The Henry County Historical Society was formed in 1970 to protect, preserve, and perpetuate the history of Henry County, Ohio, to learn about and preserve the artifacts of the county, and to generate interest in the past of the county.
Today the HCHS operates two historic sites in Napoleon, Ohio.
The first being the Historic Complex at the Henry County Fairgrounds. This site contains several historic buildings and structures include the Nathaniel Hartman Log Home c. 1860-1866, the 1897 Emmanuel Lutheran One Room Schoolhouse, the Ag Building, Smokehouse, and our most recent addition the c. 1910 Historic Gazebo.
The HCHS’s primary location is the beautiful Victorian Queen Anne style Dr. John Bloomfield Home & Carriage House Museum located at 229 W Clinton St, Napoleon, Ohio across from the Napoleon Public Library. The Home was built c. 1879 and has been totally restored and serves as the main museum for the HCHS.
All of the HCHS facilities have been restored to their near original appearance and house large collections of period furnishings, textiles, china, silver, and more dating from the early 1800s through the 1930s.
So what are you waiting for? Check out and enjoy our website and we hope you visit our sites in person!
New Exhibit at Dr. John Bloomfield Home Museum
The Henry County HIstorical Society is proud to display a WW I exhibit in the Dr. Bloomfield Home museum. The display features the uniforms and personal effects of Clarence Kemmer, Holgate, and Herman Frederick Haase, Okolona, Ohio. See the Events on the right of this page for hours of operation.
Previous home page stories:
Gerald, Ohio at the Turn of the Century
Located in Freedom Township and situated five miles north and 1/2 mile west of the county seat lies Gerald, Ohio. It was named by Mr. Mike Donnelly for his son Gerald, born January 4, 1892. Mr. Donnelly served as a judge in Napoleon and was one of its leading citizens. Mr. Donnelly was instrumental in getting the railroad built.
Trains would come through Gerald nearly every half hour. Gerald was a flag stop for passengers. If you wanted a ride you would wait in the train station. Upon entering Gerald the engineer would give one toot. You would then have to run out and wave frantically. As soon as the engineer would see you, he would give two toots, his signal to you that he would stop.
Just as the building of the railway helped to bring industry to Gerald, the ease of transportation brought on by replacing the mud roads with concrete highways started the decline of its grocery stores, saloons, stockyards, and blacksmith shop, and their eventual disappearance. The two remaining businesses with a link to the past are the Gerald Grain Association and Harry Von Deylen’s Implement Shop. Both serve the area farmers needs of today.
There are many homes located in Gerald today, and one of them is my parental home, a place of many pleasant and happy carefree days.
A saloon was also located east of my father’s house. It was built in the early 1900’s and owned by J. H. Badenhop. It was operated over the years by Herman Bockelman, Carl, and Wm. Precht. In 1936 it was purchased by George Badenhop, and in 1939 purchased by John F. Gerken, who demolished it. Gerald also had a Telephone Co. operated by Charles Sworden, Charles Frysinger, and in the 1940’s by Alvin Miller. In later years it was operated by Wm. Kruse and Otto Behnfeldt. It has since been merged with United Telephone Co.
Demaline General Merchandise
Henry Homan, D. H. Gebers, Henry Meyer, Herman Haase, and George Gerken were a group of men instrumental in constructing several store buildings at the turn of the century. They built, leased, and then sold them to their occupants. So, in 1897 they built the Demaline General Merchandise Store in Section 26. This building, complete with living quarters in the rear, and a second floor was first owned and occupied by John W. Demaline, the subject of the above picture, courtesy of his daughter Mrs. Hugo (Gladys) Dishop. A general line of household staples was sold and gasoline was dispensed out front. This property, located just west of the railroad tracks, also included a large barn in the rear. Mr. Demaline also operated a seed store west of his grocery store. John bought wool from area farmers and sold clover seeds, etc. In winter he started a roller skating rink where many children first learned to skate. They also held dances and Schutzenfests there. This frame building was sold to William Von Deylen who tore down the frame building and put up a new modern brick building to house a farm machinery sales agency. This brick building was later sold to the Gerald Elevator when both parties needed more room. The Von Deylen Agency is now located east of the railroad tracks.
