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.

A Waterville Boy—Historian and Author

Robert Ferrell

Robert H. Ferrell, a 1939 graduate of Waterville High School came to live in this town when his father Ernest H. Ferrell, Sr., a WW I Veteran took a job with the Waterville Bank. The bank was located at the corner of Farnsworth and Third Street. In 1938 Robert and his brother Ernie, Jr were members of a Boy Scouts troop in Lakewood, Ohio before moving here. Robert got his Eagle Scout from Troop 67 in Lakewood, Ohio.  Ernie Ferrell, Jr. became the Third Eagle Scout of Waterville Troop 101 on September 14, 1939 and graduated in 1941 from Waterville High School. Robert was a talented pianist and it has been said he played piano at the Waterville Methodist Church. Robert served in WW II and later as an intelligence analyst in the U.S Air Force during the Korean War. He obtained his Bachelor of Science in Music Education at B.G.S.U. in 1946 and a Bachelor in history a year later. He probably went back and forth between Waterville and Bowling Green frequently, instilling in him the small town atmosphere of life in Waterville.

Robert went on to receive his PhD from Yale University in 1951. He began as a lecturer in history at Michigan State College (now University) in the fall of 1952. Robert was hired as an Assistant Professor of History at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, in the fall 1953, where he could teach his specialty, diplomatic history. He taught many years starting as Assistant Professor and then advancing to Distinguished Professor in History in 1974, retiring in 1988 with Emeritus status there. He taught American diplomatic history there. After his retirement he moved closer to his daughter in Chelsea, Michigan. He was a prolific author writing and editing 60 books. He authored 12 books on President Harry S. Truman and a best-selling collection of the president’s letters to his wife. Dr. Ferrell was the first scholar to examine the letters after Bess Truman died. The book is called “Dear Bess: The Letters From Harry to Bess Truman 1910-1959” published in 1983. He wrote a biography of George C. Marshall, the World War II general and 1959 published “American Diplomacy.”  He wrote books about other presidents including Woodrow Wilson, Warren G. Harding, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover and Franklin D. Roosevelt.  His students were required to read a book a week, then required to turn in a review of the book. He read all of the papers that were turned in. He was able to help many PhD students get their degrees. The Waterville school system most likely instilled and encouraged the love of books and history to him. What an honor to know that here was a Waterville student that made the most of his education. Robert passed away on August 8, 2018.

Robert’s father Ernest Ferrell Sr. remained in Waterville until 1978, took up photography in retirement and was part of the group that founded the Waterville Historical Society.

An Automobile Factory in Waterville?

We have recently discovered an article written in the Perrysburg Journal dated March 11, 1910 indicating a corporation had recently been formed in Waterville to manufacture motor trucks and might eventually employ 200 men. At this dawn of the automotive age, the Waterville investors were W.W Farnsworth, D. Sheldon, A.E. Zook, Charles L. Graf, W.H. Ostrander and J.P. Fowler. The plan was to place on the market both heavy and light “auto trucks” that they claimed had several new features not found on any other trucks; “now being manufactured.” The article states that the company will install its plant in the Graf blacksmith and wagon shop in Waterville. This is not surprising as documents suggest that Charles Graf had been building wagons in his shop for several years. The article also states that the Graf building had been remodeled and enlarged for the new company and that the planned first year’s production had already been sold.

This information raises many questions and we hope perhaps some of our readers might provide some answers. Did the company ever produce any of the motorized trucks mentioned and if so what ever became of them? Who bought them? What name did they use for the trucks? Are there any advertisements or literature anywhere regarding this company or their products? Is this the time and the reason the Graf building was extended? Obviously this enterprise failed and we know very little about it, which is a shame. This would have been a very big deal for 1910 Waterville. Later we know the school bus or buses were garaged in the expanded Graf building. Ironically, much later in the 1950s motor vehicles were made in this space when the Shop of Siebert leased the building to make extended automobiles for hearses, police and ambulance use and stretch limousines.

