When Sandusky city was first surveyed in 1818, the area east of Megs and north of Washington Street was designated as the East Battery and the area west of Shelby Street and north of Washington was labeled the West Battery.
These areas were considered public ground and a place where artillery could be set up as a defense to the new town. The War of 1812 had ended only recently and perhaps there was a fear that English-controlled Canada would come across Lake Erie and invade northern Ohio. One source also tells me it was planned that a fort would be built in Washington Park as a safe refuge and to defend Sandusky against invaders.
Well it’s no secret that Sandusky was spared military action and that no artillery was ever put in place. The West Battery was the site of Sandusky’s first village cemetery and the East Battery was for a long time the site of shipyards and was leased later for industrial use. Over time the park was enlarged with fill dirt from basements and sewer lines being dug and finally was developed into park land and marinas.
In 1881, the Sandusky Weekly Register newspaper published a most interesting story concerning a silver cross about five inches long which was found in the East Battery after a flood in 1856. The site was referred to as a burial ground for Native Americans before the advent of Europeans and the cross referred to one of four found among the many relics and scraps of relics uncovered by the high water.
Seven or eight similar crosses had been found prior to 1881 along the trail of French Catholic missions around Great Lakes and especially the southern shore of Lake Erie. One such cross was unearthed while digging a foundation in Fremont about 1865.
I’ve always understood that a mission chapel was built somewhere near the site of Sandusky about 1751, perhaps by Fr. Armand de La Richard, a French Catholic missionary who had come from France. He learned the Huron tribe language and then went to Detroit, where a mission for Hurons had existed for several years. Fr. De La Richard died in Quebec in 1758.
The East Battery figured in a most important event in the 19th century, which is commemorated by Ohio Historical plaques at the east end of Water Street. Here, on Sept. 17, 1835, gourd was broken for two railroads which were planned to run south from Sandusky. The smaller one was the Monroeville & Sandusky City, which was the second to be chartered but became the first to actually operate. The first to be chartered was the Mad River and Lake Erie, chartered to run from Sandusky through Bellevue and Tiffin and on to Dayton.
The ground breaking drew a great crowd and the guest of honor to wield the spade was War of 1812 General William Henry Harrison, who was elected U.S. President five years later, in 1840. Chief orator of the day was Eleutheros Cooke, of Sandusky, then our U.S. Congressman. A few Wyandot Indians came from Upper Sandusky to witness the start of yet another intrusion onto their ancestral lands. Just eight years later these indigenous folks were forced to move to Oklahoma.
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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.
Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.