Early Events In and Around Castalia
Castalia History goes back to the days shortly after the Revolutionary War, when this territory was held by the French. After the famous Rogers and his “Rangers” of New Hampshire, stationed at Montreal heard that the French had lost Quebec to the British, they traveled through this region on their way to take over the forts surrendered by the Indians and the French at Detroit and Mackinac. Returning, the Rangers came along the Tuscarawas Trail, stopped at Cold Creek, and while there, Rogers recorded: “There is a remarkable spring at this place … boils out of the ground in a column three feet high … ten hogheads of water a minute.”
The Rangers found an old earthen works fort located about a mile south of where Venice village is at present. Of this nothing remains today, and it was unoccupied when the Rangers found it. The many arrowheads, tomahawks, pipes, and pottery that have been found in Erie County, especially at Pipe Creek, Mills Creek and Plum Brook, bear testimony indicating that many Indians had settled in the area. Some authorities say that these include the more ancient “mound builders.” All kinds of game, fowl and wild rice were plentiful here and the Indians made good use of them.
The first Indians we can be sure lived here were called “Eries,” whose name the French interpreted as meaning “cat” (wild cat, or panther). Then the Iroquois defeated them, and held title to the land until they in turn had to relinquish their own claim to the whites. Also living here and defeated badly by the Iroquois (or “five nations” of Indian tribes) was the Huron tribe, or Wyandots, who spoke the same language as the Erie Indians.
Although the French held most of the region around the Lakes, in 1650 some English traders built a stockade at the location of Venice, and held it for a hundred years before yielding to the French. The Huron-Wyandots were allied to the French, who built a whole line of forts westward to the Mississippi river. Forts were located by them also at Huron and Sandusky. They were built to give protection to the French traders, colonists, and missionaries; but were abandoned already before the Revolutionary War. In June, 1763, a British force under Captain Dalzell, going from Niagara to relieve the garrison at Detroit, is said to have destroyed cornfields of the Wyandots at Sandusky, and a Wyandot Indian village at Castalia.
Both the Blue Hole and the Cold Creek springs, supplied by underground rivers and discharging large quantities of water, were known in the days of the Indians. Near the present Blue Hole, and in the back of the Castalia Elevator, was located a waterpower mill, erected in 1839. It was used as a cotton mill, and later for grinding flour.
As the spring-fed waters never freeze, the mills of the Castalia-Venice area could run all winter long. In the severe winter of 1832 farmers came here from Michigan as well as Ohio, as this was the only place the mills could grind. The first sawmill was erected at Venice in 1815. It was also used for grinding grain, for which large stones were employed. The stones were made locally.
The territory of Erie County was claimed at first by the State of Connecticut, by virtue of a grant of King George II of England in 1662. He Gave Connecticut (although he did not possess it) all the land from Providence to the Pacific Coast, between the 40th and 41st parallels (and excepting what was already in New York and Penn.). In 1800 Connecticut sold this land to the U.S. After the war of the Revolution, in which the British had burned or war ravaged the homes of many Connecticut patriots, land in this area was offered to them in recompense. It was designated “sufferers land” in Connecticut; and called “Firelands” in Ohio, the more familiar term in use today. This was part of “New Connecticut,” or the “Western Reserve,” which latter included all land between the 40th and 41st parallel reaching 120 miles west of Pennsylvania, or to the west border of the Erie County. Thus, we find the Connecticut names here, such as Norwalk, New London, and Groton.
In 1820 Docartus Snow of Vermont and others founded a settlement here and called it Cold Creek. He built the first grist mill (of logs) in the Firelands area, upon the offer of 100 acres of land. His mill could grind 15 bushels of corn in 24 hours. But after two years he and the others were driven out by fear of the British and the Indians. Yet they bravely returned the year following. At this time the population of Castalia consisted of three families and two bachelors; twenty-nine persons. The families settling here with the Snows were the Butler’s and the Putnam’s.
