Monday, January 23, 2023

HGB Ep. 470 - Wolcott Heritage Center

Moment in Oddity - Frisky Fishies

Most of us have experienced a neighbor blasting a booming bass beat from their home or car at some point. We often wonder how the person playing the music has any of their hearing left. Well, here in Florida, in South Tampa, there have been some homeowners plagued by a similar type of bass sound so loud as to shake their homes. Many noise complaints were being filed with the local police department, however the officers were unable to pinpoint the sounds origin. As it turns out, the culprits causing all the raucous are hundreds of black drum fish. These fish can grow over one hundred pounds and this is the time of year that they gather for courtship and spawning. This noisy nookie is created by a specialized muscle called the sonic muscle striking the fishes swim bladder. This action can produce 165 decibels underwater at a low frequency. The sound can then travel through the ground and make its way into the areas waterfront homes. Apparently the schools of migrating black drums are the largest numbers that locals have seen in years. The season of love for these frisky fishies getting their freak on, lasts through spring, so hopefully the neighbors get accustomed to their amorous love rituals. One thing is for sure however, passionate fish dropping a beat so loudly as to vibrate local homes, certainly is odd.

This Month in History - Curtiss Model E Flying Boat

In the month of January, on the 10th, in 1912, the Curtiss Model E flying boat successfully completed its maiden flight. Glenn Hammond Curtiss was a successful inventor and is credited for inventing the design of the floatplane and the flying boat. Although his formal education extended only to eighth grade, his early interest in mechanics and inventions was evident at a young age. In 1901, he developed an enthusiasm for motorcycles when internal-combustion engines became more available. It eventually took him into the world of aeronautics. This is when Curtiss grew to become a leading contributor to the designing and building of various aircrafts, which led to the formation of the 'Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company' that eventually became the 'Curtiss-Wright Corporation'. His company produced the predominant civil and military aircraft for the U.S. Army and Navy in the inter-war and WWII era. Curtiss' first flying boat, the Model E, led a foundation for naval aviation. 

Wolcott Heritage Center

The centerpiece of the Wolcott Heritage Center is the Hull-Wolcott House, which was built in 1830 in Maumee, Ohio. This mansion is a great reflection of the pioneer family who built it and remained in that family for several generations before giving it to the Maumee Historical Society. Over the years, the society added seven other buildings to the center that all represent the early life of this historic city.  The Wolcott family is intertwined with not only Maumee's history, but they represent a coming together of the Native American culture with early American pioneers. Mrs. Wolcott was the granddaughter of a Miami chief. Many people believe that several members of the Wolcott family might still be hanging around the property. Join us as we explore the history and hauntings of the Wolcott Heritage Center.

Maumee, (like Maui) Ohio is located in northwest Ohio about 10 miles from Toledo. Many tribes called the Maumee River Valley home before colonial times. This included the Odawa, Ojibwe, Shawnee, Potawatomie and mainly Ottawa. These tribes joined with the British in the Northwest Territory before the War of 1812 to fight the Northwest Indian Wars. The American victory over these forces at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in Maumee in 1794 would end those conflicts for a time. The Battle of Fallen Timbers took place on August 20, 1794. American settlers northwest of the Ohio River had been under threat from Native American tribes, particularly the Miami. General “Mad” Anthony Wayne had been placed in command of the Army and he led a force of regulars and mounted Kentucky militia into Maumee, Ohio for what would be the final battle of the Northwest Indian War. 

The battle got its name from the trees that had been toppled in the area by a tornado near the Maumee River. The battle lasted less than an hour with the American Army beating a Native American force led by Shawnee War Chief Blue Jacket. General Wayne's force lost 33 men and the Native American group lost twice as many and were scattered. Major hostilities were ended and the Treaty of Greenville was signed. This treaty set up a new boundary between the indigenous peoples' lands and territory for American settlement. The battleground became a National Historic Site in 1999 and is said to be haunted. On stormy nights and on August 20th, it is said that the ghosts of the lost souls reenact their bloody battle. 

