ORAL HISTORY CHARLES BACKHAUS
Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, 10-30-2007
CW: Would you tell us your name.
CB: My name is Charles Backhaus. There was a water pump in the middle of Ridgeville Corners. Its pipes used to be made of cyprus wood.
CW: Is that right! The pipes from the pump?
CB: Yes, the downpipes they were cyprus. You see cyprus doesn’t rot in water.
CW: I see.
CB: It was square and beveled at each end. They had one of them at the chicken pie deal a few years back that was the pipe that went down in the well casing. It was about twenty feet long and I thought well where in the world who got that. They put in a metal one later and took that out and somebody saved it.
CW: Oh for heavens sake, you never know.
CB: I looked at that and it was square, I think it was about a four inch square and about a three inch hole drilled, and I thought how can you get that drilled straight all the way through. for about twenty feet. That had to be somebody that knew what he was doing.
CW: I would think so.
CB: My mother used to say, she graduated from high school and I did too. She used to teach up there, but when she graduated they had their graduation exercise up town and they had a team of horses that pulled a piano up there or something and the horses ran off and they straddled that pump.
CW: For heaven's sake.
CB: And that was the year that they decided or they said we were going to have the Haleys comet.
CW: Oh yes, I remember that.
CB: And when the horses straddled that and made a racket somebody said here comes Haley's comet. That story I heard from her. Another thing that we have here and is a tradition of around 100 years or more is a chicken pie deal which was started by the Civil War veterans.
CW: Is that right.
CB: My grandfather, my mother's dad was a Civil War veteran. He was wounded in the Civil war in the Kennesaw Mountains.
CW: Oh my.
CB: They started that.
CW: Did he recover from his wounds?
CW: That is unusual because a lot of them died.
CB: He got gangrene in it and blood poisoning and he was under hospitalization for a while. He recovered, but it left him with a little problem. In his later years he got a little pension. He lived to be a little past 87 years old.
CW: That was a long time in those days.
CB: He died in 1931.
CW: Before you get into this story would you state your name.
CB: Charles Backhaus
CW: You said you were born in Defiance County.
CB: Yes, I was born in Defiance County in 1921 and when I was a year old we moved to Ridgeville township. I grew up partly, I was four years old just north of Ridgeville on the 20A road. It was on Bill Otte's place. It has been a Hurst place since then. That is where I was until we moved in 1924 when Bill Otte's daughter was going to get married and she wanted to live there. We moved on the ridge three and a half miles north east in Freedom Township. That was across the township line a mile. That is where I grew up for fifteen years. After I got out of high school, that year in 1939 my folks bought a place in Indiana, and we had to move. My folks bought a place just across the line two miles across the Indiana and Ohio border in Van Wert. I lived there fifty four years. My mother died in 1974 and my broher died in 1993. That left me alone there. We sold it to a neighbor, I and my sister and I came back here because most of my relatives were here. I got a lot of relatives around here. That is what I did and I have been here ever since.
CW: You have relatives, but your name does not seem to be a common one.
CB: There are not too many by our name. Our father was raised just along the Defiance and Henry County line in Defiance County. We are the only Backhaus. He had two uncles. His dad had two brothers and they came from Germany. They settled over in that area. There was Chris Backhaus, he never married, and then there was Fred Backhaus who had three daughters and a son and my Grandpa Backhaus had three sons and a daughter. Fred Backhaus lived on 66 and Chris lived in back on the farm where he grew up. There are no other Backhaus’s. We are related to the Nagel’s.
CW: That is a common name.
CB: I am shirt tail relation to about all of them. My Grandmother Backhaus was a Nagel. She is the only one that did not come from Germany. The others all came from Germany.
CW: Yes, a lot of people came from Germany.
CB: My Mom’s mother was a Jost. I got relatives around Sherwood. There are a lot of Josts over there. In fact my Dad’s sister married a Jost.
CW: Rumor has it that often in Germany the second son or younger than the oldest ended up with very little property. So those were the ones who came to the United States. Is that what your family did?
CB: That was kind of common amongst the Germans. The oldest one got the property. The daughters didn’t get much.
CW: Oh yes, they wouldn’t.
CB: They were supposed to marry somebody that got it. The Schroeders, that is what happened there. It was not the oldest. My grandpa had several brothers. He had one in Alaska, at Juneau and then he had Robert Schroeder, who lived in this town and Otto Schroeder who lived in this town. His place was just west of St. John Lutheran Church. The one that got the farm he was the youngest. He was the only one born in this country. He got the farm. There was one sister she went to Nebraska. That was the reason they kind of spread out like that. I don t think she got very much.
CW: She had to find her own way.
CB: She left and the one went to Alaska. You know they had the gold rush on and he went speculating. He had a son and I have seen him. He came to our place. They would come out here once in a while from Alaska. I remember him when I was a little kid.
CW: That is interesting. Then they were some of the first settlers here.
CB: My grandfather was only a few years old when they came across. My Grandpa Backhaus was left in Toledo with some relatives. They didn’t have much money. They left him at a relative in Toledo and that is where he partly grew up.
CW: This was quite common in those days. When they didn’t have enough money to feed a child they would send them to a relative to let them raise him.
CB: They settled on one hundred and sixty acres. Eighty acres was the one place and Fred Backhaus had the other eighty acres. They settled over here in Defiance county.
CW: And that was your grandfather?
