Tag Archives: Toledo history

The Toledo to Chicago Canal. A Dream Never Dug.

Toledo's past and future could have changed dramatically.

Toledo’s past and future could have changed dramatically.

Once upon a time in America, some dreamers and visionaries had a plan. A plan that would have dramatically changed Toledo’s destiny.   Be it for the better or for the worse may be a tough call in hindsight, but certainly our history of our city would have been profoundly rewritten had this ever become a reality.

The plan was pretty simple.  To build a major shipping canal from Toledo to Chicago.  Unlike the Miami-Erie-Wabash canal system that was created in the 1840’s than ran parallel to the Maumee River, and laced itself through the Midwest, this one would have actually used much of the river itself as the canal channel and would have run across the landscape of Northern Indiana or southern Michigan.  It would have been large enough to have allowed the passage of larger ships, hauling massive cargoes to back and forth between Toledo and Chicago. To those who advocated this dream, it was a no-brainer. The prevailing school of of thought was to eliminate the long journey for the thousands of Great Lakes cargo ships that had to travel around the state of Michigan, via the Detroit River, Lake Huron, the tricky Straights of Mackinaw, and southward down Lake Michigan to if they wanted to reach Chicago. With a navigable shortcut across Ohio and Indiana, more than 400 miles and a three to five days could be cut from the travel time, thus a savings of of time and money. Toledo, geographically, would have become the gateway to the West..and the busiest port on the Great Lakes.

It should be noted that this canal plan was not just some idle talk from wild-eyed dreamers without resource or reason. It had been a topic of serious merit for decades in the 19th Century, and by 1908, the plan had the eyes and ears of Congress and the Congressional Committee on Rail and Waterways was strongly recommending that the shipping canal become a reality. In that committee’s report to congress in 1908, it said that such a Toledo to Chicago Canal, would..

“…open a waterway, which is certain to control freight rates between Chicago and Buffalo. It would occupy a territory that is populated by one fourth of the people of the United States and would be a connecting link by shortening the waterway from Toledo to Chicago by 400 miles.”

The committee also believed that such a major shipping channel would open the door for revival of the canal system through the Midwest and more and larger shipping channels could be built between the Great Lakes and the Ohio River. It was also the aim of many promoters to use these canals to compete with the railroad roads and keep their rates competitive.

Had this canal actually come to fruition, it would not stretch anyone imagination to think that Toledo could have easily rivaled Chicago, or Detroit, for size and economic power on the Great Lakes and the Midwest. Other towns along the route, may have actually had their futures changed, as they became “seaport” communities in the middle of a largely agricultural region. The 1908 committee also predicted.

“ ……would give the impetus for the erection of large factories and a great diversity of enterprises, making it possible to get the raw materials along the waterway, making is possible for the purpose of manufacture at lowest possible costs”

The report goes on to estimate the cost  of construction at about 100 million dollars, and that water generating stations could be built along its path capable of  generating as much a 16 million dollars a year in power. More than enough to pay down the debt and the interest.

Scene from early canal in Toledo.

Scene from early canal days in Toledo.

As mentioned before, this idea of the Lake Erie to Lake Michigan canal was hardly new in 1908. The Erie Canal through New York State many decades before had ignited the fires of imagination around the country as others wonder if they too could pull off such an engineering feat.  In 1837, some ambitious Michiganders got the canal fever and even started digging a big ditch from Clinton township north of Detroit that was to extend Westward to Lake Michigan. By 1840, however, with only 16 miles complete and deeply in debt, the Clinton-Kalamazoo Canal became a footnote in history.  But hope springs eternal and in 1857, the New York legislature voted to grant a charter to company to explore and pursue the concept again. The newspapers in both Buffalo and Detroit were especially warm to the idea, as these new plans would have placed the Eastern portal of the canal between Monroe and Toledo, routing most of the channel through southern Michigan. The Buffalo Advertiser even speculated on the dimensions of such a ditch, allowing that it could be 100 feet wide, 12 feet deep and 160 miles long. They also addressed the elevation change between the lakes, by proposing at least “two locks” that could lift the boats. The Buffalo newspaper estimated the cost of construction at $65,000 a mile, or about $12 million for construction overall in 1857. But while Buffalo, Detroit and Toledo talked in glowing terms of such a project, in Chicago, not so much. The editors at the Chicago Tribune were not impressed.  Clearly not in favor of such a plan, they railed against it, and called the idea “impractical” while challenging the estimates of construction costs, the potential savings to shipping companies, and also questioned whether there was ample water supply to fill such a canal.

Six decades later, in 1917, as the U.S. was distracted with the war in Europe, the Army Corps of Engineers also did another study and they would would essentially come to the same conclusion as the Chicago Tribune did in 1857. Given the costs and time required to build it, they said, and because such a canal would not be able to accommodate large ships, but only smaller packet barges, they wrote:     ”It is not advisable to undertake the construction of an artificial waterway between Lake Erie and Lake Michigan.”  The Corps even recommended that the government not waste any more money and put a halt to more studies.

Dead in the water?

Not quite.

