Lorain Block Bricks


The Lorain Brick Co. and Kilns were located across the Black River from Bungart Island.  This company made road paving bricks.  The Brick Company was incorporated Feb. 13, 1904 (but it is shown on the 1896 Lorain County map, below).

Bricks made at this factory, marked “Lorain Block,” are relatively rare finds.  We located a few of these bricks at the Shupe Homestead in a long-forgotten pile of bricks.  This was a very unique and interesting find, and we thank our brick advisor and specialist Debbie Slavik for her information and insight into this brick company and other brick information she has furnished the Museum.


Black River Restoration Reviewed

As a member of the Black River Area of Concern, Col. Nahorn attended this organization’s quarterly meeting in July 2016 in order to aid in moving the business of the group forward and also discuss and view some of the latest stream bank restoration projects in the lower Black River.  These restoration projects include re-vegetating stream banks with native plants and trees; re-creating rocky ledges known as “fish shelves” for fish breeding and shelter; and floodplain restoration.  After the potluck meal and subsequent business meeting, a boat tour was taken of the lower Black River from the Landing upriver to just beyond Bungart Island.  Restoration sites were pointed out, and a few may be noted below:

Stream bank restoration with native plantings and rock stabilization walls.

Stream bank restoration with native plantings and rock stabilization walls (after finding a seep).

Great blue heron rookery area, adjacent to floodplain restoration sites. Nearly 300 nests have been logged here, along this bend in the Canesadooharie.

Great blue heron rookery area, adjacent to floodplain restoration sites. Nearly 300 nests have been logged here, along this bend in the Canesadooharie.

Stream bank restoration site.

Stream bank restoration site.

Finally, we welcome the LoCo Yak group and thank them for their deeper participation in the furtherance of this important action group.  Much has been accomplished over the years, and we appreciate the LoCo Yaks for their dedication and choice to step forward at this crucial moment.

Chip Rathwell First Americans Paleo Display Named


Kind, generous, funny, and dedicated are words that come to mind when I remember my friend, Chip Rathwell.

A Vietnam Veteran, Chip served his country honorably and selflessly.  A knowledgeable teacher, historian, friend, and family man, Chip was dedicated to all of his endeavors and those around him.  He passed from this world on May 29, 2016.

Following is a brief history compiled by Lorain County historian and genealogist Jeff Sigsworth: “Cousin Irving Merle “Chip” Rathwell, Jr. (1947-2016) of Amherst, U.S. Navy veteran, longtime teacher (particularly spending years in the field of welding), Amherst Historical Society Trustee, and my colleague at Monday night Amherst Historical Research Group meetings. Condolences to and prayers for his wife of 43 years, Cathy J. (Zakutny) Rathwell, his children, and extended family.  Chip was a son of Irving M. Sr. & Doris L. (Moore) Rathwell; grandson of Edwin E. & Eva Fannie (Edwards) Rathwell; great-grandson of Thomas & Eliza Jane (McRoberts) Rathwell; and great-great-grandson of James & Prudence (Clark) McRoberts of Springfield & Hubbardton, Vt., and Pittsfield Twp., Lorain Co., Ohio.”

In 2013 Chip donated significant artifacts to the New Indian Ridge Museum, which, of note, allowed for our Paleo display to grow and encompass two Paleo-era artifacts that were found right here in Lorain County.  These pieces, found on his family farm by his father, and the information they provide for local archaeology are beyond monetary value.  That is why the Paleo display in the Museum will now be known as the “Chip Rathwell First Americans Paleo Display,” in honor of our good friend, Chip Rathwell and his steadfast support in the documentation and preservation of local, early history.  He will be missed but not forgotten.  Particularly, each of us ought to remember his self-less service to our country.


Photos courtesy Charlie Marty. 

Watershed Open House

Once again this March, the Friends of Vermilion River Watershed will host a free, open house event at the Historic Vermilion-on-the-Lake Clubhouse.  It is the tenth annual such event.

