History of Vermilion Township, Erie County, OH

From: The Centennial History of Erie County, Ohio
By: H. L. Peeke
President of the Firelands Historical Society
Sandusky, Ohio 1925

Vermilion Township

This township is named after the Vermillion River, which together with La Chapelle and Sugar Creek constitute the three streams passing through the township. The soil varies including gravel, clay, sand and marl. There are some ancient mounds and fortifications and other traces of early Indian occupation. Two of these are in the south part of the township on the farm owned by John Summers, near the Vermillion River. William Haddy came in 1808, William Austin, George and John Sherrarts, Enoch Smith and Horatio Perry in 1809, James Cuddebach, Almon Ruggles, Benjamin Brooks, Solomon Parsons, Barlow Sturgis, and Deacon John Beardsley in 1810.

Almon Ruggles, who was the surveyor of the firelands, settled on the lake shore between the Vermillion and Huron rivers. For many years he acted as land agent for the Firelands Society. When Huron County was organized he was chosen the first recorder in 1809. He was appointed associate judge of Huron County in 1815, became state senator in 1816, and was re-elected in 1818. In 1824 he was made representative.

From the circumstance that in the earliest record extant the earmarks which the earliest settlers in Florence and Vermilion townships had caused to be recorded, are drawn off in the handwriting of Harlow Case, stepson of Almon Ruggles; and then follow others, for Vermilion, in Ruggles' own land, as township clerk, it is probable Judge Ruggles had been township clerk of the two when together, and that the earliest records had been made on loose papers, and that when the record book was obtained he did not transcribe the doings of the township board, but only the ear marks, which were deemed too important to be lost.

Stephen Meeker, Jeremiah Van Benschoter, Peter Cuddebach, John Beardsley, James Prentiss, William Austin, Almon Ruggles, Rufus Judson and Francis Keyes, are amongst the names most frequently mentioned in the earliest records as holding the most important offices.

The first record of a township meeting is in the handwriting of Judge Ruggles, and was held at his residence on the 6th day of April, 1818, when Almon Ruggles was elected clerk; Peter Cuddebach and James Prentiss, judges of election; Francis Keyes, John Beardsley and Rufus Judson, trustees; Jeremiah Van Benschoter and Horatio Perry, overseers of the poor; Peter Cuddebach and Francis Keyes, fence viewers; Peter Cuddebach, lister and appraiser, and Stephen Meeker, appraiser; Peter Cuddebach, treasurer; George Sherrarts, Francis Keyes, William Van Bensehoter and James Prentiss, supervisors.

The following copy of the records will be interesting, as indicating the relative wealth in cattle, horses and houses, of the citizens in 1818, taken from the township records:

Tax Laid on the Inhabitants of Vermilion, According to the
List of 1818.

Job C. Smith


John Miller


Curtiss Hard


Isaac Ransom


John Beardsley


Jonah Bartow


John Bartow


Mark Summers


Eli Winton


Enoch Smith


Philo Wells


Robert Wells


Levi Platt


Almon Keeler


George Sherrarts




Jonathan Brooks


Horatio Perry


William Austin


James Cuddeback


Eunice Sturges


Josiah Pelton


James Prentiss


Rufus Judson


Solomon Parsons


Jesse Ball


Almon Ruggles


Benjamin Root


Abraham Traxel


Samuel Hall


Samuel Washburn


Stephen Meeker


Henry Scribner


Alexander Duker


Francis Keyes


Isaac Tillotson


Isaac Tillotson, Jr.


Jeremiah V. Benschoter


Henry Chevoy


Wm. V. Benschoter


Reuben Brooks


Daniel V. Benschoter


Martin Judson


Verney Judson


Peter Cuddeback




This also indicates the number of people subject to taxation and their personal property - as 5 cents here represents one head of cattle, and 20 cents a horse. Meager as it appears, it was as difficult for them to pay it, and much more so, than for us to pay what we do at this day.

