History Hunt

 

March 30, 2023



My original plan when I left Pennsylvania to travel was to follow Route 6 from there to California. After I bought my camper, I headed to AAA for a “trip tick” of the proposed route with accompanying paper maps and travel books. I knew I would take side trips along the way but I could always return to Route 6. I spent a month at my cousin’s estate in Maryland to get my “sea legs” for camping before heading out.

I had been several weeks on the road and had several side trips when I crossed the state line from Pennsylvania into Ohio. I came to a “T” in the road with Route 6 turning to the left. However, the sign at the “T” read “Conneaut, Ohio, 7 miles” to the right. I remember my mother saying they had lived in Conneaut, Ohio, many years ago. Not needing to be anywhere at any specific time, I said to myself, “Self, shall we go to Conneaut?” Self is always up for an adventure so to the right we went.

I drove into Conneaut, a town with the Conneaut River on the eastern side and Lake Erie on the north. My first problem was to find a campsite. Pulling into a VFW parking lot that looked as though they were having an event, I asked the first couple I saw if they knew where a camp ground was. Sure enough, there was one outside town on the road I had just driven in on. (Pays to pay attention!)

The next morning I called my 90+ year old aunt to see what she could remember about their house in Conneaut and to jog my memory from stories my mother had told me. The house was octagon shaped and had a secret compartment used to hide runaway slaves as part of the underground railroad. The children were forbidden to play in that area for fear of injury.

How many octagon houses could there possible be in Conneaut? More than one, but only one fit the rest of the description. I received directions to the most likely spot and headed out.

When I got to the house, it fit all the criteria except there had been an attached garage built onto one of the sides. There was a sign in front of it saying it belonged to the historical society. Calls to the phone number on the sign went unanswered. I found the address and, sure enough, it was closed. However, on the other side of the railroad tracks was a train museum. Across the tracks I went.

After stating the fact I was interested in seeing the octagon house, I was told they could probably help me get in touch with someone from the historical society. While they searched, I took the self-guided tour of their thoroughly interesting railroad museum. Although it took about an hour, they were able to find a gentleman who would give me a private tour of the house.

The house is two stories high with a cupola at the top. The cupola is also octagonal with a widow’s walk around it. From the east windows of the cupola you can see the Conneaut River and from the north windows Lake Erie is visible. On the first floor is a large hole with a trap door that was probably used to hide escaped slaves.

Just recently, I had my daughter check and from the census records my grandparents had indeed resided at the address of the octagonal house I visited.

It can be fun to follow-up on some of the stories told to you about your family. Now is a good time to take a day and do some historical exploring.

You can see external pictures of the octagonal house on the internet if you are interested.

 

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