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Discover Vermilion

Vermilion, Ohio is the crowning jewel of the south shore of Lake Erie. From quaint shops to fine dining, the arts, entertainment and unmatched festivities, Vermilion truly has it all. Be reminded of a simpler time when an afternoon at the beach, a hand-dipped ice cream cone and a stroll along Main Street made your day special. Stay for a day, maybe two, and take home a memory that will last forever.  This enchanting little town has always been a sea side community with New England style atmosphere.  This is the kind of town that still has a working soda fountain, a town square and summer concerts on the green.  People here actually sit on their front porches on a summer evening. Visiting boats are not only welcomed, they are an important part of the ambiance of what locals call "Harbour Town."

Great Place to Drop Anchor
Vermilion is situated along the Southern shore of Lake Erie and embraces the Vermilion River. Vermilion was once known as the “Village of Lake Captains,” and no other place in Ohio has so many beautifully maintained captains’ homes in its historic district.The City of Vermilion i

Our Harbour Town Historic District also features housing styles from the Victorian, Italianate, Arts and Crafts, and Queen Anne eras. Take an evening stroll in our gracious neighborhoods and experience the quality of life of a bygone era. Other neighborhoods retain the charm of Summer Lake cottages nestled along the shore, while contemporary construction blends with yesterday's heritage.

The Vermilion River, which flows into Lake Erie, endows marina facilities with more than 1,000 boat slips and ramps for easy access to the Lake, earning Vermilion the title of the “Largest Small Boat Harbour on the Great Lakes.” Lake freighters are also a regular sight on Lake Erie making their way through the Great Lakes nine months out of the year.

Public docks are within walking distance of a museum, Bed & Breakfasts, dozens of retail stores and restaurants ranging from family style to fine French cuisine, a beach and several parks, and a variety of art galleries. The wealth of attractions so close to protected dockage makes Vermilion a very popular cruising destination.

Rare is the port of call with as much to offer. The Harbour Town 1837 Historic District is the center of our attractive Vermilion community. Located in the heart of this district is Historic Downtown Vermilion. Our picturesque and quaint Historic Downtown Vermilion is the focal point for offices, the City Administration, the Chamber of Commerce, Main Street Vermilion, restaurants, shops, galleries, marinas, the Vermilion Mainline and tourist activities. Our community is dedicated to making Vermilion your destination for a day, a week, or an entire lifetime. Community wide revitalization efforts have encouraged property owners to retain the unique charm of their businesses and homes while maintaining high standards of care and construction. Nowhere will you find a community with such a diversity of housing, reasonable tax base, educational excellence, and New England style charm.

Recreation Along the Lake

Swimmers of all ages enjoy our sandy beaches located in Historic Downtown Vermilion and either side of the city.  Recreational boating of every kind, jet skis, canoeing, and sail boats adorn the Vermilion harbor, where ship building was once the major industry.  On summer nights, residents and visitors congregate on the large deck at Main Street Beach to watch boats sail back and forth in front of the beautiful Lake Erie sunset and enjoy the Mystic Belle, a small paddle wheeler, offering rides on the Vermilion River. Musicians entertain in numerous outdoor locations in the downtown area. Art galleries offer continuously changing exhibits. Children attend Sail Camp where they learn water safety and sailing supervised by members of our world-renowned women’s sailing crew. Vermilion is home to two golf courses, a history museum, cooking school, lighhouse and a vineyard.

Lake Erie Shores & Islands is the Midwest's hottest, most exciting vacation destination. Located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, the area offers all the calm and relaxation of a coastal vacation as well as many exciting and diverse amusements to please the whole family.  Located halfway between Toledo & Cleveland, on the southern shore of Lake Erie, Lake Erie Shores & Islands offers so many attractions for the whole family!  From amusement parks, to museums, to watersports, to natural areas and more - everyone will find a great reason to...Explore the Shore Next Door!

Cultural Attractions & Events

Vermilion is recognized for its festivals and community events, including the Great Lakes Pirate Fest and Vermilion Harbour Triathlon/Duathlon.  The Woollybear Festival is a one-day gathering that draws over 150,000 visitors to our city and includes the longest parade in Ohio.  The Festival of the Fish, held each June, is a three-day event drawing visitors to take part in our celebration of the sea. Historic SummerFare - Antiques, Collectibles & Artisans in the Park brings thousands of visitors for the annual car show, street dance and Antiques in the Park. Outdoor movies and concerts are offered all summer long, as well as Second Saturday Citywide Sales. Christmas in July celebrates winter in summer with Santa arriving by riverboat.  Santa returns by way of the Christmas tree ship, Vermilion's re-enactment of the 1887 Rousse Simmons, in December. Art shows are planned throughout the year. Additional events include Scavenger Hunts, the Annual Chocolate Festival, Taste of Vermilion, the Annual Gardeners Fair, the Annual Duck Dash 500, Crusin' Car Show, and much, much more.

Vermilion is located on the Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail, the Wing Watch & Wine Trail, the Back Roads & Beaches Bike Route, the Lake Erie Circle Tour and the Shipwrecks & Maritime Tales of Lake Erie Coastal Ohio Trail.

Vermilion River Reservation is home to the the picturesque Bacon House Museum at Mill Hollow. Walk through the original settler Benjamin Bacon's house, built in 1845. The museum features themes of daily living and puts an emphasis on the community life, including the profound effect the railroad had on the economy and on people's lives.

Ritter Public Library, which is the jewel of our community, provides cultural events, plays, speakers, book clubs, and educational programs to all levels of our community. Meeting and housing space is provided for the many non-profit activities and events in town.

The Arts Guild features rotating exhibits of a new Artist of the Month, as well as special art shows and events.  A wealth of art galleries abound in the Harbour Town district. The Vermilion Community Music Association, which features the Community Band, Community Chorus, and the Wind Jammer Dance Band, provides professional music services to numerous events throughout the year. The Vermilion Area Archival Society stores and indexes archival materials for research from the Vermilion area and provides assistance, as well as monthly programs, regarding the history and records of the area.

Vermilion's Old Town Hall & Opera House is being restored for visual art performances.  The area's largest vineyard and winery is located on Vermilion's South Side.

In the Heart of It All

The City of Vermilion, population 10,927, is nestled in both Erie and Lorain Counties and borders Lake Erie and the scenic Vermilion River. Our 16 block Historic Downtown Vermilion serves as the Central Business District (CBD), which consists of City Administration Offices and Municipal Court, many retail businesses, professional offices, waterfront restaurants, marinas, and cultural entertainment and activities. The City of Vermilion is located just 35 miles west of Cleveland with world class cultural activities and within close proximity of Interstate 80-90, State Route 2, US Route 6, State Route 60, State Route 113, and rail, water, and air transportation. Cedar Point, the most popular tourist destination in Ohio, is only minutes away to the west and ferry services provide hi-speed passenger service to Kelleys Island and Put-in-Bay. The city is also adjacent to the Lorain County Metro Park system and the Erie County Metro Park system.  Just outside Vermilion you'll discover gently rolling hills of picturesque countryside. The area is known for its many orchards, wineries, alpaca farms and roadside fruit and vegetable stands.

Educational Excellence

The Vermilion School System provides quality education for the children of our community from ages K through high school with countless vocational and professional education opportunities at Lorain County Joint Vocational School (LCJVS) and at EHOVE Career Center. Lake Ridge Academy, a private grade school and high school in nearby North Ridgeville, offers daily school bus service for Vermilion students. We are also fortunate to have many exceptional day care educational programs in our community for preschoolers, as well as St. Mary’s parochial school, which serves grades 1-6.

The Lucy Idol School, located on the edge of town, offers non-residential care for multiply handicapped children and adults. Bowling Green State University (Firelands Campus) and Lorain County Community College, both accredited schools offering four-year and advanced degrees, are located within a twenty-minute drive of our community.

Just southeast of Vermilion, Oberlin College is one of the finest liberal arts colleges in the country and offers world class concerts, recitals, dance, theater and opera.

South Street Municipal Public Boat Ramp

 (440) 967-7087 

Location: The boat ramp is located on the west side of the Vermilion River, and is adjacent to the Water Pollution Control Center. Directions from Rt. 6: On the west side of the bridge over the Vermilion River, by Convenient Food Mart, turn south onto West River Road. Then in about ¼ mile at the stop sign, turn left (east) onto the Boat Ramp access road. Watch for oncoming traffic on West River Road from the south which does not stop and has the right of way. Directions from Rt. 60: From the traffic light where State Rt. 60 intersects South Street, turn right (east) onto South Street and go east about ½ mile. Where South Street dead-ends at West River Road, there is a stop sign. At this intersection, watch for traffic coming from the right (south) which does not stop and has the right of way. Cross the street by making a jog to the left (north) onto West River Road, then immediately turn right onto the access road leading downhill to the river and Boat Ramp. 

Fees: $4 launch fee ; $2 parking fee

  • 2 launching ramps 
  • 1 holding dock 
  • car top and canoe launch area 
  • trailer and car parking 
  • disabled & handicap accessible facility
  • open 24 hours year round
  • bait and fishing supplies available from local suppliers
  • minutes north to Lake Erie no dockage available
Water Works Public Guest Docks

Dockmaster: (440) 967-7087 

We invite you to visit our Vermilion Public Guest Docks. You are in the center of Vermilion's historical district and within easy walking distance of many quaint specialty shops, groceries, ice, restaurants, fast food, historical homes, overnight accommodations, professional services and the beach.

Location: Just inside the Vermilion River harbor on the starboard side (West) you will find The Vermilion Municipal Water Plant. The docks are adjacent to the water plant. 

  • Reservations suggested (contact Dockmaster (440) 967-7087
  • 20 guest berths accommodating both power and sail up to 50 ft. 
  • Dockage Fee: $1.75 per foot for overnight dockage, with check out at noon. Day tripper rates available upon request. 
  • Facilities: water and electricity available, restrooms, showers, pump out
  • Season: mid-May to mid-October
Nearby Facilities

There are additional public docks at Exchange Park (just up the Vermilion River, on the west side, south of the condominiums) and the McGarvey's Landing (further up the Vermilion River, on the east side, just north of the bridge, at McGarvey's Landing next to the Quaker Steak & Lube Restaurant).  Along the river, you will find marinas that provide fuel and services, as well as restaurants that cater to boaters' needs.

Harbor Info
  • Harbor Master: (440) 967-9222
  • Harbor Patrol: (440) 967-6116, Emergency 911
  • U.S. Coast Guard: (440) 288-1206
  • Local Police Monitor Marine Channel 16: CB 9
  • Hospital: 20 minutes to Mercy Hospital (440-960-4000)
McGarvey's Landing

McGarvey's Landing features breathtaking views from the Vermilion River boardwalk in historic Harbour Town. Trees, beautiful planters, benches, picnic tables and more provide a wonderful park-like setting to watch boats sail along the river.  Public boat docks are available along McGarvey's landing by the Vermilion Port Authority. All Port Authority guest docks are painted white with the top two feet painted a dark, royal navy blue. Many festivities take place at the boardwalk including rubber ducky races, lighted boat parades and crazy craft regatta.

Harbor Ordinances
  • No wake
  • 84 Decibel Noise Level Limit 24 Hours a day 

Harbour Town 1837

Harbour Town is home to dozens of retail shops, restaurants, professional businesses, marinas, accommodations and tourist activities.  Visit Harbour Town by car or boat.  Downtown public docks are within walking distance of a museum, dozens of boutiques, art galleries and fine dining.  Harbour Town is also home to a beach and several parks.  Enjoy the sandy beach, recreational boating of every kind, jet skis, canoeing, sailing and more where ship building was once the major industry. On summer nights, residents and visitors congregate on the large deck at Main Street Beach to watch boats sail back and forth in front of the beautiful Lake Erie sunset and enjoy the Mystic Belle, a small paddle wheeler, offering rides on the Vermilion River.

Harbour Town features events and entertainment throughout the year including sidewalk entertainment, artists, grand parades, festivals and bazaars.  Summer months feature outside music and movies and weekly events. Winter offers an array of holiday activities and fabulous shopping bargains.

It doesn't get any better for rail buffs than Vermilion's historic downtown, with at least 5 trains racing through town every hour.  The railroad action in Vermilion is virtually non-stop, and no other railroad town offers a more beautiful location in a picturesque town on the shores of Lake Erie.

Vermilion Parks & Beaches

Exchange Park

A refreshing place to relax in downtown Vermilion. The beautifully landscaped Exchange Park is located at the northeast corner of Liberty Avenue and Main Street in the shape of a triangle.  It was here that the village founding fathers erected a small clapboard warehouse. One room was leased to area farmers and was used for selling or exchanging products.  A path wanders down to the river below, where the fish shanties once stood.  Visitors will find seasonal plantings, trees, sitting areas and swings for children.  A fantastic view of the Vermilion River awaits you.  The park is home to a public comfort station housed in an historic building that once served as Vermilion's Police Department.

Victory Park

Locals and visitors alike enjoy many a concert and festive events at Vermilion's "town square."  Weddings are always popular at the grand gazebo.  Victory Park is located at the northeast corner of Main Street and Ohio Street.  The Park was formerly referred to as “The Village Green” where people came to relax and meet with friends and neighbors.  Across the street sits the historic Old Town Hall and Vermilion's famous Auction House.  Beautiful rose gardens and other plantings will enchant you.  An historic Firelands marker details the history of the area.  This park continues to be the most widely used in the area, hosting the concessions for the annual Fish Festival, Woollybear Festival and Local Market.  Locals and tourists enjoy “Concerts in the Park” at the Gazebo on Sunday evenings in July and August.

Friendship Park

Friendship Park offers performance venues and maritime history in this beautiful pocket park in Downtown Vermilion. The park is located on the northwest corner of Liberty Avenue and Grand Street across from Ritter Public Library.

Nakomis Park

Nakomis Park offers Lake Erie beach access at the end of Minnie Wa Wa Street off Liberty Avenue.

Main Street Beach

Main Street Beach is next to the Inland Seas Maritime Museum at the north end of Main Street. The beach features an observation platform and the Vermilion Lighthouse. Let the cool waters of Lake Erie splash on your feet as you stroll on the sandy beach. Stay awhile and watch a beautiful sunset over the lake at Main Street Beach.

Hanover Square Park

Nestled in Harbour Town, this park is located at the corner of Ferry and Grand Streets. The park includes a swing set and benches. Located adjacent to the Ritter Public Library, this park attracts many visitors with a book in their hands.

Sherod Park

Located approximately ¼ of a mile to the west of the city, on Lake Erie, this park was donated by the Bessie Sherod Family - a founding family of Vermilion.  Featuring green space, trees, natural areas and beaches, Sherod overlooks the breathtaking Lake Erie. This park boasts 2 ball diamonds, 2 picnic shelters, 2 playgrounds, a soccer field and a walking track. Plans have been created to develop this park into a "passive" park.

West Breeze Park

Located off of Rt. 60, this pocket park provides a pavilion and playground along with a sand volleyball court and soccer field.

Showse Park & Beach

Located in Vermilion on the Lake, this park contains a beach, two ball diamonds, a basketball court, tennis courts, a soccer field, a pavilion and a playground. Located along the shore of Lake Erie, Showse Park gives people the opportunity to stop for a rest or to enjoy the boats and scenes of the waterfront.

Sailorway Complex

New in the year 2002, this park is used by thousands of people each year. Sailorway Complex includes 5 ball diamonds, 5 tennis courts, soccer field, basketball court, football stadium, restroom and concessions stand. These facilities are along Sailorway Drive, which is accessed from Rt. 60 and from Sanford Street.

Vermilion Skateboard Park

Located on the corner of Douglas Street and Devon Drive, this facility is open dawn to dusk and has ramps, bars for sliding and can be used by those with bikes and and skateboards.

Schoepfle Garden

Schoepfle Garden is a truly unique park in the Lorain County Metro Parks system—70 acres of botanical gardens and natural woodland bordered on one side by the Vermilion River. The garden features collections of rhododendrons, roses, cannas, hostas, various shade plants, along with many varieties of shrubs, topiaries and trees. Whether you choose to follow one of the guided tours available throughout the year, or just wander freely at your own pace, it's a wonderful way to spend a morning or afternoon. Be sure to bring a camera!

The formal garden is highlighted by a wide central path lined in part with hedges and topiaries. Side paths wind through colorful arrays of exotic flowers, dogwood and European beech trees. The garden’s colors change every few weeks in the warmer months as new species come into bloom. This is truly a place to been seen over and over again.  The shade garden runs alongside the formal garden, draped in a cool canopy of pines. You’ll find a nice contrast here to the bright and open areas. Various species of shrubs and shade plants line the floor including ferns, hostas and astilbes. There are places to sit and relax, and plenty of room to roam.

In contrast to both the formal and shade gardens are the nearly fifty acres of natural woodlands that lie between the gardens and the Vermilion River. This natural area offers a seasonal display of indigenous trees and wildflowers—a great place for wildflower hikes, birding and tracking. There’s plenty of wildlife here as in other parks in the Lorain County Metro Park system, including deer, wild turkey and fox.

Schoepfle Garden is off State Route 113 on Market Street in Birmingham, Ohio.  Take St. Rt. 58 north to St. Rt. 113. Go west on St. Rt. 113 to Birmingham. Cross bridge over Vermilion River and turn onto the first road on the left, which is Market Street. The garden is on the left.

