SEVEN LEAVE PA. TO MAKE HOMES HERE
Berlin Township, originally named Eldridge was settled around 1808. At that time Erie County was a part of Huron County.
The first white settler was a man by the name of John Dunbar, who came from New York and settled in the eastern part of the township.
In 1808, seven men set sail from the mouth, of Walnut Creek in Pennsylvania. There were John Hoak, John McLaughlin, George Miller, Nathanial Burdue, Benjamin Pratt, Richie and Howard. They launched a large but crude boat loaded with provisions, farming tools, and thirty barrels of whiskey. During the trip on the lake, they encountered rough weather and had to throw the whiskey overboard to save the boat. When the storm subsided, they again loaded the whiskey on the boat and continued on their way.
They landed at the mouth of the Huron River and after digging out a sand bar came up into what is now Milan township and settled there for the summer. They planted a field of corn and hoed it. They left an Indian to guard it and returned to Pennsylvania to get their families. When they returned they decided to come east to this township because of the flooding conditions along the Huron River.
John Haok's family and the McLaughlin family settled along the western edge of the township. The McLaughlin (now Laughlin) family is still located there and the Hoak farm was still in that family until the 1960's.
In 1812, John Hoak went to Canada where he found fruit trees, pears, cherry, and apple which he brought back and planted on his farm. This was the beginning of the fruit industry in this area. As late as 1950, one of the pear trees, which he had planted, was still alive.
Mrs. John Hoak was a true pioneer woman and an excellent horsewoman. She would ride from her home to Perrysburg, a distance of 75 miles, alone through the wilderness in one day and return the next.
EDUCATIONAL NEEDS PROVIDED FOR
During the years from 1809 to 1812 a number of families came to the area but all except four families left to go back east because of the hostilities in the area during the War of 1812. They returned after the war and built a log school in the western part of the township. Then in 1818, a school was built on the Burdue farm. It was a building 16' x 20' made of logs of all lengths and using "shake" for the roof. The teacher, Thomas Stevens received ten dollars a month in work or produce.
In 1873, the Central School District erected the high school building for $13,000. This stood on the present school ground and was used until it was torn down in 1958. By 1889 there were ten school houses in the township. Four of these are still standing at their original locations. Three of them have been built into homes and the fourth was used as a grain drier by the Tillinghast family. Two other school houses have been moved and are used as farm buildings.
NEW CHURCHES REPLACE HOME MEETINGS
The first church to be formed was the Methodist. Methodist meetings were held in homes as early as 1812. In 1839, a church was built east of what is now Andress Road on the State Road (Route 113). In 1850, one was built in the western part of the township and was later used as a school. The present Methodist Church was built in 1870.
The Baptist Church dates back to 1819. After the church was closed, the building was moved and used as a feed mill for a good many years. The building is still standing.
The Congregational Church was established in 1823. The services were held in the old log school on East Main Street until a church was built at the present location. In 1847, that building was moved and the main part of the present building was built.
VARIETY OF EARLY INDUSTRIES BEGINS
Berlin Heights had had a few industries. The leading one being the Berlin Fruit Box Company established in 1854 by T.B. Hine and Asa F. Page. It started as a barrel making and sorghum business. In 1858, the business was sold to Samuel Patterson.
Quarrying of sandstone was another industry. The first quarry was opened by Joshua Phillips on Humm Road. The quarry supplied the general demand of the community. Even then no one knew that just a mile north lay one of the richest sandstone quarries in the country. It was up to a young man by the name of George Baillie to discover and open it. Mr. Baillie came to Berlin Heights from Canada with all his worldly possessions on his back and he made enough money from the quarry to build the largest and most imposing mansion in the township.
A railroad was built from the quarry down to the main railroad (the present Penn Central). In 1878 more than 400 carloads of stone were shipped out mostly to New York City.
Another industry was the making of cider and vinegar. At one time, there were four cider mills in the township.
TWO PROMINENT AUTHORS RESIDE HERE
Two authors were a part of the history of Berlin township. One was James Oliver Curwood, who lived on Church Road and went to school at Ogontz. Some of his books told of his experiences around Ogontz and Berlin Heights, but some of the people who went to school with him didn't always agree with his accounts. Curwood was not a native of this area but he did receive his schooling here in the township.
The author Hudson Tuttle was born and lived his entire life on the same farm, "The Walnut Grove Farm" located on Chapin Road. He was one of the leading spiritualists of the English speaking world and he wrote a number of books on the subject. He also published the books at the "Hudson Tuttle Publishing Company" which was located at his home. He was so well known that he received a letter from Europe with the simple address, Hudson Tuttle, United States of America. In addition to his spiritualism, he wrote many articles on the history of this area. His wife, Emma Rood Tuttle was a great lover of nature and a very humane person. As well as her work as a humanitarian, she helped her husband with his spiritual writings.
Two of the Tuttle's three children lived to an old age. Their only son Carl, was one of the leading doctors in town during the early part of the century. His home was the large brick home on West Main Street. Dr. Tuttle was also a noted taxidermist. Tuttle's daughter, Claire Tuttle Yearance was an actress and traveled with a road show.
DOCTOR DEVELOPS SURGICAL TECHNIQUE
Another person who was well known in his day, but now forgotten was Dr. Noah Hill who lived on West Main Street. Dr. Noah Hill performed the first successful cataract operation in the United States. Dr. Noah Hill's brother Dr. William Hill also practiced medicine in Berlin Heights. His home was the large brick home later owned by Dr. Tuttle.
CONTINUOUS CHANGES IN BUSINESS AREA
The business district has burned on both sided of the street during the years.
There were two banks in town during the early part of the century. Around 1880, William Henry Hine established The Berlin Heights Banking Company which also had branches in Huron and Wakeman. This bank was later renamed the Firelands Community Bank.
The other bank, the Citizens Banking Company was established by George Baillie, who owned the quarry. The bank was located in the building now used by the library.
At one time, there were seven saloons in town.
There was a large three story hotel on the northeast corner of Lake Street and Main Street. This hotel, the Davis House, burned during the 1880's. Later the Lake View Hotel was built on the southwest corner of Main and South Streets. This was torn down to build the gas station. There was a third hotel just west of the Lake View Hotel. It was the Lambert Hotel.
Other businesses have come and gone through the years. There was a blind man, Eldon Pearl, who made brooms. He sold his brooms in Berlin Heights and neighboring towns. The blacksmith shop was at the east end of town. The building next to it housed the town newspaper, The Berlin Call. This paper was printed until about 1950. Another paper, The Saturday Budget was printed at the turn of the century.
There was a bandstand on the Congregational Church lawn where concerts were held on Saturday Nights during the summer. The bandstand was torn down about 1925.
The center of the social life in town was the Town Hall. There were community plays, school entertainments, Farmer's Insitutes, graduations, and many other activities held there. The school fair held in October was another source of entertainment.
Two interurban lines ran through the town. One came down South Street from Norwalk, turned at the light and went East through town. It went off through the fields just east of Memorial Drive going to Florence and Birmingham and east. This was officially the "Cleveland and Southwest" but was more commonly known as the Green Line because of the color of the cars.
The other line, the "Lake Shore Electric Company". known as the Yellow Line because of their yellow cars went through Berlin Heights just west of the houses on South Street and crossed West Main Street where there was a depot. It then went north along route 61 to the lake shore where it connected with the line from Cleveland to Toledo at Ceylon Junction.
There have been many changes in the community since its beginning but it still remains an important producer of fruit and vegetables plus other farm products.
["The Berlin Call", August 27, 28, 29, 1976 - Lawrence Johns]
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