. MerifieldWaterville, Ohio; FALLEN TIMBERS REBEKAH LODGENo. 691 Waterville, Ohio; Compliments ROCHE DE BEOUF CAMP No 9213 ROYAL NEIGHBORS OF AMERICA; THE WATERVILLE FARMERS' ELEVATOR COMPANYGrain - Feed - Coal – Fertilizer. 

 Note:This a card table that maybe seen at the Wakeman Archival Research Center which shows the businesses that were in the Waterville-Whitehousearea in 1946. Do you recog(nize any of them?)

The Strange Story of a School Executive and a Canal Boat


Thomas Burrows Pinkerton was a native of Northern Virginia which became West Virginia during the Civil War. He served with the 12th West Virginia Infantry during the war from August 1862 until mustered out June 28, 1865. He was captured by the Confederates in 1863 but fortunately was paroled after only 22 days. After the war Thomas studied at West Liberty Academy in West Virginia and at the Ohio Wesleyan University, graduating in 1868. He taught school at Delta, Ohio and later was hired as principal and superintendent of the Waterville school. He was both teacher and principal here for sixteen years and very popular with students and faculty and an advocate for higher education for women. A number of the women who had been in his classes would hold a reunion with him every year. He served as clerk of the village council and on the Lucas County Board of School Examiners for many years. When Thomas B. Pinkerton came to Waterville to take his position as head of the Waterville school he wanted to buy a house near the school. He happened to have a conversation with one Washington Mallory of 23 S. River Road. It so happened that Mr. Mallory had long dreamed of owning a canal boat. Mr. Mallory happily sold his house to Mr. Pinkerton and used the money to buy his canal boat. He of course named the boat The T.B.Pinkerton.

Waterville in World War II

December 7 this year will be the 75th anniversary of Pearl Harbor Day, the infamous attack that marked the entry of the United States into World War II. We find among our very few firsthand accounts of the war, a fairly detailed journal written by Dr. Ruben H. Hamman. Dr. Hamman was a practicing physician in Waterville, married and father of a young child when he volunteered his services to the United States Air Force as a flight surgeon just a few months into the war. He had long been fascinated with airplanes. He reported for active duty training in October of 1942 as a 2nd Lieutenant and spent almost a year in training. This included flight training, not as pilot but to be familiar with duties of a flight crew. One of the many duties of the flight surgeon is to certify that the crew is medically fit to fly. After attending schools from Maine to Texas, Dr. Hamman was finally shipped overseas where he served at air bases in Scotland and England. He describes duties and incidents in England including a crash landing in which all aboard were cut and bruised but survived. He was sent to France in 1945 after that country was liberated and the allied forces were advancing on Germany. He had advanced to the rank of Captain by this time and again describes his duties and adventures of flying to various duty stations, time Paris, southern France and finally being sent to occupied Berlin at the end of the war in Europe. The war with Japan ended some months later before Dr. Hamman could be transferred to the Pacific Theater. He was ordered back to the United States and separated from service October 10, 1945. Dr. Hamman returned to Waterville and resumed his medical practice there. Dr. Reuben Hamman, his wife Thelma (Luttenberger) Hamman and daughter Miriam resided in Waterville many years. He died July 11, 1982 and is remembered fondly by a number of residents.

Note: The Historical Society’s archives have a few memoirs and/or letters of World War II veterans and nothing of the Korean or more recent wars in our collection. We would welcome donations of such papers to the archives or the chance to copy these records so family can retain the originals.

The Hammond School

One room schools appeared every 2 or 3 miles in rural Waterville Township during the mid 1800s well into early 1900s. These farm families so valued public education they often donated land for a school building that kids could walk to. Such was the case with the Hammond School located at the corner of Waterville-Neapolis and Noward Roads (circle on map.) Dorothy Moosman wrote a concise history of this school in 2004 which can be found at the Wakeman Archives. The 89 acre farm at that corner was purchased in 1846 by Joseph and Mary Ann White but Joseph died in 1848. Mary Ann married James Hammond in 1849 but this ill-fated marriage ended in divorce in 1867, Mary Ann claiming abandonment. James had been absent more than three years. June 10, 1874 Mary Ann White Hammond deeded one half acre of her land to the Waterville Township Board of Education for $10 so long as it was used for school purposes. The lot was referred to as the Hammond School House lot. The school was built and used until 1914. Meanwhile the farm changed hands several times and eventually was purchased by John Moosman in two parcels in 1926 and 1936 and requested that the school parcel, no longer used, be rejoined to the rest of the farm. The old school was moved to the back of the Willard Farnsworth property for reuse as an outbuilding as was so often the fate of these old school buildings. The Hammond School site can be found on many of our old maps but has been completely obliterated by the new Route 24 bypass. 


The 3rd Street photo with this article clearly shows a large scale at the west edge of the street. This letter dated August 28, 1905 and addressed to the Village Mayor and council explains the presence of the scales

It states “To the Honorable Mayor and Councilmen, Waterville, Ohio. Gentlemen: I hereby ask your Honorable body for permission to put in a pair of wagon scales on the west side of Third Street, between Wood and Mechanic Streets. If my request is granted, the Corporation will have use of the scales free of any charge. Respectfully, submitted for your consideration. This 28th day of August 1905. Yours Respy, Chas. F. Patton, con”

It is not clear why it is written on Waterville Hardware and Supply letterhead. Perhaps Mr. Witte was the owner or the supplier of the wagon scales.

