The Columbian House

Built in 1828, John Pray constructed a house to serve as a trading post, tavern and hostel located in Waterville, OH. It became the centerpiece of the village. The place where locals and travelers alike escaped from the harsh Summers and Winters. Constructed from black walnut beams, it quickly transformed in to a third-story structure containing a prison cell (for transit prisoners), a dressmaker's shop and doctor. Like many historic buildings, this one switched hands many times over the years, becoming a restaurant between 1943 and 1993.

Despite its grandeur, many townsfolk lobbied for its destruction, believing evil lurked within. It was this evil that lured the house's most famous guest, Henry Ford in 1927, to host his Halloween party there. Legends ooze out of its ever orifice. One tale describes a sheepherder who in the 1840s checked in to the Columbian House for the night and vanished. It wasn't until 30 years later the truth was revealed. On his deathbed, a farmer confessed to kidnapping and murdering the sheepherder. He relayed the location of the remains, solving the mystery. Some think this death began the house's long relationship with ghostly inhabitants.

Another story tells of a young woman in the 1880s who devised a plan to murder her cruel stepfather. She grabbed a pair of sewing shears, held them above her head and stabbed the one she believed to be her stepfather. Unfortunately, her stepbrother was the one who died from her rage. Her stepfather drug her into a room nearby, locking her inside. She remained there imprisoned for a period of time. Some think she still remains there seeking justice that's rightful hers.

Other stories talk of a drunk who was locked in the jailroom to sober up. He pounded on the door on a nightly basis seeking medical assistance until one day he was found dead in that locked room. Today, the door refuses to stay closed and if it does, sounds of banging can be heard. An attendee of an event held in the ballroom was murdered and left on a third-floor closet. It's reported you can hear music, clinking glasses and conversation in that ballroom. A young girl dubbed "Jenny" by the restaurant staff was believed to have died during the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic. She's often seen waling in the bar room and playing pranks on employees.

I believe the Columbian House has since closed waiting for someone new to rescue it from destruction. Until then, you can enjoy a 1/12-inch miniature built by Clayton "Bud" and Jean Ziegler and is displayed at the Hancock Historical Museum. The model is fully detailed down to dentures on a nightstand, a mouse in a trap and cobwebs in some of the rooms.


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