Michael J. Olmstead

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Perrysburg Stories

The following stories were taken from the Perrysburg Bicentennial Souvenir Magazine, c.2016 by Welch Publishing Co.

The First Schools

From Ardath Danford’s book “Perrysburg Revisited.”
The first school of record in this area on the south side of the river was at Orleans. According to Isaac Van Tassel in the second volume of his Toledo and the Sandusky Bay Region, “Victor Jennison taught school in the Fort Settlement in the winter of 1816-1817.” In another account it was noted that Dr. Harry Conant was hired “to keep school at the foot of the rapids” in 1817 for $25 per month for four months. He was to board with Aurora Spafford or William Griffiths, and it was specified in this contract that he was to provide firewood for the school. Elsewhere, it was stated that families of pupils were to supply the school with one cord of firewood per child.

Mrs. Amelia W. Perrin, a very early Perrysburg resident and daughter of Captain Jacob Wilkinson, described in her reminiscences that there was a school at Orleans located about halfway up the hill between the Fort and the river. Mrs. Perrin told how the school children used the old Fort as their playground.

It is not clear exactly where the earliest schools in Perrysburg were located. It has been said that school was held for a time in a building near the corner of Elm and East Front streets. Histories of the Methodist Church include mention of its having built a ‘schoolhouse’ at the northwest corner of West Second and Walnut streets which was used both as a school and as the place for church services until the first Methodist Church building was constructed across Second Street.

The first public school in the village was built in 1849 after voters (men only) passed a $1,600 bond issue. It was constructed on the east side of Louisiana Avenue between Indiana Avenue and Fifth Street and was a two-story frame building, 60 by 90 feet, with a bell tower. Union School was the source of great pride to residents, even though some thought its location to be quite far out from the center of town.

Albert D. Wright was superintendent of this first common school, and he established a year’s term of 44 weeks for the 50 pupils enrolled. Three young women made up the first high school graduating class in 1866. In 1868, the building was remodeled to provide for an increasing number of students. With a bond issue raising $4,000, a third story was added, a substantial bell tower was built, and the entire structure was faced with brick. The building then contained six classrooms, two recitation rooms, a laboratory and a superintendent’s office. Teachers were paid $8 to $9 per week in 1870. That would increase to $45/month by 1904.

Above, right: Perrysburg High School circa 1959

Louisiana Avenue after a 1909 snowstorm.

Thousands attend Perrysburg Centennial

Reprinted from the Perrysburg Journal August 31, 1916.
“Perrysburg’s Birthday celebration was an event that is worthy of a place in the history of the town and will be retained for many years in the memory of every citizen and visitor who was enabled to enjoy the ‘big celebration,’ as it has been called by the thousands of visitors present.

“There has been so much and great praise from out-of-town people that it is unnecessary for the Journal to add more. It was an event of which every Perrysburg citizen could feel proud.

“Early in the forenoon people began coming into town and when the hour (12:30) for the forming of the parade had arrived, there were people, estimated by those who are familiar with such scenes, to be close to 10,000, along the line of march, awaiting and applauding the splendid features of the pageant.

“Forming on Indiana Avenue, under direction of the various marshals and their aides, the pageant moved at 1:50 p.m. under direction of Grand Marshal Dr. W.H. Rheinfrank, over the following streets: Louisiana Avenue to Front, Hickory, Second, Pine and again on Front and out Louisiana Avenue and countermarch, the time being more than one hour.

“After disbanding the pageant the Perrysburg band gave a splendid concert during the time prior to opening of the speaking and musical programme.

“The first division of the pageant consisted of historical floats, and banners and living representations of incidents relative to the past century of our village life.

“The Civic Association was represented by a float tending to show the importance of a united citizenship in the up building of a town.

“The Future Perrysburg was a float carrying a large number of children of the village.

“This division in itself was sufficient to make a splendid and interesting pageant but it was only the beginning.”

Second Division
“In the second division was seen a truly remarkable demonstration of artistic taste in the construction of the various floats representing the churches and fraternal organizations of the village and it is to the ladies of the town that nearly all the credit is due for this splendid display.’

Third Division
“In this division was shown as never before in the history of Perrysburg, the high class character of the business institutions of the town. There was a large representation and the great ability and artistic taste displayed in the decoration of the various floats is worthy of the highest compliment and has been given great praise not only of our citizens but of the multitude of people from neighboring towns and cities. It has been the privilege of the Journal man to witness Industrial parades in all parts of the U.S., and we take pride in saying that our Perrysburg business men have ‘Have put it all over’ any similar display we have ever witnessed. It would fill many pages of the Journal if we should publish half the complimentary remarks that have been given us from visitors here on that day. Perrysburg people should be proud of our business institutions and should immediately declare war on any invasion of our home trade by all outside business interests. Perrysburg people should stand for Perrysburg business.

“The Journal, which always does its part in everything of interest to Perrysburg, was also present.

“The only business firm in Perrysburg conducted exclusively by ladies that was represented in the parade was that of Rossbach & Hoffmann, modes, and these ladies have reason to feel very proud of the appearance and the favorable impression made by their representation.

“A pleasing feature of the pageant was the float representing a Democratic caucus in 1950 in which the participants were suffragettes. The caucus was one grand gabfest with the chairman and every member making speeches at the same time. It was the best comedy of the parade.

“The Journal has received many messages from out-of-town people complimenting the village and all who took part in the demonstration.

