Stryker boat oar factory reported to be largest in world
Stryker’s most prominent manufacturing concern from the Civil War to the mid-1920s was the boat oar factory, a homegrown industry that became recognized worldwide.
In 1861, Frederick Von Behren purchased the northeast corner of Defiance and Mulberry streets (the present site of Strykers town hall and fire station) and established a tannery. Three years later, Von Behren sold the tannery to his son John A. Von Behren and George Shoner.
In 1865, Shoner sold his interest to John Von Behren, and Von Behren took Henry G. Shaffer as a business partner. In 1866 Von Behren & Shaffer built a sawmill next to the tannery and began manufacturing oars, spokes and other wooden products.
With good timber resources and rail transportation for finished goods available locally, their business rapidly grew.
In 1926, fire destroyed the plant. The factory was reportedly the largest oar-manufacturing firm in the world, and it was estimated that 25% to 40% of Strykers population depended on the facility for their livelihood.
The company planned to rebuild in Stryker, but ultimately moved to a vacant facility in Archbold, allowing the firm to restart its business more quickly.
This circa 1910 photograph was taken looking south on Defiance Street from north of Kettle Run.
The vintage image was provided by the Stryker Area Heritage Council