The Toledo to Chicago canal idea rose again from dormancy the in the 1920’s. Some of the proponents once more began to talk optimistically about a Toledo to Chicago shipping highway. One of those voices was that of former Iowa Governor, William Harding, (not to be confused with Ohio Governor Warren Harding). When Iowa’s Harding was President of the Great Lakes -Seaway Waterway Initiative in 1923, he visited Defiance Ohio on the Maumee. There he told a gathered audience that he believed the Maumee River to Chicago water link would someday become a reality. It was his belief that such a project would come about only after the St. Lawrence Seaway project was complete and the shipping industry would demand it within a few years. He even predicated that Toledo would be the greatest shipping port in the nation and a docking facility along the Maumee might well extend “all the way to Defiance”. Well, Mr. Harding’s hyperbole was perhaps as hyper as his crystal ball was cracked. The Seaway linkage to the Great Lakes did not open for another 35 years, not until 1958. Five decades later, still no canal.   Albeit, over the years, plenty of talk about one. During the WW Two era,  it crept back into the headlines again  as the Army Corps re-considered it with “national defense” as a justification.  This plan did gain some traction and even won the approval of President Roosevelt just weeks before his death. But in the summer of 1945, as hearings were held and the war drew to a close, the grand canal plan was again ditched as unfeasible and too expensive. But big dreams don’t die quickly. They always linger of the deathbed of possibility for a long time. As late as 1968, hearings were underway to consider, a new network of canals and locks that would have linked Toledo and Chicago with other cities in Indiana and the Ohio River. A 450 mile system, requiring dozens of locks, and costing over a billion dollars that was primarily designed to improve the economies of rural Indiana. By then, however, the concept of the “big ditch” was viewed by many corners of the community as a big “folly”. Opposition from conservation groups, an early environmentalists was loud and hard to ignore. No one seemed to be in favor of the proposal and so this too, like the first big canal dig in Michigan of 1838, was to be filled in and forgotten. Forever?  Who know where and when future dreams arise?


Filed under Lake Erie, Old Places and Faces, The Forgotten and no so famous, Uncategorized

In Search of an Ending: The Mystery of Toledo’s Warren Sisters

I always love a good mystery, and there are just enough eccentric and curious people on this planet to satisfy that fascination.

Take the case of the Warren sisters of Toledo, for example, an odd case if ever there was one. Mary and Nanette (Nattie, according to the 1910 census) lived most of their adult lives at the family’s estate near downtown Toledo during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s.   It is said they lived alone, as spinsters, after their father, Samuel Warren, a successful horse breeder and buggy manufacturer vanished one day in 1878 and was never heard from again.  Police even dragged the cistern behind the house on 14th Street, but the body of Mr. Warren was never found. His disappearance was noted as an early Toledo mystery. The two young sisters were shaken by the unexplained loss of their father, but continued living with their mother in the years after.  But then another tragic turn, as the girls’ mother, Mary Van Gorton Warren, died suddenly of a stroke. It now left the Warren girls on their own. The deaths of their parents, however, made these 20-something daughters rather wealthy as they became  the heirs of a significant estate. Not only did they receive the family home at 335 14th Street in Toledo, but several parcels of farm property on River Road,  plantations in the south, and some type of sugar beet interests in California.  Life should have been promising, but according to news stories of the time, the disappearance of the father and subsequent death of their mother also left the Warren girls with emotional issues. The youngest sister Mary developed serious mental health problems, becoming so serious that Mary eventually turned violent and lost the power of speech. In the meantime, the older sister Nanette, was not only left to care for her fragile sister in the Toledo family home, but was left in charge of running the entire family businesses.

Life and Death in California

Thier lives took an even stranger turn when, in about 1912, they moved from Toledo to Los Angeles. For reasons not entirely clear, but supposedly because of Mary’s state of health and state of mind.   They would move to an apartment in the City of Angels and it was there that the lives of these reclusive sisters would make national headlines.  In January of 1914, the landlady of the apartments where they lived had been trying to deliver a message to them from a woman named Mildred Cline of Toledo, but the sisters wouldn’t, or couldn’t, answer the door.  Fearing for their welfare, the landlady had the police break into the apartment to check on them and that’s where in one of the bedrooms, they found a starving Nanette lying in bed. Next to her was her sister Mary. Very dead and decomposing. Physicians said Mary had probably been dead for as many as three weeks prior. The news wire reports at the time said Nanette, who hadn’t eaten for about a week, was taken to a ward for the insane as investigators tried to unravel what might have happened inside the apartment and just how her younger sister had died.  Adding to the mystery and intrigue was the discovery of half a bottle of chloroform poison near the body of Mary. Police also found valuable heirloom jewels in the room, dispelling rumors among their neighbors that the women had become impoverished because of bad business investments.

Nurses caring for Nanette say the Toledo woman had no recollection of the events leading up to her sister’s death. Nor could she explain why every crack in the bedroom had been stuffed with rags.  Fueling the suspicions even more was the fact that sister Nanette, would now stand to inherit the entire Warren estate worth about a half million dollars. That was an enviable fortune in 1914.  It prompted many questions and suspicions as newspaper readers from across the nation were treated to the story of the sisters’ secretive lives in Toledo and why they opted to remain unmarried, spurning the interest of many young suitors. The implied question was of course that Nanette had caused her sister’s death for the family fortune.  It seemed a reasonable motive and police asked many questions, but in the end, Nanette was never charged, despite the many questions left unanswered.  Within a week after the body of Mary was found, the coroner in Los Angeles said there would be no further investigation and the remains of Mary could be released for burial.

Loved the scent of violets

A few days after the initial reports of the story, newspapers were writing that Nanette had received a gift of some violets from a woman who took pity on her situation, and it was the scent of the violets that helped clear her mind to begin talking with authorities about what happened. “I do like violets,” she said, although, after a few minutes, after talking about her childhood and life in Toledo,  she then stopped and would not speak further. It was also reported that a man by the name of B.F. Mace contacted the coroner in Los Angeles and said he was living in the Warren homestead in Toledo and had power of attorney for the affairs of the estate and would come to California to help settle matters. Another man also claiming to be the next of kin of the sisters came froward from Toledo, George J. Waldvogel, and informed investigators the reason that Nanette protected and tried to hide the body of her sister was because she was afraid that authorities might bury her sister and she was abhorrent to the idea of her sister, or anyone, being buried in the “cold earth”. Waldvogel who had been married to the Warren’s sister aunt was attempting to have the body of Mary released to him to have it returned to Toledo to be interred in a mausoleum.

