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.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday celebrates the life and legacy of a man who brought hope and healing to America. We commemorate as well the timeless values he taught us through his example — the values of courage, truth, justice, compassion, dignity, humility and service.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
Vermilion was once known as the "Village of Lake Captains," and no other place has so many captains' homes in its historic district. Vermilion was initially settled in the early 19th century and formed as a village in 1837. In 1840, the US Corps of Engineers finished building the tow piers at the mouth of the Vermilion which provided the depth builders needed to take boats into the lake.
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.