Thursday, October 29, 2015

USCG 1915-2015 and Station Fairport

As the nation's oldest maritime agency the United States Coast Guard history is one of multiple origins.  While 2015 is the centennial year of the USCG the history of the service is an amalgam of many Federal agencies dating back to 1787.  These agencies, the Revenue Cutter Service, the Lighthouse Service, the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Bureau of Navigation, the Lifesaving Service, and in recent years Homeland Security were independent and overlapping organizations that today fall under the united USCG umbrella.

August 4, 1790 marks the first day of service for 'first' U.S. maritime organization.  President George Washington realizing that income was necessary for our new nation signed a Tariff Act.  This act authorized construction of ten vessels whose primary duty would be to patrol the eastern seaboard and levy trade taxes.  Preventing smuggling and assisting vessels in distress became two additional missions.  Growth continued over the ensuing decades as our nation grew.  In 1876 a bustling Lake Erie shipping industry created a regional need.  Fairport was granted a station.  George Francis Babcock, a local resident assumed charge of Station Fairport on September 26, 1876 and remained at his post till his death in 1898.  Niels Rasmussen another local Fairporter assumed charge of the station on February 17, 1899 and was still there at its end in 1915.  The original station was situated on the east bank of the Grand River just below the hill of the local lighthouse-1825-1925.  It was moved by Babcock to combat shoreline congestion in late 1800s to the west bank of the river.  The station remained intact with some modifications for nearly one hundred years until a completed remodel /  renovation on August 15, 2014 ushered in a new era of local USCG history.

1915 saw an Act of Congress merge the Revenue Cutter Service with the U.S. Life-Saving Service.  Remember prior to the establishment of the Navy Department in 1798, this organization was our nation's only armed force afloat.  1939 saw another major change occur as President Franklin Roosevelt transferred the organization to the charge of the USCG.  This change became permanent in 1946 when Congress transferred several offices into this final umbrella.  Homeland Security became the most recent task added to the history of the USLSS-USCG after 9/11.

From the earliest volunteer groups that spearheaded the first maritime organizations to the early professional pioneers such as Fairport's Francis Babcock and Niels Rasmussen these agencies of service have a history and tradition unsurpassed in the annals of our nation.  These stories, artifacts and more may be viewed at the Fairport Harbor Lighthouse & Marine Museum - maintained by The Fairport Harbor Historical Society since 1945.

source:  USCG website, USLSS article by Dr. Dennis L. Noble, archives Fairport Harbor Historical Society

Monday, October 19, 2015

Haunted Ohio - Lake County Trivia

             Test your Ghostly I.Q. with these ten Wayward Spirit teasers…

1.  This 1890s site is situated on 525 acres and was known then as the River Farm Estate.  Rumors persist to this day of this haunted lady . Do you know the name of this uncompleted site?

2.  What is the name of the veiled lady of Kirtland’s Historic North Cemetery?

3.  Can you name any of the six haunted buildings on this Lake County college campus?

4.  What is the name of the young boy who haunts Fairport’s sentinel?

5.  Whose name appears on the solitary gravesite located on Hart Road?

6.  In 1943 owner Don Norris fell to his death from a third story floor - Name the haunted hardware store that is listed at #10 in the book Haunted Ohio.

7.  Although not specific to our county or state, what is the common name of this Ohio Cryptid?

8.  Spirits are said to frequent this 1870 Victorian Home in Painesville that once belonged to a Civil War General who married a founding member of the suffrage movement.  Name the home!

9.  This First Lady is said to haunt the upstairs of their NHS home.  Can you name her?

10.  The haunting tale led to the demise of this Medical College in Willoughby in the mid-1840s.  What future Ohio medical institutions rose from this tragic tale?