Other people who later owned the General Merchandise Store included: Harmon Meyer, Ferd Riefers, Harry Von Deylen, Melvin Mahnke, William Kruse, Otto Behnfeldt, Harlan Yant, Merlin Moll, and Dwight Penrod. In 1967 the owners removed the grocery storefront. Very little evidence is left of it ever having been a center of local grocery shopping.
The above articles were written by Marlene Patterson, and are reprinted from Henry County, Ohio, Volume Two, A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society. Dallas, TX, Taylor Publishing Co., pp. 152-153.
For information about the homes that were featured in the 2015 Garden Tour, please visit our webpage HERE.
Country Garden Tour 2015
Saturday, July 11, 2015
10:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
Rain or Shine
to see all six gardens.
Tickets may be purchased at each garden site.
We would encourage car pooling, if possible, as some of the sites have restricted parking availability
All proceeds support the Henry County Historical Society, a registered 501 (c)3 not-for-profit organization
Henry County Historical Society Gardens
Henry County Fairgrounds – Napoleon
The Henry County Historical Society’s gardens at the historic gazebo and log house can be viewed on the south end of the fairgrounds. Near the house, the Native Garden demonstrates the traditional growing methods of the Indigenous Native people who grew the “three sisters” along the banks of the Maumee River during the 18th and early 19th centuries. The settler’s garden showcases gardening methods developed during the draining of the Great Black Swamp and will provide you with ideas for your own garden. Enjoy the taste of period teas made from the freshest herbs out of our 1860’s herb garden. Historical interpreters will be dressed in period attire to make history come alive for you as you explore. Garden tour tickets can be purchased under the gazebo.
Mike & Kaye Wesche
16262 Co. Rd. M1, Napoleon
The lovely Wesche home is impressive on expansive acreage sloping to a serene natural woodland. As you enter the long drive you pass by Purple Mountain Ash trees.
In the front yard, notice the island of grasses and weeping cedar trees with a vegetable garden to tempt deer. A swimming pool and a pond are a natural flow from a beautiful patio area, great for summer leisure. The extensive perennial gardens feature coral bells, trailing sedum and various grasses. The Southwestern theme of the house is accented with wonderful garden art and large urns acquired by the owners in their travels. Large boulders were gathered from area fields and old barn foundations and mix with rock pathways. Imagine the peaceful evenings during all seasons!
Rose & Henry Wiemken
17447 Co. Rd. R, Napoleon
As you approach the front entranceway of this beautiful home, you will enjoy the all- white plantings including peonies and roses. Notice the two antique lamp posts in the front lawn which came from the BGSU campus years ago. Entering the backyard, it reflects Henry’s woodworking skills with multiple arches, a half gazebo, trellises, and a pergola. The garden features many perennials, grasses, daylilies and a bubbling water feature. A Victorian theme is evident with the many statuaries and a wisteria pergola creating a shaded seating area on a circular brick patio. A garden shed pretending to be a child’s playhouse sits beside a “bird garden” that attracts feathered friends. Don’t miss Rose’s collection of hand-blown glass orbs hanging from a crabapple tree creating an interesting shade garden. The Wiemkens can relax and enjoy the view from their lovely colorful patio.
Ruth & Stan Moll
12781 Co. Rd. T, Napoleon
When entering the Moll’s amazing gardens you will be greeted by large silhouettes built by family members showcasing their charming gardens. Shrubs, vines and trees structure the space and create shady canopies trained over many years. Grassy pathways weave among a variety of gardens – including roses, herbs and sun & shade fairy gardens. Ruth’s collection of whimsical garden art is truly enjoyable. A meandering natural living pond created years ago by Stan is home to pond life and bald cypress trees with knees. When you enter thru the doors behind their rustic country home you will be surprised by what is inside. A hidden “pool house” – a highlight of the tour!! Guinea birds are part of this truly special garden that shows Ruth and Stan’s lifelong love for gardening and hard work! Take a break Ruth!!
