OCHS History

Organized in 1963, the Ottawa County Historical Society continues to fulfill its mission to discover, preserve and celebrate the fascinating history of the County by developing programs and activities supporting all parts of Ottawa County.  Some of our projects over the years included relocating and restoring Betsy Mo-John’s cabin on Catawba Island.  When most of the American Native people of Ottawa County left in the early 1800s, Betsy’s father was the last chief of the Ottawa tribe on Catawba island.   Another significant restoration project was the Wolcott Keeper’s House, the private residence of the first three keepers of the Marblehead Lighthouse.  Stories from our Oral History project have been the basis for conducting programs, lectures, re-enactments, tours, and presentations.  Most recently, the Society presents “History Speaks” performances where local stories are told by local storytellers.  We continue to sponsor historical markers of significance throughout the County, including Allen Township’s marker at Crane Creek Cemetery to honor Native Indians, East Harbor State Park highlighting the Lockwood Farm, Marblehead Lighthouse detailing the builder and keepers, and in 2022, a marker at Holy Assumption Orthodox Church to honor the contributions of immigrants in developing the County.

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.

2021-2022 Board

Officers:

  • President: Patrick O’Keeffe
  • Vice President: Becky Shemenski
  • Secretary: Linda Huber
  • Treasurer: Doug Huber

Trustees:

  • Lisa Hossler
  • Linda Huber
  • Kathy Leonard
  • Rich Norgard
  • David O’Neal
  • Erin Sandvick
  • Becky Shemenski
  • John Starcher
  • Suzy Wittenmyer

Past-Presidents:

  • Nancy Dunham (2007-2010)
  • Paul Moon (2011-2016)
  • Richard Taylor (1996-2006)
  • Earl Wiseman
  • Ruth Jones
  • Henriella Meinke
  • Dick Sanderson
  • Neil Merkins
  • Wilma Ernst
  • Robert Ernst
  • Curt Kuhnle
  • George Bradehoff
  • Virgil Gordon

Membership

The following membership opportunities are available:

  • Single – $15
  • Family – $25
  • Sustaining – $35
  • Sponsor – $50
  • Patron – $100

Benefits of membership include:

  • Quarterly newsletter
  • Invitations to special events
  • Participation in Spring and Fall membership meetings

The membership application may be downloaded here. Please complete and return the application with your fee as noted on the application.

If you have any specific membership questions, please send an email to: info@ottawacountyhistory.org.

Volunteers

There are many volunteer opportunities available for those wishing to share Ottawa County’s fascinating history.

Researchers:

The Society’s “Page & Stage Oral History Project” is open to anyone wishing to research various topics to be compiled as part of the current volume being produced.  The meetings are held the 2nd Tuesday of every month at 1:00 p.m. at the Ida Rupp Library in Port Clinton.

Docents & Greeters:

During the summer season the Wolcott Keeper’s House provides tours in the House and offers merchandise for sale in the adjoining Annex. Docents and greeters are needed for the House and Annex throughout the season. Light gardening opportunities are also available.

Event Assistance:

There are a number of activities and events held at the Keeper’s House throughout the season requiring volunteer assistance including the hearth cooking events, Civil War enactment, and the mobile perch-wagon sales event. Also, the Keeper’s House is open as part of the fall festival on the Marblehead peninsula.

Storytellers:

The Society’s newest project is “History Speaks” where local people tell local stories based on oral history stories. We are looking for people to write scripts as well as tell the stories. Please read more about this project on our website’s “Virtual Museum—Project” page

If you are interested in volunteering for any of these activities, please send an email to info@ottawacountyhistory.org.