By Rich Tarrant
According to a report published by the Ohio Department of Health Division of Vital Statistics; Estimated Population of Counties, Cities and Villages in Ohio, the population of the Village of Vermilion in Erie County Ohio as of the first day in July 1961 was a whopping 3, 507 persons. It also lists an additional 1,766 souls living in the Lorain County portion of the village. While the rule is / was that “a municipality of 5000 or more people” makes it a city there is of course one catch: It is specifically means 5000 or more “registered voters”.
Apparently at the time this survey was taken and published the Village of Vermilion-on-the-Lake (pop. 1,355) had yet to be annexed by the Village of Vermilion. And though V.O.L. had become a part of the Vermilion by 1960 it took a year or so for everyone to catch up and officially recognize the municipality as a bonafide city. Thus by the time the report was printed and made available to the public the report was obsolete. But it really didn’t matter; the community of Vermilion Ohio had not changed. It was the same before, during and immediately after the annexation and the aforementioned statistics published. [Hey folks, it was a small town where everybody knew everybody and everybody knew everybody’s business.] This is, by itself, a fact that was mostly good and sometimes (depending on precisely who did what – and to whom it was done) not so good.
Thus, what appears to be an objective “bare-bones” statistical list of Ohio towns and villages and their population numbers easily becomes a launching pad for numerous subjective / biased ruminations. But perhaps that is exactly what makes historical lists, of which I have several, so interesting.
I have historical lists of various Vermilion church ministers as well as some members of their congregations; lists of street names (and changes); lists of nicknames of various personalities; lists of soldiers and sailors who lost there lives in or due to the American Civil War, WW1, WW2, Vietnam and Iraq; and lists of Vermilion Mayors and Post Masters. Statistically they are bland mile-markers of days gone by. Yet for some they are portals to understanding more about our yesteryear. And for others they’re just plain fun trivialities.
For instance the nicknames, is probably the most amusing record. Who remembers, for instance, Chub, or Waddie, or Junkie Joe, or Ruby-Redlips, or Lefty, or Smokey, or Dirty Gerty, or Gyp, or Sheeny, or Porky, or Tug, or Tiny, or Skin, or Scud, or Romie, or Ding…ad infinitum? If perchance you lived in Vermilion when it was a village you will easily be able to put faces to those names. Few were derogatory in nature. And all were, believe it or not, affectionately dubbed and widely used. Moreover, behind every name is a story: Sometimes, as has been said, good – and some not so good.
And as trivial lists go it also may interest some to know that Vermilion’s very first Postmaster (c. 1811) was none other than the fellow responsible for mapping out the “Fire-Sufferer’s Land” of which our city is part: Almon Ruggles. And it was also in his house that the very first election was held in 1818. And here’s another postmaster tidbit: From 1836 to 1971 postmasters were appointed by the President, by and with the consent of the Senate. Prior to 1971 an additional requirement was that postmasters had to live in the delivery area of their Post Office. Today they are chosen via a merit system. Vermilionite Ray Beursken was the last local person appointed to the office under the old system.
And then there are our Mayors: Our first village mayor was a fella named Joseph Clark in 1837. Our last village mayor was Charles W. Baumhart (1960 – 1961). And our first city mayor was Louis Rauh. Both Mr. Baumhart and Mr. Rauh were very interesting personalities But so are the numerous (38) other persons on the list.
And then there is the “Street Name Change” list. Of some interest on it is Thompson Street. It was changed to Edson Street to avoid a mix-up with Thompson Road in the township. And one proposed change that didn’t happen was that of Lake Street (north of Huron Street). It was to be named Pelton Street. These changes (or non-changes) are also worthy of further thought – trivial thought of course.
To be sure not much on any of these lists is news. Nor is any of it earth shattering. Most of this information is rather trivial. But given our current socio-political environment, all of it makes an absolutely wonderful pursuit.
Ref: Special Thanks to Raymond Beursken.
Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant has agreed to share many of the photos and stories he has acquired from the former Vermilion News and other local sources with the readers of the Photojournal. Rich is the youngest son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org