For more information visit

Vermilion River Reservation

Spanning two adjacent areas separated by the Vermilion River—Mill Hollow on one side and Bacon Woods on the other—this immaculate park is a favorite of picnickers, naturalists and anyone who just wants to enjoy its natural beauty.  If you're looking to picnic in a beautiful place with plenty of activities for both adults and children, this is an ideal place to come. With 273 picnic tables and four reservable shelters, the Vermilion Reservation draws over 230,000 people a year—making it the number one picnic area in the Lorain County Metro Parks system. It's not surprising considering the spotless maintenance, plenty of open space, 5 miles of wooded trails, a playground and two ponds that attract visiting waterfowl year-round.

Surrounded by tall trees and a split-rail fence, you can't miss the picturesque Bacon House Museum and Carriage Barn at Mill Hollow. During museum hours you can walk through the original settler Benjamin Bacon's house, built in 1845. The museum features themes of daily living and puts an emphasis on the community life in Brownhelm, including the profound effect the railroad had on the economy and on people's lives.  Just next to the Bacon House Museum, the Carriage Barn offers visitors information about the park and hosts nature programs throughout the year. A large rustic meeting room can be reserved for groups and includes a kitchen and large fireplace.

There's more than natural beauty at Vermilion Reservation. Bacon woods hosts a sizable amphitheater for musical concerts during the warmer months, and the park in general features several special programs including the Annual Car Show (which shows over 1000 cars.)  Perhaps the most striking feature of this reservation is the winding ribbon of shale cliffs carved by the Vermilion River. Millions of years old, these cliffs reveal layers of the past and drop bits of sandstone, shale and turtlerock along the riverbed. Since the Vermilion River has no industry along its banks, it is especially rich in wildlife. Aquatic life includes freshwater clams and several species of darters (small fish that feed along the bottom of the river) that turn brilliant colors during the mating season. Some insect species include mayflies, cadis flies and water pennies (beetle larvae that lie flat against a rock surface and look like pennies.)

The park naturally hosts a range of wildlife, but perhaps most singular at Vermilion River Reservation are the bald eagles. These magnificent creatures can be seen almost daily at Mill Hollow, perched in one of the tall trees near the center of the park. Other wildlife at the reservation is more typical of the area and includes Great Blue Heron, Greenback Heron and various geese and ducks.  Wildflower lovers come from all over in spring and early summer to see the color and variety of these indigenous species which include Dutchman's britches and Blood Root along with a long list of other species found throughout northeast Ohio.

For more information visit

Rotary Centennial Park

This beautiful new addition to Vermilion's park system overlooks the Vermilion River under the historic water tower on West River Road in Harbour Town.  This award winning park features flowering trees, plantings, benches, picnic tables and breathtaking views of the river.  The site also features an historical marker plaque highlighting Vermilion's railroad history.

McGarvey's Landing

McGarvey's Landing features breathtaking views from the Vermilion River boardwalk in historic Harbour Town.  Trees, beautiful planters, benches, picnic tables and more provide a wonderful park-like setting to watch boats sail along the river.  Public boat docks are available along McGarvey's landing by the Vermilion Port Authority.  Many festivities take place at the boardwalk including rubber ducky races, lighted boat parades and watercraft races.

Community Swimming Pool

The Community Swimming Pool at 4846 Pineview Drive is typically open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, noon to 8 pm daily, weather permitting. Memberships are available; call for rates. Daily gate rate is $5 adults, $4 children age 3-18. Swim lessons are offered. Lap swim time is weekly Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, from 8 pm to 9 pm, for $40. Call the pool at (440) 967-9071 for lesson, signups and information.

Linwood Park

Featuring one of the most beautiful beaches along Lake Erie, this private park is open to the public. A family car pass is offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays for $30 and daily room rentals are available above the Stand June 10 through Labor Day. Historic Linwood Park features great picnic areas, basketball and volleyball courts, tennis, shuffleboard and an ice cream stand.  Historic cottage rentals are also available. Located at 4920 Liberty Avenue. For more information call (440) 967-4237.

Old Woman Creek

Old Woman Creek National Estuarine Research Reserve, a National Estuarine Research Reserve, is located just west of Vermilion on the south-central shore of Lake Erie.  Old Woman Creek is one of Ohio’s few remaining examples of a natural estuary. As a transition zone between land and water, the site contains a variety of habitats including marshes and swamps, upland forests, open waters of the estuary, tributary streams, barrier beach and near shore Lake Erie. The Reserve supports a diverse and important assemblage of native plants and animals representative of freshwater estuaries. Old Woman  Creek estuary is of particular regional and national significance because it is the only National Estuarine Research Reserve on the Great Lakes and the only freshwater estuary in the National System.  The Visitor/Research Center overlooks the eastern shore of the estuary. The Center also provides laboratories for ecological research and serves as a focal point for public visitation and educational programs.

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Erie MetroParks

The mission of Erie MetroParks is to preserve, conserve, protect, and enhance the natural and unique historical resources of the park district.  Further, to provide opportunities for visitors and residents to use, enjoy, understand and appreciate these resources in a responsible, sustainable manner. Over fourteen Erie Metroparks and reservations are found near Vermilion, Ohio.

For more information please visit

The Ultimate Railfan Destination

Trains began running through Vermilion, Ohio starting in 1853. For over 140 years the rumbling, roaring, shaking, screaming tornados have rushed through the quiet village. Ships have come and gone in this little city by the sea, but they were never the acoustic monsters like the trains which roll along like wild demons in a race. Freight of all kinds flies through the city, and as far as we can foresee, it will continue for 140 more years. Such is life in a railroad town. 

While the sites and sounds of the railroad have long faded in many towns and cities, Vermilion's train traffic continues to increase. Following a joint acquisition of Conrail lines by Norfolk Southern and CSX Railroads in 1997, our historic Harbour Town saw a threefold increase in freight train traffic. A 2003 agreement rerouted 97 trains a day traversing the center of Vermilion.  With over 120 trains per day, expected to increase too 200, Vermilion Ohio is a railfan paradise.

The railroad action in Vermilion is virtually non-stop, and no other railroad town offers a more beautiful location in a picturesque town on the shores of Lake Erie.  Local shopkeepers welcome railfans in the historic downtown, while a variety of exceptional dining choices are all within walking distance to some of Vermilion's best railfan viewing areas.  A public comfort station, located in beautiful Exchange Park, is conveniently located downtown.  Three additional historic train depots provide a wealth of photo opportunities.  Bed and breakfasts and cottages are within walking distance to Vermilion's Mainline viewing areas and several campgrounds are nearby.  The public library and several area businesses offer free internet access.

Best Railfan Viewing Locations

DOWNTOWN VERMILION: It doesn't get any better for rail buffs than Vermilion's historic downtown, with at least 5 trains racing through town every hour.  A rail-viewing platform sits in the city's historic "Harbour Town" district in downtown Vermilion at Victory Park.  The platform feaures a deck, benches, a railfan information station and radio. Shops, restaurants and a wealth of historic architecture are all close by. Both NS (ex-CR, exx-PC, exxx-NYC) and NS (ex-N&W, exx-NKP) run parallel in Vermilion, coming from Cleveland.  Just west of downtown, NS/NKP heads south to Bellevue.  A new connector is being built in the Vermilion area.

In the downtown area from Liberty Avenue (US-6), go south on Main Street (OH-60) one block and cross the ex-CR mainline.  Free parking is available right next to the mainline at Vermilion's 'Town Square', Victory Park - an exceptional location for train-watching.  This beautiful park features benches, picnic tables, barbeque grills, a Grand Gazebo, a childrens' play area and rose gardens. An historically preserved wooden station, Vermilion's New York Central Station, sits adjacent to the park.  There are ample off-railroad shots available for both am and pm shots.  Dining, restrooms, shopping and history galore are all a few steps away.

Rotary Centennial Park overlooks the Vermilion River under the historic water tower on West River Road in Harbour Town.  This award winning park features flowering trees, plantings, benches, picnic tables and breathtaking views of the river and railroad tracks.  The park also features an historical marker plaque highlighting Vermilion's railroad history.

At this site the Lake Shore Electric Railway crossed a bridge that spanned the Vermilion River. The western abutment of the former bridge is plainly visible just below along the river bank. Widely known as the "Greatest Electric Railway in the United States," the flaming orange trolley cars of the Lake Shore Electric Railway transported people and freight for thirty-seven years (1901-1938) along the southern Lake Erie shores from Cleveland to Toledo often reaching speeds of sixty miles per hour. The interurban line played a primary role in the development of the western Cleveland suburbs and also carried throngs of summer visitors to Lake Erie recreation facilities. The power lines still standing along the system's right-of-way attest to the fact that it also assisted in bringing electric power to the entire region. 

All along the ex-CR and ex-NKP lines in the downtown area are terrific photo locations.  Spend the day, maybe two, to take in all that is Vermilion.

The Nickel Plate Station is also being restored and will serve as a second railroad museum and commuter train station.  The Vermilion Train, Rail, and Depot Buffs record history, preserve artifacts and has bimonthly meetings on the Commuter Rail Program which will offer commuter rail from Cleveland to Vermilion and beyond.


Coming into Vermilion from the east on Liberty Avenue (US-6), you will cross over the NS (ex-N&W, exx-NKP) mainline.  Going west on US-6, turn left onto Vermilion Road and you will come to the NS (ex-CR, exx-PC, exxx-NYC) tracks at grade.  Walk along the tracks for a short distance to the east, and you will see the point where ex-CR crosses over ex-NKP.  Go back to Liberty Avenue (US-6) and make a left towards town.  Right after passing over the Vermilion River, make a left on West River Road, and go under the ex-CR tracks.  The beautiful Vermilion Public Boat Docks park on the left offers fantastic view of trains passing over the Vermilion River bridge.  Don't miss the views from Rotary Park when heading back into town (see above.)


In the infrastructure work done by Norfolk Southern prior to the break-up of Conrail, this connection was a key piece in northern Ohio.  Just west of Vermillion, the ex-CR, exx-NYC, Chicago line and the NS, ex-NKP line are parallel and quite close to each other.  Both lines are just south of US-6.  A connection was put in as follows: The junction at the north, the ex-CR line, was put in to the south of Daylon Court, a subdivision-type street.  There is no access to the tracks without getting permission from a home-owner.  The south end junction with the ex-NKP is just to the east of Coen Road, and is wide open. This connection serves three major purposes:  1.  It can take NKP freights that had to crawl thru the western suburbs of Cleveland, and get them thru town via the much faster ex-CR tracks.  2.  Slow freights can be taken off the ex-CR and routed west via Bellevue.  Therefore, it should be easier to get time-sensitive trains over the ex-CR.  3.  Either line can serve as a safety  valve/relief outlet for the other.

The Lake Shore Electric Railway

The first trolleys ran from Sandusky to Vermilion in 1899, an offshoot of the Sandusky Street Railway, the Sandusky & Interurban Electric Railway. City-style cars prowled the rails when it opened from Sandusky to Vermilion via Huron on July 26, 1899, a 24-mile sprint. Work gangs toiled eastward to meet the Lorain & Cleveland in Lorain, another 10-mile hop. The S & I was built with an expansive eye to the future -- double track provisions were engineered into all bridges as well as into the roadbed. It was a combination roadside and private right-of-way operation. In the autumn of 1901, the Everett-Moore Syndicate absorbed the S & I and others to create the Lake Shore Electric Railway.

The Lake Shore Electric Railway (LSE) was an interurban electric railway that ran primarily between Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio. Through arrangements with connecting interurban lines; it also offered service to Fostoria and Lima, Ohio, and Detroit. The line served many communities along the south shore of Lake Erie, at a time of mostly horse-drawn vehicles on dirt roads, with innovative, high-speed transportation that rivaled the area's steam railroads. It helped to develop tourism as a major industry in northern Ohio; by serving several lake shore recreation areas (some owned by LSE and others privately owned) such as Avon Beach Park in Avon Lake; Linwood Park in Vermilion; Crystal Beach, Beulah Beach, Mitiwanga Park and Ruggles Grove (Ruggles Beach) between Vermilion and Huron; Sage's Grove and Rye Beach in Huron. It also brought large numbers of visitors to a ferry dock serving a small beach park and picnic ground off Sandusky called Cedar Point, that evolved into the giant amusement park resort of today. It was formed August 29, 1901 through the merger of several smaller interurban railways: Lorain and Cleveland Railway, running between Cleveland and Lorain, and intent on building westward at the time of the merger. Sandusky and Interurban Railway (S&I), which had begun as a local transit operation in Sandusky, and was building eastward from Huron to Lorain at the time of the merger. Toledo, Fremont and Norwalk Railway (TF&N), serving Toledo, Fremont, and Norwalk and building eastward toward Lorain at the time of the merger. Sandusky, Milan and Norwalk Railway, formed in 1893 and one of the earliest interurban railway companies in the United States, between Sandusky and Norwalk, via Milan. This line served as the earliest physical connection between the Sandusky and Interurban Railway and the Toledo, Fremont and Norwalk Railway after the merger. It became a branch line after completion of the previously planned TF&N line east from Norwalk to connect to the S&I at "Ceylon Junction", a few miles east of Huron. It was also the first portion of the Lake Shore Electric system to be abandoned, ending service on March 29, 1928. The LSE later added the following interurban lines and operated them as branches: Lorain Street Railway, which ran between Lorain and Elyria and operated Lorain local transit services. 

Avon Beach and Southern Railway, which ran between South Lorain and "Beach Park" in Avon Lake, the location of a Lake Shore Electric resort park, passenger station, car barn and electrical generating station. A small portion of this line is the only part of the original LSE system still in operation today, becoming what is now a Norfolk Southern Railway branch serving the FirstEnergy Corporation's Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company(CEI) generating station at Avon Lake. This plant was first built to replace the LSE power plant at the same location that was destroyed in an explosion and fire in 1925. 

The Lake Shore Electric built a short branch to Gibsonburg, Ohio that opened on December 21, 1901. This branch was built as part of a planned expansion by LSE south and west to Findlay and Lima. This goal was reached instead by joint services with the Fostoria and Fremont Railway and the Western Ohio Railway and the line never went beyond Gibsonburg. It built a new route between Fremont and Sandusky via Castalia, commencing service on July 21, 1907, and later relocated some of its lines in Huron (opened in 1918) and Sandusky (opened in 1931).

The Lake Shore Electric at its height offered multiple-unit trains of interurban cars from Cleveland and Toledo. These trains would split in Fremont on the west and at Ceylon Junction (a passenger station on the former S&I line east of Huron at the connection with the former TF&N branch to Norwalk) on the east. After splitting; some cars would travel via the Huron, Sandusky and Castalia route and other cars would go via the Norwalk, Monroeville, Bellevue, and Clyde, route. The service was scheduled so the cars would re-join at Fremont and Ceylon Junction, respectively, to continue on to their destinations in Toledo or Cleveland.

The Lake Shore Electric achieved national notoriety through the heroism of a motorman, William Lang, who climbed out of his moving trolley car and snatched a 22-month old child off the tracks on August 24th, 1932 near Lorain, Ohio. The young girl, Leila Jean Smith, grew to adulthood and they remained friends for the rest of his life.

As its passenger business waned with the increasing number of private automobiles on paved roads, it outlived most connecting interurban lines by concentrating on freight services. However, the Lake Shore Electric went into bankruptcy on October 5, 1932 and ended interurban rail operations on May 15, 1938, with Car #167 making the last run out of Cleveland.

Several physical remnants of the Lake Shore Electric can still be found today. In the cities of Bay Village and Avon Lake are streets named "Electric," running over the former right-of-way. Also, bridge piers can be found at the Cleveland Metroparks Huntington Reservation and in Rose Hill park, both in Bay Village, and at several other locations. Much of its route can still be traced in northern Ohio by power lines on unusually high utility poles, where LSE's former electrical transmission infrastructure became the property of area utility companies.

Norfolk Southern Railway

The Norfolk Southern (AAR reporting marks NS) is a major Class I railroad in the United States, owned by the Norfolk Southern Corporation. The company operates 21,500 route miles in 22 eastern states, the District of Columbia and the province of Ontario, Canada. The most common commodity hauled on the railroad is coal from mines in Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The railroad also offers an extensive intermodal network in eastern North America. The current system was planned in 1982 with the formation of the Norfolk Southern Corporation, merged on December 31, 1990 with the lease of the Norfolk and Western Railway by the Southern Railway which had been renamed Norfolk Southern. In 1999, the Norfolk Southern Railway grew substantially with the acquisition of over half of Conrail.

Norfolk Southern is currently buying DC traction diesel locomotives. There are a small number of AC traction diesels on their roster. They are EMD SD80MACs, all of which were inherited from Conrail. Currently, 10 of the 17 EMD SD80MACs are assigned to the locomotive pool in South Fork, Pennsylvania. Other AC locomotives also on the roster include a dwindling number of aging GP38ACs of Norfolk & Western and Southern Railway heritage.

Norfolk Southern's GE Dash-9 locomotives are often called "catfish" by railfans, as the stripes are said to look like catfish whiskers. The locomotive numbered 4610, a GM-EMD GP59, is painted in predecessor Southern Railway colors of green and white with gold trim and is a favorite of railfans. The work was done at the Debutts Yard in Chattanooga, Tennessee during the summer of 1994 and the locomotive received a repaint in the summer of 2004.

The current paint scheme for NS locomotives is black and white. Many of the locomotives are painted with a rearing horse on the nose, which is consistent with prior marketing campaigns where NS has billed itself as "The Thoroughbred".

