Monday, November 23rd, 2009
By Janie Southard
Sites of prehistoric people located in county
Of the 11,000 or so pre-historic sites in Ohio, several of them are reported to be in Mercer County, according to one of the first histories of Mercer County, published by Rockford Press in the 1950s.
Marilyn Zerkel, a member of the Celina History Club, gave a presentation recently on Fascinating Facts of Mercer County, based on the 1950s booklet "History of Mercer County." The booklet was compiled by the late Bronsart Gilberg, a local historian who also wrote the "Horse and Buggy Tales" column.
Quoting from the booklet, Zerkel said the county's only "mound" is in Gibson Township, section 25, about a half mile north of a Sharpsburg farm.
"You can only see that it's a mound if you know the location because it looks like a smooth, rounded knoll with a road cut through at the end," she told members of the history club, which was organized in 1892 by Lizzie Snyder McKim. (McKim rounded up eight local women for the purpose of studying U.S. history. The club is one of the Ohio Federation of Women's Clubs.)
The Sharpsburg mound is fairly big: 18-20 feet high and several hundred feet in diameter, Zerkel said.
The 1950s book contains a hand-drawn map showing four enclosures of possibly the Hopewell culture of Indians along the St. Marys River between Rockford and Mendon, as well as two enclosures southwest of Celina and two north of Fort Recovery. These enclosures, if any trace still remains, are rectangular, circular or crescent shaped.
The enclosures are not classified as burial mounds, according to the Rockford Press book, although they often contained remains of the dead.
A self-described newcomer to the county, Zerkel said she suspected her audience would be a lot more familiar with the next fascinating fact of Mercer County: ice harvesting from Grand Lake.
"When the winter ice reached a thickness of 10 to 12 inches, men worked 24 hours a day to cut and store it ... In really cold winters the ice would get to be 20 to 24 inches thick so it was much too large for home use," she quoted from the book.
Several women in the audience recalled their fathers buying ice from Hemmerts in Celina.
"The ice was packed with straw and stored in an ice house ... And the ice (blocks) would last until the end of summer," history club member Margaret George said.
Other enterprises that enjoyed only a short spurt included shipping Grand Lake carp to the slums of big cities like New York, according to the early history booklet. However, the cost of the operation became too great. Yet another doomed undertaking was to find and raise the hundreds of oak, hickory and walnut logs in the lake and sell them, but that turned out to be very difficult and the project was abandoned.
There were two passenger boats traveling Grand Lake in the 1890s and early 1900s. One was for the city of Celina and the other was the Bo-Peep. That operation ceased near the mid-mark of the last century, Zerkel said.
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