Originally part of Huron County, in 1838 Danbury Township was included in the newly formed Erie County from which, two years later, it was sliced off to form part of the still-newer Ottawa County. Named after Danbury, Connecticut, it was part of the “Firelands,” a tract set aside as compensation to Connecticut landholders burned out by the British in the American Revolution. Danbury was home to the first permanent deeded settlers who, following the War of 1812, began farming in earnest in the rich, arable soil. Discovery of high quality and accessible limestone fired up quarrying as its primary industry, which is ongoing today in the shadow of the famed Marblehead Lighthouse. Within its borders lie the villages of Marblehead and Lakeside, as well as Johnson’s Island in Sandusky Bay, site of a Civil War Confederate POW camp and cemetery.
East Harbor State Park:
Situated at Catawba Island’s eastern shore on one of the most pristine spots in the County is East Harbor State Park. Originally known as the “Lockwood Farm”, today it is one of the most visited parks in Ohio.
Bull’s Island belonged to land speculator Epaproditus Bull, one of his many holdings on the eastern edge of the county. At the start of the Civil War, the wooded island in Sandusky Bay and accessible only by boat, was owned by Leonard B. Johnson. It became the Johnson’s Island Prison in 1862, designated specifically for officers. A Union strategy was to keep officers from possibly escaping and rejoining their forces, thus ensuring that the Confederacy would be deprived of talented leadership. Few escapes were successful. Through its days of operation the prison held over 10,000 inmates, closing at war’s end in 1865. Afterwards, the island had brief stints as both quarry and resort locations, and then was turned over to development of private residences, the purpose which it serves today. Its history is not forgotten: the prison’s cemetery is preserved and maintained as a U.S. National Cemetery, where the remains of 267 Confederate soldiers are interred. The camp itself, though no longer recognizable to the untrained eye, is also preserved, and is currently the subject of an archeological study by David Bush of Heidelberg University.
Lakeside, located along the northeastern edge of Danbury Township, is one of the few remaining nationwide Chautauqua communities still in existence from over 300 that were established in the early 1900s. The community is listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the U.S. Department of the Interior National Park Service. “Chautauqua” is a generic descriptive term for resorts that blend the summer season with religion, education, cultural arts, and recreation programs. Lakeside is a slice of Americana offering a unique summer experience to rest, renew and reconnect with loved ones. Visitors stay for a day, weekend, week, or the entire summer. A handful of people reside in the community year-round.
Lakeside Daisy (Colleen “Casey” Taylor and Ruth E. Fiscus) State Nature Preserve:
In early to mid-May, an old part of the Marblehead Quarry surprises the eye with bright yellow flowers of a unique species that botanist Clarence M. Weed discovered in 1890. More recently, thanks to the diligence of Colleen “Casey” Taylor and Ruth E. Fiscus, who worked tirelessly to protect the rare flower’s natural habitat, the Ohio Division of Natural Areas and Preserves worked with the Lafarge Corporation to establish a nineteen acre preserve on quarry property. It is located on Danbury Peninsula near Marblehead, on Alexander Pike, Township Road 142, a half mile south of State Route 163. Lakeside Daisy, Hymenoxys Herbacea, is the rarest of plants listed as endangered in Ohio, and in 1988 was designated by the US Fish and Wildlife Service as a threatened species. During its springtime blossoming, the Lakeside Daisy suddenly adorns an otherwise plain, sun baked topography left over from years of quarrying with magnificent color and delicate beauty.
Marblehead, the location of the oldest lighthouse in continuous operation on the Great Lakes, is a village on Danbury Peninsula’s rocky headland of Columbus Limestone. Built in 1821, and originally designated the Sandusky Bay Lighthouse, the structure around which the community developed was once operated by the Lighthouse Service, and later the Coast Guard. It is now a state park. Discovery of high-grade limestone by John Clemons in the 1830s led to expansion of the settlement, attracting laborers, many from Eastern Europe. The quarry continues to operate, and Marblehead, now a popular tourist destination, remains a thriving mix of culture and commerce.