Giffey Family HIstory

This is a written family history, not an oral interview. If/when the Historical Society begins to put written family histories onto its website, this will be moved.

September 26, 2011

A Giffey Family History
Compiled by Ned Giffey
Written by Blake Altman


Family origins are usually very difficult to trace in a time of electronic records and computerized databases of history. Though both of these systems are beneficial to the general keeping of history, tracing one’s family into early history can be difficult. This fact, however, does not hinder the Giffey family in any way. Through years of saving documents, letters, and memorabilia, the Giffeys have accumulated an impressive collection of historical significance that follows their name all the way to 19th century Germany. This history is written using that collection. With the help of family testimonies, genealogies, and records, hopefully this history will be as up-to-date and accurate as a manuscript can possibly be.

James Giffey (1824-1898)

Though there are records of the Giffey name that date back to as early as 1760, little to no information exists pertaining to those generations. The first well-documented generation does not appear until 1824, the birth year of Jochen Jurgen Giffey d.J. (d.J is an abbreviation for “die junge,” or t”the younger”) Jochen, or James was born on August 24, 1824 in Gledeberg, Germany. He spent his early life in the neighboring town of Schnega, found south of Hanover in the northern regions of the country. At this point, not many details are provided about James Giffey as a young man until about 1846, when James and his brother, Heinrich, immigrated to the United States.

James and Heinrich Giffey arrived in Baltimore, Maryland in the year 1846; the exact date is unknown. Upon arrival, the brothers purchased a rifle from a shop that is still held by a member of the Giffey family today. Afterwards, James and Heinrich traveled to Pleasant Township just west of Holgate, Ohio. In 1848 they homesteaded 80 acres along County Road 17 and State Route 18 for three years, the required time for most homesteaders during that period. However, the land was rough and swampy, and very difficult to live on. Once the three years had passed, the brothers traveled to the ridge west of Pleasant Township, where they crossed the river and moved up to the area where Bethlehem Lutheran Church is now located in Adams Township, Defiance County. Once there, they settled with other immigrants who were clearing land for farming. Also, during this period of time the Miami-Erie Canal was being developed, and also railroads were being built through Henry and Defiance Counties. So in addition to clearing land, they also worked on the Canal by furnishing teams of horses and slip scoops for digging. For this work, they were granted another 40 acres to the 80 acre homestead in Henry County. During the summer months they would work for the railroads as forgers, making switches for the rails. During this period of time, James and Heinrich were living on the 90 acre farm they had cleared in Adams Township.

In 1856 James Giffey married Francisca Wiedemeyer-Lockoman, a local widow with one son, John Lockoman. One year later, their oldest son, Anton, was born November 11, 1857. At this point, a slight mystery surfaces as to what happened to Heinrich Giffey. From what the family knows, Heinrich left the Giffeys’ farm for Ft. Wayne, Indiana. After he left, no one heard from Heinrich again. To this day, the family records give no indication as to what might happened to James’s brother.

Over the course of the following years, James and Franisca had 5 more children after Anton: Albert in 1861, Joseph in 1862, Henry in 1865, Mary in 1868, and Karl Frederick in 1871. However, Joseph died at the age of 20 in 1882. James cntinued to work on the cleared farmland and the railroads for over 30 years. James passed away at age 74 in 1899, and Francisca died in 1903. Both of them are buried in Bethlehem Lutheran Cemetery in Adams Township.

Anton Giffey (1857 – 1940)

Though James Giffey had six children, Anton Giffey can be considered the next generation of the Giffey bloodline; therefore, Anton will be the main focus of this section.In 1871 Anton, at age 13 went to work at a brick and tile yard in Defiance, Ohio where he learned the skill of laying the brick arches and roof domes on the kilns. In 1887 he went to Ridgeville Corners, Ohio and worked for the Emery Brothers Tile Yard. On December 15, 1887, Anton married Sophia Schlueter in Ridgeville Corners. In 1888 they moved to Defiance, where he managed the brick and tile yard for his former employer. On Feb 22, 1891, their son Arthur was born and they continued to live in Defiance until 1892 when they then moved back to Ridgeville Corners, and Anton and his brother Albert purchased the Emery Brothers Brick and Tile Yard. This yard was on 17 1/2 acres at the west side of Ridgeville. The house and barn still remain at this location. in 1895, their son William was born. Around that time, Anton bought his brother’s share of the brick and tile yard and became the sole owner. His daughter Amelia was born on July 2, 1897.

For over twenty years, Anton successfully operated the brickyard, which produced bricks, tiles, and building blocks. Anton also used a steam engine to power the brickyard’s machinery, an innovation during this time period. In the early 1900’s, several enine-powered trucks were used by the yard to deliver lumber, bricks, tile, and coal. In order to maintain maximum productivity from the yard, all of the brick and tile operations were done during warm weather, and lumber operations were done during winter weather.

Around 1914 or 1915, Anton Giffey, who was a very community-minded man, arranged to have a hall to be built in Ridgeville Corners. This hall, which was named after him, was to be built entirely from materials from the bickyard, and constructed by his yard employees. In 1916, Giffey Hall was completed. The Hall was built to be supported only by its walls, which meant that the interior was wide and spacious. This unique open span design allowed for the building to be used for many occasions, including basketball, school dances, plays, and even roller-skating. The building even had a rink band machine installed inside. Over the course of the next century, Giffey Hall would remain a main element of the community.

In 1917, World War I broke out. Eleven of Anton’s brickyard employees were drafted, so Anton decided to simply close down his business. After selling the machinery from the brickyard, Anton managed Giffey Hall as a community center of sorts for 23 years. In 1940, Anton deeded the Hall to his daughter Amelia, who operated the Hall as a skating rink for 6 years. The Hall was sold to the Murphy family in 1946, who later closed it as a skating rink. Over several years the Hall was sold to several groups and individuals. The Hall became a packing facility for green tomatoes, a car parts factory, a bar, a pizza place, and finally, a dinner theatre. Today, the Hall still stands in Ridgeville and at the time of this writing, is still used as a dinner theatre today owned by the Archbold Theater Group.

Anton Giffey passed away on October 31, 1940, leaving an impact on the community that can still be acknowledged today.

The Giffey Family Today (1940 – present day )

Though Anton had several siblings, the focus of this chronicle is mainly upon Anton and his descendants, specifically on Arthur his oldest son and his offspring.

Arthur, born on February 22, 1891, was raised in Ridgeville Corners. When he was old enough, he began working at his father’s brickyard. He helped build Giffey Hall in 1915 and 1916. In 1917, Arthur married Emma Youngman, and moved to the Giffey farm at Holgate. During his employment at Anton’s brickyard, Arthur had learned how to operate steam engines, which became a very useful skill. It was because of his expertise that he acquired jobs at Holgate’s grain elavator, thrashing rigs, and the tomato plant. Arthur was also heavily involved with the county, serving on both Holgate’s and Henry County’s school boards. He was also Pleasant Township Clerk for a number of years, and was also President of the Holgate Grain and Supply. Arthur and Emma operated the farm for 40 years before retiring and moving back to Ridgeville Corners in 1960.

In 1919, Arthur and Emma had a daughter, Corinne, followed by Carmen in 1923. In 1926 Carol was born. Unfortunately, Carol only lived for 9 months before dying. In 1932, Arthur’s first son, Ned, was born. Gene followed later in 1933. Corinne and Carmen both attended a local country school until 1938, when the school was closed and they finished their education at Holgate High School. All of Arthur’s children eventually graduated from there as well. Arthur died in 1979 and his wife Emma followed in 1990.

Corinne, after graduating in 1938, married Lawrence March on Mqy 29, 1940. They lived on a farm on County Road 17, northwest of Holgate, and had two children and three grandchildren.

Carmen graduated in 1941. Four years later, she married a WWII soldier named Norman Wiechers. They moved to a farm near Okolona, Ohio where they lived and worked for the remainder of their lives. Carmen and Norman had five children and nine grandchildren. Today, Carmen still lives on Gerken Road, in Adams Townhip of Defiance near Okolona.

Ned graduated in 1950, after which he attended Defiance College for 3 years, was then drafted into the U.S. Army in September 1953, and was stationed at Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Mansfield. On November 20, 1954, while still in the service, he married Norma Jean Alexander from Ridgeville Corners. He was discharged from the military in September 1955 and then finished his last year of college and graduated in 1956. After graduating, Ned worked for Nationwide Insurance Co. as a resident claims adjustor in Defiance for 3 years, then in Bryan, Ohio as an insurance agent for 3 years. During this period of time, their son Neil was born on March 13, 1957, then Nancy on September 23, 1959. In 1962 Ned accepted an offer to work for Wolverine Transamerica Insurance Co. as field claims adjustor in Toledo, Ohio. In 1966, he accepted an offer to work for Buckeye Union Insurance Co. in Napoleon, Ohio as a resident claims adjustor. Then in 1970 became a claims manager for Underwriters Adjusting Co. until taking early retirement with then in June 1988. In July 1988, Ned accepted a positition as claims manager and Vice President of Claims for German Mutual Insurance Co. in Napoleon. Over the years of insurance work, Ned and Norma traveled throughout the United States, Canada and Europe. He retired in August 2001. They also enjoyed golf and spent many hours on golf courses with family and friends following Ned’s retirement. Ned and Norma purchased a home in Tavares, Florida, where they now spend their winters, and continue to live in Ohio during the summer.

Gene Giffey graduated in 1951. He then worked at Holgate Grain and Supply in Stanley, Ohio for 3 years before being drafted into the U.S. Army and serving 2 years
(1954-1956 ) in Germany. He returned to Holgate and took over the farming operation after Arthur had suffered a heart attack. Gene married Elaine Bunke in 1959, and they had two daughters: Lynette, in 1959, and Linda in 1961. Gene farmed and also worked for ANR Pipeline. In 1969 he sold out his farm equipment and moved to Ridgeville Corners where he continued to work for ANR Pipeline until his retirement. Elaine died of cancer in 1984 and Gene remarried to Donna Schnitkey-Ziegler in 1994. Today they live 5 months of the year in Ridgeville Corners and remaining 7 months in Arizona.

Neil Giffey attended grade school at Hillview Elementary in Sylvania, Ohio and St. Paul Lutheran School in Napoleon and graduated from Napoleon High School in 1975. He then enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1976, and served near Amsterdam, Holland until his discharge in 1979. He then worked in Houston, Texas and also Archbold, Ohio as a long-haul truck driver. In 1985 he took a job with Sauder Woodworking in Archold, Ohio. In 2000 he took a position with German Mutual Insurance Co. in Napoleon as a loss control field representative and is currently continuing his employment with them. On May 31, 1996, Neil maried Annette St. John-Schlosser. They resided in Napoleon raising three children: Eric Giffey, born July 3, 1988, Dale Giffey, born January 18, 1990. and Glen Giffey, born September 12, 1992. All three children graduated from Napoleon High School.

Nancy Giffey attended St. Paul Lutheran School as well, graduating from Napoleon High School in 1977. She then graduated from Owens Technical College in 1979. On June 20, 1987, she married Terry Gasche, and they have two daughters: Lindsey, born August 13, 1991, and Emily, born July 21, 1995. They currently reside in Napoleon, Ohio.
Today the Giffey name is well-known in Henry County, a far cry from what is was when a German immigrant named James traveled here almost two centuries ago. They proudly keep their heritage alive to the time of this writing and hopefully shall continue to do so through future generations.

Germann, Arthur

Interviewed (January 11, 2016) and transcribed by Marlene Patterson

Art being presented his First Family of Henry County certificate by Kathy Bishop, Henry County Genealogical Society, November 2015

Interviewed and transcribed by Marlene Patterson

MP: Today is Monday January 11, 2016 and I am interviewing Arthur (Art) Germann, Jr. who is a well known carpenter and builder of homes here in Napoleon for many, many years. How many years were you actively in the building business here in Napoleon, probably since you were a little boy you had a hammer in your hands.

AG: My Dad did get me a tool kit when I was a young kid. I actually started working for my father in 1955. He retired in 1970 and I kept on going until the year 2000. So I was working for over 45 years.

MP: I am certain you have run into a lot of people and things during your working years. Can you tell me when and where you were born.

AG: I was born in Washington Township, Henry County Ohio on Road V just east of Liberty Center..

MP: And that would be in Henry County.

AG: Yes

MP: What was your father’s name.

AG: Arthur W.

MP: What does the letter W stand for?

AG: William. His name was Arthur William.

MP: What was your mother’s name.

AG: She was Edna Weirich, which was her maiden name.

MP: Where did you go to school, Art?

AG: The first two years I went to the old Southside School.

MP: Do you mean the one that was here on South Perry Street?

AG: Yes, right here on the corner of Perry and Meekison Streets.

MP: Would you have been in that district, oh yes you lived on the south side of Napoleon.

AG: We just lived a block up right on Brownell Street.

MP: How many children did your mother and dad have?

AG: I was an only child.

MP: What was your father’s occupation?

AG: He was a self-employed carpenter. He was a custom builder of homes.

MP: Where was the location of his business?

AG: He started out, as far as my Dad was concerned in1927 and was working for Carl Bush. He was a local carpenter and then around 1940 he went out on his own and then right after World War II he worked with Julian Aderman at the time. After the war they went into a partnership and put up a building there on Euclid Avenue on the south side.

MP: Is that building still located there?

AG: Yes, it is still there. I don’t know what it is being used for now. Some other company got into it and are using it now. In 1950 the two had a problem so they split up their partnership and he moved over to the Market Lumber Company building there on East Maumee.

MP: What is in that space now?

AG: That is where those apartments are now.

MP: Do you mean those high-rise apartments by the river?

