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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

A Closer Look at the G.A.R. Marker

We probably have all seen the
metal markers of the Grand Army of
the Republic on tombstones in local
cemeteries.  They mark the service
of those Civil War soldiers who left
their homes and farms to fight in
the war.

Although there are some
different varieties of markers, the most common is shown below.  Sometimes the center of the star would hold the number of the GAR post, and occasionally the word "veteran" would appear, too.  But the star points remain the same.

Each point of the star contains symbolism marking the five arms of the military at that time.  Number 1 shows the crossed muskets to represent the Marines.  The Artillery is represented on point 2 by crossed cannons and musket balls.

The third point of the star stands for the Infantry, designated by the bugle.  The anchor on point 4 is the anchor for the Navy, and the last point, number 5, shows the crossed sabers of the Calvary.

The first G.A.R. commander declared in 1868 that every May 30 be known as Memorial Day to honor the deceased from the war.  It was not long before it became a day to value all the soldiers from every war and an annual remembrance.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Taking the Pontoon Bridge to Island Park

"Here is the pontoon bridge that connected old Island Park with the south bank of the Maumee River.  It was a pedestrian bridge that was removed in the winter.  The street car line came down to the bluff on the south side of the river where there was a wooden platform and stairs part way down the bank.

Photo donated for this article by Mrs. Roy C. Miller
If you look hard enough, you can see the trolley poles and a street car on the top of the bank.  Those who came in buggies tied their horses at the end of Buckeye St.  The street car track was just west of the present Children's home.

When the car was packed, which often happened during baseball games and the annual Chautauqua, folks had to get out and help push the car up the hill.  Nobody cared as the fare was only five cents.  That included the thrill of going over the Preston run trestle which was supposed to be unsafe, but is still there under the dirt of the fill.

ISLAND PARK was quite a resort.  It had an auditorium that seated 700 and in which stock companies frequently played.  The Chautauqua programs and various other events took place there.  William Jennings Bryan spoke from its stage.

There was a baseball park, a quarter mile race track, bowling alley, restaurant, penny arcade, and camping facilities on Preston Island.  The park was operated by W. P. Engel, who owned the Defiance Street Railway.

The 1913 flood wiped the park clean of all buildings and poeple stood on the bridge over the Maumee at Napoleon and watched the wooded horses from the Island Park merry-go-round go downstream."

Source: Lloyd Tuttle, "A Backward Glance," undated newspaper clipping from the Defiance Crescent-News.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Joseph S. Ash - G.A.R., Bishop Post

Joseph S. Ash spent his early years in Paint Township, Holmes County, Ohio, part of the large family of Josiah and Nancy Ash.  His father was a rather well-to-do farmer, according to the 1850 and 1860 censuses.  In 1860, Joseph, at 14, was one of ten children at home.

On March 5, 1865, he enlisted as a private in Company F, 19th Ohio Infantry. His time of service was mainly spent on garrison duty in eastern Tennessee, then New Orleans, and finally Texas.  He mustered out about a month before the rest of his unit at San Antonio, Texas in September, 1865

In 1866, he married Jane Swan and together they had five children: Ida, Olive, Emmet, Carry, and William Ohio, as listed on the 1900 census.  Joseph was a miller by trade and he traveled around while honing his craft before settling in at Defiance, Ohio.  In 1870, the family was in Sandyville, Tuscarawas County, and the 1880 census enumerator found the family in Cleveland, Cuyahoga County.

By 1900, he and Jane (also called Jennie) had moved into a house at 682 Jefferson Street with Edith (another name for one of the daughters) Gayman, 32, a widow, and her two children, Florence and Edmond, and Joseph's son, William Ash, 24, a machinist.  Joseph was a miller, in fact, the head miller at the Defiance Mills (also called the Maumee Valley Mills).  He became head miller in July, 1895, when the former head miller, John Heale, returned to Quincy, Illinois, according to one of the local newspapers.

