Erie County (*pop. 77,079) is situated in Northcentral Ohio, along the shore of Lake Erie. It is 254.5 square miles in area, and is 603 feet above sea level. It is bounded by Lorain County on the East, Huron County on the South, Sandusky and Ottawa Counties on the West, and Lake Erie on the North. The county includes Kelleys Island (*pop. 367), which is the largest U.S. island in Lake Erie. Erie County boasts 35 miles of shoreline along the Lake and Sandusky Bay.
The mean temperature is 49.0 degrees, and the average rainfall is 45.03 inches. The average low temperature is 20 degrees (February) and the average high is 86 degrees (July). The county’s location makes it an excellent agricultural area, especially suited to growing grapes, corn, tomatoes, celery, apples, peaches, strawberries, melons, lettuce, onions, wheat and soybeans.
The City of Sandusky (*pop. 25,682) is the County Seat. The city was incorporated in 1824, and its name is believed to come from the Indian phrase “Lac-san-dou-ske”, meaning “lake of cold water”. Sandusky is located 55 miles East of Toledo, 60 miles West of Cleveland, and 106 miles North of Columbus. The city is home to Cedar Point amusement park, which offers the largest number of (and most exciting) rides and roller coasters of any amusement park in the nation!
Erie County also includes the cities of Huron (*pop. 7,958) and Vermilion (*pop. 10,927). Huron was once a leading community in the construction of steamships, while Vermilion once was home to more sea captains than any other Great Lakes community. Other communities include Bay View, Berlin Heights, Castalia and Milan. The most heavily populated area, other than the City of Sandusky, is Perkins Township (*pop. 12,578), situated directly South of the city. The township is a regional shopping and attractions mecca, and is also home to some of the larger industrial concerns in Erie County.
The economic base of the county is very diversified. In addition to agriculture, tourism and retailing, the county’s economy boasts a variety of industries; including automotive parts, plastics, paints and colorants, packaging materials, food processing, mining and metal products. More people are employed in the industrial sector than in any other segment of the economy.
The county’s service sector is also quite diversified and includes government, medicine, religion and education. Erie County is home to the N.A.S.A. John H. Glenn Research Center’s Plum Brook Station, which houses space test facilities that are unique in the world. Medicine is centered at Firelands Community and Providence hospitals. The county’s religious community represents all faiths. Education is led by BGSU Firelands, the only one of the seven colleges of Bowling Green State University located off the main campus. Seven public school districts, along with their private counterparts, offer some of the finest educational programs in the state, including adult and vocational educational programs.
Culture is highly valued by Erie Countians, with various offerings made available through the Huron Playhouse, the Harlequins Theatre productions, and the Sandusky Cultural Center, several unique museums and various art galleries and shows. The county also offers a number of excellent libraries.
Erie County, Ohio traces its history to 1792, when the area known as the “Western Reserve” (the western part of what was then the State of Connecticut) was set aside for the Connecticut citizens that were burned out by the British in the Revolutionary War. 500,000 acres of land were given to these citizens, and the area became known as “The Firelands”.
The Firelands became Huron County in 1809, and in 1838 the Ohio Legislature split the land to create Huron and Erie Counties. Erie County is named in honor of the Indians that inhabited the area in those times, as well as in honor of the Great Lake it borders.
Erie County quickly became a transportation center through the creation of the Mad River & Lake Erie Railroad in 1835 and the Milan Canal in 1839. The area was also a center for ship building, fishing and ice cutting, and served as a large center for the import of lumber.
The City of Sandusky, the county seat, was platted in 1818. Among the unique aspects of the city is that it was platted in the shape of the Masonic symbol.
The name is believed to be derived from the Indian phrase, “Lac-san-dou-ske”, meaning “lake of cold water”. Prior to being called Sandusky, the area was called “Ogontz Place”, after the Chief of the Ottawa tribes. For a brief period, it was also called “Portland”. Sandusky was incorporated in 1824.