AG: Yes. He was in there about 1950. When I was in high school I started working at the old Kroger Store in downtown Napoleon. It was located right where the Senior Center is now. I started there about 1950 and was working part time. I graduated from Napoleon High School in 1952. I had the job of head grocery clerk and I had to order groceries and we had a semi truck coming in with deliveries once a week. I was in charge of the stockers and I also had to run the cash register. Of course that was easy. There were no bar codes at that time. I kind of got tired of that job. I thought it was kind of boring. I had to work on Saturdays too. So then in the Spring of 1955 I asked my dad if I could go to work for him and he said sure, so I started working for my dad in the spring of 1955.

MP: So that worked out great for you.

AG: I can still remember the first job I worked on. Do you remember on the side right where Snyder Chevrolet is right there on Perry Street there was a hardware store.

MP: Do you mean the Pal Mar Rita store?

AG: There was a Red and White grocery store there too. That is where Dr. Manahan located when he first came to town he had his office there. We were in the building remodeling that for an office. That was the first job I ever worked on.

MP: That is interesting.

AG: That is where Dr. Manahan was located when he first came to Napoleon. In 1970 my Dad retired and I took over the business. My Dad was going by the name of Napoleon Cabinets and Builders and when he retired I decided to change the name to Germann Builders. Then in 1982 I moved the business over to Oakwood Avenue at the site of the old train Depot.

MP: Do you mean the building down by the railroad tracks? What was that building to begin with?

AG: The actual site was the old Wabash railroad passenger depot.

MP: Did you tear down the depot?

AG: That was torn down some years before that. Landmark had put up a block building. I think it was started by Farm Bureau or something like that. They mixed and ground up feed for farmers.

MP: Didn’t Landmark move over to Scott Street then?

AG: Yes Landmark moved out on Scott Street so it became an empty building.

MP: So then you took over the building.

AG: I actually bought the building from my cousin Randy Germann and John Meyers. They owned it before I bought it. That was in 1982. I continued in that location until May of 2000.

MP: That is the year you retired. Am I correct.

AG: Yes.

MP: That is 16 years ago.

AG: I know it. It doesn’t seem like it was 16 years.

MP: It’s scary because I don’t think that I am as old as I really am. A person should stop and think. I remember when my Dad turned 80 years old I thought he was a really old man.

AG: I remember when my parents turned 50 you thought that was old.

MP: When you come right down to it, it is old.

AG: You know what they say about getting old Marlene, getting old is 10 years older than what you are now.

MP: That is true. You have to think young. One of the tricks I have found is running around with younger people as your friends. I don’t enjoy running around with these old people with all their aches and pains. That is all they talk about.

AG: You have to think young.

MP: Let’s go back to some questions. We were talking about you and your building. What are some of your first memories of attending a religious service?

AG: I can recall at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Flatrock Township. My folks probably belonged there at that time as I don’t know just how old I was. What I recall and this was during World War II and it would have been at Christmastime. I know the Pastor at that time was Horstman. I know he had a sermon about Coming Home on a Wing and a Prayer. I don’t know why but that particular sermon always stayed in my mind.

MP: Maybe he was talking about the service men flying their aircraft. It was not very common to see airplanes in the sky when we were kids.

AG: I was actually baptized in that church. My parents were married in that parsonage. My Dad was baptized in that church and confirmed there.

MP: Was that in Flatrock Township?

AG: Yes. My Great Grandfather settled in Elery, Ohio in 1856. His name was Johann Adam Germann. He always went by the name Adam. Adam and his wife Catharine came to the United States in 1851 and they had one child at that time. They first settled in Crawford county and moved to Henry County in 1856.

MP: Was he one of the first settlers on that land?

AG: Yes. He got a grant from the State of Ohio for 80 acres there.

MP: Was that because he served in the Civil War?

AG: Yes. He served in the Civil War. He served for about a year. He was drafted into the Ohio 67th Infantry in November of 1864. He was drafted when he was 35 years old and he had 7 children at the time.

MP: I can remember my mother during World War II being so worried that my father might get drafted into the Army. What would she do for income to feed her family. He was classified 4F because he was raising 5 children. The draft board here in Henry County did not get to the letter F but it was close. I have ancestors that fought in every war including the Revolutionry War, War of 1812, both World War I and II, and the Korean, and also the Viet Nam War.

AG: I don’t know how my Great Grandmother survived with all her children.

MP: Somehow or other they survived.

AG: Maybe some of their neighbors helped them out.

MP: I know they didn’t eat steak and all that fancy food. How would you have liked to serve during the Civil War in such cold and snowy weather. They didn’t have warm Polartek clothes like we do today.

AG: A lot of the soldiers died from diseases back then. My Great Grandfather Weirich served in the Civil War also. His name was Franklin Weirich.

MP: I just admire these people that served in the Civil War. Can you describe one of your favorite childhood toys.

AG: We never had too much to be real honest.

MP: Nobody did as this was the Depression time. You just sort of made your own toys. Kids can have more fun with a simple empty refrigerator box than they can with an
expensive toy.

AG: I did have one of the little red wagons. I grew up here on Brownell Street until I was about 12 years old. We lived there and it was just off Perry Street. We had no indoor plumbing at that time. All we had was a sink and a cold water spigot. We had a coal stove in the living room.

MP: Did it have the isinglass windows so you could watch the coal burn?

AG: It was just a regular coal stove.

MP: They kept people warm.

AG: In the morning when you got up out of bed you thought you would freeze to death.

MP: You would have to jump out of bed and get moving just to get your blood flowing.

AG: There were some days when it just seemed like we had lots of fun. There were at least 15 kids in the neighborhood. We played lots of games and just had fun.

MP: What kinds of games did you play with the neighborhood kids?

AG: We played softball, kick the can, and those types of games.

MP: We played kick the can and red rover too.

AG: Oh yes we did too. We played hide and seek games.

MP: At my Grandmother’s house we would play hide the button. I can just imagine me letting someone play hide the button here. I would probably kill them. It’s a blessing I don’t have grandkids.

MP: What did you like about your childhood, especially your school days? Did you celebrate your birthdays with a party?

AG: On my mother’s side we would get together more often than we did with my father’s side of the family. You see my mother came from a big family. She had one brother and four sisters..

MP: Can you name them?

AG: Her brother’s name was Hugh Weirich. Her oldest sister was Mildred and then Hugh. My mother was the next oldest and then Kathryn, and Mary and Virginia. My father also came from a large family. He had five brothers and a sister. They were Oscar, Clara, Ervin, Art, Carl, Jesse, Harold. His father was Henry. We used to get together quite often. We had family gatherings with my Aunts and Uncles on holidays and other times too.

MP: Then you were able to play with your cousins.

AG: Yes I had quite a few cousins.

MP: Did you play cards or what did you guys do?

AG: Yes we played cards,

MP: What kind of card games did you play?

AG: We played Rummy and Pepper.

MP: Did your family play Euchre?

AG: Not so much that I remember playing that as a kid. Mostly we played Pepper. On my Dad’s side we played Pepper, but I don’t remember playing Euchre.

MP: Did you ever play Zolo. A lot of the farmers out in Freedom Township would get a game of Zolo going. I never learned how to play the game.

AG: I have heard of it but I have never played it.

MP: We would play Dominoes, Chinese Checkers, and Marbles.

AG: We played Chinese Checkers, too. I had forgotten about that game.

MP: What was one of the first ways that you as a kid earned money?

AG: When I was a kid I would do all kinds of things just to earn a quarter. I mowed lawns, I would do different odd jobs. I would weed gardens for people. There was an old guy that lived here on the Southside on Perry Street. He had a farm and we would pick melons for him.

MP: Was it Arnold Baden.

AG: I knew Arnold and it wasn’t him, it was somebody else. He lived right beside Herm’s Meat Shop.

MP: I don’t know who that would have been.

AG: That was way back in the 40s. I started working while I was a junior in high school.

MP: So did I. I worked at Murphy’s during high school on weekends.

AG: I worked at the old Kroger Store. I would bag groceries on weekeneds and I stocked shelves. I worked there for over four and a half years.

MP: You rose up the ladder. It’s like the kids that get hired in at McDonalds. They are called Managers. It would inflate their egos. Did you celebrate family birthdays together?

AG: We would celebrate my Grandfather Weirich’s birthday. He lived to be 90 years old. We spent a lot of time at his place. On my Dad’s side it was usually on anniversaries that we would get together.

MP: Did you get together with your Aunts and Uncles too at Christmas time.

AG: I don’t recall Christmas get-togethers so much.

MP: Did you have family reunions or family get-togethers?

AG: Yes, we had the Henry Germann reunion. Henry was my grandfather. I still have the family records for this at home.

MP: I wish people would have more reunions. I wish that tradition was still going on.

AG: I think we had the reunions for over 50 years. We haven’t had one for a long, long time. I have copies of the reunions. Someone would sit down and take minutes of the meetings.

MP: Did they record records of births and deaths.

AG: Oh yes. My Germann cousins we still get together once or twice a year. Sometimes during the summer we go up to the lake where my cousin has a place. We still try to get together.

MP: Will you describe a typical family meal in your home. What did your Mom cook and did you like everything she cooked for you.

AG: We ate pretty much just staples. We had lots of potatoes and of course gravy.

MP: I love the little red potatoes just boiled. Did you have a lot of chicken?

AG: Yes we ate chicken.

MP: Did your family do a lot of butchering?

AG: I remember my parents going down to my Uncle Hugh’s to help him butcher several times. We never did on my Dad’s side of the family.

MP: When I was a kid I remember seeing hams and bacon hanging from the rafters out in the garage.

AG: My Grandad Weirich had a regular smokehouse.

MP: They probably made their own summer sausage too.

AG: My Mom and her sisters when they butchered would clean the intestines. They used the intestines to make sausage.

MP: I know, just the thought of it would make you want to go vegetarian. Looking back, what would you say was the happiest time of your childhood?

AG: I can’t recall any particular moment but it just seems like we didn’t have any worries. I feel like I had a very good childhood. We always had a lot of kids to play with in the neighborhood.

MP: Of course you were an only child.

AG: We spent a lot of time visiting my Aunts and Uncles. Of course I would go wherever my parents went. I didn’t stay home and have a babysitter come in. We would go to my Dad’s brothers and I always had cousins to play with. We would have homemade ice cream. That was always a big treat.

MP: You know talking about the War, did you serve in World War II?

AG: No, I was only a kid during World War II. I was born in 1934. I did serve my country. I was drafted in the Army in1956.

MP: Were you in the Viet Nam War.

AG: No, I went in right after the Korean War. They had the draft still going on.

MP: In a way you were lucky. My dad was lucky that he didn’t get drafted for World War II. You see he had five children. He didn’t have five children just to stay out of the war, he had five children when the war broke out. Russell was lucky too, because right after he graduated from high school he and his buddy drove out to California looking for a job. When they got to California the two of them went into the post office to mail a card back to his mother to tell her that they had arrived in California. A Marine recruiter saw them and of course he talked them into joining the Marines. Both of those boys were then sent by train clear across the country where they were signed up at Camp Lejeune.

AG: What year was that.

MP Russell graduated from high school in 1946, so that would have been the year he joined. A truce had not been signed declaring the end of the war. Both of them were still considered as serving in World War II.

AG: I was married in September and then in December I received a notice that I was drafted.

MP: Where did you get assigned to.

AG: I took basic training at Ft. Knox in Kentucky. I was there for six months, took my basic training and then I was transferred to Fort Benning, Georgia and I spent about a year and a half in Fort Benning.

MP: I had an Uncle Walter that was stationed at Ft. Benning during World War II. My memory of World War II was when my Dad had all of us kids sit down at the kitchen table and write a letter to my Uncle Walter. It got bedtime and you know it takes me a while to think up all the things I wanted to tell him. So I got up the next morning and my Dad had put all these letters in an envelop and had mailed them off to him. I didn’t even get to sign my name. But it is over with and you move on. What major event shook up your life or opened up new frontiers for you? Would you say that being in the Service?

AG: Yes but I never regretted being in the service. I am glad I served. I think something that helped me considerably was my being in the Rotary Club for 27 years. Being in an organization you learn how to meet and greet people. I made a lot of contacts and made a lot of friends. Being a member of Rotary helped my business. I had open heart surgery in 2009 and it really didn’t bother me that much really.

MP: Did you have the surgery where they crack open your chest?

AG: Oh yes, I had a triple bypass.

MP: I know my neighbor had open heart surgery and he takes several walks each day. What would you say were the best times for your family?

AG: I think about the 60s through the 80s when our kids were little and growing up back then.

MP: How many children did you have?

AG: We had 3 girls.

MP: What were their names?

AG: There is Kathy, Marcella, and Andrea.

MP: I know Andrea. She worked for R. J. Reynolds and would set up displays at our store. She was a very personable gal. Where is she stationed, where is her headquarters?

AG: She has her territory around here in Northwest Ohio, unless she gets her territory changed. She lives here in town. She likes her job.

MP: She was good at it.

AG: Yes she likes to meet people. Now Marcie, she is a Registered Nurse at Ohio State University. She has been down in Columbus for 33 years.

MP: Is she married?

AG: Yes. She has a girl and two boys. Now Kathy, she has lived in Madison, Wisconsin for the last 25 years. She has her own business and does diversity training and teaching.

MP: Where does she teach?

AG: She is not an employee of the University, but sometimes she teaches there. She contracts with companies and cities. She works under contracts. One of the big things now is race relations, homophobia, and different things pertaining to that.

MP: Can you tell me some of your retirement activities.