“We do not mention names in the report or give special praise. There is glory enough for all and every citizen who helped in whatever capacity, is entitled to some of it.”

Traffic problems came early!

From Ardath Danford’s book “Perrysburg Revisited.”

Traffic problems came early in one form or another. The Perrysburg Journal on May 16, 1902, carried the following proclamation of Mayor J.M. Brown:

To all whom it may concern:
In view of the fact that the village now has a damage case in court, and that the prospects are very favorable for other damage cases in the future, the ordinance prohibiting persons from tieing cows on the streets and walks of said village will be enforced, and the city marshal has been instructed to look after the matter at once. Owners of cows will take notice and govern themselves accordingly.

Then came the day of the ‘benzene buggies,’ as Editor E.L. Blue referred to them, and it seemed that Perrysburg was a favored destination for ‘speeders’ from Toledo. An announcement in the Journal of July 13, 1906, under the headline ‘Ten Mile Limit’ described the carefully contrived plan to control the situation. It read as follows:

Perrysburg people are tired of being driven off the streets by reckless drivers of automobiles and on Sunday last Mayor Bowers and the police force put the new ordinance into execution. Officers were stationed at both ends of Main Street (Louisiana Avenue) in town, and when a car was coming at a rate exceeding ten miles, the officers blocked the way.

On Front Street a distance of exactly one-half mile was measured off, and telephones were installed at either end. When a car passed either way, the time was called to the other end where the officer held a stop-watch. If the car arrived in less than three minutes, a telephone pole was swung across the street to stop the car and its driver was then taken to see the mayor. The ordinance provided a penalty of up to $50 fine.

Above right: The Perrysburg Journal office, undated.

Commodore Perry–The Man and The Statue

As residents of Perrysburg, we probably take for granted the statue of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry standing at the foot of Louisiana Avenue. All that some people know about it, or the man, is that our town is named for him and that the old marble statue (now on permanent loan to the Visitors Center at Put-in-Bay) was replaced with a duplicate in bronze metal.

Following his victory over the English fleet in Lake Erie during the War of 1812, Perry was a true national hero, literally adored by America. He was a 28-year-old naval officer with unusual courage. The British ships were better built and better armed (longer-range cannons) than his, and their officers were experienced veterans from other wars. Many of his sailors were back-woodsmen, experienced with rifles, but who had never seen a fighting ship.

When the English fleet sailed out from opposite Detroit to challenge Perry and his men not many miles east of here, he didn’t hesitate. He steered his flagship right into them and at close quarters disabled their biggest ship and caused the others to surrender. In the process, his own ship was destroyed and with a handful of uninjured men, he rowed to another of his ships on which he again took over. While in the rowboat, the English fired at him and put a ball through the boat. Perry tore off his uniform coat and stuffed it into the hole to keep the boat afloat.

The entire battle took a little over three hours, and 68 sailors and officers on both sides were killed, and 190 injured. It is hard to imagine the bloody horror that took place as ships just a few yards from one another fired 12- and 24-pound cannon balls, not to mention exploding shells filled with marble-size shot, into one another and across their decks.

When it was all over, Perry sent his famous message to Gen. William Henry Harrison here at Fort Meigs: “We have met the enemy and they are ours: two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.”
The victory gave America control of all of the Great Lakes, and Perry then helped ferry Harrison’s army from here to Canada, where they defeated the British army and killed their Indian allies’ commander, Chief Tecumseh.

And now about the statue.

Of all the big cities in this country, Cleveland was the first to decide to honor Perry with a public statue. This was in 1860, and Ohio-born William Walcutt of New York was asked to design and carve it. The statue was made from a block of marble that came from Carrera, Italy. lt ended up being eight feet, two inches tall and included a young sailor and a midshipman, smaller figures that were placed at the foot of Perry.

At its unveiling on September 10, 1860, the 47th anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie, some 30,000 people were present, including Perry’s son and a number of surviving veterans of the fight. Perry himself had died of yellow fever in 1819.

Many years later, time and weather had taken their toll on the marble statue, so two bronze replicas were made, one given to the state of Rhode Island, Perry’s home state, where it stands just outside the capitol building in Providence. The original marble statue then became “surplus property” and in 1929 people here in Perrysburg heard about it and asked for it.

However, we weren’t alone in this request. So did the towns of Put-in-Bay, Sandusky and several others. But Perry being our namesake, we got the statue, which was shipped here by freight train. By this time the Great Depression was beginning and Perrysburg didn’t have the money to put it up.

So it was put in storage and not until 1937 was enough money raised to properly mount it, after which there was a big celebration for the dedication.

By 1966, the concrete around the statue was falling apart. It was torn down and the statue of Perry alone placed on a pedestal, with the smaller figures moved to the courtyard of the Municipal Building. Deterioration of the statue figure continued, so in 1996 a campaign began to get all three figures duplicated in bronze. The original details of the statue were recreated with the help of old pictures.
On Memorial Day 1997, after a year of fund-raising, the new statue was put up where it is today. Walcutt’s sculpture of Perry now resides in the Visitor’s Center at the Put-in-Bay Monument on permanent loan from the City of Perrysburg and the original smaller figures grace the lobby of our Municipal Building.

–Information provided by Historic Perrysburg, Inc.

Above: The Commodore Perry statue in 1955.



Perrysburg Bicentennial • P.O. Box 267-PB • Perrysburg, Ohio 43552