In 1901, The Defiance Weekly Express reported on May 16: 
"Ernest Eitnier and a young man named Roehrig are having a hearing before Squire Costello this afternoon on a charge of assault and battery preferred by Joseph S. Ash, head miller of the Defiance Mills."  No follow up on this case could be found.

In May, 1901, also, Mrs. Jane (Jennie) Ash passed away from the "grippe," a term for influenza.

 By 1910, Joseph had left his home and moved in with Clyde and Florence Manchester at 802 Second Street.  Joseph, 64, was listed as a boarder.  Sometime between 1910 and 1920, he pulled up stakes in Defiance and went to Portland, Oregon, where two of his children had settled.  In 1920, he was enumerated on the census with his son, William, 43, and wife, Marie, and their two daughters in Portland, Oregon.

Joseph S. Ash died on January 28, 1922, at the age of 76 and was buried at the Multnomah Park Cemetery in Portland, Oregon.  A short funeral notice appeared in The Sunday Oregonian, Portland, Oregon, on January 29, 1922:

"ASH.  At 104 Holland Street, January 28, Joseph S. Ash, 76 years, father of Cora Stephens and W. O. Ash of Portland, E. H. Ash of Warren, Pennsylvania, and Mrs. Edith Bayman of Defiance, Ohio.  Funeral services will be conducted Monday, January 30 at 2 p.m. in the Grace Evangelical church, Sixth Third Avenue and Ninety Second Street Southeast.  Friends invited.  Interment Multnomah Cemetery.  Remains are at the funeral parlors of A. B. Kenworthy & Company, 5802-04 Ninety Second at Southeast in Lents." 

 (This is part of a series on Civil War veterans of Defiance County who were part of the G.A.R., Bishop Post, that headquartered in the city.  Formed in 1879, the post was named after a local man, Captain William Bishop, Company D, 100th Regiment, Ohio Volunteer Army who died as a result of wounds received in battle.  The veterans' photos are part of a composite photo of members that has survived.  If you have other information or corrections to add to the soldiers' stories, please add to the comments!)

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

W. P. A. Cemetery Survey - Old South Ridge/ OLD St. Stephen's Lutheran Cemetery, Highland Township

In this series, some of the general surveys of Defiance County cemeteries will be shared, transcribed as written on the original W.P.A. reports, with a few punctuation and/or spelling changes for readability.  The surveys were probably done around 1936.

For more up to date information on the cemeteries, check out this chart on our website:

1. Name of cemetery:

The Old South Ridge Cemetery, Highland Township, so named from the South Ridge Glacier Moraine which passes through here.  This graveyard is in connection with the St. Stephen's German Lutheran Church, which is a quarter mile southeast of here.  Another new cemetery is now kept up by this same church, a half mile south of the church on the Ridge Road, called St. Stephens.

2. Location; how reached:

This cemetery is situated on a hill just off the south ridge road and is in section one, one and one half miles straight east of the hamlet of Ayresville in Highland Township and is reached on good, gravel roads.  It is also a mile and a quarter from the Henry County line.

3. Name and address of caretaker:

This graveyard is not kept up now, only that work which is done by relatives of those buried in it, since the new cemetery was started south of the church on the ridge road in 1898.  For information, see Rev. Schroeder, pastor of St. Stephens Church or John Boda, both addresses New Bavaria, Henry County, Ohio, Route #3.

 4. General description, size, appearance, etc.

South Ridge Cemetery sits on a small knoll near the road.  It is fenced in with wire and has an iron gate, but the grounds are grown up with weeds and shrubs.  It is not wooded - one tree only standing on the lot and covers about three quarters of an acre.  However, it has many nice, fine granite markers.  Also a lot of old mosiac slabs; most of the stones are inscribed in German.  Since the establishment of St. Stephen's Cemetery to the south of the church, this graveyard has not been kept up.  It is German Lutheran in denomination.