Soon corn was missing at Snow’s grist mill; the Indians were stealing it. So, he devised loose boards which, like trap-doors, dumped them out and raised a loud clatter. Some say this caused the Indians to be so angered that they planned revenge. One day, while the men worked at about a mile northward in their fields, on June 2, 1813, a group of Indians (some say they were Pontiac’s and from the Detroit area) attacked the homes. Violently they took all the women and children as prisoners, except those they killed: Snow’s and Butler’s two year old sons, Julia Butler four years old, and Snow’s wife. The children were tomahawked for hiding. Mrs. Snow was dragged from a sick bed. Unable to keep pace with the party, she was killed along the trail. The rest were taken to Detroit, and released the next Fall. Their friends heard what happened soon enough, but could not communicate with them, as Detroit was in British hands. Snow’s son is buried in Castalia cemetery. His second wife later married Philip Cowell; their granddaughter is Mrs. Chas. Dole. Cowell set aside two acres for the cemetery, as his deed stipulated. Two muskrat trappers were later killed by Ottawa Indians in a cabin. Two of them were caught and hanged.
The dam built by Snow for water-power for his mill caused the subterranean water pressure to break out in a new spring in 1820, forming the present Blue Hole. It had a small diameter at first, but repeated cave-ins brought it to the present size by 1914. The Geological Survey of Ohio says of it: “The water Maintains nearly the same temperature winter and summer, and its flow is more uniform than that of the surface streams of the vicinity, though sensibly affected by periods of unusual and widespread drought. The water of the springs is highly charged with lime, rapidly encrusting any object covered by it, and has deposited a sheet of travertine over an area of several square miles in the vicinity.”
The Cold Creek springs area was evidently a favorite camping place for the Indians from the earliest times. They cultivated fields of corn nearby. Game was plentiful, especially wild turkeys and deer; wolves, skunks and rattlesnakes!
The township was first named Patterson, for a British Indian trader. But he tried so much to incite the Indians against the U.S. settlers that the latter met at Huron in 1812 and decided the name should be changed. They asked of a well-known soldier of the Revolution, who was a boy of 11 years had been a refer in the Continental Army and a veteran of Bunker Hill, whose name was Major Falley to name the township. He suggested “Margaretta” in honor of his mother, sister, and nieces who were named “Margaret.” Thus did the name originate. For two years it included Danbury, north of the Bay. Falley had bought the land of Margaretta Twp. For 75c per acre; but later had to relinquish, because he could not raise the money to pay for it. Major Falley also laid out the town of Venice and built a grist mill there in 1811. His grave may be seen in the Castalia cemetery, near to the Soldiers Monument; near which you may also find Snow’s tablet. The cemetery was provided for in the land deed still in possession of the Dole family, and which came from the landholders in Connecticut.
A pier once extended from Venice into the Bay for a “mile and a half” as the Bay was too shallow for large boats near the shore. Many slaves used it at night before the Civil War, taking transport for Canada after coming through Ohio on the “underground railway.” One “station” was at Venice on a farm. Venice once had a hotel that boasted of having more guests, and the town more business than Sandusky. The assertion is made for Castalia that it was a village before Sandusky, but had two log cabins and Indians. The Venice mill burned in 1888. In 1852 Venice’s two mills (including Heywood’s on Homegardner Rd.) produced 75,000 bbl. flour a season.
In 1813 there were but three houses in “Cold Creek,” later called Castalia, supposedly for the mythical springs of ancient Greece. Major Falley set up the first store, where he sold army “surplus” supplies. The first schoolhouse was located at the junction of the Venice and Cold Creek roads. It was built of logs in 1818 by Captain A. Parker. The first teacher received $15 a month salary, which was paid by the parents of the 25 children attending. Rev. A. Coe conducted a school for Indians at Greenfield and which he moved to Venice and taught all the children of the vicinity. In 1836 a bushel of wheat would buy a yard of cloth; if it could be found! In 1849 a cotton factory was built in Castalia; later to be sought by John Hoyt and made into a papermill. Hoyt started the idea of hatching trout in streams.
The township’s first marriage was that of Charles Butler and Clarissa Parker in 1816. But the groom “vamoosed the ranch” the next year and was never heard of again. “The first stone house was built in 1832 and still stands just east of the Congregational Church. Next door to this Dr. Carpenter erected the first brick domicile.” The oldest Church Buildings is the home of the late Conrad Pfeil, just north of the Lutheran parsonage. This was used by the Congregational Church; which was organized in 1835, until its present structure of fine Greek revival architecture was built in 1846.” (from “My Town” by the Rev. Dickenson). The Alexander residence was once an inn on the stagecoach route through Castalia.