Bonus:  This 1847 Ohio Cottage is said to be haunted.  Name the community or street location of this multi-use historic facility?

answers-  1.  Squires Castle  2.  Hattie Martindale  3.  Morley, Kilcawley, Andrews, College Hall, Fine Arts, Fowler  4.  Robbie Babcock  5.  Levi Smith  6.  Willoughby Coal   7.  Melonheads  8.  Casement Home  9.  Lucretia Garfield  10.  WRU and OSU    bonus - Madison / Middle Ridge

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fairport Harbor to host Remembrance for the 40th Anniversary of Edmund Fitzgerald Disaster

The SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes 'workhorse' freighter that sank in a Lake Superior on November 10, 1975.  Lost that fateful night were Captain Ernest McSorley and his crew of 29.  Launched in June of '58, the Fitzgerald spent her seventeen years carrying taconite iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota to iron works in Detroit, Toledo and other nearby ports.  'Workhorse' was a term often used to describe the Fitz as she set seasonal haul records six times in her storied career.

Captain McSorley and his crew, including Fairport Harbor's Ed Binden left one last time on the afternoon of November 9th.  En route to Detroit the freighter and a second freighter the SS Arthur M. Anderson were caught in a sudden and severe winter storm on Lake Superior.  Hurricane force winds and waves up to 35 feet high caused its sudden sinking at 7:10pm in Canadian waters on November 10th.  They were less than two hours from a safe harbor.  At no time was a report of distress or imminent danger reported.  This maritime disaster led to major regulatory changes and practices that included survival suits, depth finders, positioning systems, freeboard increases and more.

Fairport Harbor, Ohio was and remains home to two crew members of the Fitzgerald.  Ed Binden died that fateful eve.  J. William Simko a member on the first crew lives today and recounts the service he and others performed on the mighty Edmund Fitzgerald.

A Tribute and Remembrance Ceremony will be hosted by the Fairport Harbor Historical Society on Monday, November 9, 2015 at 7pm.  The program will be held at the VFW Post 7754 site at 540 New Street in Fairport Harbor.  All are welcome.
Evening's Schedule:
7pm -  "Pride of the American Side: Edmund Fitzgerald Before the Loss" - Chris Gillchrist, The Great Lakes Historical Society will be presenting.
7:45pm - Bill Simko, a member of the first Fitzgerald crew will offer his personal accounts of life aboard the mighty Great Lakes freighter.
8:15pm - Remembrance Ceremony for the '29' -  USCG-Station Fairport

Visit -

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Casement House Highlights Remarkable Lake County Tour Part II

The arrival of Charles Clement Jennings in 1840 began a long and storied history in Lake County.  Arriving the same year as the formation of our county, Jennings purchased 300 acres of timeberland from Colonel Storres of the Connecticut Land Company.  From this modest start the Jennings Farm would become one of the county's most unique histories.

As the years progressed his family grew.  Jennings decided to build a home as a gift for his daughter Frances' wedding in 1868.  Three years and $75,000 later the Casement House was dedicated in 1870 to Frances and her husband Civil War General Jack S. Casement.  It was a Victorian styled home with a unique partitioned floor plan that made all three floors identical in size and structure.  Murals, ornate ceilings as well as heat and light systems were installed.  Even a air conditioning system was made possible.  The work of many skilled men of the day made this a truly impressive estate.  Peter Shelby and Charles W. Heard were the two leading builders / designers.  The home remained in the family thru 1953.  Robert W. Sidley became only the fourth owner of the home and it remains today in his family and is used as a corporate headquarters for his business.  The 300 acres have been repurposed and the history of the property remains intact.  Visitors are welcomed at the Casement House and once there can learn the story of General Jack, Francis a foundling member of the suffrage movement and their famous guest Susan B. Anthony.

The story of the Casement House and a look at important heritage homes in Fairport Harbor, Madison and Unionville are part of a Lake Metroparks Bus Tour on October 13th.  Included on the tour are Ladd's Tavern, The Arcola House, The Huntington site and more.  Visit for tour information about many of the upcoming history events.