Herb Mericle's Granger Island Chili

Herb Mericle acquired the Granger Island in the 1950s. He built a one bedroom cottage on the highest point of the island to prevent flooding and his whole family enjoyed spending time there. In a 2006 interview Herb said, “We had great times over there. You know, what was so nice about it – some people got a cottage up on some lake and would drive 40 or 50 miles, but I could either drive or cross in a boat. No traffic, no sidewalks, no roads, coal oil lights. It was just perfect. It was just another world.”

Herb had a large a large vegetable garden on the island, which he learned to share with the wildlife like deer and foxes. He would find Indian artifacts; a skinning stone and ‘a real good tomahawk.” Herb had a great recipe that was printed in a newspaper at one time for Granger Island Chili

Granger Island Chili

4 pounds hamburger

Canola oil to coat the pan

2 cups onions diced

1 bell pepper, diced

1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes, cut into small pieces

1 can (46 Ounces) tomato juice

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon black pepper

¼ teaspoon chili powder

¼ teaspoon crushed hot red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

Cook’s notes: “I like for there to be a good bite, a chunk, of hamburger in every spoonful of chilie. So you shouldn’t mix it up too much,” says Herb Mericle, explaining his approach to an old favorite. That’s why he mixes the seasonings with some of the liquid ingredients before combining all the solid ingredients. “Instead of just dumping a lot of dry powder into the chili pot and stirring, I put all my seasonings into the tomato juice,” Mr. Mericle stated.

Procedure: Brown the hamburger in large, heavy pan coated with canola oil. Don’t break the meat up’ you want a bit of meat in every bite of chili. Drain fat from the meat thoroughly.

In a stew pot, gently combine the onion, bell pepper, and tomatoes along with the browned beef; set aside. Stir salt, pepper, chili powder, hot pepper flakes and garlic powder into the tomato juice, then stir the seasoned juice into the onion-meat mixture. Bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and let it cook about ¾ hour, over low heat, covered. Stir it every so often. 

Unfortunately, the cottage was burned in 1984, probably by vandals. Herb sold the island in 1980 to Joseph Braden of Maumee, Ohio. Granger Island was acquired by Metroparks of the Toledo Area on December 20, 2011. This summer the Metroparks will offer camping experiences at Granger Island. The Island now has a cabin, outhouse and several tent platforms that the Penta Career Center helped construct. Canoers will be able to camp overnight on the island.

The Blade photo is by Herral Long 1998

World War I Ends!

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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 100 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 by 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: This year marks 100 years since World War I ended. The Waterville Historical Society has illustrated this significant event with displays of WW I artifacts, including this newspaper, at the Robbins House Museum, throughout the year. We hope many of you have visited and appreciate the sacrifice of so many American men and women, including our own Watervillians whose artifacts were included in this display. Your Waterville Historical Society is dedicated to preserving and presenting our local history and public support is vital to our mission. The Toledo Lucas County Library Local History Department has scanned all of our WW I letters from Alfred Graf and they now can be seen on the “Ohio Memory, A Collaborative Project of the Ohio History Connection and the State Library of Ohio.” Of course you are always welcome to come to the Wakeman Archival Research Center to read the letters.

The Home of Koral Hamburg

F.C. Starkweather Store

This building at 12 North Third Street was built as a hotel circa 1875 by Fred Haverland. Notice it is probably built in two sections as you can see the two halves do not meet. Later the building was owned (1910) by Fred C. Starkweather who ran a grocery store on the left side and an ice cream parlor and soda fountain on the right side. His brother, Will assisted him in the business. They delivered grocery orders by horse and wagon. When they realized automobiles were going to be used they put in a gas pump. In 1916, two gallons of gas cost $.54. The Starkweather store closed about 1950.