And that is unfortunately where the story ends…at least for now. Did her remains ever make it back to Toledo, and did Nanette ever get released from the insanity ward to return to live out the remaining years of her life? If so, where? Who was B.F. Mace and did George Waldvogel ever get custody of Mary’s body?  Questions for which there are no convenient answers. The public trail of the Warren sisters journey onto the stage of notoriety stops abruptly after the first sensational stories of Mary’s mysterious death and Nanette’s vigil over her.  After many checks of obit files, and cemetery indexes, census records, and newspaper accounts, the story grows cold and seems to vanish into oblivion. I will continue looking.

If you have any information on how the final chapter of this story is to be written, I invite you to share it with our readers. Until then, perhaps it is only fitting that the tormented tale of Warren sisters remains cloaked in the same mantle of mystery that seems to have surrounded their lives.

1 Comment

Filed under Strange Happenings, The Forgotten and no so famous

One of Toledo’s Forgotten Stars: June MacCloy

10986241_127244143133Had  movie actress June Mary MacCloy lived, she would have been 104 this year and she would have had some wonderful stories to tell.  Sadly, MacCloy passed away back in 2005 and it is strange, but when she died,  few in Toledo probably knew it. There was a small obit printed in the Blade(ten days later)and one line referencing her early life in Toledo.  Yes, June MacCloy, was a Toledo girl. A Toledo girl who made good, both on the stages of Broadway and under the lights of Hollywood.  A statuesque blond actress who epitomized the glamour era of Hollywood and who probably could have and should have made an even bigger name for herself.   The Scott High School graduate was also blessed(or cursed, some would say)with an unusual singing voice —  so deep and rich and husky that it was very manly, but very good.  Still, there were critics who believed that her voice was a liability and there were always rumors that she was a lesbian which during that era of more provincial sexual morality, may have also affected her career.

Her last movie appearance was in the Marx imwdy4qi0iuf0iuyBrothers’ comedy Go West , released in 1940.   Cast as the saloonkeeper, this Toledo native was said to be  “a worthy match” for the inimitable talents of Groucho Marx who greeted  her in one scene saying: “Lulubelle! I didn’t recognize you standing up”. To which she replied, with hands on her hips saying, “Vamoosh, you goose.” And then croons on stage, ” You Can’t Argue with Love”.2r9embnjwnignbw9 MacCloy as Lulubelle in Go West (1941)

June Mary MacCloy’s story began just north of the Indiana state line in Sturgis, Michigan, where she was born on June 2 1909. Her family, however moved to Toledo when she was still a girl, to a home in the 1400 block of Franklin Avenue  It was here that she was raised and matured into  a tall and good looking girl who could turn heads with her striking beauty and a radiant smile.  By the time she was in her mid-twenties, however, she left her humble home  and headed to te Big Apple of New York City.  It didn’t take long before she found work, and soon joined Earl Carroll’s Vanities on Broadway in 1928, however, she left the revue after complaints from her mother that her costume was too revealing.  MacCloy recalled later that the outfit she wore was  “basically strings of cotton candy and Mother thought one of the rich guys in the audience would rape me or something. Although that kind of thing did happen, I always managed to stay out of harm’s way.”

McCloy’s masculine baritone voice led her next to work as a male  impersonator, mimicing the style of Broadway star Harry Richman with the song “I’m on the Crest of a Wave” while playing in the George White’s long running Broadway Revue, “Scandals”, a production that launched the careers of many notables of the era.  It was written in her obit that  she continued working in Vaudeville and had the chance to work with the famed director Vincent Minnelli, (husband of Judy Garland and father of Liza Minelli), whom MacCloy recalled as a sadistic “nut” and a perfectionist with a “sexual craving for his own kind”.

Here is video clip of MacCloy singing with Big Crosby and BeBe Daniels in Very Wild Party from 1931

Her film career began in 1931 when MacCloy made her first feature film  “Reaching for the Moon“, with Douglas Fairbanks Senior, Bebe Daniels and a very young Bing Crosby. She had arrived in Hollywood in the fall of 1930.  On September 18, 1930, The Toledo News Bee carried a story and picture of the young and promising hometown girl as she traveled by train from New York to her new home in Hollywood.  She made a quick stop in Toledo that week to visit with family after siging a $12,000 contract with Paramount to begin her career in the movies. The New Bee says that MacCloy was the first Toledo woman to ever do a talking motion picture.

After her silver screen debut in “Reaching for the Moon”, she would go on to some success and notice in Ring Lardner and George Kaufman’s “June Moon” with Frances Dee and Jack Oakie. This movie could have been her big break, but the picture did not live up to its billing and MacCloy’s career never seemed to get the traction it needed to develop a full potential.  In fact, most of her films are rarely available anymore for viewing with the exception of the Marx classic “Go West”.   Also on her resume is  “The Big Gamble” which starred Bill Boyd and ZaSu Pitts, then and a series of comedies for RKO- and a series of radio shorts. MacCloy did have her moments in the big spotlight. In 1932 she sang Little Old New York in Lorenz Ziegfeld’s last Broadway production, Hot-Cha!, and also sang with several touring bands of the 1930’s.