Among the more significant historical happenings, not only for Erie County, but for the United States, was Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory over the British fleet in the War of 1812. This victory took place in the waters just northwest of Sandusky Bay, and marked the only time in history that a British fleet ever surrendered. Had Perry been defeated, the area might be part of Canada today!
Although not part of Erie County, Johnson’s Island, located near the mouth of Sandusky Bay, was the site of a prisoner of war camp for Confederate Officers during the Civil War. It is believed that over 10,000 Confederate soldiers were held there during the war, and today, a cemetery on the island contains the remains of 206 Confederate soldiers.
Erie County boasts its share of famous people, too. Perhaps the most famous is Thomas Alva Edison, who was born and spent his youth in Milan, a picturesque community on Erie County’s southern boundary. His boyhood home is preserved as a museum in his honor. Knute Rockne, legendary coach of Notre Dame’s Fightin’ Irish, worked at Cedar Point while a student at Notre Dame. He and fellow teammate Gus Dorias perfected the forward pass on the beach at Cedar Point, and a plaque commemorating their accomplishment is located there. Rockne also married a local woman, Bonnie in a Sandusky church.
Although not as well-known, a Sandusky native named Jay Cooke, is believed to be the creator of “municipal bonds”, and was a major financier of the Union in the Civil War.
COMMERCE AND INDUSTRY
The county’s early beginnings as a seaport and transportation center resulted in the development of a diverse and successful economy. Although many people think of the area as a “tourist center”, which it is, it is also a significant manufacturing area. Sandusky and Erie County are home to several businesses that produce automotive parts and bearings, machine tools and industrial-grade fasteners, vinyl-coated fabrics, vinyl products, plastic colorants, commercial stoves, food processing equipment, filters, plastic containers, roof coatings and machinery, coatings and resins, boxes, chains and sprockets, baskets, meats and dairy products, and crushed stone. Erie County is also home to the Plum Brook Station of the National Aeronautic and Space Administration (NASA), which is one of their most vital and active test facilities. Plum Brook Station operates 4 “world class” test facilities including the Space Power Facility, Spacecraft Propulsion Research Facility, Hypersonic Tunnel Facility and the Cryogenic Propellant Tank Facility.
Sandusky’s reputation as “Vacationland of the Midwest” comes from being the “Home of Cedar Point”. Cedar Point was voted the best amusement park in the world for 4 years in a row by “Amusement Today”. Cedar Point is located on a scenic 364-acre Lake Erie peninsula and is home to more roller coasters (15) than any amusement park in the country, as well as 68 other rides. Cedar Point also offers a water park, beach, live stage shows, the mid-west’s only theme park ice-skating show, miniature golf, go-carts, campground, hotels, marina, and several restaurants.
Although Cedar Point is the main attraction for the millions of vacationers that come to the area every summer, it is not the only attraction. The area also offers several unique museums, boating, fishing, water skiing and parasailing, Ohio’s first “wave action” pool, two nature preserves and several parks, lake cruises, golf courses and tennis centers, and a speedway for super-modified “Winston Cup” automobile racing.
The community’s proximity to the Lake Erie Islands also attracts many visitors.
Retailing is a very important segment of the area’s economy. Erie County, according to statistics compiled by Ohio State University, ranks third among Ohio’s 88 counties at attracting shoppers. There are a number of plazas and quaint shopping areas, a large enclosed mall, and a factory outlet center.
Agriculture is also called “big business” in Erie County. More than 50 percent of the county’s land is used for farming such diverse crops as sweet corn, tomatoes, celery, apples, grapes, peaches, strawberries, melons, lettuce, onions, wheat and soybeans. There are also a number of livestock farms throughout the county that raise cattle and hogs.
Education is held in high esteem by Erie County residents. Erie County has six public school districts, a vocational school that serves the tri-county area, several parochial and private schools, a school for the developmentally and physically disabled, and the Firelands College of Bowling Green State University. Education is also supported through some of the finest and most progressive public libraries in Ohio.
