Volume 40

The Building of History II: Ottawa City General Store Museum

A Place to Step Back to Life in the 19th Century Catawba Island


  • GeneralStore-Inside

Nestled in a quiet woods in a small niche of Northwest Catawba point, on a windy road to the Miller Ferry, where 200 years ago Oliver H. Perry conducted one of the most solemn unique funeral services ending the Battle of Lake Erie, lies Ottawa City General Store Museum. Don and JoAnn Rhodes have created a quaint place to enjoy the history of Catawba Township, filled with some surprising historical treasures. Most visitors who pass this almost hidden 2-3 hour adventure, are too excited to get to the “Bay” or too exhausted on their way home to take the time to browse this historical gem.


Located on one of the highest elevations in Ottawa County, perched on a small park bench under a huge maple tree gives one the perspective of why this area was a great place to build a home and raise a family. Fertile soil provides a farmer to grow vegetables, tasty peaches and flavor-filled grapes. This northern ridge of what the Wisconsin Glacier formed as it shaped and receded 14 thousand years ago. Just to the south and west was the treacherous Black Swamp. This godforsaken land was filled with no roads, deadly mosquitos, millions of snakes, and many unbearable unknown surprises (Indians). Surrounding this “island” was one of the most abundantly Blessed fisheries on Lake Erie. To the east was 500,000 acres known as the “Connecticut Western Reserve Firelands”. This was the land the State of Connecticut created for the people ravaged in the 9 coastal towns that were burned by the British Navy in the final years of the Revolutionary War. This act sounds great, but many issues were involved, and most of the land was bought by rich land speculators.


  • GeneralStore-Outside

The Rhodes have assembled a step back in history, a collection of artifacts showing the “way it was” a hundred and fifty some years ago. The museum itself (an 1870 restored log and beam barn) has collectables including: ice cutting tools, an 18th Century hand made “dug out” canoe, glassware, kitchen utensils of the 19th Century, and one of my favorites, root beer barrel penny candies. Some of Don’s favorites include: local Indian artifacts and wine making equipment. Don also has preserved the original Catawba Post Office window, because rural free delivery had not yet been introduced.


Behind the museum, Don has reassembled a log house, built by German immigrants, that once stood on the mainland 10 miles west on Sand Beach. This incredible historical recreation is a must see to really appreciate the tender love and care it took to reassemble this historical home just as it was when it was built in the 1840’s.


I purposely made four trips to visit Don and his “work of historic love”. You stop by and visit his humble abode and I know Don and JoAnn will help you relive life in Ohio and more specifically Ottawa County, a few years ago!!!


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