Interviewed by Marlene Patterson, April 24, 2008
We are sitting in my house in Bavarian Village here in Napoleon and viewing an early picture of Gerald, Ohio that we had just been given..
MP: Here is an early picture of Gerald, Ohio that I want you to look at. See this empty field back in there. My dads house was not built when this picture was taken.
AM: Christ Meyers, his house hadn’t been built, nor had the Ed and Lorna Bindeman house been built.
MP: The Bindeman house was next to my dad and Christ Meyer built on the next lot west of Bindemans. This is the road, here is the Delventhal Blacksmith shop. Christ Meyer had his farm on the North side of the Gerald road and in later years retired from farming and built his house next to Bindemans. Christ built that house probably in the 40’s.
AM: You are right. That is a house style from the 40’s.
MP: When I was a little girl we would go over there and play in the basement when they were building the house. We would play like we had found money. You know these round metal knock out things from electrical outlets. We pretended we had found money. We thought that was great stuff until we were chased out. They were building the house at that time.
AM: That would have been Mathilda Badenhop’s parents.
MP: Right. That is how we are related to Elmer Badenhop. Christ Meyer was my grandmother’s brother and Mathilda was their daughter. The Drewes figure in there too. He lived on the old Henry Meyer farm. This was on the east end of Gerald. It was on the Northeast side, right next to the Gerald Elevator. That was the Henry Meyer that came directly from Germany and served in the Civil War. He was a homesteader in Freedom Township. Henry Meyer was my Grandmother Caroline Meyer Gerken’s father.
AM: Didn’t he work at Lake Erie at the stone quarry?
RW He first worked at the stone quarry and from there he entered the Civil War.
MP: When a person served in the Civil War you were given a bounty to buy land.
AM: I think the government gave you money and you could do with it what you wanted to.
MP: I think at that point when he received his money he purchased the land and built his house later. In 1921 the population in Gerald was 10 people. If I thought really hard, I could name all 10. We can through records that we have list them all. Walter Delventhal gave me a receipt from the Gerald Mutual Telephone Company which was dated 1938. It was a bill for $1.50. Would that have been a billing for a month or for a year.
AM: In 1938 that could have been for a year. That was at the heighth of the depression.
RW It listed 5 calls.
AM: Now maybe they were charged by the call.
MP: That could very well be.
RW Maybe it would have been 30 cents per call.
AM: They might have billed you once a month depending on how many calls you made.
RW You would think there would be a picture of the telephone exchange or something somewhere. The telephone company was just east of the railroad tracks in Gerald located inside their house. The main room in their house had a switchboard that received your call..
MP: Well we would have to talk to Elnora. She was Alvin Miller’s daughter and the family ran the telephone exchange when I was a small child growing up in Gerald. See this picture. This is a picture of a calendar that my sister Rosie has of the Wm. Kruse Grocery store in Gerald. She almost forgot to take it with her when she came to my house and showed it to me. I would have claimed it as mine if she had left it behind. No, I wouldn’t do that! I was tempted though. Remember how stores used to give out free advertising calendars with a thermometer on the side with the name of the store highlighted.
AM: I have one from George Von Deylen, it was of the Wiemken and Von Deylen Hardware Store. It has the thermometer on the side.
MP: Does the thermometer work? Usually the thermometer doesn’t work.
AM: Yes it still works.
MP: Lots of time the mercury becomes separated. Rosie wouldn’t give up the calendar so I will have to be content with just the picture of it.
AM: Rosie and then there were the Miller family.
MP: Rosie never worked there. Where did she tell me she worked?
RW I thought she said she worked for the Kruse family. This is a calendar picture of the Kruse Grocery. I think she said she helped in the grocery store.
MP: I know she helped Mrs. Ferd Bindeman. Ferd and Emile lived right next door to us. She was the mother of Eldor Bindeman and Ed Bindeman who grew up in Gerald. They were both older than my brother Kenny who was born in 1928. I don’t remember her working there.
AM: Where was the bar at Bindeman’s Grocery store?
MP: That was inside Bindeman’s store.
AM: It had a bar to one side of it.
MP: Remember next to my Dad’s house was a big long building. That was a saloon at one time. I think it was the Badenhop’s. Bill Von Deylen told about it and Walter Delventhal told the same thing. Both of their Oral Histories are recorded on the Henry County Historical Societies web site. There was also a saloon up on top of Bindeman’s. It was on the second floor.
AM: That is where they held a lot of dances up there at one time.
MP: That is true.
AM: Here is a picture of Harry and Bill Von Deylen.
MP: Is this a picture of Harry?
AM: No, that is Bill. Here is a picture of Harry and Bill.
RP Here is the latest picture.
AM: They first had the implement place, that is gone too. Then they had the other one. They used to clean clover seed.
MP: I don’t remember them bringing in clover seed to get cleaned. According to Bill they did the cleaning of the seed in their back barn, behind the grocery store. I never knew that. I played with Lois for years.
RP Here is a photo of Ridgeville Corners.
MP: Where did you get that?
RP I don’t remember, I always saved every picture I came across.
MP: Arnold, where did you go to school?
AM: I went to St. John’s School in Freedom Township. I went there all eight years and then went to Ridgeville Corners High School.
MP: Your teachers at St. John’s I bet I can tell you were Miss Louise Schick.
AM: Yes, she was my first grade teacher.
MP: Second grade too. Then grades 3, 4, and 5 was Mr. Elmer Bunsold. Then grades 6,7, and 8 was Mr. John Gefeke. Did you get along with Mr. Gefeke?