Erie County borders Lake Erie in Northcentral Ohio, extending 28 miles in an East-West direction and 11 miles in a North-South direction. Sandusky is 55 miles East of Toledo, 60 miles West of Cleveland, and 106 miles North of Columbus.
* Area: 264 sq. miles
* Shoreline: 35 miles
* Wetlands: 8,560 acres
* Longitude: 82.717, Latitude: 41.45
* Elevation: 584 ft.
* Altitude: 603 ft. above sea level
* Mean Temperature: 49 degrees
* Average Rainfall: 45.03″
* Population: (per 1990 census)
* Erie County: 76,779
* Sandusky: 29,764
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT ERIE COUNTY
Famous sons, daughters & personalities with local ties:
* Jim Campbell – Former General Manager of Detroit Tigers was a native of Huron.
* Jay Cooke – Financier for the Union during the Civil War and creator of municipal bonds.
* Corey Croom – Former NFL running back with the New England Patriots.
* Tom Darden – Former NFL defensive back with the Cleveland Browns.
* Thomas A. Edison – America’s most prolific inventor was born in Milan. Edison invented the phonograph, the incandescent light bulb, and many other devices.
* Luther Henson – Played in two Super Bowls as a defensive lineman with the Baltimore Colts and the Cincinnati Bengals.
* David T. Link – Dean of the University of Notre Dame Law School.
* Bill Mallory – Former head football coach at Indiana University.
* Scott May – College All-American, Olympic Gold Medalist, and former professional basketball player is an alumnus of Sandusky High School.
* Jackie Mayer- Miss America, 1963.
* Thomas Moyer - Former Chief Justice of the Ohio Supreme Court.
* Orlando Pace – 1996 College Football Lineman of the Year as a player at The Ohio State University and currently a NFL player.
* Bo Rather – Former NFL receiver with the Chicago Bears and Miami Dolphins.
* Knute Rockne – The legendary Notre Dame football player & coach worked at Cedar Point and developed the “forward pass” on the beach there with teammate Gus Dorias. Also married wife, Bonnie, at Sts. Peter and Paul Church in Sandusky.
* Leonard J. Thom – John F. Kennedy’s executive officer aboard PT 109.
* Erie County is part of the region known as “The Firelands”, because the State of Connecticut gave these lands to her citizens who were burned out by the British Army during the Revolutionary War.
* Sandusky is Sister City to Leamington, Ontario, Canada.
* American Demographics magazine has ranked Sandusky as “One of the top ten best small cities in America”.
* U.S. News & World Report has anked Sandusky among the top ten best places in American in which to retire.
* Erie County was named one of the top five favorite family vacation destinations in the United States in a Holiday Inn survey. It ranked above such places as San Diego, Los Angeles, New York, Boston, Chicago and New Orleans!
* Sandusky was recently rated the 6th best small town in America.
* The City of Sandusky was platted in the shape of the Masonic emblem.
* Blackboard chalk was invented in Sandusky in 1835.
* Corrugated paperboard (cardboard) was invented in Sandusky.
* More than fifty percent of the county’s land is used for farming.
* Sandusky has the largest collection of limestone buildings in Ohio.
* Kelleys Island is the largest American Island in Lake Erie, and is the only island in the U.S. to be designated as a National Historic District.
* Sandusky’s Cedar Point Amusement Park holds the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most roller coasters of any amusement park, and also boasts more rides overall than any other amusement park.
* Cedar Point has been awarded “The Best Amusement Park in the World” by Amusement Today (a publication dedicated to amusement & theme parks).
* Ohio’s largest one-day event, the Woollybear Festival, is held annually in Vermilion.
* N.A.S.A.’s Plum Brook Station has among the most unique test facilities in the world.
* Ohio State University has rated Erie County one of the top three of Ohio’s eighty-eight counties at attracting shoppers.
* Ohio’s first “wave action” pool was built in Sandusky.
* Vermilion is Sister City to Paimpol, France.