AG: Golfing is one of my main things. I have golfed for years ever since high school. There was a time when I didn’t play so much and I didn’t take it real serious. Now I really enjoy playing golf. Since I retired I play more. I belong to Kettenring Golf Club. Now it is called Eagle Rock. I have been a member and played there for many years. Now I have a hobby of making bird feeders. I make them in the style of a church and different things like that. First time I joined Kettenring was 1976, then I dropped out for a few years when the girls were in college. I went back again later on and I have played there ever since.

MP: Can you tell me about some of the houses you have built around here in town.

AG: Well I have built a lot of homes over the years. I can talk about where we are right now here in Bavarian Village.

MP: Now talking about Bavarian Village, did you have to bid on these condominiums as a whole group or did you have to bid on each condo separately. This would have been a huge project.

AG: There are 28 units back here in Bavarian Village. That was a bid through SSOE. That was the architectural firm.

MP: Talking about the architecture, I noticed the other day they are starting to put aluminum siding on these units back here. I think it will take away the Bavarian look. It has such a unique look to it. The condominiums have the Bavarian look straight from Germany. After all that is our heritage and we should be proud of it. I think they call it
progress, this idea of remodeling.

AG: It is the maintenance cost. The siding and trim take a lot of maintenance.

MP: What year did you build these condominiums?

AG: It was in 1992.

MP: That was not very long ago.

AG: It was in the 90s. As I recall I think it was 1992.

MP: Which one was built first?

AG: The first unit was the one you are living in right now. There was a Mrs. Krueger right next door, she actually bought the first unit. This would be the one adjacent to you. She was the first one. As you come in the first building on your right that was a Mr. Junge.

MP: That would be Elmer and Walt Junge’s father.

AG: That is right. I started both of these buildings at the same time.

MP: All of the condominiums are filled now but there have been two deaths. They have both been sold now. Maintenance is redoing the inside on both of these condos.

AG: It took me seven to eight years to build all of them. There was one year when I didn’t build any. They had to have one unit sold before they would begin to build another one. I would start building one and pretty soon the next unit would sell real fast.

MP: How many workers did you use at that time?

AG: I used four to six or more workers. It varied at certain times of the year.

MP: The condos are very well insulated. We can’t hear any noise coming from the fairgrounds. We can’t hear when cars drive by or when somebody pulls into our driveway. We lived on West Washington Street and it was just zoom, zoom, going on all day long.

AG: I built several homes in Twin Oaks and also in Anthony Wayne Acres. At Twin Oaks I built three that face the river. The first was Doug Schwab and then Bob Limbird, the optometrist. Then Walter Arps was on down. They are some of the nicest houses around. I also built numerous homes in the high school area.

MP: I like the looks of the Schwab house you built on West 424, facing the river.

AG: Those were used brick we put on that house. Those bricks were brought in on dump trucks. (Art laughs)

MP: I don’t care. They look pretty nice.

AG: Yes they do. I like the look too.

MP: You know, talking about bricks, you know where the Scott House is on Haley Avenue? That place needs a full time carpenter. The bricks on that house need restoring. It has such a beautiful setting. You can sit on that front porch or on the upper porch and you have a direct look at that beautiful courthouse we have downtown. I can just imagine Governor Scott sitting there and looking around. Like I said before, Bavarian Village is a very nice and peaceful place to retire. People are very nice and friendly and a person does not have to be a Lutheran to buy a condo back here. We have several people back here that are Catholic and a lot of residents attend St. John Reformed Church just south on Route 108. I don’t know what the given name is but Russell always called it the Reformed Church.

AG: I know which church you are talking about.

MP: Can you think of anything else that we might have missed?

AG: As far as business-wise, I did have another partnership. I had a partnership with Everett Johnson. He was with the Johnson Carpet business. He also had a shop behind his carpet business where he built cabinets and other things.

MP: Did he build cabinets for you?

AG: No, he didn’t for me, but he did all my floor covering work for me. He did all the carpeting for Bavarian Village and all the other homes I built here in town. We formed a partnership in the early 90s. We called it Lola Enterprises. We named that after our wives, Lois and Lavora. You remember Jeff Heinrichs, well he was coming to town and he needed an office building. We built a duplex office building for his dental patients out there on Independence Drive. We put up the building and leased it to him for ten years with the option after ten years he would be able to buy it back. It was a duplex and we no sooner had the building put up and we rented the other side to the Office for the Aged from the State of Ohio.

MP: That would have been a bonanza.

AG: We also bought the Strayer Appliance building downtown and remodeled that and we also put up a couple of spec houses. On 14B and Road S we bought 20 acres. We subdivided that into seven lots.

MP: Was that for housing?

AG: Yes. I was surprised. We sold those lots in less than three years.

MP: It was a booming time.

AG: Yes the 90s were a booming time. Those years were real good to me. I did very well in the 90s. Lois and I both retired in 2000. We dissolved our partnership and it was a good partnership. Everett was a hard worker. I remember he had some cancer problems. We were putting in some drains in those acres we developed and he could hardly breathe but he just would not give up.

MP: He put linoleum down for us on Washington Street and he did a really good job.

AG: It was a good partnership. I am a Ohio State Buckeye fan.

MP: Isn’t everybody?

AG: Well, you know, not everybody is. I am also a Cleveland Indians fan.

MP: Well we are going to have to wrap this up as I am running out of space. I thank you so much for our little talk.

end of recording

Genuit, Leon

Interviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, October 13, 2010, transcribed by Marlene Patterson

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”11″ gal_title=”Genuit”]

CW: Would you tell us your name please.

LG: I am Leon Genuit

CG: I am Cassie Genuit.

CW: Leon as I understand you worked at the Tile Mill years ago.

LG: Yes

CW: How was that formed in the first place?

LG: Back in 1884 John A. Mehring started it. He and his son were in it. It was first called Mehring and Company. After a while they changed it to John A. Mehring and Company, and then from that to Napoleon Brick and Tile Works.

CW: How did they happen to start that company?

LG: I don’t know how they happened to but this was called the Black Swamp around here. It was not a nice place to be because it used to be a lake and the lake drained away. You know the ridge out here that is where the lake was. The ground was so wet they decided sometime in the 1860’s or so they started ditching in different places. It was much different than the ditching they do today. Mehrings thought that might be a good thing. They really started it for brick, not just for tile.

CW: Was that for the construction of homes?

LG: Right. A lot of these plain red brick homes you see in Napoleon, the brick was manufactured back here.

CW: Is that right.

LG: Like the old Napoleon Library that is brick from the tile yard. Also the Armory. I think the school at St. Augustine and the Napoleon Creamery. A lot of homes you can see them all around town have the plain red brick that was all manufactured out there. After a while plain red brick went out of style and people wanted colors and so they started switching from making brick to making brick and tile. Then eventually when Edgar Meineke and my dad Paul Genuit bought it from Dick Mehring in 1946. The first year we made brick. Then we quit making brick and made just tile.

CW: Was there better money in the tile? Was there more demand maybe?

LG: There was more demand because people were getting tired of the plain old red brick, that was all we could make. People wanted the colored bricks and different things like that. Tile business was coming on because a lot of farmers needed to drain their land. From then on in 1947 we made all just tile. We continued to make tile until 1985 when I shut the plant down and sold it.

CW: I remember those tiles. They were about a foot long and very large around.

LG: We made tile that was four inches in diameter that were a foot long and up to twelve inches in diameter.

CW: What did you use the big twelve inch ones for?

LG: When the farmer is ditching a field you lay the four inch tile down and when you come to the end of the string you put a bigger tile at the end and they ditch into that. That goes into a bigger tile so there is only one tile that goes into the ditch, not a whole bunch of them.

CW: Oh, I see.

LG: So you got things like this and you run a six inch or an eight inch down here to the ditch. This way you only have one to take care of one in the ditch instead of a whole bunch of them.

CW: So you wouldn’t have animals going in there too. How did you happen to get involved in this?

LG: Well myself, I was at the time my dad and Edgar bought this plant I was going to Bowling Green State University. I got an accounting degree and when I got out and graduated in 1950 and I came to the plant and ran the office. My dad died in 1959.

CW: Was your dad the owner?

LG: He and Edgar Meineke were the owners. I took my dad’s place and Edgar and I were the partners. We stayed partners until 1977. I bought Ed out and I ran the plant until January of 1985. I sold the plant to Ben Reese. He bought the plant for the land. There was 80 acres of ground there right here in Napoleon. Eventually he put in streets. There are homes out there now.

CW: That is west of where the Chief Supermarket is now.

LG: It ran from behind Chief clear over to Glenwood Avenue. That is where we got our dirt to make the tile. The top three feet of dirt we got off the ground. We didn’t go any deeper because we got into llimestone pebbles. After the tiles were fired the limestone would pop out and maybe make a crack in the tile. Which is why we only dug down three feet. We stayed above the limestone.

CW: So you used farm land.

LG: It had to be clay. We used the top three feet and we mixed that with the top six inches had better soil. We dug down maybe three feet and we would mix the two together.

CW: How did you test the soil to make sure it was the correct type of clay you wanted?

LG: We had to test the soil. The government made us test it. When we had the tile burnt we had to take them some place to test them. The tile had to withstand the pressure of about a thousand to something per square inch. In other words if the testing machine would break the tile – and we had to take the tile to get tested once a year. We had to take over all different sizes and test them. They would come back okay and they wouldn’t bother us again for another year. Then when the year was up we would have to take more tile back over there again to be tested.

CW: Oh yes. Now where was this place that you would have to take the tile?

LG: It was in Toledo. There was a testing company over there. They would be testing the tile for the State of Ohio.

CW: When you sold the company you were just a young man. Is that correct?

LG: Yes in 1985 I was 60.

CW: Did you find it hard to do without work.

LG: I always thought I would go back to college but I never did. I really haven’t done a whole lot since then. I worked at the mortuary a few years just to have something to do. Otherwise I just played a lot of golf.

CW: Oh yes. That sounds familiar.

LG: We used to when we made tile dig it back in the pit, bring it up on a little train. We had a train that ran from the pit to the building. We would dig it out of the pit and bring it up to the building and haul it up to the second floor of the plant and dump it. It would go down through the tile machinery and so forth. We could make about 18000 feet a day.

CW: That is a lot of tiles.

LG: The tiles were about 14 inches long and these tiles would shrink down to about 12 inches in length. When we burned the tile would come out about 12 inches long. The redness came from the heat. We would start the kiln on Tuesday

CW: Excuse me but would you describe what the kiln looked like? I think that would be very interesting to know.

LG: It was called a beehive kiln because of the rounded top. We would stack the tile in this kiln. Most people call this a kiln, but you don’t prounounce the letter n. Anyhow one kiln was three feet thick of brick all the way around the side. Around the side it was two bricks thick.

CW: That would be pretty thick.

LG: In that kiln would be about 175,000 brick. It took that many bricks to build a kiln. The other kiln had a steel jacket around it so the bricks weren’t that thick. It would have been the same idea. When we loaded a kiln it was a lot of hard work. We would load buggies which held about 124 inch tile.

CW: What did they do run on this rail?

LG: We would load the buggies in the building. We would use a two wheel cart and we had to balance it. You would have about a hundred tile on there. Each tile would weigh about 10 pounds apiece, so you would be lifting a lot of weight. You would have to have it balanced otherwise you would tip the cart up and lose it if it wasn’t balanced correctly. You would break a lot of tile if that happened. When we made the tile like Cassie was saying we had carts that we put them on. We had a cutting machine when the tile came out in a long strip – it had like a piano wire that was used to cut the tile. The wire would go around in a circle and cut the tile at 14 inches in length. We would set those on a cart, take them inside where everything inside would be air dried. This building would be able to hold about 150,000 tiles. They would air dry – depending on how the weather was – and when they were dry enough. They had to be dry enough so you could put them inside the kiln. Then of course like I was telling you earlier we’d load them on a buggy. We had an elevator inside the building for each floor. We would run them down the first floor and into the kiln. We would stack the tile on end. We would stack them five tile high and then we would get on top of the tile and lay boards on top of the tile. They were stacked on end five high so you would be up in the air about six feet. Then we would lay boards on them so we could walk on them. We would build the tile up like this all the way to the top of the kiln. Then you would have another 7 or 8 tile stacked on top of the first five. It would be 13 to 14 feet high. You would get up to about 4 feet from the top of the kiln. When you were finished with one kiln you could put in about 30,000 4 inch tile. Most of the time we would put the 4 inch tile on the bottom. Then we would put the larger 5 and 6 inchers and 10 inch tile on top of them. I can see it here and it is hard to explain just how they were stacked. It would be nice if people could see just how it was done. I am trying to explain how we stacked the tile. When we got the kiln finished we had to put in the doors again. We had to redo the doors every time we opened and shut it.

CW: What do you mean by redo the doors?

LG: The door had a permanent opening on both sides, on one side and on the other side. That is so you can get the tile in and out. We had to re-mud it up. We had insulated brick and we relayed the doors again so we could keep the heat in. Our tile kilns had ten openings where we could fill coal in and burn and heat up the kiln.

CW: Is coal what you used for fuel?

LG: Yes we used coal for fuel. I can’t remember exactly but each time you burned a kiln it took 8 or 9 tons of coal.

CW: How did you keep the coal supplied in the kiln, wouldn’t it have been all closed up?

LG: We had little cupolas. There were ten openings around the kiln. Then you would throw your coal in there. On the inside of the kiln there is something else which is hard to explain. There was a circular cove around each one of these openings so the coal stays in there – it was almost like a chimney.

CW: How did it get from the outside of the beehive to the center? Didn’t it burn in the center?

LG: These ten openings where we put in the coal – we had to do this every hour. The reason for a beehive kiln is that the heat around the outside would go to the center and it would be sucked down through the tile. There were pits underneath the kiln and that went through a chimney. When you fired it the heat would go clear up to the top of the kiln and come down through all the tiles and then it would go out the chimney. The heat and the smoke and whatever. Our chimney was about 50 feet high, somewhere around there and it had a good draft.