AM: As long as you paid attention and did your homework on time.
MP: I remember this one boy that ran away from school. I can still remember that day. He ran away and Mr. Gefeke went after him. He found him under the bridge about a half mile from school. It was on the road U, the bridge was on that short road where you turn south to get to Elling’s farm. He was found hiding under that bridge. Of course there was very little water in the ditch. Mr. Gefeke brought him back to school. I AM: thinking he probably got some form of punishment.
AM: There were things that when you sat at your desk and you weren’t paying attention he would put his thumb nail to your forehead and really push hard.
MP: I had heard that too. Some people did find fault, but I personally adored him. He used to pull on my hair. It bothered me because he would pull them. I used to have long hair with curls and when he would go by me he would take my hair and twirl it. My Dad said to pay no attention to it and he would stop doing that. I know one thing that happened in school. We girls would bring our dolls to school and play with them during recess. Miss Schick allowed that. For some reason Marvin Behnfeldt would always take my doll away from me and I would cry. I know Marv got in trouble with Miss Schick. Marv in later years told me that I always kicked him when I was in school. I don’t know if I kicked him or not, but I probably did.
AM: Do you remember Clarence Lindhorst?
MP: Did he go to school at St. John’s too?
AM: His wife Goldie died not too long ago. He had a desk by himself in the corner of the room. He had a limp. He would sit there and pound his feet on the floor.
MP: Did that aggravate Mr. Gefeke?
AM: Yes it did.
MP: Is that why he had to sit in the corner? Do you suppose that bothered him later on in life?
AM: I don’t think it did. Clarence was very short tempered. I think as far as Clarence is concerned I think if things didn’t go his way he would pound his feet on the floor.
MP: I knew Clarence in later years, but I never knew he was from Freedom Twp. He is such a nice man. He is smart too, because he always answers the questions on the radio’s Pop Quiz.
AM: I don’t think he went to Freedom all eight years. From there I think his family moved to Liberty Center.
MP: Could very well be. I always thought he lived in town here. I didn’t know him that well, but he was always calling in to the radio station and answering the Pop Quiz questions correctly.
AM: He does now live in Napoleon.
RW We used to listen to that progrAM: every day, but now I don’t want to get up that early.
AM: You could always record it and then listen to it later.
RW I did answer correctly a couple of times. I won a free pizza and once I won a free dinner at Holgate. Every time I would try to call in somebody always beats me.
AM: Yes, it is pretty hard to get in.
MP: Did you help your dad with farming?
AM: Yes I did.
MP: Did you drive the tractors with the iron wheels?
AM: Yes, we had the steel wheel tractors. Dad’s first new tractor was an Allis Chalmers. He bought that from George Bockelman. That tractor had steel wheels on it. He later converted it and put rubber tires on the tractor. Then he got a cultivator and he made a special twelve inch wide plate on the back and I got to sit on that. I would sit there and watch him plow the corn.
MP: At least you didn’t bounce off, did you?
AM: No I never did. If I would have fallen off I would have landed on the back side of the cultivator and would not have been hurt.
MP: Did you have horses when you were a kid?
AM: Not much, most of the horses used for farming were gone by then. Dad had a pair of white horses. You could hardly tell them apart. He left them out at night to exercise a little bit. You know how horses do, they kick their heels. One of the horses kicked the other one in the head and that was the end of farming with those horses. The horse needed to be put down and he couldn’t do it so he called Albert Bischoff to come over and help.
MP: That would have been Don’s father. Did you take your horses to Delventhal’s blacksmith shop for shoeing?
AM: From what I remember he didn’t. Now he did have a pair of mules and those he would take to Delventhal’s.
MP: Those white horses would have been very pretty.
AM: I do have a picture of those two white horses. They were big.
MP: Draft horses are big. I know when us kids were little we went to the Don Saneholtz’s farm and they gave us a ride on their draft horses. We had to use a step ladder to get up on their back. Such huge things.
AM: It always amazed me how they could shoe those big draft horses.
MP: Herman Delventhal learned the blacksmith trade over in Germany and then came to America to work. Russell’s grandfather WilliAM: Bernicke did the same thing. They learned the blacksmith trade in Germany and then came to America to work. There was plenty of work here in America for them. They were both strong muscular men. They had to be to handle these big draft horses.
AM: Who did he start with? He didn’t start up in the business by himself did he?
MP: Herman worked for my Grampa Gerken and shortly after Grampa sold the business to him. Grampa worked in the elevator then.
RP Wasn’t there a Von Deylen in there too?
MP: Yes, there was a Bill Von Deylen in there first. He was William, which would be Bill’s grandfather.
AM: Yes, that would be Harry Von Deylen’s father.
MP: I think the two of them traded back and forh. I think when one partner got tired the other one took over. Herman ended up running the blacksmith shop. When I was a kid I used to like to run over to the horse trough and watch them drink water and they would just stand there. They were so big.
RP Your grandfather made horse drawn wagons too.
MP: Like the buggy wagons.
AM: I think he made grain wagons too. The box kind.
MP: I think he did too. Bert Kruse was one of the people that owned one. He wanted to sell it to me for $400.00. I didn’t fall for it. Can you imagine me living on Washington Street with a big old buckboard wagon in the front yard?
RP He was always trying to get us to buy stuff. He would go to farm sales and try to sell things to us. He was constantly having these barn sales and if I didn’t show up he would get mad. He didn’t seem to care if I made a purchase or not. I think he just liked to have people come and talk about the old times. I miss Bert.