5. Name and date of first burial recorded:

The first grave was made in 1853 for John Troeger, one of the early German settlers of Highland Township. 

6. Names of important persons buried there:

Perhaps the most known persons are the Troegers.  A grandson of the first man buried is Fred Troeger, Auditor of Defiance County.  Other well known people are the Hohenbergers, Marchhouses (Marshaus), Schadts and Orts. 

7. Markers of unusual appearance:  None

8. Unusual epitaphs:

Most all of these stones are inscribed in German, even in German script, which is unusual in this county.  We have found quite a few inscribed in German, but most of them were in English script and German words only.

9. Is cemetery used for new burials?

We are told there are to be two more persons buried in this graveyard, relatives of one already resting here.  Otherwise, it is not used.

Cecil Cadwallader and Chas. Gish, Reporters
Consultant: Al. Logan,R.F.D. #6, Defiance, Ohio 

(The Works Progress Administration was formed by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in reaction to the Great Depression as a means of employing Americans and stimulating the economy.  Established in 1935, one of the projects of the W.P.A. was to conduct Historical Records Surveys, one of which included finding information on cemeteries and the graves of veterans.  The W.P.A. was disbanded in 1943, but the historical information provided on these surveys continue to be of interest and are, thankfully, preserved.)

Monday, March 12, 2018

Reason Wells, Last of the Pioneers of Defiance, Ohio

From the Daily Crescent, April 9, 1910


"In the death of Reason Wells, we bid adieu to the last of the sturdy pioneers of our beautiful little city and because of his extremely long as well as eventful life among us and his consequent legion of friends and acquaintances, it is deemed fitting and proper to make more than a mere passing notice of his death. 

Reason Wells was born in the city of Zanesville, Ohio, May 22d, 1821, and while but a mere boy, his father removed with his little family to Defiance in 1832, believing, as did many another at the time, that the completion of the Miami and Erie Canal, then being agitated in the General Assembly, would cause the wilderness just beyond the Black Swamp to brighten and bloom and prove a region of exceeding richness and that Defiance, the town located at the junction of the canal and the Maumee river, and which at this early day was the only town in the valley of the "Miami of the Lake" between Perrysburg and Maumee and the city of Fort Wayne, would develop into a veritable El Dorado.

At the time of the arrival of the Wells family in Defiance, the town was located in Auglaize township, Williams county, Ohio, Defiance county not being organized for a number of years after.  In the entire township at this time, there were but fifty-seven taxpayers and of this number, thirty-five lived in the town of Defiance, all of whom are long since dead, and there remains among us representative of but four of this original number and they are J. B. Weisenburger, a relative of Francis Vizenbarger, as it appears in the early records; Wesley Kniss, a son of Jacob Kniss, Will, Lemuel and Charles Davis, sons of Zephaniah Davis, Oscar Hudson, John Crow, the foster son, and Mrs. Ansberry, the mother of Timothy T. Ansberry, daughter of Timothy Fitzpatrick.

At this time, the entire tract of land on which now stands the Harley & Whitaker store, extending from First street to the river and from Clinton street west as far as Perry street was a large orchard and in the center of the plot was an old tumble-down log house said to be haunted. Mr. Wells told the writer of this that when he came to Defiance, the business of the town was all done on Jefferson street and the first store he remembered was one kept by Isaac Hull, on the north east corner of Front and Jefferson.  He afterwards sold it to a man by the name of Benjamin Brubaker.  A part of this old store building was used in the residence of Lake Erie Myers.  On the corner of Front and Jefferson, the northwest corner, on the river side of Front street, was a building in which a man by the name of Kirk kept store and in the basement, fronting the river, was a grocery kept by Edwin Phelps and W. A. Brown.  
On the opposite corner, the southwest corner, was a hotel kept by a Mr. Waterhouse and it was called 'The Waterhouse', afterward 'The Washington' and still later, 'The Pavillion.' 

