Thursday, May 21, 2015

Upcoming June 5th Tour features the History of Two Lake County Lighthouses only .8 miles apart

In 1807 a proposal for a canal system was made.  Ten years later construction officially began.  On October 26, 1825 a 363 mile-36 lock Erie Canal opened connecting New York-the Atlantic Ocean-and the Great Lakes.  New York eclipsed Philadelphia as the largest seaport on the east coast.  The Erie Canal is said to be the most extraordinary feat of engineering of the 19th century.  The impact of the canal had an even greater footprint in what was soon to be Lake County.  The opening of the canal now allowed commercial shipping into the Great Lakes and made Lake Erie an important hub in history.  The ports of Madison and Fairport became key sites in early shipping history.  The removal of the need to portage allowed both communities to rise up during the mid-to-late 1800's.

The Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport (Harbor was added in 1959) was commissioned in 1825.  Under the auspices of the United States Lifesaving Service its light shone for nearly a hundred years.  Reknowed Western Reserve architect Jonathon Goldsmith was charged with its build.  Samuel Butler was its first keeper.  Its history included fourteen keepers,  participating in the UGRR and the Mormon Migration, being rebuilt in 1871 as well as witnessing maritime events on the Great Lakes.  A third order Fresnel Lens, 1876 Life Car, famous ship's mast from 1843 and 1904 Oil House are just some of the many stories that will be shared on a tour Friday night June 5th.

The Fairport Westbreakwater Lighthouse's story dates back to approximately 1907.  A wall was under construction on the west side of the Grand River.  The original 1825 lighthouse was nearing its end as a navigational aid and Cleveland was now the hub of Lake Erie shipping commerce.  Prefabricated steel shell lighthouses were soon to be in place in Ashtabula (1904) and Lorain (1916) replacing older original generation versions.  On June 21, 1921 the steamer Wotan delivered the shell of a new lighthouse to Fairport.  Four years later it was commissioned and to this day remains an active aid to navigation.  Tended by the USCG its last live-in-crew was around 1948.  In 2012 the keeper's dwelling was sold to a private owner who is currently renovating and preserving the 42' structure.  2015 marks the Westbreakwater Lighthouse's 90th anniversary.  The owner will be on hand on June 5th to share her summer residence and lighthouse's history.

Sign-up for the tour at or call 440-354-4825 for more information.  The deadline is June 1st.



SAMUEL BUTLER                  1825-1833

ELIJAH DIXON                        1833-1839

JEREMIAH O. BALCH             1839

NEHEMIA MERRITT              1839-1841

THOMAS GREER                    1845-1846

ISAAC SPEAR                           1846-1849

HENDRICK E. PAINE              1849-1853

OLMSTED BAKER                  1853-1856

HALSEY H. BAKER                1856-1861

JAMES McADAMS                 1861-1865

GEORGE F. RODGERS          1865-1871

JOSEPH C. BABCOCK          1871-1881

GEORGE L. RIKER                 1881-1900

DANIEL BABCOCK                 1919-1925


Thursday, May 14, 2015

UGRR Bus Tour Highlights County's Role in important era of American History

The UGRR is one of the best known chapters in American history yet in many ways it is the least examined.  The facts and documents/primary sources often do not match. This is true in Lake County.  Some known facts are 40% of all slaves passed thru Ohio.  Another is The Fugitive Slave Law, enacted in 1850 was already a hotbed issue some 40 years earlier in Ohio.  Another includes locals Samuel Butler, Phineas Root, Seth Marshall, Eber Howe and Uri Seeley who were active abolitionists of the day.  All resided in what was to become Lake County.  Four principal UGRR routes led to Fairport and Madison.  Research also reveals that Harvey Johnson was not the first slave to pass thru and return to settle in the county.  Over 40 blacks were living in Lake County before the Civil War though their stories remain relatively obscure.  These are just a few of the UGRR stories to be examined later this month.

The upcoming bus tour sponsored by Lake Metroparks on May 28th will look at our rich past and the history of runaway slaves and their journey thru portions of Lake County.  Many crossed over and arrived in Canada either by way of Lake Erie or by crossing over the Detroit River.  In our county many attained freedom via the commercial docks of Fairport or Madison.  One final destination was Chatham, Ontario - a mecca for black society. Other Canadian communities included Dresden, Port Stanley, Port Burwell and Port Royal

A Local Self Driving Tour -
Start at Big Creek at Liberty Hollow ( A Lake Metroparks property and one home of Eber Howe)
Uri Seeley House - 969 Riverside Road
Moodey House - 208 S. State St.
Judge Hitchcock site - 254 S. State St.
House Home-311 S. South St.
Seth Marshall site - 375 Bank St.
Mathews House - moved to Lake Erie Campus since 1949
Eber Howe's other home - corner of N. State & Jackson St.
Morley House - 231 N. State St.
Sidley House - 463 Casement Rd.
First Congregational Church - 22 Liberty St.
Grand River Lighthouse at Fairport Harbor -129 Second St.
Dock Rd & Arcola Creek - Madison
Unionville Tavern - 7935 S. Ridge Rd.

 Need more tour information - contact Lake Metroparks @ 440-639-7275 or visit

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Lake County, Ohio - Iron Industry Began Here

Lake County does not come immediately to mind when one mentions 'iron'.  The names Youngstown, Cleveland and Warren would be the better guess.  However long before these cities came into play, it was Lake County that had a thriving iron industry, specifically the Madison area.  The era was the early to mid-1800's.

Bog iron was discovered by surveyors attempting to lay the course for a 70' wide road from Cleveland to Erie, Pa. The year was 1812.  The ore was scattered throughout the Madison area from Middle Ridge to Lake Erie over acres of land.  Early furnaces appeared in Mentor as cast iron plows and iron bells were cast.  In 1824 an iron works was established on the banks of the Grand River for the production of cooking and potash kettles.  The first furnace to refine iron was built in 1826 by Erie Furnace Company.  Samuel Wheller and Cyrus Cunningham bought 52 acres that had bog ore on it.  Soon an industry developed extending from Hubbard Road to County Line Road as well as from Middle Ridge to the Lake.

By 1825 three additional furnaces were built.  Another four were added in 1833.  Natural resources made the area well suited for manufacturing.  Resources and a Lake for transportation were ideal for the early businessmen.  A small furnace was renamed Arcole in 1831 and sold to Samuel Wilkerson and Uri Seeley.  Today this area is Arcola Road.  Their furnace was in its day the largest industry in Ohio.  Production totals hit 1500 tons annually.  Twenty years of prosperity resulted and Madison was second to Painesville in population- both larger than nearby Cleveland. Ore production and agriculture were the leading exports in the late '40s.  A port located on Dock Road became the shipping hub of the era alongwith the neighboring Grand River-Fairport location.

The mid-1800's saw the demise of the iron industry in the county.  Bog iron was running out and newly found sites elsewhere yielded a better quality ore.  Charcoal necessary for the furnaces were harder and more expensive to obtain. Arcole Iron Co. was sold and other furnaces simply abandoned.  The Dock Road / Madison Port was a ghost town by 1850.  Hundreds of settlers and homesteads transitioned to farming.  Remnants of the industrial era of Madison are few.  Cunningham's 1825 home is still in use and the one furnace building remains as a moment frozen in time.  The blue rocks or slag still can be found in the gardens of the locals.

source - articles from the Western Reserve and Lake County Historical Societies