A Halloween Celebration at the Columbian House 1927

The Columbian House had fallen on hard times by its 90th birthday. It had been empty and abandoned for some years when, in June of 1927 it was purchased by Toledoean Charles F. Captron and restored to its former condition. Mr. Capron was especially impressed with the famous third floor grand ballroom built in 1837 by John Pray. Restoration complete, the ballroom was leased to Mr. and Mrs. George Albert Moore and the Misses Eve and Bertha Hillabrand of Perrysburg for a Halloween costume party. The guest of honor was none other than the automobile magnate Henry Ford and his wife. It was reported in the Oct 31, 1927 Toledo Blade that the Fords arrived by limousine and brought the Ford old time dance orchestra with him. The Fords had dinner at Mrs. Ging’s renowned dining room in Waterville prior to the Halloween Ball.

Over 1000 guests danced to the music of the Ford Orchestra in the old ballroom, were served cider and doughnuts in the old bar room and fortunes were told in the 2nd floor room which had been used as a jail cell many years ago. The residents were excited about the visit by such a famous person and rumors were spread about that Mr. Ford would buy the lovely old building to add to his collection. Obviously he did not and John Pray’s old Columbian House is still part of Waterville.


The Presbyterian Church dedicated in 1856, was built at the corner of North Street and River Road.  Some of the early families that attended were: the Van Fleet’s, Reed’s, Ward’s, Dodd’s, Hutchinson’s, Latcham’s and Ballou’s.  The Presbyterians eventually built a new church “up the hill” on Farnsworth Road.

Frank Bucher opened the Bucher Motor Sales in the old Presbyterian Church on North River Road. He sold Model T Fords and in later years Nashes. He was not in business at this location very long, as one day as he was driving back from Toledo he realized something was wrong. He could not see the church spire as he approached Waterville. It had burned to the ground. A local newspaper reported on November 30, 1922, that the fire was caused by a defective flue. The fire was discovered at 1:30 p.m. when the whole front part of the roof was on fire. The fire department tried to save it but the timbers were so dry having stood there over 50 years. The building was built as a church but was abandoned due to a struggling existence and was used as a sheep pen for some time. The building was sold to P.W. Bales who opened a picture show in it until prevented from operating it by the Insurance Department. It was then sold to Price Day who opened up a Garage and Ford Sales agency which proved successful. Mr. Day and Mr. Bucher were the owners of the garage and after the fire Mr. Bucher opened for business at another location at 218 Mechanic Street.

Roche de Boeuf Bridge Historical Society

The society was formed by interested citizens who wanted to preserve the interurban trolley bridge across the Maumee River. The Board of Trustees was elected June 6, 1974 with a total membership of 365 members and within a year over 400 members. At the time of the construction in 1908 it was the longest reinforced concrete bridge in the nation. At the time the Bridge Society was working on this the Ohio Highway Department had agreed to restore it to safe pedestrian and bicycle use. They then wanted to transfer the title to the Ohio Historical Society with the Metropolitan Park District to operate the bridge with planters, benches, tables, etc. The society wanted to make the bridge like one they heard of in Shelburne Falls, Mass. which has been designed to carry a trolley across and was a 5 arch bridge similar to Waterville’s 12 arch bridge..

The Waterville bridge originally was to run an interurban line through Waterville and that bridge would be the longest reinforced concrete bridge in the world. It was to be one unbroken mass of steel and cement from one side of the River to the other, 1200 feet in length. It was to pass six feet below the “rock” but turns out they used part of the rock and blasted away part of it. The construction engineers claimed they needed to make the bridge more stable.

The interurban days were over in 1937 and the tracks were removed but the bridge was taken over in 1941 by the state when a span of the old highway bridge in Waterville fell in. The Highway Department acquired the bridge and used it as a temporary auto crossing. The old trolley bridge had to be used for seven years due to the war and shortage of steel to repair the Waterville bridge. The bridge also helps save Waterville from flooding by breaking up the large ice floes.

The Society ran into trouble soon after it was formed. By October 19, 1983 the Roche de Boeuf Bridge Historical Society were deciding to dissolve the society which was formed in 1974 and to decide what to do with the remaining fund of approximate $2000. The Highway Department said it would be unsafe to drive equipment on the bridge and they did not have a boring tool long enough to stabilize the arches. They were also afraid of the gas lines that were nearby. The Ohio Historical Society and the Metropolitan Park District did not want to take ownership of it since if it needed removed they would be required to pay the cost. When the bridge was put on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972 no provision for maintenance or repairs were given.

Today the beautiful bridge continues to age and fall in the river. It still remains a beautiful place to paint pictures of the bridge. Today it lies in ruins with some of the bridge arches falling in to the River. It is still owned by the Ohio Department of Highways. Such a sad ending to a beautiful bridge.