AM: How is his brother Elmer doing?
MP: Elmer is in the Alpine Village. We see him every Tuesday when we eat over there. The Bavarian Village people get to eat over at Alpine on Tuesdays. We have to go into the cafeteria to pick up our food and we get to see him. He usually waves and sometimes we chit chat. He appears to be doing well.
AM: He doesn’t have anybody living in his house there on 108.
MP: I don’t think so. He built that house all by himself.
AM: He was a carpenter too, along with his farming. He and his brother Fred were both carpenters.
MP: I didn’t know that Elmer and Fred built Bill Von Deylen’s house. Bill told me that Phyllis helped the carpenters build it. She did most of the work because he had to spend so much time during the day at his business. Phyllis put up wall boards and everything. Just like the men do. That is what he told me. She was handy. She was a Demaline. Now you contract someone to build you a house and they won’t let you help. They want you out of there.
AM: They want to do it all themselves.
MP: You graduated from Ridgeville Corners High School. What year was that?
MP: You are not much older than I am. I graduated in ‘53 with your sister Ruth. That has been a long time ago. Were you in FFA?
MP: Do you have a FFA jacket and all that stuff?
AM: Do you remember Charlie Schlotterbeck?
MP: No, I don’t. He might have been gone when I got to high school. I remember Paul Miller. He was not a very good teacher. I took science under him and we would go down into the science room. He would read some of the pages. One day he said well you are not going to use any of this anyway and he said we could just sit and read. I thought to myself what is he trying to teach us. Maybe he thought we were hopeless. I don’t know.
RP Didn’t he end up having a machine shop in Ridgeville?
MP: He might have. They had an auction and there was just row after row of tools and vises and wrenches. There was just everything you can think of there.
RP He had one of the 1875 atlases of Defiance County. Frieda Bruns was there and she said to me that she hoped I wasn’t going to bid on that atlas, because her farm in Adams Twp. was illustrated. I told her no Frieda I won’t bid against you. I would have liked to have bought that atlas. I have the one for Henry County.
AM: What year was that?
AM: Were you able to get it when Frieda had their sale?
RP I didn’t go to that sale. We were working day and night and I didn’t make it there. He had an iron lock that said Napoleon on it. I never found out if it was made in Napoleon.
MP: I don’t think it was.
AM: Do you mean at Paul Miller’s sale?
MP: I think that was in the 60’s when that sale took place. All the tools were just thrown on the ground.
AM: Maybe he was a collector.
MP: He might have been. He had a daughter Suzanne that married Tom Grayson. Can you think of anything humorous that happened to you.
AM: Well yes I can. I probably shouldn’t be telling this.
MP: I won’t tell.
AM: In my Senior year.
MP: Okay what did you do.
AM: We had decided we had enough credits and didn’t have to go to school every day. In the spring of 1950 we had a lot of rainfall and the water was up. Darwin Beck was the only one that had a car. Darwin Beck, Don Baden, Leonard Norden, and me we jumped in the car when we got off the bus in the morning and we were gone all day.
MP: Where did you go?
AM: We drove around all over. The teachers didn’t know where we were. My sisters Laura and Ruth they didn’t know where we were. People would ask and nobody knew where we were.
MP: Where did you go?
AM: We went to Toledo and we went to Waterville and down through there and watched the river. We got back just in time for the bus.
MP: Of course!
AM: The next morning we got called in to the office by F. F. Hesterman and he said as far as he is concerned all four of you are expelled.
MP: Oh really!
AM: Oh yes, he was very unhappy.
MP: You didin’t really get expelled then.
AM: No, but we had to stay an hour after school and write the Constitution.
MP: And what pray tell did that teach you?
MP: That is what I figured.
RP Here is that Napoleon lock that I bought at the Paul Miller sale.
AM: Did you get the key that goes with it.
RP No I didn’t.
MP: You never really looked for a key did you?
RP I wish I could have found one.
AM: A locksmith might be able to tell you what kind of a key it would take.
MP: Antique shops ususally have a big bundle of keys. I don’t know why you didn’t look for a key.
RP Well I wasn’t going to use it.
AM: You had it because it had the name Napoleon on it.
RP I thought that was unusual. That is about the only thing I bought at that sale. Well I think we got a couple of tools or something that went cheap. Some things they ended up selling for 50 cents. You never know when you might want something.
MP: The old tools are so much better than the ones they are making today.
RP Nowadays when you go to a sale some of the tools bring a good price. I wanted a vise and I kept going to these sales and they were bringing 20 to 30 dollars.
AM: They were good vises because they were made good and they were sturdy.
MP: We could have had my dad’s but I didn’t know we needed one.
RP I thought it was interesting because the lock had the name Napoleon on it.
AM: He probably picked it up for the same reason.
RP Talking about skipping school like that, we were always excused from school on the first day of hunting season.
MP: Were you excused too?
AM: Oh yes.
RP There were a couple of us guys and this one guy had a car and we didn’t go hunting, but we jumped in the car and went to Cleveland and saw a burlesque show.
AM: That would have been something different. There were all kinds of ways to get out of going to school.
MP: How many times or how long did you have to copy the Constitution?
AM: We had to stay after school for a whole week.
MP: That really wasn’t that much of a punishment.
AM: No, but Henry Eggers was on the school board. He had a long talk with my Dad. You know how that goes. He put the fear into us you know.
MP: That is probably punishment enough. I don’t think you can put fear into kids nowadays.
AM: No you can’t.
MP: They just laugh it off.
