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.

To Stay or Leave or Escape

                Toledo House of Correction

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

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

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

World War I Ends - Armistice Day

    Toledo Blade Extra - November 11, 1918

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

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

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

Marjorie "Midge" Bucher Shufelt Campbell -- Waterville Historian

                Marjorie "Midge" Campbell

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

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

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

Rythm Ramblers Square Dance Club (1966‑200?)

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

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

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


Gold Star Mother's Day September 24, 2017

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

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

Canal Builders – The Labor Side

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

Michael McBride, another Canal Builder

               Canal south of Waterville 

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

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

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

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

Waterville’s Nation Wide Grocery Chain

       Third Street, Waterville, Ohio

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


Emma Knaggs Isham recipe for Rose Beads”

                  Emma Knaggs Isham

1.      Chose dark red fragrant roses, discarding all petals that are not fresh and crisp

2.      Reduce these petals to a pulp by putting through a food chopper daily for nine days

3.      They are then placed in a black iron pan. The older and blacker the better and are burned and stirred twice daily. If the pulp becomes too dry, so that it cracks when rolled, a little water should be worked in. Pinch off a piece of the pulp twice the desired size you wish for your beads.

4.      Then roll them one by one into sound balls in the palm of your hands, and let them aside to dry and shrink

5.      On the third day put them one by one in a little pitcher and roll them around and around until they become perfect spheres.

6.      Then place them with great care on long hat pins to dry – piece each exactly through the middle – pressing each bead gently.Added by Midge Shufelt: The beads will be coal black, with a dull finish. Grandma usually strung them with two or three small seed beads between each rose bead, sometimes of a different color, for contrast. Blend the entire mixture with a large quantity of patience. Some of the beads, which we still have retain their musty, spicy fragrance and are known to be 60-70 years old.

Donated by Ginny Dean – originally written on Waterville Butter Co. letterhead of which Emma’ husband Torry was a stockholder

The Canal Builder ----- John George Isham

                         John George Isham

John Isham was born in Sharon, New York in 1815. We know nothing of his childhood but the record indicates that he came to Waterville from Monroe, Michigan in 1840 when a good friend won a contract to build section 29 of the Wabash and Erie Canal. John served his friend as superintendent of construction on this section from Dutch Road to Maumee. When the canal opened to traffic in 1843 John was appointed superintendant of maintenance and repairs for the northern portion of the canal.

John George Isham found more than good work in Waterville. He fell in love with a very young Eliza Daggett and they married in 1843. He also purchased a farm on river tract 42 and the couple settled into a log cabin there.  John could work the farm in summer and supervise the repair work on the canal in winter when the canal was closed to most traffic. The couple had two children, Benjamin Smith Isham born 1843 and Alfred Daggett Isham born in 1846. Alfred was killed at Petersburg in 1865 during the Civil War. Eliza tragically died in 1848 just as John was starting to build the “big house” on is farm. John, with two young children to care for soon married Sarah Cooper, daughter of Waterville pioneer Henry Augustus Cooper. John and Sarah lived in the log cabin and three children were born to the couple before the big Greek Revival farm house was finished in 1853. Three more children were born in this house and the couple also raised five other children of close relatives. John served as superintendent of repair for over 20 years ending in the late 1860s when crippling arthritis forced his retirement. He moved to town in the 1870s purchasing the Morehouse home on River Road at Wood Street (now Farnsworth Road). He wasn’t happy there and moved back to the farm in the 1880s giving the town house to his daughter Sarah May and her husband Dr. Samuel Downs. John George Isham died at his farm on June 9, 1901. His youngest son John Findlay Torrence Isham (subject of a previous article on this site) took over the farm. The old house still stands at 8460 S. River Road just across from Farnsworth Park.

Author’s note: The only known picture of John George Isham was taken when he was old and sickly. He was obviously a robust hard-working man most of his life.