In 2005, Norfolk Southern added two new types of locomotives to its roster: the EMD SD70M-2s, which when all are delivered, will be numbered 2649–2778, and GE ES40DCs, which will be numbered 7500-7719.

In September 2008, Norfolk Southern purchased 24 new GE ES44AC locomotives numbered 8000-8023 and they began receiving these units in October 2008. They are the first new AC locomotives ever purchased by NS. These new locomotives will be used for pusher service on long haul coal trains.

New York Central Railroad

The New York Central Railroad (AAR reporting marks NYC), known simply as the New York Central in its publicity, was a railroad operating in the Northeastern United States. Headquartered in New York, the railroad served most of the Northeast, including extensive trackage in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Illinois and Massachusetts, plus additional trackage in the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. Its primary connections included Chicago and Boston. The NYC's Grand Central Terminal in New York City is one of its best known extant landmarks.

In 1968 the NYC merged with its former rival, the Pennsylvania Railroad, to form Penn Central (the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad joined in 1969). That company soon went bankrupt and was taken over by the federal government and merged into Conrail in 1976. Conrail was broken up in 1998, and portions of its system was transferred to the newly-formed New York Central Lines LLC, a subsidiary leased to, and eventually absorbed by CSX. That company's lines included the original New York Central main line, but outside that area it included lines that were never part of the NYC system.

The famous Water Level Route of the NYC, from New York City to upstate New York, was the first four-track long-distance railroad in the world.

For most of the twentieth century the New York Central was known to have some of the most famous train routes in the United States. Its 20th Century Limited, begun in 1902, ran from Grand Central Terminal in New York to LaSalle Street Station Chicago and was its most famous train, known for its red carpet treatment and first class service. The Century, which followed the Water Level Route, could complete the 960.7-mile trip in just 16 hours after its June 15, 1938 streamlining (and did it in 15 1/2 hours for a short period after WWII). Also famous was its frequent Empire State Express service through upstate New York to Buffalo and Cleveland, and Ohio State Limited service from New York to Cincinnati. In addition to long distance service, the NYC also provided vital commuter service for residents of Westchester County, New York, along its Hudson, Harlem, and Putnam lines, into Manhattan.

CSX Transportation

CSX Transportation (AAR reporting marks CSXT) is a Class I railroad in the United States, owned by the CSX Corporation. It is one of the three Class I railroads serving most of the East Coast, the other two being the Norfolk Southern Railway and Canadian Pacific Railway.

CSX Transportation was formed on July 1, 1986 as a renaming of the Seaboard System Railroad and Chessie System, Inc. into one entity. The originator of the Seaboard System was the former Seaboard Air Line Railroad, which previously merged Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, and later Louisville and Nashville Railroad, as well as several smaller subsidiaries. On August 31, 1987 the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway, which had absorbed the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad on April 30 of that year, merged into CSX. The merger had been started in 1982 with the merger of Chessie System and Seaboard Coast Line Industries to form the CSX Corporation.

On June 23, 1997, CSX Transportation and Norfolk Southern filed a joint application with the Surface Transportation Board for authority to purchase, divide and operate the assets of the 11,000-mile Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail), which had been created in 1976 by bringing together several ailing Northeastern railway systems into a government-owned corporation. On June 6, 1998, the STB approved the CSX-Norfolk Southern application and set August 22, 1998, as the effective date of its decision. CSX acquired 42% of Conrail's assets, and Norfolk Southern received the remaining 58%.

As a result of the transaction, CSX's rail operations grew to include some 3,800 miles of the Conrail system (predominantly lines that had belonged to the former New York Central Railroad). CSX began operating its trains on its portion of the Conrail network on June 1, 1999. CSX now serves much of the eastern U.S., with a few routes into nearby Canadian cities.

The name came about during merger talks between Chessie System, Inc. and Seaboard System Railroad, Inc., commonly called Chessie and Seaboard. The company chairmen said it was important for the new name to include neither of those names due to its being a partnership. Employees were asked for suggestions, most of which consisted of combinations of the initials. At the same time a temporary shorthand name was needed for discussions with the Interstate Commerce Commission. CSC was chosen but belonged to a trucking company in Virginia. CSM (for Chessie-Seaboard Merger) was also taken. The lawyers decided to use CSX, and the name stuck. In the public announcement, it was said that "CSX is singularly appropriate. C can stand for Chessie, S for Seaboard, and X, the multiplication symbol, means that together we are so much more." The T had to be added to use CSXT as a reporting mark, since company initials that end in X can be used only by non-railroad railcar owners.

Nickel Plate Road

The New York, Chicago and St. Louis Railroad (AAR reporting marks NKP), abbreviated NYC&St.L, was a railroad that operated in the mid-central United States. Commonly referred to as the Nickel Plate Road, the railroad served a large area, including trackage in the states of New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Its primary connections included Buffalo, New York, Chicago, Cleveland, Ohio, Indianapolis, Indiana, St. Louis, Missouri and Toledo, Ohio.

The Nickel Plate Railroad was constructed in 1881 along the South Shore of the Great Lakes connecting Buffalo, New York and Chicago to compete with the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway. In 1964, the Nickel Plate Road and several other mid-western carriers were merged into Norfolk and Western Railway and the Nickel Plate Road was no more. The N&W was formed to be a more competitive and successful system serving 14 states and the Canadian province of Ontario on more than 7,000 miles (11,000 km) of railroad. The profitable N&W was itself combined with the Southern Railway, another profitable carrier, to form Norfolk Southern Corporation (NS) in 1982.t 

Radio Frequencies

Norfolk Southern:
Former N&W Territory:
161.190 - Ch. 1 Road
161.250 - Ch. 2 Road
161.440 - Ch. 3 Road
161.490 - Ch. 9 MofW

Former CR Territory:
160.800 - Ch. 1 Road (includes Chicago Line and Indianapolis Line)
161.070 - Ch. 2 Road (includes former TOC lines)

161.115 - End-of-train telemetry
161.205 - Police
161.535 - Ch. 4 Signal Dept.

161.340 - Hump
161.190 - Yardmaster
160.665 - Locomotive Shop
160.485 - Car Department
161.490 - MoW

161.250 - Ch. 2 Yard
161.280 - Yard
160.380 - Signal Department

160.470 - Crew Bus
161.385 - Car Shop
160.485 - Car Department
161.250 - Ch. 2 Yard

160.230* - Ch.1 Road and dispatcher
161.370* - Ch.2 Road and dispatcher
160.590* - Ch.3 Road and dispatcher
160.800* - Former Conrail Road (includes Indy & Columbus Lines)
160.785 - MofW-Systemwide

Note: An asterick (*) indicates that Amtrak may operate over that route.

Vermilion Kayak Trail

A water trail along the Vermilion River, Black River and Lake Erie makes kayaking and canoeing accessible and user-friendly.  The trail provides a unique paddling experience in that it offers both river and open water travel along the lakeshore.  Users can paddle portions of both the Vermilion and Black rivers and a connecting section of waterway along the Lake Erie shoreline.  The trail map is available online or through Lorain County Metroparks.  Call (440) 967-7310.

Also called a blueway, the trail is a designated 27 miles of waterway along the Vermilion and Black rivers and Lake Erie.  It is a gateway between the civilized and natural realms, a place where individuals can enjoy all the beauty and excitement that nature has to offer in a safe and fun environment.  The trail starts at Mill Hollow in the Vermilion River Reservation, 51211 North Ridge Road in Vermilion, goes up to Lake Erie, follows along the lake-shore for 11 miles, and then heads down the French Creek and Black River.  The trail features markers denoting miles traveled, places to launch and areas of interest. 

Never before have the county’s waterways been so easy to utilize. And because the different segments of the Water-Trail are so diversified (it’s the only state designated water trail to combine rivers and open water) the fun is open to all different ages and experience levels. And it’s the perfect complement for the Back Roads and Beaches Bike and Multi-Sport Route.  With little planning or effort, that day-long bike trip you’ve been planning can turn into weekend-long multi-sport adventure.

The Vermilion-Lorain Water Trail is free.

Access Points
  • Vermilion River Reservation
  • Lakeview Park
  • Black River Reservation
  • City of Vermilion South Street Beach Boat Launch
  • City of Vermilion Main Street Boat Launch
  • City of Vermilion Showse Park
  • City of Lorain Port Authority Lakeside Landing Park
  • City of Lorain Port Authority Black River Wharf Boat Launch
The Lorain-Vermilion Water Trail is a partnership between the Lorain County Metro Parks, the City of Lorain, City of Vermilion, Lorain Port Authority, Vermilion Port Authority, Vermilion Shores, Beaver Park Marina, and the Ohio Division of Natural Resources, Division of Watercraft and Division of Wildlife.

Vermilion Farm Markets & Roadside Stands

There is something special about preparing home-cooked meals with fresh fruits and vegetables picked up at a farm market within hours of harvest.

Discover farm fresh foods at Vermilion's farm markets.  Vermilion markets and roadside stands offer the freshest produce and seasonal favorites.  From homegrown apples, lettuce, corn, beans, cucumbers, brocholi, radishes, cider, gourds, and fall squash - to a vast array of tropical fruits - you'll find everything you need for your cooking needs at Vermilion's own farmers markets and roadside stands.

Shop for apples, asparagus, beans, plants, beets, black raspberries, blackberries, Blue Spruce, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, Canaan Fir, cantaloupe, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cherries, cider, cucumbers, eggplant, eggs, grapes, herbs, honey, jams, jellies, lettuce, maple syrup, melons, onions, peaches, pears, peppers, perennials, plums, potatoes, pumpkins, radishes, red raspberries, rhubarb, Scotch Pine, squash, strawberries, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, watermelon, zucchini and more!

Visit area farms during one of the Pick Your Own seasons.  Families and children gain the learning experience of where food comes from by Picking Your Own.  Relax in the rural setting and soak in the fresh air and sunshine.

Wing Watch & Wine Trail

Vermilion sits in the heart of Ohio's Wing Watch & Wine Trail.  Come and discover Ohio’s western Lake Erie shoreline region.

Vast marshlands, deep forests and the lake have provided a fertile crescent with diverse habitats for over 300 bird species. The area is home to majestic bald eagles, colorful migratory warblers and graceful great blue herons. Located at the junction of two major waterfowl migratory paths, natural sights change with the seasons.

Spring migrations provide excellent bird watch opportunities as early as March, as birds pile up on Ohio’s Lake Erie shoreline beaches before crossing the lake. When birds have recharged their energy levels by feeding and resting, they move north either by flying west around the lake or by island hopping across the lake. 

Summer brings shore birds, gulls, herons, ducks, raptors and others who choose the shoreline for permanent breeding grounds. When the leaves turn to yellow, orange and crimson, the migratory songbirds and waterfowl return. Swans, geese, wintering waterfowl, owls and others winter in the region.

In the nearby farm fields and vineyards, depending on the season, Eastern bluebirds, red winged blackbirds, sparrows, cardinals, woodpeckers of all kinds and other common North American species abound. 

This fertile crescent also provides the natural microclimate for vineyard excellence. A wide range of soil types deposited by years of glacial movement and temperatures moderated by the most shallow of all the Great Lakes allows vintners to grow the traditional native varieties, French American hybrids, and the finest of European varietals.

Ohio has a history steeped in wine industry. The first cultivated grapevines in the U.S. were grown in Ohio, making Ohio the oldest wine-producing state in the country.  Wines from this region have won medals around the country and produce a range of wines to suit any palate.

Northern Ohio ’s chillier climate is ideal for producing grapes for white Germanic wines like Riesling and fruity wines.

Ohio is quickly becoming one of the top wine-producing states in the country, boasting nearly 3,000 acres of grapes, a yearly production of over 800,000 gallons, and more than 80 wineries - growing from 37 just nine years ago - that bring in an estimated $70 million a year.

Grapevine buds appear about mid-April. Blossoms and fruit development occurs in June. Fruit color and sugars develop in August. Harvest begins in mid-September and lasts though late October. 

Discover the beauty of Vermilion's Wing Watch & Wine Trail.

Lake Erie & Vermilion River

The Vermilion River, which flows into Lake Erie, endows marina facilities with more than 1,000 boat slips and ramps for easy access to the Lake, earning Vermilion the title of the “Largest Small Boat Harbour on the Great Lakes.” Lake freighters are a regular sight on Lake Erie making their way through the Great Lakes.

Lake Erie is the 10th largest lake on Earth.  It is bounded on the north by the Canadian province of Ontario, on the south by the U.S. states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York, and on the west by the state of Michigan. The lake is named after the Erie tribe of Native Americans who originally lived along its southern shore.

Ohio Magazine chose Vermilion, Ohio at the "Best Port Stroll" in Ohio.  The wealth of attractions so close to protected dockage makes Vermilion a very popular cruising destination. Rare is the port of call with as much to offer.

Several Vermilion marinas and boating supply stores cater to your nautical needs. The Vermilion Marine Business Association members offer a wide array of services to meet the needs of the boating public.

The Vermilion Port Authority invites you to visit our Vermilion Public Guest Docks. You are in the center of Vermilion's historical district and within easy walking distance of many quaint specialty shops, groceries, ice, restaurants, fast food, historical homes, overnight accommodations, professional services and the Main Street Beach.

Swimmers of all ages enjoy our sandy beaches located in Historic Downtown Vermilion.  Recreational boating of every kind, jet skis, canoeing, and sail boats adorn the Vermilion harbor, where ship building was once the major industry.

On summer nights, residents and visitors congregate on the large deck at Main Street Beach to watch boats sail back and forth in front of the beautiful Lake Erie sunset and enjoy the Mystic Belle, a small paddle wheeler, offering rides on the Vermilion River. Also, in the summer the children of our community attend Sail Camp where they learn water safety and sailing supervised by members of our world-renowned women’s sailing crew, Team Flamingo, winners of the Japanese Invitational J24 in 1994 in Japan.

Lake Erie Shores & Islands is the Midwests hottest, most exciting vacation destination. Located on the southern shore of Lake Erie, the area offers all the calm and relaxation of a coastal vacation as well as many exciting and diverse amusements to please the whole family.  Located halfway between Toledo & Cleveland, on the southern shore of Lake Erie, Lake Erie Shores & Islands offers so many attractions for the whole family! From amusement parks, to museums, to watersports, to natural areas and more - everyone will find a great reason to...Explore the Shore Next Door!

Lake Erie Islands

Did you know you could escape to an island, just off the shores near Vermilion? The islands are a Midwest vacation hot spot. Just a short drive to a ferry ride from the mainland, or visit by boat, and you'll forget you are in Ohio!  Whatever your pleasure, coastal relaxation or on-the-go excitement, the islands have got it covered!  And it's all just minutes away from historic Vermilion, Ohio.

Kelleys Island, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is an outdoor-lovers paradise, while Put-in-Bay, on South Bass Island, appeals with abundant shopping and entertainment. You can also visit Middle Bass Island, which is dominated by vineyards, old homes, summer cottages, and a campground.  Canada's Pelee Island is also accessible by ferry from Sandusky, but does require planning for an overnight stay - the ferry visits Sandusky only once a day in peak season.

The Lake Erie Islands can only be reached by boat or plane. Cars are permitted on all the islands; however, you’ll have greater freedom to discover each island’s natural beauty by bicycle or golf cart. Rental shops are located within walking distance of the islands’ ferry docks.

Kelleys Island

Kelleys Island is a nature-lovers’ paradise, whose modest commercial development lends to its appeal. Rent bicycles or golf carts to explore the scenic countryside, visit the largest prehistoric glacial grooves in existence, catch a bite to eat at an island eatery, or simply lounge at the Kelleys Island State Park beach. The island’s appeal ranges from natural spaces to rousing nightlife. Birds, wildlife, and hiking trails are abundant,. Enjoy miniature golf, volleyball, horseshoes, one-of-a-kind island shops and confectioneries, and making memories that will last a lifetime.

South Bass Island (Put-in-Bay)

Put-in-Bay is a colorful, Victorian village on South Bass Island . Nightlife and live entertainment rule the summer weekends on this festive island, with national and regional musical acts and comedians. The island boasts a waterfront park, unique shops, eateries, and historical attractions. Explore caves, take a spin on a carousel, and sample the local vintage. Don’t miss Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial, a 353-foot Greek Doric column that is the second tallest free-standing monument in the U.S. It commemorates Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry’s defeat of the British in the 1813 Battle of Lake Erie and stands as a memorial celebrating lasting peace between the U.S. and Canada . Take the elevator to the observation platform for a spectacular view.

Middle Bass Island

Explore this island dominated by vineyards, old homes, summer cottages, and a campground. There are few man-made diversions here; instead, many attractions are nature-made: a rocky shoreline, expansive views, and interior wetlands. The Kuehnle Wildlife Area protects a variety of plants and animals. Its 20-acre pond is a favorite spot with bird watchers and fishermen. Still in development, the new Middle Bass Island State Park currently provides limited marina facilities and hiking trails.

Just minutes from Vermilion, discover the Lake Erie Islands.

Vermilion Golf Courses

Vermilion is home to two golf courses.

The 18-hole "Willow Creek" course at the Willow Creek Golf Club facility in Vermilion, Ohio features 6,356 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 72. The course rating is 68.1 and it has a slope rating of 108.  Designed by Dick Palmer, the Willow Creek golf course opened in 1945.

