Monday, August 31, 2020

Volunteer Bay – Part 5

Plaque in the private lakefront park at Volunteer Bay
Volunteer Bay continued to be mentioned in the local newspaper in the 1950s and 60s, usually due to the annual Memorial Day ceremonies held there, honoring fallen comrades.

This article in the May 23, 1958 Sandusky Register notes that since the Spanish War Veteran Association was formed in the early 1920s, it had lost 54 members – of which 46 were either veterans or their family members.

This article from the May 29, 1959 Sandusky Register outlines Vermilion’s various Memorial Day activities, which included memorial services at Volunteer Bay.
A “50-star flag presentation” was part of the Memorial Day ceremony at Volunteer Bay as noted in this article from the May 18, 1961 Sandusky Register. The 50-star flag had only been adopted in July 1960.
When Volunteer Bay was first established in 1922, an eleven-room house on the property that had been part of the John M. Johnson farm was put to use as a clubhouse and hotel. Well, in 1965 a new memorial clubhouse was dedicated, as noted in this photo and accompanying caption that appeared in the September 23, 1965 Sandusky Register.
And here are a few recent photos of the clubhouse, taken in preparation for this post.
Although the Spanish-American War may not be as well known or understood as other conflicts, its Veterans deserve to be remembered – and they are not forgotten at Volunteer Bay.
Back in 2019 (here), I wrote about a memorial tablet in Lorain’s Veteran Park honoring the USS Maine (the destruction of which led to our involvement in the Spanish-American War).

Friday, August 28, 2020

Volunteer Bay – Part 4

Although the Spanish-American War had been over for more than a half-century, there were still Spanish War Veterans living at Volunteer Bay in the 1950s.

Read about a few of these old gents, as well as a nice history of Volunteer Bay, in this interesting article that ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer on May 30, 1955. A block of photos that accompanied the original Plain Dealer article can be found at the bottom of this post.

Spanish War Community 
Is Near Vermilion


There’s a snug harbor three miles west of Vermilion.

Volunteer Bay was the name given to this haven by the Spanish-American War veterans who established it.

Here the veterans in their declining years sit by the side of Lake Road and watch the rest of the world go by.

Traffic is heavy on Ohio Route 2 and U. S. Route 6, which cuts through Volunteer Bay.

But not many of the veterans are content with sitting. Despite advancing years, they are a lively bunch.

Idea Born in 1922
As time has depleted the ranks of the volunteers, sons and daughters of the veterans have succeeded them in the little community.

Volunteer Bay has 100 members, of whom 13 are veterans of the war with Spain.

There are 23 sons and daughters belonging to the Spanish War Veteran Association. Twelve widows of veterans live at Volunteer Bay.

Back in 1922 the idea of Volunteer Bay was born at a meeting in Cleveland of veterans of the conflict.

The meeting was prompted by the plight of a comrade in arms who had fallen on ill days. Out of work, getting old and faced with a future living on a government pension, the veteran needed help.

Bought 52-Acre Farm
A haven where the aging Spanish-American War veteran could get by on a limited income was the solution, the organizers decided. Volunteer Bay was the answer.

For $35,000, a good figure in those days, the old Johnson farm of 52 acres was purchased by the association. The land is bounded by Lake Erie on the north and the New York Central System tracks on the south.

Because all the men who fought in the Spanish-American War were volunteers, the name Volunteer Bay was selected.

The land was divided into 278 lots and originally leased only to veterans of the Spanish war holding an honorable discharge. Later the lots were offered to others.

Roads Have Military Names
Volunteer Bay is governed by a board of trustees elected for three-year terms. The board, in turn, elects the association’s officers.

The community has its own water system, buying water from Vermilion and distributing it to the members. Roads and grounds are cared for by the association.

There is little room left for doubt that Volunteer Bay is the home of old soldiers. The gravel roads running north and south bear such names as Infantry, Cavalry and Artillery Roads. Navy Lane runs parallel to Lake Road. Marine Road forms the east boundary of the land.

Last Organizer Nears 78
A park overlooking an 800-foot-long beach is called McKinley Parade. Dewey Field is a natural amphitheater where the veterans in younger years played baseball. Woods at the south end of the land are called San Juan Hill.

Last of the original organizers, Frederick A. Stanley, 78 on June 16, lives at Volunteer Bay with his wife, Minnie, who is past Ohio department president of the United Spanish War Veterans Auxiliary.

Stanley helped guard Washington during the war. He is a retired railway mail service employee.

Lakewood Veteran There
A veteran of service in Puerto Rico living there is Herman Holl, 78. Holl is a retired tool and die maker and lived in Lakewood until he moved to the Bay.

Ulrich J. Bauer, 76, calls Volunteer Bay “the best place on earth.” He has lived there 10 years since retiring as a school custodian in Lorain.

Bauer has the job of keeping up the grounds. He served in Cuba.

Another retired railroad employee living there is Harry F. Keeling, 79, who was with the Fifth Ohio Volunteers. They were ready to sail from Tampa to Cuba when the war ended.

Hit by Cannon Ball
A wounded veteran of the Spanish War is Emil Schellmann, 78, who lives with his wife, Pearl, at the Bay. He was wounded in the Battle of San Juan Hill when a solid cannon ball fired by the Spanish hit his left foot, crippling it.

