All’s quiet in The Great Black Swamp as snow approaches. But, before the flowers bloom you can expect a flurry of activity as the MetroParks prepares to celebrate Pearson Park’s 75th anniversary on August 30, 2009.
The highlight of the event will be the dedication of the Johlin Cabin at the new Pearson Historic Area. The cabin was donated by descendents of George and Anna Johlin, one of the original families who tamed the swamp. Work on the 1867 cabin has been on-going, although if you drive by the site at Wynn and Seaman in Oregon you might think otherwise. So, let’s recap what’s been done and what’s to be done.
The fundraising drive which started in October, 2006 with a donation of $6,000 from the East Toledo Club has resulted in more than $320,600 in donations and in-kind services from 226 citizens, businesses, organizations and the City of Oregon. Donors include corporate citizens like BP-Husky $50,000, Sun Oil Company $25,000; organizations like the Oregon Federation of Teachers, $10,000; Friends of Pearson Park $7,500; the City of Oregon $15,000 and 124 supporters who bought paver bricks for a total of more than $20,000.
The work which has been done includes moving the cabin from the Johlin homestead to the new 320 acre Pearson North addition, building a new foundation, replacing the roof and chimney and general preparation for renovation.
One current project exemplifies the volunteer spirit of the community. In an effort to restore the cabin as an authentic replica, the Pearson North Committee went in search of period glass to replace the windows. The glass was donated by the Galen Jensen family of Oregon who saved it from restoring a house in the German Village of Columbus. It was then cut by Ondrus Hardware of East Toledo, installed into window frames built by Ray Schmidt of Oregon Robert Hecklinger of Curtice painted the frames and the windows will be installed by two area contractors.
The project had been on hold waiting for an updated site plan, building permits and an electrical hook-up from Toledo Edison. That has all been done with the City of Oregon donating $1,200 for the permit fees.
While project chairman Russ Shifferly of the MetroParks concentrates on the cabin renovation, the Historical Programming Department has released its interpretation plan. The plan calls for recreating a 1860’s farmstead and offering the public living history events using re-enactors. Educational programs will be offered for both school children and adults. The farmstead, which may feature some outbuildings and a barn, will be surrounded by a new Black Swamp.
This $1 million recreated swamp has been sculpted and funded by the Ohio Wetlands Foundation. The non-profit group has planted more than 102,900 indigenous trees and shrubs. The foundation has also created shallow pools, relocated the ditch that ran alongside Wynn Road and added a small pond.
The Pearson North Committee is still seeking donations and in-kind construction services. The MetroParks is seeking period artifacts to decorate the cabin and bring to life the history of early settlers.
This historical era is not the only one we’ll relive on the 75th anniversary celebration. During The Great Depression, George Pearson, a Blade reporter, and the East Toledo Club led a citizens drive to raise funds to save this last remnant of the Great Black Swamp known then as The Bank Lands. He was driven to action while riding the interurban from his home in Curtice to downtown Toledo and watching desperate men felling trees for firewood.
Like today’s fundraising drive, Pearson enlisted community support from businesses, schools, organizations and the public. His biggest coup was convincing Edward Ford, owner of Libbey-Owens-Ford to donate $61,100, according to Mary Nassar Breymaier in her book George Pearson: A Modest Hero.
The Pearson North committee and the MetroParks will meet in the next two weeks to plan the August 30 celebration. If you want to contribute your ideas or serve on the committee, e-mail me at
or call 419-836-2221. Paver donations are still accepted. Call and I’ll send you a brochure.