Catawba Island, the Great Peach Growing Center of Ohio
1913 text from reference (15) in the Bibliography
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and wherefore an island?" This question is usually the first formulated and
put by the curiosity seeking stranger who approaches Catawba Island by
stagecoach from Port Clinton - which, by the way, is the most available, and at
certain seasons the only feasible, route thither.
trip to an island by stagecoach, instead of in a boat! The idea appears
anomalous as it is novel: something similar to going to sea by rail, and, to
discover how the thing is done, grows into a matter of keen interest as the
geography informs him that an island is “a body of land entirely surrounded
with water”; and looking ahead - as the driver whips up his team - he vaguely
wonders where, and how far along, the water lies, and how they are to get across
it. Imagine, then, his complete surprise when, after a jaunt of several miles,
the driver informs him that the mainland is already far behind, and that they
are now on Catawba Island. Had the stranger turned back a few miles over the
route, to a place where the two main thoroughfares, the “sand road,” and
“lakeside” road, form a cross, or fork, he might have been shown a narrow
ditch with an unpretentious bridge thrown across it. This ditch, terminating at
the lake, is all that now serves to make Catawba an island. Old settlers can
remember, however, a narrow but clearly defined channel that extended between it
and the mainland. Among the Indians who as late as 1831 made the wilds of
Catawba a rendezvous, there was rife a tradition that the course of the Portage
River extended originally where only the ditch now remains, and that the water
of this river, flowing towards its outlet at West Harbor, formed the island.
southwestern portion of Catawba - an attenuated neck of land - reaches to a
point within about two miles of Port Clinton. Advancing in a northeasterly
direction from this point, the island gradually widens to a breadth of about two
miles. Its length is seven miles, with a shoreline following the numerous
projections and indentations - of considerable length.
ditch, aforementioned, gradually widens into a channel, and the channel into
quite an expansive body of water known by the above-mentioned name of “West
Harbor,” “Middle” and “East Harbor” lying adjacent.
island's westerly shore is broken by a line of high bluffs - lime rock
formations, cave indented and picturesque. “Sugar Rock,” a curious formation
on the west shore, rises conelike into view, a small lake at its base. “Sugar
Rock” formed a spot well known and favored by the Ottawa Indians, by whom it
was used as a burial site for their dead; and when before the tribe finally
departed for hunting grounds farther westward, representatives thereof were
accustomed to revisit annually these graves, there to perform their weird
relics, including arrow heads, coins, pipes, hatchets and human bones, have
there been unearthed in recent years.
Dock,” on the west shore, a place of some interest, is approached from one of
the main thoroughfares by a branch road that threads its way among peach and
pear orchards, interspersed by thrifty corn patches, and truck gardens. “Sugar
Rock,” to the left, is covered also with well tilled and thrifty orchards.
Water lilies float on the surface of the lake at its base, which, viewed in its
setting of trees, vines, and wild vegetation generally, forms a pretty picture.
number of handsome summer cottages are here located, together with those of
island dwellers. Moore’s Dock forms also the headquarters of one of the island
fish companies, G. W. Snyder & Son. In addition to a warehouse, twine,
packing, and ice houses, and a small boarding house known as “Apple
Cottage”, the company employs quite a number of men and boats, and operate a
large number of nets. Viewed from Moore’s Dock, on clear day, the court house
tower, spires of churches, and prominent business blocks in Port Clinton, are
plainly visible. Many handsome residences and fanciful summer cottages are noted
at different points southward of this place, and on every portion of the island.
Port Clinton is the official seat of Ottawa County, of which Catawba Island
forms a township.
once a post office, was robbed of this honor by the introduction of the rural
delivery .The place boasts of a church - Methodist Episcopal - and a
schoolhouse. The island cemetery, a well kept and beautiful spot, is also
located near Peachton.
northeast shore abounds also in scenery of an attractive character; a secluded,
but breezy and restful location; where several handsome summer cottages
scattered along its curving line are occupied by Pittsburg people of wealth, and
prominence, who with servants, automobiles and other transferable luxuries, come
to spend the sultry months of summer.
the island 's extreme point is situated that which is known as “Ottawa
City.” It's not much of a “city,” at present date, though a delightful
location for one.
circumstance which gave rise to the name about sixty years ago, was the
introduction of the cement industry, which promised great things for the island
and “Scott’s Point,” as the outer projection was then termed. So sure of
the rapid development and building up of the point, were the inhabitants, that
after christening it Ottawa, after the Indian tribe that last occupied it, they
tacked on “city.” The commercial outlook at that time was such, indeed, as
to induce sanguine conclusions. A few facts concerning the cement boom, as given
by a Catawba resident, are annexed:
R. James, a New York capitalist, it seems, had at some time in the island’s
history become owner of considerable land along the west shore near “Scott 's
Point.” Strong in the belief that a good quality of cement could be made from
limestone, there found in quantity inexhaustible, Mr. James erected extensive
works for the production of cement, one J. S. Dutcher being employed as builder,
and superintendent. A large force of men were employed to quarry the stone, and
to run the works, and much interest in the project was manifested. For various
reasons, however, the business did not prove as remunerative as had been
expected, and after a five years trial the enterprise was abandoned. Though not
officially so stated, it was understood that the shipment of an inferior lot of
the commodity, on one occasion during the superintendent’s absence, spoiled
the market and permanently injured the trade. The machinery was removed to an
Eastern field of operations; but the large warehouse, the deep overgrown quarry,
and the limekiln connected with the plant, still remain - picturesque relics of
the boom that bursted.
another opportunity remains, however, whereby “Ottawa City” may yet become a
city in reality, as well as in name. This undoubtedly may be accomplished by an
extension of the peninsula electric line to Ottawa Point and connecting this
terminal with Put-in-Bay by means of a ferry line. In this way Catawba Island
may be made easily accessible, a condition that would bring thither a great many
people who otherwise would never see this interesting bit of creation.