Schellmann has lived at Volunteer Bay since 1942, following his retirement from the old Cleveland Railway Co., for which he was a conductor 31 years.

Life moves at a slow pace at Volunteer Bay. There will be no formal Memorial Day rites, but the boys who are still there have a wealth of memories of their departed comrades.
Next: The Clubhouse

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Volunteer Bay – Part 3

The current sign at the eastern approach to Volunteer Bay
Volunteer Bay enjoyed regular mentions in the Sandusky Register over the years, in a column entitled, “Soldiers’ Home” with news about the Ohio Soldiers' and Sailors' Home in Sandusky.

This April 5, 1938 column notes that the United Spanish War Veterans were celebrating their 40th Anniversary that year. Volunteer Bay is mentioned as the location for an upcoming Corn Roast and Picnic sponsored by the Booster Association.

A few months later, this ‘Soldiers’ Home’ column from the August 4th Sandusky Register notes an upcoming Booster picnic dinner on August 14th at Volunteer Bay, “where the Spanish American War Veterans have a summer colony with splendid beach for swimming and boating.”
That Corn Roast received another plug in the August 12, 1938 Sandusky Register.
Apparently it was possible for Volunteer Bay owners to sell their summer cottages to the general public, judging from this ad that ran in the Sandusky Register on August 16, 1940.
With the passing of many years and apparent difficulty in locating some Spanish War Veterans and/or their heirs, the lawyers for the Spanish War Veteran Association filed a ‘quiet title suit’ in August 1948. (My understanding is that this type of lawsuit is used to “quiet” or remove a claim in order to clarify ownership of the property.)
This official legal notice appeared in the Sandusky Register on August 23, 1948. The top portion (below) is a roll call of the various people and/or their heirs that the Spanish War Veterans Association had been unable to locate.
The balance of the notice provides a nice legal description of the property, including a mention of the former owners (John M. Johnson and his wife). The legal notice also defines how and where the Lake Shore Electric Railway and the Lake Shore & Michigan Southern Railroad crossed the property.
This portion of a vintage drawing from the Erie County Tax Map website shows Lot No. 33 in Vermilion Township, where the Spanish American Veterans property is located. The ROAD indicated is Lake Road; the dotted line immediately below it is the path of the Lake Shore Electric Railway.
There is still an old Lake Shore Electric passenger shelter on the Volunteer Bay grounds, decorated with the old Stop number (137).

For a well-written historical account of the various Lake Shore Electric Railway stops associated with this area (including the Shore Inn indicated on the map), visit this page on Drew Penfield’s Lake Shore Rail Maps website.
Next: A 1950s look at Volunteer Bay

Wednesday, August 26, 2020

Volunteer Bay – Part 2

So how long has the Spanish War Veterans' summer camp community at Volunteer Bay been there? This article from the December 31, 1921 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer reveals some of the details.

As the article notes, “Spanish War Veterans of Ohio are planning to establish a summer camp on the shores of Lake Erie, two miles west of Vermilion, with cottages for 325 veterans and their families, according to announcement made yesterday by W. A. Grigsby, 521 Caxton building, who with George Vaughan, chapter of Cramer Camp, No. 6 S. W. V., is promoting the project.
“We have forty-two acres under option,” said Grigsby. “We plan to lay this out in 325 lots. Thirty-three lots have been sold to veterans. A strip of land 300 feet long and 250 feet wide has been retained for common use as a bathing beach and campaign ground. A grove of several acres also will be used as a campaign ground in common.
“An eleven-room house now on the land will be converted into a club house and hotel.
“Our idea is to make this a resort where Spanish War veterans can send their families for the summer and where they can spend their vacations. Arrangements probably will be worked out to enable organizations of veterans throughout the country to use the resort at times.
“My own idea is to make of this land a mecca and headquarters for Spanish War veterans throughout the nation.”
By the summer of 1922, there were already newspaper reports of the Spanish War Veterans enjoying their new property. 
Under the heading, “SPANISH WAR VETERANS TO PICNIC – Promise Old Fashioned July 4 Celebration at Vermilion,” a small article in the Plain Dealer of June 25, 1922 noted, “An old fashioned celebration is promised for the annual Fourth of July basket picnic of the Spanish War Veterans at Stop 137, near Vermilion.
“Spanish War veterans from all over the state and their families have been invited to attend. The program includes boating, foot racing and baseball games.”
An article in the Plain Dealer published on July 5, 1922 reporting on Cleveland’s holiday celebration of the day before mentioned the Spanish war veterans' activities out at Stop 137.
Just as envisioned, the Spanish War Veterans camp was made available to a variety of veterans groups and their families. An article in the June 30, 1923 Chronicle-Telegram noted, “Arrangements were made for a picnic of all Lorain County Spanish War veterans and their families to be held at the Volunteer Bay Resort, early in August."
This small item from the social pages of the August 14, 1927 News Journal notes an upcoming weeklong visit to Volunteer Bay by Mrs. Ralph Gretzinger and Mrs. T. A. Barrett, and their children.
And this one from the August 14, 1929 Plain Dealer noted that Mrs. Lena Hall and Mrs. Mary Weller were going to be hosting women’s auxiliary groups (of both the Grand Army of the Republic and the United Spanish War Veterans) at their summer homes at Volunteer Bay.
Next: Into the 1930s and 40s

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Volunteer Bay – Part 1

Summer is rapidly winding down, so let’s head out to Vacationland for a few days.