AM: It seems to me there is less discipline with kids nowadays than there used to be.
MP: You are not allowed to hit them or even touch them and the kids know it.
AM: Yes, Gefeke was with his thumb and put your hand on the desk and slap you with a ruler.
MP: I don’t know, those fingers have some pretty small bones and he probably should not have done that. I never saw his thumb go on anyones forehead, but I have heard other people tell this. I don’t think I could ever handle a big group of kids like he did.
AM: The more kids you are trying to teach, the more things the kids think of to do ornery things.
MP: Yes what one person thinks of the other person tries to out do him and comes up with some more ornery things to irritate the teachers. You know I cannot recall your sister Ruth, along with the rest of us girls ever getting into trouble or doing mean things. We just never did.
AM: No, the girls generally didn’t and if there was any trouble why the boys generally instigated it.
MP: That is so true. I know when my parents told me to be home at 9 o’clock, we were home at 9 o’clock, and no questions as to why were ever asked. Their word was the law and you obeyed. I AM: sure it is not that way anymore.
AM: No, school days were nice but I was glad when it came time to graduate.
MP: You know I was always happy when we would get a day off from school. We used to run barefoot all summer. I bet you did too. Did you have cows on your farm?
AM: The first cows we had were twelve cows we had and we milked those by hand. I can remember my dad getting a portable milker and actually we didn’t get electricity in our house until 1948.
MP: What did you use so you could read your lessons and other books?
AM: We had kerosene lamps.
RP Here is my grandfather’s blacksmith hammer. He didn’t use the whole thing.
AM: He wore it way down by his thumb grip. That hammer has seen a lot of hits.
RP He had an old one. He was in with Wm Strohl in a blacksmith shop. They had their blacksmith shop right on the same spot First Federal is located today.
AM: Was there a 7 Up building along in there too?
RP Later on it was a Fisk Garage and then 7 Up used it for a warehouse.
AM: Cochran’s was in there too.
RP His place was right where Cochran’s was located.
MP: Is that where the Opera House was too?
RP The Opera House was farther on. They tore that down when they started the Fisk Garage. I have a horse shoe nail ring. My mother always told that the company would make a small box of rings along with the keg of horse shoe nails and the proprieter would hand these out to kids. Since his shop was on the way to school the school kids would run into the blacksmith shop and get a horse shoe ring. She had saved one and still had it in her effects when she passed away.
AM: They are probably all handmade too.
RP She said the rings wouldn’t last very long because the kids had heard the blacksmith had rings to give away. She said they came in a small keg that the company would send.
AM: Was he a blacksmith in the old country then?
RP Yes, he apprenticed three years and then he came to America when he was 18 years old. He was here in America when his father died over in Germany. Then he worked and saved money and sent for his mother and her kids to come over here to America.
AM: What year was that?
RP He came here in 1894.
MP: Was his father buried in Germany and his mother buried here in America?
AM: What part of Germany was that?
RP It was Mechlenburg. 90 miles from Trollenhagen. It was 90 miles North of Berlin.
MP: Is that close to where your relatives lived?
AM: This area would be South and little West.
RP They said that his family according to the family history got sick and he had congestion of the lungs, which was probably TB. The doctor in the village sent him to a clinic in Berlin which was 90 miles away when he got there to this clinic, they examined him and told him he was too sick to treat. He walked back home and in a few days he died.
AM: 90 miles would have taken him four to five days to walk.
RP My grandfather always said that when he came to America he walked from Trollenhagen to Hamburg to get to the boat. That would have been 100 and some miles.
AM: That would quickly wear out a pair of shoes.
MP: People were tougher years ago. Don’t you think so.
AM: Yes, I think they were.
MP: We have become soft over the years.
AM: We have had life too easy.
MP: Your mother probably had a garden too.
AM: Oh yes. In the Spring of the year we would sit down in the basement and peel the sprouts off the potatoes. And then you would cut them up and plant them.
MP: You know when we planted potatoes, that lot that was beside my Dad’s house it had so many stones, big chunks of concrete probably from when they demolished the building .We would have to take a bucket and pick up those stones so the potatoes would be able to come through the ground. Then when the potatoes were up and all leafed out we had to take a small can of kerosene and pick off the bugs and throw them into the can of kerosene. This was before they had all these fancy sprays.
AM: After they would get so tall you had to go out and hill them by putting dirt around the base of the plant.
MP: I remember doing all that stuff. I think I would be able to plant potatoes now and grow them. My mother would can peaches and when the price of a bushel of peaches reached $5.00 I can still hear her sputtering about that. She said they are so expensive and they taste so good. Now you buy a little bag full and they charge you more than $5.00. She should be around now and see the prices. The prices of everything have gone sky high.
AM: Things just keep on going up.
MP: The price of cheese has really gone up. You used to be able to buy shredded cheese on sale for a half pound was $1.00. Now they are $2.00 and more some places and this is the sale price. We use a lot of shredded cheese in casseroles.
AM: Do you use it on pizza too?
MP: We don’t eat too much pizza, it is hard on my stomach. I get indigestion.
AM: Well pizza has just about everything in it your body needs.
MP: They say it is healthy. Some kids that is all they want to eat. It is not junk food like your french fries, and things you get at the fast food places. We had friends come over the other evening and so I didn’t have to cook anything we had a pizza brought in and it had hAM: and lots of cheese and pineapple on. It was enough for four people.
AM: I like the hAM: and pineapple pizza. One I will not try is the one with anchovies on them.