CW: What would keep that heat from going straight up through the chimney immediately?

LG: Well heat always rises. Like a beehive kiln is round on top, the heat all went to the top. There was draft from the chimney and it would get sucked down through the tile. Usually the top was 100° hotter than the bottom so you would have to be careful how hot you got them so you wouldn’t burn the ones on the top. It would have to be hot enough so the ones on the bottom couple rows would be burned enough. You really had to know what you were doing. We had a barometer which told how hot it was inside the kiln. It was just like a thermometer but it was called a barometer. We would heat the kiln up to about 1800 or 1900 degrees and burn it that way for about 15 hours. It would take about 2 days to get the heat up to 1900 degrees. We would burn it for about a half day and then let it cool off. We would start the kiln on Tuesday and open it up on Saturday or Sunday. On Monday we would empty it and fill it up and start it off again.

CW: That would have been a big job.

LG: Yes it was a lot of hard work.

CW: Now in those two days when you were getting that heat up somebody would have to go every hour and shovel in more coal.

LG: Every hour it would take about three shovels and put the coal in each one of those openings. Of course that was 24 hours a day. We had a night fireman. Of course during the day, this was continuous.

CW: Edgar Meineke, is he the elderly man that my son worked with in there?

LG: Yes he lived on Kolbe. You see I am 85 years old right now. He died a few years ago.

CW: I knew he was quite a bit older than you.

LG: He worked after I bought him out-he was about 75 years old at the time.

CW: Was he still shoveling coal at that age?

LG: Yes and handling tile.

CW: He probably would have stayed a very strong man.

LG: Yes he was in good shape. I did all the office work and if they needed help in the back I would go help them. I would fire the kilns and help make tile. When you have a small company you do everything.

CW: I bet you do. And you get to know everybody that works there too.

LG: I can’t think of much else except the ditching part of it. When we first had the business in the ‘40’s they would lay the tile in strings about 50 feet apart. Then with the heavy machinery they found out that was too far apart to be able to draw the water out of the ground. So then they would lay the tiles 40 feet apart.

CW: Now what do you mean on strings? Would you lay a string down like when you are planting a garden?

LG: A string of tile would be laying the tile – the ditcher of course he had make sure he wasn’t ditching up hill and so forth. The ditching machine would do all of this. A string of tile was just a long line of tile in the field.

CW: You mean one tile after the other. So that is what a string was.

LG: The tile would be about – anyway at least between 35 and 40 feet apart in a field. They had decided that was close enough to draw and get the excess moisture out of the field.

CW: Did you ever have a batch of tile that were bad?

LG: Yes we have had them where we would over-burn them and the top two or three tile would have to be thrown away. We also had seconds too which had a little crack in them which we sold at half price.

CW: How did you feel when you would have a batch that needed to be thrown away?

LG: Well it was really a loss. You would have all your time and labor costs into it. Not very often did we have a bad batch. On every kiln we always had a few that you might have to toss away – maybe 500 or so.

CW: Out of how many?

LG: Around 30,000 tile.

CW: That wasn’t real bad.

LG: No you would always have a few to throw out. They would be the ones near the fire boxes on the inside and places like that.

CW: Did you ever have any accidents with people working there?

LG: Not really hurt bad. We had three floors and an elevator and we have had guys that thought the elevator was up and it was still on the first floor. They would wheel their cart onto the elevator and dump the whole cart down about 150 tile or so. That has happened in my lifetime probably 5 or 6 times. They guys wouldn’t go down the shaft because they would let go and the cart would go down the hole.

CG: Did it hurt the cart?

LG: It didn’t help it any. Other than that I can’t think of any. We delivered tile all over around here. We never had an accident with the truck which we were probably lucky in that respect.

CW: You would be pretty proud of that.

LG: Yes. When we were delivering the tile we had two trucks that would back the tile laying down. The truck would hold 2000 feet – something like that. That is when we delivered to the farmer. If he had it staked out for us we would have a driver and another person. He would get up on the truck and would throw the tile off as we drove the truck down the field. He just by looking he would throw four tile at a time and he could gage just by looking whether he had enough tile to cover the footage you needed. In other words in a string of tile there would be 800 to a 1000 foot string on a field, he had to guess as we were driving the truck he had to guess whether he had enough tile which would be right there and they would put it in the back of the ditching machine and put the tile in the ground. The guy that was delivering it would have to know what he was doing as far as the number of tile in the ground.

CW: Did you ever have trouble with people that did it wrong?

LG: Some would put the tile on the wrong side so it would. In other words there was a line where you were supposed to put the tile. Instead of putting the tile on the right side they put the tile on the wrong side. We would have to go pick them up and do it over. That would happen every once in a while.

CW: That would be the time for the boss to give them a little talking to. Now you said they ditched it and would put four down at a time. Was this four of those big tiles at one time?

LG: A four inch tile you could pick up two with your fingers, two at a time.

CW: You would have to be very strong because those tile would be very heavy.

LG: Right. That was the four inch tile. We had sixes and eights we would throw one at a time. So you would be pretty busy dumping tile off because the truck would be idling down the line where we were supposed to put them. And we would break a few too. If we threw them off and sometimes we would break them. We always when we delivered tile we would always take along around 50 extra tile. We didn’t charge the customer for the breakage that might happen when we delivered them.

CW: That would have been a good idea. It would keep the reputation of your company intact.

LG: We had so many broken tile that I would tell them we had 50 extra tile on the truck and if we broke more than that we took it off the bill.

CW: That is a good policy I would think. He was a good honest man.

CG: Of course the introduction of the plastic tile prompted us to close the business.

CW: Could you tell us about that development Cathy?

CG: I wasn’t in the business that much but I will show you what I did in the business.

LG: That is a four inch tile that she used. She didn’t use the whole tile. This tile has been cut in two.

CW: I see you have a pumpkin on the bottom. Did you put a candle in the bottom?

CG: I made a larger one with a bigger pumpkin. I made quite a few things out of clay and then Lee would burn them for me.

CW: Now when you say a pumpkin inside you would have put a candle inside.

CG: I just formed it and made it rounded. That was the artistic side of the tile.

LG: This was right after the tile was made and the clay was still pliable. You would be able to work it.

CW: That would be a fun thing to do.

CG: It was kinda fun for me.

CW: Did you sell those then?

CG: The year they had an art show downtown I put some of them in the show and I sold maybe three or four of them. Most of the ones I made I gave away. I made a chicken out of clay. It was artistic and fun.

CW: When I was volunteering at the Senior Center we had some tile and we sold them as newspaper holders. People would set them on their porch and the paper boy would put the newspaper inside the tile.

LG: They probably were eight inch in diameter tile that they used.

CG: Did you decorate them or anything?

CW: I don’t think they did.

CG: When I made mine I would take the whole tile and cut different designs in them. I would put a rope through them and hang them outside on a tree.

CW: Oh yes that would be nice too.

LG: It would vary, depending upon the time of the year but you would have anywhere between six and ten employees. Years ago when the company, in the early 1900’s when they made just all brick, it took more people to do the job. They had as high as 20 people doing the work at that time.

CW: You couldn’t pick up four of those bricks at one time.

LG: It just took more people and they didn’t have the machinery like they had later on and so forth. There was a lot of hard work involved and it just took more people to make brick than it did the tile. In reading some papers that I have here it tells how many people were working there at the time. I was looking back yesterday – I have some payroll books down in the basement from 1917. The men worked ten hour days, six days a week, which would mean 60 hours a week and they were paid $12.00 total.

CW: Wow!

LG: That would be $2.00 a day for ten hours of work. It was hard work, but I suppose a gallon of milk didn’t cost much either.

CW: Yes that is true.

LG: I also had some of the sales of the brick at that time. 1000 brick went for $6.00. I don’t know today but they were 3 to 400.00 per thousand brick.

CW: Even the plastic ones?

LG: No this is the price of brick and not plastic tile.

CW: Oh you are talking about the price of brick today.

LG: Right.

CW: Are there still companies that make the brick tile?

LG: There is nobody that makes the clay drain tile anymore. They are all out of business. Plastic has taken over. Plastic is easier to put in, takes less labor and it is cheaper.

CW I remember when they first started and I believe I heard that the plastic would not hold up and would disintegrate after a little while. Then evidently it didn’t.

LG: Apparently it doesn’t. It has held up good enough for them anyhow. We always felt that those ribs wouldn’t drain as well. It does alright. It got to the point where the farmers just didn’t want to lay clay tiles so they bought the plastic.

CW: Then they just bring that plastic out and lay it down I suppose.

LG: Well they have a ditcher to put it in. They plow it in really. It is different from the way they used to put clay tile in.

CW: What do you mean.

LG: There is a machine that – you have probably seen some fields where they will have a big roll of plastic tile. It comes in big rolls. The plow will go down maybe three feet and the plastic tile will just follow the plow and ditch just like they did for clay. They call it plowing it in. They can do it faster and cheaper.

CW: That was kind of a blow when you started competing with that.

LG: That is what put us out of business.

CW: How did you feel then?

LG: Of course I didn’t like it. I eventually closed up and sold the land to Reese’s. The tile mill building sat there for ten years. I sold it to them and they didn’t know what to do with it. In 1995 Reese’s came in and knocked the buildings down and the kilns and so forth and cleaned it up.

CW: For quite a long time after the buildings came down at least one of those beehives were still there because I remember it back in the field behind Chief Supermarket.

LG: No they knocked the kiln down right away. The one had where the roof had fallen in when I was going to sell the business, the roof on the one kiln had fallen in. As it was cooling off the shrinking for some reason the roof fell in.

CW: Did that ruin the tile then?

LG: Yes it ruined the whole kiln and the whole tile. The other kiln was still there and that was the one with all the brick in it. It took a lot of knocking to get that knocked down.

CW: How did you do it?

LG: We contracted Larry Irving to do it. He has the big machinery. It went thump thump, bang bang and so forth and he finally got it all knocked down. They had a lot of trouble with the chimney. That chimney was so well built that they couldn’t get the chimney all knocked down. They finally did. The building they tore it down just like – what Irving does is tear things down.

CW: It would have been hard to see them do that I bet.

LG: We took some pictures of it when they were doing it. I spent from 1950 to 1985 – I was there 35 years. I am glad the roof fell in when it did and not when we were emptying the kiln.

CW: That would have been a mess.

LG: It would have killed us.

CW: You never had anybody get injured?

LG: No. Nothing real bad but a cut finger and things like that but nothing major.

CW: Well this has been a good story about early industry in Napoleon. Cassie, I wonder if we could get some information from you about some of the projects that women have done in the past.

CG: Do you mean here at the tile yard?

CW: It wouldn’t have to be at the tile yard, it could be in Napoleon or in Henry County. You spoke of taking your tile that you decorated to an Art Show.

CG: I did one year when they had an Art Show downtown. That has been a long time ago.

LG: She did it mostly to give them away to people.

CW: Now what was that Art Fair like?

CG: That has been a long time ago. It was similar to what they just had a couple of weeks ago. It was held over at the fairgrounds. What was that called? It was something like that – the Craft Show.

CW: Did they close off Perry Street when they had the Art Show.

CG: I am pretty sure they did. They just had the Hospital Bazaar. That involves a lot of women here in town.

CW: We don’t have much information on the Hospital Bazaar. Could you tell us about the Bazaar?

CG: I haven’t been to one for several years.

CW: Can you tell us what it was like when you were there.

CG: They had it organized very well to help buy equipment for the hospital. That was the idea behind it.

CW: How did they get that started I wonder. Do you remember some of the key people that used to work real hard. Viola Gunn was she one of the workers?

CG: Right now I can’t think of any. Penny Rowley works at it now. She is involved in it now. I used to go to it but now I am not interested in crafts so I don’t go anymore.

CW: It used to be a big deal.

CG: I think it still is. They moved it out to the hospital now.

CW: They used to have, when they were first getting started, they would have lots of hand made items. Now they don’t have so much of that. They have the auction with people bidding on different items that people have donated. That is how they make money now. They do anything to help the hospital.

CG: I know it brings in quite a bit of money to help the hospital.


Eicher, Genevieve

Inverviewed by Charlotte Wangrin, April 2003

G. I’m going to read if you don’t mind?

C. That’s fine.

G. I am speaking today as Sweetgrass Eicher, a descendant of TARHE, THE CRANE, the Wyandot Chief. I am also a member of the Shawnee United Remnant 13 and of Ohio by tribal adoption. By paternal line I am also descended by five generations from my Cherokee ancestor, James Foreman, who came to what is now northern Ohio before 1800. My family line has been in Ohio for many years.

Before Ohio was a state the area of present Henry County was known as Indian country. It remained that for many years after the first white settlers arrived , and settlement was sparse until the 1830’s. Charles Gunn, father of Edward Mc Carthy Gunn, arrived and settled at Prairie Du Masque or our present Damascus on the Maumee River in 1814.

C. Is that where the Damascus Bridge is now?

G. Yes. It was approximately where the caretaker’s house is.

C. Where that restaurant is now?

G. No. It was across the road from there. He had a trading post and a log house that was an inn for whatever travelers passed through. And an interesting part of that was the Indian chief, Abonique; his lodge was within a stone’s throw of the trading post.

C. Is that the building that’s on the north side of the road now, then?

G. Next to the river? Yes. Just about the caretaker’s house, on the other side of Rt. 109, toward Toledo. That’s about where it was, and the Indian trail was about where the 24 is now. It followed the edge of the river.

