Wednesday, May 29, 2013

The Schooner Madeline - 1845

There was a time in history in the 1800's when Madison and Fairport were the two leading ports on Lake Erie.  During this period of history, nearly four decades in duration, shipbuilding was a major industry.  With the completion of the Erie Canal (1825) and both villages prime locations on Lake Erie for refueling and commerce, it is easy to surmise why both were key sites in Lake County's early industrial development.

Madison shipbuidling began in 1828 and flourished thru 1863.  Dock Road was the leading by-way for this era of history.  The Schooners Bailey (1830), Flying Dutchman (1845), Helen (1835), Tug George Mitchell (1844), Post Boy (1847), and Speed (1848) were some of the first vessels built.

In Grandon / Fairport,  the shipbuilding trade arrived around the year 1826 with the launch of the schooner "United States" and lasted thru the end of the century.  All - in -all over 50 vessels were built in Fairport and vicinity.  Here is the story of one of the schooners - The Madeline

The Madeline was built in in Fairport,Ohio in the winter of 1844-1845 for owners at Mackinac Island.  Her length overall was 92', length on deck 55', beam 16' and draft 7'.  The height of her masts were 68' and 71'.  The Madeline's gross tonnage was 50.  Woods native to Northern Michigan were used.  The white oak was the preferred material while native pine comprised the decking.  Mackinac was her home for nearly 17 seasons.  Owners included Henry Selby, William Scott, William C. Hubert, George Kirtland, Thomas Chambers, and the Fitzgerald brothers.  Her early years saw her serving mostly the commercial fishing industry carrying barreled fish to the Lower Lakes.  The summer of 1947 saw the Madeline chartered as a replacement lightship for the schooner Ocean.  After a brief mishap, the Madeline ventured into a new career path.  The year 1851-52 saw the schooner journey to Grand Traverse Bay and become an educational tool.  William, Michael and John Fitzgerald-grandson of Edmund Fitzgerald, William Bryce, and Edward Chambers had storied careers and their students served many years as Great Lakes captains.  Chambers even became a lightkeeper at Whitefish Point.  In 1856, Madeline was reported to have carried Mackinac Islanders to Beaver Island when the Mormons were forced out after the assassination of King Strang.  The Madeline ended her active career in the Milwaukee vicinity sometime after 1862 while owned and captained by Peter Colberg and Charles Nelson.  Eventually abandoned in the mud of the Milwaukee rivers, her legacy survives today in a rebuilt vessel that travels the Lakes each season.  The Madeline last visited Fairport in the mid-2000's and will be part of the War of 1812 anniversary celebration reenactment on September 8, 2013 near Put-In-Bay.

Monday, May 20, 2013

FHHS Program on Thursday, May 23 -- 1850: Death on Lake Erie The Saga of the G.P. Griffith

Considered one of Lake Erie's worst disasters, the saga of the sidewheeler Griffith is that of up to an estimated 320 lives lost.  When the steamship G.P. Griffith burned off the shore of Willoughby on June 17,1850, efforts to ground the vessel came up 600' short.  Most of the immigrant bodies washed up in Willowick and were never identified.  Every child perished, and every women save one.  Come listen to the tragic tale as author Jim Hopkins retells the story and the resulting tale of the knoll mass gravesite that fell victim to Erie's shoreline.

The presentation and book talk will be held in the downstairs community room of the Fairport Harbor Public Library on Thursday, May 23, 2013 from 7-8pm.  The library is located on Vine Street and is connected to Harding High School.  This program is the second of three educational lectures sponsored by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society. Additional assistance for this program is also provided through the generosity of the Fairport Harbor Friends of the Library.

An Ohio Historical Marker 9-43 has been placed near the grounds of the disaster site on East 305th Street in Willowick.  The story of the Griffith disaster and other Lake Erie boating disasters may be found at the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse and Marine Museum which opens to the public for its 68th season this coming weekend.  Visit or call 440-354-4825 during open hours to speak to a society volunteer.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Lake County's Great Horticultural Industry - A Brief Retrospect

According to a July 30, 2012 News-Herald article,  'Lake County's Great Horticultural Industry' is the working title of a book in progress by Jim Zampini and Albert Rhone.  A recent lecture presented in conjunction with Mentor's Fiftieth Anniversary Celebration featured Nurseries as the main topic.  As a youth, I remember several former nurseries dotted the landscape on my way to school or sports activities.  Here is an incomplete listing of nurseries then and now with some key dates in Lake County history.  Do you recall Stropkey (1938), Martin's (1934), Klyn (1921), Gilson (1947), Secor, Wyatt (1925,1940), Havel's (1936), Wayside (1917), Kern (1941), Bosley (1928), Horton's, Kallay (1932), Youdath, West, Bowhall, Cole, C. Merkel & Sons (inc. 1917), and others.  To Castello's, Fracci (1921), Demeter,  Ballantine, Borlin and other florists I save you for another date.