The blog has already spent some time in Beulah Beach this summer; how about another jaunt down U. S. Highway 6 to Volunteer Bay?

Volunteer Bay is another one of those blink-and-you-miss-it places on West Lake Road, west of Vermilion. For many years, I have driven by the small lakefront park with the ancient cannon and big white “VB” letters, wondering, “What was that all about?”

To find out, let’s first consult my copy of Lake Erie Vacationland in Ohio – Revisiting a 1941 Travel Guide to the Sandusky Bay Region. It includes a brief entry: “Only members and their guests have the use of the SPANISH-AMERICAN VETERANS’ CAMP, 5.5 m., a summer camp (R) with cottages, a clubhouse, and a bathing beach.

Much like the 103rd Ohio Volunteer Infantry bought land in Sheffield Lake for use as a summer camp for their Civil War veterans reunions, the Spanish War Veterans Association of Cleveland, Ohio had their summer camp and private community at Volunteer Bay. Over the years, cottages originally built for use in the summer have become year-round residences.

Tomorrow, we’ll get into Volunteer Bay's early history.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Change On the West Side

Last week’s posts all dealt with the annexation of Black River Township land in the late 1950s and early 60s that resulted in the city of Lorain as we know it today, with a huge west side miles from the mouth of the Black River.

And that west side – the part of Lorain that I grew up in – is still experiencing a lot of change.

Since I’ve been living slightly outside of Lorain for some time (almost twenty years in Sheffield Lake and two in Vermilion, my present home), I’m not always up on what’s happening in my hometown. Thus it was a complete surprise earlier this year to see a brand new Shell gas station pop up on the southeast corner of Tower Boulevard and Leavitt Road, across from Lighthouse Village shopping center. It’s not quite done yet.

It wasn’t even that long ago that the old-style transmission tower there was replaced with the newfangled pole (which I wrote about here) and the corner was empty. But I’m impressed that at least it’s a national brand, instead of one of those weird mom-and-pop gasoline brands that you see just off the New York Thruway in the Seneca Nation.

It’s especially sad to see the old Emerald Valley Golf Club building sitting forlornly on the hill, with the land behind it being prepped for something.

It was also strange to see that the old closed soccer academy next door is now a Sprenger health care facility called Silver Maple. How did I miss that?

I can’t forget the new No. 7 fire station going up on the southwest corner of Kolbe Road and West Erie, that I mentioned in a post last week. When the station is finished, it will be quite nice.

But it’s quite a ways from Meister and Leavitt, where the No. 7 station was located when I was a kid in the 60s and 70s. (It always felt good knowing the station was only about 2 minutes away from our house on Skyline Drive.)

So the current No. 7 station on West Park Drive will soon be closed, just like the long shuttered Nickles Thrift Store next door. Gee, why am I suddenly in the mood for some Hillbilly Bread?

I guess this long-faded sign on West Park will come down as well. Hey, that looks like Black River Township’s 1913 hose truck on the sign.

Friday, August 21, 2020

The End of Black River Township – Part 5

1857 Map of Black River survey township, which in 1857 simultaneously
reflected its civil township boundaries. (For an explanation of the difference between
a civil township and a survey township, see Part 1 of this blog series.)
By June of 1963, there were only three small sections of Black River Township that were not yet annexed to the city of Lorain. City Council gave the go-ahead to proceed with the process of annexation of two of them, as noted in this article from the Chronicle-Telegram of June 18, 1963.

Finally, by late July 1964, the handwriting was on the wall for Black River Township. 
This article from the July 20, 1964 Lorain Journal notes that the township would cease to exist on August 1. Thus it was necessary to decide how to divvy up the township’s assets.
Lorain Gets 99 Percent Of Black River Assets
ELYRIA – County, city and township officials met this morning for talks on the final disposition of Black River Township assets.
According to two resolutions, which will be passed today by the Board of County Commissioners, the appraisal total of assets amounts to $117,100.
Of that amount, according to a breakdown by County Auditor Joseph Mitock, 99.996 percent goes to the city of Lorain with .004 to be allocated to Amherst Township. 
Included in the total is the Black River Township Fire Station building appraised at $53,000; land $15,000; house $13,000; and three fire trucks worth $18,000 as well as other equipment. Officials were attempting to determine this morning whether or not to allocate $468.40 in cash or a piece of equipment to Amherst Township on the basis of the formula.
Black River Township will cease to exist as a political subdivision on Aug. 1. The 10-day period will be the transition period.
J. Norman Thompson, county commissioner, pointed out that it was the intent of the board to pass the resolution today so the Lorain City Council could have the legislation tonight for its meeting. The formula will go into effect on Aug. 1.
Attending the meeting were Lorain City Solicitor, Adrian F. Betleski; Fire Chief Alfred H. Nickley; Sheffield Township official Eugene Balogh; Black River Township Trustees Floyd E. Holloway and Thomas L. Johnson and Clerk Jackson F. Smith; Mitock; Amherst Mayor Marvin R. Davis; County Prosecutor Paul Mikus and Commissioners Ludwig M. Pincura, James P. Horn and Thompson.
On August 1, 1964, Black River Township was officially ‘wiped off the county map,’ as reported in the article below from the Chronicle-Telegram that day. It had existed since 1817. As Lorain County Prosecuting Attorney Paul J. Mikus pointed out, “the event marked the first time in Lorain County history that a township had gone out of existence.”