During her career in Hollywood and on Broadway, the stunning MacCloy was a  favorite of the gossip columnists and the show biz tabloids. She was so good looking, there were always plenty of stories about her army of admirers. She said in later interviews that many men at that time proposed marriage with the lure of money and diamonds. One of those men was Jimmy Whiting, a multi-milionaire playboy type in Hollywood who tried putting a ring on MacCloy’s finger.  There was little doubt that he had plenty of money to employ in his campaign for marriage and on one occasion – he even arranged  a flight in a plane filled with rose petals.  But it was not to be.  For Whiting’s chief rival for MacCloy’s heart turned out to be a Toledo boy by the name of Charles Schuyler Schenck  who had also moved out to Hollywood’s budding film colony in the late 1920’s where he was doing some writing and playing music.  Schenk was the grandson of a former bank president in Toledo. While he was not quite as rich as Jimmy Whiting, he was was very handsome and it was Schenck who eventually won over MacCloy’s affections with his easy going style and Midwestern personality.  He and MacCloy drove to Yuma Arizona where they eloped in November of 1931.  The Toledo News Bee headlined the story “June MacCloy Chooses Love Over Riches”,  framing it as a cupid wins the day type story line, but this too proved to be just another Hollywood script headed for the scrapheap of memory.  The marriage to Schenck lasted only a few years. And by 1933, MacCloy was still a tender  24 years of age and had already been married and divorced 3 times.  It was the stuff of which gossip columns are made. The first of her union was to an Atlantic City man by the name Robert Forrester in 1928, which according to the Toledo News Bee had been annulled on application by MacCloy’s mother within a year.  Then the actress then married a Cincinnati film salesman, Wilbur Guthlein whom she divorced in 1931 to marry Schenck.  The man who did eventually win her heart for the long term was Neal Wendell Butler, a California architect who shared her love of jazz music and with whom she had two children. After her marriage in 1941, she retired from show business and made her home in Southern California with her husband who died in 1985, and where Toledo first female motion picture star died at the age of 95 on May 5th,  2005.

Here is a video of MacCloy from a movie in 1932 where she is singing in a night club…long intro..she begins singing about :55 into the clip.

If anyone who reads this has any information about MacCloy’s family from Toledo, I’m eager to get in touch with them to see what else they might be able to share with us about her life in later years after she left show biz.  It is also this writer’s opinion that perhaps there should be some public acknowledgement of MacCloy’s life and history in her home town of Toledo.  Seems curious that MacCloy fell into such local obscurity once her bright and shiny star fell from the Hollywood heavens.



Filed under The Forgotten and no so famous, Uncategorized

Special Report: Toledo’s Missing Navy Silver — Found, But Tarnished With Questions

USS_Toledo_(CA-133)USS Toledo heavy cruiser launched in 1946

A treasure with Toledo’s name on it has been missing for awhile. A treasure worth tens of thousands of dollars and forged with historical  significance, but strangely nobody really knew it was missing. A footnote of our history, forgotten in the fog of our memories. But now, fifty years after it left Toledo, it has surfaced and here is its story.

Silver Service 5Silver service 2USS Toledo Plate

In 1946 when the United State Navy was about the launch the USS Toledo,a brand new heavy cruiser, the citizens of Toledo wanted to do something special for this new ship that would be christened in name of our fair city.  So, in this strongly patriotic post-Word War Two period, the Navy League of Toledo  quickly raised the treasure needed, with the help of community kindness, to have a custom 18 place engraved silver service dinner set made for the USS Toledo and its officers’ ward room which has been a long standing Navy tradition. The silver collection was commissioned through the Gorham Silver Company of Rhode island, one of the most famous makers of silverware in the world. It was an artfully crafted collection of over 200 pieces,  with many of the trays and plates featuring the engravings of Toledo landmarks on them.  The collection was impressive and beautiful, created at a cost of about $12,500.  Ironically, the silver collection did not make it aboard the USS Toledo for two more years. Broer Freeman, the local  Toledo jeweler who was handling the purchase and details with Gorham Silver company found the entire collection in 1948, in a back storeroom, crated up and ready for delivery, but somehow, no one ever delivered the silver to the USS Toledo. Depsite some local embrassment for this oversight, the set was officially delivered to the USS Toledo and took its place aboard this new warship that would go on to see plenty of heroic action during the years of the Korean War.



By 1960, however, when the USS Toledo was retired from active duty and decommissioned, the coveted silver service set, at the request of Toledo Mayor Mike Damas, Michael DamasMayor Michael Damas

was returned to Toledo and locked in a vault at the former Naval Armory at Bayview Park with the idea that it might eventually be displayed to the Toledo public at the Toledo Museum of Art. There is no record of that ever happening.  Less than a year later, the set was loaned again to the Navy. This time going aboard the  USS Spiegel Grove for a voyage on a goodwill tour of Africa’s coastal cities.  The Spiegel Grove, a Navy landing craft had been named to honor President’s Rutherford B. Hayes’s beloved home at Spiegel Grove in Fremont, so it was only natural that the Toledo inspired silver dinner set would grace its wardroom.

But the loan of the USS Toledo silver to this landing craft was short lived, when the Navy requested that the set be placed aboard the soon-to-be commissioned super aircraft carrier, the USS Kitty Hawk. Once again, with the Ohio connection of the Wright Brothers and their historic relationship to Kitty Hawk North Carolina, Toledo’s city fathers felt this was an appropriate move to allow the set to be placed aboard the new super aircraft carrier.

USS_Kitty_Hawk_CV-63USS Kitty Hawk

In 1963, Toledo City Council passed a resolution to make that official and soon the silver dinnerware was on its way to San Diego to become apart of this huge US Navy super carrier.  That was the last time the silver was ever seen in Toledo, it has never been back since.    When The USS Kitty Hawk was taken out of service and decommissioned several years ago, it sort of vanished into the byzantine bureacracy of government limbo.  So what happened to it?  Curious minds like mine always want to know.

Thanks to the Internet these days, finding long lost treasure or elusive information is not as hard as it once was. So, within the last week, photos of the USS Toledo silver service appeared on a Facebook posting for the USS Midway Museum in San Diego.

