The History of Milan, Ohio

The Place Where It All Began...Part Four
The Abbott Land Today - 1900 to Today

Over the last 200 years, this land has seen many important dates and events - 1810 when David Abbott moved to the land, 1829 when Benjamin Abbott launched a schooner ship that forever changed the town of Milan, 1861 when Homer and Marion Page bought the land, and in 1870 when Valentine Fries moved his shipbuilding to the Page farm. All of those were historic dates and times, but what has happened to the Abbott land since that time?

Marion Edison Page died on January 31, 1900, She left the Page farm to her only daughter Belle Page Ristine, who lived on the farm until she willed it to her daughter, Marion Ristine who was married to Edward Wheeler. They had three children and willed their land to their two sons - Edward (II) and Richard. And they in turn, willed their interest in the land to their children which brings us to today. When you consider that this is the fifth generation/decendents of Homer and Marion Edison Page occupying the land, you start to understand how important this parcel is to the people who live on  this land beside the river.

Each generation has preserved the land and buildings as they exited in the 1800s. Each generation has worked to keep the farm exactly as their parents did except when Mother Nature has changed this land. During the 1900's, there were four floods in 1909, 1913, 1926 and the most damaging in on July 4, 1969 when a dam broke upriver and not only took out the downtown Milan bridge, but also washed out the old Abbott Bridge on Mason Road (shown below) which was a Zenus King Iron Bridge that was put in the late 1800's. 

And for all the care and preservation, generation after generation put into the land, the state decided to design and build a new bridge across the Huron River, that would require a new route for Mason Road. Prior to this time, Mason Road, between River Road and RT.13, turned to the south and went uphill through several turns until it crossed the old King iron bridge and the road came out near to Rose Hall. The State of Ohio road engineering department decided to straighten out the road over Huron River while building the new bridge (see drawing below). For those people driving on Mason Road who didn't care about the historic significance of the land, this new route was safer, faster and more convenient.  I can't argue with that because all of that is true.

   

Drawing of New Mason Road -vs- Old Mason Road Aerial Photos of the new road historic damage

However, to the people who live on this land, and to the people who treasured the history of Milan, this land was sacred. And while the State of Ohio did a very nice job designing a new and better route, the fact is that in doing that, they literally cut in half the oldest historic land in Milan. If they had intentionally designed a route to do the most damage to the farm, they couldn't have done it better than the new route. With this new bridge, they cut in half the David Abbott homestead on the east side of the river and the Valentine Fries Shipyard on the west side of the river (see photo below), not to mention completely abandoning one of the most famous roads in this area.

At what point do we preserve historic land and at what point do we destroy it? Time and again, progress has shown that it marches on without regard to historic preservation. But one of the things that makes Milan truly unique, is the preservation of historic buildings and land.  And in this case, a bridge that was as famous as the land. And to this day, now over 40 years since the bridge washed away,  no one has ever found the legendary Abbott bridge.

   
New Mason Road on Left - Old Mason Road on Right Old Mason Road Bridge - As It Exits Today
 

Current view of Mason Road bridge from south of the bridge looking north

I have chosen to start the History of Milan section with the historic Wheeler farm. From the Abbott's to the Wheeler's and all the generations in between, this land has been important to the Village of Milan, Milan Township and Erie County. There is so much history in this beautiful land beside the river. Every time I visit this area to take photos for this section, I'm struck with how lucky the Wheelers are to be part of this history. Not only are they related to the great Thomas Edison, but they live on the most historic piece of land in Milan Township.  If you value the history of Milan, it just doesn't get any better than that...

 

Four Generations/Decedents of Homer & Marion Page 1900-Today

Bell Page Ristine Marion Ristine Wheeler Edward & Richard Wheeler Current Wheeler Descendents
 

- Click On To View the Page -

Abbott Family - Homer Page Family - Valentine Fries - The Wheeler Farm

 

Field Burning at the Historic Wheeler Farm

 

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This Page Last Updated: 08/27/2015

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