Please mark your calendars for Saturday, March 19 any time from 10am-4pm to stop out and browse nature- and watershed awareness-oriented exhibits.  One of the major attractions is a wildlife exhibit created by the Back to the Wild wildlife rehabilitation center of Castalia.  They will bring live wildlife for exhibit and educational purposes.  Usually, some type of wildlife that has been rehabilitated will be released during the afternoon.

Col. Nahorn will also again be attending and exhibiting, representing the Beaver Creek Watershed Protection Group (an affiliate group of the New Indian Ridge Museum, focusing on watershed awareness and low-impact development within the Watershed) and also West River Paddle Sports, where he serves as a naturalist and tour guide.

Please plan to attend.  This will be a fun and informative event, as always.

See flyer, below: 

Please click the image to enlarge

Kitchen Island of Salvaged Historic Material – a New Item Built of Old

Three unrelated historic salvage projects contributed to the construction of a feature piece of furniture for the Historic Shupe House.  We recently finished and installed a new kitchen island and are very pleased with the outcome.


The legs were cut from a single hand-hewn structural beam collected from a house on Beaver Court here in Amherst.  Thanks to a generous donation by Ed Fridenstine, we were able to acquire a few nicely preserved hand-hewn beams.  Renovations by Mr. Fridenstine led to the opportunity for us to salvage some of these structural items.  Interestingly, several 19th century shoes were also found in this Beaver Court residence, as a Mr. Uthe once operated a cobbler shop in a portion of this house.  The bead board that comprises the sides was salvaged from Amherst’s first town hall and union school building. Originally a two-story wood frame house built c. 1830, the building was donated for use as a town hall and lecture room by early Amherst settler and prominent citizen, Justice of the Peace Josiah Harris.  The structure, after having multiple uses over the years, had been moved once and suffered two large fires during its history, was demolished in 2015 to make room for the new Brew Kettle restaurant next to the Amherst Theatre.  We were able to retain the original green/blue paint color and unique painted numbers on the boards, once we reassembled them on the cabinet.  The two drawers were salvaged from the historic Wadsworth House in Wellington.  D. L. Wadsworth built the house c. 1866, and after having been moved with intentions to save it, the house was demolished in 2012.  We repainted the drawer fronts white and stripped most of the paint off of the unique metal drawer pulls, leaving some green paint as accents.  The white drawers and hardware accent the other features of the island quite nicely.  The only “new” and purchased item incorporated into the island is the beautiful green, white, and rust-colored granite top we ordered.

From planning stages to the finished item, the project took just a few months.   We are very pleased to have been able to not only salvage these important items but to create a new piece of history with materials of such historic significance.  Old history is now creating a brand new item.  What a neat historically-oriented addition to the Homestead!  February 2016.

Haff Piano Desk Acquired

The Museum continuously acquires unique items of various sizes, from a tiny, ancient fossil to a giant, colossal grist stone.  The subject of this article is no different in its uniqueness.


On January 17, 2016, we officially acquired a very unique furniture item – a desk that had been made from the case of an antique piano.  This square grand piano converted into a desk had been used in the real estate office of Raymond Haff from 1975-1990 as Mr. Haff’s main desk at his 101 Park Ave., downtown Amherst office.  It had been acquired by Mr. Haff at an auction in South Amherst.  After the real estate office closed in 1990 due to Mr. Haff’s retirement, the desk found a new home at the Haff residence, also in Amherst.


The Museum was given the opportunity to acquire this extremely different item just a few weeks ago.  We soon made arrangements as we could not pass up this piece of art and history.  The acquisition became a reality, thanks to the generous financial donation to secure the item by Ms. Cindy Kohart, a friend of the Museum.  The famous Haff desk, made out of an antique piano case, was moved to the New Indian Ridge Museum, January 17th.  We thank Mark Haff (son of Mr. Raymond Haff), and his mother, Mrs. Ruth Haff (wife of the late Mr. Raymond Haff) for offering the opportunity to acquire this interesting piece of art and history, to the Museum.  A special thank you to Museum Board Member Bill Nahorn for helping to move the item and to engineer the move.  Finally, thank you to local photographer Jason Shaffer, also a friend of the Museum, for his crucial aid in moving the desk into the Museum, down a set of very steep steps.  Wow, what a great team!