Black River Township is
wiped off the county map


The final page in the history of Black River Township was written last night as township trustees held their final meeting to sign over township assets to the city of Lorain.

At midnight the township went out of business.

The area is now part of Charleston Township, created April 15, with boundaries conforming to those of the city of Lorain.

Black River Township has slowly dwindled in size in the last several years through annexation to Lorain. After the recent annexation of the remaining few parcels of land, amounting to about 10 acres, the township had no further reason to exist.

Property transferred
Titles to four parcels of property were transferred to Lorain at last night’s meeting at the Black River Fire Station, Leavitt and Meister Rds.

Three form the site of the fire station, which is within the Lorain City Limits. The other is the location of Lorain Fire Station Number One on Fourth St., purchased by the township in the early 1890’s. Half interest in the property was later transferred to Lorain for the fire station, but the township retained use of one room for meetings.

Total assets are valued at $117,100, including $21,081 in the township treasury. All township records will go to the office of Lorain City Auditor Antone Ujhelyi.

Also transferred were titles to the fire station building and an adjoining house, three fire trucks and other fire equipment.

Township legal advisor and Lorain County Prosecuting Attorney Paul J. Mikus pointed out that the event marked the first time in Lorain County history that a township had gone out of existence.

Trustees out-of-office
The trustees who went out of office at midnight are Floyd E. Holloway, Thomas L. Johnson, Charles P. Toth, chairman, and Jackson Smith, township clerk.

The gavel used at the final meeting was presented to the board of Lorain County Commissioners, represented at the meeting by J. Norman Thompson. Thompson said he would recommend that it be marked with the date and occasion and presented to the Lorain County Historical Society.

The first township officials were elected in 1817 when a total of 17 voters cast their ballots for 15 candidates.

In addition to Ujhelyi, the City of Lorain was represented by Solicitor Adrian F. Betleski. Also present were Joseph Zahorec, zoning inspector.

A small part of township assets will go to Amherst Township, according to a distribution worked out by the county commissioners. Lorain received 99.996 per cent and the remaining .004 per cent, or about $468, goes to Amherst Township.

A motion thanking the township volunteer fire department and other employes for their many years of service was made by Toth, and approved by the trustees.

Volunteer firemen
Fire chief since 1947 has been Walter Wilker, who was one of the original volunteers when the department formed in 1941.

The department ceased to exist with the township. The station will be manned by a force from Lorain Fire Department, Lorain Fire Chief Alfred G. Nickley said.

Much of the work on the fire station was done voluntarily by members of the Black River Fire Department. One of the department’s most popular traditions also now ended has been an annual Halloween party at the station that attracted between 1,000 and 1,500 person every year.

In past years the department has been in a unique position of having only four parcels of property that it could legally serve. Since the station itself is inside Lorain, the firemen would have technically had to call on the Lorain Fire Department in the event of a fire in the station.

In spite of this, the department had about 25 active volunteer members who continued to drill as usual, as well as a long list of inactive members. All of the fire department members also lived within the Lorain department’s jurisdiction and would have had to call it in case of fire at their homes.

In 2017, I did a five-part series on the little brick schoolhouse that preceded the Black River Township fire station on that corner (here). 

Thursday, August 20, 2020

The End of Black River Township – Part 4

The former Black River Township Fire Station today
This article (below) from the August 17, 1963 Chronicle-Telegram tells a story similar to yesterday’s blog of the absurd situation that the Black River Fire Station found itself in, thanks to annexation. A nice history of the fire department is also included in the article.

It’s rather timely, since Lorain is in the process of constructing a new No. 7 fire station at the corner of Kolbe Road and West Erie, replacing the one just off W. 21st Street on West Park Drive (which replaced the one originally known as the Black River Township fire station).

