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Middle Bass Island Ohio History

August 13, 2022


100th Anniversary Booklet 1977

The Middle Bass Club

In 1872 a group of twenty Toledo businessmen joined together to find a location to establish a common meeting grounds on the Bass Islands. After examining several locations, the westernmost point of Middle Bass was recommended and in 1874 the first clubhouse was built at a cost of $2,340. It was initially known as the “Toledo & Lake Erie Fishing & Boating Association” but subsequently the name was changed to “The Middle Bass Club.”By 1882 the popularity of the Club had already exceeded its finest expectations and as a result, a new plan was adopted, building a much larger and commodious club, which ultimately resulted in bowling alleys, tennis courts, a boat house, docks, and even a substantial seawall surrounding the entire point.Numerous members purchased additional lots from Count Rehberg, resulting in the building of fantastic summer cottages, which are still well-preserved and reflect the architecture of that era. At one time there were thirty cottages but in one-year alone fire razed eight of them.At one time the property also included a handsome chapel, donated in a large part by Mrs. Gamble of the Procter & Gamble Company of Cincinnati. This church was torn down in 1949.In the early days, the popularity of the Club and its leisurely way of life for the wealthy was famed throughout the northeastern United States. At one time President Benjamin Harrison spent a month at one of the cottages and in 1892, during that period, wrote his acceptance speech.Grover Cleveland also made the club his “summer White House” and Rutherford B. Hayes also allegedly visited the area.Since 1884, the Clubhouse grounds have passed through many “cycles” ranging from great popularity during World War I and subsequently World War II because of their proximity to the mainland but at one time the entire grounds was covered with brush, vines and “weed trees”. Commencing in 1945, immediately after World War II, the current “Middle Bass Property Owners Association” leased the property from the “Middle Bass Club” and recently the association acquired the entire five-acre “grove” which is the westernmost tip of Middle Bass.High water has decimated the 75-year-old wall but the property stands high enough to resist any prolonged erosion. It may well be the most scenic portion of the islands.As the Centennial year began, the president of the Middle Bass Association was Paul Aquilla.

Lonz Winery - George Lonz

George Lonz - winemaker extraordinaryTHE Lonz name on Middle Bass Island has long been associated with fine wines, winery, and vineyard tours, and “heady” good times.George’s death in 1968 brought to an end the Lonz dynasty on the island.The Lonz Winery began with Peter Lonz in 1884, after a career working for the Wehrle Winery, located on the present Lonz site. The transition from Wehrle to Lonz is rather vague, however, apparently, Peter Lonz pedaled his wine from door to door in the Sandusky, Port Clinton area until he worked up a substantial volume of business, making his wine and marketing the juice from Middle Bass Island.George, born in 1887, very early in life learned to work in the vineyards. He did manage to attend a business school in Sandusky and then graduated from Ohio Northern University with a degree in business.At an early age, George spent long hours practicing on his violin and learned to play under the tutelage of Mr. James D. Johnston, of Cleveland, Ohio, who also played almost weekly at the Wehrle Hall — a part of the Middle Bass Club located on the island’s westernmost point. Three to four hours of practice per day gave George a lifelong fascination with the violin and he often played in later years for his guests at the Lonz “mansion”.He met his wife, Fanny, in Lancaster, Ohio, and often jokingly referred to the fact that they had “met in a penitentiary!” Fanny handled the Detroit interest during the period of prohibition which found George specializing in the sale of grape juice with instructions on how to make vinegar of grape juice or, “how not to let your grape juice turn to vinegar,” which, in effect, were the same instructions as how to make wine.During Prohibition, George sold wine (grape juice) from Maine to St. Louis. With each sale of juice went his little booklet of “Directions” on how to make strictly legal wine vinegar, or wine, as the customer might choose.Middle Bass’s master vintner also took delight in his literary accomplishments and annually edited either a little pamphlet or a letter sent to an extensive mailing list extolling the virtues of his “wine-filled grapes” and the health factors contained in every bottle of wine.A letter of August 27, 1931 voiced George’s feelings for his island business;“These fields are planted for mine friends; these trailing vines surge with the Juice of Friendship. They are scented with the flavor of hospitality; they are bound with the cords of kindliness. Verily, I salute mine friends with the Vintage of 1931.How pleasantly the year passeth when beneath thine hearth the goode cask doth simmer and bubble and by thine fireside doth match its strength in the vintage of mellow, pleasing juices.”In 1929, George and his wife visited the vineyards of France with a couple of their own bottles tucked under their arms and were awarded a grand prize by the French government. This prize often appeared on George’s label] and in his advertising and conversation.In the later years, the Lonz Winery on college Campuses became synonymous as the “in place” on summer holidays. Its lawns were overrun with students seeking the relaxation of the grape in the hot summer sun. When the islanders pointed out to George what was going on in the bushes and spilling over onto the lawns, his comment was quite typical, “I guess I'll have to plant more bushes!”Since his death in 1968, the wine presses have been stilled, the vineyards have become overrun and currently, the Lonz operation has been brought to a standstill. At the beginning of this Centennial Year, the islanders have high hopes that like Phoenix rising from the ashes, somehow the new owners will bring forth a new “winery” which will never quite be the same, yet is very much a part of the island tradition and the island attraction. The Lonz home, however, continues to live, thru the Lonz Foundation. This Foundation sponsors a program at The Ohio State University in enology (wine making) and viniculture, which includes an internship in local vineyards and wineries.