Other businesses in the building have been BonBar named for two daughters Bonnie and Barbara, Howard’s, Herb’s and Henry’s Variety and then the famous Koral Hamburg. The right side of the building has housed a barber shop, beauty shop, State Farm insurance office, Oliver Pray Antique and a bakery. The Village Barber Shop was operated by Lyman Sheely during the time Herb’s was on the other side. Herb Bauman bought the Henry’s Variety, took over the business on January 1, 1968 and owned that as Herb’s Variety until he sold out in 1974.

Koral Hamburg was originally founded in Maumee in 1942 by Andrew Koralewski. (Note where the name originated!) He bought the business that had been operating on River Road across from Fort Miami since 1926. Candy and Vince Flaggert brought Koral in 1985 to Waterville.  Later in 1998 Jay and Melody Surdasky purchased the building and gave the interior a 1950/60s theme look. They closed the business in 2015 for the last time but retained ownership of the Koral name. Recently they have gone in to the Koral Hamburg Food Concession Trailer business and the original cook is still making the famous hamburgers in their food truck that all in Waterville will remember. Emily Surdasky is the Marketing agent.  When former residents come back to Waterville the first thing they ask about is the Koral Hamburg. They have a website at www.koralhamburg.com.  Koral holds a special place in memory for those that grew up in Waterville. At present time the building houses Clayful Arts and they have an ice cream shop on the other side.



The Dr. Welcome Pray Property at 15 N. River Road

             15 N. River Road, Waterville, OH

Late last year the Waterville Historical Society was the recipient of a wonderful gift of the historic Waterville Gas Company building on River Road in Waterville from Rob Black, President and Todd Black, Secretary Treasurer of the Waterville Gas Company. At the time of the donation the Blacks expressed their desire that the building be preserved and maintained.  Due to the fact that the Gas Company building (Real Estate Tax Record—9 N. River; Street Address—13 N. River) and its neighbor (Real Estate Tax Record—11 N. River; Street Address—15 N. River) occupy the same lot, both properties were given to us as a package deal. 

              Waterville Gas Company

Both buildings are historically significant.  The Gas Company building dates to circa 1827 and, at one time, housed a tinsmith and dentist prior to becoming the headquarters of the Waterville Gas & Oil Company.  Its next door neighbor became the property of Dr. Welcome Pray in 1835 and, more recently, was the longtime home of Waterville resident Ernest Blauvelt and family. 

We initially considered the possibility of restoring both properties to their former appearance and utilizing them as museums.  While the Gas Company building is in near pristine condition, we remain committed to fulfilling that goal.  Unfortunately, the Welcome Pray property has suffered from years of decay and will require total gutting and rehab.

Faced with the extensive cost of restoration versus selling the property to help restore and maintain our other properties (Sargent and Robbins Houses; Wakeman Hall; Cobbler Shop) as well as providing other services and programs to the community, we chose the latter.

We are in the process of dividing the two parcels to facilitate sale of the Pray property.  We were approached by a potential buyer committed to rehabbing the building for residential rental.

It is important to realize that the building lies within Waterville’s Historical Overlay District.  Consequently, strict regulations apply to maintaining the external appearance and historical significance of the home.  (See Chapter 1157.01:  Statement of Purpose of the Waterville Code.)

We remain committed to our mission statement—“to encourage the preservation of historic buildings.”