The 9-hole "Vermilion" course at the Vermilion Country Club facility in Vermilion, Ohio features 3,285 yards of golf from the longest tees for a par of 36. Vermilion golf course opened in 1914.

Bacon House Museum

Surrounded by tall trees and a split-rail fence, you can't miss the picturesque Bacon House Museum and Carriage Barn at Vermilion River Reservation's Mill Hollow. Walk through the original settler Benjamin Bacon's house, built in 1845. The museum features themes of daily living and puts an emphasis on the community life in Brownhelm, including the profound effect the railroad had on the economy and on people's lives.  The museum is located at 51211 N. Ridge Road in Vermilion and is typically open on Sundays during during the Spring and Summers and during special events during the Fall and Winter.  Call (440) 967-7310 for more information.

The Bacon's

In 1817, Benjamin Bacon settled with his family along the top of the cliffs overlooking an oxbow in the Vermilion River that would eventually be called Mill Hollow. Soon afterwards, and at an early age, Benjamin was elected to the prestigious position of Justice of the Peace, and in 1824 was selected as one of the first commissioners for Lorain County. In 1835 he purchased an interest in a saw and grist mill that had been relocated to the oxbow in the river. A mill race was cut across the oxbow to increase the water power that turned the mill’s large water wheel. The mills were very successful and by 1845 had provided Benjamin the means to build a nice house across the road. When he died in 1868 at the age of 78, the house and mills were sold to John Heymann, a German immigrant new to the area.

Benjamin Bacon

Frederick Bacon was born in 1840, the youngest son of Benjamin and Anna, Benjamin’s third wife. In 1860, he enlisted in the Union army and fought in the Civil War for four years, after which he returned home to his wife Abigail (formerly Abigail Wells) and started a family in Brownhelm.  In 1879, John Heymann sold the mills to Frederick Bacon. They’d been modernized with steam power after a fire destroyed them in October of 1876 which started after the close of business. Frederick now not only owned the mills, but also owned land in Geauga county and coal fields in Iowa. This diversity was very fortunate because with the advent of the railroad, fewer farmers needed to mill their grain locally and many local residents weren’t even farmers, but rather worked at the sandstone quarries instead. By 1901, the mills were no longer profitable and had to be sold and dismantled.

Frederick and Abigail Bacon

Frederick and Abigail had nine children, seven of whom never married. After Frederick’s death in 1901, his children continued to farm the river valley. By the late 1920s, only Sarah and Charles remained, and the house was rented to several people for decades until Charles’ death in 1957. Dorothy Bacon DeMuth, a distant cousin, inherited the property and donated it to the newly formed Lorain County Metro Parks. The Vermilion River Reservation became the first park in the Lorain County Metro Parks. The Bacon House was opened as a house museum in 1962 with the help of the Lorain County Historical Society. Today, the house is open Sundays and Holidays, Memorial Day to Labor Day, and scheduled private tours throughout the year.

The Reservation

Spanning two adjacent areas separated by the Vermilion River—Mill Hollow on one side and Bacon Woods on the other—Vermilion River Reservation is a favorite of picnickers, naturalists and anyone who just wants to enjoy its natural beauty. Just next to the Bacon House Museum, the Carriage Barn offers visitors information about the park and hosts nature programs.  Vermilion River Reservation is located at 51211 North Ridge Road,  just 4 miles south of downtown Vermilion, by the intersection of North Ridge and Vermilion Roads.

Vermilion Bike Path

A bike and multi-sport tour of Lorain County, the Back Roads & Beaches Bike route, takes cyclists through Oberlin, Vermilion, Lorain and Avon Lake and past farms, the Lake Erie shore and scenic hills and dales.

Lorain County Heritage and the Lorain County Visitors Bureau welcome you to the Back Roads and Beaches bike and multi-sport tour of Lorain County. Here you'll find miles of rolling, rural roads with beautiful scenery ranging from pastoral farmland and forest to the nautical flavor of the Lake Erie shoreline.

The Back Roads and Beaches route was formed to provide the most scenic and low-traffic roads and bike paths that lead riders through some of Ohio's best landscape. The route highlights some of the area's most relevant history, culture and arts and cutting edge environmental initiatives. You'll find the entire route has bright green bike route signs to guide you easily on your way. 

Triathletes and multi-sport enthusiasts can combine biking the Back Roads and Beaches route with any number of challenging, adventurous activities. Use these options to set up your own multi-sport adventure challenge or use as a guide for your group's ride/race.

Printable Bike Route Map available at

VOL Historic Ballroom

In 1919 a group of investors from the Cleveland area purchased a wooded property with 600 feet of Lake Erie frontage in tiny “Vermilion-on-the-Lake”, Ohio. They cleared the land, and using the very logs they felled, built an approximately 10,000 square foot private community center known as the Vermilion-on-the-Lake Clubhouse.

The big bands of that era were soon accompanied by couples dancing on polished hardwood floors beneath a glittering globe.  Those original hardwood floors, framed by the original log walls, are still there today.  Soon, “Vermilion-on-the-Lake” became a summer playground and a sparkling jewel for well-to-do residents of western Cleveland.

These pre-Depression era high rollers purchased summer cottages throughout the area and shared access to the clubhouse’s 600-foot pristine and sandy beach.  Ladies with parasols strolled the boardwalk of the “Atlantic City of the Midwest”.  As late as the 1950’s, top-notch entertainment attracted society’s elite to the “V.O.L.” to see the big bands of the day, including the leading edge sounds of the “Chuck Berry Trio” performing their hit “Maybellene” one summer Tuesday night in 1955.

But, alas, the luster faded.  Rising lake levels reclaimed the pristine beach, the economy turned sour and many lot owners looked to sell. Maintenance waned and the original owners agreed to deed the property over to the “Vermilion-on-the-Lake Lot Owners Association”.

During the 1960’s “Vermilion-on-the-Lake”, which had been an incorporated village, was annexed by the then “Village of Vermilion” to create the current “City of Vermilion”. 

The VOL (Vermilion-on-the-Lake) Historic Community Center remains today one of the only wedding venue's still situated on Lake Erie's shore.  The 'VOL CLubhouse' as it has been called, demands only modest rental fees which assist the effort to save and renovate this historic building.

The Vermilion-on-the-Lake Lot Owners Association is a non-profit corporation formed under the laws of the State of Ohio as a service organization.  Besides the restoration and operation of the Historic Community Center, their mission includes community service, involvement in the security of the area through our "Block Watch" program, providing a venue for community fellowship and political discussion, and providing education to our citizens about the history and culture of our area.

Through a recent affiliation with the Lorain County Historical Society, they hope to emphasize the historic nature of this unique building and encourage the businesses and foundations tasked with preserving our heritage, to lend a hand in restoring the Historic Community Center to its once glorious condition.

VOL Historic Community Center is located at 3780 Edgewater Blvd, Vermilion, Ohio 44089. Phone: (440) 967-4118.

Vermilion Alpaca Farms

Nestled in the beautiful countryside of Vermilion, Ohio are several Alpaca farms.

The Alpaca is a member of the camelid family, first found in recorded history in the high mountain regions of South America. For thousands of years, Alpacas have coexisted with humans. They were nearly driven to extinction by the Spanish conquerors, small herds survived in the high Andes mountains, one of the most inhospitable places on earth. The Andean civilization of the Andes mountains gave the animal a central place in their society, using Alpacas in religious ceremonies and clothing themselves from their fleece. The high altitude and harsh landscape ensured only the hardiest of these creatures survived, and these ancestors of today's best bloodlines have provided a gene pool producing hardy, agile animals with dense, high quality fiber. In 1984, a small group of importers brought the first of a carefully selected herd of highest quality alpacas into the United States and Canada, and they immediately became a beloved part of the North American landscape.

Alpacas are friendly, calm, inquisitive, and easy to farm. The females, or hembras, grow to 60-70 kg and males, or machos, grow to 90kg, standing at our eye height. Babies (cria) are born at between 6 and 9 kg and should reach 40kg well before their first birthday.

They are placid, friendly, intelligent and careful animals, and for the most part non-aggressive. Their natural defence is a reflex kick to the rear, and spitting if really provoked, although good spit tends to be reserved for pecking order tussles within the herd, or to keep nuisances in line. A loud "bark" acts as a warning call to others. A soft humming is the only other noise they make. 

Alpaca fiber comes in 22 colors that are recognized by the textile industry, and there are many blends in addition to that. Alpacas are shorn for their wonderful fleece each year which is a soft, warm fiber that is turned into the most luxurious garments in the world. When it comes to raising alpacas, there is something for everyone.

Alpaca is five times warmer than wool, hypoallergenic, soft as silk and wears forever. Never dry clean alpaca clothing. Washing in cool water with a mild detergent, roll in a towel and lay out to dry.

Discover Vermilion's Alpaca farms.

Sister City: Paimpol

Paimpol is a small town on the northern coast of Brittany in north-west France.  It is a very popular tourist destination, especially during the summer months when people are attracted by its port and beaches.  This enchanting town is notable for its pink granite cliffs which mark the boundary between land and sea and its oyster beds which provide a substantial portion of the town's economy.

Paimpol features regular events such as the Tuesday morning street market, night-markets, and "Mardi du port" - where tourists can enjoy diverse world music beside the port. Paimpol is also home to the bi-annual Sea Shanty Festival which attracts thousands of visitors, a reflection of the local residents' pride in their maritime heritage. Lovers of the sea and musicians and dancers from all over the world come to Paimpol for this three-day festival.

The fishing fleets of old are long gone. The Marina is now a place for pleasure craft. An interesting trip can be taken on board an old tunny boat, “Le Vieux Copain” (the Old Pal.) 

Paimpol also commemorates its sailors who were drowned in Icelandic waters in a special festival in which the townsfolk parade through the streets each summer. Other festivals include a three yearly celebration of the Coquilles Saint Jacques (almost as beloved here as the oyster.)

The town center leads from the port down to the coast, through charming cobbled streets filled with lively restaurants, cafés and bars. An especially beautiful part of the town center is the Quartier latin. It was at La place du Martray that Pierre Loti chose to put the house of Gaud, the heroine of his famous novel Pêcheur d'Islande.  Most facilities are present, with the town being well equipped with necessities such as schools, doctors and banks.  The sea museum and the costume's Breton museum offers the history of Brittany.

The coastal paths which run around the town's edges are wonderful for walking and appreciating the glorious seascapes. The cliff paths offer some amazing views, particularly over the enchanting island of Bréhat.  Abbaye de Beauport, dating back to 1202, is beautifully restored with 98 acres of glorious park. Other popular tourist sights include the and the chapels of Lanvignec, Ste Barbe and Kergrist.

Many sports are available in or near to Paimpol, with a golf course and an excellent equestrian center for pony trekking. Sea sports are popular too, of course, and there are sailing schools and opportunities for windsurfing and swimming.

Inhabitants of Paimpol are called Paimpolais.  As of the census of 1999, the town has a population of 7,932.

L'île de Bréhat is a rocky archipelago 10 minutes by ferry from the coast next to Paimpol. It is made up of two large islands connected by a bridge, and numerous smaller ones.  Other places of interest include the Moulin de Craca and Circuit de falaises in Plouézec, as well as Pors-Even and the Tour de Kerroc'h in Ploubazlanec.

The name of the commune comes from the Breton PEN (end) and poul (pond,) "the head of the pond". Formerly, there were many ponds and Paimpol was a peninsula. At the time of spring tide, the districts of the station and Fairground were flooded. 

About Sister Cities

Town twinning is a concept whereby towns or cities in geographically and politically distinct areas are paired, with the goal of fostering human contact and cultural links. In Europe, such pairs of towns are known as twin towns, friendship towns or partner towns; in North America, India and Australasia, the term sister cities is used for the same concept; and brother cities is the term in the former Soviet bloc. Sister cities often have similar demographic and other characteristics.  The concept can be likened to a scaled up version of a "pen pal" program, in which the "pals" are whole towns or cities. In practice, the twinning arrangements often lead to student exchange programs, as well as economic and cultural collaborations.  The first city in North America to establish a sister city relationship was Toledo, Ohio, United States, with Toledo, Spain in 1931.

The American "Sister Cities" program was begun in 1956 by President Dwight Eisenhower. It was originally administered as part of the National League of Cities, but since 1967 it has been a separate organization, Sister Cities International (SCI), which is a nonprofit citizen diplomacy network creating and strengthening partnerships between U.S. and international communities in an effort to increase global cooperation at the municipal level, to promote cultural understanding and to stimulate private business and economic development.

1877 Vermilion Lighthouse

Vermilion, Ohio straddles a river of the same name as it empties into Lake Erie, and it has a past as colorful as the clay for which the river was named. Once known as the “city of sea captains,” the city was a popular drop-off point for illegal liquor from Canada during the days of Prohibition. The city has been home not only to many captains and sailors, but also to an amazing lighthouse story that spans two centuries and two Great Lakes. 

Inhabited by the Erie Indians as early as 1656, Vermilion had grown large enough by the mid-nineteenth century for its harbor to warrant government maintenance. In 1847, Congress appropriated $3,000 to build a lighthouse and prepare the head of the pier on which it would be built. Before 1847, the people of Vermilion had constructed their own navigational aid: wooden stakes topped with oil-burning beacons at the entrance of the harbor. 

By 1852, both the lighthouse and the pier were in need of repair, a project that cost $3,000. Seven years later, in 1859, the lighthouse was rebuilt at a cost of $5,000. The new lighthouse was made of wood and topped with a whale oil lamp. The lamp’s flame was surrounded by red glass, resulting in a red beam that, with the help of a sixth-order Fresnel lens, was visible from Lake Erie. A man from the town looked after the lighthouse, lighting the lamp each evening and refueling it each morning. 

Though the 1859 light was functional, it was not sturdy enough for long-term use. Both time and the lake’s elements took their toll on the wooden lighthouse, and by 1866, Congress had appropriated funds to build a new light, this time out of iron, on the west pier. The lighthouse was designed by a government architect and cast by a company in Buffalo, New York. A home for the future keeper was purchased in 1871, six years before the iron lighthouse was installed. 

To cast the lighthouse, the ironworkers used sand molds of three tapering rings, octahedral in shape. The iron they used was from unpurchased Columbian smoothbore canons, obsolete after the Battle of Fort Sumter. As noted by Vermilion native Ernest Wakefield, “The iron, therefore, of the 1877 Vermilion lighthouse echoed and resonated with the terrible trauma of the War Between the States.” 

Once the ironworkers in Buffalo had completed the casting of the lighthouse and ensured that all parts fit together correctly, the pieces of the lighthouse were loaded onto barges in the nearby Erie Canal. Hauled by mules, the barges reached Oswego, New York, in two weeks. From there, the lighthouse was transferred to the lighthouse tender Haze. The Haze, a steam-powered propeller vessel, departed Oswego on September 1, 1877 and headed west for the Welland Canal, where a series of 27 locks raised the boat to the water level of Port Colborne and onto Lake Erie. One must wonder why this circuitous route was taken when Buffalo, where the tower was cast, sits right on Lake Erie. 

On its way to Vermilion, the Haze stopped at Cleveland Harbor, where it took on the lighthouse’s lantern, lumber and lime for building the foundation, and a crew to raise the lighthouse. Also loaded was a fifth-order Fresnel lens, which had been shipped to Cleveland by train. All that is known about the lens is that it was made by Barbier and Fenestre of Paris, France. Whether it was ordered specifically for the Vermilion lighthouse or recovered from the Erie Harbor Lighthouse, no one knows. 

One day later, the Haze arrived in Vermilion. It took several days to prepare the foundation, and once it was in place, the crew used the derrick on the Haze to lift the bottom ring of cast iron and place it on the foundation. After the ring was bolted down, the successive tapering rings were put into place and bolted to each other. Then the pediment and lantern were added. The Fresnel lens and oil lantern were installed later. Once completed, the tower measured 34 feet high. It stood at the end of the pier with a long 400-foot-long catwalk running above it. This allowed the lighthouse keeper to travel between the light and the mainland when large waves crested over the pier. One such lightkeeper was Captain J. H. Burns, who lived in the home purchased by the government in 1871. From this home on the corner of Liberty and Grand Street, he would walk each night to hang the lantern inside Vermilion’s lens. He would also wash the windows around the prism twice a week. 

Initially, oil for the lantern was stored in the keeper’s house. It was not until 1906 that an oil shed, accommodating 540 gallons, was built just south of the lighthouse. The lamp was converted to acetylene in 1919, and then eventually into an electric beacon. Its white light would blink one second on, seven seconds off. Ultimately, it was replaced by a steady red beam. 

The 1877 lighthouse performed its duties faithfully for over half a century, shining its light for both commercial and pleasure boats. During this time, it was moved closer to the end of the pier (25 feet from the outer end), and survived multiple collisions with watercraft. Eventually it was put under the care of Lorain Lighthouse’s assistant keeper, and in the early 1920s, the Vermilion keeper’s home was sold to the local Masonic Lodge. 

In the summer of 1929, Theodore and Ernest Wakefield, teenagers at the time, noticed that the Vermilion Lighthouse was leaning toward the river. Most likely, the lighthouse pier had suffered damage in an icy storm earlier that year. The Wakefield boys reported what they had seen to their father, Commodore Frederick William Wakefield, who contacted the U.S. Lighthouse Service in Cleveland. The U. S. Corps of Engineers came to Vermilion and determined that the light was indeed unstable. Within a week, the lighthouse had been dismantled. In its place, a steep-sided 18-foot steel pyramidal tower was erected. The new structure, called a "functional disgrace," continued to shine a red light, but since it was automated, no lighthouse keeper was needed. 