The first log house was built in 1808 on the lake shore near the mouth of the river by William Haddy. Peter Cuddebach built the first frame house in 1818. In 1821 William Austin built the first stone house and later the first brick house was built by Horatio Perry. The first white child was John Sherrarts, born in 1809. The first marriage was that of Bud Martin to Catherine Sherrarts in 1814. Peter Cuddebach planted the first orchard in 1812. The first death was that of a stranger at the house of Barlow Sturgis, in the winter of 1810-11. John Ruggles was the first postmaster, and the mails were carried on foot and a Mr. Leach was the first mail carrier. William Austin opened the first hotel. C. P. Judson was the proprietor of the first store.

The fact that the First Congregational Church is the oldest church in the township must excuse giving it more prominence than the eight other churches at present existing in the township. It was organized at the home of Major Eli Barnum in Florence with six members, Alfred and Sally Betts, Samuel and Esther Husted, Electa Pearse and Abigail Harris all of whom came to Ohio from Connecticut. The Reverend Amasa Loomis was the first pastor. Out of the two hundred and forty nine Congregational Chuches in Ohio but twenty one have longer history than this church. In ten years the members had increased to forty two, and they built a church of squared logs thirty five by thirty feet at the center of the township in what is now known as Mr. Will's woods. Mr. Hervey Lyon was the first pastor after the church was built and was ordained May 22, 1828. The church was incorporated March 1, 1835, and the following year the church was removed to a spot on the ridge a little west of the state road called the Furnace. On April 20, 1838 the trustees Isaac Fowler, Philo Clark, James Prentice, Jacob Sherrarts and Perry Darby decided to build a new church on the present site, which was dedicated December 20, 1843, Rev J. W. Goodell preaching the dedication sermon. In 1886 this church was pulled down and the present church was dedicated January 15th, 1888.

On February 20th, 1918 a centennial celebration was held by the church which aroused much interest and was largely attended. Many relics of the early history of the township were produced, including old foot stoves used before the church was heated. The old communion service, pipes of the first pipe organ and the picture of the old log church is taken from the Vermilion News.

Al Rumsey

Al Rumsey, aged 76, died. He passed away during the early hours of Easter Sunday morning. The remains were forwarded to Cleveland today. Funeral services will be held Tuesday and at their conclusion the now lifeless form of one of northern Ohio's most picturesque and in many ways lovable characters will be cremated in accordance with a request of long standing on the part of the deceased.

Albert R. Rumsey was chief commissioner of the Lake Carriers' Association.

Attending physicians declared death resulted from heart failure.

Rumsey spent 41 years with the Lake Carriers' Association. He was re-elected commissioner last January. He had lived in Cleveland and Vermilion for 40 years.

First a policeman, he was later conductor of natatorium and physical culture gymnasium. Following this he turned his attention to the lakes and for years held a master's papers. Later he left the water and became occupied with the shore and of lake affairs.

Rumsey, brought into contact with all of Cleveland's shipping through his position as commissioner, was known to practically every big shipper and vesselman along the Great Lakes.

He is survived by three sisters and a brother.

Rumsey had a peculiar feeling for the followers of the lakes and according to those who knew him best, had assured over and over again that upon his death his estate, "Rumsey Park," two miles west of Vermilion, on the Lake Erie shore, should be converted into a home for sailors down and out. When Eugene Walters, the playwright, wrote his greatest success "Paid in Full," he had Al Rumsey in mind when he drew the character of Captain Williams, the veteran vessel master of that great drama. There were many characteristics in the bluff old stage sea captain which reminded Rumsey's acquaintances of the Erie county seaman.

It was something like 40 years ago that Rumsey became the owner of the premises near here known as Rumsey Park in which he centered his hopes for the future. With the aid of a sister whose co-operation he enlisted, he converted the property he had acquired with the savings of his early life, into one of the most desirable estates on Lake Erie's shores.

During his spare time Rumsey withdrew to Rumsey Park, and in later years when he needed a home, he found it there.

As the master of the Rumsey Park estate, Rumsey surrounded himself with animals of all kinds. He had a den of bears, wolves, foxes and representatives of numerous other families of the fields and forests of the days that preceded the advent of civilization into the Lake Erie section.