Most sincerely, Jim Conrad, President

The Saga of Peddlers' Alley

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A blacksmith shop is said to have been built around 1840 on lot 84 on Wood Street(Farnsworth Road.) The shop where the blacksmith worked was called a smithy. Charles Graf was not the first blacksmith there as he was born in 1859 in Germany and came to America at the age of fourteen. Aden/Adon Cobleigh paid taxes of $100 between the years of 1854-57 on this property and was probably the first blacksmith. He died on April 12, 1863 at the age of 72 and is buried at the Wakeman Cemetery. On the 1860 Waterville Township Census his son, William was listed as a blacksmith along with Andrew Dutch and Dennis Mahan also listed as blacksmith living with him. Voil Downs(1896-1976) in his Anthony Wayne Standard weekly articles, “Did You Know?” said that Michael Tyler had his brick blacksmith shop built in 1867  on lot 84 by the Shufelt Bros, which was later the Grafs’ Machine Shop. The History of Toledo and Lucas County, by Clark Waggoner, published in 1888, mentions Asher Demuth, blacksmith on Wood Street, who succeeded Michael Tyler in 1884 working as a blacksmith. Charles Graf was probably the next blacksmith in that building that we know about.  On the building in an early photo it states “C.L. Graf & Son, Auto repairing and Machine work, Blacksmithing, Carriage and Wagon Works.” Their stationery read, “Carriage Ironer and Horse Shoer: Repair Work a Specialty.” The Graf family lived across the street and would come over during the night to keep the fires burning in the blacksmith forge. Next door there was a brick building which in a ca1920 photo states “The Brick Garage” with a gas pump outside, a machine (auto) shop. Charles Graf may have expanded his building when his son Albert came home from WWI in 1920.

 In 1895 Charles Graf was commissioned to make a prototype wagon which incorporated a front end that turns like an automobile rather than a straight axle. The inventor received a patent on this and Graf may have made and sold this type of wagon. The model wagon now is housed in the Sargent House museum. During WW I, to keep up with modern times Charles Graf made the first motorized school bus, made with a wooden box frame and door mounted on a model T truck frame. You can see the picture of the school bus on page 99 in the “Waterville” book by Arcadia and available from Waterville Historical Society.

 In the 1950s the Shop of Siebert Company leased the Graf building to customize Ford vehicles into ambulances and stretch limousines. In 1961 they expanded to Whitehouse at the corner of Route 64 and Cemetery Road. They left the area in 1964 for Michigan.

 1962 Principal Business Enterprise moved to the Graf building and built additions to it. They made slippers from polyurethane that was cheap and easy to wash. At first they were known as Pillow Peds and later known as Pillow Paws. These were used for patients in hospitals and could be disposable. They were here about 14 years before looking for a larger facility in Perrysburg.

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In 1976 Ferd Seipel and Ron Martin purchased the building and designed Peddlers’ Alley as a 16 store mall, restaurant and cocktail lounge, with shops inside and a brick walkway through the building. There were wrought iron gates for doors and glass doors in the winter. This was part of Waterville’s “Operation Old Town” restoration program. The blacksmith shop on the east side of building was the oldest part of the building and became the Restaurant. They just recleaned the bricks, walls and the old dark wooden ceiling. On January 4, 1977 Don and Lee Buckout from the Old Plantation Inn on River Road in Maumee opened Smedlap’s Smithy Restaurant and Tavern. He installed a spiral slide from the second floor down to the dining room which is still in use today. Many other proprietors ran the restaurant after the death of Don Buckout. The restaurant was closed December 2014. It was sold and now is the Cocina de Carlos which brings fresh Mexican food to the area. The name “Smedlap” was created by Don Buckout. No such person ever owned the blacksmith shop.

Some of the businesses that were in Peddlers’ Alley when it opened: The Totem Pole; The Tiffany Flower Shop; Graphics Limited; The Finishing Touch; The Time Piece; Waterville Outdoor World; Village Squire Barber Shop; The Kaleidoscope; The Needle’s Eye and Forever Yours Antique Shop to name a few.