USS Toledo Silver is hereSilver Service 6Silver Service4Silver Service3

Photos from the Midway Museum Facebook Page

The images portrayed workers preparing the set for display aboard the historic aircraft carrier that is now a museum ship in San Diego harbor.  The museum opened for business in 2004 and is a popular tourist spot on the San Diego oceanfront harbor. But the discovery of this treasured Toledo artwork has prompted even more questions. At least on the part of this reporter. I am curious to know why the set was never brought back to Toledo for display in one of our museums or venues. It was after all, originated here in Toledo and paid for by the people of Toledo and placed in the custody of the US Navy as a goodwill gesture to honor the USS Toledo, and then later the USS Kitty Hawk.  From what I read in the original news stories from both 1946 and 1963,  it was never intended to be given away to the US Navy without some conditions attached, and certainly did not appear to give the Navy’s carte blanche  authority to exercise sole discretion as to the artwork’s eventual disposal.  In an effort to find out just what the expectations of the city might have been in 1963, or in 1946,  I have submitted questions regarding its historical chain of custody to the U.S. Navy History and Heritage  Command.


In a late development in the last few days, I have received some answers from the US Navy, specifically from Lt. Commander Heidi Lenzini of the US Navy’s History and Heritage Command who says that after checking their records and files, it appears that when the silver service was returned by Mayor (John) Potter of Toledo to be placed onboard the USS Kitty Hawk in 1963, that it did not come with any stipulations that it be returned to Toledo or that it was being loaned to the Navy, …”therefore the collection is considered to be the property of the Navy. The Navy decided the Silver would be best suited to be placed in a museum on a loan basis instead of in storage.” She goes to write that the Navy felt the placement of the 204 pieces of the collection, valued at over 61,000 dollars today could be seen by millions of people a year at the USS Midway Museum in San Diego. The loan agreement with that museum is for an unspecified period of time, or until such time that another ship bearing the name the USS Toledo goes into service. As for the USS Toledo submarine, launched almost 20 years ago, Lt. Commander Lenzini says that new USS Toledo does have two of the original silver platters from the collection.

In the Navy’s reply to me, they did include a number of the original letters between the City of Toledo and the US Navy from 50 years ago, regarding the placement of the silver.  After studying some of those early missives, I think they leave some questions as to the original intent and ownership of the collection. I suppose it’s all a matter of  some interpretation. From what I have read, the letter from Mayor John Potter and the Toledo City Council does not explicitly, no implicitly give the US Navy ownership of the collection. And it clearly does give the City some control as to where it will be placed. (these letters will be posted later)


In this most recent e-mail from the US Navy History and Heritage Command, it is suggested that if the current Mayor of Toledo wants the silver returned to the city, then a request should be made to the US Navy Secretary and, if approved, it will be returned.  The Navy spokesperson goes to write……“The Navy has many collections currently in storage and is continuously looking for ways to keep the silver out of storage and placed where it can be treasured by many.”


USS Toledo PlateSilver service cardsOn the Kittyhawk Museum website

In the course of finding this “missing” silver service from Toledo, it came to my attention that the town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina may be in possession of one or more pieces of the set.  As that small town has been assembling a museum to honor the aircraft carrier that bore its name, they posted online, a photo of a large silver platter from the USS Kitty Hawk, that was part of the missing Toledo set. The platter has an engraving of the Toledo Museum of Art with  “USS Toledo” etched on it. With the platter is a poster that explains the origins of the historic silver service from Toledo. I spoke with Lynn Morris, the town clerk in Kitty Hawk who says she thought the platter came into their museum packed in a large wooden crate with other items sent from the mothballed USS Kitty Hawk. The Navy”s Heritage Command, however, says it has no record of any of the Toledo silver collection being sent to Kitty Hawk North Carolina for display there.

It should be noted, that when the set was created it contained more than 225 pieces including the engraved trays, platters, plates, candelabras, pitchers, and many other pieces that one would expect as part of a formal table service.  However, the USS Midway Museum was given only 204 pieces and the USS Toledo Submarine has two platters, suggesting that about 18 pieces may be unaccounted for. What pieces or items are missing, we don’t know yet, but will try to get an accounting of the Toledo silver that is now on loan to the Midway Museum. I am also trying to determine what type of silver this collection is made of. Was it sterling silver or silver plate? That could make a big difference in its valuation.

Questions linger and perhaps they all have a reasonable answers that will be satisfactory to all.  As to whether the City of Toledo will take any further action to recover this historic treasure, that will be determined in the future. We will ask and I know one Toledo City Councilman at this point who is interested in seeing the  colleciton returned to Toledo. But for now, this forgotten collection of silver, made possible by the gratitude of Toledoans some 67 years ago, is safe and will be viewed by the thousands of visitors and tourists in a city thousands of miles away.

We’ll keep you up to date on any new developments.



Filed under The Forgotten and no so famous, World War two Era

The Luckey Legend of Benjamin Franklin Stone

The story of  the black man’s entry into the ranks of American law enforcement really didn’t begin to materialize until little over a century ago in about the  late 1800’s and the early 1900’s.  Even then, the numbers of black Americans given the chance to wear a badge were still few and occurring mostly in the larger cities where black populations were large.  In Toledo, for example, Albert King was the first black citizen hired to wear a Toledo Police badge in about 1900.  In the smaller communities of the area, minority police officers were non existant at the time,  and in many rural towns, they still are.

