Waterville Spirits Recall Life Along Miami And Erie Canal

The Waterville Historical Society is preparing for its ninth Ghostly Encounters program on Wednesday, October 11 at 6:30 p.m. in Wakeman Cemetery. Last year’s presentation included performances by (from left) Jim Conrad, Aggie Alt, Bob Chapman, Dana Pilrose, Kathy Saco, Jim Herzberg and Karen Wiggins. MIRROR PHOTO BY KAREN GERHARDINGER

The “spirits” of Waterville will come to life on Wednesday, October 11 during Ghostly Encounters, a program presented by Waterville Historical Society (WHS).

To mark the 180th anniversary since the Miami and Erie Canal opened in Waterville, WHS members will portray nine people who once lived, worked or played around and on the canal. 

When the Miami and Erie Canal opened in Waterville – running along the route that is now the Anthony Wayne Trail – Waterville began to prosper. Boats transported farm products, commercial goods and people from Toledo to Cincinnati, and it joined a branch of the Wabash and Erie to Indiana. In the peak year of 1851, 400 boats were operating on the canal.

Hotels and stores opened along its banks. The Pekin Mill was built in 1846 where the canal met Mechanic Street. The commercial section of town gradually expanded to Third Street and the village was incorporated in 1882. 

The canal also served as a source of entertainment for local residents. A favorite spot for ice skating from Thanksgiving to the spring thaw, it was not uncommon for some to skate to Grand Rapids and back in an evening. After skating, young and old alike would gather around the big stove at the back of Rupp’s Store to warm up. In summer, the canal was a favorite spot for fishing and boating.

Ghostly Encounters brings the stories of nine early settlers to life, including:

• Elijah Dodd (1806-1876), a canal conductor. 

• Lewis Eastwood (1809-1883), an early constable and hotel owner who recalls the travails of digging the canal.

• Jane Shoemaker (1840-1935), who traveled to Cincinnati and back on a canal boat.

• Chauncy Crego (1825-1847), a Mexican War soldier who recognized the importance of the canal to national security.

• Helen Haskins (1842-1886), who owned a business along the canal.

• Capt. James Marson (1825-1894), a canal boat conductor.

• Carrie Ostrander (1856-1922), who recites her memories of operating a canal store.

• Marie Conrad (1889-1983), who recounts the dangers of skating on the canal.

• John G. Isham (1815-1901), who shares the benefits and drawbacks of the canal.

Bring a chair or a blanket and settle near the gravestones of Wakeman Cem-etery beginning at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, October 11. Guests are asked to make a $5.00 donation. Refreshments will be served at Waterville First Presbyter-ian Church, 611 Farnsworth Rd., following the presentation. Wakeman Cemetery is located at 621 Farnsworth Rd. A rain date is set for Wednesday, October 18. 

For information, visit www.watervillehistory.org.

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