Commodore Wakefield offered to purchase the old lighthouse and move it to his property, Harbor View, but his request was denied. Instead, the cast-iron pieces were loaded up and hauled away. The residents of Vermilion were sad to see their beloved lighthouse go. No one told them what the fate of the old lighthouse would be, and its whereabouts were unknown until many years later. 

Ted Wakefield, one of the young men who had noticed the lighthouse leaning in 1929, had very fond memories of Vermilion’s past and its lighthouse. As an adult, he put his efforts into encouraging downtown Vermilion to maintain its historical 19th century appearance. His childhood home, Harbor View, was donated to Bowling Green State University and later sold to the Great Lakes Historical Society. Built of gravel from Lake Erie in 1909, the old house became the main structure of the society's Inland Seas Maritime Museum. This gave Ted an idea. He decided that a replica of the 1877 lighthouse would be the perfect complement to it. 

Ted spearheaded a fund-raising campaign to build the new lighthouse. Funds were raised by mailing out brochures, writing articles in the local paper, and collecting donations at the museum. By 1991, Ted and his fellow fund-raisers had collected $55,000---enough to build a 16-foot replica of Vermilion’s 1877 lighthouse. Architect Robert Lee Tracht of Huron prepared the plans, which were approved by the city, county, and state authorities, but only after a long delay. Even the U.S. Coast Guard approved the plans for making the light a working lighthouse, right down to its steady red light. Again, a company in Buffalo fabricated the lighthouse. 

Ground was broken for the new lighthouse on July 24, 1991, by Mayor Alex Angney. The 25,000-pound base of the replica lighthouse, measuring 15 feet in diameter, was brought to Vermilion on a flatbed truck. Cranes were used to place it onto the foundation. According to rumors, before the base was attached to the foundation, an 1877 gold piece was placed under the vertex of the octahedron that would point true north. It seems only fitting that a piece of 1877 be part of the new lighthouse’s foundation. 

The tower was raised in less than three hours on October 23, 1991. The lantern and roof were attached the next day, and a fifth-order Fresnel lens (owned by the museum) was mounted. The tower was electrically wired, and an incandescent 200-watt lamp with Edison-base was installed. A red glass cylinder surrounded the lamp to make the replica complete. The new Vermilion Lighthouse was dedicated on June 6, 1992, and is still operational today. It serves not only as part of the museum, but also as an active aid to navigation. 

Shortly after their new light was built, the residents of Vermilion learned what had become of their original lighthouse. Amazingly, the structure had not been destroyed after its removal. In fact, it was still shining, and had been for the last 59 years. 

Once the lighthouse had been dismantled in 1929, it was transported to Buffalo, New York, where it was renovated. Six years later, in 1935, the lighthouse was given a new home and a new charge---on Lake Ontario. Sitting off Cape Vincent at the entrance to the Saint Lawrence Seaway, the Vermilion Lighthouse was given a fifth-order Fresnel lens and renamed East Charity Shoal Lighthouse. The light remains an active aid to navigation, with its modern optic (installed in 1992) displayed at a 52-foot focal plane.

East Charity Shoal Lighthouse

The steamship Rosedale was built at Sunderland, England in 1888 and on her maiden run completed the first ever direct voyage from London to Chicago via the St. Lawrence River and Welland Canal. This accomplishment caused great excitement in the American maritime community, as it proved that grains from the elevators in Chicago, and other ports on the Great Lakes, could be shipped to London without transshipment. Though her first sailing caused a stir, every trip did not turn out quite so well. On December 5, 1897, the Rosedale grounded upon the rocks of East Charity Shoal during a northwest gale. The vessel was abandoned to her underwriters, but was eventually towed off by a wrecking company, and, after being rebuilt, returned to service. 

During the summer of 1900, John C. Churchill, Jr. visited Charity Shoal to survey and chart the outlying spur known as East Charity Shoal. This hazard, which was about 3,000 feet long and at some points covered by just ten feet of water, lay in the line of transit for vessels using the St. Lawrence River and was thus a great peril to navigation. Later that year, the Lighthouse Board moved to mark the obstacle and issued the following Notice to Mariners: “Notice is hereby given that a nun buoy painted red and numbered 2 has been placed in twenty feet of water to mark the easterly edge of East Charity shoal, Lake Ontario, New York. This buoy is about 1 3/8 miles E.S.E. of Charity shoal gas buoy. It is recommended that vessels bound to or from the main channel of the St. Lawrence river, and using the passage between Galloo and Main Duck Islands, should keep to the eastward of this buoy.” 

This navigational buoy didn’t prevent all mishaps, as in October of 1912 the steamer Rock Ferry ran aground on East Charity Shoal, and tugs had to be dispatched in an attempt to free her. The Lighthouse Service eventually opted for a more permanent method of marking the shoal, and in May of 1934 newspapers in upstate New York advertised that sealed proposals would be accepted by the Superintendent of Lighthouses in Buffalo for a “timber crib-concrete superstructure” on East Charity Shoal. 

The Walls Company was selected as the contractor for the project and had completed enough of the structure so that a temporary light was established on the south side of the crib on November 24, 1934. The foundation consisted of a fifty foot square crib, whose height varied from eleven to fourteen feet to fit the shoal. Constructed ashore in an inverted position, the crib was launched, righted, towed to the site, and sunk in place using stone and interlocking blocks of pre-cast concrete. A reinforced concrete slab was placed over the entire pier and atop this a one-story deckhouse, also of reinforced concrete and octagonal in form, was built to support an octagonal iron tower. After the tower was installed on the deckhouse in 1935, a fourth-order Fresnel lens was placed in the tower’s lantern room and, using acetylene as the illuminant, a 1,300 candlepower light was produced at a focal plane of fifty-two feet above low water depth. The entire project, including riprap to protect the foundation, cost $95,125. 

The octagonal iron tower at East Charity Shoal has the distinction of having served at two stations and on two different Great Lakes. It was first installed in 1877 at the end of a pier in Vermilion, Ohio to mark the entrance to the Vermilion River from Lake Erie. After the beacon had been in service for over fifty years, two teenage brothers, who lived next to the harbor, noticed that the lighthouse had developed a lean after the pier had been damaged by an ice storm. The father of the two boys contacted the Lighthouse Service, and not long thereafter the heavy tower was replaced by a much lighter automated tower. 

The residents of Vermilion were fond of the old red and white pierhead beacon, and when the octagonal tower was taken away it was as if a member of the community had been lost. Years later, after his childhood home had been converted into the Inland Seas Maritime Museum, Ted Wakefield, one of the two boys who had noticed the lean, championed a fundraising drive to build a replica of the 1877 tower for the museum grounds. His dream was realized during the summer of 1991, when a crane lifted the newly cast tower onto its prepared foundation overlooking Lake Erie. 

For years, Vermilionites did not know the fate of the 1877 lighthouse. Most thought it had ended up on the scrap heap, but the real answer was revealed to Vermilion when Olin M. Stevens, of Columbus, Ohio, visited the Inland Seas Maritime Museum. Stevens came seeking additional information on his grandfather, Olin W. Stevens, who was a third generation lighthouse keeper, and when he learned the museum was trying to determine the fate of the 1877 tower, he realized he had just recently found the answer. While searching for information on his ancestors to give to his grandchildren, Stevens opened an old trunk and discovered a newspaper article that told about the service of his grandfather at Tibbetts Point Lighthouse. A portion of the article read, “Altho this is his first duty on Lake Ontario, Charity Shoal light, visible from the Tibbett's Point headland, is an old friend. The tower upholding the gas lamp on Charity formerly was under Keeper Stevens’ charge at Vermilion, near Lorain. Victim of an ice shove, it was salvaged and taken to Buffalo, where it was assigned to Charity.” The mystery had been solved.

Although the East Charity Shoal Lighthouse was never manned, it was still responsible for saving the life of at least one individual. Dr. Joseph G. Reidel, a 37-year-old physician from Syracuse, was sailing on Lake Ontario with his wife and Dr. and Mrs. W. Hall of Watertown on August 5, 1955, when winds estimated at 70mph struck their dragon class sloop. Dr. Reidel was washed overboard by the wind-whipped sea and for an hour was able to tread water and keep sight of the sailboat while his wife and friends desperately tried to rescue him or get him a lifejacket. Neither effort was successful, and Dr. Reidel was presumed lost. As it started to get dark, Reidel noticed the glint of a lighthouse and decided to swim towards it. Reidel swallowed a lot of water and suffered leg cramps for a stretch of forty minutes, but as he struggled to stay afloat he kept repeating to himself, “This can’t happen to me but it will unless I get there.” 

After more than eight hours in the water, Reidel pulled himself up onto the pier at East Charity Shoal. Exhausted, he soon fell asleep and was rescued at 5:30 a.m. the following morning by three fishermen. Reidel was eventually taken to Cape Vincent, where he was reunited with his wife and friends. 

Though alone and surrounded by a vast body of water, East Charity Shoal Lighthouse will always be cherished by the residents of Vermilion and a grateful physician from Syracuse. 

In July of 2008, the East Charity Shoal Lighthouse was declared surplus by the Coast Guard and pursuant to the National Historic Lighthouse Preservation Act of 2000 was "made available at no cost to eligible entities defined as federal, state and local agencies, non-profit corporations, educational agencies, or community development organizations for education, park, recreation, cultural, or historic preservation purposes." Qualified entities had until September 23, 2008 to submit a letter of interest. In the event of no interest, the property will be offered for public sale. 

Copyright 2001-2008

Birthplace Of Lester A. Pelton

Lester Allan Pelton (September 5, 1829 – March 14, 1908), considered to be the father of modern day hydroelectric power, is one the most famous inventors of American history.  Pelton invented the impulse water turbine.  Lester Pelton was born in Vermillion, Ohio in 1829. His father was a farmer.  He lived on Risden Road and attended the Cuddeback School on the northwest corner of Risden and Lake Roads.  He had seven siblings.  His grandfather, Captain Josiah S. Pelton, located in Vermilion in 1818. In ill health, his oldest son, Josiah S. Jr., assumed the role of family patriarch. The family prospered and all figured prominently in the development of Vermilion in business and government.  But it was Lester who would become world famous.

When Lester grew up he decided to travel by wagon train to California. He was a quiet person who liked to study and read books. At first he went to Sacramento and became a fisherman. He was not successful at fishing so he decided to move. He went to Camptonville in Nevada County after he heard about a gold discovery along the North Fork of the Yuba River. 

In 1860 all types of mining were going on, placer, hardrock, and hydraulic. Pelton did not want to be a miner so he decided to improve mining methods. He watched, studied, and learned about methods needed to power hydraulic mining. Hardrock mines also needed power to lower the men into the mines, bring up the ore cars, and return the workers to the surface at the end of their shift. Power was also needed to operate rock crushers, stamp mills, pumps, and machinery.

At the time the steam engine was used by many mines for their main power source, but the hillsides were running out of wood and trees. The Empire Mine in Grass Valley used about twenty cords of wood a day. Pelton knew the forests were disappearing so he began thinking about inventing a water wheel. In 1878 he experimented with several types of wheels.

According to a 1939 article by W. F. Durand of Stanford University in Mechanical Engineering, "Pelton's invention started from an accidental observation, some time in the 1870s. Pelton was watching a spinning water turbine when the key holding its wheel onto its shaft slipped, causing it to become misaligned. Instead of the jet hitting the cups in their middle, the slippage made it hit near the edge; rather than the water flow being stopped, it was now deflected into a half-circle, coming out again with reversed direction. Surprisingly, the turbine now moved faster. That was Pelton's great discovery. In other turbines the jet hit the middle of the cup and the splash of the impacting water wasted energy."

As the story goes, Pelton was further inspired one day when chasing a stray cow from his landlady’s yard. He hit the cow on the nose with water and the water split, circled the cows nostrils and came out at the outer edge. This gave him an idea. He rushed to his workshop and began to make a water wheel with split metal cups.  The wheel was proven to be the best and most efficient in a competition. The Nevada City Foundry began to manufacture the wheels and ship them all over the world.

The Pelton wheel introduced an entirely new physical concept to water turbine design (impulse as opposed to reaction), and revolutionized turbines adapted for high head sites. Up until this time, all water turbines were reaction machines that were powered by water pressure. Pelton's invention was powered by the kinetic energy of a high velocity water jet.

A patent was granted in 1889 to Pelton, and he later sold the rights to the Pelton Water Wheel Company of San Francisco.  Today Pelton wheels are used worldwide for hydroelectric power with not much change in design from the original wheels.  Later evolutions of the Pelton turbine were the Turgo turbine, first patented by in 1919 by Gilkes, and the Banki turbine.  Pelton was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.  His invention is on display in museums throughout the world, including the Smithsonian.

Pelton and his family are buried in Maple Grove Cemetery on Mason Road in Vermilion, Ohio.  His birthplace home has been fully restored by Tom and Jean Beach.  The Lester Allan Pelton Historical marker is located at Cuddeback Cemetery, Risden and Lake Roads, Vermilion Township.  The marker reads:

"Lester Allan Pelton"

Lester Allan Pelton, "the Father of Hydroelectric Power," was born on September 5, 1829, a quarter of a mile northwest of this site. He spent his childhood on a farm a mile south of this site and received his early education in a one-room schoolhouse that once sat north of this site. In the spring of 1850, he and about twenty local boys, left for California during the great gold rush west. Pelton did not find gold, but instead invented what was commonly known as "the Pelton Water-Wheel," which produced the first hydroelectric power in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California in 1887. The Water-Wheel was patented on August 27, 1889. Currently variations of it are still commonly used to generate electric power throughout the world. Pelton died in California on March 14, 1908. He is buried at Maple Grove Cemetery in Vermilion. 

Capt. Austin & The Friendship Schooner

During the Revolutionary War in the late 1700s many Connecticut residents were burned out of their homes by the raiding British. To compensate these citizens for their losses, the Connecticut Assembly awarded the "Sufferers" 500,000 acres in the western most portion of the Western Reserve, which came to be known as the Firelands.  Settlement was slow due to the remoteness of the tract and the difficulties in reaching it.  Capt. William Austin, of New London Connecticut, was one of the first settlers in Vermilion.  He arrived with his family in 1809 and built a home a half mile west of the mouth of the Vermillion River which flows into Lake Erie.  His wife, Elizabeth, was the first white woman in Vermilion.

The greater part the lake’s southern shore was at one time occupied by a tribe of Indians called the Eries. The word translates to ‘cat’, likely in reference to the wild cat or panther that once roamed the area.  The lake was referred to as “Lake of the Cat” by the Indians.  Vermilion was named by Native Americans for the red clay along the river banks.  Oulanie Thepy (Red Creek) in the Indian’s language was translated by early French explorers as “Vermilion River.”

Capt. William Austin was a man of energy and built the first schooner along the river in 1812. She was the “Friendship”, a schooner of the times, about a fifty footer registered at 57 tons in Cleveland in 1817. Where the ship was built is not exactly known but the builders chose a flat place along the riverside. This most certainly had to be near the foot of Huron Street where the later shipyard stood when ship building became the main industry in the village. Small schooners were ideal for scudding along the lake shore bringing in supplies from Buffalo and other ports. They were as large as the natural river bars would allow and enough cargo capacity to supply the needs of the early settlements. 

Mr. Austin, a Master Seaman, made nineteen trips a year to Newfoundland, Canada and Spain.  He was known for having visited every port on the globe.

Many settlers left the area during the War of 1812 and did not return until after Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry's victory over the British fleet.  Capt. Austin was not one of them.  He remained in Vermilion and sailed the famous “Friendship” during and after the War of 1812.  He carried soldiers to the battle on the Peninsula. This famous naval battle was fought in the waters of Lake Erie just a few miles from South Bass Island. It marks the only time in history that a British naval fleet ever surrendered and inspired the Star Spangled Banner and the song we know today as our National Anthem.

In 1821 Capt. Austin built the first stone house in Vermilion.  He opened the first public house at or near the mouth of the Vermillion River. The first religious meeting in Vermilion was held at his home.

The captain was a very genial man, but it was unsafe to cross him.  His rule aboard his ship was to have everything in its place.  Any deviation from this rule resulted in certain punishment.

He would never admit to flatteries and was as outspoken and abrupt as honest.  On one occasion when a man attempted to get favor by appealing to his pride, saying to him how obliging and clever a man he was, the captain replied, "CLEVER!, CLEVER! SO IS THE DEVIL SO LONG AS YOU PLEASE HIM."

He was a full believer in premonitions and warnings from unseen agents, and believed he was always warned of danger by a raving white horse in his dreams.

Around 1814 he was on his way to Detroit with several merchants as passengers.  It was a delightful Indian summer day.  On the way to the Islands the old white horse paid him a furious visit in his sleep, and about noon he tied up in Put- Away- Bay.  The passengers were indignant; fine day, fair wind, and nothing to hinder but the old man's obstinacy or laziness.  But he was immovable, not a foot would he stir out of the harbor that day.  Just after nightfall came a furious snow storm and gales which so frequently destroyed ships and numerous lives on Lake Erie. In the morning the deck was covered with a foot of snow, and the wind was blowing a hurricane outside the harbor.  His passengers were now very thankful for the escape, and the next day with a fair sky they landed safely in Detroit.

