Saturday, October 10, 2015

Remaining Over Night in Perrysburg Ohio

George Wyman rode into Perrysburg, OH, in the early evening of Thursday, June 25, 1903.  It was the end of a long day's ride of 126 miles that started in Ligonier, IN.  Since it was after 7 p.m. he sought to store his motorcycle for the night before seeking a meal and lodging.

He took it to the Perrysburg Post Office, believed to be at 203 Lousiana Avenue, in the General Store run by Post Master Fred Yeager.  Today, the local eatery The Rose and Thistle occupies the spot where the circa 1903 Post Office stood.  The building that housed the 1903 Post Office was destroyed in a fire a couple years after Wyman's visit and was replaced by the building that stands there today.

There were two hotels in Perrysburg in 1903.  The Exchange Hotel, located on Front Street, catered to high priced clientele and the Leaf Hotel, a more reasonably priced "Travelers" hotel, which was across the street from the Post Office.  George likely chose to walk across the street to the local cafe and stay at the Leaf Hotel.

Getting the details of this Wyman waypoint took months of communications and several field visits. The efforts to flesh out more of the details began with George's account of his arrival in Perrysburg....

"I arrived at Perrysburg, Ohio, at 7 p.m. with 126 miles to my credit for the day. The price of gasoline continued to decrease as I got East. In the morning of that day at Ligonier I had paid 10 cents for half a gallon; at Butler I got the same quantity for 8 cents, and at Swanton the price was 7 cents. 

The table board did not improve, however. For me, with my vigorous Western appetite. the bounteous supply of plain food served by the little hotels in the Rocky Mountain country was much more satisfactory than anything I got East. The meals out in Nevada and Wyoming were much better than anything I got in Illinois, Indiana or Ohio, at the same price. 

Everywhere I stopped during this part of my trip a crowd gathered about me and my motorcycle, although neither the machine nor my self had any sign on telling our mission. Whenever I told someone in a crowd I had come from San Francisco there was at first open incredulity. The word was passed along, and they winked to one another, while staring impudently at me. At this stage of my journey I had with me, however, a copy of the June issue of The Motorcycle Magazine, with the story of my start from the coast and a picture. This convinced the doubters, and immediately my bicycle became the subject of unbounded curiosity, while I was the target of Gatling-gun fire of questions that it was impossible to answer satisfactorily. The consequence was I became more particular when and where I took the trouble to convince people of my feat. 

About this time I began to feel the effects of my five days' rest in Chicago. That length of time led to my growing tender. and I was more saddle-sore at Perrysburg that night than at anytime before. I felt then as if I would have to finish with a hot water bag on the saddle."
Source:  Along the Shores of the Great Lakes and down the Hudson to New York, "The Motorcycle Magazine", October, 1903

This description was typical of his daily routine.  Ride all day, stop multiple times to make repairs, eat, sleep and repeat.  The details of the Perrysburg overnight stay had to be pieced together from many sources.

George's published account provided the date, time and some of the circumstances of his visit.  But, we had to go to one of his other reports while on the road to narrow down and identify the likely places he visited while in town.

On page 423 of "Bicycle World and Motorcycle Review", at the top of column two is a report George wrote while on the road and sent into the Goodman Company, publisher of both "Bicycle World" and "The Motorcycle Magazine."  In that published account George states:

"The first thing after breakfast I made a line for the post-office of Perrysburg, got the motor cycle out and was off to finish Ohio"

This indicates that when he arrive in Perrysburg the night before he stored his motorcycle at the post office, likely in the area open for citizens to check their mail boxes.  These two published pieces of information would help us pin down actual locations in Perrysburg.  But for that we had to do enlist the aid of local researchers.

We contacted Judith Justus, a local historian, who helped locate information about the hotels in Perrysburg circa 1903. For the location of the circa 1903 Post Office, she directed us to Richard Baronowski, archivist at the Way Library on Louisiana Avenue.  

During a field visit to Perrysburg in September, our Project Manager, Tim Masterson, met with Richard Baronowski at the Way Library.   The goal was to identify the exact location of the circa 1903 Post Office.  Richard pulled a book from the local history shelf that contained information about the Post Masters of Perrysburg during the turn of the century.  Fred Yeager was the Post Master and also local merchant.  His General Store at what is now 203 Louisiana Avenue doubled as the Perrysburg Post Office in 1903.  There were several eateries along Louisiana Avenue at the time so it's anybodies guess where George might have dined that night.

We have reached out to the proprietor of The Rose & Thistle to invite them to join the Project as a hosting location.  We are also working with city officials and the local Historic Perrysburg to introduce the Wyman story to the citizens of Perrysburg.  It is an ongoing process.  

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