“In the beginning, it was Hartford.”
With those words, Frank Gluth, John Liske, and Richard Martin, begin their pictorial history of the Village of Oak Harbor.
Published recently by Arcadia Publishing, the 127-page book opens with a photo of the original plat map of Hartford filed at the Sandusky County Court House in April 1835 – before Ottawa County was established – and takes the reader along a tour told in more than 200 images of the town’s rich history; as it transitioned from an economy based largely on lumber to agriculture.
|"In the Light of the Forge", a photo taken by George D. Smith
in 1906 is one of the 200 plus photos in the pitorial history of
the Village of Oak Harbor compiled by Frank Gluth, John Liske
and Richard Martin.
The book focuses on life in the village from the 1830s to the late 1960s, emphasizing the early and mid 20th century.
A photo taken on Christmas Eve in 1883 by Jacob Hoover is believed to be the earliest known photo of Oak Harbor to exist. It shows a section of Water Street lined by wooden sidewalks and rails to hitch horse-drawn wagons. A brick hotel, the Portage House, can be seen. It and most of the buildings on the south side of Water Street, from Church Street to a rail line, were destroyed in an 1894 fire.
Saloons and boarding houses had an important role in the town, which sat along a Lake Shore Railway line.
A 1900 photo shows the Pomerenke saloon and house on the southwest corner of S. Railroad and Church streets. The house and saloon were later separated; the house remaining at S. Railroad and the saloon now a house at 601 Church Street.
Why is there a house in the middle of the business district? The home on the south side of Water Street was built in 1861 by Herman Mylander along with a small frame store next door.
The Portage River – an integral part of the village’s early economy - is the subject of the second chapter.
Passenger and freight ships, powered by steam or wind-filled sails, docked regularly in Oak Harbor, including the Post Boy, a two-deck steamer making regular excursions from Church Street to the Lake Erie Islands. A round trip to Middle Bass Island cost 50 cents in 1898.
The river could also wreak havoc as ice jams damaged bridges and floods could be so severe one area was known as the “East Bayou.”
An expanding produce industry spurred the formation of the Oak Harbor Basket Factory, founded in 1895 by Stephen Fetterly. During peak season it employed about 90 workers. One photo shows several children sitting alongside adult workers outside the factory.
An award-winning photo, titled “In the Light of the Forge, was taken in 1906 and shows L.D. Link, a blacksmith and wagon builder, working in his shop at 245 W. Water Street.
The section “Having Fun” includes several photos of the many parades through the business district, including those held during the Oak Harbor Fall Fair – a tradition started in 1932 to lift the community’s spirit in the midst of the Great Depression.
Linda Risch, Janet Schimming, Connie Sandrock, and Joan Brough are shown on stage at the 1962 fair where they were queen candidates.
President Dwight Eisenhower stopped by the area for a hunting trip in 1958 and took time to shake hands with Virgil Priesman, Don Sinon, and Doris Mominee.
In July 1928, Charles Lindbergh made an emergency landing in a Carroll Township field when his plane ran out of fuel while en route from New York to Detroit.
Gluth said he, Liske and Martin began work on the book about a year ago. After putting the word out for residents to offer photos for the project, they received nearly 400 to choose from in addition to the 500 or so they possessed themselves.
“Between the three of us we thought we had seen nearly every photo of Oak Harbor,” Gluth said. “But there were eight or 10 we’d never seen before. We were surprised by the amount of pictures we had to choose from. We had a lot of support.”
The three credit Jennifer Fording, of the Harris-Elmore Public Library, who completed an Images of America book on the neighboring villages of Elmore and Genoa, for inspiring them.
“The three of us had talked about doing this for years but no one had the guts to do it,” Gluth said.
Representatives of Arcadia Publishing will be in Oak Harbor to complete arrangements with local retailers for selling the book, he said.