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.
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.
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.
Herrtown or Elery as it is usually called now, had more business places years ago.
There were 2 grocery stores, one near the Monroe Twp. House, operated once by a man named Vogel. It closed years ago — 60 yrs.? Probably more. The other one just east of the R.R. track closed seven yrs. ago. A Flea Market occupies the building now. This store was owned by quite a few different people through the years. Some were, Mr. Long, Rollo Foor, Clinton Rettig, Will Hoff, Harvey Hoffman, Walter Franz, Leonard Dachenhaus and Larry Myles, Herbert Meyers — owns the building now.
Elery had a post office years ago in part of this store building Henry Dettmer was post master once. It was closed when rural routes started.
The saloon was owned by different people, some were Pete Sonnichsen, Ferd Dettmer, Geo Bortz, Harold Blue, Paul Fletcher and now Leonard Sizemore. It carries some groceries these last years.
The tile mill was started by August Honeck I, and is still in the Honeck family, now making plastic tile instead of clay tile and known as the Advanced Drainage of Ohio, Inc. James Honeck has an interest.
The grain elevator was owned first by farmers; then it was sold to Okolona Grain Co. around 1940. A fire damaged it some and destroyed or spoiled 9,000 bu. grain year — 1969. Forrest Clady purchased it then 1969. It’s now known as Clady’s Trucking and Elevator.
Barber Shop. I understand this was located in the house east of the saloon; the barber was Geo. Behrman? It was discontinued many years ago.
The church was not used for sixty years or more; it was converted to other use and made into a garage by owner.
School — I heard that high school was once held in the twp. house building
Milliner shop — One, started by Rose Moerder in the east end of town only lasted a few months (70 yrs. ago?).
The Dance hall (we don’t know when it was built) closed 35 years ago and was torn down. It was directly behind the saloon.
Schutzenfest was held there every year for many years; people came from near and far. I think there were more businesses. A man in Elery called Miller used to make wooden shoes. (E. B. E.)
About 1910 William Gerken, Harold Gerken’s grandfather, had a tavern and grocery in Elery about the location where the Township House is (1974). (H. W. G.)
Herman Behrman ran the tavern. Ferd Dettmer ran the tavern about 1925 to the 30’s. (E. E. B. H.)
Stave Mill: The stave mill was probably the very first thing at Elery. (Was it called Herrtown then?) In fact the stave mill must have been the start of the town. (I. D.)
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. 232-233.
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 east. A public ferry was used to connect the banks and the expense was paid by the county. On July 22, 1909, this ferry was sold by the commissioners to Theodore Wagner for $75.00 and Mr. Wagner ran it as a toll ferry. Men who have acted as ferrymen are as follows: 1849, William Kiterman, who drowned while drunk; 1849-1878, Daniel Kerstetter (This ferry was a pole and toll ferry.); 1879, G. W. Long (It became a free cable ferry at this time and the county paid the wages and took care of the cable and boat.); William Bellinger was a ferryman at this time; 1879-1881, Jacob Hardy; 1881-1883, William Bellinger again became ferryman; 1883-1886, Martin Winover; 1888-1909, J. J. Hardy.
The ferry at this period averaged thirty rigs a day and wore out three flat boats. It ferried anything that ever traveled the highways, including threshing machines and livestock.
When John Houts’ funeral was held, there were 106 rigs ferried across the Maumee. The funeral was held at Westhope and the burial was at the Colton cemetery.
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. A monument with James Durbin’s name on it was erected near “Bad Creek” on Route 24 and it still stands there today.
The Durbin family was of Scotch and Irish descent and settled here after coming from the State of Maryland. James Durbin was a lawyer but after coming to Ohio during the 1830’s, he became a contractor on the Maumee and Erie Canal, and he was also an engineer.
Thomas William Durbin, brother of James, was a blacksmith and did contract work also on the canal; he was also a school teacher. He later became a merchant here in Texas.
James and Thomas W. invested their surplus capital until they owned very large tracts of land. This land was plotted and became known as Texas.
Thomas W. Durbin was one of the staunch leaders of the Democratic Party. He served as county clerk, county recorder and county commissioner.
The streets in the village of Texas were laid out with the cardinal points, running from north to south; they are named mainly from timber natural to the soil, and those running from east to west are named numerically beginning at the canal.
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.
A Mr. Phipps was seeking a suitable place to make his home and start a gun repair shop and he located in Texas. When asked by Dr. D. E. Haag why he settled here instead of Liberty Center, he explained that he believed Texas would grow into a more prosperous and larger town in time to come.
The canal at that time was doing a good business in grain and lumber and Mr. Phipps did not believe Liberty Center would ever grow too much, even with the railroad going through there.
Quite a little business was done in Texas by Mr. Anglemyre, J. W. Wright, and Mr. Phipps; and there were others too as the years came and went.
At one time there was a barrel factory, a handle factory, and a brick factory here 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 Texas Cemetery lies to the north of Texas (Junction of Coon Creek and Bad Creek). James Durbin and William Sheffield associated it in 1860. No plots of burials were kept.
William Sheffield gave the plot of ground on which to build the Methodist Church in 1870. It was a church until 1930 and later it was made into a beautiful home. On June 24, 1896, the Texas Aid Society formed to maintain Sunday School in Texas throughout the year.
The Miami and Erie Canal through Henry County was started in May of 1837. Ohio Governor Ethan Allen Brown was known as “The Father of Canals” because he was a great help in getting the canal started through Ohio.
