A group photo was taken at New Rochester Park to conclude the six-hour history bus tour on Aug. 17. It was one of several stops in the eastern part of the county. Judy Wells/Paulding County Progress

Feature Writer

On Saturday, 50 curious “tourists,” some of whom have lived in Paulding County their entire lives, traveled through the eastern half of the county to learn little-known historical facts and view abandoned and restored sites in the county. The Magical History Tour was a fundraiser for the Friends of the Paulding County Park District and the John Paulding Historical Society.

The travelers were shuttled on a large tour bus from American Heritage Trails of Fort Wayne and driven by volunteer Clint Vance.

During registration at the historical society, each guest was given a goodie bag, furnished by the Paulding County Area Foundation, filled with snacks, pens, pencils, note pads and other goodies furnished by area businesses.

Copies of the day’s itinerary were also included, as well as a copy of the 2019 Visions from the Paulding County Progress. This year’s Visions was published earlier this month and is a look back at the life of Shadrach Hudson, the first settler in the county.

As the luxury bus pulled out of the historical society parking lot, Kim Sutton, president of the historical society, welcomed the travelers on the tour and gave a short presentation of the day’s events. As she spoke, historical photos of the county played on the many TVs on the bus.

The first stop on the all-day tour was Fort Brown, located at the confluence of the Big and Little Auglaize rivers. The fort was originally built in 1812 by a “Col. Brown” to help guard the army supply route into the Maumee Valley. One or more soldiers are said to be buried at the site. Tourists walked around the site, took photographs and heard more interesting facts about the history of the area.

The bus then traveled to the Oakwood Community Park, where the humorous story of Bowman’s Rock was related.

According to a poem written by Everett A. Budd, a local teacher, poet and journalist, the rock was said to have caused a man named Ben Bowman to purposely steer the boat he was commanding into the huge rock in the Auglaize River “one April morn in ’38.” A woman he was fond of, Miss Nellie Neill, was on board taking her wares to Defiance to sell. Also on board was a man named Frank Fitzfur, who was also sweet on Miss Nellie and took a seat beside her on the boat. To separate the two, Bowman steered the boat into the rock, causing the boat to upset passengers and wares into the river.

Bowman saved Miss Nellie from drowning after she loudly yelled, “Oh Ben, dear Ben, please save my life. And I’ll consent to be your wife.”

Many years later, the rock was removed from the river with the help of “several wreckers” and situated in front of the shelter house at the park on the village’s main street.

At the “big brick house near Charloe,” built in 1832, the group was welcomed by owner Linda Hodges. “This is my home,” she said. “Please feel free to walk around and look at every room in the house. But watch your step because the floor in each room is a teeny bit higher or a teeny bit lower than the room before. Nothing in here is perfect, but it’s perfect for me. There are no museum-quality pieces but I’m happy with the things I have.”

Visitors were in awe at the massive three-brick-deep walls, the trio of huge fireplaces, and the root cellar under the kitchen.

One woman on the bus shared she ran into her former school teacher, Mrs. Pendleton, Linda’s sister, at the house.

As the bus traveled past the Sherman Cemetery, Lori Manon, president of the Friends of the Paulding County Park District, gave a brief history of the graveyard. She also related facts about the Auglaize Stone Quarry and the Five Span Bridge as those areas were reached.

At the Five Span Park, Brad Dysinger was on hand to update the guests on the visions of the Paulding County Park Board for that park.

“We hope to put in restrooms, a shelter house and a floating boat dock,” he said. “We’ve had a slight set-back with building the steps for the dock because our contractor had some health issues. But we’re hoping to find a replacement for him and get the steps finished soon. They tell me there’s good crappie fishing in the Auglaize, so we want to make it as easy as possible for people to fish here.”

Dysinger also stressed the value of the Auglaize and Maumee rivers to the county.

“Sometimes it’s the people who don’t live in the county who appreciate the natural resources we have more than the folks who live here and see them every day. We are very lucky to live where we do.”

The next stop on the tour was the Miami & Erie Canal viaduct south of Junction, where tourists could take photographs.

Sutton excitedly told the group, “We’re going on an adventure and making a stop we hadn’t planned on. Mr. and Mrs. Noffsinger are on board with us and have invited us to visit the canal lock on their property.”

Despite the carpet of poison ivy on the path around the Miami Canal lock, tourists were able to view the crumbling cement structure and marvel at its longevity.

On the ride to the Vagabond Restaurant for lunch, the group heard a short history of Tate’s Landing, also called Reids, which was located along the Wabash and Erie Canal. A crumbling barn is all that is left of Tate’s Landing, at the current intersection of Ohio 111 and County Road 119.

Following a presentation on the history of the Vagabond by a family member of the owners, a delicious lunch was enjoyed by the tourists.

The last stop on the tour was at New Rochester Park, recently restored by the Friends of the Park District. Picnic tables, trash receptacles, mulch and other improvements have been added, and trees and brush have been trimmed

Serving as the county seat of Paulding County for a little over a year, from 1839-1840, about 30-40 families lived in the small town. There were also shops, blacksmiths, bars and other businesses located there.

Gary Mabis, a member of the park district, said, “We’re not finished here yet. We’re thinking about planting native prairie gardens and pollinator gardens in some of the green areas, especially down by the road, to cut down on the mowing. Right now, all our mowing is being done by volunteers. We’d like to make their life a little easier.”

A group photo was taken at the historical marker for New Rochester to commemorate the tour.

“I’ve heard lots of good comments about the tour, and requests to do another one next year,” concluded Sutton as the bus returned to the historical society.

“Someone suggested we visit the Antwerp area and the northwestern part of the county next time. When we were planning this one, we decided if it went well, we’d plan another one for next year. From the remarks I’ve heard today, we’d better get started planning.”

To help with the next tour or volunteer to help in other ways, contact the John Paulding Historical Society at 419-399-8218, visit the museum any Tuesday from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. or check out their Facebook page.

To join the Friends of the Paulding County Park District, phone 419-594-3659 or visit them on Facebook. Volunteers are always needed in both organizations.