Black River Twp. Fire Department:
one piece of equipment per home
All dressed up and no place to go – that’s the position in which the Black River Township Fire Department will find itself when the annexation to Lorain of the few remaining acres of unincorporated property takes place.
In 1952 the growing township bought a second pumper. In 1956, a year after a third pumper was added, the township had 1,298 eligible voters. Then annexation began to eat the township away, piece by piece, the city of Lorain getting the largest share.
When the inevitable happens and the last unincorporated parcels are annexed, an ago-old township name going back to maps of the original Western Reserve Territory and early Ohio subdivisions will disappear. The township fire department will go with it.
The Black River fire department has four pieces of equipment – three pumpers, 22, 9 and 6 years old respectively, and an emergency vehicle purchased two years ago. Annexation has deleted the township to the point where the department serves only four private properties.
Still unincorporated are the properties of Frank Linn, Rt. 254 and Oberlin Ave. and three parcels on Rt. 58 near Rt. 254 owned by Dr. J. M. DeNardi, Michael Sikora, and Charles Plato. The total area is less than three acres.
City limits
The fire station is located at Meister and Leavitt Rds., two miles within Lorain city limits from the nearest piece of unincorporated property. Said Black River Fire Chief Walter Wilker, “We’re probably the only department in the country which has one piece of equipment for every home.”
The unique position of the department extends to one other land parcel west of Broadway. The dividing line between that parcel and Sheffield Township cuts right through the middle of Clearview High School Auditorium.
This means that legally, Black River firemen would be acting outside of their jurisdiction if they attempted to douse a fire in the side of the building falling within the Sheffield Township boundary. The same would hold true if Sheffield Township firemen entered the area within Black River jurisdiction.
Also remaining within Black River fire department jurisdiction is a section of Rt. 254 between Broadway and Kolbe Rd. Amherst city annexed to the middle of the road, leaving for Black River the north half.
Black River firemen, then, can put out any fire occurring on the north side of the 40-foot stretch of road, for example a car or truck fire, but they step beyond their jurisdiction if they tackle a blaze in a trash can by the roadside.
The gradual annexation of all but a minute portion of the township has left the station and its 22 men high and dry. Every one of the firemen lives within the city limits of Lorain. Chief Wilker explained, “If my own house caught on fire I would have to call in the Lorain department to put it out.”
Thus firemen would violate lines of jurisdiction if they attempted to battle a fire in a building across the street from the station.
Most ironic
Most ironic is the fact that if the Black River station itself caught fire, the men could legally take no action but to watch as the Lorain department put it out.
A conversation with Chief Wilker revealed that since the township has disappeared through annexation, the fire fighters have not been in action since the Thom McAn Shoe Store blaze in the O’Neil-Sheffield Shopping Center March 31, 1962.
What will happen to the Black River Fire Department if present action toward annexation of the remaining parcels is successful?
Lorain Solicitor Adrian Betleski said Monday the annexation would eliminate any reason for its continued existence. Therefore the Black River Fire Department as such would be dissolved.
This by no means suggests that the facilities would go unused. Officials speculate that the station and equipment would go to the city of Lorain. State law, Betleski said, provides that possessions of a previously unincorporated area becomes the property of the incorporator.
Lorain Fire Chief Alfred Nickley has made it clear in the past that he wants the Black River facilities absorbed into the city’s system. They rest in the heart of the rapidly expanding Eighth Ward.
The nearest Lorain fire station is located at 18th St. and Hamilton, and it is now responsible for the Eight Ward area.
Besides providing a new station with good equipment in an advantageous location, the Black River station could be used to store some of the apparatus now kept in the old No. 5 station on 32nd St., admitted by city officials to be an eyesore of long standing.
Also looking for a share in the township facilities is the city of Amherst. As early as June, 1962, Amherst City Solicitor Richard J. Martinek informed Lorain County Commissioners that since Amherst annexed a portion of Black River Township, it felt entitled to a share of the fire equipment when the township was dissolved.
Asked how he felt about the imminent end of the department, Chief Wilker said, “How would you feel if someone walked into your home and told you you had to get out?”
Wilker said he started the volunteer department 23 years ago. He said before annexation began seven or eight calls a day used to be a matter of course.
“Despite our recent inactivity,” he said, “The men have continued to drill and train. Two of our men will attend the Ohio State University fire training school in September.
“Our men have worked hard and learned well,” he continued. “It’s a shame that the area will lose so many men trained when the department no longer exists.
“The problem,” he said, “probably could have been solved years before it was created if a mutual aid pact had been made between Lorain and the township. In past years, when we were favorable to such a move, we found no interest in Lorain.”
The Black River department presently has mutual aid agreements with Amherst, Sheffield Township and Vermilion. It was because of the Sheffield Township pact that Black River firemen fought the Thom McAn blaze.
Before the fire department goes, however, those last parcels of unincorporated land must be annexed. An interesting facet of this is the petition submitted by Lorain Solicitor Betleski to the Lorain County Board of Elections requesting the annexation question be placed on the November ballot for township residents.
The board of elections reported that the unincorporated township areas house a grand total of eight eligible voters. Sentiment previously expressed by these residents is so aligned that a tie is a distinct possibility.
If the issue were put to a vote and defeated for lack of a simple majority, it could not, according to law, be placed on a ballot again for five years except by petition from the freeholders themselves.
Betleski said, however, that county commissioner would have the authority to annex the areas to Lorain. The Linn parcel might be annexed to the closest contiguous township, Amherst Township.
He pointed to state law which says that no township shall be laid off containing less than 22 square miles or have its boundaries so changed as to reduce the territory below that quantity, unless it includes a municipal corporation.

The Black River Township Fire Department was very proud to be the owner of a 1913 Republic fire engine that the firemen had lovingly restored. Read all about the vintage hose truck and how the department acquired it in this article that appeared in the Chronicle-Telegram on June 21, 1957.

By the way, Elmer Holzhauer, the gentleman in the photo and assistant Black River Township Fire Chief, lived in the small white house that was located immediately west of the fire station.
Photos courtesy of Lorain Historical Society
Next: Wiped Off the Map

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The End of Black River Township – Part 3

By 1962, most of Black River Township had been annexed to Lorain. However, there were still a few parcels scattered around – miles apart – that were not yet part of the city.
This created a rather unusual problem regarding the Black River Township Fire Station (shown above), located on the northeast corner of Meister and Leavitt Roads. Although the fire station was located in Lorain, it could not legally help put out a fire in the city; it could only protect properties in the rapidly shrinking township.

