A Little Erieau History Lesson.....

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A Little Erieau History Lesson.....

Post by LetSrok » Sat May 14, 2011 7:05 pm

Excerpt taken from an anonymous comment left on erieaunews.blogspot.com:

During the mid-1800's, Sherman Malcolm of Blenheim got a brilliant idea to name the sandbar on which you are now sitting. He figured on combining "Erie" with "eau" part of Rondeau and the name Erieau was enthusiastically welcomed by the settlers in the area. Things began to change in 1844 when f75,000 (175,000 1844 dollars) was spent constructing piers and a lighthouse. In December of the same year Rondeau was officially declared a port of entry and its first customs officer, T. Crowyn, was appointed.

The first cottage was constructed in 1887 by Homer Turner of Chatham and that move was followed by other Chatham families shortly after. 'Me very first train steamed across the marsh into Erieau in 1895 on a rail line constructed with great difficulty by the Erie and Huron rail company. Regular excursions in the warmer months brought visitors aplenty to enjoy the modest facilities of the period. During the 1890's, a regular passenger service was also established between Cleveland and Erieau, bringing a steady flow of American visitors ... a trend that happily continues (their money is worth more than you know, but don't say anything - they think they're getting a bargain).

Around 1898, the Pere Marquette Company took over the Erie and Huron rail line into Erieau using it extensively as a major coal distribution port. Some of the more pessimistic locals predicted doom for the resort aspect of the village as a result of this economic shift. Their fears were unfounded however, as the area of leisure activity shifted slightly north leaving the area around the west pier to the fisherman and the mountains of coal. In fact, the coal business brought new concrete piers and a breakwater, thereby increasing the value of the harbour.

In 1902, the Erie Navigational Coal Company was formed and its first project involved thirteen acres of land being paved in concrete - no Disneyland, granted, but it was quite an undertaking for the time. The first steam-powered coal hoist was installed in 1908.

The Burke drainage system project was initiated five years later in 1913. This project ambitiously involved the draining of 1600 acres of marsh and swamp between Erieau and Erie Beach (a neighboring village a few miles west). The resulting dike from this project provided the first road into Erieau as well as large tracts of rich "muck" land which yielded amazingly large crops on the rich black soil. After several setbacks due to washouts and flooding, the road was made heavy enough to displace the underlying peat and was finally hard-surfaced in 1938.

Erieau was officially a village by this time, having been incorporated in 1918 with J. G. Kerr as its first Reeve. Prosperous times were ahead, and in March of 1940, Dexter and Herbert Goodison purchased the W. F. Kolbe fish packing plant which had been in operation since 1917. In December 1943, the Goodison brothers announced the formation of Erieau Drydock and Shipbuilding. A marine railway and worksheds were constructed which were not even completed when"the firm was commissioned to build its first fishing tug.

The design of the Goodison boats and their careful attention to quality soon made these boats the most popular commercial fishing vessels anywhere on the Great Lakes. Peak production for the shipyard occurred in 1946 when nine new tugs were launched. Probably the most famous and largest vessel ever built here is the "PELEE ISLANDER", a 137 foot, 334 ton passenger ferry boat. Although new ships are no longer being launched from the Erieau shipyard, the fishing fleet remains; and these Goodison designed tugs are still an important part of Erieau's economy.

The year was 1974, and Erieau was about witness another remarkable change. Longtime resident, Hartley Vidler, leased the entire property bounded by the eastern edge of Erieau's business section from the bay to the lake and on east to the pier, from the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway Company; this included all the buildings associated with the Goodison's old shipyards. Hartley immediately began construction and improvement of the harbour channel, converting it into a small Marina that could initially accommodate 100 boats. The response of boaters from Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and local boaters was so great that Hartley entered into a purchase agreement with the County of Kent, whereby the county purchased the land section now known as Kenterieau Beach, and Hartley now owned the remainder of land. Encouraged by the sudden tourism, Hartley continued to develop this land into a fully operational marina.

In 1980, the Barnier family, Doug and Dianne, leased the old shipyard buildings and adjacent property from Hartley Vidler, and began a fledgling business selling and servicing boats - we know it today as Barney's Boats Inc. From the beginning, their two sons, David and Dan, were involved in the family business, and in 1985 the Barnier family purchased the old shipyard property from Hartley. Two years later, the Barnier family bought the entire Marina from Hartley, and have continued Hartley's effort towards improving and expanding the Marina. The Erieau Marina now has docking facilities (complete with water and electric hook-ups) for 300 boats and plays host to some 3500 transient boaters every year. This is no small feat when one considers the economic impact on the community of Erieau from the growing tourism attracted by the Erieau Marina.

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