Given the location of this particular cemetery in an area called “The Firelands”and the region’s unique and bloody history it’s no surprise that the land here feels somewhat haunted. Just a quiet walk through these grounds gives a person pause to reflect on how many War dead can recall this little corner of the world. A mixture of Irish, Scots and English names that can be found on these marble slabs, and all were not officers either. Originally meant to confine Officers of the Confederate Army this particular Prisoner of War camp set on a small Island on the south side of the Marblehead Peninsula in Sandusky Bay, eventually came to house all rank of soldiers. During the 40 months that the prison operated the prisoners that died were buried here, the cemetery contains 206 graves. But what I love best about this cemetery is the statue that was erected by the Confederate Ladies, a soldier looking over Sandusky Bay, past Bay Point and over to what is now Cedar Point he’s facing South-South-East looking towards home whether it be Virginia, the Carolina’s or another Southern State he called home. You can almost see the fatigue and loneliness of this place making him long for home.
The Island has a long and strategic history in this corner of Ohio. Originally this island was part of the home of the Erie Tribe of Indians, exterminated by the Iroquois Tribe in the 1650’s and for a while after that, part of a no-mans-land between the tribes and then later inhabited by the Wyandotte tribe who would eventually meet the same fate as the Eries, nearly exterminated but this time by expanding American Settlers. These “Firelands” have always been an unlucky place to say the least. When the Wyandotte fled this area just before the War of 1812 they left warning their local friend Marblehead Lighthouse Keeper Benajah Walcott to get out of the area as fast as he could. The Wyandotte Chief Ogontz had the sure knowledge that the tribes Tecumseh had united and the British there would soon return and more blood would be spread upon this ground. Tecumseh and his combined Indian tribes had joined up with the English Soldiers at Ft. Malden (Detroit) and would soon be sweeping down to clear the earth of any and all Americans from Detroit to perhaps the Pennsylvania line. Anyone left behind would be fair game. Now you must remember that some of these White Americans had been given the land out here in the Connecticut Western Reserve as part of War Reparations for the damages done their property in Connecticut in 1776 during the American Revolution by the British, to the areas of Marblehead, Norwalk and like named villages. They had been burned out by the British hence the name “the Firelands”. And now it was about to happen all over again, and during this struggle Johnson’s Island would be the look-out point to see what was happening on the Peninsula without entering it. But it is a beautiful and abundant stretch of land this Marblehead Peninsula and the adjoining Johnson’s Island. Now in this day and age the Peninsula has become a summer vacation spot and Johnson’s Island has become a rich mans reclusive refuge. Now a “Gated Island”, now the tiny causeway has a parking lot gate and machine you must feed two dollars to get to open. And then you are limited to visit the Cemetery only. The rest of the Island is private and a tiny ring road leads past large and small houses that face the water and the newly water filled Quarry development that truly is beyond rich but with a very creepy feel like there are Safe-houses everywhere here circling the Quarry and safe passage to Canadian waters without any problems just like in the days of Prohibition with the Rumrunners, when I’m sure this Island saw some pretty steady midnight traffic.
Johnson’s Island, and odd little piece of real estate that the rich go to die now, previously it had housed a place where Men whittled away the days with horror stories of war while held captive in a tiny swatch of land there but firstly it was known as a place where Indian Tribes took there prisoners to torture them. (See Henry Howe’s “Ohio in two Volumes” , Erie County page 572.)
What a paradise, this little rock of limestone has seen some truly scary people, and I believe , continues to do so.
Photographs and Article by Sheila Follman; thekatebook blog