The story of Vermilion Fire Department Chief “Dad” Tischer

By Rich Tarrant

I have often thought of making a list of persons that in my view were the “Most Influential Vermilionites of the 20th Century”. It’s a novel idea but, in truth, there are so many persons from which to choose the task is practically, and realistically speaking, impossible. For instance, a list might include the industrialist-inventor F.W. Wakefield, local insurance-real estate executive C.A. “Charlie” Trinter, attorney – Mayor H.R. “Squire” Williams, the banker E.L. Coen, pharmacist – businessman A.D. Baumhart, Lester Kishman, Nelson Parsons, barber-photographer Jake Abell, school superintendent C.K. DeWitt, newspaper publishers Pearl and Elizabeth “Bessie” Roscoe – and the potential list goes on ad infinitum. I have in the past researched and written about many of these persons. But among all the personalities of yesteryear there is one person who should never be forgot. His name is William Adam Tischer. Most folks about town just called him “Dad”.

“Dad” was the son of Conrad (1826-1883) and Wilhelmina (1831-1917) Tischer. Both parents had migrated from Hessen, Germany to Vermilion sometime during the first decades of the 19th century. There was an influx of persons of German descent to America during those years as a result of extreme political turmoil in their homeland. I have been told that the reason many of these families came to Ohio and then on to Vermilion was because both the climate and landscape were reminiscent of the homelands they had fled.

Conrad, by the way, later served as a private with Co. B. 125th O.V.I. during the American Civil War. The regiment was organized at Columbus, Johnson’s Island and Camp Cleveland from Dec. 7, 1861 to Jan. 8, 1864, to serve for three years. The regiment was principally engaged in guarding Confederate prisoners at Ohio’s Johnson’s Island. But back to “Dad”:

“Dad” was born December 7, 1860 in Vermilion.  He had an older sister, Catherine (b.1853), who married a local carpenter-contractor named Jacob Schade (1850-1932). Unlike his father who had worked as a farmer and sailor during this lifetime “Dad” followed in his brother-in-law’s footsteps and distinguished himself as both a local carpenter and a contractor during his lifetime. His work is contained in numerous homes and buildings about our community. The former First Congregational Church on Main Street next to the old Vermilion Town Hall, currently known as the Millet Auction House, as well as the former Vermilion Library building on Grand Street, currently the home of The Old Vermilion Jail Bed and Breakfast are two great examples of “Dad’s” professional expertise. But these things were only a part of his life’s labors.

On the 22nd day of October in 1885 “Dad” married a girl named Alice Moulton (1866-1941) of Rugby. The couple had a daughter, Floy (Parsons), and four sons, Lee, Frank, Harold and Lyle. Lee died as a child. The rest of the children (and their children) became rather well known Vermilionites during their lifetimes. Lyle’s son Earl, for instance, was a member of city council for a number of years. And like his father and grandfather he was a very good carpenter. But, again, back to “Dad”:

For fifty-four years “Dad” served as a faithful member of the Vermilion Volunteer Fire Department. For forty-nine of those years he served as Chief. During his lengthy tenure he oversaw the departments growth from “bucket brigade”, to horse drawn steam pumper, to a highly trained motorized department. Vermilion trivia buffs might take note that “Dad” Tischer was singularly responsible for bringing the department into the 20th century by actively seeking and acquiring their very first motorized fire engine.

“Dad” died on the 12th day of May in 1945. He was 84 years, 5 months and 5 days old. For the last four years of his life he had served the town as “Honorary Chief” of the VFD. For most his life he’d lived on Exchange Street just a block or so away from the firehouse. He’d fought large fires that unchecked might have decimated Linwood Park and, several times, the town’s business section. And he’d fought small ones that nobody remembers. But one thing for sure whenever the fire alarm is sounded you can bet that the very spirit of “Dad” Tischer is there and ready to go.


Ref: The Sandusky Star-Journal 04/30/1941; The Sandusky Star-Register News 05/12/1945; Vermilion History Museum Photo archives.

Vermilion resident Rich Tarrant is Curator of the Vermilion History Museum and a son and a grandson of the late proprietors of The Vermilion News (1897-1964). Readers may email him at:


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