Electricity for Waterville

Did you know that the Village first received electricity for homes and street lighting in 1917? We found, among a stack of old ordinances and paperwork, a series of actions by the Village Council in the year 1917 to electrify the Village. A special election was held April 25, 1917 to allow the Village to issue bonds to finance “building works for the supplying electricity to the Corporation and inhabitants thereof”. The issue was passed by a vote of 115 for and 14 against. Then a series of ordinances were passed at a June 4, 1917 meeting to publish and sell bonds totaling $13,600 and another to authorize the Clerk C.J. Roach and Mayor J.J. Lloyd to advertise for bids for this project. Ordinance No. 7 dated July 27, 1917 authorized the Village to levy a property tax sufficient to pay interest on the bonds and establish a “sinking fund” to pay the principal when due. Bids were taken to “furnish all apparatus and equipment for building a distribution system to receive purchased electrical energy for lighting of streets and resale to the public” to specifications supplied by the Froelich and Emery Engineering Co.  A resolution passed September 17th awarded contracts for materials and labor to Chas. L. Zahm of Toledo and to General Electric of Toledo for transformers, service meters and lamps all totaling $11,933.68. No paper work was found indicating when the village residents began to actually receive electricity but we can assume sometime in 1918.

Power was purchased from 1918 until June 1930 when a municipal generating plant was built and put into service.  This generating station was powered by several large diesel engines and was located near the water tower at the western edge (at that time) of the village. When the demand for power increased to capacity more diesel engines and generating units were added. By the 1950s the village residents had to decide whether to build a larger power plant or abandon the municipal plant and again purchase power from Toledo Edison. This controversial issue raged for years with much passion on both sides. The villagers were evenly split on the issue and no decision could be reached. Finally in 1967 Toledo Edison agreed to buy the Waterville Power Company for about 1.3 million dollars.  The power plant was shut down and Waterville power switched to a Toledo Edison substation on April 20, 1968. The plant was sold to Toledo Edison in July of 1968 and later the building was given back to the Village.

In 1974 The Waterville Historical Society was interested in using the building as a museum. The Village, via resolution 19-74, dated September 7, 1974, offered a 99 year lease of the building to W.H.S for one dollar per year. W.H.S. then had an architect study the prospect of turning the old generator building into a museum. The architect, recommended by the Ohio Historical Society, determined the building was not suitable for a museum and would be to costly to upgrade and maintain. W.H.S. was grateful for the generous offer from the village but by September 1975 had to turn it down. This regret was expressed in a “Letter to the Editor” dated September 4, 1975, signed by President Opel Witte and Historian Midge Campbell. The old building was eventually demolished.

A Millstone lives in Waterville

There is a millstone in the Witte Memorial Herb Garden at the Robbins House Museum. Tom Parker tells us that it was found in the ground when two houses were torn down on Second Street to make way for the new (at that time) town hall. It was moved to the WHS property when the cobbler house was moved. This millstone most likely came from the Pekin Mill when it was torn down. June Huffman in her book “Shades of Providence” notes that in January of 1917 workmen were busy removing machinery and equipment at Pekin Mill. The Millstone could easily have been rolled the short distance to the rear of the Second Street property.

This millstone has been the object of much attention recently. The Cleveland Museum of Natural History has been interested in cataloging our stone since June 2014, with several contacts and requests for information but no follow-up. They are studying millstones around the state of Ohio. This June, they again made contact and wanted to set a date to come to Waterville and study our millstone. On June 4th Dr. Joe Hannibal and his intern Tyler Mahoney met with Bob Chapman, Jim Conrad, John and Verna Rose at the Robbins House to examine and measure our millstone. They were mostly interested in its origin. It seems that many millstones are made of chert imported from France, deemed to make the best millstones. Others may be made of a similar material mined in Ohio at Flint Ridge. They differ by the type of fossils found in the stone and Dr. Joe has published his findings on this in scientific journals. They have determined that our millstone is made of French chert. The stone was imported and then fashioned in a millstone probably in Cleveland. Dr. Joe says that a whole millstone was charged an import duty or tariff but raw stones pieces were not. The photo shows our stone is an assembly of multiple pieces. The millstone is 43 inches in diameter, 7 inches deep and bound with an iron band around the outside. Waterville Historical Society has kept a sheet metal cover over the stone to protect it from the weather and other possible damage.