A little insight into Mad Anthony. He is the only Pennsylvanian known to have two separate graves with body parts in both graves. Perhaps that is why his spirit is at unrest. It is said that he is the second most frequently seen ghost on the East Coast with Abraham Lincoln being the first. Apparently the General makes the trek his bones did from St. David's to Erie, looking for a couple of his bones that got lost in the process. The spirit has also been seen near where the Battle of Brandywine took place, in New Jersey, New York, Virginia and Canada. He is often seen on a horse with fire-flashing hoofs. *Rabbit  Hole*

The early settlement of Maumee would occur in 1817 when the town was platted out and it became a major transportation point to Lake Erie. In 1840, Maumee became a county seat and referred to by some as the "Great City of the West" after the completion of the Erie Canal in that same year. A post office and federal custom house were set up in Maumee. The name is a derivative of the tribal name Miami. Things were prosperous here for a few years, but eventually the big steamships started being introduced to the Great Lakes and they couldn't travel the river. Maumee lost the county seat in 1854 and became a small town that still holds onto its historic roots with many early buildings and homes still dotting the city. One of these locations is the Hull-Wolcott House.

William Wells was born in 1770 and was orphaned at an early age. At the age of fourteen, he was captured along with three companions by the Miami tribe. The Miami chief Kaweahatta renamed William Apekonit, which meant carrot. He married a Native American and they had a child and William went on to become one of Ohio's best known frontiersmen. But not before his wife and child were captured by Kentuckians during a raid. He never saw them again. He became great friends with Chief little Turtle and married his daughter with whom he had four children. These two men made an agreement for Wells to join the American forces and try to bring peace between the Americans and Miami and Little Turtle would work with the Native Americans to do the same. Wells served as a scout during the Battle of Fallen Timbers and helped negotiate the Treaty of Greeneville that took away all Native American land in Ohio save for a small bit in the northwest corner. Wells later died during the War of 1812. One of his children was named Mary and she would marry a man named James Wolcott.

Mary was born in 1800 and as we said, her father died during the War of 1812. Her mother Wanagapeth, which means Sweet Breeze, had died in 1805 or 1806, so Mary went to live with her uncle Samuel Wells in Kentucky after her father died. She moved to Missouri where she met and married James Wolcott in 1821. Wolcott had been born in 1789, was a descendant of Declaration of Independence signer Oliver Wolcott and was a Connecticut Yankee and entrepreneur who had his sites set on building a shipping business. The completion of the Erie Canal attracted people like the Wolcotts to this area of Ohio and they had the money to buy land after Mary received reparations from the U.S. Government that were paid to the Miami in 1818 and 1827. The couple used the money to buy 300 acres along the Maumee River and built a little log cabin. They then established a ship building, shipping and merchandising center. The couple had dreams of a large family and they had seven children, but only five would live into adulthood. Mary was a devout Christian and convinced James to build a chapel on their property and invited family and neighbors to worship there. The shipping business was very successful with the Wolcotts running two steamships and they soon had the money to build their dream home.

In 1830, the Wolcotts completed their mansion to replace the log cabin. The mansion was designed by James Wolcott in the Federalist and Classical architectural style. It had fourteen rooms and was two-stories with a distinctive two-story front porch with an elliptical arch centered in the gable and both porches have four plain columns. The foundation was made of rubble stone and the kitchen was down in the cellar. The interior has a large center hall with a curved stairway and the woodwork is black walnut. Many pieces of original antebellum furnishings and family heirlooms still remain in the house. James Wolcott went on to serve on the City Council in 1838 and he was the first president to preside over it. He became mayor of Maumee in 1843 and held that position for sixteen years. He died in 1873 at the age of 83. Mary preceded him in death by several years as she passed in 1843.

The mansion stayed in just this one family through four generations until the Wolcott's great granddaughter, Rilla Hull, gave the home to the Maumee Valley Historical Society in 1957 with the wish that it become a museum showcasing the early pioneers of the area and keeping the memories of three generations of the Wolcott family. The Wolcott House Museum opened in 1965 and this museum showcases the lifestyles of these early pioneers, along with Mary Wolcott's Miami heritage. This museum does more than just share the way life was, early along the Maumee River, but it stands as a symbol of a bridge across two cultures. And that really was the legacy of Mary Wells Wolcott. The complex is referred to as the Wolcott Heritage Center and has eight buildings on the property with only the Hull-Wolcott House being original to the property.