Next to this hotel on the south was Foreman Evans store, and next south Amos Evans store and on the corner, where now stands Richard Sutphen's home, a man by the name of John R. Wilson kept a tailor shop.  On the opposite corner, where now stands the Shelly home, was built by Dave Oliver a large two story frame building for William Seamans to be used as a printing office.  Next south of the printing office was Doctor John Evans home and office, and in this same building, John Kiser, the grandfather of Mollie Daoust, was married to John Downs daughter.  Two Germans, Hoffrichter and Ort, had a bakery next.
Diagonally across the street lived old Peter Bridenbaugh and on the corner where now lives Charles Behringer, lived a man by the name of Walter Davis, the first fiddler I ever saw.  In 1832 and until 1840, a man by the name of Straight ran a ferry from the foot of Jefferson street and in 1840, a man by the name of Tower built the first bridge across the Maumee at Clinton street; it was a toll bridge and Adam Wilhelm was the first toll keeper.  Between '36 and '40, several new stores were opened, one by the Case brothers, the southeast corner of Wayne and Front street, next east of this store came Francis Weisenberger, with a grocery and bakery, next east came John Kniss, with his residence and shoe shop,about where Wesley Rout now lives; almost directly across from the Kniss building was a blacksmith shop run by a man by the name of Beerup. 

In 1836 occurred the greatest flood Defiance ever experienced, the water was so high, the traders and Indians tied their pirogues and canoes to the trees of Clinton street where now stands the Harley & Whitaker store.  This same spring, Defiance experienced its hardest times and the father of Mr. Wells and a man by the name of Mason started for Maumee, the nearest grist mill to buy some corn and flour.  They went in a pirogue and were gone six weeks, returning with a few bushels of corn for which they paid $2.50 per bushel and one barrel of flour, all they could get for which they paid $16.50.

Johnny-cake, bran pones and hominy, with mush and milk for side dishes, and for company, constituted the diet for all, rich and poor alike, and now and then some fried mush, fried on boards or flat stones, for we did not have stoves when we came to Defiance.  It was a wealthy family that could boast of a 'Dutch oven,' a frying pan or 'spider', for these comprised about all the kitchen and cooking utensils. The cooking was done in the fireplace and when the owner could afford it, an iron crane was attached to the side of the fireplace and arranged to swing out to hang on the kettle and swing back over the fire, but when this could not be afforded, forked sticks were stuck up one at each end of the fire place and in the forks was laid another stick and on this, the pots and kettles would be hung over the fire. 

Horse racing, running and jumping, wrestling, pitching horse shoes, shooting at mark, driving the nails and snuffing the candle were the sports of men and boys and dancing that of both sexes.  We thought nothing of walking six to ten miles and even further to attend a wedding or a dance, a frolic, we used to call it.

From the above, it will be seen the life of this sturdy old pioneer and his associates was one of hardship and privation, though not unattended with its pleasures and joys.  Mr. Wells has seen Defiance grow from a population of about seventy-five to a city of about 10,000.  In recent conversation with several of what we now call 'old men' of our city, but who were boys when Rese Wells was a young man, I learn he was of a lively, genial disposition, always ready and invariably sought after for merry-making; he was the life of the occasion.

He never accumulated wealth because of his prodigality, his excessive liberality exceeding by far his power of production.  He knew nothing of the value of a dollar except that it could and would produce aid and assistance for the needy.  He was frugal in personal matters, but would divide his last dollar, even give it entire, to aid and assist a worthy and needy person.  His strong characteristic being to help and cheer others irrespective of its cost to him.  He was never addicted to the use of intoxicants and seldom saw a sick day.  He was an indefatigable worker at whatever he found to do, of the strictest probity and conscientious in regard for the rights of others.  His unassuming deportment, his humane and kindly disposition, genial social qualities, comprehensive kindness of heart, endeared him to all and in his death, the community shares with his children a sincere grief.

