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MIDDLE BASS And Her Attractions

1913 text from reference (15) in the Bibliography

Go back to 1898 Version                   Go forward to 1913 Middle Bass Club Description


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The original name conferred upon Middle Bass, ‘way back in the obscure past, embodies a fragment of romantic history. Its origin dates from the earliest recorded history of lake navigation, when, about the year 1680, a lone bark bound westward up the lake and bearing a devout band of Jesuit missionaries under the spiritual guidance of Father Hennepin (famed both for his piety and his skill as a navigator) touched at the isle. Alarmed by the white winged visitor that came silently and mysteriously out of the blue distance to cast anchor upon their shores, the terrified redskins left camp fire and wigwam and gathered menacingly upon the sands. The dark faces of the waiting savages grew yet darker and more distorted with fear and hatred, and each painted warrior clutched closer his tomahawk at sight of the pale faces stringing ashore in small boats. Through his interpreter, however, Father Hennepin - bearing in his hand a white flag - hastened to assure the Indians that the mission of himself and his followers was a mission of Peace. They had come, through motives of kindness and brotherly love, to tell them the story of the Cross. To the words of Father Hennepin they listened wonderingly - many of the number becoming converts. This service conducted by the Jesuit priest, formed notably the first service of the Christian Church ever held on the Lake Erie Islands. The season was early spring, and from shore to shore each jutting cliff of lime-rock and every wooded haunt displayed garnitures of wild bloom in such endless variety and exuberance as to draw the strangers’ attention. Enchanted with the island and its floral beauty, the missionaries, who were French, named it Isle de Fleurs - a name subsequently dropped, however, for the more prosaic appellation which it now bears.

In celebrity, the island is much larger than in area, the latter including about 1200 acres only, In shape, the island has been compared to a duck, East Point forming the head, which is attached to the main body by a long and very attenuated neck, making the total length about three miles. Its shore lines are of a decidedly rambling nature, almost losing themselves in the pretty bays and picturesque points shapen by their meanderings.

Wave-worn and cavern-perforated rocks, wreckage-strewn beaches with belting trees and undergrowth of al- most impenetrable density, are characteristic of the Middle Bass shores at some points. Inland, stretching beyond this fringe of Nature, appear orchard and vineyard lands, gardens, and truck patches.

As the steamer pulls up to the island wharves, the first object that attracts attention is the structure once famed as a resort for gaiety lovers, known as “Wehrle's Hall" - the trysting place of youth and pleasure. The hall is reached by broad flights of stairs leading to outside balconies above. The ballroom floors afford space for hundreds of dancers, and, during the outing season, thousands of people from Cleveland, Detroit and other lake and inland places thither wend their way to sample the island wines and “trip the mazy.” In the basement are the wine cellar vaults where visitors were shown a wine cask said to be the largest in the world.

Notwithstanding its reputation as a summer resort, Middle Bass was long destitute of anything resembling a hotel. This want was recently supplied, however, by the erection of a fine hotel structure on site of the old Wehrle residence near the steamboat landing. The new hostelry is owned by August Schmidt, of Sandusky. The Wehrle place, above mentioned, was formerly known and admired for its artistic and beautiful grounds. The residence, however, was burned in recent years.

The nearest approach to a public conveyance seen on the island proper is the East Point "bus," drawn by one horse, though a two-horse rig connects the boat landing with Middle Bass Club. In the interests of educational advancement, the East Point "bus" makes semi-daily trips between the “Point,” and the schoolhouse, situated near the island's western portion, for the purpose of conveying back and forth the children and youth.

If a lover of nature, unspoiled by art, you should take passage in the “bus”, providing you can catch it, for a trip to the "Point." Go as far as it will take you, then walk until you reach the ”jumping-off place.”

Having secured a seat, the driver flourishes a long gad, and his old timer is soon jogging serenely along a road, which is redeemed from the monotony of dead levels by its meanderings. Vineyards to left and right unending, the islanders who till them being about the only people met.

Owing to overproduction, and corresponding low prices, grapes are not as profitable as they once were, still the islanders manage to absorb more ready cash from a ten-acre vineyard than the average farmer can make off 160 acres of ordinary farm produce. Peach, pear, and plum orchards - seen by the way - contribute also to the islanders’ source of revenue.

Most of the inhabitants live in substantial and, in many instances, elegantly built houses. They dress well, live well, and have jolly good times together.

The island hall, a commodious frame structure, affords accommodation for public entertainments of various kinds. Though lacking a church edifice, the islanders boast a prosperous Sunday School, where piety and good morals are taught “the young and rising generation.”

Cultivated lands suddenly cease and the road - as you jog along - turns and follows an embankment, with the lake on the one side and an extensive swamp on opposite side. Garlanded each, and draped from root to top with wild grapes, wild "morning glory," "bitter sweet," and other native vines, the tree branches meet overhead, forming sylvan arcades. Beds of water lilies spread over the marsh's still surface; swamp blackbirds abound, together with water fowl that hibernate in almost impenetrable tangles of bushes, reeds, and wild rice, and, if you watch closely, glimpses may be caught of an occasional marsh hen, with her brood of chicks hopping about over half submerged logs, or wading the shallows. If provided with a camera, you will be tempted to use every plate it contains, but will secure some taking views of nature in the rough. This road forms the island's long and crooked neck, which more than once has narrowly escaped being broken by the force of waves flung against it during violent Nor’easters. Formerly, the road at some points in heavy weather was inundated by the waves. The occupants of passing vehicles were showered with surf that rushed beneath their horses’ hoofs and spouted aloft, while only pedestrians in high water boots could get by dry shod.

After much work, and large expenditure, a new road, or causeway, was built up, forming a safe and substantial thoroughfare. The old road formed in fact one of the island's staple curiosities. Just wide enough for a wagon track, it wound its tortuous way along a ridge of the roughest gravel piled up by the waves, against which the islanders were wont to scrape the enamel from their Sunday shoes. Dense thickets encroached upon the roadway, rising almost to the horses’ bits.

On one occasion during a storm of unprecedented fury, the island was cut into two parts - lake and marsh uniting in one grand expanse of yeasty, choppy sea, in the midst of which the road lost its identity, but later appeared above the surface like a second edition of the “Cincinnati Anticlinal”. Fearful of losing altogether in some tearing storm their only thoroughfare, the “Point” dwellers appealed for help to the county road commissioners.

Denizens of East Point have latterly become less dependent upon road privileges for connection with the world; howbeit, since nearly every resident is now owner of a launch, with which he makes the run to Wehrle’s, or across to the "Bay," at pleasure and with but small loss of time.

East Point is an attractive spot, and boasts a club and club house. The former is composed of prominent Sandusky people, while the fine old mansion, once the home of Mrs. John Lutes (deceased), serves as the club house.

Many of the island pioneers rest within the small, but well-kept, and beautiful cemetery.

The Post Office is situated on the main island road and Mrs. Burns holds the position of postmistress.

Like their neighbors of adjacent isles, the Middle Bass people engage to some extent in the fishing industry.

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Reproduction without written permission is forbidden for any purposes other than personal use.

Revised: 21 Jul 2008 07:49:56.

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