MP: I don’t think Russell would even eat an anchovie, but our son Dan will eat anything. A macaroni and cheese pizza I won’t even try. Just the thought of it turns me off.
AM: They had on the news the other day that shrimp are contaminated and they had slaves that were harvesting the shrimp.
RP They told on the news the other day that over in China there are so many people. Manufacturers will go in to a small town and set up a factory. They would get lots of people to work for them and then they would slip away during the night and those poor people would never get paid for their work.
AM: They would start a factory and never give them a paycheck. The owner of the factory wouldn’t be in town long enough to write a paycheck. He would skip town before the people even noticed they were gone.
MP: In China they could probably get away with it.
RP The thing I thought was so amazing was that this one person in Michigan had his car stolen. After several weeks it was found in China. Someone had shipped a bunch of stolen cars to China and was going to resell them there.
AM: That might be where ours ended up too.
MP: Did you have a car stolen?
AM: When Margaret & I went to Fllorida in 1995 , we went to Detroit the day before so that we could get an early flight the next morning. When we checked in at the Motel I asked the desk clerk if they had a safe enclosed area where I could leave the car. He assured me that we had nothing to worry about. It was late at night when we got back from Florida and when we looked for the car it was not where it had been parked. What a heart-break!
RP I can imagine, but those people are clever. They probably put it in a big container and put it on one of those freighters and they mark it something else.
AM: When I went up to the Sheriff’s office in Napoleon and told them about it he told me you will never find it. Probably the same night we had parked it they had already taken it and had it shipped overseas.
MP: What did you do then? You could hardly walk home.
AM: No, we couldn’t walk home. We had to rent a car from Detroit to get home.
MP: It’s not funny!
AM: It was very disturbing at the time.
RP I had a classmate that worked for Kodak and he ended up in LosAngeles. He had a nice home and stuff. He has had two cars stolen right out of his drive. His daughter lived in North Carolina and he went to visit her. He liked the area so well he sold his things and moved to Greensboro, North Carolina.
AM: Thieves can do that so fast because they are professionals. They know just how to get in and steal the cars.
MP: That is all they do. They don’t have a real job like you and I do. We have to work for our living. He is the same one that owned acreage in Texas. He called his ranch the Five Star Ranch. Every year he would send us a Christmas letter telling us in detail what this child had done and how great this child was doing. As the years go by it sort of gets to a person all these great things his children had done. Of course he didn’t do too badly. His one son is a doctor out in Hawaii. He wrote a book about something that I don’t understand, a very technical book. He did receive awards for the work he had done. He really does have a nice family. I AM: just jealous. His son Gregg is the author and the doctor. He married an Asian girl and they have a very pretty granddaughter.
RP We had a class reunion and everybody was getting up and telling about their trips to Europe and their fancy vacations. I got up and said I never left Henry County. I did go to Florida and Texas in one day. I have really been in every state in the Union, but I got tired of all the bragging going on.
MP: I AM: happy we went when we were young because when you get older and get physically challenged it is no fun vacationing now.
AM: About everything that you want to go see requires a lot of walking.
RP Some of my friends wanted to get me to go see the Veterans Memorial. It was free. I told them I can’t do all that walking. They told me they had wheel chairs, but I still didn’t want to go.
AM: I don’t know, they put all of that into one day. That is really too much. You fly over there and then you are back.
MP: Were you in the service?
AM: No, I wasn’t.
MP: You just missed the fighting. Russell was too young too.
AM: I went for my physical and they rejected me because I had hypertension.
MP: Russell had just graduated from high school and he and his buddy Bill Little drove out to California and joined the Marines. The war was just winding down.
AM: Was that in 1946?
RP We drove out to California and went into the post office to mail a letter back home. A Marine recruiter talked the two of us into joining the Marines.
MP: That is the best thing that he ever did.
RP The war wasn’t officially declared over so he is considered a World War II veteran. He served his country too. He served two years from ‘46 to ‘48.
AM: There was a draft in the early ‘50’s.
MP: My brother Kenny was drafted and he got sent to Korea. I remember Burdette Saneholtz ended up fighting in Korea too.
RP Did we show you that video of the field day out to St. John’s?
AM: Yes, I have seen that. I also saw the video of the South Side School with the teacher Lucille McComb. That was always a big day at our school. Field Day at St. John’s.
MP: It was the highlight of the year really.
RP Just to think that Wesche’s would send their delivery truck to our grade school here in Napoleon and all of us kids would ride in the back like cattle and go out to St. John’s in the country. We would hang on for dear life and had loads of fun coming and going. A person wouldn’t be allowed to transport kids that way nowadays. Nobody ever fell off either. We jumped all around the back end of that truck getting out to Freedom.
AM: He probably didn’t drive real fast either. Did Jay tell you what I was mostly interested in were the school books?
MP: Were you able to buy them then?
AM: Oh yes. There were twelve books starting in 1896. And these were actual teacher record books. What they would do is log each day. It would have the pupil’s name. It would change from year to year. Some times they would have the letter X if you were present and other years they would put the letter X if you were absent. Each year would be a little bit different.. At the end of the year you would be evaluated.
MP: Have you checked the archives department at Bowling Green State University to see if they would be interested?
RP I don’t know. I think at least we should have a copy of them. Lucille Sunderman might be interested in them too for the German Lutheran Heritage Society.
AM: It amazes me the names that are in this book. My dad had two sisters. My dad’s name is in there. Now this is before they even established St. John’s School. So his name is in these books as well as his two sisters.
MP: Where was this school house located at that time.