Riverside Cemetery

He died tranquilly in the home of his son, Benjamin, of this city, and of that which should accompany old age, as love, respect, honor, and a multitude of friends,he certainly possesed all in the fullest measure."

Reason Wells died April 4, 1910, aged 88 years, 10 months, 12 days, and is buried in the Old Riverside Cemetery, Defiance, Ohio.
He was one of nine children born to John and Elizabeth (Mason) Wells.  He had six sisters and two brothers: Sarah, Jane, Eliza, Nancy, Elizabeth, Sybil, John and Henry.
His first wife was Francis Marie Coleman who died March 16,1871, aged 40 years, 3 months, 13 days. His second wife was Alice Preston of Goshen, Indiana, whom he married July 25, 1875.
Listed, according to the 1870 and 1880 censuses, Reason's children were Charles, Louisa, Almira, Benjamin, Lavinia, William, Clinton and Reason.  

Friday, March 9, 2018

District No. 7, Delaware Township School, 1911-1912



Olen J. Shong, Teacher

1st Grade
Herbert Traxler

2nd Grade
Beatrice Wagner
Lodema Laub

3rd Grade
Elisha Traxler 
Cyril Roland

4th Grade
Ralph Traxler
Alma Roland
Laura Roland
Anna Anderson

5th Grade
Raymond Anderson
Freddie Breno
Florence Roland
Myrtle Traxler

(6th grade- none)
7th Grade
Marjorie Wagner
Howard Moon

School Officers
E. G. Clinker
John Luce
Thomas Fleagle
Vince Miller
Ed. Kreutcher
J. E. Hosler, Supt.

1911 - 1912


Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Strenghthening the Point at the Confluence, 1925

It was June 25, 1963, when the photo below was published in the Crescent-News, as part of "The Backward Glance" series by Lloyd Tuttle.  The photo, itself, was taken in 1925, by Edward S. Bronson, who recorded much of the city's history through photography.

Tuttle wrote:

"In the early twenties, the waters of the Maumee and Auglaize Rivers, where they join in Defiance to run to Lake Erie, were fast washing away the earthen bank of Fort Defiance Park.

At one time, the point of the confluence extended out into the rivers much farther than now.  In fact, there was a wooden platform over the point at this tie, and it was about to collapse.

Then Sam Gruner, representative to the state legislature from Defiance county, came to the rescue.  He secured an appropriation from the state to construct a concrete restraining wall around the point, extending quite a distance back along each river.

It was a fine wall with iron lamp posts set in the concrete.  And for a spell, the point was lighted, affording a beautiful noctural view of the confluence from U. S. route 24.

The picture, taken by Edward S. Bronson in 1925, depicts the framework for the poured concrete during the early stages of construction. Later on the old cannon was moved from Monumental Park to the Fort Ground site, and a steel flag pole was erected. 

Well, how did Defiance appreciate this preservation of an historical site?

Several years ago, vandals shot out the light bulbs on the posts of the retaining wall.  They pulled over the steel flag pole and desecrated the flag of their country, and didn't call it an evening until they had knocked out the ornamental stones from the stairwell balustrade.  

Then when the interceptor sewer line was built, the wall was cut at the end of Fort Street to make a miniature Grand Canyon, and it was never properly replaced.

Repairs, including a new flag pole and retaining wall lights, are long overdue for Fort Defiance Park, where hundreds of visitors stop every weekend to enjoy the view down the river at the confluence of the Maumee and Auglaize.

The Indians used to call it 'Tuendowie'  It means 'where the rivers meet.' " 


The Defiance Crescent News led off with this headline on page 1 on March 28, 1925:

The Ohio Legislature appropriated $20,000 for this project, proposed by Representative S. I. Gruner, who was from Defiance.  He felt the confluence and the site of Fort Defiance was one of the most historic sites in the area.

The plan was to build a structure 716 feet in length at a height equal to the high water line, reinforced with steel.  A galvanized pipe railing would finish off the project.

Photo from across the river.  An improved site at the confluence.