But more than all other animal associates Rumsey loved his bull dogs of which he always had a large kennel.

Some years back Rumsey's favorite dog died. Rumsey had a casket made to receive the remains. The casket and contents were buried in a burying ground for dogs Rumsey had set apart near Rumsey Park. Over the grave Rumsey caused to be erected a monument, the inscription on which stands today in testimony to the master's great sorrow.

Rumsey considered his favorite bull dog his "truest friend" and the words "truest friend" were inscribed by his direction on the little marble shaft. Ten or 12 years ago when Nat Goodwin sought a place to wed where he might escape at least temporarily the criticism he expected to have heaped upon him because he had already had a couple of wives, he sought the assistance of Al Rumsey with the result that the wedding was to have been celebrated at Rumsey Park. The fact that the location near Vermilion had been selected leaked out somehow and Goodwin, much to the regret of the actor as well as of Rumsey, had to seek another place.

Vermilion As Summer Resort

The long curving stretch of shore line, with its overhanging trees and fine beach, leading up to Vermilion attracts each summer, tourists and pleasure seekers in great numbers to the lakeside town, to enjoy the beauty of Lake Erie from this point.

A little more than a century ago when Vermilion was settled, it was the lake front too, that attracted the pioneers to take up residence there, but not by virtue of the beauty of the outlook. The water was the great practical medium of connection with civilization at a time when there were no roads and the trails impassable and all land travel accompanied by danger. Thus, along the waterside in the years 1808 and 1809 and the decade following, a little community gradually developed, and in the interior of the township where a river, the Vermilion or the LaChapelle offered a means of intercourse.

The strata of red shale in the valley of the Vermilion river may have given its name to the township, as the feature most typical of the region. The water power of the streams made it possible for the inhabitants to utilize to some extent the abundant timber that they found, in the building of a sawmill as early as 1819. The handling of lumber has always been a favorite industry of Vermilion.

Vermilion today is one of the leading Lake Erie commercial fishing ports. Four large concerns have large investments in realty, boats and other equipment and the fleets which sail from this port in fishing seasons rival those which set out from any other lake harbor. Other diversified industries help to make Vermilion a prosperous community.

Miss Susan Williams taught the first term of school in the township in a school built on the lake shore in 1814. The school building of the Village of Vermilion was finished in 1874, and is a handsome brick structure costing $18,000. It is a graded school of three grades employing four teachers. The first sawmill was erected by Joe Smith on LaChapelle Creek in 1819. Formerly there was a large iron industry in the township which has been abandoned.

According to the Register of August 9, 1871, the following were the business enterprises of the village:

Fischer & Company operated a planing mill and sash factory just started in the eastern part of the town on the Black River road. Kahres & Pelton were in the lumber business. The Northern Hotel was run by W. S. Irish, and had just been repainted and an ice cream parlor added to it. Gaylord & Merrill (who was afterward probate judge) had a general store and Delker & Englebry were about to move into their brick block which had just been built. E. D. DeWitt was the jeweler and Worthington & Sons and O. A. Leonard were engaged in the stone business.

At the time of the writing of this article Vermilion is a thriving village of 1,436 population. It has two banks, The Bank of Vermilion and the Erie County Banking Company. It has two summer resorts, Shattuck's Grove and Linwood Park, both of which deservedly receive a large patronage.


One of the best known men in Vermilion is Charles F. Decker. He was born in Vermilion November 9th, 1863, and has spent his life in this locality. His parents were Christopher Decker and Eve Decker. He received his education in the Vermilion Public schools and at the age of twenty one established himself in the coal and builders' supply business, which he conducted till January 27th, 1918. He is vice president of The Erie County Banking Company and secretary treasurer of the Vermilion Amusement Company. He became Postmaster of Vermilion February 23, 1923. It follows he is Republican politically, He belongs to the local Masonic Lodge, of which he has been treasurer for many years. He is also a member of the Maccabees and the Knights and Ladies of Security, and limits his social activities to the Vermilion Boat Club. He married Miss Lena Leimbach, who presented him with five children and died December 18th, 1911. His only son, Charles C. Decker, died at the age of four years. Of his four daughters, Ruth, Catherine, Pauline, and Mary, three are married - Ruth the wife of E. C. Trinter, Katherine, wife of Lawrence Hinde, and Pauline of Markus Harris. Mr. Decker maintained his home by the aid of a housekeeper until March 10th, 1925, when he married Mrs. Carrie Leimbach of Elyria. He served one term in the Council and one term as a member of the Municipal Board of Public Affairs, and twelve years as member of the Board of Education. It seems to be the opinion of his neighbors that he deserves his financial success, and is a very satisfactory postmaster for that city.