This article in the Wednesday, December 12, 1962 Lorain Journal explains how the Black River Township Fire Department was not allowed to fight a fire nearby – or even in its own station! The article also notes what few properties at that point were still part of the township.

Black River Fire Station: Department Without Job

Standing amid expanding housing developments on Lorain's near West Side is a well-equipped but little-used fire station, part of an annexation problem which city and county officials are attempting to resolve.

Officially known as the Black River Township Fire Station, it is located at the northeast corner of Leavitt Rd. and Meister Rd.

Contained inside the large building are four fire trucks. Two are small pumper-type trucks, basically for use in fighting grass fires, while a third is a well-equipped large pumper. The fourth is an emergency truck.

But if a fire breaks out at one of the nearby homes – or for that matter at the fire station itself – the alarm will not be sounded for response of Black River Township volunteer firemen.

Because the fire station and all surrounding land is in Lorain, Black River Township by law cannot help extinguish any such nearby blaze. Rather, equipment from one of the city's fire stations – located more than two miles away – would be forced to respond.

Looking at legalities, only those lands within Black River Township boundaries can be protected by the Leavitt Rd. - Meister Rd. fire station. And in that almost-diminished township, only five properties remain, thus giving fire protection of one truck to almost each property.

Two of those properties are located far away from the township fire station. One is the Durling Clearview School property (which in reality is only a few blocks from the Sheffield Township Fire Station), while another is property at the northwest corner of Rt. 254 and Oberlin Ave. in which there are no residents.

Three other properties are located on Leavitt Rd. near Cooper - Foster Park Blvd. – and are completely surrounded by the city of Lorain. Residents on those properties are Dr. Joseph M. DeNardi, 5411 Leavitt Rd.; Charles B. Plato, 5432 Leavitt Rd., and Michael Sikora, 5410 Leavitt Rd.

Last July Lorain officials forwarded a petition to Lorain County Commissioners asking that boundary lines of the township be made identical with the municipal corporation limits. That, according to Solicitor Adrian Betleski, would represent one step in allowing use of the Black River Township Fire Department in the city.

But the commissioners refused to take any action on the petition, referring it to Prosecutor Paul Mikus for a legal opinion instead. Since then Mikus has taken the matter under advisement.

He indicated to The Journal, however, that a decision may be forthcoming within the next few days. Mikus has spent several hours pondering a legal question of what to do with the three-parcel area on Leavitt Rd., including conferences with Betleski.

He explained that the legal problems bring a unique situation which must be decided – the fact that all three Leavitt Rd. homes still in Black River Township are completely surrounded by city corporation lines.

Thus, the question of what to do with those properties if township boundary lines are made identical with Lorain's must be solved. Mikus said he has contacted several other county prosecutors, but yet has not been able to find any precedent for that type of action.

Meanwhile, West Side Lorainites – most of whom helped pay for the fire equipment while in Black River Township – are not getting the benefit of nearby fire protection.

One caretaker at the station told The Journal that he cannot remember exactly when the last Black River Township alarm call was sounded. But the small department does have four mutual aid agreements with other townships – not including Lorain city – and last spring helped quench a blaze at O'Neil Sheffield Center.

Twenty-four men, most living in Lorain, are well-equipped and stand ready to fight fires. They conscientiously hold monthly drills and are well-trained for the task.

But in reality, they have almost no actual emergencies.

Some emergency calls still are received at the department. But the law is black-and-white, and all that can be done is to relay them to Lorain's fire headquarters.

Until the legalities are resolved and something is done, the Black River Township Fire Station will remain as a ready, but somewhat false, firefighting structure.

Next: More Fire Station Fun

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

The End of Black River Township – Part 2

Black River Township Circa 1938
By late June 1957, the residents of Black River Township were trying to decide whether to become part of the growing city of Lorain, or go it alone – as a new, incorporated village called Beaverdale.

It’s strange trying to imagine much of the west side of Lorain not being part of the city.

Nevertheless, below are two newspaper articles about the fiery discussions that took place regarding incorporation as a village vs. annexation to Lorain. The first one is from the Chronicle-Telegram of Wednesday, June 26, 1957.

Black River Incorporation Running Into Opposition
Foes Unleash Verbal Assault On Proposal At Stormy Session

The first public opposition to the proposed incorporation of Black River Township exploded last night at the first pre-hearing public meeting staged by the township Civic League.

About 60 persons – 10 definitely incorporation opponents – attended the stormy session at the Black River Township Fire Station.

A half dozen men, apparently spokesmen, fired a torrent of stinging questions at Mrs. Alice Birich and Joseph Weller, civic league leaders.

Attempts by the panel to answer the blasts brought charges of sarcasm and unfairness to opposition.

Ronald Godes of Skyline Dr., a Lorain architect, queried, “Is somebody going to make a fast buck on this incorporation deal?”

A Meister Rd. resident, Robert Roll, declared that the Ford plant is the reason why so many people have changed their minds on Lorain annexation since the township voters turned annexation down in a 2-1 vote last November.