Once as he was returning to America, the ship making good way with a favorable wind, he retired after dinner and fell asleep.  The old white horse came, with mouth wide open and in great fury.  The captain bounded from his bunk, hastened to the deck, and sang out "about ship in an instant!" The order was instantly obeyed and when the ship rounded the fog, the breakers were less than eighty rods ahead, and the iron bound coast of Labrador in plain sight just beyond. Ten minutes more and "we would have never been heard of again" said the captain.

Under the protection of his white horse, Capt. Austin never met with a serious disaster, and had escaped very many.

28 years after Capt. Austin built the legendary “Friendship” schooner, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built the two piers at the mouth of the river which provided the bar depth builders needed to take crafts to sea. Thus began the "Golden Age" of ship building on the river, in tune with the great demand for shipping on the lakes. In a period of 36 years 48 large lake schooners were built.  This provided jobs and growth for the community.  The harbor was a beehive of activity and the sound of the maul on caulking iron was a musical note that rang throughout the valley.  The schooner was the "work horse" and a very important transportation means in the opening of the vast Great Lakes Country.  They reigned supreme until a new form of transportation arrived along shore, the steam railroad.

Capt. William Austin couldn't have known in 1812 that his ship would become a cherished symbol of a town that had not yet even been incorporated.  The “Friendship” schooner flies on Vermilion’s official flag and welcomes visitors on our city signage.

John Mercer Langston

John Mercer Langston was one of the most extraordinary men of the 19th century. Slim and debonair, and of mixed-raced parentage, Langston was highly educated, an expert in constitutional law, a community organizer and a gifted orator who sought to unify a divided country after the Civil War. He was the first African-American elected to a local office, winning the office of Clerk of Brownhelm Township on April 2, 1855. 

Langston was the son of Ralph Quarles, a white plantation owner, and Jane Langston, a black slave. After his parents died when Langston was five, he and his brothers moved to Oberlin, Ohio, to live with family friends. Langston enrolled in Oberlin College at age 14 and earned bachelor's and master's degrees from the institution. Denied admission into law school, Langston studied law under attorney Philemon Bliss of Elyria. Langston became the first black lawyer in Ohio, passing the Bar in 1854.  He became actively involved in the antislavery movement, organizing antislavery societies locally and at the state level. He helped runaway slaves to escape to the North along the Ohio part of the Underground Railroad.

Langston married Caroline Wall, a senior in the literary department at Oberlin, settled in Brownhelm, OH and established a law practice. He quickly involved himself in town matters.  In 1855 Langston became the country's first black elected official when he was elected town clerk of the Brownhelm Township.

Langston moved to Oberlin in 1856 where he again involved himself in town government. From 1865 - 1867 he served as a city councilman and from 1867-1868 he served on the Board of Education. His law practice established and respected, Langston handled legal matters for the town. Langston vigilantly supported Republican candidates for local and national office. He is credited with helping to steer the Ohio Republican party towards radicalism and a strong antislavery position. He conspired with John Brown to raid Harpers Ferry.

Langston organized black volunteers for the Union cause. As chief recruiter in the West, he assembled the Massachusetts 54th, the nation's first black regiment, and the Massachusetts 55th and the 5th Ohio.  He was a founding member and president of the National Equal Rights League, which fought for black voting rights. During the Civil War Langston recruited African Americans to fight for the Union Army. After the war, he was appointed inspector general for the Freedmen's Bureau, a federal organization that helped freed slaves.  He was the first African American to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court.  Selected by the Black National Convention to lead the National Equal Rights League in 1864, Langston carried out extensive suffrage campaigns in Ohio, Kansas and Missouri. Langston's vision was realized in 1867, with Congressional approval of suffrage for black males.

Langston moved to Washington, DC in 1868 to establish and serve as dean of Howard University's law school — the first black law school in the country. He was appointed acting president of the school in 1872. In 1877 Langston left to become U.S. minister to Haiti. He returned to Virginia in 1885 and was named president of Virginia Normal and Collegiate Institute (now Virginia State University). In 1888 he ran for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives as an Independent. He lost to his Democratic opponent but contested the results of the election. After an 18-month fight, he won the election and served for six months.  Langston was the first black Congress member from Virginia and a diplomat. He lost his bid for reelection. 

The town of Langston, Oklahoma, and Langston University, is named after him.  The John Mercer Langston Bar Association in Columbus, Ohio, is named in his honor along with Langston Middle School in Oberlin, Ohio, the former John Mercer Langston High School in Danville, Virginia, and John M. Langston High School Continuation Program in Arlington, Virginia. His house in Oberlin is a National Historic Landmark.  Langston was the great-uncle of poet Langston Hughes.

It took 153 years to get from John Mercer Langston to Barack Hussein Obama, a journey that endured the dashed hopes of Reconstruction and the oppression of Jim Crow to arrive at a moment that has stunned even those optimistic about America's racial progress. 

The John Mercer Langston Ohio Historical Marker is located at Brownhelm High School, 1940 North Ridge Road, Vermilion, Ohio.  The marker reads:

"John Mercer Langston"

The first African-American elected to government office in the United States, John Mercer Langston (1829-1897) won the office of Clerk of Brownhelm Township on April 2, 1855. Born in Virginia and raised in Chillicothe, Langston graduated from Oberlin College in 1849 and was admitted to the Ohio Bar in 1854, becoming Ohio's first black attorney. He served as the first president of the National Equal Rights League in 1864, and subsequently as professor of law, dean, and acting president of Howard University in Washington, D.C. In 1890, he became Virginia's first black congressman. Throughout his career Langston set a personal example of self-reliance in the struggle for justice for African-Americans. 

Phoebe Judson: Pioneer

Phoebe Goodell Judson grew up in Vermillion, Ohio.  Her pioneer story begins when she married her husband Holden Allen Judson. After three years of matrimony they both decided "to obtain from the government of The United States a grant of land that "Uncle Sam" had promised to give to the head of each family who settled in this new country."  With this the Judson's set out to pursue the vast uncultivated wilderness of the Puget Sound, which at that time was a part of Oregon. They departed March 1,1853. As Pheobe Judson recollects, "The time set for departure was March 1st, 1853. Many dear friends gathered to see us off. The tender "good-byes' were said with brave cheers in the voices, but many tears from the hearts."

Born Phoebe Newton Goodell on October 25, 1831, Phoebe was born in Ancaster, Canada, the second eldest of eleven children with her twin sister Mary Weeks Goodell, and named after her father's sister, Phebe Goodell.  Her parents were Jotham Weeks "J. W." Goodell, a Presbyterian minister descended from British colonists, and Anna Glenning "Annie" Bacheler.  In 1837 her family emigrated to Vermilion, Ohio, where she and her siblings where raised.

On June 20, 1849, at the age of 17, Phoebe married Holden Allen Judson (born mid-1827), with whom she had grown up. (Holden's only sibling, Lucretia "Trecia" Judson, had been a close friend of Phoebe's in Vermilion.) The Judsons lived in Holden's parents' home in Vermilion. Their first child, Anna "Annie" Judson, was born the following year.

Following the Donation Land Claim Act, the Goodells traveled to the Oregon Territory in 1851, leaving Phoebe and her elder brother William behind. Phoebe's twin sister Mary and her fiancé Nathan W. Meloy settled in Willamette, Oregon and J. W. Goodell named and established the town of Grand Mound, Washington with his wife and younger children, where he took up a job as postmaster and part-time minister alongside George Whitworth.

Inspired by her family, and Holden's desire for independence from his parents, Phoebe set off for the month-old Washington Territory with Holden and Annie on March 1, 1853, a few days following her brother William's wedding to Maria Austin, both of whom would take the same Westward route the following year and witness the Ward Massacre.  They left Ohio and, traveling on the Overland Trail once they passed Kansas City, made their way west with a small party of others.  The journey in and of itself was an adventure given the primitive conditions and threat of an Indian attack. But late in June the party did pause for a day at La Bonta Creek in southeastern Wyoming when Phoebe gave birth to a son, Charles LaBonta Judson.  

Phoebe Judson was the first non-Indian woman to settle in the Lynden area and became known as the "Mother of Lynden" during the half century that she lived there.

Pioneering in Washington Territory  

The Judsons arrived at their new home in Grand Mound (Thurston County) in October 1853.  About 1856 they moved to near Claquato (Lewis County) and late in 1858 moved to Olympia when Holden was elected to the territorial legislature on the Democratic ticket.  They would remain in Olympia for nearly eight years. Holden served at least two terms in the legislature, and subsequently operated a store in Olympia.  

In 1866 the Judsons moved to Whidbey Island, where Holden may have operated another store.  By the end of the 1860s, their biological family was complete. They had four children: Annie (1850-1937), Charles (1853-1933), George (1859-1891), and Mary "Mollie" (1862-1894). (A fifth child, Carrie, died of whooping cough one month and one day after birth in 1869.) But note the distinction "biological family," because the Judsons would subsequently adopt an additional 11 children.  

On March 1, 1870, the Judsons left Whidbey Island, bound for Lynden. They traveled by the steamer Mary Woodruff to Whatcom (now part of Bellingham), then obtained three canoes, with two Indians apiece, to paddle, pole, and portage them up the Nooksack River to Lynden.   

The Judsons moved into a rough log cabin that they had acquired in an unusual trade with Colonel James Alexander Patterson, the first white settler in Lynden. Patterson had built the cabin in 1860, and he and his Native American wife had lived there for most of the decade. But at some point in the late 1860s his wife left him, and he began to search for a foster home for his two young daughters.  By this time he was a frequent visitor to the Judson’s home on Whidbey Island. Patterson made an offer to the Judsons that he would swap his home and land in what was then known among the settlers as "Nooksack" or "Nootsack" if the Judsons would care for his two daughters, Dollie (age 7 in March 1870) and Nellie (age 4 in March 1870) until they came of age. The Judsons agreed, and Patterson executed a quitclaim deed to his land in favor of Phoebe Judson in March 1870.  

The Judsons settled into what Phoebe Judson would famously refer to as her "ideal home." It was located just south of 6th and Front streets, near the southwestern edge of today’s Judson Street Alley, and had a view of the Nooksack River, which at the time ran farther north than it does today. Holden became postmaster of Lynden in 1873, and Phoebe was asked to select the name of the new town. She chose a name that she had heard from a poem, Hohenlinden, written by Thomas Campbell, which begins "On Linden, when the sun was low ..." But she changed the "i" in Linden to "y" because she felt it looked prettier.

Aunt Phoebe, the Mother of Lynden 

Since Phoebe Judson was the first white woman in Lynden, she became known as the "Mother of Lynden," and her presence in the community was established. Almost from the beginning she was called "Aunt Phoebe," someone you went to when you needed something, be it a pail of buttermilk or help during childbirth. She also became known for writing letters to the Bellingham Bay Mail during the 1870s, describing the joys of life as a "Pioneer’s Wife," as she usually signed her letters.  

But she was more that that.  She took a considerably more active role in the community than did many women of the day.  During the 1870s log jams plagued the Nooksack River, preventing steamers from making their way upriver to Lynden.  One of the biggest jams was downriver from Lynden, near what is today Ferndale.  In March 1876 Phoebe began to solicit funds for the removal of the jam. Aided by a $50 donation from Holden, $1,500 was raised by the end of April from settlers in Sehome and Whatcom (both now part of Bellingham) as well as from settlers along the river.  Phoebe also suggested that the man who donated the most work on the jam be given votes for a county office. History doesn’t record whether or not this happened, but work on the jam began, and it was gone by early 1877.  

Phoebe’s son George Judson platted Lynden in 1884, and as the town site developed, the Judsons donated parts of their land for churches, schools, a printing office, a blacksmith shop, and for various private purposes. They also built the Judson Opera House in the late 1880s, and when it was completed in 1889 it became the community nexus for lectures, entertainment, and celebrations.  

Phoebe has been described as a gregarious crusader for many causes.  Known as religious, she took an active role in her opposition to saloons in early-day Lynden. But she is also known for taking an active role in the early development of its churches and schools. She arguably became more well-known than her husband, Holden, perhaps because she outlived him by 26 years and had the opportunity to accomplish more, and perhaps also because of her book of her life, A Pioneer’s Search for an Ideal Home, which was first published in 1925, the year before her death. 

During the 1880s the Judsons moved to a new two-story frame home on the north side of Front Street, midway between 5th and 6th streets.  Holden died there on October 26, 1899, and Phoebe peacefully passed away there on January 16, 1926, having remained physically active and mentally alert until the time of her death.  Services were held two days later, and the entire city of Lynden shut down to mark the occasion:  Stores were closed, schools were dismissed, and hundreds of people from miles around made the pilgrimage to pay final tribute to the "Mother of Lynden."

The Simon Kenton Boulder

One of the first explorers of the Vermilion area was Simon Kenton (April 3, 1755 - April 29, 1836,) a famous United States frontiersman and friend of the renowned Daniel Boone, the infamous Simon Girty, and the valiant Spencer Records. 

Simon Kenton was born in the Bull Run Mountains, Prince William County, Virginia to Mark Kenton Sr. (an immigrant from Ireland) and Mary Miller Kenton. In 1771, at the age of 16, thinking he had killed a man in a jealous rage, he fled into the wilderness of Kentucky and Ohio, and for years went by the name "Simon Butler."

Kenton served as a scout against the Shawnee in 1774 in the conflict between Native Americans and European settlers later labeled Dunmore's War. In 1777, he saved the life of his friend and fellow frontiersman, Daniel Boone, at Boonesborough, Kentucky. The following year, Kenton was in turn rescued from torture and death by Simon Girty.

Kenton served on the famous 1778 George Rogers Clark expedition to capture Fort Sackville and also fought with "Mad" Anthony Wayne in the Northwest Indian War in 1793-94.

In 1782, he returned to Virginia and found out the victim had lived and readopted his original name.

In 1784 Kenton chiseled his name, S. Kenton 1784, on a boulder about 2 miles south of the Vermilion River mouth on the southern border of the old Rossman farm in a spot about 600' east of the State Road.

Presumably, Kenton marked the boulder to substantiate his claim to a 4 square mile area surrounding the river mouth, a likely settlement someday. Kenton claimed similar areas throughout the State but lost his claims due to his lack of education. He was too early and too ignorant of drawing up legal claims of his discoveries.

We do have the satisfaction of knowing that he was the first to find and realize that the Vermilion River would some day be the nucleus of a growing community. How right he was!

In 1937 the Vermilion Centennial "Stone Committee" discovered the stone. The stone now stands as a memorial to Kenton at the Ritter Library.

Kenton moved to Urbana, Ohio in 1810, and achieved the rank of brigadier general of the Ohio militia. He served in the War of 1812 as both a scout and as leader of a militia group in the Battle of the Thames in 1813.

Simon Kenton had 6 children in his second marriage. Kenton died in New Jerusalem, Ohio (in Logan County) and was first buried there. His body was later moved to Urbana, Ohio.

He died a poor man and might have been governor if he had had the proper background. As it was, though, he was an outstanding explorer in the Ohio wilderness and his efforts added considerably to the opening of the country to the settlers.

The Haunting History of Gore Orphanage & Swift's Hollow

It's a nightmarish scene in the countryside of Vermilion on Gore Road over one hundred years ago.  A gigantic fire engulfs an old orphanage burning dozens of young children alive.  Desperate to escape the inferno, the children on the second floor found the stairs blocked by flames.  Dreadful screams of the children trapped inside the blazing building pierce the ears of horrified onlookers unable to stop the carnage.  The deadly destruction continues until the screams finally fall silent and the only sound that lingers is the crackling and roar of the hellish flames. The smoke ascends into the night sky, carrying with it the souls of over 100 poor orphan children. The building is soon reduced to a pile of  glowing embers with only a remnant of the foundation and stone pillars forever preserved for future generations to happen upon.

Were the spirits of the helpless children extinguished with the flames, or do they still cry out in the middle of the night  from beyond the grave?  Do the lost souls wander the area, forever tortured by a reality too difficult to accept?  Was the  fire sparked by an orphan boy dropping a lamp? Or perhaps it was intentionally set by Old Man Gore, the abusive man who ran the institution, for insurance or just plain sadistic torture?

So is the legend of Gore Orphanage.

The Real Story of Gore Orphanage & Swift's Hollow

For over a century visitors to Gore Orphanage Road have reported strange experiences of glowing lights, apparitions and  chilling cries of unseen children.  The area is said to be one of the most haunted locations in Ohio.

Despite the inaccuracies of the Gore Orphanage legend, the true tale of the institution and the Swift's Hollow mansion are more haunting than fiction.  Over the course of time, three tales of terror have been woven into one horrific legend of torture, fire and the paranormal.

Light of Hope, the actual name of the orphanage, was established in 1902 by a religious zealot named Reverend Johann Sprunger.  The orphanage was located on Gore Road.  The road was originally laid out along the boundary line dividing Lorain County from its western neighbor, Huron County. When a surveying error was discovered, a thin strip of land resembling the gore of  a dress had to be annexed to Lorain.  Due to the popular association of the institution with the road, the name of the street came to be known as Gore Orphanage Road - a fitting name for the location of a now infamous orphanage with a hellish history.