Young Benjamin Stone

 So it was surprising to learn that the first black man in Ohio to become a small town police chief was a man by the name of Ben Stone, in the tinyWood County village of Luckey Ohio – in the 1920’s. He was born in 1874, Benjamin Franklin Stone, of mixed Irish and Black parents, and was considered “mulatto”, at the time.  While history doesn’t record exactly where he was born, we do know that he and his brother, Tom Stone, eventually ended up in an orphanage on Lagrange Street in Toledo,. By the time he was 10 years old, Ben and his brother, Tom were taken from the orphanage by Bill Dunipace, an early farmer near Luckey who needed help on his farm. Dunipace was a bachelor and gave the brothers the promise of a better life in exchange for doing the various chores and jobs around the farm. Apparently, Tom Stone didn’t take to the notion of being a part of the farm life and fled back to Toledo, while Ben stayed on to work with farmer Dunipace and lived out his childhood in this rural setting of the late 1800’s. It is said, that their relationship grew close and became like a father and son. Two decades later when Mr. Dunipace died, he left Ben 80 acres of land and a house on Sugar Ridge Road. For a number of years, Ben tried his hand at farming and living the rural lifestyle, but as a young man, at about 30 years old, he wasn’t content to just settle down and work the land. He had other pursuits on his mind and one of them was guns. Throughout his boyhood, he enjoyed shooting guns and spent much of his time while growing up…honing his skills as a marksman. Locals say he became so good with a revolver, he could shoot the eye out of a crow perched in the highest branch of a tree. And one neighbor says he actually saw Ben shoot at and hit the same nailhead on a wooden door, four times in a row. He also enjoyed other thrills like speed and motorcycles. Not only did he have a motorcycle, but kept it parked at night inside of his modest house on the farm property where he lived. Stories are still told of how Ben would blaze at high speeds down the back country roads of Webster Township on his motorcycle, “plinking” at prearranged roadside targets with great accuracy


Ben Stone’s Cabin

Eventually, in 1916, Ben tired of the farming life and sold off 40 acres of his land to a neighbor, but kept the old cabin and the other forty acres where he lived.  He also took a few odd jobs working for other farmers in the area. His solid reputation for hard work and honesty paid other dividends when he took a full time job as the night watchman for the Schwan Furniture store and funeral home in Luckey, guarding the business from the growing number of depression era criminals who roamed the area looking for things to steal. A few other merchants also paid Ben to watch their stores at night and soon he was officially appointed as the town marshal. With that designation he was allowed to carry and gun and he patrolled Luckey’s streets at night with a flashlight in one hand and a shotgun in the other. He also tucked a .45 caliber handgun into the side of his well worn and shaggy coveralls that was his familiar uniform. It can be stated that Ben was hardly a student of modern fashion. His unshaven and grizzly face and his disheveled appearance, were not helped by his refusal to wear a glass eye after he had lost one in an accident many years before. His reason for not wearing the glass eye, he said, was that “it doesn’t make me see any better”. Ben was clearly a man of modest needs and means. After selling his cabin and the remaining 40 acres in the country, he eventually made his home in the back storeroom of the old Schwan Furniture store and where his bed was fashioned from empty wooden boxes used for burial vaults.


Locals say Ben would have made a good character for a movie. And if ever there was a great opening scene, it might have been written about the quiet autumn day in 1933 when this mild mannered and friendly marshal became a real-life action hero. As the tale is told from the 1981 Luckey Centennial history book, the story unfoldedThursday afternoon, September 28 in 1933. John Landwehr who worked at the Schwan furniture store, was washing the front windows when he noticed a man walk toward the Luckey Exchange Bank wearing a hunting coat. Another man was sitting in a parked car, acting nervously, on the street nearby. Sensing something wasn’t right, Landwehr and his sister ran to the backroom of the furniture store to awaken Marshal Stone who had been up all night patrolling the streets. When informed of what might be happening at the bank, Ben promptly rolled out of bed, put a six shooter in each pocket, and picked up a double barreled shotgun loaded with buckshot.

“He went out the back door of Schwans down the alley and through The Williamson’s Garage and when went down the sidewalk past the bank and waited in the stairway beside the barber shop.” Meanwhile the bandit had entered the bank and pointed a pistol at Harvey Helm, the cashier and two others in the bank, and demanded the money in the drawer. As Helm passed $344.98 to the bandit, he touched an alarm button that sounded in the telephone office and several other downtown stores. Then he and others were herded into a back room of the bank by the bandit who fled out the front door. As he exited, he was greeted by the shotgun wielding Marshal Ben Stonewho said “Stop or I’ll shoot!”

 That’s when Ben Stone says he heard “two cracks” from the robber’s gun and then felt something “nip” his legs” and “That’s when I let him have the right barrel and he went down in a heap.” Someone then shouted that the robber was going to fire again, at which point, Ben not only fired the other barrel at the robber, but then pumped three more bullets into him from his pistol. As soon as the gunfire erupted, the other man in the getaway car took off and Ben would recall later” I’m pretty sorry I didnt get him too.” He was later caught and sent to prison.


By this time, the normally quiet downtown main street in Luckey was flooding with people who came to view the aftermath of this violent bank robbery that ended badly for the suspect as he lay mortally wounded bleeding profusely from his wounds, while Marshal Stone dealt with the pain and bleeding from two bullet holes in his legs. One of the people who came to town that day to witness the scene, was LaVeda Graening, who was a teenager at the time. Now in her nineties, and living in Perrysburg, she told me recently, what she remembers of that day as the crowd gathered around the dead bank robber sprawled out on the bloody street.

 ” My cousin called me and told me what was happening and I ran as fast as I could to get there. The streets were filled with people and people gathered around to see someone shot in the street. It was so public…seeing a body there. Just out in front of everybody. I don’t want to be too descriptive, but when they took his short off, you know, you could see the wound in his chest. It was awful”.

 Ben Stone who had suffered two gunshot wounds to the legs was being transported by a local resident to Mercy Hospital in Toledo. Mrs. Graening remembers that townspeople were concerned for Ben and sent get well cards to the wounded Marshal in hopes for his quick recovery. “Everybody liked Ben. He was a friendly man. I can still remember seeing that little smile of his. He used to have little sayings and called some of the girls and women in town his little “Ain-gies”, or Angels. He loved children….he was like a Granpa to me.”