Godes charged that the Civic League committee is composed only of persons favorable to incorporation.

Both Mrs. Birich and Weller retorted that meetings all had been announced in the newspapers and that they were public. They scorned incorporation opponents for not attending any of the earlier meetings and expressing their points of view.

“Forced Into This Proposal”
“We’ve been forced into this proposal,” Mrs Birich repeated. “We prefer to remain an unincorporated township, but we’ll create our own village rather than go into Lorain – because the people have asked us to.”

Finances, she added, are from the committee members themselves and there is no treasury to finance publication of “flyers.”

The increased attendance of last night’s session was attributed to two factors: (1) the flyer publicity and (2) organization of some opposition last week at a small meeting of Pickett Rd. area residents.

The township trustees’ public hearing on the citizens’ petition requesting a special election to decide the incorporation question will be at 7:30 July 5 at the township fire station. The next Civic League public meeting will be at 8 p.m. July 8 at Clearview School.

Don Poplar, Pickett Rd., told last night’s audience he is against incorporation because he feels taxes would go up.

Tempers Flare Up
Tony Dore, Meister Rd., was one of the speakers who frequently lost their tempers. He expressed opposition to the village incorporation proposal.

Mrs. Ed Schaeffer, a member of the Civic League, asked the opponents, why, if they were as civic minded as they now appeared to be, were they not at earlier Civic League meetings?

Bill Simonovich, Meister Rd., expressed concern over where money would come from for sewers. He said he had heard nothing of the sewage disposal plant to be built on Beaver Creek by county commissioners to help service the Ford Plant and some Black River township residents.

In response to Godes’ inquiry as to whether the next Civic League flyer would include facts about Lorain’s financial condition and annexation supporters’ point of view, Mrs. Birich retorted, “Mr. Godes, if you want Lorain facts, you will kindly do it yourself. If you want to go digging up facts like I’ve been doing this past few weeks, you go right ahead, print’em up and peddle them yourself.”

Cheaper Water Is Argument
Another opponent who voiced incorporation objections was Robert Beck, Skyline Dr.

Beck said that if the rest of the township were annexed to Lorain, it could get cheap Lorain water rather than expensive water from Amherst.

Other persons in the audience spoke of ‘underhanded’ tactics by Lorainites, particularly city officials. There were reports that two city officials have been canvassing the Skyline Dr. area “telling the people to sign the annexation petitions for their own good.”

Mrs. Birich called such reported actions “a blow below the belt.”

The Civic League has employed Henry G. King as attorney. early legal procedures were handled by Milton Friedman who requested he be relieved of his duties.

This article (below) in the Tuesday, July 9, 1957 Lorain Journal tells the story of a meeting of the anti-incorporation group a few weeks later.

Anti-Beaverdale Drive Opens
Black River Group Bids For Support
Two-Pronged Program Starts

A two-pronged attack against incorporation of Black River Township was opened last night at the second meeting of the recently-formed Black River Progressive Association at Oak Hills Country Club.

(1) Officers opened a membership campaign to gain support and financial backing for the association’s activities.

(2) The steering committee started a program based on facts and figures which members of the group have been gathering since the first meeting on July 6.

Approximately 70 percent were present when the meeting was called to order by Robert Beck, association president.

Beck explained that the Black River citizens who formed the association believe that the incorporation plan, advocated by the Black River Township Civic League, is “economically unsound.”

Beck then called on Vice President Robert Roll to read the draft of a pamphlet which the steering committee had prepared for presentation at the meeting.

The pamphlet is to consist of a series of questions about incorporation, with figures and explanations gathered from records and other official sources to show the answers.

The pamphlet was approved by voice vote, and it will be printed and distributed throughout the township.

Enrollment of 46 members was handled by Mrs. E. Kucirek, who was appointed treasurer in addition to her secretarial duties. Membership dues were set at $1.00 a year per family.

After the formal meeting, Beck invited all to remain for an open forum at which questions were answered by the steering committee and other members. On the committee, in addition to Beck and Roll, are Miss Josephine Miller, Richard Head and Mrs. William Burns.

A comparison in costs prepared by Steve Carney on taxes, water, gas, electricity, garbage collection and telephone services was presented to the panel, and was read by Beck. Carney, using his own bills for reference, showed he would save $46.41 a year if the township area were a part of the city of Lorain.

Others serving on the panel were David A. Godes and Andrew Keep, Lorain attorney.

Among those in the audience who participated actively in the discussions were Thomas Pycraft, George Werner, Frank Nardini and Mrs. William Prescott.

Next: Fire Station Without a Cause

Monday, August 17, 2020

The End of Black River Township – Part 1

Living in a township is something that has interested me for quite a while. Maybe it’s part of a Green Acres-type fantasy; living out in the country, fresh air, etc. 

So what is a township? As the Ohio History Central website defines it, "Townships are relatively small pieces of land (usually no larger than thirty-six square miles). They are created to designate landownership or to establish a form of local government.” 

"The first type of township is a survey township. These townships were created as the United States expanded. The federal government used survey townships to survey and sell public land, as well as to designate property ownership.

"The other type of township is known as a civil township."

