Jim Mollenkopf is a writer and nature photographer from Toledo, Ohio. The former social worker and newspaper reporter published his first book, Lake Erie Sojourn: an autumn tour of the parks, public places, and history of the lake erie shore in 1998. He has since written and published seven more, focusing primarily on the Toledo/northwest Ohio areas including his 2022 title, The Great Black Swamp IV.
Writing runs deep in his family history as his father, grandfather and paternal great-grandmother were reporters or editors at The (Toledo) Blade newspaper. His great-grandmother is believed to have been the first female news reporter in Toledo, back in the days when it was considered to be “men’s” work.Jim’s interests include birdwatching with his wife Denise as well as following the fluctuating fortunes of Cleveland’ s sports teams.
TheGreat Black Swamp IV: unique people and places in northwest ohio features 12 historical biographies of people who connect to the Toledo area and ten chapters on places of natural and historical interest. Over 60 color and black and white photos illustrate the book. Book Foreword follows below.
Former Toledo Mayor Brand Whitlock arrived in Brussels, Belgium in January 1914 to head the small legation post there, a low key, diplomatic assignment in a beautiful, old city that suited him just fine. Then World War One exploded later in the year and he found himself in a war-torn country where nothing would be fine for a very long time. He was now representing the neutral United States to multiple warring countries and all the duties that involved, including advocating for the Belgian people with the occupying and sometimes brutal German military.
The following year after he made multiple requests, the Germans escorted him to the Western Front, passing by destroyed Belgian villages and cemeteries with fresh graves along the way. Once there he wound through a labyrinth of trenches with bullets whizzing overhead. The sounds of gunfire reminded him of the Fourth of July back in Toledo.
The German soldiers pressed themselves against the trench walls as he passed, not speaking or making eye contact. He was taken to a forward observation turret where he peered through a slit across no-man’s-land. “And those were the English, only two hundred yards away,” he wrote. “The men whose tongue I spoke, whose thoughts I thought, whose traditions and ideals, hopes, I shared as though they mine own people. I peered a long time feeling strange, lonely, home-sick, in the trench where I did not belong …”
Brand Whitlock is one of a dozen biographies of northwest Ohio men and women in this book, people both known and unknown: The others in alphabetical order:
Mary Fields, onetime Tennessee slave who later was the politics and cigar-loving, no-nonsense, groundskeeper for the Ursuline Convent in Toledo before moving to Montana where she achieved fame as a shotgun-toting wagon driver for the U.S. Mail.
LeMaxie Glover, a sculptor and the first, African American art teacher in Toledo Public Schools who put his own artistic career on the back burner so he could teach and inspire young people.
Adam Grant, Polish immigrant who survived the horrors of Nazi concentration camps to become an accomplished Toledo artist while battling personal demons from his camp experiences along the way.
Martha Scott Householder, pioneer woman of Wood County who had compassion for the underdog and who took an axe to any barrels of whiskey that showed up in her village of Scotch Ridge.
Dresden Howard, Fulton County pioneer whose late-life writings of his youthful frontier experiences and friendship with area Indian tribes offer a fascinating look at a time gone by.
Carl Joseph, a onetime controversial Toledo labor leader and University of Toledo student who became a paratrooper and wartime pen pal with the university president and who bought and shipped books back to campus from Europe before giving his life for his country in World War II.
Father Louis Amadeus Rappe, Toledo’s first priest who battled Black Swamp conditions and heavy drinking among his early congregants and later became Cleveland’s first bishop.
Isaac Sherwood, Toledo newspaperman, judge and seven-term congressman who, as young man, rose in rank from private to general in the Civil War and emerged from his experience an avowed pacifist.
Ruth Brownlee Sherwood, Isaac’s wife, who was one of the early newspaperwomen in the country and later became involved in multiple philanthropic causes and was a poet of national renown.
Pauline Steinem, an unassuming German immigrant, educator and suffragist who became the first woman elected to office in Toledo, and possibly the state, when she won a school board seat in 1904.
Moses Fleetwood Walker, a skilled catcher and first Black, major league baseball player in the premodern era for Toledo in 1884 who battled discrimination and later became a writer and inventor.
Places visited in this volume include the birdwatching mecca of Magee Marsh Wildlife Area and Metroparks Toledo’s new Howard Marsh, an aquatic bird magnet exceeding all expectations; Mineral Springs in Green Springs, possibly the largest such spring in the world; the Lathrop House in Sylvania, its history as an Underground Railroad station and the story of both the effort that saved from it from demolition and its renovation; and the Toledo Harbor Lighthouse, its history and its ongoing restoration to its period glory with future plans to open it to visitors.
The book also takes a trip along the north shore of the Maumee River between Defiance and Maumee looking for historic sites, particularly remains of the Miami & Erie Canal; makes a stop at historic Wolfinger Cemetery in Richfield Township; takes a look at Lake Maumee, the vast glacial lake and its remnant beach ridges that preceded the Great Black Swamp; visits an unusual monument to women in wartime in Fulton County; and provides a pictorial of significant and state champion trees found in northwest Ohio.