Mathewson Restaurant

Breisach Saloon --- Mathewson Restaurant

The Breisach Saloon, which was on the corner of Mechanic and River Road, was bought in 1923 by Nebraska B. Mathewson and his daughter Mrs. Asher (Marie) Hoobler and the business became the Mathewson Restaurant. Later in 1926 his son, George and Alice Mathewson bought the building and continued the restaurant business. During the Great Depression George moved to a small farm near Bowling Green and rented the restaurant business to Dick and Bud Witte. George’s eldest son Ray met Elnora Brown, who was a waitress for Dick and Bud, in 1936 and they were married in 1937. At this same time Standard Oil contracted with Mathewson to build a gas station on the Mechanic and River Road corner, so the restaurant building was moved one lot south. Ray and Elnora started their marriage running the Mathewson Restaurant while George and his father ran the gas station. The restaurant seated 50 customers and they served home cooked food. They also ran a small carryout business in one part of the building. Several years later Ray and Elnora took over the gas station business at 33 N. River while George and Alice again took over the restaurant. In 1980 the restaurant building was sold to Bill Imes who extensively remodeled the building. Many businesses have occupied the building since that time. 

Ray’s Sohio Service continued for many years until the Standard Oil Company decided to construct a building on the new Anthony Wayne Trail at Farnsworth Road and ask Ray to manage that building.  Eventually his son Jud Mathewson ran the station as a Sunoco gas station on the corner or River and Mechanic. It was sold in 1990 to Waterville Import Motors which is still in business.

Historical note: The subject corner was the intersection of Route 24 and Route 64 at that time and both highways ran through that part of town on River Road.

The Pumpkin Vine by Randy Studer

To tell the story of the Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Co. (aka the “Pumpkin Vine”) interurban, we need to start at the very beginning.  Keep in mind this is not the Ohio Electric Railway that ran across the Maumee River on the old concrete interurban bridge by the Roche de Boeuf rock.  We will talk about that interurban line later.

In July of 1887, The Toledo & Maumee Valley Railway Co. was formed by A. K. Detwiler, G. G. Metzger, G. K. Detwiler and C.P. Griffin (dba the Detwiler & Metzger syndicate.)  In April of 1896, the Toledo, Bowling Green & Fremont Railway Company was formed by the King-Tracy syndicate.  This line will run from Perrysburg or Maumee to Bowling Green, Pemberville, Gibsonburg and Fremont.  In 1897, the Toledo & Maumee Valley Railroad leased the Toledo, Bowling Green & Fremont Railway line and operated them both as part of its own system.  This was done to increase the growth of the electric railway systems with Toledo as the central point for all the railway lines.  On January 21, 1901, the “Pumpkin Vine” was incorporated with $25,000 in capital stock.  The Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Co. was a subsidiary of the Toledo & Maumee Valley Railway Co.

The new Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Co. proposed to build and operate an electric railway following the Maumee River with stops in Toledo, Maumee, Waterville, Grand Rapids, Napoleon and Defiance.  However there was one problem that had to be resolved.  The Toledo, Napoleon & Defiance Railway was being incorporated on the same day, January 21, 1909.  Both lines immediately engaged in a heated rivalry for the franchises from the various towns that the line would serve.  A franchise is the permission from a town or city to lay track and operate them in accordance with the terms of the franchise agreement.  The fare amounts to be charged are also set within the franchise agreement.

Let’s go back to January 3, 1901, when the village of Waterville received applications from Abraham K. Detwiler (dba Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Co.) and William R. Hattersley (dba Toledo, Napoleon & Defiance Railway) to construct, maintain and operate an electric street railroad with the necessary equipment on and along Main Street (River Road) in the Village of Waterville, Ohio.  A sealed proposal with a deposit of $2,500 had to be submitted by January 28, 1901.  Abraham K. Detwiler was awarded the franchise with a 25-year lease by the Waterville Village Council.  On October 14, 1901, an ordinance was passed by the village of Waterville to grant “The Toledo, Waterville & Southern Railway Company, it’s successors and assigns, the right to lay, construct, maintain and operate a railroad, to be operated by electricity or other motive power, except steam, in, along and upon a certain street herein after described, in the Village of Waterville, Lucas County, Ohio. Passed and signed by G. T. Ging, Mayor.”

