The Ottawa County Historical Society was organized in 1963. Its mission and purpose is “to discover, preserve and celebrate the history of Ottawa County and to promote a heightened awareness of our local place in time."
Throughout its 56-year history, the Society has undertaken programs and activities supporting all parts of the County including:
- relocation and restoration of the Betsy Mo John cabin on Catawba Island
- initiated century-home property recognition program
- participated in County Fair booth and sponsored photo mural tracing the Fair’s history
- reprinted 1874 Hardesty County Atlas
- installed and repaired Johnson’s Island Historical Marker
- participated in Oak Harbor Apple Festival
- contributed to Genoa town markers
- joined with Allen Township in erecting a marker at Crane Creek Cemetery, the final resting place of two Indians
- conducted several community programs: lectures, plays, re-enactments, tours, and presentations throughout the County as well as around the State
- hosted an “Educator’s Day” at the Keepers House for curriculum directors and classroom teachers
- helped develop self-driving County tour guidebooks
- developed War of 1812 bicentennial celebration program entitled “The Skirmish on the Peninsula” including a memorial service at the Giddings Monument in Marblehead (see separate section below)
- refurbished monument at Fulton and Perry Streets in Port Clinton for the Tall Ships weekend in 2013
- with the Friends of East Harbor dedicated a marker at East Harbor State Park commemorating the lives of E. J. Lockwood and his wife Lydia Ramsdell Lockwood whose farm became the Park
- participated in the Ohio History Connection statewide "Ohio Open Doors" event organizing countywide events from Oak Harbor to Marblehead including tours and special presentations
- partnered with the Marblehead Lighthouse Historical Society on an historical marker at the Lighthouse detailing the builder of the Lighthouse, William Kelly, and the Keepers of the Light.
- launched a new storytelling project presenting short performances on Ottawa County history
- coordinated "Harvesting History" days to help residents preserve family history
In 1989, the Society purchased the home of Benajah and Rachel Wolcott, the first two keepers of the Marblehead Lighthouse. The property is today owned by Danbury Township and the Society continues to operate the Keepers House as a “pioneer home” and adjoining property known as The Annex as a gift shop and small museum.
The Society receives funds through memberships, donations, grants, and specific projects. It publishes a “Keepers House” coloring book, an oral history series entitled “The People of Ottawa County-Oral Histories” recently publishing Volume VII---The Stories Continue, and a Combined Atlas of Ottawa County: Hardesty 1874/Goodman 1900. In November, 2016 the Society produced History of Ottawa County—The First 175 Years, a book detailing the County’s history in narrative and photographs.
The Skirmish On The Peninsula
This was the very first battle of the War of 1812 on Ohio soil and the only engagement of arms on the Western Reserve. The Joshua R. Giddings Monument in Battlefield Park across Bayshore Road from The Keeper’s House commemorates the site. Giddings, an early abolitionist member of Congress and later US Consul General in Canada during the Civil War, was a 16-year old boy in the militia which fought the Skirmish. Eight American militiamen and 30 Native Americans were killed and in 1857 Giddings returned to Danbury to erect a monument to those who perished who were his childhood friends. In 1859 Giddings wrote a complete account of the Skirmish so that it is one of the most well documented events of the War of 1812.
A DVD is available for purchase of the September 2012 Ottawa County Historical Society re-enactment of “The Skirmish on the Peninsula” from the Wolcott Keeper’s House or from our website ‘Shop’ page. You may also view the event via YouTube here.