AM: It was at the corner of Road 16 and T. Do you remember that brick school house right there on the corner.
MP: I think I do. Who was living there?
AM: Nobody ever lived there. It was just west of where Ed Oberhaus lived. This was west of that, right on the corner. Now the Veigle school that is torn down now too, but somebody lived there and there is one on the corner of Road 18 and T.
MP: There was one on 108 and T. What school was that?
AM: I don’t know what they named that but this one but the original name in ‘96 was Taylor, and then afterwards it was the Wolcott School. There are a lot of names in these books where they went to school only so long and finally on the last line she would write: Went to German School. It was a transition time.
MP: Would that have been the Freedom School they switched to? Those books would be fun to look at. We’ll return them. We won’t keep them.
AM: It just amazes me you start going through those books and you see certain names, and oh yes, I remember that name.
MP: You know talking about keeping things. Did you know Harold Hoff? Did he ever borrow anything from you? You would never ever get anything back. He would just keep it. We had a friend who lived on the corner of Washington and Haley. It was where Marilyn Moore used to live. You know he came in and told Russell that he has an old picture of that house. This was a picture taken before they had removed the front porch. It was a grand old house. He would never show us the picture. He would just keep telling us about his wonderful old picture. I don’t know how it ever happened, but he put it on display in Howard Overhulse’s gas station located on the north east corner of West Clinton and N. Perry Streets. Russell went down to the gas station and took a picture of his picture and it turned our sharp and crisp. So now we have a picture of this old house he kept telling us about.
AM: You actually took it through the glass.
MP: Yes, through the glass. I have been told by others once you loan anything to him, it will never come back to you. That was always good for a laugh or two.
RP Whenever I borrowed anything from people I would always make sure I got them returned.
MP: Now what school is this a picture of?
AM: It would have been the school before they built the brick school house. The Freedom School was built in 1918. I was going to give this to Lucille Sunderman because the very first name is Gustav Panning. I was wondering whether he belonged to her. There are Gerkens, Carl Gerken is there. What was your Grandfather’s name?
MP: It was John.
AM: So your father was John and your grandfather was also John.
MP: Correct. My father was John Frederich Gerken.
RP Of course they were from the Okolona area. It was your grandfather Gerken that first moved into the Freedom Twp. area.
AM: There is only one Gerken on this page and that would have been Carl Bushgange.
MP: You mean Carl W. We kept him straight by calling him Carl W. The W. we could associate with him living by the woods. My dad always said you can keep his name straight by remembering Carl W. in the woods. C. F. Gerken was the contractor living on Route 108. He was a Carl also. I was going to give this to Lucille to check out.
RP She would know.
AM: Of course here is Chris Garbers. You remember him.
MP: Oh yes.
AM: Here is Herm Plassman. Here is Freddie Kruse. Albert Damman. Here is another Carl Gerken. This is 1903.
MP: My dad was born in 1906. That is probably Otto Hurst. These are all common German names. Now you think this was before the Freedom School was built.
AM: Before that, you are right.
MP: Was there a school building there to begin with?
AM: Yes, there had to have been because according to the books that I have got I think the last entry 1908 or something like that. Where it said they went to German School. My guess is that this is the school that they went to before they built the brick one.
MP: I have a school picture of my dad
RP Here is a picture of that railroad proposed.
AM: Now do you have one of Freedom Township?
RP Oh yes. I have it interspersed with other information so I have to sort it. Here is a history of Henry County. Here is where it shows the farms.
AM: Yes, they show these in history books.
RP Here it shows the canals. This is where Jay Hanna lives across the river on that farm. This here is the farm next to the Gunn’s.
MP: Here is a mention of Art Holers 1903.
AM: Here is a Woodward. I remember seeing his name from Liberty Center.
MP: Why is August Miller here up at the top?
AM: I got this when we went through the stuff.
MP: Oh this is from your family estate.
AM: I AM: pretty sure this one up here is Dad.
MP: Well, you would know. Do you have a magnifying glass?
RP Did you ever hear or know a cleaning lady around time by the name of Rosie Teeple?
RP She was a cleaning lady for a lot of lawyers offices and when the lawyers would clean house and would throw things away why she would take them home. Which was perfectly okay. She had two of these old Henry County atlases at her sale. At that time I didn’t own one. I thought I AM: going to buy one of these atlases. John Whalen had the sale and wouldn’t you know but Wren Reese was there. Wren and I were bidding and this was during the 1960’s, and I ran him up to 50 bucks which was an astronomical amount but I wanted one. So Whalen said which one do you want Wren? And he said I’ll take both of them. I thought maybe I would get the second one, but no he wanted both of them. So I still didn’t have an atlas. At that time Florian Saur’s mother had a house on Woodlawn where she sold antiques and other things that she would pick up at sales. My folks lived across the street from her and we would go over there on Sunday afternoons and just look around. I was in there and I saw a book sticking out from under her sofa. I pulled it out and handed it to her and asked her how much she wanted for this book. She replied oh you mean this old geography book. Oh you can have it for 5 bucks. and I said I’ll take it. That is how I got my atlas of Henry County.
MP: You showed it to your mother and she said what do you want with that big old geography book.
AM: That is great!
MP: I don’t see my dad on this picture.
AM: Jay Hanna has a great big map. Have you seen that one? What year was that?
RP I sold that to him. That map is dated 1869. That is a little before this here book.
MP: Where did you say your dad was on this picture?
AM: Right here on the top row. He is the tall one.