There is the Frederick House that was built in 1840 and serves as the Welcome Center. This was built in the Greek Revival style and had originally stood on East Wayne Street and Gibbs Street in uptown Maumee. The house was moved here in 1971. The Maumee Memorabilia Museum was built in 1901. There is a log house that dates to the 1850s that shows the common structure of that time with hewn logs squared so that they fit more tightly together. This had once sat on the north bank of the Miami and Erie Canal. A James Love owned it in 1893 and he added a front porch and wood floor and was later inherited by Calvin Love, the mayor of Maumee in 1913 and he gave it to World War II veteran who used it for storage. That man donated it to the historical society in 1963 and it was moved to the complex.

The Gilbert-Flanigan House is a good example of a home that would have been owned by a middle-class family of the 1800s. It was built in 1841 and is a New England saltbox house done in the Greek Revival style. It has the sloping roof of the saltbox. This style of home had a parlor bedroom behind the parlor, which is where the best bed in the house was kept for company. It never had electricity, plumbing or heating and was donated to the University of Toledo in 1965 and then later sold to the historical society. The Maumee Clover Leaf Depot was built in 1888 and serviced the Toledo and Grand Rapids Railroad. This had once been located on Sophia Street in Maumee. There was a telegraph room as part of the depot as well. It was donated to the historical society in 1971. 

The Box Schoolhouse is a one-room schoolhouse that was built in 1850 by local farmers. The teacher's desk is an original schoolmaster's desk circa 1840 to 1860 and the wainscoting and pegs and box stove are original to the building. The schoolhouse joined the complex in 2006. And finally there is the Monclova Country Church, which was built in 1901 for the Radical United Brethren congregation in Monclova. This church was built in the Gothic Revival style and has a rebuilt straightforward bell tower. The original belfry was destroyed by fire. The original congregation's bishop was Milton Wright who was the father of Orville and Wilbur Wright. The church joined the complex in 1985.

During the Halloween season, the museum embraces its haunted reputation offering ghost tours and hunts. Visitors to the Wolcott House have reported being touched or tapped on the shoulder by something they can't see, some have seen shadow figures darting from one room to the next and disembodied footsteps are heard. Staff and guests claim that spirits of the Wolcott family are continuing on in the house in the afterlife. A paranormal team was asked to come in and investigate in 2002 by the Curator at the time, Chuck Jacobs. He and his wife had been in the house and felt something had chased them. The investigation caught some orbs of light and felt they contacted three spirits: a strong male and female and a weaker female.

Amy Danforth was a Special Events Coordinator back in 2015 and she felt that the spirits in the house were friendly and helpful because they had helped her. She was having a hard time carrying a floral arrangement in the house one day and needed to get through the large wooden door that separated the pantry from the kitchen. She started to look for somewhere to set down the arrangement when the heavy door slowly swung open and stayed that way long enough for her to walk through. She said, "Thank you" as she passed through, fully expecting to see someone on the other side of the door. No one was there and the door wouldn't just hold itself open for that length of time. She knew it had to be a ghost.

Zach was a volunteer at Wolcott House for years and he had enough experiences to convince him that the home is haunted. Many times when he was alone in the museum, he felt as though he were not alone. Eyes he couldn't see seemed to be on him. He wrote, "Every month, there would be a tea hosted at the Wolcott House and I would be in charge of taking down tables and chairs. One day I was taking down some chairs and suddenly heard [the soft sounds of a] piano playing. There is one piano in the house and I was a little shocked to hear [it] playing. So I slowly walked to the room where the piano was and, about ten-feet before I walked into the room, the piano stopped playing. When I did get to the room, no one was there. Another instance I had was when I had to go into a storage room in the kitchen and get some items. While I was in there, [I heard] a thump - almost like something had fallen." He eventually found the source of the sound, which was an apple from a decorative display that was now sitting in the middle of the floor. This tended to happen a lot. Zach continued, "I have had this happen to me two different times. And, sometimes when I was downstairs, sweeping the floors or mopping, it would sound like someone was walking around upstairs and it would kind of frighten me when it happens. I have also had some other instances where I would be in another room and a glass showcase would just start rattling."

The Wolcott Heritage Center is a large property that really needs a proper investigation through all of the buildings. One thing is for certain, the Wolcott family is inextricably linked to this property because they owned it for so long. Are some of them still here? Is the Wolcott Heritage Center haunted? That is for you to decide!

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