CB: Yes, Henry Backhaus. I know those children of Fred Backhaus. Well Reverend Mix is a descendant of them.
CW: Is that right. I didn t know that.
CB: His grandmother was a first cousin of my dad. She was a daughter of Fred Backhaus.
CW: He and his wife go to our church.
CB: His mother would have been a second cousin to me.
CW: Now I interrupted you. Can you tell about that chicken pot pie?
CB: This would be interesting. It was the Civil War veterans that started that. It was to pay for their Decoration Day program. That is another tradition that has gone on for over one hundred years. We always had a program. Then when the Civil War veterans give it up then the American Legion had it for a number of years. It would be the children of the veterans that would put on the program. The school teachers here would be asked to give the program. When I was a kid we had it in the Giffey Hall all the time. All of our school doings were in the Giffey Hall. We didn’t have the gymnasium auditorium. That is where the chicken pie deal was held.
CW: What sort of entertainment was it?
CB: We had a regular Decoration Day program. We had some skits and marches. I know once I had to give the poem “In Flanders Field”, and things like that. We had flag drills. Then we would have a speaker. I know Frank Kniffen was a speaker once. They would get some prominent fellow and he would be the speaker. Then the young children would gather up flowers and they would go to the cemetery and put them on the veterans graves. They would have a session out there in the cemetery too. The little kids would put flowers on their graves and little flags.
CW: Do they still have those chicken pot pie dinners?
CB: Yes, Now when the Legion had it they got money from the State to have that program. They didn’t use to get any money for the decorations. Then they gave it up and our school had it, and we did the work. We had to solicit out in the neighborhoods. I had to solicit and you had to have about 75 cakes and over 100 bowls of fruit salad, and about 100 bowls of potato salad, and the baked beans. All we served was the chicken pot pies. My mother baked some of them. Different women in the schools would bake those chicken pot pies. The baked beans, potato salad, and the fruit salad, that was on the table. You helped yourself. All we served was the chicken pie and the coffee. I had to help do that when I was in high school. You had all you wanted to eat for fifty cents.
CW: Is that right! Boy, that was a bargain.
CB: We had a big crowd. When we had it in the school and we even had people from Napoleon. We would feed a thousand people.
CW: What a community can do! little old Ridgeville.
CB: If there were any cakes left that were not used they auctioned them off when the meal was over. When the school had it we had a little program then too. That was one thing when they auctioned the cakes off. The school had it because they would rent the hall for the basketball games and for activities. We would use the stage for plays and so forth, and that paid for that.
CW: Did they play basketball in the Giffey Hall?
CB: Yes, that is where the games were held.
CW: Was that upstairs or down in the basement?
CB: No, it was upstairs.
CW: It is hard to imagine that now.
CB: Well, it is a big hall. That was to help pay for the athletic association. After we got the new school, then the Legion took it over again and it was just a regular addition. You don’t get the meal for fifty cents.
CW: You don’t?
CB: We would have a pretty good meal for fifty cents. If you wanted a second piece of chicken pie you would get it.
CW: For fifty cents, oh wow! The meal price is much more now.
CB: And you could help yourself to all the other stuff. Now yet it is at the Legion Hall and some of the things they set on the tables like the fruit salads and the cake. That is on the table and you can help yourself to that. For the other foods you go around to the serving table.
CW: You grew up just over the line in Defiance County.
CB: No, I didn’t grow up in Defiance County. I was only a year old when we moved away from Defiance County. I grew up here in Freedom township. The two schools in Freedom township were connected with the Ridgeville township school.
CW: What was it like here when you were a child?
CB: I remember the Ridge road was a dirt road in 1924. It has quick sand someplace and in the spring of the year and I saw the mailman in his Model T car, sometimes he was going along the fence. We had places in the road where you didn’t get through, you would get stuck with an automobile. The next year they graveled the road. That didn’t hold. A few years later they hauled stone and then we didn’t have that trouble.
CW: Now, John Henry said that when he was young each farmer had to take care of the road that was in front of his farm.
CB: Well, like shoveling snow and yes, we did that too, even when I was in high school. They didn’t have the trucks to plow out the snow, and sometimes it was more than you could handle on that Ridge road. Another thing that I remember in the middle of town in the summer months on Thursday nights we would have a band concert. The town was parked full of cars and there was a hexagon shaped building in the middle of the town right where that crossing light is. Right in the middle of that street. That was set there permanently.
CW: What was that originally?
CB: It was a building that was in a hexagon shape and it had a stairs up to it where the band fellas sat playing in the band.
CW: Like they have at the fairgrounds?
CB: Yes, and that sat there.
CW: That would have been in the middle of Route 6?
CB: Yes, and then later when traffic got heavier they were asked to move that off of there. Then they would bring a wagon, which was parked in back of the bank, when it was not used. They would sit on that and pull that in the middle of the street. After the band concert was over with they would take it off and park it. It would be all parked full.
CW: Every Thursday night. Is that right!
CB: Women would buy groceries and listen to the band. Walter Beery was one of the leaders one time on there. It was all local people that played in that band. After that quit and later when I was in high school, you would have free picture shows. Just across Route 6 in between them buildings, like Ottes store and the furniture store on that street.
CW: Where did they show them on the street?
CB: Yes, on the street.
CW: Did they have a portable screen on the street.
CW: Is that right!
CB: Of course they had benches and chairs. That would be on Saturday night.