The first boats were mule powered, and then steam power came later in the 1890’s. The summer of 1837-38 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 wasn’t 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.
The boats would stop at the loading docks of J. W. Wright’s general store and they would be loaded with water, apples, vinegar, cider, potatoes, molasses, flour, corn meal, smoked meat, and vegetables to be sold to the commissioners in Toledo.
Mr. Wright stored the food in his ice house underneath the store. In winter ice blocks were cut from the Maumee River and stored in saw-dust at the icehouse. They would use this to keep things cool in the summer.
There was a wide place in the canal just east of Texas which was called “Wide Water” and here the canal boats could turn around.
In 1865 Captain George Carver conceived the idea of drilling for oil and a company was formed in February of 1866 under the name of Henry and Lucas Oil and Mining Co. Work began at once and at a depth of about 400 feet a vein of gas was struck of sufficient force to blow the tools which weighed fifteen hundred pounds clear out of the well. A stream of water shot into the air for twenty feet and continued to spout for a couple of days. At last it subsided and work was resumed. Their method of drilling was very primitive, for instead of casing the hole, they continued to bore in the water, reaching a depth of over 1100 feet. Here they discontinued the work thinking there was nothing any farther down and not knowing the many purposes to which natural gas could be converted.
The vein of water which was struck was of a strong sulphurous kind and heavily charged with gas. By taking a glass of it fresh from the well, it sparkled like champagne. It was impossible to fill a bottle with fresh water and then cork it tightly as the generated gas would surely break the bottle. After the futile attempt to strike oil, the land was sold to Captain J. W. Geering, who, thinking that there was an opportunity to start a sanitarium, built a large hotel here on the grounds. It was called the “Parks Hotel” and was equipped with modern conveniences.
The resort featured hot and cold water baths, which were supposed to cure rheumatism, arthritis, and all aches and pains. It turned out to be a financial failure and was later abandoned.
This well flowed winter and summer and never froze over. It has been capped because of the sulphurous odor which was unpleasant throughout the area. It lies on the east bank of “Bad Creek” near the river.
Fred Weirich, who will soon be 90 years old lives here now and he told me he remembers Mary Hardy starting a Carry Nation Organization of women in Texas and they went to Mose Jackson’s Saloon on the south side of the canal and broke all the whisky bottles.
Well! What a change the years do make! The cars came and then lots of new highways. The first good paved road went through in about 1924. Mary Manley once said when they put the first paved highway through Texas, her mother, Mrs. Corwin, sat on her front porch and said, “I can tell you these automobiles will be the ruination of this country.” I wonder what she would think if she saw all the cars today in 1975? Maybe she wasn’t too far wrong.
Texas has never grown too much but there’s now East and West Texas today. It has always been a beautiful spot on the Maumee. It flows by so peacefully sometimes that one could sit on its banks for hours and enjoy it. But then again it goes on a rampage and has a power you would never believe, when it breaks up and carries out the thick ice at the end of a hard winter. In 1935 it froze to a thickness of 36″ and after a hard rain things really started to happen. Many, who make their homes near the river banks, sure know the pain it can cause. I have seen large cakes of ice shot up on the banks and also up on the Damascus Bridge. The ice would usually jam here at Texas because of the bend in the river. This causes bad flooding in Napoleon and west of here.
In my teens, I remember taking a one horse sleigh that belonged to Charlie Showman, and which he let us children use. Charles Krueger drove the car that pulled the sleigh loaded down with Texas kids and we went clear to Napoleon on the river. Some of these kids were Peggy Johnson, Jack Murrin, Paul Ahleman, Mary Ellen Patton, and others I can’t recall. Well, as I think of it today, the good Lord must have been watching over us. When some of our family found this out, they sure gave us a talking to!
We had many skating parties down there too. Boy! Could the Price boys Larry and Glendale skate! Peggy and Pat Johnson could too, and even though I couldn’t skate as well, it was fun.
Some of the family names of the people who have lived here for the past twenty or thirty years are Charlie Showman, Ivan Wright, Ira L. and Walter Johnson, Harold and Mary McCloy, James Bortel, John Lorenz, Albert Artz, Albert Koch, Manley, J. Murrins, Pat Mann, Donald Lawrence, Carl Shepard, Hans Thrane, D. Shasteen, L. Patten, Durbin, Ed Ellinwood, Anglemyre, Kimerer, Perry, Foreman, and Faith.
Lucy (Showman) Johnson moved to the north edge of Texas as a bride in 1913. She and her husband built a home in 1925 and lived there until his death. Since then Mrs. Johnson contin-ues to live there alone.
Another one who once lived in Texas and has long since moved to Lebanon, Missouri, wrote a poem about Texas and submitted it to the Liberty Press. She is Lura Durbin Rittenburg and her poem is entitled “Memories.”
If I should start a’travelin’
I know where I would go,
I’d go right back to my home town
In the State of O-HI-O.
I’d go right back to Texas
Beside the old Maumee,
And there I’d sit a’wishing
For things that used to be.
I know the ferry’s there no more,
And row boats hard to find;
I don’t know what I’d wish for most,
Of things I left behind.
I know I’d hunt up all the friends
I used to know and see,
When I moved west and left them
On the banks of old Maumee.
And that’s not all the changes
I’ve heard about, you see,
So maybe I had better stay
Home in MISS-OU-RI.
TEXAS, OHIO Written by Hans and Mary Ellen Thrane
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. 410-412.