The Nathaniel Hartman Log Home is located at the Henry County Fairgrounds south of Napoleon on State Route 108. Nathaniel Holcomb Hartman built the home between 1860 and 1866. It sat on County Road Z in Napoleon Township. Originally constructed as a two-story home, today the home has only one story with a loft due to its collapse during the move to its present site at the Henry County Fairgrounds. The Historical Society decided to place the fireplace to the side of the house and to enlarge it to fit a space in the wall where some logs had been cut to install a large door. The home features a 1830s Shaker dining room table, 1870s pie-safe, and an original 1830 rope bed from the Showman-Edwards family.
History of the Nathaniel Hartman Log Home
(Written by Genevieve Eicher, 1986 Secretary, Henry County Historical Society, revised 2017 by W. Taylor Moyer, 2017 Vice President, Henry County Historical Society)
Originally, the home sat in Section 26, Napoleon Township. The farm was part of the Ohio Canal Lands and was owned by the State of Ohio until 1848 when the state sold it to Seth Hopkins. In 1850 Daniel Fribley purchased the farm and in 1852 he sold it to Daniel Kelly who retained ownership until 1853. Addison Childs purchased it that year and re-sold it in 1856 to Joseph Ritter. In 1860 Nathaniel H. Hartman purchased the 120-acre farm from his father-in-law Joseph Ritter. Between 1860 and 1866 Nathaniel constructed the Hartman Log Home.
The home is constructed out of large hand hewn beams timbered on site. A mix of Maumee River clay, sand, and straw were used to provide chinking which was applied between each log. The home has 7 windows on the first floor and originally had 4 windows on the second floor. In total the home originally had 11 windows. This was considered a large amount for a log home in the 1860s. This would have been considered a luxury providing an abundance of natural light in the Great Black Swamp.
In this home Nathaniel his wife Lydia Ritter Hartman, and their son York Alton Hartman would live. During the American Civil War Nathaniel and his brother George, Richard, and Daniel served in the Union Army. All four siblings were enlisted in separate Units to minimize the likelihood of them being killed in the same battle or conflict. Nathaniel served with the 163rd O.V.I. Nathaniel saw little combat during the war and served in the defense of Washington D.C.
After the war, Nathaniel returned to the log home and his wife Lydia birthed a daughter Coral in 1870 inside the log home. Eventually, around 1878 the Hartman’s moved into a more modern Greek revival home in the city of Napoleon. Nathaniel split the acreage and sold 80 acres to John Snyder in 1874. Snyder in 1877 sold Lydia Hartman 0.4 acres for road rights to her land along the Maumee River. In 1881 Snyder sold 100 acres to Henry Vajen. Samuel Hartman in 1881 sold 20 acres to Charles Belknap.
Donation of the Nathaniel Hartman Log Home
In 1971 Josephine and Harry Harmon donated the log home to the Henry County Historical Society. Josephine is a direct descendant of Henry Vajen and his wife, Katherine Schweibert Vajen. Henry’s son, Henry C. Vajen, was born in 1873 in Freedom Township and was married in 1901 to Caroline Genuit and their wedding was held in the log house on the Vajen farm. It is thought that the Vajen family lived in the log house until they built their brick house in 1909. That home still stands on county road Z directly across from the former site of the Nathaniel Hartman log home.
Moving the Nathaniel Hartman Log Home
Although the home was donated in 1971 it was not moved until August 6, 1974, when Harmon Movers, Napoleon, moved it down County Road Z to Huddle Road and then to its present site on the Henry County Fairgrounds. Prior to the November 1971 meeting of the Trustees of the Henry County Historical Society, the Commissioners of Henry County had given permission to put the home on a site selected by the Henry County Fair Board Directors. It was up to the Historical Society to surround the site with a fence and to keep up the structure. It was stressed that this was to be a temporary location and the home could be moved by the Historical Society at any time in the future. Although the home had been moved on August 6, 1974, it was placed on jacks and left waiting for work to start.
An object of the Restoration
The stated object of the project of restoration of the log house was to restore it as closely as possible to the era in which it was built, and to furnish the structure as authentically as possible.
On March 8, 1976, Mel Lanzer’s workmen began the task of putting the house on its foundation. The home was to be finished in time for the July 4, 1976, Bicentennial celebration at the fairgrounds. In late March 1976 the workmen went to lunch and returned to find the log house collapsed and lying on the foundation in a heap. The Trustees of the Society met immediately and decided to rebuild with the usable logs, to obtain more logs, and to construct a one-story log home with a loft. A rail fence was erected in May 1976 to mark the site line. A campaign for money to help pay for the fireplace brick was suggested under the title of “A Dollar a Brick” and the public was able to help in the home’s restoration. Curtains were donated for the windows. Shelves were built, and a bed that had belonged to the Palmerton family donated for the home’s use. Evergreen trees were donated for the yard. Donations from members and the public have helped to furnish the home. Donations of other suitable items is always appreciated. The fireplace construction and the concrete floor make it possible for the fireplace to actually be used for cooking and heating. The home has been used as a meeting place for the Historical Society, for programs and special times such as the Henry County Fair Living History Encampment which began in 2003.
Many individuals and business firms have aided the Historical Society in restoring the log home and furnishing it. Each one is thanked for helping preserve Henry County history.
The Henry County Commissioners and the Henry County Fair Board Directors have aided much by their continued interest and support in the restoration of the Nathaniel Hartman Log Home and for providing a site for it. The Henry County Historical Society members are very appreciative of those who have helped so very much.
The Next Chapter
In 2017 the Henry County Historical Society took next steps in preserving the Log Home. The Board voted and approved for the entire second floor/loft area to be re-installed back to its near original appearance.
Flooring was donated by Tony Huener of Napoleon. An original staircase, door, and bead-board paneling from the log home of John McIlvan which originally sat on the corner of County Road-15 and County Road S were donated by Arnold Miller.
The second floor loft was installed by Taylor Moyer and Allison Repass. The staircase, bead-board paneling, and closet door were installed by Terry Cohrs.
Chinking, window restoration, and the addition of a front porch and rear door awning to provide protection from rain water were constructed by Phil Johnson, Tom Jenny, and Art German. The staining and finishing touches were perfected by Phil Johnson.
After extensive research and documentation Taylor Moyer wrote and published a book documenting the family history of the log home. This book provided proof and successfully identified who built and constructed the log home. The book titled Between These Four Walls: The History of the Henry County Historical Society’s Log Home provides a narrative and timeline of both the Hartman and Ritter families but also some information about the Vajen family who also lived inside the home.
On June 10, 2018, the Nathaniel Hartman Log Home was rededicated with an official marker unveiled by Joseph Ritter’s great-great-great Grandson Bill Hudson. The marker can be viewed on the front of the log home daily.
The same year the Henry County Chamber of Commerce featured the log home on its annual Christmas ornament for the Holiday Season.
Special Thanks to those who have helped preserve the Log Home over the many years!
Henry County Fair Board
Russ and Marleen Patterson
Peggy & Phil Johnson
Rose & Henry Wiemken
Taylor & Ashley Moyer