CW: Was it free probably?
CB: It was mostly kids watching though. The shows were pretty good then, better than what you see now. In fact, a lot of the shows on there at first you did not hear anything, you just saw the picture. One of them was one I saw in Wauseon. My mother taught school for three years in Ridgeville and she had the upper grades. I remember the old brick school house. In 1926 they had a referendum to build a new school. I remember at that school we had a picnic and that was was before they started building a new school. That school that they build then in 1927 and they got to use it in 1928. That has been added on to since. The part of the school that they built in 1928 is still there.
CW: That was originally two buildings. Is it still two buildings?
CB: It is one building but the old building was a brick school house too. They added two rooms to it. When they built the one in 1928, the old one was tore down. It was not quite as close to the road as this one is now. They planted the trees on Arbor Day in 1890. Some of those trees are in front of the school that are still standing there that were planted in 1890. They were gotten out of somebody’s woods as little trees.
CW: I know that is what they used to do. Charlie Winzeler brought in some trees from his woods and put them in our yard.
CB: So those trees are old already. They are big trees and they are still there. I’ve got this is about the schools. The first schools were called subscription schools. That was around 1830. When they first established this town in 1837. They called it the, some woman by the name of Mrs. Tubbs or Tubba T u b b a. She thought they aught to have a school. They hired a teacher in 1840. They built the school here in the center of the township. They taught in terms. They had two terms. W. W. Lewis was his name. He taught the second term, first and second term. They paid him twenty-five dollars.
CW: For the whole term?
CB: Yes, In 1842 they had two teachers. There were fifteen boys and thirteen girls in the township. By 1857 there were 100.
CW: A lot of people had come in.
CB: From 1842 to 1857 it went to 100.
CW: That is when people were coming in on the canal.
CB: In 1867 a grain building was built with two rooms. In 1890 that new brick school was built. It had classes and it was a high school and gave it a second grade. I don’t know if they went more than two years or what. They had 16 high school students. In 1902 there were two rooms added to it. In 1903 it was made a third grade charter school. That gave it three years. They had three years of high school. My mother graduated in 1910. She went three years of high school and graduated in three years. They did not have a sophomore class then. In 1923 it was made a four year charter school and then they had four years of high school and that is the first time they had a sophomore class. It was in 1926 when they had that bond issue and the next year in 1927 they started that new school and tore the other one down.
CW: That was before the Depression.
CW: How about the Prohibition.
CB: Prohibition, yes, the same way they ended Prohibition. But in 1920 was the year that the women voted.
CW: Oh yes.
CB: That was quite a thing. When I was going to school I knew who lived in every house and every business. This street, this was a corn field. In them 54 years this has changed so that I don’t know half the people in the town. There are names I never heard of before. I knew everybody when I was going to school.
CW: Did you have any trouble walking to school, could you stop at the nearest house?
CB: Yes, You knew who lived there. Some of them might be your relation. Thats how, we had two churches then, two Lutheran Churches and the Congregational Church. Before that they used to have a Methodist Church beside the Giffey Hall. Then later it was used by the Neuhouser Hatchery. It was disbanded and then later the Legion bought it and made a Legion Hall out of it. Now there is a store in there. There was a grocery store for a while and now somebody else has a store where they sell clothing and stuff. That used to be the Methodist Church. There was some other denominations that were here only a short time. The Congregational Church was still going when I went to high school. In the late 50’s I think they went to Archbold, the United Church of Christ and closed the church. Wayne Eicher’s widow has possession of that church. She used to be a Motter. She was an adopted child. She’s got antiques and things like that in the church. I told somebody it is one of the oldest buildings here. It ought to be made into a museum and fixed up. I wish that somebody would do that. Otherwise it just goes downhill. She has put a new roof on it, and they have done some repairs. If you don’t have heat in things go bad. That was the last one that has been abandoned. Part of that Locust Grove Celmetary is where the church is. Some of that was the cemetery with the church.
CW: Is that right downtown?
CB: You take this Road X and it goes right in front of it.
CW: So it was on the Ridge Road.
CB: Yes, and the township looks after the Locust Grove and not St. Peters Lutheran Church which is on the side of it connecting it. There is a sign that says St. Peters Lutheran Cemetary. St. Peters Lutheran Church and Zion Lutheran Church, were started in 1904.
CW: That’s old too.
CB: Yes. Both of us celebrated our hundredth anniversary in 2004.
CW: What do you remember about Ridgeville when you were a little kid.
CB: I remember some of the things that aren’t there anymore. There was a blacksmith shop and a relative of mine operated it when I was a little kid.
CW: Did you stop in at the blacksmith shop sometimes?
CB: Oh yes, my dad went in there sometimes. It was on 20A right where the telephone office is now. There was a fox farm, Neuhousers Fox Farm just behind that.
CW: What was the fox farm?
CB: They sold fox furs. They had over 100 foxes.
CW: Did they raise foxes?
CB: Yes. They would dress those fox when they got so far. They were gray fox. Flickinger was the one that run that. I think they had about one hundred and forty some coops for foxes.
CW: Was it one fox to a coop?
CB: One or two, I am not sure. What they fed them was like old horses that couldn’t be used anymore, that’s what Flickinger fed them. Then on the west side of the bank was a meat market. Victor Ruffer I remember him having it and later Benien had it, and I was in that different times when I was a kid.
CW: Would your mom send you to get some meat or something?
CB: Well, I would be with my dad. He would go in there and Ruffer lived on 20A and he moved his house to Archbold. I know that house in Archbold looks just like it did when it was in Ridgeville. It’s just on 6 on the south end of Archbold. They haven’t done much to it. They may have changed something a little bit, but it looks the same.
CW: Do you mean 66?
CB: Yes 66. Then Ralph Henry had a gas station just at that corner of 20A and 6. He run a Studebaker automobile and sold Studebaker automobiles across the street, aside of Otte’s Mill, which was across the street along 6. Otte’s, made flour and that sort of thing. You could buy Otte’s flour in grocery stores. Then that bank was along there by that meat market and when you went around to the Ridge road at Huner’s Grocery. and then there was Benecke’s Hardware, before that it was a clothing store, and Ernie Dehnbostel worked in there. Dehnbostel’s Clothing Store.
CW: It used to be a thriving little town.
CB: Oh, yeah. There was Bargman’s Grocery and Ice Cream Parlor. Then the next was that house that’s still there. It used to be the telephone office. One room was just for the telephone office and the rest of the house or whoever run that. Harmon Hesterman was in there for quite a while. Across the street from Bargman’s was the gas station. That was there for quite a while and that building is still there.
CW: What did you do for entertainment when you were a little kid?
CB: Well, you went to the neighbors. The next door neighbors would come over sometimes, it was the Von Deylon kids, and some of them are our age. We would do different things, maybe play ball and things like that. You did your own entertainment.
CW: Yes you did. I remember my sister and I would get to fighting and my mother would say, Oh go outside and play. We would go outside and we would have nothing to play with. We would stand there and say what are we going to do. Pretty soon one of us would be knocking on the door of a friend and say “Can you come out to play?” She would come out to play and we would scratch up something to do.
CB: We had a couple of tricycles I know. We had a little wagon. We had a little rat terrior dog. It was kind of a house dog and it would come in the kitchen and go in back of the cookstove.
CW: It was nice and warm back there.
CB: We would haul him around in the wagon and he would stay in the wagon and we would cover him up. We did that. That is some of the things that we did. Of course sometimes we would have little kittens to play with. In the spring of the year we would go up in the haymow and see if there were any little kittens up there.
CW: They took care of the rats in the barn. Were there barns in town at that time?
CB: Lots of people had a cow and a horse. I know Robert Schroeder they just lived down here where that house is empty now, Bruce Arps lived there. They got it for sale. They used to have a horse and a cow. My Grampa Schroeder where he lived, they had a brick barn. They used to have a horse. There were some others that did.
CW: Before they had cars, that was their means of transportation.
CB: Well, my Grandpa didn’t have a car and Robert Schroeder didn’t have a car. That is how we got around. Then there was Ferd Behnfeldt that had a gas station just beyond the High Speed Station. He just had a gas station. At High Speed you could get a car fixed. and things like that.
CW: We had to have tires fixed a lot.
CB: Yes, they didn’t last as long as they do now. Then across the street was the Gulf Station, and down that way on Road 20A there was in back of the Gulf Station the Cider Mill. I remember that. It’s been gone a long time ago.
CW: Did you go down there and buy some cider?
CB: Oh yeah, I think my folks got cider that. At that time you got cider made in wooden barrels and that was your vinegar. We still had vinegar barrels down in the basement at the Miller place. That is where you had it made. You’d have cider and it would ferment and you’d have vinegar. Then on beyond that a ways was a livestock place. They would bring in livestock to sell.
CW: Did they have big barns?
CB: Well they had sheds. At those livestock yards I remember when I was just a little shaver and a circus was there. They took me to the circus here.
CW: In town?
CB: In town. The only time I ever knew there was a circus I know they held me up. I must have been two or three years old.
CW: Was there a tent?
CB: Oh yes, they had a tent. I remember there was an elephant. I remember some of that. Just a regular circus. I don’t know if they ever had a circus after that. What circus it was I don’t know that either. I wasn’t old enough to know what it was. Anyhow that was the first circus I ever saw.
CW: It was a big event in your life.
CB: Yes, it was a big event for Ridgeville Corners. That was all the businesses on that street. Then when you went across 6 where the Road X goes across 6 well, on the east side of the street you had the furniture store, and the undertaker. At that time, it was before my time it was Rowe in that furniture store. I remember when Albert Wesche was in there.
CW: Is that the same one that had Wesche’s in Napoleon?
CB: Yes. Then later on it was Robert Walter. Then you had a bakery, a meat market, and Kinders Bakery, and they even had trucks on the road, a truck on the road to sell bread. Years ago, when I was growing up why we had a bread truck that come around. Lots of them had huckster wagons too. They had a bread truck where you could get bread and rolls and baked stuff. Then there was, I remember when Behnfeldt’s had a hardware store. Clear to the end that was a hardware store. Later it became a, I don’t know there was something else in there when I lived in Indiana. Then Cameron had a grocery store. At one time there were three grocery stores in Ridgeville, no four. Now there aren’t any. You had Camerons, now when you went clear down to the end of the street there was a brick and tile yard. Gilffeys had a brick and tile yard. And later there was a sawmill. Fred Youngman had a sawmill down there and later somebody else had it in later years when I wasn’t here.
CW: Were you old enough to remember the Depression?
CW: How did that hit Ridgeville?
CB: That effected Ridgeville. We lost the bank. It hurt the business people. Naturally it would hurt the business people. We did our banking there at Ridgeville.
CW: You probably don’t know if your dad lost any money.
CB: He didn’t have that much money. We had a checking account and us kids had, well you know we would get gifts from our grandparents and so forth we had a little savings account. We got most of it back eventually, but it took a while. That’s the way it was with those that had an account in there. You couldn’t get it right away. You couldn’t get any money at first. Eventually I think they paid a percent back.
CW: That was pretty good.
CB: Yes, If someone had more money in there why they lost more. Like Otte’s and those that had stock in the bank they lost money. They didn’t know they would lose their stock and pay out double. They paid out double. That’s what hurt them. I don’t know how much it was.
CW: Did it hurt those that had small amounts of money too?
CB: You would go in and get a little bit. The stockholders they had to pay out their stock. They didn’t get that back. I think the Otte’s they had quite a bit in there. Frank Knapp was the one who was the head of the bank. Frieda Bruns was the cashier in there when that went under. They said Fred Otte, Ed Otte was his name why it hurt him quite bad. He was kind of hard up for a while.
CW: Really that’s the way it should be because there were people who were suffering in the Depression. They really needed their money.
CB: That’s right. Well, I realy don’t think they needed to close the bank. They got scared and they thought they were going to lose their money and they were going to save their money, them stockholders and the rest of us why they were trying to save their and the rest of us could squeel. And it didn’t turn out that way. If they had kept the thing open. Archbold didn’t close their bank and one that worked in Archbold said that they wouldn’t have needed to close their bank. It was the way the laws were they thought they had to. If they would have just stuck it out.
CW: Now like Holgate stuck it out. They refused to consolidate.
CB: Yes Ohio City did the same thing. That is another thing, we don’t get brave enough I guess. I don’t think we needed to close the school here either.
CW: No, you probably didn’t really.
CB: No, There was somebody that wanted to go to Archbold school. What they should have done is just pay their tuition and sent her over there. The last year it was in operation they had 39 graduates.
CW: Yes, it was a good school. I did practice teaching there. The kids were well behaved.
CB: When I got to Indiana the schoolwasn’t near the school we had. They weren’t as well behaved. They would steal. You just had to keep everything-my brother came home from school at noon because somebody had stole his lunch. I don’t know how often.
CW: Oh my! Now this was not here though.
CB: No, that was in Indiana. Then on Road X across the 6 on the other side you had Otte’s Grocery Store and post office. The post office has been in there for many years and it still is. They have cut off the grocery and it is all post office in the front. In the back they put up a wall, and upstairs there was a doctors office. I remember Dr. Delventhal when he was up there.
CW: Oh he used to be here?
CB: Yes. Then we had Fry, and then we had Riekoff, and Riekoff was a name from Napoleon. His office was up there, and he lived here in town. He built a house over by the school house. Then on down Ed Rohrs, when I was a kid had a tavern and you could get ice cream and sodas in there too. Kind of a half way drug store. He didn’t have all that but you could get soda pops and it was also a tavern. After the prohibition was over.
CW: Did you have any bootleggers in town?
CB: Oh yes! Then later Nissens and Jack still lives here in town. His folks had it and they lived upstairs. Then you had a shoe cobbler shop. You had a barber shop. Carl Detter was the barber for over fifty years here. Then when you got to the end of the street where there is a street and on the corner there was a vault shop where Behrman’s vault was. That has been here a long time too.
CW: Did they make vaults?
CW: A vault shop?
CB: Well it’s not a very big shop. It’s been there a very long time. They even, I understand delivered a vault for Dillinger when he got shot. That was in the 30’s. He was buried over by Indianapolis. They delivered the vault for that grave. There were not too many vault makers. They went all over, Behrman’s did with them vaults. Now there are more of them. At that time there were a very few of them.
CW: So those vaults were the ones they used in banks like a safe?
CB: Oh no. The vaults they use for the graves. They put them over the caskets.
CW: Oh yes.
CB: In 1919 the bank was robbed. In March of 1919 the bank was robbed here. I got some of that stuff out of this book. I remember Behrnan’s Vault and old Giffey was the shoe cobbler here in town for a long time. He owned some of them buildings and he owned the barber shop building. I understand that Detter rented it from him. The barber shop, you wouldn’t believe what the rent he got for it. During the depression you couldn’t afford it. You would get a hair cut for about fifty cents. Now it is five dollars and ten dollars.
CW: That would make you want to cut your own.
CB: So I was just telling how many businesses there were in town in 1896. You had Fauver’s Hotel, Redman and Baily blacksmith, Redman and Segrist Grocery, Chapman and Rowland’s, F. A. Rowe Undertaker and Furniture Store, Mrs. Reynolds Hotel and Livery Stable, Rolland’s Shoe Repair Shop, 2 barber shops, Tile & Brickyard, They made tile. Fauver’s Restaurant, Stave Factory, Tressler Bicycle Shop, Rand & Beckman Carriage, Farm Machinery Store, one saloon. There were two Lutheran churches and the Methodists and the Congregationist church, and then you had the telephone exchange in 1905.
CW: That telephone company is a good one to be invested in now.
CB: Well when I was growing up you had the old system, you had so many on the line. You kept your line like maybe you would have as many as nine on a line. Well sometimes they did visiting on that line too you know, and you couldn’t get on there and each one had different rings. Ours was three short. You could have a long and a short ring and so forth. You kept up your line, the people on that line.
