Put-in-Bay History dates back to the war of 1812 where Put-in-Bay became an important operations headquarters for Oliver Hazard Perry. One of 20 islands located in the western shallow end of Lake Erie, Put-in-Bay harbor served as the launching point from which Perry set sail to defeat the British fleet commanded by Robert H. Barclay in the war of 1812, This historic battle of Lake Erie and the American victory gave the United States Navy and our country the often quoted slogan “We have met the enemy and they are ours.”
The day after Labor Day is good to see the sights if you want to miss the crowds. This is what a buddy and I figured, and sure enough, it worked out for us.
We were on a 3-day tour of the Marblehead area of Lake Erie last year. We took most of one day to go to South Bass Island- also known as Put-in-Bay after the town taking up much of the real estate there. Wonder where the name ‘Put-in-Bay’ came from? To an early explorer and chart-maker, the bay resembled a pudding bag, and the name was corrupted from that description.
The first inhabitants of the Lake Erie islands were of course Native Americans, who left the remains of their tools. The French explorer Louis Jolliet was credited as being the first European to see the lake. American settlers briefly occupied South Bass Island before the British kicked them off at the outset of the War of 1812. A pivotal battle of that war came to define this location.
We took the Miller Ferry on the 18-minute ride from Catawba Island to South Bass Island.
Small isles dotted the area, as boats sailed the lake.
Suddenly, we were at the island dock.
Our 2.5 by 5 mile Put-in-Bay, Ohio island is the crown jewel amongst the Bass Islands and is a true island in that you will need to take the Put-in-Bay Ferry to reach us. Once on the island, you will enjoy a wide variety of dining options, from casual to upscale, shopping, and of course, adventure. Our Lake Erie Island walking trails and nature preserves are perfect for nature walks and sightseeing.
Our state park is an excellent place for a cookout or a swim in Lake Erie. Relax along the pebble beach or enjoy a picnic lunch with food from one of our fine restaurants. Stop at the Put-in-Bay airport for a ride around the island in a vintage Waco open cockpit airplane or hover high in the sky with a helicopter tour.
Lake Erie fishing for perch and walleye is some of the best in the United States, and anglers flock to Put-in-Bay from all over the Midwest to catch daily limits of these highly prized delicious fish. In the winter months, the ice fisherman and their shanties can be seen for miles on the ice harvesting their catch. Boaters enjoy the modern and ample Put-in-Bay docks with daily and overnight rates. Fuel service and mooring balls are also available.
Cars and bicycles share the road with golf carts, a popular option for visitors and residents alike. We rented one and off we went.
Houses new and old lined the streets.
Wineries, vineyards, parks and other attractions dot the island. The first permanent settler moved here in 1843, and the island developed in the 1850s as a resort (the vineyards helped in this regard). Local government started here in 1861.
The heart of Put-In-Bay is the commercial center of the island- pleasantly crowd-free the day after Labor Day! According to the 2010 Census, 138 permanent residents live on the island, though quite a few more work seasonally here.
No matter where you go, you are reminded that you are on an island…
…and the natural world was close by. Who let that squirrel on the island anyway?
Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory is right off-shore. I can’t think of a better way to earn summer college credits in a beautiful natural setting.
Dominating the island skyline is a tall, massive stone tower. This was our ultimate destination.
The 4th-tallest national monument is also the world’s most massive Doric pillar. Rising 352 feet into the sky, it
was constructed in Put-in-Bay, Ohio by a multi-state commission from 1912 to 1915 “to inculcate the lessons of international peace by arbitration and disarmament.” The memorial was designed after an international competition from which the winning design by Joseph H. Freelander and A.D. Seymour was chosen.
Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial was established to honor those who fought in the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812, and to celebrate the long-lasting peace among Britain, Canada and the U.S. The Memorial column, rising over Lake Erie, is situated five miles from the longest border in the world.
The tower is quite imposing.
Nearby was the Visitor’s Center, and what a treat it was for those who love history.
The Battle of Lake Erie was the pivotal battle in the War of 1812.
Put-in-Bay History books document that the harbor was used by Oliver Hazard Perry as a base of operations. Using the Bass Islands, Sandusky Bay was a short sail for conferences with Harrison or to spy upon the British forces at Fort Malden (Ontario Canada), in the Detroit River. When the ships and their men were not engaged in battle, there was plenty to keep them busy. Constant training at the gunnery range and maintaining the ships in battle-ready condition occupied most of the soldiers time. On August 12th in the year 1813, Oliver Hazard Perry sailed the American fleet from Erie, Pennsylvania arriving in the bay of Sandusky Ohio on August 16th. While in Sandusky, Perry met with and strategized with American Generals Lewis Cass and Harrison thus planning the next actions to be taken in the campaign to defeat the British. Commanded by Captain Robert H. Barclay, the British fleet was located off the western horizon by a lookout in the brig Lawrence, Perry’s flagship.
Little did the British command know or to expect a hard charge by Perry and the American fleet hidden behind the Bass Islands. Friday, September 10th of 1813, Put-in-Bay History was made The Lake Erie Battle began at 11:45 in the morning eight miles northwest of Put-in-Bay and shortly after 3:00 pm that same day near West Sister Island the British were defeated and their control of Lake Erie came to a bloody end. The entire British fleet of 6 ships was captured. Oliver Hazard Perry scribed on the back of an old letter a note to William Henry Harrison the following:
U.S. Brig Niagara, Off Western Sister Island head of Lake Erie, Sept. 10, 1813, 4 p.m.
Dear General —
We have met the enemy and they are ours; two ships, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop.
Yours with great respect and esteem,
Oliver Hazard Perry’s magnificent marble sculpture was created by Columbus Ohio native William Walcutt in 1860. It was moved from Cleveland to Perrysburg and then to its current location in 2002; the indoors setting will keep it from being excessively weathered.
Oliver Hazard Perry was 28 years old when he defeated the British at the Battle of Lake Erie. The British were then unequaled in naval power, and Perry literally had to build the small fleet he commanded at modern-day Erie, Pennsylvania. Overcoming many hardships, including “Lake Fever” (malaria) and the lack of skilled seamen to man his ships, Perry is remembered for the famous flag he flew at the battle:
This flag was a tribute to the dying command of his colleague Captain James Lawrence of the USS Chesapeake. Perry’s old friend James Hambleton had suggested it, and the women of Erie had sewn the flag for Perry to fly in battle.
Ohio figured prominently in The War of 1812. I’ll have more posts about this conflict in the future. The Battle of Lake Erie was a pivotal fight in the war.
A model of Perry’s flagship the USS Lawrence was on display. It nearly sank and was abandoned by Perry, who continued the fight on the brig Niagara. He took the battle flag with him. This event was commemorated in many paintings.
A diorama of the battle is a centerpiece display. It was a near-run thing, and the determination of all the men involved in the fight was unquestioned. A lot of the war news was bad before this battle, which turned the tide in America’s favor.
Relics of the battle are on exhibit.
The gift shop was well-stocked, particularly with history books. I purchased Buckeye Battlefields for my collection.
Perry had a class of warships named for him- the Oliver Hazard Perry guided missile frigate. Perry was immortalized as the victor of the Battle of Lake Erie and was awarded a gold medal by Congress; he went on to fight in the Barbary wars, and died of yellow fever in Venezuela where he was fighting piracy in 1819.
Put-In-Bay is a great place to visit, in-season or out-of-season!