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The Point celebrating 150 years in 2020

By Henry Timman • Oct 13, 2019 at 2:00 PM

Cedar Point is winding down its 2019 season and I’m sure special sesquicentennial celebrations are planned for 2020, the 150th birthday of the place we all know so well and enjoy so much. The ‘Point’ was launched in 1870 by Sandusky cabinet maker Louis Zistel, who opened a beer garden and dance floor, along with a bathhouse and space on the sandy beach for children to play. These first facilities could draw in the whole family for a day’s entertainment.

There was little advancement in facilities or attendance until 1878, when more bathhouses were built. There apparently were no rides or other entertainment except for bathing and picnicking ...... and the cooler temperatures on a hot summer day. A great advance came in 1882 when two men realized the potential of The Point. Benjamin Dwelle was a Sandusky grain and livestock feed dealer, and Capt. William Slackford leased the property for a year, and at the end of 1882 were so satisfied with their profit that they leased it for another five years, with advancements and improvements every year.

Instead of renewing the five-year lease in 1888 there was formed the Cedar Point Pleasure Resort Company with Mr. Dwelle and four others as partners. Dwelle knew how to run a resort, but fierce competition from other resorts held back Cedar Point’s progress and eventually Mr. Dwelle was foreclosed on and his share of Cedar Point was sold at a sheriff’s sale in 1897, threatening to close the park.

At this same time George A. Boeckling arrived in Sandusky. He was only 35 years old, but had extraordinary business acumen. He took over operations, and was part of a new company formed to operate the park. Eventually he acquired a controlling interest in Cedar Point and the rest is history. Mr. Boeckling’s ideas and innovations were positive and made the park better and better every year. When he died in 1931 he still was actively managing the place.

Mr. Benjamin Dwelle’s story did not end as happily as Cedar Point’s story. In 1893 Mr. Dwelle was approaching 80 years old when he met up with a gentleman who offered to sell him some valuable farm land near Amherst, Ohio. They went to Mr. Dwelle’s bank, where the seller insisted on the full $5,000 in cash instead of a bank draft. Dwelle’s banker was unhappy, but the deal was completed and the mysterious seller left the bank with $4,000 cash and a bank draft for $1,000. The next morning Dwelle received a note from the stranger which read in part.... “If you had listened to your banker I would not have your four thousand dollars.” The stranger had written it at his hotel before taking the next train out of Sandusky!

As it turns out, the story of a land purchase near Amherst was just that - a story. The stranger first told Mr. Dwelle that he knew of an Indian living south of Sandusky who had two gold bricks worth of $23,000...but would sell them for $5,000. They drove out and the stranger ‘convinced’ the Indian to sell for $5,000.

Mr. Dwelle went to his banker and told the story of a land purchase, got the $4,000 and soon handed it over to the stranger, thoroughly convinced that he was buying two gold bricks. We can see that poor Mr. Dwelle was thoroughly fleeced. Mrs. Dwelle knew nothing of the deal until it was too late, but she did hire a detective who tracked down the man in Richmond, Virginia. She even went there to identify him as did seven other victims of the swindler’s schemes, which had netted him $40,000. The slicker was identified as Frank L. Smith, alias Red Austin, alias Billy the Kid. I’m sure he spent some time in prison eventually.

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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.


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