Edward remembered that the camp of BAB-O-NEEK, an Indian chief, was within a stone’s throw of the Gunn trading post. Edward was born in 1821 at Damascus and often told of his early life living with the Indians at Damascus. Charles went to the Trading Post to buy furs from the Indians and Edward was named by a half-breed Indian fur buyer who worked for Charles Gunn. He showed up just as the child was born and he said he’d like to have the child named for himself and so that is how he got his name. Mr. Gunn would send him out all over the area and he would buy furs and so of course he would also bring them back.

And the interesting thing is that he would often bring back runaway slaves from the south because they followed the Indian trails north and when anyone of the Indians found them they took them along because the Black people knew they would be taken care of and they would be heading north toward Canada where they wanted to go and-uh-Edward made the remark that he had often seen Negroes climb out of the tents of the Indians early in the morning.

The Indians who lived at Damascus, according to Edward Gunn, journeyed to Fort Malden, Ontario, Canada to receive their pay for war service from the British government. This pay was usually old army tents, blankets and such stuff as the Indians could uce. When the Damascus Indians made their yearly trip they would take these runaway slaves with them and they would drop them off in Canada. And that’s interesting because the Underground Railroad did go through here but this is before the Underground Railroad. The Black slaves were traveling, and there’s a record in what was the county seat of Williams County in that time Defiance, Ohio that at that time the Blacks were passing through. This was in 1821 so they were passing through very early and so this is one way of proving that they did–when you have somebody who lived in that time and wrote down these things.

C. You would not be talking about this book Maumee River 1821 would you?

G. No. This is not written in a book. This is through Edward Gunn and other sources.

C. Now was he related to you or a friend of your ancestors?

G. No. When they went to the mill at Waterville my English adopted ancestors would go from this area and they would stay there at that trading post overnight.

C. A long trip in those days.

G. Yes. It took at least one day to go down and one to come back so they would stay two nights at the trading posts. But there was no affiliation otherwise because I am a Wyandot and these were Ottowa and Potawatomy. It was because they traveled through, and we discussed that that was next to the river. And in 1819 there was one white settler in what is now Independence in Defiance County and the Gunn family after that. The census of 1820 listed 387 white residents of Damascus Township, of which Henry County was part of that territory. It was a large township.

C. Is that the place along the river that is Independence still, the little town of Independence?

G. Yes. Before the start of the War of 1812 there were 67 families living between Lake Erie and the foot of the rapids at Grand Rapids. When the war broke out they left the area and returned after the war was over. I was told the Gunns also left and returned after the war. Although Charles came in 1814 it was after the war was over and he was living with his parents in Cleveland before that and they came after the war.

The period of 1820 to 1830 showed the largest increase of the white settlers and Edward Gunn, was one of the early settlers. They were scattered,. not close together. In 1820 In his memoirs listed early settlers at or near Prairie Du Masque as his father in 1814. In the 1820’s Samuel Vance, John Patrick, David Bucklin, Elisha Scribner, Judge Cory, David DeLong and Samuel and David Bowers settled near Texas and Prairie Du Masque, and Elijah Gunn who settled between Snaketown (Florida, Ohio) and what is now present Napoleon, Ohio. And of course Charles Gunn had his trading post at Damascus during that time. In 1831 Mr. Bowen, Mr Hunter and Mr. Carvin, and the families of Whipple, Wait, Cole Scofield and Morey moved into the Florida area.

At the site of present Napoleon Mr. Philips owned all the land that would become Napoleon. He gave Mr. Holliway a small piece to clear. Of course that’s where the first log cabin was built here close to the river. Holliway built a small log cabin to use as a traveler’s inn. Soon Holliway left and Mr. Andrews took over the inn. The Phillips’ land was all wilderness when he gave Holliway the ground.

Robert Newell built his trading post at what is Florida, Ohio about 1832. That building is still standing and has received recognition as nan underground railroad station site.

C. Excuse me, but these people that came, where had they all come from? Did they all come from one place or different places?

G. No. Most of them came from New York, but not the same area of New York. There were people that came here that were the land speculators, and they would go back to the eastern states and sell, try to sell the land and that, wherever they travelled, that’s where they came from. If they came from New York they could very well have come from different parts of New York. Some of them would have been land speculators. For instance, Mr. -uh-Rev. B. Stow went to Defiance. He was a land speculator and he was a Presbyterian minister that was sent here by the society to start a Presbyterian church in the area. But he also was a land speculator. And he went back to Mexico a pseudocon of New York. He convinced young people that knew they would never inherit land in New York to come out here and settle. And I’m working on Ridgeville Township and there’s at least 15 to 20 families that came here because Mr. Stow talked them into moving.

C. Is that right? Now is that spelled the same as Dr. Stowe?

G. No. It’s Stow. But that’s—he–convinced many people, including himself, to settle along the Maumee. And-uh–my foster grandfather was one of them, and-uh-he said that he didn’t do a very good job of selling because he was under the impression that there would be some kind of civilization here, and when he arrived in Toledo he was going to settle in Toledo but when he saw it it was such a mud hole that he decided to go farther west and he came all the way to the Ridge–well, it’s called the Ridge because it’s the old [blank] left from when there were seas, left ridges that are in the ground. And so

C. Oh, so he came to the south of the river, do you think?

G. He came to the north side of the river. We know he came through what we now know roughly, Delta and Wauseon.

C. Oh, so the Ridge ran through there then?

G. It runs from Upper Sandusky to the southern part of our area, through Henry County, crosses the river at Independence , then goes northeastward, and ends up at Adrian, Michigan. The Black Swamp was included in that area. He came to Ridgeville Township and he settled what would be now where Becks have their establishment west of Ridgeville, yes, the west edge of Ridgeville. That was the farm that he first settled on, and then I don’t know why he moved. He lived there from 1836 to 1845 and then he went farther toward Defiance on the Ridge. He lived across from the Bethlehem Lutheran Church.

C. That’s right on the Ridge.

G. Yeah. And that’s where he died. That’s how he got here.

C. I’m trying to establish exactly where this ridge went because I know it goes through Defiance area and on to Ridgeville, which is where they got the name of ‘Ridge’ville, and on toward Wauseon and then where did it go from there?

G. Well, it starts for us. I’m working on the Underground Railroad following that trail and it’s called ‘The Old Independence-Ridgeville-Adrian-Pre-Turnpike.’ When it comes to us in Fulton County south of Wauseon it becomes County Road AC, and if you turn–there’s a big white house on that corner (the Ridge and 108). And if you turn to the right and go down to what used to be called Westbury. There’s nothing there now but farmland but it was a small town.

C. In other words you turned south at that corner?

G. East. You’re going toward Wauseon and you turn east and you go down to the first five-corners and there the road turns to the north.

C. That’s the way the Ridge went then?

G. Yes. It goes north and east and eventually ends up at Adrian.

C. O.K. I’ve got the picture.

G. (laughs) Yeah, and it was a very well-travelled road and it was the first road that came through the swamp and so it was an old Indian trail, and when he came that trail was perhaps three foot wide in places and other places as narrow as a man’s foot.

C. Really!

G. And so he said he always had to scout for a piece of wood to carry because if he should start to slip he couldn’t help himself because the mud and mire was up to a man’s waist. You get down in that and you might have trouble getting out.

C. Now is that the shoreline of old Lake Whittlesea?

G. Yes. And I drive that as you must have and you can’t imagine what it must have been like 200 years ago, but this was wild country and stayed wild country for years. And of course the population was scarce and when the first settlers came in they were [blank] the Indian and one of the things the Underground Railroad people don’t understand they think it was like we read that they were in constant danger and it wasn’t because there weren’t enough people here that they could easily hide and-uh–there was not a heavily travelled road and the settlers that came in really didn’t care because they were busy making a living for themselves. Most of them were anti-slavery but many of the housewives were afraid of the Negroes rather than the Indians because they lived with the Indians but they had never seen a black person. And-uh the reason the Indians helped the black people started way back in the 1700’s when the colonists bought black slaves and captured Indian slaves. So they learned that they had something in common, and it came down through their folklore. And so the black people knew that if they could find any Indians to travel with or they would have a place where they would be taken care of until they could go to the next place. And so it worked very well. Often on a plantation the news would travel and so the black people would get their things together, slip out at night and locate the Indians and then they would be gone.

C. Runaway slaves used to travel at night so they wouldn’t be detected.

G. Yes. And then of course the reason the white people here came involved the Indians were moved to the west, and then of course the white people became involved, taking care of the blacks that passed through and seeing that they were cared for and Mr. Tubbs told that after the Indians had moved to the west that it appeared they had more trouble getting them north.

C. I heard a talk about the underground railroad and one farmer used to have them lie down in the wagon and cover them with beets and potatoes and vegetables.

G. We’ve digressed, haven’t we, from Indians.

C. It doesn’t matter.

G. Mr. Tubbs did that. All the station masters had to cover their wagons. They had to explain why they were uncovered and so his was he raised produce and sold it in the Defiance, Wauseon, Delta area. As you could safely take his produce wagon which had a hidden compartment and put the slaves in, put the sacks of potatoes, bushels of apples and things, cover it and people were so used to seeing him going that they didn’t think much about it. And he was lucky. He never got caught. I haven’t found anyone yet that was caught here, for two reasons. One, they were very inventive and Mr. Tubbs said that the trick was that if you were stopped by a law officer you kept your mind on something totally different so you didn’t show any emotion and so they assumed that you had nothing to upset, you know, made you nervous. And the other reason was that many of the law officers were anti-slavery and so when they would be told that somebody was harboring one they would take the long way around to give them plenty of time for them to get rid of the slaves. And so when they arrived all was well. That’s a fascinating part of history.

C. Oh, it is! And-uh-I understand that the Sloans used to live in this house?

G. Yes.

C. And my son said the Sloan boys told him that there was a secret passage way from this house to the river.

G. There was a tunnel. Yes. There were several tunnels underneath Napoleon and this was connected to the one beneath West Washington St. and the nephew of Governor Scott told me that when he was a child he played in that tunnel. All the neighborhood kids did. And I asked, “Why were they closed?” He said because it was beginning to fall in and it was dangerous so they started to [blank] And I said, “Can you show me where it was?” He said, “No. I was a kid and I was too young. They closed it up and it looks like the rest of the basement. I can’t tell you where it was but I can say I played in it.”

C. Who is this again?

G. The nephew of Governor Scott. J. F. Scott’s nephew and his wife, Rebecca Scott’s nephew. And-un-he was very interesting. He told a lot of things about the house. They had a dumb waiter they used to ride up and down in. (laughs) But it was never connected with the other. It was built too late.

C. I asked this question of the lecturer on the underground railroad and he said, “Every town has a rumor like that but there’s nothing to it.”

G. Well, you know when they tore the Wellington Hotel down they found the entrance of a tunnel.

C. I wonder what those tunnels were for?

G. Well one person not long ago told me that his father told him that one of the tunnels went to the railroad station. And that’s the only one I ever heard and I don’t say it’s true but that’s what my father told me. And-uh-they were used to go through business without being seen. And-uh-Scott belonged to a group that were wheelers and dealers and important people and they didn’t want their business known. And that’s the explanation that Mr. Whatever-his-name-was, the nephew told, that was the reason that he was told.

C. Well, it being a small town any stranger would be noticed right away.

G. It’s like in Toledo, during Prohibition they had tunnels under Oregon and they were used by people, the gangsters and like that that didn’t want to be seen on the streets. And so it must have been a fad to build them or something because you don’t hear of it now, but they tell me the tunnels are still there. You can’t find out anything. Nobody remembers much about them.

C. No they wouldn’t; it would be too long ago.

G. And the sort of things like underground railroad they wouldn’t write down anything because, well, it wasn’t of interest to anybody except the people using them. I tried to find out. I’d like to know the history of the tunnels underground. They are there. People who work with sewers say they’re there. But we don’t know anything else. Well all I come up with was, as I told you, they connected places. Am I talking clearly?

G. Well, let’s go back to the Indian encampment. Indian encampments were located at Damascus and along the banks of the Maumee River where Napoleon now stands, and along the creek waterways that fed into the river, beyond the old Tanner farm out south of town here and-uh that has a creek that goes through. And that was remembered as being . . Indians living there. There are graveyards of course along the river and-uh along the Maumee and the Auglaize and-uh Mr. Gunn listed the Indians at Damascus as Pottawatamies but a lot of people said they were Ottawas so I’ve tended to take his word for it since he lived there and played with them. The encampment where Wauseon is now sited was an Ottawa Indian camp. And of course Wauseon and Ottake were the Chiefs. in fulton County and Chief Tontoganie’s camp was located near the village of Tontogany in Wood County was also Ottawa. The Shawnee nation had summer encampments along the Maumee and Auglaize rivers in Defiance County. That was strictly summer encampments. They had winter homes. The only reservation in Henry County was located in Washington Township and the one at Damascus. Otherwise the Indians that camped here were simply summer camping.

C. They came to the river to plant sometimes?

G. Not up here. They came mainly to make maple syrup and to hunt and fish and dry meat for the winter, and of course in the bottom lands they could raise corn and other crops that they raised.

C. What’s the bottom land?

G. That’s the land along the river, rich land along the river, and they would camp there and have their gardens and Mr. Tubbs told that people had the impression that they lived where their garden was, but they didn’t. They’d have gardens different places because it was where the land was fertile and it would grow. And so they would go back to harvest their crops and sometimes like corn they’d find out that coons had gotten in and they didn’t have much of a crop so they would have various places where they would have more planted.

