The Henry County Historical Society was formed in 1970 to perpetuate the history of Henry County, Ohio, to learn about and preserve the artifacts of the county, and to generate interest in the past of the county. Our primary focus at this time is the completion of the restoration work on the beautiful Dr. John Bloomfield Victorian home, built circa 1879. This house is located at the corner of West Clinton and Webster streets in downtown Napoleon, across from the Napoleon Public Library. The house has been completely restored and is decorated with authentic period furnishings. Work is in progress on the carriage house and gardens. The home is open for special events, educational programs and private tours. We welcome new and old members alike to lend a hand and help us in our many programs and activities.
Gerald, Ohio at the Turn of the Century
Located in Freedom Township and situated five miles north and 1/2 mile west of the county seat lies Gerald, Ohio. It was named by Mr. Mike Donnelly for his son Gerald, born January 4, 1892. Mr. Donnelly served as a judge in Napoleon and was one of its leading citizens. Mr. Donnelly was instrumental in getting the railroad built.
Trains would come through Gerald nearly every half hour. Gerald was a flag stop for passengers. If you wanted a ride you would wait in the train station. Upon entering Gerald the engineer would give one toot. You would then have to run out and wave frantically. As soon as the engineer would see you, he would give two toots, his signal to you that he would stop.
Just as the building of the railway helped to bring industry to Gerald, the ease of transportation brought on by replacing the mud roads with concrete highways started the decline of its grocery stores, saloons, stockyards, and blacksmith shop, and their eventual disappearance. The two remaining businesses with a link to the past are the Gerald Grain Association and Harry Von Deylen’s Implement Shop. Both serve the area farmers needs of today.
There are many homes located in Gerald today, and one of them is my parental home, a place of many pleasant and happy carefree days.
A saloon was also located east of my father’s house. It was built in the early 1900’s and owned by J. H. Badenhop. It was operated over the years by Herman Bockelman, Carl, and Wm. Precht. In 1936 it was purchased by George Badenhop, and in 1939 purchased by John F. Gerken, who demolished it. Gerald also had a Telephone Co. operated by Charles Sworden, Charles Frysinger, and in the 1940’s by Alvin Miller. In later years it was operated by Wm. Kruse and Otto Behnfeldt. It has since been merged with United Telephone Co.
Demaline General Merchandise
Henry Homan, D. H. Gebers, Henry Meyer, Herman Haase, and George Gerken were a group of men instrumental in constructing several store buildings at the turn of the century. They built, leased, and then sold them to their occupants. So, in 1897 they built the Demaline General Merchandise Store in Section 26. This building, complete with living quarters in the rear, and a second floor was first owned and occupied by John W. Demaline, the subject of the above picture, courtesy of his daughter Mrs. Hugo (Gladys) Dishop. A general line of household staples was sold and gasoline was dispensed out front. This property, located just west of the railroad tracks, also included a large barn in the rear. Mr. Demaline also operated a seed store west of his grocery store. John bought wool from area farmers and sold clover seeds, etc. In winter he started a roller skating rink where many children first learned to skate. They also held dances and Schutzenfests there. This frame building was sold to William Von Deylen who tore down the frame building and put up a new modern brick building to house a farm machinery sales agency. This brick building was later sold to the Gerald Elevator when both parties needed more room. The Von Deylen Agency is now located east of the railroad tracks.
Other people who later owned the General Merchandise Store included: Harmon Meyer, Ferd Riefers, Harry Von Deylen, Melvin Mahnke, William Kruse, Otto Behnfeldt, Harlan Yant, Merlin Moll, and Dwight Penrod. In 1967 the owners removed the grocery storefront. Very little evidence is left of it ever having been a center of local grocery shopping.
The above articles were written by Marlene Patterson, and are reprinted from Henry County, Ohio, Volume Two, A Collection of Historical Sketches and Family Histories Compiled by Members and Friends of The Henry County Historical Society. Dallas, TX, Taylor Publishing Co., pp. 152-153.
Previous home page stories: