Library links to Sandusky's storied past

SANDUSKY Getting a beer in Sandusky used to be a very easy task -- particularly if you happened to be on Water Street.
Tom Jackson
May 24, 2010



Getting a beer in Sandusky used to be a very easy task -- particularly if you happened to be on Water Street.

In 1889, the city boasted 181 saloons. Water Street was home to 41 of them.

Sandusky residents used to celebrate the beginning of the new year by the now-forgotten custom of giving each other large pretzels on New Year's Day.

Sandusky is pretty far north -- about as far away from the South as you can get in the Midwest -- but in 1864 it apparently was crawling with Confederate spies. A plot to free hundreds of Confederate officers from their prison on Johnson's Island was foiled when a Sandusky teen overheard the plotters.

The various glimpses of Sandusky's past are provided by the Sandusky history blog, a service of the Sandusky Library.

The blog was started by Ron Davidson, 47, who has been the archives librarian at the Sandusky Library for more than seven years.

Davidson uses Blogger, Google's free service for creating blogs. He writes many of the entries and uploads photographs to the blog.

Other entries are written by Maggie Marconi, museum curator for the Follett House, and Dorene Paul, a library reference assistant.

Paul wrote the blog's July 31, 2007, entry about Mary Marilla Stephens, a 17-year-old Sandusky girl who overheard Confederate spies plotting to free Confederate prisoners on Johnson's Island. Stephens foiled the scheme by tipping off authorities, although the rebels did succeed in hijacking two steamships. One of the Confederate spies, John Beall, was later caught and hanged.

Davidson wrote the June 13, 2006, blog entry, "No TV, No Internet, No Video Games," about the Golden Age enjoyed by Sandusky beer drinkers in the late 19th century.

Compared 1889's plethora of drinking establishments, the current AT&T Yellow Pages list 51 taverns, including many that aren't in Sandusky itself, but in Norwalk and Bellevue -- a quick drive now, but a considerable trip then.

Davidson has three college degrees, including a master's in library science and a master's in history.

"I took a lot of archive-specific classes," he said. "I was always a history fan."

Every blog posting is based on material in the Sandusky Library's historical archives, Davidson said.

"It's not just something we found in a book," he said.

Many of the most recent blog entries were penned by Paul.

"I'm just passionate about local history," said Paul, explaining that she began exploring her family's genealogy after a distant cousin kept asking her genealogy questions.

"You can't separate the land from the people," she said. "I started researching local history, too."

One of her ancestors, Julius House, came to Erie County in 1815 from Connecticut.

The blog has plenty of information about Sandusky's past, but much additional trivia can be picked up by following the links in the entries to other Web sites.

Sandusky has always attracted famous tourists -- including Charles Dickens, the famous English author.

Dickens, who wrote "A Tale of Two Cities" and "A Christmas Carol," visited Sandusky during a trip through America in 1842 and wrote about it in his travelogue, "American Notes."

Apparently he didn't enjoy our city.

"The town, which was sluggish and uninteresting enough, was something like the back of an English watering-place, out of the season," Dickens wrote.