G. And of course we know that the Indian occupation of county land ended with the Removal Act and in 1838 most red men were gone from the county except those whe were considered Competent Indians who did not have to go west with their tribe. My family was such a family for they had dropped out of the Indian world and lived as their white neighbors did in Huron County. Other competency came from marrying into a white family who could assist the Indian family; having a white person take care of an Indian or Indian family, or an Indian who had accrued enough material possessions that he did not have to rely on government assistance for himself and his family. Dr. Kolbe in Defiance County had a graveyard on his land, a private cemetery. At the bottom of the cemetery along the river is a Negro and Indian cemetary because after the blacks were free they just kept on living where they were.

C. Now where was this?

G. If you go west of Defiance on 24 and you come to 127 where they join, there’s a restaurant, I can’t think of the name of it. You look to the right and there’s a bridge that goes to the right. This farm was along the river a mile west of that bridge you turn off of 24 and turn at the first road. Go down that road about a mile and that is where this farm was and the cemetery that he had set aside. Several Indian families lived with the black people on this land, I understand. And so those Indian people didn’t have to go, and Westbury, which is just on the Ridge Road as you go… (end of tape)

C. … do you know?

G. Just about a mile, east and it’s the five corners, you know. That was part of the Indian land. And there was one of the Indians who did not want to go west, and didn’t have to. He had his own cabin there and he was allowed to stay, and his name was Kickdogs, an English name. I didn’t remember his other name but his name was Kickdogs because he always had a bunch of dogs and when they would come tearing out he’d tell them to be quiet and if they didn’t they’d get a kick, so he got his nickname, and he did not have to go west. He lived there for some years and then he decided to go find his nation out by the Mississippi, but he didn’t like it and he came back. But before he died he went back and he died out there. But he was one of the last Indians in this area.

C. He probably had family out there.

G. He has descendants, yes. And he like a change of course because when they moved out more white people moved in and there were no more Indians and I could see where he’d get lonesome. So I don’t know what happened to him after he went, the last time that he died out there.

C. Now do you remember anything about your childhood?

G. I was not raised as an Indian.

C. Had you been captured as a baby?

G. No. My people lived in Huron County and they came to Toledo and they were business people and I was born in Lucas County and my mother died when I was a year and a half old and my father wasn’t able to take care of us, me and the four younger children, so we became wards of Henry County and I was adopted and my sister was never adopted but raised in Florida, Ohio.

C. So what was your adopted name then?

G. I was adopted by Dustin Alice Motter and I went to Ridgeville.

C. Modder?

G. Motter. I don’t know whether you ever knew Gilbert Motter, who was the Debtor’s Administrator here for many years, was my foster brother. And that family came here early in Henry County and I guess I’m about the last one, but still I have a nephew living here yet. One other of the Motter family and the rest are all gone. These families die out. But I was raised–the lady that raised me, her father was an Indian interpreter and although I [blank] and he is my adopted grandfather he was born in 1810 and so that seems unbelievable to me that the history goes back that far on that close terms, and so I was always raised with a lot of knowing how to deed work along with cooking and things. Although she had [blank] and sold, this line behind her she had picked it up from her father.

C. Now did you have an Indian name when you were born?

G. My grandfather, when I was to be born, said that if I was a girl I was to be named Sweetgrass, and so I’m Sweetgrass.

C. That’s a pretty name.

G. It is. It’s one of the four sacred elements of the Indian world: tobacco and sweetgrass and cedar and sage. And he wanted me to be named Sweetgrass so I–that’s my name.

C. Does the Article sweetgrass have any use in their culture?

G. Yes. That is what baskets are made of.

C. Like reeds, a little bit like reeds?

G. I don’t have any. Did you ever see sweetgrass?

C. No.

G. I’ll go get some, if you have time. The other was to sweeten the body in the corpse.

C. Oh, really! Does it have a scent? . . . Yes it does!

G. Oh yes, and that fragrance is very strong. This is probably a year old. Ordinarily it is braided.

C. Braided?

G. Braided. They would braid it and then hang it in their place of living. It was placed between layers of clothing to keep them smelling sweet. It was used to sweeten up the lodge.

C. Well that is certainly worthwhile saving.

G. It grows about so high and they cut it off, harvest it about in–oh–July or August.

G. They try to keep it. This is old, but if I would soak this in water then the smell would come out again. I have some sweet little baskets but they’re packed away. It’s very expensive to buy them woven now. I have a little basket with a lid and I had to pay $20 for it because there aren’t that many that we–. It’s getting to be rather a lost art, and so those that do–it’s tedious.

C. And so your first name was ‘Sweetgrass” like this and did you have a family name?

G. No. Indians did not have a family name, and they had to take names then when the government took over they had to be–pegged, I guess is a good word to use. And so the rolls, the Cherokee rolls for instance, the first ones there would be people like–I would be listed still as Sweetgrass. But then in the next roll that was taken I was called Sweetgrass Eicher. I had to have that last name and -uh-all sorts of names, you know, and people would take whatever name they feel like and-uh-my daughter’s Savannah because her name is Lee Ann and Savannah is an English word meaning ‘meadow.” But it is also an Indian word meaning ‘meadow.’ So she took the name ‘Savannah’ and her two sons took their names and one of them wanted to be ‘great-eagle’ and the other wanted to be ‘great-owl’ and the other wanted to be ‘standing eagle’ and they picked their own names and because they admired the birds I guess. But there would be all sorts of names, whatever somebody feels like. You were adopted by the Shawnee and whenever you were adopted by the Indians in a tribal adoption if you become the same as 100 percent blood, and it doesn’t matter what you are before but tribally. Now if a family would adopt, if it was a family adoption then I could not have blood but if tribal I could have one hundred percent blood, by the Shawnee people.

C. Now did you have any sisters or brothers that had done this?

G. I had nine. I was the youngest of nine. My mother died carrying a child that would be ten, and I have one sister yet that is at Grand Rapids, Ohio that is still living yet. The rest are all gone but the only one active in the Indian world is myself because my brothers said, “Oh no, we’re not [blank].” They didn’t want to claim it and my sister will claim it but she doesn’t care. She’d just as soon be white, and I’m white too, I have to admit that the Indian is where my people were, and I’m active in the Indian world. But if you would say, “What are you?” I’d probably say “White”. It’s easier. It’s always been a surprise to people that didn’t know I was Indian. This one woman said, “Well how come you suddenly became an Indian?” And I said, “I was always an Indian.” She just didn’t know it. It’s a different world. We enjoy it and we’ve learned a lot but yes, I was raised white. My interest in history and all, white history.

C. Now both your parents were Indian?

G. Yes. Um-hm.

C. And then you were adopted by the white family?

G. Yes. And the man that adopted me, his family going back to the late 1700’s his paternal ancestor married a Mohawk and so this summer there was a young man who came who would be my great-nephew. I knew who he was but I’d never seen him and I spoke to him about the Indians, being Mohawk his ancestors and he said, “Oh I shall tell my aunt. She wants so badly to prove that.” And he said, “That just thrills me all to pieces.” And I said that’s a nice reaction, wasn’t it.

C. It’s about time, you know.

G. He asked me, “Do I have any characteristics?” And I said, “Yes. Your build and you short [blank], certain characteristics, Oh yeah.”

C. Yeah. You would recognize them when other people wouldn’t.

G. You learn to recognize people as you sit in a restaurant.

C. Is that right?

G. And I’ve had people in traffic come over and say, “What nation do you belong to?” Because you recognize it. I don’t have anything bad to say about the Indian people at all and I don’t have–we do not get into that controversy of what happened in the past. No point. That the black servants are fighting for recognition: I don’t understand that. That was their ancestors several generations back. And I said to one woman, “You know my ancestor way back in the early 1800’s was an Indian, an indentured servant. I said, “Well, she was about two years old when she was indentured.” She grew up, was indentured to a family and she would clean the tavern. And she was married when she was 14 because she married an older man because he was a blacksmith and he travelled a lot so he would see her, saw her growing up and he became concerned when she became 13, what was going to happen to her, and so he asked the tavern keeper if he could buy her indenture. And he asked him why and he said, “Because I want to marry her. Give her a change.” And he said “No. But you come back next year and if you still believe you want to do this you can buy her indenture.” So he bought her indenture and then took her up to the church and married her. They served their life together, a very good life together. But that’s …

C. Did she object to the marriage?

G. I have no idea but apparently not. It must have been a wonderful waiting it out in a way and apparently not because I’ve done quite a bit of history on her. They lived in Florida, Ohio. I looked into her history after she was married and there’s no indication but what everything was just fine. Apparently it was a good marriage and she was beloved by her family and all, but that’s the same as slavery, when you’re indentured, and she wasn’t paid. She remembers that when he bought her indenture she wore the–she always called it a ‘shift’ which would be just a straight top, you know, a long dress, nothing fancy, and had no shoes. And so she didn’t get anything for the hard work she did, except the food and the housing. Her clothing–well, she was two and she was 13, so 11 years and that’s like slave labor too. One of the reasons the man said she wanted to agree to this was because his wife did not want her there as she grew up, and he said, “I did learn to love her as a child,” and he said, “I had no feelings for her other than she was practically my child because I had raised her, but my wife never did, so I have none–uh–” I say, you think of slavery you know as the black slaves. We forget there’s slaves in the world today that are living under the same conditions. We just don’t know about them.

C. Man’s inhumanity to man. Pretty bad.

G. One of the reasons that so many of the people in this area were station masters was because they had been either indentured servants or they had been captured by Indians. And so they knew what captivity was. You don’t have any freedom. You take whatever they give you whether it’s good or bad. So that is the reason they were willing to risk their life and their property, the blacks.

C. Well now, station masters, were those the ones that ran the free houses for the Underground Railroad?

G. But they understood why they wanted to do it. They felt they had to. They knew what the conditions were and it was to them a moral duty, that God–that they were religious and God wanted them to do this. And they all–most all of them told their children, “Yes, we would have done it again.” Some of the times it was a very very hazardous undertaking, and I think of Mr. Tubbs’ son. He was [blank] when the station called up that year and he grew up with it. When he was 14 he became very active in the underground railroad, transporting slaves and at 16 he went to Adrian to live with relatives to be what they called a runner. He would escort slaves. Oftentimes they escaped on horses and he would go, ride a horse up and pick up the horse and bring it back. He’d do jobs like that, do errands. But when you think about sending a 16-year-old now with that type of responsibility, you wonder, don’t you.

C. Yeah, I’d say. Well, I’ve often wondered about this Colonial Inn in Waterville. It has in this one place walls that are about four feet thick and has doors in the passageway that goes from one room to another but it opens into this four-feet thick place and it’s empty. I’ve often wondered if that wasn’t a place where they hid the slaves?

G. I’m sure it kept slaves because all kinds of businesses did, and they would carry on their own business of whatever their work was; with an Inn it would have been cooking and feeding and so on, with slaves hiding on the other side of the wall. And I’m sure they must have, but how do you know? Nothing’s been written. Y’know, I had a man and wife that lived in Defiance. The wife couldn’t work; she had arthritis, and so my parents always went with their relatives and helped can, and they lived in a house that I always was told was an underground station.

You can’t say this now, but they would run out of cans and she would say to me, “Genevieve, go down to the nigger hole and get so many cans.” And that was where apparently the negroes stayed, and she used it as a storage area for cans and lids and so forth, stuff that would go for canning. And there were all sorts of places that–we have a house that under the stairway is a place built in and it was supposed to have been an underground station but I’m not sure it was because I didn’t know that.

C. You mean this house here?

G. No. It was out on the farm outside of town, and there was a place in the attic that I was told was used, but there’s never been anything written down. Looking up other people’s houses and putting them in I have never included that one because I have no proof. It’s only what somebody told me. And it was–many times, you know the first inhabitants–when they came here and built a cabin, and then they built a log cabin, a better cabin. Then they just left that. That would be used by the Indians.

There were several known Indians’ graveyards in Henry County. Most have disappeared but were located near Shunk, Napoleon and Damascus and near Girty’s Island, and along the Maumee River. It is considered trespassing to hunt Indian artifacts on land that is not your own and the artifacts found should remain in the custody of the person owning the land. It has been good that those who kknow where there are Indian burials do not tell. That allows the bones to stay in the grave where they were placed so many years ago.

Our Henry County area was home to several tribes during the summer for it was good for hunting and agriculture. There were roaming Indians who passed through going on after staying a while and returning to their winter homes in the fall. There were very few camps that could be considered permanent in the whole area. Mainly the Indians who roamed our county land were Ottawa, Shawnee, Pottawatomie. Other tribes such as Miame, Mingo, etc. came to hunt, to make maple candy, catch and dry fish and wild game meat and then return to their permanent camps for the rest of the year.

C. Is that the place along the river that is Independence still, the little town of Independence?

G. Yes. Before the start of the War of 1812 there were 67 families living between Lake Erie and Defiance. When the war broke out they left the area and returned after the war was over. Although Charles came in 1818 it was after the war was over. He was living with his parents in Cleveland before that and then they came here after the war. The period of 1820 to 1830 showed the largest increase of the white soldiers and Edward was one of these earliest settlers in 1820.

C. Did he list all of your names or something?

G. Yes. And they were scattered, didn’t live close together, and in 1820 Samuel Vance who was an Indian trader and John Patrick, David _____, Elisha Scribner, Judge Cory, David Bowers lived near Texas in Prarie Du Mascus and Elijah Gunn was then living at what was then called Snaketown, near Florida and of course, Charles Gunn had his trading post at Damascus at that time. In 1831 Mr. Bowen Mr. Hunter and Mr. Carven and the families of Whitfield, Scoven and moved to the present sight of Florida. At the time Mr. Phillips owned all the land that would become Napoleon and he gave Mr. Holloway a small piece of land that he would clear and that was where the first log cabin was built here in Napoleon down close to the river.

C. Excuse me, but these people that moved into Florida, where did they come from? Did they come from one place or different ones?