Laveda Graening’s remembrances of the Luckey’s most famous lawman are shared by many. The legacy of this man remains indelibly etched into the historical accounts of the Wood County community as a local hero. An unlikely and unusual embrace of a black man in the lily-white farm country of Wood County made up predominantly German and Swiss ancestry at a time when racial prejudice was still practiced openly in many communities. The open warmth that was shown to Ben during this era says a lot about the people of Luckey and says a lot about character of Ben Stone and the effect he had on the people of the community.Ben%20Stone%20original%202

 “He was my Dad’s best friend”, LaVeda Graening recalls, and she tells of how Ben’s “bunkhouse” or quarters, where he used to sleep at night in the back of the mortuary, often became a social gathering place for the men of the town who would get together on a Saturday morning to tell stories over a pot bellied stove. Ben, who was regarded as “town character” often took his share of good natured ribbing from some of the men in town about his dress, his bib overhauls and and his happy-go-lucky lifestyle, but Ben, it is written, always took it in good stride and laughed with those who make the jokes. After the bank robbery and shooting in 1933, the townspeople of Luckey took Ben a little more seriously. Appreciative of the fact, that he had put himself in harms way to protect the town and residents, the citizens found a new sense of respect for Marshal Stone. In November of 1933, few months after the shooting, Ben Stone was the guest of honor at a testimonial dinner at the Grace Lutheran Church in Luckey where 160 of his fellow townspeople thanked him for his courage and service to the town and presented him with a new gold deputy sheriff’s badge with his name engraved on the back of it. They also presented him with a check for 150 dollars.


Another gift Ben received was surprising and offered a strange twist to the bank robbery saga. It was a letter of thanks from the mother of Glenn Saunders, the bank robber that he had shot dead. Mrs. Saunders of Columbus Grove, thanked Ben for killing her son, saying he had always been trouble and she and her husband were relieved that he wouldn’t be causing anymore trouble. She continued her communication with Ben over the years and they often exchanged Christmas gifts.

 Ben continued his duties for the next decade in his adopted home of Luckey, patrolling the streets, with his guns tucked into the bib overhauls and greeting his friends and residents everyday with a familiar smile. After the shooting however, he had to give up riding his bicycle because of the wounds he sustained in the shoot-out. He sold it a young girl in town, Betty Landwehr, who had become one of his “Ain-gies” or Angels. Her mother paid for the bike with10 dozen cookies, delivered over a period of time. Betty rode the bike for many years before heading off to Bowling Green to college. Betty lives now in Florida and has very fond memories of Ben Stone as do most of those fortunate enough to have known him.

Ben Stone’s Marker

 When Ben died on August 27th, 1943, of heart disease, at the age of 69, staying true to his simple desires of life, his remains were cremated, and his ashes spread over the Webster Township Cemetery at Scotch Ridge. Today one can find a grave marker among the those of the other families and settlers of the area. And while the old dirty boots of Ben Stone no longer walk the streets of Luckey protecting its citizens at night, the footsteps of this young orphaned boy who found a home can be heard in the winds of time.


Filed under Toledo area crime news

The Summer In Toledo That Changed The World

Maybe it’s my undying love for radio broadcasting that inspires my interest in its history and early beginnings, and after spending over 40 years in broadcasting, I was recently surprised to learn that the first radio station broadcast in America, maybe the world, happened in downtown Toledo in the year 1907, many years prior to those early days of radio broadcasting in the 1920’s when stations in Detroit and Pittsburgh were going “on the air” and claiming they were radio’s first on the air. Not really. The real “first” in wireless radio, or telephony as it was called then, occurred in Toledo. Here’s the story, as I have pieced together from numerous news articles written over the years.

This particular chapter in both the history of Toledo and radio, unfolded during the heat of a rabid race by many inventors to explore this new technology called “wireless”. Most of those inventors of the day were still testing how “wireless” could be used as a way to communicate using telegraph as the primary communications vehicle. The notion of actually transmitting a human voice and receiving it “through the air”, without wires, was beyond the boundaries of even the most fertile imaginations. But great innovations require great dreams and many of those early dreams were pursued in downtown Toledo. In a news article written by the NEA news service in 1925, Lee DeForest, considered the “father” of wireless broadcast radio, found himself in Toledo in the summer of 1907 and it was here that he made his first real breakthroughs in his quest to find a way to send voices through the air. A task he probably couldn’t have done without the help of a Northwest Ohio man and fellow believer, Frank E. Butler. Butler, had been a train dispatcher and telegrapher for the New York Central railroad in Toledo. But Frank Butler also had a passionate interest in the possibilities of this new technology of “wireless communication” and conducted his own experiments to see where they might lead. He wanted to do more than just tinker and wanted to leave his job and go to work with the renowned “wireless” pioneer Lee DeForest. He would write in later years that everyone thought it was mistake for him to leave his good paying job with the railroad to pursue these electrical dreams with DeForest, but his passion couldn’t be ignored.

The railroad position carried a large salary with abundant opportunity for advancement, while my new “job” paid only a meager amount and offered no apparent assurance of a future. The idea of communicating through space without wires was at that time considered fantastic, an idle dream, an impossibility, a game for fools. Many thought it was a fake”

Butler join DeForest at the St. Louis World’s fair in 1904…where DeForest had set up a popular exhibit demonstrating to people and potential investors just how telegraph signals could be broadcast without wires. This was new abstract territory for most minds to comprehend and many who saw the DeForest wireless telegraph machines work, were still skeptical and thought it was fake. Butler, however knew better, he not only understood the technology, but also grasped the enormous potential of this new “science” and what it could mean to the world. Butler struck up a friendship with DeForest and began working as his chief assistant. Shortly thereafter, he traveled with DeForest to Florida and Cuba to set up wireless telegraph stations for the U.S. Navy between Florida and Guantanamo Bay Cuba.