When viewing photos of the desk, we direct you to the closed view, below, showing inlaid wooden lettering and stars on the top.  Further research into the history of the desk, its manufacturer, and the significance of these inlays is forthcoming.  The resulting research will be posted in an updated version of this article.


Below, in the process of moving the desk


Photo courtesy Mark Haff.

Smythe Door Preserved

Atty. J. J. Smythe was a figure in the Amherst community for many years.  John Joseph Smythe, of 170 Woodhill Dr. (1889-1966) lived in Amherst most of his life.  An O.S.U. Law School graduate (1912), he started a law practice in Amherst in 1913.  He served as Mayor of Amherst from 1913-16 and 1922-24.  He was believed to be the youngest mayor in Ohio when he began service.  He was Village solicitor for over 20 years and was appointed judge of Lorain County Common Please in 1956.  He was a senior member of the firm Smythe & Muzilla.  In 1939 he was president of the Lorain County Bar Association and chairman of its history committee.  He also served as chairman of the Law Libraries Committee of the State Association and Lorain County Law Library Association.  He was a former Vice President and attorney for the U. S. Automatic Corp. and a former director of A. Nabakowski Co. in Amherst.  Further, he was a manager of the Amherst Water Company for 27 years and served as its secretary.  He was part of the Amherst Hospital Association and many other civic groups.  In 1948 he was president of the newly formed Amherst Planning Commission.

Atty. Smythe advertisement from the 1930s ("Amherst News-Times")

Atty. Smythe advertisement from the 1930s (“Amherst News-Times”)

His law office was located above the bank building (now Cedar Pub) at Church and Park in downtown Amherst, in room 205.  A special thank you to Pam Merthe Kreger and Rick Kreger of Cedar Pub for donating this important door and its frame, including the original transom.  Thanks to Bill Nahorn for making the necessary modifications.  Note mail slot and hand-painted lettering.  This door is not only a local historical item, having been connected to Mr. Smythe, but it is a fine relic of that era’s architectural history for display in the Museum.  November 2015.

The Smythe door, and its frame, now at the New Indian Ridge Museum.

The Smythe door, and its frame, now at the New Indian Ridge Museum

Vermilion River Watershed Document Compiled

Col. Nahorn has worked over the past several weeks researching and compiling a watershed profile and historical overview document on the Vermilion River Watershed.  This 35-page research document is the culmination of the New Indian Ridge Museum’s continuing “expansion into Vermilion’s history,” as highlighted in our last newsletter, posted on this website.

Final preparations are going forward to possibly post the document on this website, but for now we are restricting it as a research document in the Museum’s research library.  The Watershed profile and historical overview is divided into main sections, which include: Introduction; Geology, Geography, and Technical Overview; Native Vegetation; Prehistoric Overview; Early Historic History Overview of Towns; Current Environmental Issues and Recommendations; Conclusion.  The intent of the document is not to provide a completely in-depth history and study of the entire Watershed, but rather it is to present an overview of the Vermilion’s Watershed, its general history, geology, and environment.  The document employs photos of views from the Watershed and copies of Vermilion-related postcards from the Museum’s collection.  November 2015.

Col. Nahorn kayaking down the Vermilion.

Col. Nahorn kayaking down the Vermilion.

Expansion into Vermilion History


The work of the New Indian Ridge Museum might rightly be referred to as a project of “regional historical research and preservation.”  Col. Nahorn’s broad interest in local history certainly has led him beyond the bounds of Amherst.  More generally, the Museum focuses its preservation and documentation efforts on this general area of North Central Ohio.  Specifically, some of our most recent historical research and environmental studies have taken place along the scenic Vermilion River.  Our efforts have broadened slightly to this area, and we are very proud to call Vermilion a “second home town;” second to Amherst.

A postcard we recently acquired for the Museum's extensive and growing postcard collection. Postcards are ideal for the Museum, as they depict views of the past. In this particular case, however, this view of the second shale cliff has changed little over the years since this card was published.

A postcard we recently acquired for the Museum’s extensive and growing postcard collection. Postcards are ideal for the Museum, as they depict views of the past. In this particular case, however, this view of the second shale cliff along the River has changed little over the years since this card was published.