G. No. Most of them came from New York but not the same area. But there were people that came here that were the land speculators and they would go …

C. Would you for this tape state the name of the man and his condition.

G. Yeah. I can do that. I can give you a little bit about him, if you would like that.

C. Fine.

G. These are the words of Edward McCartney Gunn. He was born 1821 in Damascus, Henry County, Ohio. His father Charles Gunn was an Indian trader and farmer and was the first permanent farmer in Prairie du Mask, or Damascus. Edward wrote a number of articles about his early life in Henry County. He is considered one of the best sources of county history for he was in his 80’s when he wrote the article. His memory and mind were completely accurate until his death. In his article he named the early settlers in the county, the settlers along the Maumee River and he tells of the time when our area was part of old Damascus Township and his articles explain about the pioneer life and the Indian life. He tells of the Indian homes, the language, the weddings, their papooses, their deaths, the trading, hunting and the making of bows and arrows, the Indian doctors, the graveyard and the type of people in the tribes. He was a rather, Charles Gunn, Edward’s grandfather, was a brother of Elijah Gunn Junior, and a son of Elijah Gunn Seniior who came from Massachusetts to Cleveland and then to Waterville, Ohio.

I suppose the grand part of what I have to tell will seem like an old story to old people who remember the colony in the early days but the young growing up now know nothing about the pioneer or Indian life except what they were told and many never lived in a log house. . . . . . (He jumps, so we have to.) The Indians of course did not have fine houses as the white man. They could not see any use to work and build them when the weather was good and when it was bad they couldn’t do the work anyhow. Their idea of a house was a place large enough to crawl into, sit down on the ground and lay down to sleep. They did not get far enough in house building to have a fire inside but the fire was on the outside instead. The poles were leaned together at the top of the circle, leaned against another pole and then they were covered by bark from any kind of tree that could be peeled off easily. Sometimes they used skins. The fire for cooking or warming the food was built in front of the wigwam. For sleeping they spread blankets over fine brush and leaves. They liked to get straw from the white man for beds because they were much softer. At night they curved together just like pigs to sleep. I remember some of them had tents which they had got from the British soldiers and they were very proud of them. It will be seen that they were poorly protected against cold and in extreme cold weather they sometimes froze to death or were badly crippled by the freezing. Many times I remember their coming to my father’s house on winter nights and say, “Chicksenaw chicksenaw” which meant “Oh so cold!” And shivering and teeth chattering they would gather round the fireplace and say, “Pasheck, pasheck” which meant “Good, good!” They warmed up, and they would wrap the blankets around them and lay on the floor and sleep until morning when they went away muttering, “Ochicksenaw” when the keen morning air struck them. How sorry I used to feel for them!

And that, I am sure, was quite true.

The Indians as we surmise did not fare as well as we did for food. At times they had more than enough yet they were lazy and lacked the foresight to lay up enough for the future. They ate plenty when they had it. Other times they went without food for days at a time. When winter came and food was scarce they starved to death, or death was caused by loss of sufficient food and protection from the severe weather. They depended on meat more than the white man did. They ate deer, coon, fish and it is said that they ate every living thing from grasshoppers up to bear. And they did not throw away any part that could be eaten. They would wind entrails of the game around their necks that were filled with food and bite them off when they got hungry, especially when going on a long hunt when this way of carrying food was convenient. They had all the wild fruit which we use and they made maple syrup and robbed the honey bees of their store of sugar. The squaws raised potatoes and corn, a small blue tender variety of corn but they didn’t raise much garden stuff. The corn was put in a hole burned or cut in a log and pounded with a stick until it was cracked or a coarse meal The most common dish was a thick soup made in a heavy sheet-iron kettle that they had been given by the British. Almost everything you could think of, animal or vegetable that would help people’s life and strength, was thrown in to make up these soups and we fear that some of our folks nowadays would not think it was cooked in a very clean manner. The women knew nothing about keeping things clean although if things smelled awful bad they did not use it. Meat was roasted before the fire but it was never cooked very good. It was apt to be burned on the outside and raw in the middle. Meat was stretched over a fire high enough so it would cure by drying and laid away for future use. When Indians were ready to eat they did not wash their hands or faces and they could never see why white men did. They would (dog barks)

C. They probably didn’t have water.

G. No they didn’t and water would dry up their skin too you know and they kept their fats for cooking and for medicinal salve rather than waste in on making their skin feel good. They would sit around the kettle and eat with wooden spoons which they carved for themselves. Once my brother Lucian stayed all night with some Indian friends and all they had for breakfast was grease which they ate with great relish, and surprised because he did not eat it.

C. You know, Randy Buchman, History Professor at Defiance College, says that in the fall the Indians would put bear grease or whatever kind of grease they could find, then spread it on themselves, then roll in the dirt to protect them from the cold. Two or three layers of this would insulate them from the cold.

G. Hey, I never heard that! It could be. My Indian people don’t tell that but they probably don’t know either. (laughs) I would think that they probably did whatever they could to stay warm because they didn’t have much unless they were good hunters, you know, and they had furs and blankets from the British they didn’t have much to protect themselves. Their clothing was made out of furs and-uh out of leather and when you see the Indian clothes they make now they always have the skin showing on the outside, the pretty side, but our Indian people say we should wear our suede with the fur part next to our body to keep warm. And I don’t know–the skin in the summer keeps you cool and I think that maybe the fur on outside would keep the cold off better than being next to your skin. I don’t know because I’ve never tried that but–let’s go on to–uh–

G. Well, how about an Indian marriage? When an Indian couple were married they did not have a license or a preacher but they were usually faithful to each other. They always had a grand time at the wedding. The Indian gave the woman a piece of meat and she gave him an ear of corn, which meant that he must provide the meat and she raise the crops. Then games would be played and they would sing and tell stories and get drunk if they could get the firewater. When they carried babies on their backs

[The following is a continuation of Mrs. Eicher’s interview, conducted on October 10, 2003. Parts of it were extracted and incorporated into the material above, but it is presented here exactly as it was given to me – Editor]

III. Oct. 10, 2003

G. … And there were graveyards here in Henry County. There’s supposed to be one at Shunk, a graveyard. And I know that …

C. Now let’s locate Shunk for someone who doesn’t know it because it’s rapidly dying out, isn’t it?

G. It is just south of the intersection of US 6 and 109.

C. Yeah. And it is on 109.

G. It’s on 109 and the sign is still there, the last I saw. It’s along the creek but I don’t know where it is. Somebody told me the other day that they could find out for me. If I really wanted to know I could find out but I would like to know where that was, and then it’s written that Randal’s Creek, which is outside of Napoleon on County Rd. Z, that creek that comes through there and joins the river, was an Indian graveyard. And a few years ago remember when the boy had the skulls? There was an article in the paper. I don’t remember who he was but he had some Indian skulls and they came from that area and I was always amazed that he didn’t get in trouble for it because you’re not supposed to have that type of artifacts. And it was clearly in the paper. I thought there might be some repercussion on that but there wasn’t. So those two I know.

C. George Rafferty used to find Indian arrowheads and spearheads and things on his farm and he said it was because he was on the second rise from the river. That’s where he would, after a rain, he would go out and look.

G. Well we only owned [blank] farm and every once in a while we’d find things. And a couple years ago, several years ago, a tenant farmer brought me a necklace, a pendant, a slate pendant, and he said, “Here’s something I think you want.” Every once in a while we’d find something, arrowheads. I haven’t walked it this spring, but every six or seven years they come up. It’s just a little rise in the ground but there’s things that wash up.

C. Now is that on the second rise from the river?

G. No, that would be the first rise, because Yarnells live right next to the river and our farm’s across the road along the Ridge. But there’s a lot of those things still there.

C. Makes you wonder, with this Ridge being so heavily travelled how much material there is on there. I’ll bet there’s a lot of history in that ground.

G. There certainly must be. But I know that-uh we find ours more or less area. It’s always that Ridge area, where they must have camped there or something. Now I find at Ridgeville there is a Flint Ridge. They would work their flint, and it’s a circle that’s bigger than, almost as big as this house, but many years when the frost is just right it throws up stone. You can see walking by that flint in the circle where they sat around the campfire and worked it.

C. They fashioned arrowheads, didn’t they?

G. Arrowheads and spear points and axe heads and all sorts of things. They-uh–We had a deer killed on the road, oh, about seven or eight years ago, and my daughter lives on a farm and she called. On U. S. 6 of course they don’t have much chance. She said, “I just can’t let him lay there.” I said, well, we’d be out soon. The boys at Wayne buried it and we walked a little bit in the field and found the stones and some tools that had been there that had washed up. But there were two stones, petroglyph, and one of them shows very clearly a hunting area and it show the Auglaize and the Maumee junction.

C. What, a map or something?

G. He had drawn this little map on it. It shows a little Indian figure with his bow and his spear and a little animal. It’s marked where he could find the hunting area out here. And that was in this pouch and-uh then there was another.

C. What was it made of, leather or something?

G. No. That was stone.

C. Carved into the stone.

G. And there was another one that, I don’t know what it was but it had, like a map. A dot here and a dot there, a location and then other things on it. It is interesting to find things and look them over, and I had picked them up in a bucket here and I just dumped them out by the driveway. So, later, maybe a year or two and I decided I’d pick ’em up and do something else with them because they were just piled. And the rain had washed them. When I picked ’em up and I thought, “What in the world do I have?” So 1 brought them in and cleaned them up and here I had something rather rare and precious.

C. There a lot of Indian artifacts in the Grelton Museum. Have you ever been in that one?

G. Yes.

C. And-uh-of course they’re happy to get anything like that. You might be interested in donating. You might consider that.

G. I will but I think I can safely say my things will all be taken.

C. I would too, if they were in my family I’d want them to stay there.

G. It probably wouldn’t matter but I think we’ll probably keep them. And I had an interesting week. We went up to Harrison Lake and we were cleaning up an area and I dug down and I brought up a stone which was about as big as my fist. It apparently was an engineer’s surveyor stone. And I’ve read since they mark them, their sightings, you know, to keep track instead of paper they put them on a stone. And apparently that’s what I found. It had the date of 1835. I haven’t had time to work on that one but I want to go a civil engineer’s and see what I can find out.

C. Or, I wonder if the courthouse? Of course that would be Fulton County. Would they have any record?

G. No, they wouldn’t have anything, but a surveyor would know what I had, for sure, and I read a little article somewhere in some magazine or something that said the biggest numbers are the ones closest to them and the little bitty ones are far off. And some of those numbers, I don’t know how you could put them on, they’re so tiny. You have to have a magnifying glass to see them.

C. They carved those into the stone?

G. Carved, yes. And I’m curious on that; that’s one I’m going to have to see. We’ve had those lots since 1960 and apparently it was only 3 or 4 inches under the ground but I’d like to know the story of it. And there are some names on it, carved in.

C. How big is this?

G. With all this carving, it’s only about this big.

C. How could they manage?

G. I’d show it to you but I don’t know where it is right now. It’s in a box. I haven’t had it out. But that’s something that was interesting because we think of stones for building, stones for walking on, and all this, not for keeping track, and instead of paper on that. Probably better than on paper, but when you record on stone it stays, I guess. That was a fun time last year. (laughs)

C. Do you have any more [blank] here?

G. You might like to see, this is a tribal picture. Yeah. I have about Edward. He tells a little. You might like to hear some of that because he covers all sorts of things. One of the things is I’m going to read if you don’t care?

My father was an Indian trader and was known for a long distance around both by the white and Indian people. He was constantly bartering and trading with the savages but never had any trouble with them because he used them well. He had many strong personal friends among them who were always ready to do him favors. From my own recollection of what he told me…

(end of tape

Washington Township


Texas, Ohio, was once the principal village of Washington Township, and is one of the oldest in Henry County. It was given the name of Texas, because it was in that year of 1845 that the great state of Texas was admitted to the Union. This is also the year that Durbin bought the land.

It is beautifully situated on the north side of the Miami and Erie Canal and on the north bank of the Maumee River. A ravine runs around the north and west sides, so that the town plots lie high and dry.

The outlet lock of the twenty-four mile level of the canal was at this place and the slack water in the Maumee River caused by the dam at Providence near Grand Rapids, Ohio. It gives the river a greater depth and width from Texas on the east. A public ferry was used to connect the banks and the expense was paid by the county. In 1909, this ferry was sold by the commissioners to Theodore Wagner for $75.00 and Mr. Wagner ran it as a toll ferry. The ferry at this period averaged thirty rigs a day and wore out three flat boats. It ferried anything that ever travelled the highways, including threshing machines and live-stock. On Sundays and holidays there were 50 to 75 rigs ferried across each day.

The village of Texas was first recorded on April 2, 1849, by James Durbin, the proprietor.

Through the eastern part of the town there once ran what was called a hydraulic canal. It led from the canal and was built for the purpose of supplying motive power for the mills in the lower part of the town. These mills were the first erected in the county. There was a time when Texas was thought to be a very prosperous town because of the canal.

At one time there was a barrel factory, a handle factory, and a brick factory in Texas; and in fact, the first brick to be made in the county came from this village. The first brick court house in Napoleon, which was destroyed by fire in 1879, was constructed of bricks manufactured here. The bricks were transported to Napoleon by boat on the canal.

The village in its early days was the most important trading point in Henry County. It was also a formidable rival of Napoleon for the county seat.

The Miami and Erie Canal through Henry County was started in May of 1837.

The first boats were mule powered, then steam power came later in the 1890’s. The summer of 1837-1838 was the worst for the men working on the canal. The area was notorious for malaria or “Maumee Fever” which took the lives of many canal workers.