CW: What do you mean by that?
CB: Well there were repairs to the telephone poles and wires. You were responsible for that.
CW: Was that just from the main wires into your house?
CB: No, the whole line. Everybody on that line why they were involved in taking care of and to keep up their line. That is the way it was operated then.
CW: We had a central.
CB: The central was here and if you wanted to call somebody else on a different line you would have to go through central.
CW: The central always knew where everybody was.
CB: Yes and if there was something, or if somebody wanted to make an announcement, why the central would call them on the lines and like if threshing. You would have threshing rings and if they were ready to thresh, you would call central and tell them that such and such a threshing ring was going to start to thresh.
CW: Then she would call all those people in the ring.
CB: Yes. Or if something else took place that the people need to know you would call central. When there was a fire you went through central and they would ring a siren and if you wanted to know where the fire was the central office would know.
CW: Now would she find the doctor for you if you were sick?
CB: Oh, I suspect. anything If you needed help why so that’s the way that was. We had a system.
CW: Now what do you remember of your experiences of going to school here?
CB: I went the first eight grades to a country school.
CW: Did you have to walk there?
CB: Yes. We didn’t have buses then. I only had a half of a mile. I went to that little school on the corner, on the ridge in Freedom township. That school house is a house now, moved up to the King place. Where that school house used to sit is that derek for the high tension wire. That is where that school house sat.
CW: Did they tear it down then?
CB: No, it isn’t brick anymore. They took the brick off sided it up. It’s the other way, next to that next farm building. The one down that road in on the corner of the Liberty Center road and that was a brick school house too and that is a house too.
CW: It is really interesting to see what happened to all these school houses. They had them every two square miles.
CB: They had them every two miles.
CW: People who bought them fixed them up and changed the outside and you would never recognize them.
CB: I kind of think we should keep some of them for histories sake. Same way with these hip roof barns They are tearing them down.
CW: Or letting them fall down.
CB: They should keep them up.
CW: It used to be a farmer’s barn was his pride and joy. The house kind of came in second. Well they don’t need the barns any more.
CB: They were not made to park this machinery in. You can’t get them things in. They don’t have any livestock nowadays. You pay insurance if you keep them up and you pay taxes on them and you tear them down if you don’t want to pay any tax on them.
CW: That is why they build these sheds instead so they can accomodate those big machines.
CB: That’s right. They just won’t go in there.
CW: What did you do when you were in high school then?
CB: When I started to high school they started the buses. We only had one bus. Lindhorst owned the bus. I was on the first bus. He had to make two trips. If you lived two and a half miles from school you got hauled. If it was less than that you walked. I was on the first bus and in the winter time it wouldn’t be daylight when I got on the bus. Going home in the afternoon we got out about fifteen minutes ahead of the rest. He hauled us home first. I wasn’t the first one on the bus but I was one of the early ones. He went over here in Freedom township and I was the last one of Freedom township to get on the bus and then we were in Ridgeville township. Some of them over towards Archbold. Then he went and got the rest of them on the other end of the township.
CW: You were probably happy to have a bus to ride in.
CB: Oh yes. Of course sometimes I rode with the milk man ear. We were the ones on his route that got milk. I didn’t like to ride them dusty roads very well. I would sometimes go with him and ride nearly to Ridgeville on that milk wagon. And then I would walk the rest of the way.
CW: The milk wagon, now was that with horses?
CB: No, it was a Model A Ford truck. Our milk went to theWauseon condensery.
CW: Did they have a Pet factory there?
CB: Yes, they used to.
CW: Carnation maybe?
CB: I know it was a condensery and I don’t know just where it was. On the east end of town there.
CW: Did they have a play every year at your high school?
CB: Yes, we had a Junior class play and Senior class play and then it was after I was in high school we had music. We had a music teacher, and we had an operetta. I was in about all the plays. I was in the operetta. When I started high school they also had typing and secretarial.
CW: Back in those days we used lots of typists. We didn’t have computers.
CB: Typing and shorthand they added that to the school. Home economics also.
CW: Did they have shop for the boys?
CB: Yes, and shop that too.
CW: Probably no boys ever took home ec.
CB: Not when I was there. I guess some of them do now.
CW: They say the home ec course is the most popular one in high school now. Some of the boys take it and they call it bachelor’s survival.
CB: Well in the Four County School they teach the boys because some of them want to be chefs.
CW: Oh yes.
CB: I know there was one at the Filling Home in that course. He wanted to be a chef.
CW: Probably pretty good pay.
CB: Oh yes. They are pretty good cooks them chefs. They got all kinds of new ideas.
CB: Of course I might as well be a chef I do my own cooking too.
CW: It is a lot easier now than what it used to be.
CB: I do my own baking. I am diabetic. I don’t eat in the restaurants very much because you don’t get what you need. All that sugar free stuff. If I bake pies I use sugar free for myself. I got to bake a couple of pies for the Filling Fling. I have my own fruit, sugar free. I am on medication and I kind of watch what I eat. I have been keeping it under control ever since ‘75.
CW: That is good.
CB: My sister, she is in the nursing home. She couldn’t control it with pills. She had that problem with up and down stuff. Sometimes her sugar count got down to fifteen. Next would be in a coma. Now she is in the Alzheimer’s department.
