The history of the Village of Walbridge predates its actual incorporation in 1913 by more than 70 years when settlers arrived in what was called the Great Black Swamp.
A woman heading the Walbridge Centennial Committee has a long history with the Wood County village. And though Darlene Limmer lives in the nearby City of Rossford, her ties to the village remain strong.
“My great- great-grandfather was one of the first six settlers there,” she said. “That’s why I got on the committee. I had just retired and wanted to do my family history so it was a perfect time to do that. My great-grandfather had a grocery store (Sigler’s) in town. My grandfather worked for him and married the boss’s daughter. He bought the store and went into business for himself. And then my dad took over the business.
“My roots are so Walbridge,” Limmer said. “I guess it’s that way with everybody. Where you were born and raised will always be home to you.”
For her family history, Limmer interviewed her grandmother – then in her 80s – who spoke of life in a home without running water and electricity.
Mayor recalls days of baseball, swim club
A native of Walbridge, Mayor Ed Kolanko describes the village as a close knit community that helped shape him into who he is today.
“I attended Walbridge Elementary School, St. Jerome Grade School, and Lake High School. As a youngster I played T-ball and baseball in Walbridge for more than 10 years and was coached by legends such as Tony Mass and Herb Minuto,” he said. “I spent many days and evenings at the Aqua Terrace swim club,” he said.
Kolanko said parents felt safe letting their children play in the village in those days – a sentiment that continues today.
He describes himself as “proud and humble” to represent the village as mayor during the centennial celebration.
The swim club that Kolanko and so many others enjoyed was initiated by a group of 10 or so residents who formed a non-profit corporation and went to Rossford Savings Bank, which issued a note for $100,000.
The corporation sold stock at $200 a share.
“When we had at least 70 people pay in their share the bank said go ahead and start,” recalls Cecil Adkins, a founding member of the corporation. “That was in 1963.”
As the children grew up and the member families used the pool less and less, the pool was donated to the village, he said.
A timeline of the village history from the village website follows:
• 1840s – In an area known to settlers as “Owls Nest,” Phillip G. Loop first settled in 1846. The next year, his son, George Loop was born. This area was part of the Great Black Swamp with friendly Native Americans traveling through the dense woods where deer, wolves, and wild turkeys were plentiful.
• 1836 – Truman P. Handy of Cuyahoga County purchased 160 acres of land (in what is now Walbridge) known as the Warner’s Addition from the federal government. The land was bounded by present day Union Street, Dixon Street, the south half of Loop Park, and Allen Street. President Andrew Jackson signed the deed for the sale of the land to Handy.
• 1839 – Truman Handy sold the land he purchased to the Ohio Railroad Company.
• 1850 – The first school was built – a one-room building for grades 1-8 located on the east side of S. Main Street near the present site of the Walbridge Nite Club.
• 1865 – Levi S. Warner purchased 80 acres of the Warner’s Addition. He later sold 40 acres to Samuel Dixon, in 1875.
• 1870 – The Toledo and Ohio River Railroad located in the village. A year later, a post office was granted by the government. It was then that a group of local men met at the school house and renamed the Owls Nest to Walbridge, after one of the area's largest landowners, Henry Walbridge. Walbridge and his family never actually lived in present-day Walbridge, however the Walbridge family was prominent in Toledo.
• 1873 – Six families lived in the area – the Stein, Taylor, Clark, Warner, Loop and Allen families, who lived in log cabins and wooded areas.
• 1874 – Emeretta and Harriet Warner hired George Kirk to formally survey Walbridge. Two years later, the Hocking Valley Line (now C.S.X. railroad) came to the village, creating the need for a hotel to house the workers. The first hotel was known as “The Beanery.” At the turn of the century, 1900, the hotel was located on the south side of Union Street, between the two sets of railroad tracks.
• 1906 – A new cement block school was built at the present-day site of Walbridge Elementary. The school replaced the village’s second school building, which was purchased by Ed Scott and moved to the southeast corner of Main and Union Streets. This building was used as a tavern and pool hall. It was later moved to the south and stands at 105 S. Main and houses the current Walbridge Nite Club.
