Stryker Area Heritage Council

Questions and Answers

     This is a special page devoted to your questions. Have you always wondered about something that has to do with the history around the Stryker, Evansport, Lockport area? Click here and send us a question, and we’ll ask our august group of history sleuths if they know the answer. They only thing we won’t go into is something dealing with genealogy since there are some great sites and organizations already dealing with that (See our “Links” page for some great genealogical websites!)

1. I recently learned from the Genealogical Society that many French people settled there. I knew that my grandparents had gone there to help her uncle with the milk route in town before 1900? I have a wonderful picture of them and visitors from France and all their neighbors on the porch of their large home. I would like to know why all the French settled there before the turn of the century? Were they on their way elsewhere, or ???

     Great question to get us started!. Reviewing census records, it appears French families began settling in the Springfield Township area in the 1840s. Other sources indicate arrival dates as early as the mid 1830s.
     The earliest French immigrants were nearly all engaged in farming, but may have also had a second skill or trade. These early settlers have many descendants in the area today, so they came to the area to stay.
     In the 1950s, local historian Bernice McElhatten wrote a couple of articles on the Stryker area's French heritage. In these articles, Ms. McElhatten stated the French immigrants came to the United States due to political and religious unrest in their native country, as well as opportunities to better themselves and to purchase land and engage in farming. She also states, "all settled in this area because of relatives and friends."

2. Would you be interested of a copy of my good picture of my French grandparents, Dad , neighbors and visitors from France at their home in Stryker, near the river and train track?

     Absolutely! We don’t have a physical museum yet, so what we are doing is featuring electronic photos here on our website in the “Virtual Museum” section. Then we add some commentary to them, if we have them, and viola! You don’t have to walk around, you can view the items from the comfort of your laptop or desktop computer.
     You can e-mail us a photo (such as a scanned .jpg or .tif electronic file) by
clicking here or send us an actual photographic print at our address located on the “Contact Us” page.
     We are very interested in copies of photographs. Please include any information as to the date and location it was taken and the identity of people in the photo.
     Someday we hope to have a museum, and the train depot would seem to be a wonderful place to do that. Now that SAHC is a 501(C)(3) tax exempt organization, it might help to increase donations and see the physical museum become a reality.

3. I would be interested in a brief history-how Stryker got it's name, etc.

     Glad you asked! The Stryker area's first permanent settlers arrived in the early 1830s and began clearing and draining the forest lands, converting them into fertile farmlands.
     The area's earliest industries were sawmills and gristmills, highly desired by the pioneers to supply sawed lumber to construct homes, barns and other structures as well as flour and cornmeal for meals. The Tiffin River or Bean Creek supplied power for a number of these mills and also provided a source of water, food and transportation before local roads were developed.
     The village of Stryker was surveyed September 19, 1853, for John H. Sargent and Epaphras L. Barber, who were employed by the Northern Indiana Railroad, and named for Rome, N. Y., attorney and railroad executive John Stryker. Mr. Stryker was an official of the Northern Indiana Railroad, which in 1854-1855 was constructed west from Toledo, Ohio, through Williams County, Ohio, and into Indiana, ultimately connecting Toledo and Chicago.
     Stryker was the first Williams County community with railroad facilities, providing rapid, inexpensive transportation of raw materials, agricultural products and finished goods, and spurring the village's early growth. Stryker's first industries included sawmills, a gristmill, tannery, harness manufacturing, boat oar factory and cheese factory.
     These industries converted agricultural products, timber and other local resources into finished goods, many of which were shipped to distant points via the railroad.
     From 1905 to 1939 Stryker was the hub of the Toledo & Indiana Railway. The T. & I.'s interurban cars were similar to trolley cars, powered by an arm or "kite" extending from the car to an overhead power line. The T. & I. paralleled the New York Central, but provided more convenient schedules, more stops and was less expensive than the steam railroad's passenger service.
     Stryker was home to the T. & I. power plant, which supplied electricity to many northwest Ohio communities, and the company's interurban car maintenance and repair shop.
     Today, agriculture and agribusiness remain important components of the local economy along with numerous small businesses and industries.

4. I just recently made a trip to Stryker where my dad lived from 1900 to approximately 1912 or 14.  A look at the school made me think that the one section with the arches could date back to the turn of the previous century? So, could that be the part which my dad attended? 1904StykerSchool

     Probably not. The southern section of the Stryker school serves as the high school and was completed in 1922. During the time period mentioned (1900-1914) two other buildings occupied the site of today's elementary school at the southwest corner of Short and Defiance streets. A brick school was constructed near this location in 1869 with an addition built in 1886. This school building was destroyed by an arsonist in 1902. It was replaced in 1904 by a large brick school (pictured) that housed both elementary and high school students until the existing high school was completed. The 1904 building continued to serve as an elementary school until it was razed in 1979 to make room for the present elementary school.

5. How did the steam trains that came through Stryker used to pick up water without stopping??

     From approximately 1890 to 1954, Lake Shore & Michigan Southern/New York Central Railroad steam locomotives were able to take on needed water using track pans located at Stryker. Track pans were located between the rails and about a half-mile long. They were made of steel plates eight inches deep and 19 inches wide, with the top of the pan one inch below the top of the rail. Markers were provided, which indicated to engine crews the exact places to drop and raise a scoop through which thousands of gallons of water slammed into the locomotive's tender while the train traveled at speeds of up to 75 miles per hour.
     The Stryker track pans were installed at the Tiffin River west of town as early as 1890. In 1910, the track pans were moved from the river to about a mile east of Stryker, where a new pumping and heating plant (to prevent freezing in the winter) was installed. Water was pumped from the Tiffin River to this station. As the New York Central Railroad switched from steam to diesel locomotives, track pans became obsolete. The Stryker track pans operated for the last time on or about February 27, 1954.

6. My grandmother attended a Lutheran Church in Stryker. Is it is still there?

     The church is still active, although the location where they worship has changed through the years.
     The First Lutheran Church of Stryker traces its origin to a French Lutheran congregation that is said to have worshipped together in the 1880s in the old United Brethren church on East Curtis Street. This congregation reportedly dissolved around 1890.
     In 1911, Rev. Alvin E. Bell, pastor of First Lutheran Church of Bryan, organized a new English Lutheran congregation in Stryker. The group arranged to meet in the Universalist church at the southeast corner of Defiance and Curtis streets on alternate Sunday afternoons. The First Lutheran congregation met in the Universalist church until this building was declared unsafe for use. By December 1920, Lutheran services were held on Sunday afternoons in the United Brethren church on East Short Street.
     On February 27, 1922 First Lutheran purchased the former Universalist church for $2,000 and spent several thousand dollars renovating and repairing the brick structure to make it suitable for their use. The renovated structure was formally dedicated on September 3, 1922. This building served the First Lutheran congregation for more than 40 years.
     At the 50th annual congregational meeting held January 14, 1962, church members unanimously approved a building program. On March 15, 1964, ground was broken for the existing First Lutheran church building on South Defiance Street, and the structure was dedicated on February 15, 1966.

Hope we’ve answered your questions, but if you have any more just let us know. Click here to send us an e-mail!

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