CW: That is so sad. Every community has some characters that draw peoples’ attention.
CB: Mr. Giffey, he lived in a cement block house and he had the shoe cobbler stuff. He was real conservative, kind of stingy like. He wouldn’t bring any fuel in there and some of the old fellas would loaf in there on the weekday mornings. They would come in and one would bring some coal, one would bring in a couple chunks of wood just to keep warm. It was our landlord and he would go up there and he was the one that told them they would have to bring their own fuel. That was one story. Every town has a or every community has some particular character that is different from everybody else. We had someone here too in this town. She lived in this town she had a husband he had died several years ago. She had two sons. and one of them I know worked in Otte’s Mill.
CW: Was that here in Ridgeville?
CB: Yes, it used to be a feed mill and they made flour and some other things. Cornmeal too I think. Anyhow it is noted for Otte’s flour. Anyhow she was kind of a woman that had some peculiar ideas. She didn’t miss a sale and she wasn’t a very good housekeeper. She used corn cobs from the mill that she’d get and that was her fuel. She had her house kind of a mess. She stored corn cobs, and of course you know what that can bring. Mice! And sometimes the neighbors cleaned up around there. Her porch was always full. She didn’t miss a doings or anything going on. She didn’t miss a sale.
CW: What did she sell?
CB: Sell anything! Why she would buy things. She would buy something that she had no use for. At that time years ago they would have a cow and some chickens even in this town, and maybe a horse. Some people traveled by buggy. There was a sale she would buy a cow halter or a horse halter. She didn’t need that. It would sell for a dime or something and she would pick it up. She had some chickens too. My mother seen her do this. She would take the eggs to one store and then go and buy her groceries at the other store.
CW: That wouldn’t go down very well.
CB: These grocery stores, two of them I know would buy cream and eggs. They would trade eggs for groceries. They bought their groceries with their egg money. That is one trick my mother seen her do. We had another character here in town that he drank too much. He’d get kind of loaded sometimes. I don’t know of him ever hurting anybody, but he and his wife would get into a spat every once in a while. He died a long time ago. I remember him one day going by our place, and she was walking and he evidently had too much to drink and she wouldn’t ride with him. He followed her up I think clear to Ridgeville and he kept telling her to get into the car and she wouldn’t do it. So that was a couple of the characters we had here. There wasn’t anybody else that drawed attention like those two. I remember the lady that went to our school functions and the chicken pies deals and the cakes. We would have about seventy-five cakes and all the fruit salad or more. We’d have potato salad and baked beans. Well, at the end when the supper was over if there were any old cakes left they would auction them off. Well, she’d be there in the auction and if she was wanting to bid on something, she would pinch on them a little bit.
CW: Make a little dent?
CB: Well she wasn’t clean. and nobody would want to bid on that one after she had touched it. That way she got it cheaper. Those are some of the things we remember about those people. I know the men on her street they sometimes had to kind of clean up her place. It wasn’t long and it would be the same way. She’d get the corn cobs for nothing. It didn’t cost her anything. Now you couldn’t blame somebody when they was high priced. So that was the two characters everybody remembers. Some of his children were in my mothers schooling. He had a family. He had a place on the ridge the other way from town.
CW: Were they pretty poor because he drank so much?
CB: Well, he had quite a bit given to him. He had some land he inherited.
CW: Now I have a question for you. You know Ridge road, and south of here is the Bethlehem Church. Across the street or road is a small odd shaped building. It isn’t big enough for a church.
CB: That belongs to Bethlehem.
CW: The rumor was that it was originally on an Indian cemetery. I wondered if you had ever heard anything like that.
CB: I don’t know anything about that . Their parsonage is over there.
CW: It is such an odd shape. I bet they just needed the rest of the space for their parsonage.
CB: I think there is kind of a mound in the back with a bunch of trees. I never heard about that. That bunch of trees they use that area sometimes for their mission festival. They had it in that grove.
CW: Did they have their picnic lunch out there?
CB: No, they might have sometimes with their youth, I don’t know. The parsonage is there and now that school house was directly across the road from the Bethlehem Lutheran Church. That has been torn down now since they built onto that church. They used to have their Sunday School across the road. They would have a dinner in there once a year. Now they have it at the what you call the parish hall inside of the church. That used to be their Sunday School that frame building.
CW: Then they tore that down?
CB: They tore that down just a couple of years ago because they weren’t using it anymore.
CW: Now what about Giffey Hall?
CB: That was built in 1916.
CW: That was just before World War I.
CB: Yes, that brick came off from the brickyard. There used to be a brick and tile yard.
CW: In Ridgeville?
CW: Is that right!
CB: It was right on down to the end of the town there. Giffey used to have a brick yard and that’s what that Giffey Hall is built from. The brick came from the brick yard. After that was up all the activities in town, like the school they used that. We didn’t have a gymnasium or auditorium. All our plays and graduations were held in that Giffey Hall until 1940. In the spring of 1939 my class was the first to graduate out of the new auditorium at the school. Before that all the class plays, ball games, and the chicken pie supper and many dances and wedding receptions were all held at that Giffey Hall.
CW: I remember going to a wedding reception there. In with the wedding invitation was a little slip of paper that told me I was to take Jello to the reception.
CB: Then afterwards there was a some kind of a factory I don’t know the name. I didn’t live here then. I was in Indiana then. There was some kind of an industry in there for a while. Then there was a restaurant down below. I ate in that after I came back here. It isn’t there anymore.