With all the new interurban/street car companies being formed in the Toledo, Ohio, area in the late 1800s and early 1900s, changes were on the horizon for the electric lines.  The Toledo, Waterville and Southern Railway, the Toledo, Bowling Green & Fremont Railway and the Toledo and Maumee Valley Railway did not go unnoticed.  Henry A. Everett and Edward W. Moore from Cleveland, Ohio entered into the picture.  They were both active since 1895 when they built the Akron Bedford and Cleveland Railroad.  It served in a populous area and proved to be profitable for them.  They formed the Everett-Moore Syndicate in 1899, with several of the directors and officers of the Cleveland Electric Railway Co. At this time, they were the largest syndicate building and operating interurban railways.  They were also in the process of expanding toward Toledo and Detroit.

They controlled 1,200 miles of interurban electric railways.  The syndicate owned outright or controlled vast local and long-distance telephone systems in Ohio.  In December of 1901, the Toledo, Waterville and Southern Railway (Pumpkin Vine), Toledo, Bowling Green & Fremont Railway and the Toledo and Maumee Valley Railway were sold to the Everett-Moore Syndicate.  The new electric railway line that was formed from the sale was named the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co.  It was organized with a capitalization of $1,000,000 to take over and operate the 36 miles of electric railways. The electricity to power the railway was purchased from The Toledo Railways and Light Co.  With the consolidation of all three electric lines it would mean more improved car service and freight hauling with a better system of car transfers between the various interurban railway lines.

At this time the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co. had begun operating the “Pumpkin Vine” interurban.  The “Pumpkin Vine” got its moniker because of its twisting, turning corkscrew tracks paralleling the Maumee River between Maumee and Waterville.  It was still only extended into Waterville and ended at River Road and Mechanic St.  There were plans at one time for it to go across the Maumee River at Waterville, but that never happened.  Since there was no loop or way to turn the car around, the line used doubled ended cars.  The motorman and conductor had to go to the back end of the car and go reverse of the route.  Over the years the people of Waterville found the Pumpkin Vine interurban to be a convenient way of commuting to Maumee, Toledo, Perrysburg and other towns by transferring to different lines.  It ran each hour between Waterville and Maumee.

Unfortunately, the route the line took from Maumee to Turkey Foot rock was in low areas prone to flooding from the Maumee River during the spring and ice jams in the winter.  It was reported in the Perrysburg Journal dated February 19, 1904, “The tracks of the Waterville line have been covered with ice for the past three weeks which caused a complete suspension of traffic along the line.  For the past week a force of men have been working to clear the tracks.”  The entire roadway from Maumee to Turkey Foot rock was impassable.  It became necessary to put in a new line of trolley poles, as nearly every one of the poles was carried away by the floating ice.  This would cost the company around $25,000 to replace track and trolley poles each time an ice jam would take out the poles.  Mr. Leroy Waffle, father of Lois Waffle who was a noted librarian at the Waterville Library, was the motorman for the “Pumpkin Vine.”  He kept a diary in which he would include the name of the conductor with whom he worked with each day.  On February 10, 1910 he noted that a car become jammed in an ice gorge near Turkey Foot rock.

On March 18, 1910, it was reported in the Perrysburg Journal that the Maumee Valley Railway & Light Company is seriously considering abandoning the Waterville extension of the rail line on the Lucas County side of the Maumee River.  They had a new plan which was to lay new track and trolley poles on the Wood County side of the Maumee River, extending it to Haskins.  With this new route the railway would not have any problems with ice jams and flooding.  The line was surveyed several years ago and the right of way secured between Waterville and Haskins with a spur across the river at Waterville for the accommodation of the village, which would later extend the line to Bowling Green, Ohio. Unfortunately that did not happen but what did happen came on May 9, 1910.