The first completed trip from Cincinnati to Toledo was not made until June 27, 1845. By the year of 1847 the canal was doing great business in Texas and it opened up this area for trade. There was a wide place in the canal just east of Texas which was called “Wide Water” and there the canal boats turned around.


With the completion of the railroad in July, 1855, John Osborn platted a parcel of land consisting of 56 lots (in the original plat) which was recorded under the name of Colton.

Colton was a thriving hamlet of approximately two hundred people in those beginning years; the town boasted of a good hotel, an express office, a post office, a railroad station, and many houses. In a few years Colton was to have four grocery and general stores, a blacksmith’s shop, two hotels, a saloon, a tinware manufacturing plant, a butcher shop, a pickle processing plant, a potato processing plant, two churches, a school, a G.A.R. hall, and a town hall.

About 1918 a fire destroyed three of the store buildings and many residents feared that the town would be demolished by the raging fire. One of the two churches burned in the 1940’s, and the Wabash closed its station. Many of the businesses disappeared as the years went by.

The Colton Methodist Church is still in operation, and it has served the community’s spiritual needs for nearly a century. Today, this is the only church in Washington Township. The small white framed church is an outstanding architectural example of the style of religious structures built in the mid-1800’s and early 1900’s.

Albert M. Barlow, the postmaster of Colton from 1931 until he retired in 1973, states that a number of the nearly two hundred Colton residents has lived here since the 1930’s or before. He also mentions that no one seems to know why the village was named Colton, citing that before the railroad was completed the town was named Washington Station.

Colton celebrated its Centennial in July, 1955, with entertainment, antique and picture display, ox roast, etc.

Reprinted from Henry County, Ohio. A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society, Volume I. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1976.

Ridgeville Township

Ridgeville Township is located in Range Five Town Six, and was organized in 1841. In the 1890 census it had a land acreage of 6,673 acres with an average valuation of $14.57. The township is devoid of natural waterways except for a couple of small creeks.

Some settlement of the township occurred soon after 1830.

The township was surveyed by James Riley and the first election was held on April 5, 1841.
Ridgeville Township was declared one school district on June 9, 1841.

The main road through the township in 1841 was the Independence, Ridgeville and Adrian Free Turnpike that ran from Adrian, Michigan, along the old Indian trail that followed the Belmore Ridge to Independence on the Maumee River in Defiance County. The Ridge Road had been laid out about 1831. Points in Ridgeville Corners are surveyed from two stones in this road.

For a time there were two post offices in the township. Ridgeville Corners post office was established in 1841. Tubbsville was located in the northeastern part of the township.

The timber was cut and ditches drained the swamp land. The big news in the township in 1903 was that the township had gone wet and Ridgeville would have a saloon.

The twenties brought many changes in the township. The Bryan Pike was finished to Ridgeville and the old mud hole on the way to Napoleon was finally gone. Automobiles became fairly common and now families could go farther from home to reunions, church outings to Girty’s Island or the Texas Riverside Park. The bandstand was an important part of community life and band concerts on Thursday nights attracted people from all over.

Ridgeville Corners

Until the post office was established at the Barton Palmer home, in 1841, the scattered settlement simply said they lived in Ridgeville. The post office became known as Ridgeville Corners, but very early deeds still bore just the name Ridgeville.

In August, 1867, John Scofield filed his first plat of Ridgeville. In 1869, he filed his original plat of Ridgeville, his first addition in 1877, his second addition in 1879.

An 1867 description of Ridgeville Corners is interesting. “It is a nice little town that has one grocery store that is a seven by nine affair where tea, coffee, staples are available at such high prices that a greater part of the citizens buy in other villages where prices are more reasonable. There is also a sawmill and a cheese factory.”

By 1882, the town had grown to include two well stocked stores selling groceries, drygoods, hardware, medicines, drugs, paints, oil and each store ran a huckster wagon. There was a bicycle shop, a blacksmith shop, a steam sawmill, a repair shop, a shoe shop, a hotel, a brick and tile yard, a feed mill, a resident physician, two large churches, one music teacher, a new school, and no saloons.

Reprinted from Henry County, Ohio. A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society, Volume I. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1976.

Richfield Township

The township was organized as early as 1837, but few records are available today. On the 1837 Henry County tax list were eleven names: John Rowland, James Rowland, Robert Rowland, Jacob Sours, and John Sturgeon.

The first schoolhouse in the township was built in 1845. There were no churches in the township at that time.

By 1880 there was a population in the township of 857 persons. When the Clover Leaf Railroad came through the township, the township started to grow and develop. By 1885 there were eight school districts and one church, the United Brethren.

West Hope’s original name was Richfield Center, which sprung up in the late 1890’s. In those days merchandise was shipped to McClure or to another area town, and then hauled by dray wagons to West Hope.


Grelton was founded in 1881. The timber in the area created an industry and the Clover Leaf Railroad was completed in 1881. Prior to this Eli Clay and Anthony Millford operated small saw mills. The Dewey Stave Company was located here, and it afforded employment to many persons; hence, the founding of Grelton. It was named for Alexander Grelle and at first was spelled “Grellton” but later one of the l’s was dropped. At one time, Grelton had a depot, hotel, church, school, restaurant, two stores and a K. of P. Lodge Hall. Grelton retains its post office, church, elevator and a garage. The school became past history when it was consolidated with Patrick Henry School.

Reprinted from Henry County, Ohio. A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society, Volume I. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1976.

Pleasant Township

Of the early organization of this township it appears that no written records are preserved, but in common with other of the county’s civil divisions, the early records, were neglected, destroyed or lost.

The township is located in the extreme southwestern part of Henry County and was formerly a part of Flat Rock.

It is supposed this township was detached from Flat Rock in the year 1843. It was then a wilderness of water frogs, wolves, bear, deer, turkeys, and coons of which have now mostly disappeared.

At a very early time there was a wagon road survey along this ridge for ingress and egress, which extended from Defiance and Independence. The settlement was first made along the ridge. From this ridge the land immediately descends into lowlands on either side, which is of very rich soil. The ridge crossed in many places by swales and rivulets which are now made into artificial creeks, thereby making an excellent drainage outlet, thus rendering available an immense quantity of as good farming land as is in this or any other state.


This village is situated in the northeast portion of the township. The village having six directions for ingress and egress — four by rail and two wagon roads, make it a desirable place for business.

Mr. William Kaufman came to this territory in 1866 and built the first log cabin where Paul Rahmel’s garage now stands. He purchased 80 acres which went from Kaufman street West and from the township line south (now State Route 18 — Joe E. Brown Avenue). All the land plats were parallel to this line and were recorded in Napoleon in 1873. This was known as Kaufmanville.

In 1874, the portion of land east of Kaufman Street was purchased by a group of gentlemen from Defiance, headed by William C. Holgate. It was then called Holgate. Several years after the two plats were made, they consolidated and the town was named Holgate, but not without considerable controversy and hard talk. Holgate was not incorporated until 1881.

The trees and underbrush had to be cut and taken away, so this attracted many saw mills to town.

New Bavaria

The village of New Bavaria was known by that name from the name of a post office situated on the Ridge Road as early as 1844-1845.

New Bavaria was surveyed and platted in the year 1882, a short distance west of the old post office site, at the crossing of the Ridge Road and Toledo, St. Louis, and Kansas City Railroad, and estimated to contain about one hundred inhabitants.

About two miles south, on the same railroad, is located the village of Pleasant Bend.

Like other towns New Bavaria had elevators, but lost them by fire.

Pleasant Bend

The village of Pleasant Bend contained two saw mills owned by Philip Burrel and William Martz which did a thriving business, as long as the timber lasted.

There were no churches located in either Pleasant Bend or New Bavaria, but in the vicinity several were erected before the villages existed.

The village was surveyed and platted in 1882 and there were 100 inhabitants.

The elevator has always played an important part in the life of the village and surrounding area. Pleasant Bend had an elevator here in 1911. Elevator fires through the years have brought about many changes. In 1955 the first silo was built, also the scales and office building were all built.

The stave mill was located at the north edge of Pleasant Bend. They made barrels to keep crackers, brown sugar and flour dry.

The Methodist Church was built by Lutherans in 1888 and is located in the northwest corner of town. The Methodists bought the property in 1890.

Reprinted from Henry County, Ohio. A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society, Volume I. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1976.

Napoleon Township

In 1835, when Napoleon became the county seat, only a few residents had been attracted by the beauty of the location and the fertility of the soil. Napoleon was a crossroads settlement then, with only a few log cabins huddled together. The first dwelling was a log cabin, 12 x 14, owned by Mr. Huston or Mr. Andrews. Then, two years later, George Stout joined the community and built a two-story log cabin, which he opened for the traveling public. In the dining room of this tavern, the first two or three terms of the Common Pleas Court were held. The first grand jury bedded down for the night in the haymow in the nearby barn.

Shortly afterwards, Gearge Stout erected a rear addition to his tavern for the administration of the affairs of the county. As court was held semi-annually, and then for a few days at a time, the landlord enjoyed full possession of the room the remainder of the year. After the adjournment of court, the custom was to hold an old-fashioned “shindig”, where the officials, tenants, litigants, and witnesses freely partook of the liquid refreshments.

This old log addition served the county’s needs until 1844, when a plain frame two-story affair with courtrooms on the second floor was built for $2,000.00. This was destroyed by fire in April, 1847, and all the valuable records of the county were lost. The first jail, constructed of logs, stood just south of our present jail, but on the south side of the canal.

The second Courthouse was built a few years later on the two adjoining lots for $7,495.75. This new brick structure was small and quaint with an impressive entrance of white pillars, bell tower, and spire. The jail was on the side on the ground floor, where anyone could walk up to the grated windows, converse with the prisoners, and through the bars hand them anything from a short gun or a jug of whiskey to a set of burglar tools. In 1879 burning brands, from the “Dutch Row Fire” on North Perry, blew east across the street and landed on top of the Courthouse. The latter was leveled completely by fire before the blaze in the row of buildings was contained.

The present Courthouse was completed in 1882 for $95,000 plus $20,000 for the County Jail, both of which remain in use.

Although today, Napoleon has approximately 2,000 residences there were only three small frame houses in Napoleon in 1837. Agricultural potentialities in this area had not been realized then because of the lack of transportation to the more heavily populated and industrialized eastern cities.

The completion of the Miami-Erie Canal (1843), which passed through Napoleon, alleviated this situation, fostering the development of the town in population and industry. The canal was operated until the turn of the century, but was used profitably by the State of Ohio only until the appearance of the railroads. Most of the canal bed now has been drained and certain segments have become part of Route 24 and 424.

In 1863, the year of its incorporation, there were hardly a dozen stores in the entire town and very little manufacturing. Yet, two decades later there were more industries, more mercantile businesses than now, in proportion to the inhabitants.


The first name chosen by the settlers for this village was Oakland. It was said that the name was chosen because the town was in the heart of the heavily timbered region of mainly oak trees. There was another Oakland in Fairfield County, Ohio, so another name had to be chosen.

Okolona was a depot for furnishing fuel for the railroad in early days when the locomotives burned wood. The oak trees furnished ties for the railroad and oak timbers that were used in building ships.

Bostelman’s Corners

No matter whether it was called Dogtown, Bostelman’s Corners, or Half-way House, the location has stayed the same for over one hundred years. Three miles west of Napoleon at U.S. 6 and County Road 17 stood two tavern-roadhouses. One was Peter Bostelman’s. They were notorious for the rowdiness of the customers, and the fights among customers, passerbys, and onlookers. An early name for a tavern was a “doggery” and some think that is how the corners got the name Dogtown. In December, 1896, the name changed to Bostelman’s Corners. Somewhere over the years the corners also became known as Halfway House because it was about halfway between Napoleon and Ridgeville.

Reprinted from Henry County, Ohio. A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society, Volume I. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1976.

Monroe Township

Monroe Township was organized as a geographical township in 1850, being detached from Harrison, to which it had previously belonged. The duplicate of 1851 shows only seven chattel taxpayers resident in the township.

Healthy growth of the township commenced with the construction of the Toledo, Delphos & Burlington Railroad, later known as the “Clover Leaf” route.

Monroe Township lands were flat, level, and wet; by 1888 considerable drainage was accomplished and three-fourths of the land was under cultivation. The main natural water course was the Turkey Foot Creek, with School Creek, Lost Creek, and Ash Creek adding their waters to it. The township had at that time well constructed roads on almost every section line, both north, south, east and west.

Three towns call Monroe Township their home. Herrtown, or Ellery, consisted of 17 lots, and there was a railway station, a post office, and a small store. It was plotted by Peter Ritter, Jan. 29, 1881. Grelton is located where the townships of Harrison, Damascus, Richfield and Monroe corner. It is also on the “Clover Leaf” route. It was laid out by Eli C. Clay, March 23, 1881. This hamlet had a schoolhouse, two dry goods stores, a meat market, restaurant, sawmill, hoop factory, stave factory, telegraph, and post office. It had a population of 300 to 350 persons. Malinta was the principal village in the township and was also on the “Clover Leaf” route. The population of Malinta at that time was between 400 and 450 persons. It had four dry goods stores, two saloons and restaurants, one saw mill, stave factory, tile and brick factory, picture gallery, blacksmith shops, shoemaker, railroad station, express telegraph, post office, and two churches, one Lutheran and one United Brethren. It was platted and laid out by John Bensing Sept. 21, 1880.

Much progress has been made in Monroe Township since that time. It is mainly an agricultural township.

Monroe Township maintains a fire department in Malinta, Ohio, consisting of approximately seventeen volunteer firemen.

The Henry County Landfill is located in the northern part of the township, being used by the entire county.

The population for Monroe Township in 1970 was 1,387.

Reprinted from Henry County, Ohio. A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society, Volume I. Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, TX, 1976.