Johann Sprunger and his wife Katharina moved to the Vermilion area after their former orphanage in Berne, Indiana was destroyed by fire.  Katharina was the daughter of Christian P. Sprunger.  Though no explanation has ever been given regarding Katharina's surname being the same as her husband, a diary of a worker at the former Light of Hope Orphanage in Berne states that the orphanage was run by "Brother and Sister Sprunger."  Three orphan girls were reported to have perished in the original Light of Hope fire.  Two of Sprunger's former Indiana businesses had also ended by fire.  Prior to moving to Ohio the couple also lost their seven year old daughter, Hillegonda, and a son, Edmund, died at birth. The deaths appeared to spark a passionate obsession for religious pursuits in the couple.

The new orphanage site, just outside of Vermilion, consisted of four sets of farm buildings and covered 543 acres.  An abandoned mansion was also located on the property.  The once magnificent Greek revival house was built in the mid-nineteenth century by Joseph Swift, a successful farmer. Its many rooms were appointed with elaborate furnishings, ornate woodwork, marble columns, and other lavish decorations.  But to the Swift mansion soon came bad luck.  In 1831, Swift's 5 year-old daughter Tryphenia died.  In 1841, Swift's 24 year-old son, Heman, also died.  Soon after Swift's fortunes dried up due to poor investments in the railroad business.  He sold the home to Nicholas Wilber, a renowned Spiritualist. Mysterious rituals and seances were said to be held regularly in the secluded mansion home conjuring up the spirits of deceased children.  The ghosts of children were said to appear frequently at the seances held in a special room of the home.  Wilber's children were rumored to be psychic and could communicate with the ghosts of dead children.  While records and gravestones claim that four Wilber grandchildren died from a diphtheria epidemic after the Wilbers moved from the home, residents insisted that they died at the Swift mansion and were buried there.  The home was abandoned in 1901, and teenagers almost immediately began taking trips to the site, daring each other to enter the infamous haunted home.

Reverend Sprunger did not utilize the abandoned home for the new orphanage. Instead, he attempted to build a new, self-sustaining religious community on the property. He and his co-workers were devout Bible-believing Christian people.  A chapel room was located in the boy’s schoolhouse for frequent religious ceremonies.  Up to one hundred and twenty children were inmates of  the orphanage at one time. Boys lived at a farm called the Hughes farm and girls at the Howard farm.  The orphanage also housed a small printing press used to print their own school books, as well as a paper entitled "Light of Hope."

But rumors of darkness and despair soon plagued the Light of Hope orphanage.  Orphan children ran away from the home, often wading through the Vermilion River to escape to Vermilion.  The children told horrific stories of abuse, neglect and slave labor.  The children were said to eat a diet of calves lungs, hog heads and sick cattle - if they were fed at all.  Corn was boiled in the same pot used to boil soiled underwear.  Although there were cows on the farm, children were said to often only be given butter once a week and occasionally pepper or sugar.

The children's rooms were infested with rats and vermin. On occasions, rats crawled onto the beds and bit children while they lay asleep.  There was said to be only one bath tub for the boys, which they were allowed to use once every two weeks and had to use the same water.

Children told stories of Sprunger and the farm overseers beating them with a strap until great raw welts appeared on their bodies. Sprunger would also rent out the inmates of the home to neighboring farmers.

Illnesses and disease were alleged to be treated only by prayers.  Witnesses stated the children received a lack of regular schooling.

In 1909 an investigation was conducted, but because the State of Ohio had no laws or regulations pertaining to the operation of such institutions, nothing formally could be done about conditions at the orphanage.  The Sprunger's admitted to much of the allegations against them.

Shortly before the investigation, in 1908, a disaster took place in the town of Collinwood, some forty miles east of Vermilion. 176 elementary school students were burned or  trampled to death when they became trapped in a stampede situation and couldn’t escape a fire that was consuming their school.  The children began descending down the stairs to the exit after the fire alarm was sounded, but the front stairwell was blocked by flames. According to witnesses, the children at the front broke from the lines and tried "to fight their way back to the floor above, while those who were coming down shoved them mercilessly back into the flames below." Those who made it to the rear exit found it locked. Outside rescuers unlocked it but found it opened inward, so it was impossible to move against the press of dozens of  desperate bodies.  The fire swept through the hall, springing from one child to another, catching their hair and the dresses of the girls. The cries of the children were dreadful and haunting.  The school's janitor, a German-American named Herter, was accused of setting the blaze (though he  lost four children in the fire and was badly burned trying to rescue one), and for a time he was detained in protective custody to keep residents from lynching him.

The horrific tale of  this event is thought to have been relocated when families of the Collinwood area (now East Cleveland) moved further west of Cleveland.  Some historians believe the horrid memories of such an event were too disturbing for Collinwood residents to bare and were thus "relocated" outside the area.  What better place for the terrifying memories to descend than the already legendary site of Swift’s Hollow and Gore Orphanage.   In fact, the tragedy brought about the end of the town of Collinwood.  As a result of the incident, unable to sufficiently guarantee fire safety resources for its residents, voters approved an annexation of Collinwood into Cleveland within two years of the fire.

Mr. Sprunger died two years after the investigation, and the doors of the orphanage permanently closed in July of 1916 after years of financial troubles. Pelham Hooker Blossom of Cleveland bought the Orphanage property, leased it to farmers for a period, then finally sold the land.  The Hughes House is all that remains of the Sprunger property. Part of the orphanage buildings burned and the rest were torn down.

The children of the Light of Hope orphanage were dispersed throughout the community or returned to their relatives or guardians and the nightmare was over for the children of the Gore Orphanage.  Many were too afraid to recount the conditions they endured at the institution. The few that had nowhere else to go were taken back to Berne, Indiana by Mrs. Sprunger.  It was exactly 13 years after it had first opened.

Swift’s Hollow is the location most often visited by those seeking a taste of the supernatural. A graffiti covered sandstone column marks the entrance of the area, which contains the foundations of this once magnificent mansion.  Today all that remains of the Swift Mansion are sandstone blocks from its foundation. Located deep in the woods, these remnants are now scrawled with graffiti left behind by late night visitors. They stand in the forest like guide stones for all those daring enough to seek an experience of the legend of the Gore Orphanage.

The Swift's Hallow mansion was never used as part of the orphanage. Instead it became a Mecca for late night vandals, and it is presumed that one of them was responsible for burning the house down in late 1923.  Early legend held that Mr. Wilbur helped the Sprunger's build the Light of Hope orphanage after loosing his own grandchildren.  Mrs. Wilbur was said to have gone insane over the tragedy. 

Stories were told that she'd set the table three times a day and passed food to the children as if they were sitting there.  At night she would light a lamp and say, "Time for bed, children come on," and then she'd put the kids to bed.  Some said the children were psychic and could bring children back after they died.

In the early 1900's teenagers began to visit the home. In time they began to take their first automobiles to Gore Road to attempt to get them up the steep ravine without stalling and to negotiate the sharp curves without crashing. The true test of  bravery though was to enter the Swift Mansion at night and prove you weren't afraid of the haunted house.

The location of the orphanage is on Gore Orphanage Road approximately 1/4 mile north of Rosedale just across the small Vermilion River Bridge. It is just past the spot where Gore Orphanage and Sperry Roads meet in the hollow. The remnants of the orphanage cannot be seen from the road, but substantial remains abut Sperry Road hill.

Though there is no proof that any deaths actually occurred at the "Gore Orphanage" or Swift's Hollow, the chilling memories of torture, abuse and occult activity are haunting in their own rite.  Perhaps the lost souls of the children of Collinwood did descend upon the infamous area where many of the living are known to go in search of the spirits of forgotten children.  Perhaps they seek the ghosts of the Wilber children to be brought back to the land of the living.

Paranormal investigators say the ghosts of Gore Orphanage Road may actually be esoteric "imprints" - a kind of snapshot in time. Frequently, violent or traumatic events seem to release an energy that imprints the action on a place or object. In this kind of haunting, incidents repeats themselves like a videotape rewound and played over and over again. These hauntings can be seen, heard, felt or even smelled. Tragic imprints can even "relocate" themselves to other areas of high paranormal energy.

Reverend Sprunger's body was buried in a cemetery in Indiana, but some say his soul still wanders the grounds of the Light of Hope religious compound he founded on Gore Orphanage.  Katharina Sprunger moved back to Indiana in 1916 and never returned to the area, at least not prior to her death in 1953.

Ghostly apparitions, balls of lights, haunting screams of children and visions of fire have been reported by many a visitor to Gore Orphanage Road.  Many claim to have found the dusty fingerprints of children when returning to their cars.  Whatever the true story of Gore Orphanage, there's little doubt that it has well earned its reputation as the most haunted area in Ohio.

Vermilion History

Native Americans

History tells us that the Erie Indians lived along the south shore of Lake Erie until their murderous extinction by the warlike Iroquois from upper New York State in 1655. Then around 1700 the Ottawas, Hurons (Wyandottes) and Chippewas gradually returned to the area for furs to sell to the French traders until they too were pushed out of their hunting and trapping grounds by the pioneering white man. Few Indians remained by 1800. One historian said, "Lake Shore Ohio was an Indian borderland. Indian habitation was a nervous, restless one punctuated by wars, international rivalries and disasters." 

Prior to the first white settler in the Vermilion country we know little about the natives living along the river; we do know that they encamped along the river because it was there, and provided a friendly place to live, food from the stream and game from the woods and swamp. But the river was the main enticement that caused the Indians to settle along the highlands near the river. Fish easily caught from the stream provided a necessity of life. The river was the key to livability in the rugged and wild life of the native.

Linwood Park was a main village of the original Vermilionites in those far away years. Many relics were collected by a long time resident, Walter Ziegler, during his years there. Further up the river on the east bank beyond the railroads, Indian bones were unearthed in the construction of Vermilion Road. Other artifacts such as arrowheads, knives and tomahawks have been found throughout the township and village. The remains are now in collections and are faint flickers of Indian life most of us have forgotten in this modern world. In retrospect, these durable mementos leave us with a sense of primitive perseverance and respect for the Indian.

Early Explorers

The French Period, 1669-1762

French names abound from Vermilion westward: La Chapelle Creek, Huron River, Portage River, La Carne, La Carpe Creek, La Toussaint River, etc. Vermilion itself is of French derivation - vermilion, meaning red of course. Yet very little is known about French exploration along the south shore of Lake Erie.

Sanson's map of 1656 names and outlines the lake with reasonable accuracy, no doubt from Indian descriptions. It wasn't actually "discovered" until 1669 when Adrien Jolliet traversed the north shore west to east. That year two missionaries met Jolliet who told them of his passage on the lake. They recorded their visit to Lake Erie at Grand River near Long Point, where they spent the winter. 

On March 23, 1670, they erected a cross and took possession of our area in the name of the King of France. Francois Dollier de Casson and René de Bréhant de Galinée claimed possession of the area for France, on the basis that it was non-occupied. Their claim consisted of a certificate that they attached at the foot of the cross, along with the coat of arms of the King of France. A transcript of what they wrote on the certificate was sent to the King.  Later, at the time of discussions between France and England in 1687, the French government sent the above transcript and Galinée's map to London as incontestable proof of France's rights to Lake Erie, Ontario, and the surrounding territory.

On the 26th of March, the explorers launched their canoes and paddled toward the west, hugging the north shore and camping each night on the beach. After 250 kilometers of paddling they reached the mouth of the Detroit River. Galinée honestly reported "Je ne marque que ce que j'ai vu. I note only what I've seen." He saw Point Pelee and the northernmost of the islands in western Lake Erie."

Dollier de Casson and Galinée, and many who followed later, purposely avoided the south shore because it was controlled by the Iroquois who had killed or driven out the Erie Indians in 1655 and who were mortal enemies of the French.  Even as late as 1755, Bellin, engineer of the King for the French navy and drafter of an excellent map of the Great Lakes, inscribed the south shore of Lake Erie with the phrase "Toute cette coste n'est presque pas connue. All this shore is almost unknown."

With the fall of Quebec in 1759 and the ceding of New France to England in 1763, Lake Erie and Vermilion came under the rule of the King of England. Thus ended the French period with little or no written history of our area.  Except for the ever remindful place names, probably given by coureurs du bois and voyageurs, not noted for their education or for recording their travels with maps or by the written word, we would never know that we are a former French jurisdiction which lasted over 90 years.

Pioneer's Life in the Wilderness

"We do not at all appreciate, we can hardly conceive, the inconvenience, the want, the suffering, the 'hard times' of the early settlers. Sickness added greatly to their hardships. Ague, 'chill fever,' and other malarial diseases incident to the opening of a new country, were prevalent. Sometimes whole families were prostrated, and often scarcely anyone remained in health to take care of the sick. Wild animals were annoying. Wolves, bears and foxes endangered their sheep, pigs and poultry, and deer, raccoon and wild turkeys damaged their crops. No roads, no mills, no markets and very scanty supplies at high prices of those articles of necessity, which had to be obtained from the East. Skins, furs and articles of food, from the necessity of the case, were used as legal tender. In fact, such was an early territorial law of Ohio. In 1792 a law was adopted regulating fees of civil officers, in which was the provision, 'That whereas the dollar varies in value in the several counties of the territory, some provision in kind ought to be made; therefore, be it enacted that for every cent allowed by this act, a quart of Indian corn may be demanded and taken by the person to whom the fee is coming as an equivalent for a cent, and at the same rate for a greater or less sum.' Taxes were not high, but it was difficult to pay them. Farm products brought but little return to labor. No markets. No markets."

The First White Men

We do not have any direct evidence of early explorers or trappers passing or living along the riverside. But we know that they passed this way along the south shore of Lake Erie as a small boat cruising along the shore was the way adventurers traveled, it was the only practical way.

One of the first explorers we know of and have solid evidence indicating that he was in Vermilion was Simon Kenton. He chiseled his name, S. Kenton 1784, on a boulder about 2 miles south of the river mouth on the southern border of the old Rossman farm in a spot about 600' east of the State Road. In 1937 the Centennial "Stone Committee" found it and took pictures. The stone now stands as a memorial to Kenton at the Ritter Library. Presumably, Kenton marked the boulder to substantiate his claim to a 4 square mile area surrounding the river mouth, a likely settlement someday. Kenton claimed similar areas throughout the State but lost his claims due to his lack of education. He was too early and too ignorant of drawing up legal claims of his discoveries. He died a poor man and might have been governor if he had had the proper background. As it was, though, he was an outstanding Indian fighter and explorer in the Ohio wilderness and his efforts added considerably to the opening of the country to the settlers. We do have the satisfaction of knowing that he was the first to find and realize that the Vermilion River would some day be the nucleus of a growing community. How right he was!

Settlers & Incorporation

"Settling In"

Between 1808 and 1811 the first settlers struggled into the Township to claim land already surveyed by Almon Ruggles.  The area was part of a tract offered by the State of Connecticut to the Fire Sufferers whose property had been plundered by the British during the Revolutionary War. A section of Connecticut's Western Reserve, it was appropriately called the Firelands. And using the name the Indians had given the river; the Firelands Company named Township No. 6, Range 20, Vermilion.  However, so many years had passed and so much red tape was involved that most new arrivals were not the original Fire Sufferers, but those who had bought out claims of others.  The first to arrive from the East was William Hoddy (or Haddy), who came alone from Connecticut, built his cabin by the mouth of the river and then returned East for his family. So far as is known he did not come back into the area.

The following year the William Austins and Horatio Perry families arrived from New York; the George and John Sherods from Connecticut and Pennsylvania; and the Enoch Smiths from Connecticut. The Austins settled on the west bank of the river, the Sherods on land now known as Sherod Park. Sometime later in the year the Justin Thompson family came into the Township from Connecticut and settled on the Ridge.

Almon Ruggles came in with his family in 1810, as did Solomon Parsons, Benjamin Brooks, Barlow Sturges, Deacon John Beardsley and James Cuddeback. Peter Cuddeback and others came in 1811. According to the Firelands Pioneer, most came with teams.

As with the history of most settlements, the "firsts" have been carefully recorded:

The first house (cabin) was erected by the mouth of the river by William Hoddy in 1808; the first birth, John Sherod in 1809; the first marriage, Catherine Sherod to Burt Martin in 1814; the first frame house was Peter Cuddeback's (near the corner of Lake and Risden Roads) in 1818; the first stone house was William Austin's in 1821 and the first brick house was Horatio Perry's. The first commissioned Postmaster was Judge Almon Ruggles and the first doctor was Doctor Strong, although the first resident doctor was Dr. James Quigley in 1837. The first attorney, O. A. Leonard, announced his residency the same year.

Barlow Sturges began the first trading post and hotel. And together with the Austin family he ran the first ferry service across the Vermilion River. The first school was taught by Miss Susan Williams in a cabin on the lakeshore, in 1813. At about the same time another school was in operation on the Ridge and taught by Miss Addie Harris.

In 1818 the first organized religious society, the Presbyterian Church (later Congregational) was established. Ten years later the congregation built the first church, in an area just off Risden Road. This was the expected center of population.

In 1818 the Township government was organized with the following officers: Almon Ruggles, clerk; Peter Cuddeback and James Prentice, judges of election; Francis Keyes, John Beardsley and Rufus Judson, trustees; Jeramiah Van Ben Schoten and Horatio Perry, fence viewers; Peter Cuddeback lister and appraiser; Stephen Meeker, appraiser; Peter Cuddeback treasurer; George Sherod, Francis Keyes, William Van Ben Schoten and James Prentice, supervisors.

In the year 1820 the Vermilion township population was listed as 520.