The nearest post office was in Cleveland. A weekly postal route was established in 1825 between Sandusky and Fremont, through Castalia. The village of Castalia was laid out in 1836. It had slow growth until the fire of 1887 destroyed most of the village. Later, in 1898 a cement mill gave the town new growth, at one time employing 150 men. But by 1932 it was closed, and removed a year later.
The first religious activities in Margaretta Twp. Seem to have been those conducted by the Rev. Joseph Badger, a Moravian missionary (like the famous David Zeisberger) to the Wyandot Indians of the Western Reserve of Conn., 1805-1810. He won their respect and confidence, and served as letter-writer for the head chief, Crane.
It appears that regular worship services were held at the Venice mill at a very early time, and that the mill had a rule of grinding no grain on the Sabbath, or Sunday. But after one church service held there and attended by two farmers who had brought grain from Hancock County for grinding, an exception was made. These men had searched for days for a mill, having left behind very hungry families. The Venice mill was the first one they found that could grind. It was a cold winter and the mill-ponds elsewhere were all frozen. So, for them the grinding was done on Sunday, with the preacher’s approval.
The first religious denomination represented was the Methodist. A group met for services in Muscash, and built a church opposite the old “Brick Mill” (flour mill, very large), the ruins of which may still be seen on the J.P. Lewis property, on Homegardner Road. The mill burned about 50 years ago. The name, “Muscash,” originated from the response the Indians gave the traders: “Muscash” (must be cash!). In 1819 a Presbyterian, and in 1823 a Baptist church was started; but they did not last long. In 1835 the Congregational Church was organized by Rev. Hiram Smith of Massachusetts. Meetings were held in the old school (Pfeil property) just north of the Luth. Parsonage. This was used until 1848, when the present structure was built. Rev. Smith remained until 1865. The Baptist were absorbed by the Congregational organization. The Sandusky Congregational Church was started in 1819. In 1852 the Methodists built a church here; which is the congregational parsonage. It was used only about 10 years. In 1866 the Episcopal “Church of the Redeemer” was built at Venice at a cost of $12,000 by R. Heywood, as a family memorial. It was used only until 1862, southeast of Castalia a few miles, and a building erected on land donated by Wm. Graves (present Chas. Wahl farm).
Lutheran Church Services were started in the Muscash schoolhouse, February 7th, 1858 by the Rev. J.G. Lehrer, pastor of Zion’s, Sandusky. He served the congregation until 1873. On October 19th, 1871 the Muscash Church Building was dedicated. It had been provided with financial assistance of the Luth. Congregations at Danbury, Fremont, and Sandusky. The first full time pastor was Rev. Garkenmeyer, who came in 1873. Among the pastors at Muscash were Rev. J. Dornbirer, Rev. August Dornbirer, Dr. Stellhorn (1897-1901), Rev. Philip Ried, Rev. A C. Berlin, and Rev. N. S. Luz. It was during Rev. Luz’s pastorate that the Muscash Congregation was disbanded on the occasion, of the 75th Anniversary observance in the summer of 1921. Members living near Castalia joined there. The church furniture was transferred to the Vickery Luth. Sunday School, initiated by Dr. Stellhorn. This was established through the cooperation of the Fremont Luth. Pastors Conference and the St. Paul Church of Clyde, together with its pastor, Rev. Frank Jordan. The Muscash church’s window, “Gethsemane” is in the new St. Paul Luth. Church at Clyde. The Vickery Sunday school in recent years has grown considerably, and with help of the Clyde “mother” Church has been enabled to remodel and modernize its building.
The village of Castalia, Ohio consisted of about 250 houses. The population 1,050 persons. There was no major industry located in the Village yet the people enjoyed one of the lowest tax rates in the county. The Village is served by city water and natural gas. The police chief and 14 part-time men constituted the safety force. A modern fire department helped Castalia enjoy the lowest fire insurance rates allowed. The residents had no extraordinary taxes of assessments other than the normal operating taxes. I hope this tells you of Castalia, and I thank you for your letter and wish you luck in all you do.
Very truly yours,