CW: So there was a restaraunt down there.
CB: That was in the basement. Now the hall is owned by a society that puts on plays. I don’t know what it is called. They are located in Archbold. They do theater plays like a dinner theater. You can buy a ticket for just a play or you can buy it just for dinner.
CW: They have the dinners downstairs.
CB: I think so. I haven’t been to any of them, but I have been on that stage a lot. The Decoration Day program was always conducted in that hall too.
CW: Did you act some in some of the plays?
CB: Oh, I was in a lot of them, mostly plays and operettas.
CW: Did you sing?
CB: Well, I am not a singer but in operettas it is not all singing, but some acting too. And the graduations were there too. There used to be a fox farm managed by Flickinger. It was owned by the Neuhousers. They raised foxes, these gray foxes for the fur. They made ladies coats with the gray fur.
CW: They were pretty I bet.
CB: They would raise around one hundred and fifty. They had cages for them. They would feed them those foxes meat and people that had maybe needed to get rid of a horse that was beyond working stage, maybe it had been injured. He would get those horses and that’s what they fed those foxes.
CW: Did they cook them or just feed them raw?
CB: I think they fed it to them raw. They finally went out of business. It wasn’t a profitable thing anymore. So it is no longer there, but they have rental apartments there now. We used to have a meat market. For a long time we had three grocery stores. Huner’s and Bargmans, and Otte’s. Their grocery store also had the post office.
CW: Is that where the post office is now?
CB: Yes, it has been shortened. It used to be a store. They used to sell school supplies too. When we needed new books for school why that’s where we would get them, at Otte’s.
CW: Where was the original school in Ridgeville?
CB: When they had a log school that was where the school house is now. I don’t know exactly, but I think it was across the road from where the cemetary is. In one of those lots. The first year of school was in the 1840”s. It was a log school and they had sixteen students. About ten years later in the township there were a hundred students. That fast it grew.
CW: Did they come to this school?
CB: No, they wouldn’t all have come. Then they had a school up on the other end of Giffey Hall. This church that had disbanded for several years they had the lower grades there, like the first and second grades. It was in 1890’s when they built the brick school back of where that schoolhouse is now. In a couple of years they added two rooms to it. It was a three room schoolhouse after it was made in to a high school. My mother taught in that school. I remember what it looked like. Then in 1910 they made it a second class high school I don’t know if they only went two years to high school. I think it was in 1906 when the first graduating class was. Just a year or so before that it was made a high school, I think about 1904. Well then, in a few years they built that brick school. And then it was made, close to 1920, it was made a third grade. It took three years of high school to graduate.
CW: Is that why they called it third class?
CB: Yes, then it was in 192`3, I think when it was made a four year high school. Rice was the first superintendent in there in the four year high school.
CW: Did he have four daughters that became school teachers? I think so.
CB: Could be. He did become a lawyer. He was a lawyer in Archbold.
CW: I know the Rice sisters. There were two of them that taught in Ridgeville. They were very good teachers.
CB: Rice was strict too. He didn’t fool around with misbehavior. They wanted somebody up here. They were having little problem with some of them. He straightened them out. He taught until 1928 or 1929. Anyhow in 1927 they passed a referendum to build a new school. That is the one that is standing there now, in between the one that has been built on to.
CW: That was built between the old one and the road.
CW: Now that old Congregational Church had a cemetary beside the school. That must have been there. It’s very old.
CB: Oh yes, it’s very old. It’s been there, well when I was going to high school it was there. In 1927 that was started and 1929 was the first graduating class graduated from that school. The last year when I was a junior they started building that auditorium on there. My class was the first one to graduate in that auditorium. It was not quite all finished, but we graduated in there. Some of them trees that are standing there in front of the school, those were planted after that first brick school house was built. And they are still there. We planted some of them on Arbor Day. Some of them when they built that new auditorium, why some of them were taken out. Those that are still standing were planted in the early 1900’s. On the other side that was built on to it. There are really two gyms there.
CW: Oh there are! Two different building, the old one and the new onel
CB: Yes, The one on this side, that auditorium was the basketball floor. That was for the grades.
CW: For their gym classes.
CB: I think it was a mistake when they discontinued the school. The last graduating class had 32.
CW: I did practice teaching here. The kids were very well behaved I thought.
CB: When I went to Indiana you couldn’t say that about that school. My brother lost a good coat the first day he wore it. It was a present. He never did get it back. The year before he lost a Christmas present. We didn’t have that trouble here.
CW: That’s right. There used to be a high percentage of people in town that paid their bills. What was it ninety some percent. I know because my husband thought of settling here at one time. That was one drawing point. You wouldn’t need a big practice because if all the people that came would pay their bills. It would be no problem.
CB: It is a good community. You don’t find that every place.
CW: Not anymore. Probably no place.
CB: I know at the school here we had here and I sat clear to the back end of the main room and studied. I was clear at the back seat and we had and somebody took care of the library books. There were always things on the principal’s desk up front. None of that ever came up missing. If you lost anything there was always a bunch of stuff on the principal’s desk up front, and whoever it belonged to could come up and get it. My brother too, there in Indiana I don’t know how many times he came home at noon. We weren’t too far away he could come home if he hurried. Well one day he come home and somebody stole his lunch.I don’t know how many times he would have to come home at noon for lunch because somebody stole his lunch.
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