BY BETH HYDER | WATERVILLE HISTORICAL SOCIETY — In 1908, the sound of men and hammering disturbed the quiet along the Maumee River just south of the village of Waterville.
A forest of wooden forms grew from the shore toward the Roche de Boeuf rock midriver. Construction on what was once the world’s largest earth-filled, reinforced concrete bridge had begun.
Soon, that quiet stretch of river may be disturbed by the sounds of machines and blasting as the Waterville Interurban Bridge is demolished.
Whatever its future, the Waterville Historical Society (WHS) will be there to preserve its history. Today, WHS is providing people one more way to engage with that history.
“We are excited to announce that part of our archives, the Waterville Interurban Bridge Collection, is now available online,” said project director and archivist Verna Rose. “The collection has over 100 historical photographs, postcards, maps, artwork and objects from before the bridge was constructed to the present.”
The collection includes photos of the Roche de Boeuf as it was before about one-third of its mass was blasted away. It also includes artifacts related to Waterville’s J.F.T. Isham, who photographed much of the bridge’s construction.
The project is supported in part by an award from the Ohio Historical Records Advisory Board (OHRAB), through funding from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission, National Archives and Records Administration.
WHS archivists volunteered over 200 hours on this project. They identified relevant records at the Wakeman Archival Re-search Center. They digitized them with a new contactless overhead scanner and uploaded them into museum software that allows the records to be shared online. The easiest way to search the collection is to visit the WHS website and click on “Online Collections” (www.watervillehistory.org).
“The OHRAB grant made our online presence possible,” Verna said. “Now, we’re deciding what our next digitization project will be.”
Waterville schools might be that project, since Wakeman Archives houses an extensive collection of original graduation photos from the old Waterville School.
WHS’s archives contain over 415 cubic feet of records of Waterville’s history from 1830 to the present, including founding families, canal life, schools and businesses.
Since 2016, WHS has utilized Past Perfect software and has a yearly subscription to the historical software that is used by hundreds of historical societies across the United States – giving users access to a variety of images and information from other Past Perfect subscribers. For information, visit www.ansp.pastperfect-online.com.
The WHS website, www.watervillehistory.org, also regularly features articles about Waterville history, written by a team of archivists and volunteers.
“Keep checking the website,” Verna said. “Of course, if you can’t wait for something to be online, come visit the archives. We’re open every Wednesday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.”