“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Marblehead in Ottawa County, Ohio — The American Midwest (Great Lakes)

The Keeper’s House

The Keeper’s House Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, August 5, 2015
1. The Keeper’s House Marker
      The Keeper’s House is so named because it was the personal residence of the first two keepers of the nearby Marblehead Lighthouse. The house was built for Benajah Wolcott and his wife Rachel Miller by William Kelly, a stonemason from Sandusky, Ohio who also built many of the old stone structures in that city and the Marblehead Lighthouse. The lighthouse was one of the first constructed on the Great Lakes and is the oldest in continuous operation. Benajah Wolcott served as keeper of the Marblehead Lighthouse from its construction in 1821 until his death in 1832. He was succeeded by his widow Rachel. Rachel Wolcott served as the lighthouse keeper until February 1854 and was the first female lighthouse keeper on the Great Lakes.

      In addition to being the first keeper of the Marblehead Lighthouse, Benajah Wolcott was a farmer and pioneer settler of Danbury Township and Ottawa County. Danbury Township is located on the Danbury Peninsula which separates the waters of Lake Erie and Sandusky Bay. Both the township and the peninsula are named for the city of Danbury, Connecticut and are located in the northwest corner of a 500,000 acre tract of land known as the Sufferers’ Lands or Firelands. The Firelands derives its name from the fact that this acreage in Ohio was awarded by the State of Connecticut to residents
The Keeper’s House Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, August 5, 2015
2. The Keeper’s House Marker
of that state whose homes were burned by British military forces during the Revolutionary War.

      Benajah Wolcott, a Revolutionary War veteran from Connecticut, first arrived in what is now Danbury Township in 1806 as part of a survey crew employed to survey the Firelands following the signing of the Fort Industry Treaty. He returned in 1809, the first of a small number of settlers establishing themselves primarily along the north shore of Sandusky Bay at the eastern end of the peninsula. The area in which they settled was known as The Orchards after three orchards which had been left by earlier Indian and French inhabitants of the area. The Orchards or Danbury Settlement was the first American settlement in Ottawa County.

      The Keeper’s House was known locally as the Old Stone Fort, possibly in erroneous reference to a skirmish between American and Indian Forces which ranged across the peninsula. This was the first battle in Ohio of what became the War of 1812. A marker commemorating the battle is just west of the Keeper’s House. It was erected in 1857 by Joshua Giddings, a prominent United States Congressman from Ashtabula, Ohio, who had fought in the battle. American soldiers who died in the skirmish were buried at the site. Those interred here include at least one Revolutionary War veteran.

      Rachel Wolcot conveyed the Keeper’s House
The Keeper’s House Marker image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, August 5, 2015
3. The Keeper’s House Marker
to her son Henry Wolcott in 1845. Henry became a prominent Danbury Township fruit grower and the home remained in the Wolcott family until 1900. During the 1920’s the house was converted into a summer restaurant. The house was acquired by the Ottawa County Historical Society in 1989 and is maintained as a center for the preservation and interpretation of the heritage of Danbury Township and the Firelands. The Keepers House is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

     Benajah lies buried in the Wolcott Family Cemetery approximately 500 yards north of the Keeper’s House. This is Ottawa County’s earliest Christian burial ground. The cemetery and adjoining Heritage Park are maintained by the Danbury Township Trustees. To visit the site, walk north on Tecumseh to its end and to the right you will find a dedicated pathway through the woods to the cemetery. As was the custom in earlier times, God’s acre was placed at the rear of the proprietor’s land.

      The question is often asked “Why is the Keeper’s House so far from the lighthouse?” Wolcott came west in part to oversee the lands of Epaphrodites Bull, a New York investment banker, the present Johnson’s Island being among his holdings. Not surprisingly the island was first known as Bull’s Island and bore that name well into the 19th century. Also, Wolcott farmed and was an orchardist. The
The Keeper’s House image. Click for full size.
By Bill Coughlin, August 5, 2015
4. The Keeper’s House
The marker can be seen on the right side of the Keeper's House.
rich lime-based soil is much deeper on the bay side of the peninsula than on the lake side, where large limestone outcroppings make farming difficult, if not impossible. Without the presence of the quarry until later times, Wolcott could oversee, farm and take a relatively short ride on horseback, or even walk through the woods to the Sandusky Light, as it was the called. There he would remain during duty hours and would be available to him a small keepers hut which was built on the site as the light. Nothing remains of the smaller government-built structure today.

      The Keeper’s House is the oldest known residence in Ottawa County and is one of the oldest residences in northwest Ohio. The house is also a rare intact example of an early American folkstyle of architecture known as a hall-and-parlor house. The hall-and-parlor home style was originally a linear-plan house consisting of two rooms, the hall and the parlor. The parlor was typically used as a formal reception room and the bedroom. The hall served as a combined kitchen, dining room, work area and informal living room. Each gable of a hall-and-parlor structure contained a chimney to provide heat to each room. Folk style homes were modest, functional dwellings constructed of local materials with little stylistic adornment. Examples of American folk architecture range from log cabins and adobes to saltbox and Cape Cod
Location. 41° 30.885′ N, 82° 44.515′ W. Marker is in Marblehead, Ohio, in Ottawa County. Marker is on East Bay Shore Road, on the left when traveling east. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Lakeside Marblehead OH 43440, United States of America.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 2 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Home of Benajah Walcott (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named The Keeper's House (within shouting distance of this marker); First Battle Site (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); In Memory of Mason, Simonds & Mingus (about 600 feet away); Johnson's Island (approx. 0.4 miles away); Johnson's Island Prison (approx. 1.1 miles away); Confederate Stockade Cemetery (approx. 1.1 miles away); The Johnson’s Island Committee (approx. 1.2 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in Marblehead.
More about this marker. A 1900 photograph of the Keeper's House appears on the left side of the marker.
Categories. Settlements & SettlersWar of 1812War, US Revolutionary
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page has been viewed 166 times since then and 79 times this year. Photos:   1, 2, 3, 4. submitted on , by Bill Coughlin of North Arlington, New Jersey. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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