The Porch - Grocery Store

In June of 1967, Bud and Gloria Wolf were asked to come to Middle Bass by Gloria’s father, Chester Beer, to look at a cottage-motel operation that he was contemplating purchasing. The end result was “Beers Cottages” and “The Porch — Grocery Store” where they cater to fishermen and their limited grocery requirements.The Wolf’s five children, Arleen (the only one born on the island), Caroline, Burton, Rita, and Arthur, are all part of this pleasant and “working” family whose pride is making life easy for those who come to Middle Bass primarily to fish.“The Porch” now serves as a gathering point to discover where fish are biting, predictions of the weather, and just a great place to meet and swap stories!Bud doesn’t care to fish but he talks to so many fishermen that he is considered an expert.The fiberglass fish in front of his store was donated by Father-in-Law Beers on the occasion of their first anniversary on the island. The 18’ fish, fabricated in Sparta, Wisconsin, according to the Wolfs, is the most photographed fish in the United States!

The Middle Bass one-room school

With only nine students during the course of the 1976-77 school year, Mrs. Laura Keller flies in daily to give her charges the basic “3-R” education.Mrs. Keller is listed as being Principal of grades one through eight with Art Wolf serving as Clerk-Treasurer.A graduate of Bowling Green, the teacher each day flies from Port Clinton to her assignment and the schoolhas a standing guideline that if the teacher is not delivered to the school by 10:00 a.m. school is called off for the day. Because of the 1977 winter weather, she missed more days this year than ever before — a total of nine — when she could not fly across, but only was “stuck” on the island, unable to return, once.This year’s students are:3rd grade — John Schneider Jill Verhoff Jeff Verhoff Arlene Wolf4th grade — Art Wolf5th grade — Bobby Schneider 6th grade — Rita Wolf7th grade — Charles Schneider 8th grade — Burton WolfMiddle Bass daily sends one student, Carolyn Wolf, to the Put-in-Bay High School; however, all graduates of Middle Bass Elementary School have the option of picking any school in Ohio and the island picks up theirtuition. Over the years many students have exercised this option.

Through rain and hail and sleet and snow...

The first United States Post Office on Middle Bass Port Clinton, was a difficult, sometimes dangerous task. was established on October 25, 1866, with Andrew Throughout the entire history of the Middle Bass Post Wehrle, one of the original settlers, as Postmaster. For Office there have been only eight Postmasters:For over a hundred years now the residents of the island have possessed this vital communications link to theoutside. Before the first mail delivery by airplane in 1931, Andrew Wehrle 1866-1896 the task of getting mail to and from Middle Bass was Herman Wehrle 1896-1903 more complicated, especially in winter. A frozen lake Mollie O’Hagen 1903-1909 meant the mail had to be transported across the ice from Herbert Taylor 1909-1910 Harry Burns 1910-1919 Anna Heise 1919-1941 Hazel Heise 1941-1963 Thelma Schneider 1963The day’s mail arrives in the morning via Island Airlines and a variety of letters, magazines, packages, and newspapers maintain the island’s link to the mainland. Residents call at the Post Office, at the rear of Thelma Schneider’s home, between 8 and 2 on weekdays, and 8 and 12 on Saturday. The mail, something most of us take for granted today, issomething of exceedingly vital importance in an isolated community like Middle Bass.

Barbershop Quartets

Annual barbershop quartets from all over northeastern Ohio and Pennsylvania congregate to sip the island wines and make the hall ring with “the old songs"
"The Old songs from 4 members of SPEBSQSA". : Tom Neil, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, directs. the barbershoppers  at their annual Middle Bass gathering in August.

Roesch Family

Charles and Carolyn Roesch arrived on the island 90 years ago. Charles being appointed engineer for Wehrle, Work & Co. Children John, Fran and Mary were born here. John married Vera Lutes, mentioned above. Frank married Anna Schroeder of Cleveland, and had one son, Carl. Carl married Arlene Walters, a Middle Bass native, and they had two sons, James and Robert Almost any week-end, winter and summer, will find one or more members of this third and fourth generation on the island.

Editor credit: Henry M Barr and Phil Hines
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