RP What is really neat about this is
AM: Okay this says Hogrefe. When they sold this here a year ago. The Kruse’s said this was a centennial farm. I could never figure out how but it was the Kruse’s because his great grandmother was a Hogrefe. So that is how they got that.
RP Here is something I will show you that is really neat. This area here is hardly developed yet when you get toward the southern part of Henry County. In fact that was still wet lands pretty much. Now here is LeSeur.
AM: Wasn’t there a town with that name.
RP Yes it was Woodville.
AM: Did that burn?
RP Yes we have some pictures of that. John Hayes had a lot of that stuff. Now see here are the personals which included all their biographies. This here is Napoleon, of course. There is more of them. Now see over here is Napoleon Township.
AM: Oh I see it tells the different landowners too.
RP Plus their biographies. Now see here is a Henry family. I should show that to Lucille.
AM: I think a lot of these write ups you had to pay to get your name included.
RP Oh yes you did. If you bought a book then you would be included. Now see here is Liberty Township. Oh, now here is Freedom Township. And here is Ridgeville.
AM: Do you remember where Tubbsville was?
RP Yes. Now here is Harrison Township. Now this fellow here is my grandmothers grandfather.
AM: He would have been one of the earliest settlers in the county.
RP Yes, It tells here that Moses Stoner, he was in the Revolutionary War and he was captured by Indians. He was held prisoner for three years. Two other boys taken at the same time were burned at the stake. He escaped by crawling into a log. They were cruel and had quite a time.
AM: I read about Colonel Crawford how he was burned at the stake and Simon Girty could have saved him.
AM: Yes. and he wanted to be shot after being captured rather than burned.
RP Here are some of these names. This must be Monroe Township.
AM: Oh here is Michael Kryder.
RP Here is a drawing of Richfield, Monroe,
AM: Here is a Bensing. He is the one who laid out Malinta.
RP Wasn’t he somehow related to Pastor Laab’s wife?
AM: No, my wife. My wife was a Sickmiller. This Bensing had one girl Elizabeth Malinta Bensing. My wife’s great uncle married her. That is how that gets tied together. A lot of those last names are no more are they.
RP No. Here in this Pleasant Twp., it tells about the Voight’s.
AM: He had a drug store and later on he was a plumber. Didn’t he own Girty’s Island at one time?
RP I talked to his daughter Tillie Richoff. She was over there in Holgate when I was working on the history books. I went over and interviewed her. She got out this great big map Holgate originally was called Kauffmanville. She had that on there. Mr. Holgate came in and put his addition on and they named the town after him. I was there talking till 11:00 and Marlene wondered where I was. I was talking to her.
AM: Didn’t he have a lot to do with the settlement of Defiance?
RP Yes he did.
MP: That is very interesting.
RP I was so lucky to get this book.
AM: My wife spent a lot of time on the computer. It just got me. A week before she passed away she had emailed her friends and she told people she wasn’t going to be able to email anymore because she was going to be with the Lord, and later she passed away. I didn’t find that out until one of my grandsons found the email and took it off the computer.
MP: It gives a person the goosebumps. Had she not been feeling well?
AM: Well, she was going down hill physically. She had problems with her lungs and she had diabetes and heart problems.
MP: Sometimes I feel that way too. Especially when I first get up in the morning. I think we all do.
AM: You are right! To know that ahead of time.
MP: She must have had a feeling.
AM: There was also a great big wall map. What year was that? There is another one after the one that Jay has.
RP Yes there is. There are at least three different maps in the engineers office. All three copies are there. One is 1869, and the other one is 1880. Then there is another from 1889.
AM: Do they have them hanging up in their office.
RP No, they have them all rolled up. The 1869 one they sent in and I think it cost them $350.00 to get a plastic cover put over it. That would have been a protective cover.
MP: $350.00 wow!
AM: Well, you will never find another one.
RP Now the map from Defiance County was put out by the same people. I think it is 1875 too. Some company must have went around.
AM: Probably went from county to county and made maps. What surprises me is that they could print this big of an item. These maps, some of them were in color and I don’t know how they were able to do that in color at that time.
RP They probably had to hand color them.
AM: They couldn’t print it in color. They would have had to color it after it was printed.
RP Now Jim Rebar has taken pictures of these biographies. I don’t know how they turned out. Eventually I hope he will be able to put them on the geneology site.
AM: How long ago did he take these?
RP Probably around three weeks ago.
AM: Did he use a digital camera and take a picture of each page?
RP Yes. He had a tripod. In fact he did it on this same table we are sitting at. He has a couple other projects going and he is busy at the Northwest Signal.
AM: I have one of his projects here. Lucille Sunderman and I have been corresponding.
MP: He got me started on copying death records. I AM: on the alphabet letter B. I think he started on the A’s.
AM: What year do you start with?
MP: The beginning. I AM: into the 1970’s now. When I get to the people I remember and knew from way back it becomes fascinating. My mind wanders and I start reading and trying to figure out who belongs to who. Sometimes I forget I AM: supposed to be typing.
RP Eventually all this information will be open to the public, which it is now, but you will be able to do name searches and the person’s name will pop up. A person will not have to go through page after page to search for their relatives.
MP: I told Jim I wanted to do the G’s and K’s because they would be my relatives. They keep us so busy back here in Bavarian Village with activities I AM: going to have to set my priorities and just do what I want to do. And that would be typing!
AM: Do they bring the books to you then?
MP: No, they are copied big long sheets. He took the copies, so he doesn’t have the actual book, just the copies.
AM: Isn’t it hard sometimes to read those names.
MP: No, they have been typed out by someone years ago.