City, of the present forms an attractive little burg with a beautiful shore
front, including a fine view of “Mouse” Island - owned by heirs of the late
Ex.-Pres. R. B. Hayes.
ample pier, built by the Catawba Island Fruit Co., affords accommodation to
steamers of large size, a large warehouse built thereon furnishing space for
thousands of bushels of peaches shipped annually to Detroit, and elsewhere.
Port Clinton steamer “Falcon” also makes this dock a regular landing place.
dock and warehouse of the Booth Fish Co. occupy still another shore point. This
company does an extensive business. A fruit warehouse owned by J. P. Caugney
fronts on one of the principal streets. A half dozen hotels and boarding
cottages once formed a part of the place, but one of the number, the
“Pittsburg House,” was recently destroyed by fire.
View House,” owned by J. W. Gamble, is widely known and favored by a 1arge
circle of summer patrons, - the island being quite famed as a summer resort, in
spite of its isolation.
many years past Mr. and Mrs. John K’ Burg kept their doors open to summer
people, having a commodious and attractive home in a tree-clad nook of the
beautiful shore. Though the recent death of her husband left Mrs. K’ Burg
alone with the cares of the place, their old friends, the summer people, still
remember her and the location.
another old stand at Ottawa City is the general merchandise store, of which C.
C. West was proprietor for a period of forty-five years, Mr. West, who is the
oldest man on the island, recently celebrated his ninetieth birthday by retiring
from business and taking a vacation. He was also postmaster for a number of
years. Leon Stevens and Lake Owens are the new proprietors. Mr. Sharp keeps an
ice cream parlor and bowling alley.
neat schoolhouse serves the wants educational of the youthful islanders, and two
churches, Episcopal and a chapel devoted to union services, point the morals and
religious sentiments of the community.
the place are many attractive residences. The Ottawa City dwellers are now
paving their way to city honors by introducing stone paved thoroughfares, and
their hopes will thus be fixed upon a more solid basis than when the stone was
made into cement.
ancient shore line, set with crags and punctured with cavernous openings,
crosses Catawba Island - interesting alike to the geologist, and nature student.
There are many varieties of plants also, such as are found in but few other
localities. A line of broken and picturesque rocks along the west shore abound
in romantic scenery.
to the “Nellie Strong,” and her master, Capt. Eli Rogers, the islanders are
afforded facilities by which they may reach Sandusky and adjacent islands by
tug "Major Wilcox" is frequently seen at Catawba during the fishing
Mr. C. C. West holds the honor of being the oldest man on the island, Mr.
Lorenzo Bailey is known as the oldest settler. At the age of eighty, Mrs. Flora
Porter is a round-faced, sprightly woman, with a clear memory of the early days.
once more to the subject of the Pt. Clinton and Catawba Island mail route -
taken all the year through, it is probably one of the most interesting and
important found in Ohio. Especially is this true in winter. Below is what a
Cleveland newspaper says of the route:
P. Cangnay of Catawba Island retired from the mail-carrying service yesterday,
after having been connected with the Catawba Island route for fifty years. Mr.
Cangnay has been connected with the mail carrying and passenger business all his
life, as was his father before him. His contract expired June 30, when he was
succeeded by William Stevens, who received the contract for $725 per year.
post office is located on the extreme north end of Catawba Island, nine miles
from the Port Clinton office and four miles by water from Put-in-Bay. The
greater part of Catawba Island is supplied by rural free delivery. The island
mail is a star route contract between there and Port Clinton, on the New York
Central, and this mail is carried every day in the year except Sunday. During
December, January, February and March the Put-in-Bay, Middle Bass and North Bass
mails become a part of this contract and an extra trip every day is made to
accommodate Put-in-Bay people. This makes two round trips a day for the Catawba
Island carrier, in the very worst of stormy winter weather.
Carney, six feet five in height, has been a faithful driver for Mr. Cangnay for
many years and is well known by the many Cleveland, Cincinnati, Columbus,
Pittsburg and Toledo people who spend their summers on the islands. Many a good
story can be told of Mike and his various experiences during his cold winter
dead or alive is hauled by the mail carriers in the same conveyance. If the
island people are in need of anything in the line of express or freight, a dead
hog or a live one, even caskets for the dead, their wants were made known to Mr.
Cangnay, by phone, and he was at their service. And their needs were cared for
at the required time. Many times the mail wagon would carry a coffin and in the
same rig would ride friends of some dead person at Put-in-Bay. All would be
loaded into the little boat and hauled across the lake by the Morrison brothers,
who risk their lives during the winter months in getting the mail to and from
the mainland to the islands.
the above was published there have been additional changes – “Mike”
Carney, the driver of reminiscent memory, has crossed “The Great Divide,”
but his team of brown bays still does duty on the route.
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Revised: 21 Jul 2008 06:54:59.
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