The website describes how a civil township works. "Typically, a board of township trustees oversees the township,” it notes. "The major issues that a township government addresses are cemetery maintenance, trash collection, road upkeep, and snow removal. Civil townships are most common in rural areas, but even large cities sometimes expand around townships or parts of townships. Commonly townships are annexed into a municipality as a town or city develops and expands." 

(Did you know that Lorain County has 18 townships? They are: Amherst, Brighton, Brownhelm, Camden, Carlisle, Columbia, Eaton, Elyria, Grafton, Henrietta, Huntington, LaGrange, New Russia, Penfield, Pittsfield, Rochester, Sheffield and Wellington.)

While growing up, I came close to living in a township. The land on Skyline Drive that my parents bought to build a house on had still been a part of Black River Township as recently as the late 1950s. However, by late 1965 when we moved in, Black River Township had already been out of business for a year.

But the process of closing down Black River Township and creating the Lorain we know today didn’t happen overnight. And it didn’t happen very quietly either, as we’ll see.

It’s an interesting story, and this article (below) from the June 3, 1957 Lorain Journal gets the ball rolling in this multi-part blog series. It notes the growing number of annexation bids at that time.

7 Petitions Ask Lorain To Take In 3,500 Acres
Board Will Set Date Of Hearing


Seven petitions for the annexation to the city of Lorain of more than 3,500 acres of land in Black River and Brownhelm Townships were officially filed this morning with the county commissioners.

Two of the petitions, one for the annexation to Lorain of more than 2,000 acres of Black River and Brownhelm Townships, including the new Ford assembly plant site, and another for 200 acres in Black River Township, were filed by Frank Nardini, Lorain industrialist.

J. Norman Thompson, president of the commissioners, said, “The rush of petitions is attributed to the fact that Lorain is the only sub-division which has the facilities to adequately give services desired by the areas seeking to become a part of Lorain.”

The county commissioners, who meet quarterly on annexation matters, will set a date for hearing on the petitions. The hearings cannot be held until 60 days after today, the date the commissioners officially received the petitions.

In a surprise move, Carl F. Olson, of 3169 W. Lake Rd., filed a petition bearing 77 signatures of adult freeholders for the annexation to Lorain of property extending on bother sides of Lake Rd. west from the city limits to the Nickel Plate underpass and between Lake Erie and the Nickel Plate Railroad.

Commissioners dismissed an original petition of Olson’s in May which requested the annexation of a small area west of Lorain to the city. The dismissal was asked by Olson, agent for the petition.

The re-filing by Olson of the petition today, which takes in more land, came on the heels of the official filing of four more petitions requesting land in Black River Township to become a part of Lorain.

Next: Beaverdale??

Friday, August 14, 2020

Sandy’s Fish Sandwich Ad – August 1966

Well, it’s Friday – and even though it’s not Lent, many people still think of having fish for dinner.

I believe the American Slovak Club is still holding its well-known fish fry dinners, with an expanded carry-out menu available. Here are the links to its website and Facebook page.

For those of you that haven’t lived in Lorain for a long time, you might be surprised that the city still has a Long John Silver’s on Cooper Foster Park Road. It’s a real survivor, having been there since at least the late 1970s. I’ve carried out dinner from there a few times in the last couple of months, and the food (including the hush puppies) is as good as ever. I’m also happy to note that the previously crater-filled parking lot was recently repaved.

Anyway, back in August 1966, a fish sandwich advertised as ’the hottest and largest’ in town was available at Sandy’s in Lorain and Elyria. The ad above appeared in the Lorain Journal on August 5, 1966.

It always amuses me to see cartoon ad mascots promoting the consumption of their own kind. I guess this one was only following orders, seeing as he's dressed as a Sandy’s employee.

I guess the ad was a mild dig at arch-rival McDonald’s and its Filet O’ Fish Sandwich.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Tamsin Park Revisited – Part 2

The back of this postcard reads, “Navajo Rugs are among
the fine Indian Arts & Crafts displayed at the Indian Mill.
Tamsin Park’s unique, rustic atmosphere can largely be attributed to the strong American Indian influence.

From the colorful totem pole in front of the Ranger Station, to the collection of Indian arts and crafts inside the Indian Mill and, later, the American Indian Art Hall of Fame, it’s easy to see why Tamsin had such a special appeal.

But things began to wind down in the 1980s.

This September 1, 1983 Akron Beacon Journal article by Staff Writer Francis B. Murphey noted that the museum was going to be closed for good on November 20th, 1983.

Tom and Bertha Jones had operated the museum since 1973. (It was mentioned in one of the clippings here on the blog yesterday.)

Although the museum was closing, the article notes that the Indian Mill gift shop was going to stay open.  But the “For Sale” sign in front of the Mill and museum surely was a harbinger of things to come.

But the campground kept on going for a while. Here’s a wistful photo that appeared in the Akron Beacon Journal on September 30, 1985.

As I noted in my original blog series on Tamsin, it’s unclear exactly when the park closed. It was still open in the late 1990s, but by 2003, construction of 300 homes was planned for the property.

Here’s a Google maps aerial view of the former park property today.

As you can see, the two park lakes are still there, and figure prominently in the name of the housing development: “Hidden Lakes.”

But for those of us that camped at the park, we’ll always remember it this way (below) – as it looks on vintage postcards.

Squirrel Ridge Camping Area
The Ranger Station at the Campground Entrance