Location is the key to any industry's success and it seems Lake County's southern shoreline, soil and climate guaranteed the right mix of ingredients for sustained horticultural industry growth from the outset.  Madison and Perry became the hotbed of the industry's origins and Fairport-Nursery Road and Route 84 became the start of the nursery corridor of the U.S.  In time, Painesville, Mentor, and Willoughby joined in the horticultural industry expansion.

Jesse Storrs arrived in Lake County in 1854 and is generally considered the first to venture into the industry.  With his purchase of 80 acres on Bacon and Fairport-Nursery Road, he grew trees, shrubs, vines, flowers, evergreens, and roses.  In a short time his efforts and hybridized plants made Storrs the leading U.S. Nursery Giant.  J.J. Harrison of Painesville sought to start his own nursery enterprise but partnered with Storrs instead and another chapter in Lake County history began.  Harrison's expertise in tree grafting and reproduction led to new stock and assured Storrs, Harrison and Company as leaders in horticultural sciences.  By 1927, their company occupied 1500 acres and was the country's largest departmental nursery.

Storrs was also the training ground for the future nurserymen who would eventually dot the county landscape.  In fact by the late 1930's and into the next decades Lake County became known as the nursery capital of the world, shipping products all over.  Famous names to emerge from the Storrs employment ranks included Cole, Dugan, Bosley, Wayside, Klyn, Youdath and others.

M.H. Horvath came to America and settled in Mentor.  His landscaping enterprise led to experimenting with roses and in time great commercial success.  J.J. Kern and Melvin Wyatt also founded nurseries in Mentor and developed specialized rose products.  Phillip Hagenburger arrived in the Mentor area in the late 1800's and in time established a greenhouse enterprise on Hart Street.  Harry Coulby built his Wickliffe Villa in 1895 and hired Italian immigrants to work his property.  Nick Vitantonio and Mike Marinello established vineyards on Euclid Avenue.  Wayside Gardens occupied the Daniel Sawyer house property on Mentor Avenue.  Felix Zampini and Sons began in Painesville on a 1/4 acre lot.  By 1962, Zampini Nursery had relocated to Perry and was a county leader in the industry.  Son Jim's impact and far-reaching influence was acknowledged in a July 30, 2012 article by the local paper.

As you travel the roads of Lake County, if you look closely you will see remnants of the nursery captital of the world.  Many nurseries still exist, i.e., Martin's, Secors, Wyatt's, C. Merkel while some gave way to a bowling alley and drugstore - Horton's but all-in-all Lake County's status in the discipline of horticulture is unrivaled.

Some information gleaned from Marilyn Bergen article and 'Roses to Retail' by B. Davis

Monday, May 6, 2013

"Madison Truly is Living History"

Test your Madison IQ-

Q 1.  First settled in 1802, what other names preceded the name Madison, which was officially adopted in 1867.
Q 2.  From 1825-1851, this product found near Dock Road was the primary commercial business enterprise.  Timber soon followed as another major industry.  Name this early industrial product.
Q 3.  From 1828-1863, this industry made Madison a significant Great Lakes port.  In fact, Madison was the largest port of the era, followed by Fairport Harbor and then Cleveland.
Q 4.  What railroad came to Madison in 1852 as a result of its commercial successes?
Q. 5  A cabinet from Fred Ellis' business which closed in 1963 is now a focal point of a historical society collection.  Name Mr. Ellis' business which began in 1923.
Q. 6  Who is the only living founder of the Madison Historical Society?

The Madison Historical Society turns 35 this month and will celebrate its accomplishments on May 10th with its annual dinner.  Time still exists to reserve a spot at this significant event in Lake County history.  As mentioned earlier, what eventually became known as Madison - after President James Madison - had it earliest settlers arrive in 1802.  Some 175 years passed by before a historical group was founded.  It was at an estate sale on Middle Ridge Road that a chance meeting of Louanna Billington, Donna Keyes, and Alice Waterman resulted in an epiphany.  Their idea was to preserve, display and make accessible the public historical information of their hometown.  The first items saved came from that estate sale.  Within a few years, their dream became a reality.  The Madison Historical Society was founded in 1978.  The first board members were President Billington, secretary Geraldine Rhodes, Vice President Keyes, treasurer Louise Sedgeley and Lois Stanton.  Other board members included Catherine B. Rose , James Waterman, Rosemary Wayman, and Richard Hart.

Since 2010, the historical society has been located at 136 W. Main Street.  Madison artifacts, photos, documents, and displays comprise their vast collection. Nearly 250 members have joined the organization in their support of its mission.  Visitors are welcome during open hours.  If time or distance prevents you from a visit, then you can purchase a copy of  current board member Denise Machaud's book "Madison' Images of America - by Arcadia Publishers.

Sources -  Simon Husted - May article -The News-Herald,, and The Madison Historical Society
Answers to the IQ quiz may be found in Machaud's book or online.