Canal Buildiers------Cornelius Van Fleet

                   Wabash and Erie Canal

Most of our canal builders came to Waterville because they had secured a contract for a portion of the canal. Cornelius Van Fleet however came to Waterville at age thirteen with his pioneering father in 1831. The Mathias Van Fleet family moved to Greene County, Ohio from Lycoming County, Pennsylvania in 1819 and later moved on to Waterville Township upon word of good farm land which could be purchased at very low price. Cornelius born on February 5, 1817 was the eldest of fourteen children born to Mathias and Mary Ricard Van Fleet. Mathias although a life-long farmer was very active in civic affairs and even served as a colonel in the Ohio Militia during the Ohio-Michigan “War”. Cornelius was well educated in spite of his frontier family circumstance and early on took up the occupation of civil engineering. Our sources are silent on his engineering education, but the normal practice at that time was to apprentice with a practicing professional. He must have been a bright and capable student because in 1837 at the age of 20 he contracted with the State of Ohio to be the engineer for the northern section of the Wabash and Erie Canal. Our sources tell us that Cornelius Van Fleet laid out the canal from Providence to Manhattan and was the engineer during the construction of this stretch of canal which opened in 1843. What an awesome responsibility for such a young man. That means that he determined and surveyed the course of this waterway and where locks and other structures would be placed. He also had to solve construction problems as the building progressed. When the canal was finished Cornelius was named superintendent of the Waterville section, a position which he held for eight years.

Cornelius Van Fleet married Hannah Runyan, also from Pennsylvania and they had eight children. He was engaged in the mercantile business at Waterville and later Maumee during and after his tenure with the canal. He later retired to his farm.

Canal Builders ----- Dodd and Steedman

Some of Waterville’s more prominent citizens came to this area because they obtained contracts for construction of some portion of the Miami and Erie Canal. Contracting partners Elijah Dodd and James B. Steedman were among these. Yes, that James B. Steedman – publisher, politician, forty-niner and Civil War hero – whom Toledo claims as their own. Elijah Dodd was an experienced contractor having completed a section of canal near Harrisburg, PA. James Steedman was his soon to be brother-in-law, a young man of varied interests, great charisma and perhaps a bit impetuous. The two came to Waterville in 1837 and stayed at the Columbian House until settled. Steedman soon moved to Napoleon to take over a newspaper publication and was married in Defiance in 1838 to Sarah Miranda Stiles, a sister to Dodd’s wife. The portion of the canal in their contract included the critical dam at Providence that created the slack water pool to provide water to the level stretch of canal between Providence and Toledo. The original dam was of wooden crib design, with stone abutments similar to the dam upstream near Defiance. This dam remained in place until the current concrete dam was built in 1908 by John Weckerly. The timber remains of this old dam can be seen just above the concrete dam when the water is very low. Dodd and Steedman were also paid $300 to build the canal overflow near Roche de Boeuf, sometimes called “the cascades.” The remains of this overflow can be seen at the east end of Farnsworth Park along the walking path.

James Steedman purchased the 160 acre Roche de Boeuf farm on River Tract 39, which covered the high ridge opposite the rock and down across the flood plain to the river. Years before in 1794 this was the site of General Anthony Wayne’s Fort Deposit. In 1838 Steedman was also in the publishing business in Napoleon and in the 1840s became involved in state government. In the 1850s he was in charge of the entire Miami and Erie Canal. He was also involved in the Ohio Militia movement and was instrumental in forming and naming the Waterville militia unit, the Brady Guards. Steedman apparently could not resist the call of adventure in 1849 when gold was discovered in California. He went west and left this family in the care of Elijah Dodd. When he returned he gratefully gave the farm to his brother-in-law and the area has been known as the Dodd farm ever since. Steedman, as we know, became a famous general during the Civil War and lived in Toledo before and afterwards. Not so well known is that his first wife Sarah Miranda Stiles Steedman and his eldest son, Lewis and his wife Edith are all buried in the Wakeman Cemetery. James B. is buried in Toledo’s Woodlawn Cemetery along with his second and third wives. His Civil War statue resides in Riverside Park along Summit Street.

Elijah Dodd remained in Waterville on the Dodd farm the rest of his life and was involved in mercantile enterprises as well as working the farm. He was twice elected sheriff of Lucas County and did live in Toledo for a time. Elijah died in 1876 and left the farm in charge one or more of his four sons who remained in Waterville. He is buried in Wakeman Cemetery. Elijah and his first wife Malvina Stiles had six children. She died ca1850 and he later married Mary Jane Wardley. Four children of this marriage survived childhood. His eldest son, Caleb was Captain of the Brady Guards and entered the Civil War with the unit as part of the 14th OVI for their 100 day enlistment into Northern Virginia. When that unit returned to Toledo, Caleb joined the Quartermaster Corps where he served through the War. Caleb died in Nashville, TN in 1865 while in service of his country. Urban growth overtook the Dodd farm in the 1900s as family homes and the village limits spread south.

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

newspaper bridge (Medium).jpg

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.

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

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