Mary & Steve Kemm (son)
14-683 Co. Road Z, Napoleon
The Kemm Centennial Farm is off the beaten path. Upon entering, you see a shady woodland garden created over 65 years ago. Large trees including yellow wood, dawn redwood, & tri-color beech are grand specimens. The farm house has outbuildings that are true treasures to explore. A corncrib is adorned with potted flowers & ferns, wicker seating and a huge copper kettle water feature. A 100 year- old granary is now an enchanting “bunk house” full of antiques, comfy seating and a wood stove, making it a cozy hideaway for relaxing and reading. Off its veranda is a raised garden scattered with Mary’s collection of blue & white china. Look for “Phoebe” watching over her flowing perennial garden. Enjoy the displays of Mary’s garden hat creations. An large vegetable/herb garden is enclosed by picket fences and vintage doors created by Mary’s son Steve. As you wander around the huge yard, you’ll feel as if you’ve stepped back in time. Hope the campfire is burning!! Have a seat!!
Gardens at Johnson’s Gift Shoppe & Ice Cream Shoppe
Peggy & Phil Johnson
St. Rt. 108 – 1 mile south of fairgrounds
The Johnsons have established a unique garden space surrounding their business of 33 years – a gift shop and restaurant. The front yard is a mass of color with bright annuals carefully planned by Phil. Notice the antique farm wagon with pink petunias cascading down. As you go thru the gift shop and out the back door, you will find a true “country garden” reflecting Peggy’s artistic flair and use of repurposed garden art. Colorful annuals, perennials, and hostas create a backdrop for the many fairy gardens you will find. The gift shop offers a great selection of fairy garden supplies. Use this stop during the day to enjoy a delicious lunch, ice cream treat, or to use the restroom facilities. Take a food break in the backyard!!
The Henry County Historical Society was formed in 1970 to perpetuate the history of Henry County, Ohio, to learn about and preserve the artifacts of the county, and to generate interest in the past of the county. Our primary focus at this time is the completion of the restoration work on the beautiful Dr. John Bloomfield Victorian home, built circa 1879. This house is located at the corner of West Clinton and Webster streets in downtown Napoleon, across from the Napoleon Public Library. The house has been completely restored and is decorated with authentic period furnishings. Work is in progress on the carriage house and gardens. The home is open for special events, educational programs and private tours. We welcome new and old members alike to lend a hand and help us in our many programs and activities.
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. It was remembered by old timers of the area that a similar sounding name of Okolona was chosen.
Ferd Benien, Archbold, remembers that 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.
The road from Ridgeville Corners to Okolona was macadamized in 1920. Directions to a stranger who wanted to go from the Corners to Okolona went something like this, “turn left when you have to, and right when you can;” but many still became lost and ended up in Napoleon. This same road also was called the Florida Road.
In 1918 there were the following business places in Okolona: The Farmers Elevator with William Navin as manager; William Helberg, building and supplies; George Karsner Hardware; William Heitman and Son General Store; Brubaker and Aschemeir Grocery and Meats; H. C. Arpts had a machine, electric and auto repair shop. Edward Heitman was the postmaster.
1890 Description of Okolona
Okolona is a small town on the Wabash Railroad and is a prosperous little town. It is nicely located. The town is surrounded by rich black soil, very level with perfect drainage. The corn crop is fair, but of good quality, hence hogs are first class and command the highest price. There are several saloons, two grocery-general stores, a furniture store, a blacksmith shop and a grain elevator. J. H. Benien is the proprietor of a large general store which is an old landmark, having been established years ago. He enjoys a good custom and is well liked. Heitman and Schliesser are engaged in the same business, carrying a good stock and trade. Charles Kolbe and August Buntz are in the saloon business, being just enough opposition to make matters interesting.
The town is holding its own and has the facilities to grow.
Source: Henry County Paper — Napoleon North West News, December 11, 1890.
The above article is from Henry County, Ohio, Volume Two, A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society. Dallas, TX, Taylor Publishing Co., pp. 303-304.