After the Navy contract was completed, Lee DeForest,however, found himself in a legal tangle with his investors and was kicked out of his own company, American DeForest. He was left on his own to chase new horizons for this technology. Undaunted by this turn of events and a lack of funding, DeForest and Butler were determined to pursue the idea of electrically sending the human voice through air without wires. To achieve that end, DeForest had developed the so called “Audion Bulb”, a crude two element vacuum tube of sorts, which allowed him to detect or amplify a radio signal. Butler and DeForest then built two crudely designed sending and receiving units and in July of 1907 took them to Put-in-Bay at South Bass Island on Lake Erie to an annual yacht race. This race would become their first real test. DeForest placed the transmitter on the 75-foot yacht, “Thelma”, renamed the “Electra” for the race, and set up the receiving unit on shore near what is now the Jet Express dock. Frank Butler later recalled that because the yacht had a mahogany hull, he and DeForest , snuck onto the boat and nailed two sheets of copper to its sides to help give it a better ground system when the copper was submerged in water. It worked. As the race progressed, DeForest was able to send to Butler, who was back on shore, voice accounts of the race as it was taking place, thus making the first “ship to shore” radio voice transmission in the world. News of this broadcast “first” was greeted with much skepticism and indifference by the media and the rest of the world, who perhaps thought this was just exaggeration and fakery. Butler and DeForest, however, were convinced that success of wireless voice communication was now at hand. Without any income, however, the two men needed a place to do their experiments. Butler convinced the inventor DeForest that they should go to Toledo where Butler’s in-law’s would give them a roof over their heads and give them a place to live and eat. Butler had already rented space from the Spitzer family, securing the roof of the Nicholas building in downtown Toledo, so they would have a place to experiment and continue their work. The race to radio’s future was running at full speed high above Toledo’s downtown streets as DeForest and Butler designed and built even more radio sets in that summer of 1907. They set up laboratories in both the Nicholas and Ohio Buildings downtown, often broadcasting music from an old phonograph when they weren’t talking between the two buildings in downtown Toledo. In one innovation milestone, noted in the Toledo News Bee in August of 1907, the two men also achieved the first “phone patch” communication with their system, as DeForest talked with Butler’s mother-in-law Julia Manning from their home at 818 Collingwood. In a phone call between the Old West End home to the Ohio building.. Butler held up the phone receiver to the microphone so she could talk with Lee DeForest, at the Nicholas Building via the radio signal. A small achievement, with big significance.

As DeForest and Butler continued showing the world what they could do, success and recognition would follow. In a 1925 interview with Butler, who was then working as a sporting goods and radio manager for a store in Toledo, he said that after the Toledo experiments, Lee DeForest got a large order for 40 wireless radio sets for the U.S. Navy to be used in the fleet of Admiral Bob Evans for a round the world cruise of naval vessels, so they could be connected with voice communications. There would be many more orders and new breakthrough and even more recognition for DeForest. The rest, as they say, is history. DeForest would go on to become known as the “Father of Radio”, while Butler would eventually live out his life in Toledo in relative obscurity. He did form the American Wireless Institute and did write numerous articles about his years with DeForest which he treasured for the rest of his life.

“Surely, the most enthusiastic radio fan cannot realize the exceptional thrill which is now mine as I listen-in on my radio receiver and compare its wondrous achievements to those of the struggling, experimental days when I assisted Dr. De Forest in his elementary pioneer work; in the building of his first few “Audion bulbs”, and shared with him the marvel of listening-in for the first time to a wireless telephone. “

Radio, would of course, have a profound effect on the world. It still does. It was the “Internet” of our grandparents age and a miracle of communication that would change every facet of life and how we perceive it. It brought the voice of the world to our living rooms and to our minds.

Today, 105 years after the summer of 1907, when radio history was made in Toledo, the Nicholas building, still stands, Lee DeForest remains a giant in radio history, a special sign commemorates the first “ship to shore broadcast” at Put-in Bay, and Frank E.Butler, who died in January of 1948 at the age of 71, is remembered only by a few, as the young man, who dared to live a dream that changed the world.

Leave a comment

Filed under Old Places and Faces

Update on the sad tale of “Owney the Postal Dog”

After a review of the Toledo Blade article regarding this sad episode from  June 11 of 1897, it appears the name of the policeman who shot Owney was not Fred Free (or Freeman), but was a Patrolman Smith(no first name given). It also seems that Owney was not killed immediately after he reportedly bit a mail clerk at the train station, but his execution was delayed until the next day owing to the fact that the first policeman who was ordered to shoot the globe trotting pooch, refused to do so.   As a result, so states the article, that Postmaster Brand had Owney chained to a post until the next day, and then..

“Shortly after 4 o’clock yesterday, Patrolman Smith took the dog to an alley behind the police station and with a shot put an end to the career of the famous pup.”

Sgt. Beth Cooley, at the Toledo Police Museum says she is searching for the records of a Patrolman Smith who might have served on the department at that time. The Chicago Tribune had reported that the officer who shot Owney was Fred Free, but after some research into the records, Sgt. Cooley says there was no Fred Free on the department, but there was a Fred Freeman who was a Toledo policeman during that time. That could have easily been the mix-up, but the Blade said the executioner was a Patrolman Smith.

It’s also noted from this article that it had been decided before Owney was executed to have his remains stuffed and mounted and sent to the Post Museum in Washington D.C. Perhaps this was an atempt to mollify the thousands of postal clerks and others around the globe who loved the dog, as it was noted by the Blade reporter at the time that Owney’s tragic killing would “bring down the wrath of the heavens” upon the heads of those involved in Owney’s death.

Not sure if such wrath was ever visited upon Toledo.


Filed under Strange Happenings