Vermilion Village, 1837

With its clapboard buildings, giant maples and village square, Vermilion, at the time of incorporation, had the look of a typical New England hamlet. The little harbor community had just 43 land owners.  Several shops were now situated on Main, Columbus and Liberty Streets. Just a year before, a new warehouse had been erected near the shipping docks. To the left were the fish shanties, and to the right, a saw mill. Business was flourishing at Mr. Burton Goodsell's shipyards located on the riverbank between Lake and Ferry Streets, and in this particular year, the sounds of hammers and saws told of the construction of the steamboat Vermilion.  The village plat was completed in January and by a special act of the Ohio Legislature, Vermilion was incorporated and granted a charter.

The Pelton Wheel

Along with other "firsts", a mention should be made of Vermilion's first inventor, Lester Allen Pelton.  In 1849, he along with several young Vermilion men, made the long trek to California in search of gold. Although he never discovered his gold, Pelton later invented the Pelton Water Wheel which accounts say "meant more to the State of California that all the gold in the hills."  A handyman, carpenter and millwright, he built a small shed in the backyard of his landlady's house in the gold mining town of Camptonville, California, and spent his evenings tinkering with small experimental wheels. He hoped to harness water from the mountain streams for gold mining companies. He devised 40 models, including one that powered the landlady's sewing machine.  From this evolved his unique wheel that harnessed waterpower by a system of "water splitting." A model is in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.  By 1895, 850 companies were using his improved wheel. The Pacific Coast and Electric Company in 1980 was operating 53 Pelton Wheels. 

Mr. Pelton was born in the Risden Road home still occupied by his descendants, Mr. and Mrs. William Kishman. He was a student in the little Cuddebach School No. 2. He is buried in Maple Grove Cemetery, Vermilion. 

Brownhelm Township

According to the William's History of Lorain County the first settler of Township No. 6, Range 19 (Brownhelm) lying along Lake Erie and then a part of Huron County, was Col. Henry Brown from Stockbridge, Mass. who arrived about 1816. He was accompanied by Peter P. Pease, Charles Whittlesey, William Alverson, William Lincoln, Seth Morse and Rensselaer Cooley, who assisted Col. Brown in building his house, a log house near the lake shore. Morse and Cooley returned to the East for the winter, the others remained on the grounds. The Township is named in honor of the leader of the original colony.

In later years Mr. Whittlesey became distinguished as a general in the Civil War, as an archaeologist and historian. He was the founder of the Western Reserve Historical Society and its president for many years. Peter Pease became the first settler of Oberlin. On July 4th, 1817 the families of Levi Shepard, Sylvester Barnum and Stephen James arrived and were the first families to settle in the town. During the same year the families of Solomon Whittlesey, Alva Curtis, Benjamin Bacon and Ebenezer Scott arrived. In 1818 the families of Col. Brown, Grandison Fairchild, Anson Cooper, Elisha Peck, George Bacon, Alfred Avery, Enos Cooley, Orrin Sage, John Graham and others arrived. The first frame house was built by Benjamin Bacon; the first brick house by Grandison Fairchild in the summer of 1819. Until October 1818 the town was part of Black River; it was then organized as a separate township. Officers were Calvin Leonard, Levi Shepard and Alva Curtis, trustees; Anson Cooper, clerk; William Alverson, treasurer; Benjamin Bacon and Levi Shepard, justices of the peace. Lorain County was formed on December 26, 1822 with Brownhelm as a part. In 1827 Henry Warner started the Brownhelm quarry. Blocks were hauled on wagons to Vermilion where they were shipped via schooner.

In 1819 Mrs. Alverson opened a school in her house; in the fall of 1819 an 18 x 22 foot school was built on the brow of the hill (North Ridge Rd. and Claus Rd.) in the settlement and was named Strut Street School. In the early part of 1899 the brick school was built on N. Ridge Rd. The first class of nine -- 5 boys and 4 girls graduated in 1889.  Brownhelm could also boast of a U.S. Post Office from November 6, 1878 to March 31, 1912 and a train station located at Brownhelm Station Rd, and Sunnyside Rd.

In the late 1950s the residents of Brownhelm voted to change zoning to permit the Ford Plant to build and, after losing the plant to Lorain in a heated court case, petitioned the Village of Vermilion for annexation. On December 21, 1959 the Village of Vermilion passed legislation to accept the petition and approximately 4,300 acres of Brownhelm Township, including Elberta Beach, became a part of Vermilion Village.

Vermilion River & Industries

The Development of the River

Captain William Austin was a man of energy and built the first schooner along the river in 1812. She was the FRIENDSHIP, a schooner of the times, about a fifty footer registered at 57 tons in Cleveland in 1817. Solomon Parsons built the second schooner, the VERMILION, in 1814 and registered in Detroit at 36 tons about 40 feet. Where these ships were built is not exactly known but the builders chose a flat place along the riverside. This most certainly had to be near the foot of Huron Street where the later shipyard stood when ship building became the main industry in the village. Small schooners were ideal for scudding along the lake shore bringing in supplies from Buffalo and other ports. They were as large as the natural river bars would allow and enough cargo capacity to supply the needs of the early settlements. The schooner was the "work horse" and a very important transportation means in the opening of the vast Great Lakes Country. They reigned supreme until a new form of transportation arrived along shore - the steam railroad.

In 1840 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers finished building the two piers at the mouth of the river which provided the bar depth builders needed to take crafts to sea. Thus began the "Golden Age" of ship building on the river, in tune with the great demand for shipping on the lakes. In a period of 36 years 48 large lake schooners were built. This provided jobs and growth for the community. The harbor was a beehive of activity and the sound of the maul on caulking iron was a musical note that rang throughout the valley.

One very interesting ship built in the Golden Age was the screw steamer INDIANA built by Burton S. Goodsell in 1848, the only screw steamer built in Vermilion. In June 1858 off Marquette, Michigan on Lake Superior she went down with a cargo of iron ore. Her loss was a mystery and was not explained until the Smithsonian Institute raised her in 1979; she had lost a blade from the four blade propeller and the subsequent vibration opened her wooden seams causing water to rush in and extinguish the boiler thus allowing her to sink. The Institute now has a fine exhibit in Washington, D.C. of the engine, boiler, propeller and other artifacts recovered in the salvage. The engine represents the finest original marine steam power plant in the country. This explains why the Smithsonian was anxious to recover the engine. The "Vermilion Display" is a permanent monument to ship building in Vermilion. No other city can boast such an honor on the lakes.

The Fishing Industry

With the abundance of fine fish in the lake plus the need for food, the early settlers took to the lake and shore with small boats and seines to reap the easy harvest. Soon they were sailing in deep water using gill-nets, trap-nets along shore to satisfy the market demand for fresh and salted fish. With the arrival of the trains the markets quickly expanded to the big cities. To meet this demand the steam tug emerged as the champion catcher of tons of delectable white fish, herring, pickerel and perch. Then came the powered net puller in 1900 making the steam tug the most efficient and profitable fishing method. The golden years were from 1890 to 1945 when the fish harvest on Lake Erie peaked making a lucrative livelihood for thousands of fisherman. Vermilion was home to the following commercial fish companies and their tugs:
  • Kishman Fish Company 
  • Leiderheiser Fish Company 
  • Edson Fish Company 
  • Parsons Fish Company 
  • Driscoll Fish Company 
  • Southwest Fish Company 
Before the steam tugs, sailing boats were used for gill-nets and pound nets. This period consisted of the very first commercial fishing around the port in the years between 1820 and 1880 when steam tugs began to appear in number. 

The Stone Industry

In the 1860s and 1870s considerable sandstone was shipped out of the harbor in schooners or barges. Two quarries, Brownhelm and Berlin Heights, shipped stone by rail to town where it was switched to the docks running from Exchange to Toledo Streets. Steam derricks transferred the stone from cars to the ships. Prominent quarry operators of the period were: Orange A. Leonard & Company, Summers & Harteep, and Worthington & Sons. Much of the building stone was used in rebuilding Chicago after the big fire there in 1871.

The Lumber Business

Another lifeblood industry was lumbering. Prior to 1861 a large quantity of forest products, such as staves, ships' timber, firewood and furniture was shipped from the area. During the 1860s and 1870s a shortage of suitable timber developed in the immediate area surrounding the town. This made it necessary to import raw material. Throughout the period large quantities were shipped into the port in schooners from the upper lakes to be manufactured into sash, doors, blinds, molding, dressed flooring, siding and a variety of other related products. N. Fisher & Company was the largest dealer. They operated two scows (old schooners). Their steam mill was at the corner of Sandusky and Liberty Streets, the southwest corner. In 1876 Fisher & Company leased the lumber mill to J.C. Gilchrist & Company. They left Vermilion to establish a large steamship company. Some of their relatives stayed in the lumber business and are now operating in the Seattle country.

Furnaces on the River - Lime Burning

Sometime around 1840 a lime kiln was built along the riverfront just north of Huron Street. The exact location is several feet north of Dr. Stack's house on the lakeshore. This furnace was a typical burner with a square sandstone base supporting a large iron stack. Limestone shipped down from the islands was loaded at the top with a skip-hoist that ran from the dock to the stack top. Horse power was used to hoist the stone cart. The burning flooded the town in a northeast wind with burning wood tinged with a lime aroma but the natives accepted the haze as a fact of life. The burnt lime was used to plaster many a house along the south shore of Lake Erie.

Furnaces on the River - Iron

About 60 feet north of Huron Street along the riverfront were two stone foundations, round in shape 10' in diameter and 2' high. Around the foundations the ground was tinged red, the sign of iron ore. These two furnaces were the first stacks of the Geauga Iron Company of Painesville built in 1828-30. They had a dock and warehouse nearby on the river. Later they moved back on the ridge as the Huron Iron Company west of the State Road. This business operated for many years until coke made charcoal furnaces obsolete. The Huron Iron Company ceased operations in 1865. 

The Present River

In 1916 there were two yachts docked permanently in the river owned by Vermilionites; one was the IONA, a 35' glass cabin cruiser and the other was TOBERMORY, a 45' bridge-deck cruiser. Later, Harry Hewitt owned the NOMAD, a 36' powerboat he docked by the bridge. These three were the only pleasure boats in the steam in those days. Prior to those years the Rocky River sailboats would race to Vermilion on Labor Day for the annual "Big Time" in the little fishing port. Many a yarn was coined about the big mosquitoes that buzzed along the river. 

In 1916 the Vermilion Boat Club held their first South Shore Regatta, which attracted sailors from Toledo, Sandusky, Rocky River and Cleveland. Headquarters consisted of a tent in front of the waterworks. Free ice-cold lemonade was served to all yachtsmen. Many a river kid with the spirit of the day immediately became yachtsmen. It was a day to remember for the thousands of spectators that lined the docks and piers.

Currently the river supports some 8,500 yachts, small boats, many of them sail, which indicates some 350,000 passages. Sail for fun has replaced sail for work.


Aside from ship building, lumber, commercial fishing and the stone trade providing jobs along the riverfront, there have been several substantial enterprises formed in the town over the years. These have been basic living and growth industries essential for all communities:
  • Duplex Hot Water Heating Company 
  • The F.W. Wakefield Brass Company 
  • Dall Motor Parts Company 
  • South Shore Packing Corp. 
  • The Ford Motor Company 
  • The Howard Stove Company 
  • The Peasley Woodworking Factory 
  • Lithonia Downlighting 
  • Bettcher Industries 
  • Schwensen Bakery 
  • The Maurer Dairy 
  • The Vermilion News


Rails through Town

With the first trains running through Vermilion starting in 1853, we have been hearing whistles ever since. In fact, our town has been a railroad town for a long time now, over 140 years of rumbling, roaring, shaking, screaming tornados rushing through the quiet village. Ships have come and gone but they were never the acoustic monsters like the trains which roll along like wild demons in a race; freight of all kinds flies through the city, and as far as we can foresee, it will continue for 140 more years. Such is life in a railroad town. 

The Lake Shore Electric Railway

The first trolleys ran from Sandusky to Vermilion in 1899, an offshoot of the Sandusky Street Railway, the Sandusky & Interurban Electric Railway. City-style cars prowled the rails when it opened from Sandusky to Vermilion via Huron on July 26, 1899, a 24-mile sprint. Work gangs toiled eastward to meet the Lorain & Cleveland in Lorain, another 10-mile hop. The S & I was built with an expansive eye to the future -- double track provisions were engineered into all bridges as well as into the roadbed. It was a combination roadside and private right-of-way operation. In the autumn of 1901, the Everett-Moore Syndicate absorbed the S & I and others to create the Lake Shore Electric Railway.


Linwood Park (so named for its Linden trees)

The year 2002 marks the 118th birthday of Linwood Park, originally Evangelical United Brethren, now United Methodist-oriented; it is a semi-private family park, owned and operated by the Linwood Park company, maintained by the Park Superintendent with admittance gate fees collected by the Board of Directors during the season from early June until Labor Day.

Crystal Beach Park

Just east of downtown Vermilion on Rt. 6 on the north side of the road are an easily overlooked apartment complex, a gas station and a bank. On this acreage, as early as 1870 stood a picnic grove called Shadduck Lake Park. This pleasant grove became popular because the tree shaded area was accessible to horse-drawn buggies.

In 1906 George Blanchat purchased the park and named it Crystal Beach Park after his wife, Josephine's, description of the "crystal-like" sand on the beach. With rides and concessions added, Crystal Beach opened on Decoration Day, 1907. Along with the transition of ownership and name came other changes; even the square dancing gave way to the two-step. Some of the original buildings for the premier season were a pavilion for dancing and serving refreshments, a beer garden, a shooting gallery and a merry-go-round. Later bowling alleys, a toboggan slide into Lake Erie and a large restaurant were added. By the twenties, Crystal Beach featured such popular rides as the Bug, the Caterpillar, the circle swing called "Airplanes" and the Crystal Thriller roller coaster.

Rivaling the big thrill rides in popularity was the dance hall, the Crystal Garden. This hall played host to well-known bands as Guy Lombardo, Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Cab Calloway, Les Brown, Sammy Kaye and Lawrence Welk, to name just a few. This one feature drew people from Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo. As the big bands flourished, so did Crystal Beach. Certainly ballroom dancing provided a central attraction to the many amusement parks of that era.

George Blanchat passed away in 1938 and James Ryan, active at the park since 1929, took over as manager for Mrs. J. Blanchat. Jimmy Ryan held that position until the park's close at the end of the 1962 season.


Many people do not know, or remember that the restaurant known as McGarvey's was originally built, owned and operated by Charles Helfrich. That was in 1929, shortly after the new bridge was built across the river. The old bridge crossed a little south of the present location.

Mr. Helfrich operated a small boat and canoe rental business on the east side of the river. The proposed new bridge nearly touched his building and also diverted traffic away from it. So he purchased the land just north of the new bridge and built a restaurant and boat rental business there.  Home cooked dinners, fish, chicken, sandwiches and homemade pies were the first attractions. Also served were the almost unheard of hot fish sandwiches, on Schwensen's bread. The business prospered and Helfrich's became a busy place.  The canoe and boat business were also thriving. Canoeing on the river was a popular pastime in those days, especially on Sunday afternoons.

In 1934 Mr. Helfrich died and two years later Mrs. Helfrich sold the enterprises to Charlie McGarvey's. After his death, Mrs. McGarvey sold her husband's business to Charles Solomon, son of Eddie Solomon.  The restaurant was one of the most well known eating places along the lake shore, popular with both "landlubbers" and boaters.  In the year 2000, the Vermilion Port Authority purchased the McGarvey's property and razed the building. The property became a transient marina and restaurant named Red Clay on the River, now Quaker Steak & Lube.

The Lagoons

Louis Wells, a Cleveland contractor, began the Vermilion Lagoons project as a means of keeping his men busy during the Great Depression of the 1930s. By 1931 the first house and the beach house had been built and the lagoons were dredged and most of the wooden piling secured.

The first house was located just to the south and west of the beach house on the Erie Lagoon and belonged to a Mr. Comstock, a real estate salesman and employee of Wells Realty Company.  A "building boom" took place in the mid 1930s and by 1940 all of the houses on Anchorage Way, at least one house on Willow Lane, and most of the houses on the portion of Portage Drive located on the north side of the Erie Lagoon had been constructed. The first year-round residents, the Lester Kishman family, moved into their new home in April of 1937.

The Lagoons was not mostly permanent residents until the 1950s. Another "building boom" began during this period and it was at this time that Park Drive, the last road to be developed, experienced growth.  To the townspeople of Vermilion, the people of the Lagoons were often known as "swamp dwellers" or "swamp rats." They were also thought to be slightly crazy for wanting to live so close to the water. At times, this has indeed meant being in the water rather than by the water.

Along with the residential development came the recreational in the form of the Vermilion Yacht Club. Mr. Wells deeded the land on the tip and south side of Anchorage Way to the Yacht Club with one stipulation - no alcoholic beverages could be served or sold on the premises of the club itself. The originators of the Vermilion Yacht Club were all former members of the Cleveland Yacht Club seeking a more secluded anchorage. 

Besides the obviously great boat dockage and the beach on the Lake, the uniqueness of the Lagoons is in the uniformity of the architecture of all buildings found there. The charm of Cape Cod homes, all white with dark roofs and shutters, amid trees (mostly all willows in the beginning) and fronting on lagoons is undeniable and gives to the Vermilion Lagoons its own inimitable flavor.