AM: Up until 1908 the original books are out at the health department. Before 1908 they are still in the court house.
MP: My records started in the 1860’s.
AM: Okay, so yours came from the court house then.
MP: Somebody in the court house copied them and that is what was given to Jim Rebar. Some of the edges have been cut off so Jim has to go through each page and make certain every name is included.
RP Byron Armbruster called me the other day and he told me his magnolia tree was so pretty this year and he wanted Russell to come over and take a picture. The magnolia trees all over town were just spectacular this year.
AM: Has he been able to keep it from freezing out?
RP It is at least 50 years old. We also at that time Byron and I and a bunch of other men were in the garden club here in town and we planted the magnolia up at the court house. Here is a closup of the flower.
AM: Do they smell?
RP Yes they are very fragrant.
AM: You mean like chestnuts?
MP: Do chestnuts smell?
AM: They smell real putrid.
RP Byron said the guy that mows his lawn wanted to cut out the lower branches and Byron wouldn’t let him do it. That would take the beauty away from the tree. I took the pictures just the other day.
AM: Do you use a digital camera?
RP Yes, I do. I will have to take these to Byron and give them to him. Jim Rebar has done a lot of copying on pictures and maps.
AM: I imagine they will eventually have them in book form too.
RP Now they have the Henry County Histories, the second volume on the site.
MP: The whole book?
RP Just the pictures. Evenually you will be able to access it. Like if you would put in the town of Gerald, all the Gerald pictures will show up. If you put in Naomi, Ohio, there is one picture.
AM: Did you ever see a map where Ratsville was on?
RP No, I have never found a map that pinpointed Ratsville.
AM: Cloverleaf, which was just east of that.
RP I have seen Edwardsville. I have seen a map with Gallup listed. I have seen Tubbsville.
AM: And Freedom Mills.
MP: That is where the Kline’s lived, my ancestors. My ancestor ran the saw mill. The cemetery is just right down the road.
AM: Didn’t it have a post office at one time too?
MP: There is only one post mark of Freedom Mills, Ohio. This man , what he collected, would go to each county in Ohio and he collected a post mark from each town in each county. He had all the post marks of every little town listed as having a post office. He had one of Gerald. And he would also write a brief history of each town, and also the post master named. He showed it to us but he would not sell it to us. He had this before it was so easy to take pictures and make copies. I AM: certain he would have been willing to let us copy just Gerald. His name was Flechtner and he lived in North Baltimore. He, I think had a meat market. I saw the collection he did for Hancock County, which was huge. They had so many little towns that came and went because they had the big gas rush there. With all the oil boom towns that came and went there were a lot of them.
RP He had five notebooks for that one county – Hancock County. There was just one for Henry County. He sold his entire collection to some one up in Michigan. I have a post mark from Florida, Ohio, one from Grelton, Ohio
MP: To get a post mark from Gerald you would have to get it out of this area. Someone would have had to send a letter or post card from Gerald to some friend or relative. It is hard to say where a person could find one.
RP Marlene’s grandfather was the postmaster in Gerald.
MP: It is too bad I didn’t know this years ago and I would have asked him. He never told he was a postmaster.
AM: A lot of this stuff, if a person had just known, would have asked people a lot of questions.
MP: He might have had a stamp, or maybe the stamper too. It probably went on the junk pile when he passed and got thrown away.
AM: A lot of that stuff if a person had just known would never have been destroyed.
RP Just like Walter Hoy came running in the drug store and he told me to get over to the courthouse because they were throwing away old documents. I get up to the recorders office to see what I can find. I ran over to Murphy’s Dime store and bought a box of garbage bags. They had already thrown them in the dumpster. So I jumped in the dumpster and filled up my plastic bags and took them over to the store and went through them carefully. One thing interesting was when I found a deed where the proprieters of Napoleon gave Lot A#112 to the City for a burial ground. That was the first cemetery and it was by the water tower by Grogan’s Car Sales. I got a petition from 1865 where Vocke’s and the people along Front Street petitioned the town for side walks in front of their house.
MP: These documents should have never been thrown out .
AM: I just wonder who had the final decision to throw them out.
RP They came from the recorders office. I saved everything that I thought was valuable.
AM: You should have taken the whole dumpster and sorted through it.
RP Anyway I try to save these things whenever I can.
AM: The older the documents the more curious I become.
MP: I AM: the same way. There a lot of things I would have liked to ask my dad.
AM: Lots of things a person just shrugs off because you weren’t interested at the time.
RP My Grandmother Patterson used to insist we come over every Sunday to eat. When I got into high school I wanted to run here and there. After we ate she would talk about what this aunt did and that aunt and I didn’t pay any attention. Now I would have listened more and asked questions.
MP: She had noodles every Sunday and it felt like they would come our of your ears you would get so tired of them. They didn’t come out of a package either. She rolled them by hand. Now I wish I had some.
AM: She probably made them on Saturday, the day before.
MP: Yes, I AM: sure she did.
RP I remember seeing her roll the noodles out on a table real thin. Then she would roll them up and cut them and then she would let them dry on the table.
MP: My mother did the same thing.
RP They weren’t bought at the grocery store in a plastic package.
AM: No, they weren’t
MP: If the price goes any higher I AM: going to start making noodles too. The cost $1.32 for just a little bag.
AM: Look at all the time you would have to spend making them.
MP: I should find some time. I AM: retired!
RP They were telling the other night on TV, rather than raise prices on some items the manufacturers were cutting down the amount they were putting inside the packages.
END OF TAPE