The Presbyterian Church dedicated in 1856, was built at the corner of North Street and River Road.  Some of the early families that attended were: the Van Fleet’s, Reed’s, Ward’s, Dodd’s, Hutchinson’s, Latcham’s and Ballou’s.  The Presbyterians eventually built a new church “up the hill” on Farnsworth Road.

Frank Bucher opened the Bucher Motor Sales in the old Presbyterian Church on North River Road. He sold Model T Fords and in later years Nashes. He was not in business at this location very long, as one day as he was driving back from Toledo he realized something was wrong. He could not see the church spire as he approached Waterville. It had burned to the ground. A local newspaper reported on November 30, 1922, that the fire was caused by a defective flue. The fire was discovered at 1:30 p.m. when the whole front part of the roof was on fire. The fire department tried to save it but the timbers were so dry having stood there over 50 years. The building was built as a church but was abandoned due to a struggling existence and was used as a sheep pen for some time. The building was sold to P.W. Bales who opened a picture show in it until prevented from operating it by the Insurance Department. It was then sold to Price Day who opened up a Garage and Ford Sales agency which proved successful. Mr. Day and Mr. Bucher were the owners of the garage and after the fire Mr. Bucher opened for business at another location at 218 Mechanic Street.

The Endangered “Tobacco” House

34 N. River Road, Waterville, OH

The little two story house at 34 N. River Road was built in 1877 according to a recent tax record, but there is good evidence that this house was built much earlier. Lot 20 of the original village plat was sold by John Pray in October 1836 to a Thomas Gleason who immediately sold it to new arrivals from Connecticut David Hall and wife Betsy (Elizabeth.) This lot was on the southeast corner of Mechanic Street and Main Street (River Road) and included the portion where Lee’s Restaurant is now. The lot was split at some point. The property tax increased in 1837 indicating a house was on the property. Later records list the house as a residence and tobacco factory owned by David Hall. The property was inherited by Betsy and two sons, Reuben and Orlando Fish Hall in 1849. The brothers are listed as “tobacconists” of the firm O.F. & R. Hall, still at the River Road location. Both brothers served in the Civil War and were members of Waterville’s “Brady Guards” that formed part of Company I, 14th O.V.I. at the start of the war in 1861. Orlando sold or gave his share of the property and business to his brother and moved west in 1877. Reuben was married to Susan E. Robbins, daughter of Constable David Robbins and Phebe Gunn (Refer to the W.H.S. Robbins House Museum) and owned this property until his death in 1902 and his daughter owned it after that.

The records show that the south half of lot 20 remained in the Hall family through three generations and this writer can find no record of a new house having been built by this family. Could the house at 34 N. River actually date to 1837? We at W.H.S. like to call it the “tobacco house” due to its long history as a tobacco business. The property is now owned by the City of Waterville and its future in light of a new bridge and riverfront park is uncertain.

James Fisher Pray killed at Jonesboro September 1, 1864

1st Sgt. James Fisher Pray, the eldest son of Waterville’s early doctor, Welcome Pray was killed at Jonesboro, Georgia on September 1, 1864 during a charge on the Confederate Army fortifications. The GAR Post in Waterville was named James Fisher Pray post for him. Dr. Pray received the following letter from Capt. W.B. Pugh of Co. I, 14th OVI.

Headquarters 3rd Bn 3rd Div

Atlanta, GA Sept. 8, 1864

Dr. Welcome Pray, father of James F. Pray

Dr. W. Pray

Waterville, O.

    I am compelled to inform you of the bad news, the death of your son 1st Sergt. James F. Pray, Co. I, 14th OVI. He fell in a charge on the rebel works at Jonesboro, GA on the 1st day of Sept about 5:30 PM. He fell on the spot, did not say a word as he was shot through the head. He fell by my side when just on the rebel works. I raised him up but he was gone. I have in my possession all of his effects which I will send to you by Isaac West of Maumee City who goes home in a few days.   I should have written sooner but we have been very busy since the battle. We arrived here today. I will write you again when I send the effects of your gallant son. I have sustained a great loss in the company in his death. He was a favorite with all in the Co. and Regt.   I cut a hickory stick near the spot where he fell which I will send you. It bears the mark of a rebel riffle ball.   I will forward at once all necessary papers to Washington that you can settle up his accounts without any trouble.   Any Information you may want in the case I will cheerfully contribute upon receipt of your communication.   I should like to give you a full report of the whole battle but at present I have not the time. The loss in my Co. was 2 killed and 71 wounded. A full report has been sent to the Toledo Blade.

With much respect, I amSir your Obt Servt.

W.B.Pugh Capt. Co.1, 14th Ohio Vol. Inf.

Note: James Fisher Pray enlisted at the outbreak of the Civil War April 1861 in Co. I, 14th OVI with many other men from Watervile. His first enlistment was for only three months but upon discharge he re-enlisted for three years in the same unit and worked his way up from private to 1st Sargent. Many of his letters home were preserved and donated to the Waterville Historical Society. These letters provide some interesting insight into both the Civil War and his family. The J.F. Pray letters can be found in the Civil War letters Collection at the Wakeman Archives. 

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

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