Vermilion is a unique and interesting town where both history and local watershed awareness mesh well together, just as in Amherst (Beaver Creek).  As a naturalist and guide at the West River Paddle Sports in town, Col. Nahorn has found it necessary to “brush up” on the aspects of local history and environmental issues of the Vermilion River Watershed.  From the often-mis-reported history behind Swift’s Hollow to Septarian nodules (turtle rocks) being readily found in the River, there are numerous little-known and interesting bits of trivia and factoids one can find of interest throughout the Watershed.

Septarian nodules/concretions ('turtle rocks') - natural formations - that can be found along the Vermilion River.

Septarian nodules/concretions (‘turtle rocks’) – natural formations – that can be found along the Vermilion River.

Learning, documenting, and preserving Vermilion-area history fits well with our Museum goals which guide preservation efforts at the Museum.  Since our first meeting early in 2015, working with Museum Board Member Vito Cammarata, we’ve learned much about the town, and we recently acquired 19th century maps of Vermilion; early 20th century postcards; books on Vermilion history for our research library; a very unique metal matchbook holder; and even an antique silver “souvenir” spoon from Vermilion.  We look forward to expanding into Vermilion’s history!

Very unique metal matchbook holder from Vermilion.

Very unique metal matchbook holder from Vermilion.

Silver Vermilion, Ohio souvenir spoon we recently acquired.  The word ‘October’ is on the reverse.

The Firelands Country Store

A shopper peers into a large door at The Firelands Country Store.

A shopper peers into a large door at The Firelands Country Store.

Motorists have driven by the store, seeing merchandise rest in the same spot, frozen in time, for over 30 years, wondering what had happened and if they might ever get a chance to return to the store.

A scene passing by motorists have wondered about for over 30 years.

A scene passing by motorists have wondered about for over 30 years.

That rare opportunity was made available for local residents when the store was reopened for liquidation of its contents, a few days ago.  Col. Nahorn soon learned of the store’s “reopening,” and he quickly made his way there to get a glimpse of a store he had only driven by – a store that had been closed longer than he has been alive.

Col. Nahorn and store owner Jack Smith, stand at the entrance to the Store just before reopening earlier this week.

Col. Nahorn and store owner Jack Smith, stand at the entrance to the Store just before reopening earlier this week.

The Firelands Country Store opened in 1958 and became well-known to offer a variety of “country” items – everything from furniture, glassware, and ceramics to cheese, wines, and spices.  A familiar story we’ve heard mentions how kids had to be accompanied by an adult or were not allowed to enter.  A recent article noted that Ohio’s largest selection of plastic flowers was offered at this store.

Family disagreements led to the longterm closure of the store in 1981.  Jack Smith, a friend of the Museum, earlier this year gained complete ownership of the property and decided on holding this giant sale.  Jack, a son of Joseph and Maxine Smith who had operated the store, recently bought out his brother Alan in order to reopen earlier this week.

An interior view of the Store.

An interior view of the Store.

Upon entering the expansive single-story building on August 18, 2015, one could easily get lost, making his way along the handmade wooden shelves, covered with merchandise marked with handwritten price tags.  Baskets hang from the ceiling, as do numerous differing light fixtures.  A slightly musty smell fills the air, and light pours into the building through giant glass paneled garage doors that line several sides of the rambling building.  Finally, in the rear of the building, we noticed the remaining, large selection of plastic flowers – most still priced under $1.  If you remove an item from a shelf, a lighter space is often left behind where that item once sat.

After taking in the experience of entering, we found a few items to purchase.  Some of these items are for the Museum, but mostly, we were interested in the act of simply entering the building and “poking around” a store that had been closed since 1981.  Of particular note, we were able to acquire a plaster sign, made in 1968 with the name of the store across the front.  Originally an item he did not want to sell, Mr. Smith decided to part with it so that it may now be a part of a new display at the Museum.

The Firelands Country store plaster sign, made in 1968, now a part of a new display at the Museum.

The Firelands Country store plaster sign, made in 1968, now a part of a new display at the Museum.

Doors finally open again!

Doors finally open again!

(Pub. August 20, 2015)

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