One of the present Board of County Commissioners is Elmer C. Trinter whose whole life has been connected with Vermilion township where he was born March 17th, 1858, the son of Martin J. Trinter and Edna M. Trinter. He has always been a progressive farmer, as shown by his obtaining a High School Education at Vermilion and later taking a course at Oberlin Business College. He was Director in the Erie County Agricultural Society in 1921 and 1922, and in the same years, President of the Erie County Farm Bureau. He was a commissioner of Erie County in 1923 and 1924. He is a member of Ely Lodge No. 424 F. & A. M. Vermilion, of Wakeman Chaptetr No. 177, of Norwalk Council No. 24 R. & S. M. of Lorain, Commander No. 65 K. T. of Lake Erie Consistor, Cleveland, Ohio, of Singara Grotto Sandusky, Ohio, and of Zenobia Temple, Toledo, Ohio. He belongs to K. of P. Lodge Number 128, Sandusky, Ohio, and to B. P. O. E. Elks Lodge 285 of Sandusky, Ohio. He belongs to the Vermilion Boat Club, the Vermilion Grange, The Erie County Automobile Club and the Vermilion Chamber of Commerce. Religiously he is a member of The First Reformed Church of Vermilion, Ohio. He was married January 29th, 1918 at Vermilion to Ruth Decker, the daughter of Charles F. Decker the present postmaster at Vermilion. He already has two children as a proof he is opposed to race suicide, Donald Charles Trinter and Paul Elmer Trinter.

Mr. Trinter has enjoyed the respect and affection of his neighbors and friends to a remarkable degree as is shown by the elections returns. Still active and vigorous he is expected to have an active part in the community life for many years.


Mamoru Okagi was born February 21, 1881 at Idsushi Tajima, Japan.

His parents were Udsu Okagi and Ito Kitamura Okagi. Like many of the Japanese, he states that he is very fond of athletics in all branches.

He was educated in Japan and America. He says that the first business that he engaged in was the restaurant business.

He is a member of the Ely Lodge No. 424 F. & A. M. Vermilion, Ohio; Wakeman Chapter No. 177, Wakeman, Ohio; Norwalk Council No. 24, R. & S. M. Norwalk, Ohio; Lorain Commander No. 65, Knights Templar, Lorain, Ohio; Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite, Valley of Cleveland, Ohio; Singara Grotto, Sandusky, Ohio and Zenobia Temple Shrine A. A. O. N. M. S., Toledo, Ohio. He is also a member of the Vermilion Boat Club and Vermilion Chamber of Commerce.

On August 8, 1912 at Elyria, Ohio, he married his wife, Marie C. Gray. He states that his family has a complete record in Japan for fifteen generations back. They were all Samurai.


Marie C. Gray Okagi was born July 1, 1889 at Monteign Vendee, France. Her parents were Constant Louis Gray and Elisa Jenne Coicault Gray.

She states that after she left school she visited in England for live years and then came to America. She started her education in Monteign Vendee and then went to Nantes to attend a girls' finishing school.

She came to America in May, 1911. She followed nursing until her marriage in August, 1912, at Elyria, Ohio.

It is natural that her taste should be as patriotic as that of her husband. She can trace her French ancestry back to the Revolution of 1793, when the family archives were burned during the French Revolution. She states further that all her family were very strong Royalists and were on the side of the King.

She is a member of Madeline Chapter No. 204 O. E. S., Vermilion, Ohio.

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