Albion E. Lang, president of the Toledo Railways and Light Co. (which controlled the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co.) made the decision to remove the tracks and trolley poles from Maumee to Waterville and abandoned the line.  Lang did say, “When the road was constructed several years ago by the Detwiler’s, it was the intention to extend it south into a section of the state so that it would ensure a reasonable return on the investment, which never happened.”  The Pumpkin Vine had never paid for any of its operating expenses and had become a liability due to inadequate fares and track wash outs. The short lived “Pumpkin Vine” Interurban was no more.  One interesting note is that the builders of the Lima and Toledo Traction Co. (Ohio Electric) had originally planned to enter Toledo using the Pumpkin Vine route, but changed their mind and built their own entrance into Toledo via Waterville and Maumee in 1908.

The Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co. continued to operate its other lines. In 1921, the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co. went into bankruptcy. In 1924, the Maumee Valley Railway and Light Co. line was abandoned. Its gross revenues no longer covered operating costs, and the trackage rights over the Toledo, Bowling Green & Southern Railway line were proving prohibitive. In the 1920’s -1930’s, bus lines started to take over when the interurban lines stopped running. Times were changing and the interurban were losing favor and becoming less profitable due to poor service, more bus and truck lines, and more personal cars.

The Toledo Traction Light & Power Co., Toledo and Railway Light Co., Cities Services Co., and Community Traction Co. controlled most of the interurban and city electric railways in the Toledo area and provided electrical power to them and to the city of Toledo.  All of the street and interurban cars are long gone now and we still have two companies in Toledo which are direct descendants of the Toledo Traction Light & Power Co. and Toledo and Railway Light Co. The Toledo and Railway Light Co. itself was composed of several electric streetcar and utilities companies that were purchased and consolidated.  They provided electric and gas service to Toledo and surrounding areas.  In 1921, The Toledo Railways and Light Co. was renamed Toledo Edison.  Later it would become Toledo Edison / Centerior Energy / First Energy Corp.  The streetcar operations were sold to the Community Traction Co., which later became the Toledo Area Regional Transit Authority (TARTA) providing transportation services.  A final note is that the last Community Traction Co. street car ran on December 31, 1949, and that was the end of street cars in Toledo, Ohio

Rupp's Store on Third Steet

Jacob Rupp moved his business from the Miami and Erie Canal in 1904 to a building he had built at 26 North Third Street. He operated it as a general store. The canal traffic was waning and it was no longer viable to sell his goods there. His son, Herman, started clerking at the new store in 1906 and eventually bought half interest in 1924. He bought full ownership in 1937.

The Rupp General Store dealt with everything a homeowner would need to run their home. On one side of the store were dry goods and groceries on the other side. They even took orders by telephone and made deliveries in a Model T. Ford for many years. It is amazing that one could run a household in a small store but today we have huge stores and still it is difficult to find what we want. Under the ownership of Herman the store’s name was changed from Rupp’s Store to Rupp’s Canal Store, in recognition of Jacob’s original store on the canal.

Rupp coffee grinder.JPG

Waterville Historical Society has some of the items from the Rupp Store in our replica of a Canal Store at the Wakeman Hall. On display are the scales, coffee grinder, canal lantern and in the Archives we have some of the original ledgers listing items bought, name of persons buying the articles, also the name of the Canal boats when the Rupp Canal Store was located on the canal. The Third Street store closed in 1970. Most of the Rupp Store items we have were generously donated by Herman’s daughter Alice Rupp.

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.

Bridge design_edited-1.jpg

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.

Main St (Medium) (Small).jpg

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.

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

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