Norwalk Reflector: The oldest building in the village of Wakeman
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The oldest building in the village of Wakeman

By Henry Timman • Apr 19, 2019 at 12:00 PM

This week’s topic is moot, really, as it concerns a building no longer standing. But it will answer for some folks, perhaps, a question which has hung over the village of Wakeman for many years.

The accompanying photo is taken from the 1896 book Picturesque Huron or Huron County published in 1896 by the Laning Printing Company of Norwalk. What Mr. Laning did was to send agents around the county and find people who’d agree to purchase a book if a photo of their house was in it. A few shots of schools, churches and commercial scenes were included. It always has been an invaluable research tool for me.

This photo’s caption calls it the oldest in Wakeman, which led some people to believe that meant Wakeman Township. Instead, it actually denotes the oldest in the village of Wakeman. All of this is way after the fact anyway, as this house was torn down about 2010 and replaced with a new home at 24 Railroad St. Next door to the west is a one-story building which was used as a blacksmith shop for many years. From 1910 to 1930 this was the shop of Fred Lowe, one of the last Wakeman blacksmiths. I remember seeing the deserted shop in the early 1950s with the dusty tools and rusty horseshoes still hanging from the rafters. Before Mr. Lowe came to Wakeman man named Amos Rippon operated this shop. Tax records indicate a new building was added to the property in 1897; perhaps this was the shop.

You see, one of the daughters of Fred and Catherine Lowe was married to my uncle and I spent a little time in and around this property in my early days. However, my memory doesn’t go back to 1843 when this house was first built. Actually, the village of Wakeman didn’t even exist in 1843.

This house was the home of James and Amarilla White Wilson and was built originally a quarter mile north and west of it’s present location, when Ogan Road ran east to the bank of the Vermilion River, instead of stopping as it does now at West River Road. After the advent of the iron horse, the house was moved to face Railroad Street in the village and to face the railroad whose track ran between Main and Railroad streets.

James and Amarilla Wilson, the builder, came to Wakeman Township about 1825. He was a farmer and also enjoyed the profession of miller, so he could work in a gristmill as an extra job. A few years after settling in Ohio, Mr. Wilson realized the risk of keeping a barrel of whiskey in the house and becoming addicted to it. He signed a temperance pledge and became a foremost worker in the Congregational Church. For years he was known as “Deacon Wilson” and he and Mrs. Wilson were a common sight walking to and from church on Sunday morning and to prayer meeting during the week. The Wilsons passed away in Wakeman and their graves can be seen in the Wakeman Cemetery.

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REMEMBER: My “Just Like Old Times” books are on sale at New Directions Design, 20 W. Main St., in downtown Norwalk. These contain my earlier columns fully indexed and in permanent book form.

Henry Timman, an authority on Firelands history, resides in rural Norwalk.

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