• 1908 marked the arrival of the street car, which connected the town to Toledo, Fostoria, and Findlay.
• March 25, 1913 – Walbridge completed the last step to become incorporated. A.E. Kusian was elected the first mayor of Walbridge; Elery Scott was elected the first Marshal of the village. The first council meeting was held on April 7, 1913.
• In 1919 – Perry Street became the first street to be paved in town. That same year, the Walbridge State Bank opened.
• In 1920 – To meet the needs of the village, a municipal electric system was set up. Walbridge purchased electricity from Fremont, Ohio, where the Ballville Dam generated power. The current was carried over miles of lines to a substation where the present-day Great Eastern Shopping Center, Woodville Road, is located.
• In 1921 – William Schier was named the first Fire Chief of Walbridge, earning a salary of $10.00 annually.
• In 1927 –The town purchased its first fire truck. The pumper, a 1927 Seagraves, was delivered on a railroad flat car from Columbus, on March 28, 1928.
• 1930 – J. C. Loop became Mayor and served until 1941, when failing health caused him to resign. Mayor Loop, who served as a township trustee in 1909, was credited with building streets and was influential in drilling of a water well in the first village-owned waterworks (the pump house in the center of Loop Park).
Under his stewardship, eight acres of land in the Dixon addition were purchased in 1935 for a park, which was dubbed Loop Park. Mayor Loop died in 1942 at the age of 87, in his home located on S. Main Street where he had resided since he was 1 year old.
• 1932 – The Walbridge State Bank was forced to close with “assets frozen” marred with legal proceedings that followed.
• 1945 – The Walbridge Fire Department became the Walbridge-Lake Township Fire Department, and was located at the site of the present-day Walbridge Police Station. Although crime was generally regarded as low or non-existent in those days, the newspapers of the day highlighted the story of someone blowing open the safe at the town's post office on Christmas Eve, 1949. The story called the thieves professional safecrackers who used “nitro” and absconded with $1,500 in savings bonds and $100 in cash.
• 1958 – The 1958 Walbridge Bears team went undefeated with a 58-0 record. The City Champions of the Toledo league was coached by Kempton Baker, Jim Kelly and Montrose Brown.
• 1962 – Baseball was played at Loop Park and the Walbridge Civic Club is credited with starting a renovation plan of the park in 1962. They provided for a shelter house with restroom facilities. People enjoyed movies, 4th of July fireworks, and wintertime ice skating at Loop Park.
• 1961-1962 – Walbridge completed a new $170,000 water improvement program, thanks to a donated water main line from the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad (now C.S.X.). In 1963, the village began purchasing water from the City of Toledo. That same year, the village also instituted a payroll tax.
• 1963 – The Exchange Bank opened its doors in Walbridge, The bank first located at 407 N. Main St. and remained there until January 1967, when it moved into its present-day location at 311 N. Main St. It is now The State Bank.
• 1964 – Another long-time institution of the community, the Aqua Terrace Swim Club, opened in 1964 after 10 area families got together and purchased five acres of property off of Parkview Drive. In April of 1994 the Village assumed ownership of the private swim club, making the pool available to everyone. Cecil Adkins, a 28-year veteran of council and original founding member of the swim club, paved the way for the village to acquire the pool for the community.
• 1983-1987– Railway Park was constructed in 1983, and the Village Library opened in 1987. Longtime Mayor Forrest Scarberry and Councilman Greg Pasqualone were instrumental in these endeavors.
• Early 1990s – Then councilmember Joann Schiavone negotiated a landmark contract with the Evergreen Disposal Facility for village-wide refuse pickup. The 20-year agreement saved an estimated $1 million over its duration .
• 2000 – Walbridge’s neighbors to the north, the Walnut Hills Mobile Home Park, the Deluxe Mobile Home Park, along with a few commercial businesses, annexed to the village in early 2000.
• Former Mayor Robert Robson, oversaw the creation of Veterans Park along Main Street in the heart of the town. The park became the site of the village's annual Christmas tree, beginning in December 2001. It is recognized as the anchor of an uptown beautification project undertaken by members of council throughout the 1990s.