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Wednesday July 3, 1985


Pix #1 - Iler's general store as it appeared in this photo, from the collection of Mrs. Raymond Rouser, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William Omwake. Those in the photo are (left) Mrs. Harmon (Briegel) Burgbacher, and Harmon, the husband, who ran the store. Their children in photo, reading left to right, Rose, Mable, Perry and Victor. The store served Iler for more than 50 years, Berlin Burgbacher, a son, being the last one to own and operate it.

Pix #2 - Iler's first one-room school, located on what is now County Road 592, as it appeared back then. Today it is a residence. When the school was abandoned, the students were bused to the Amsden Centralized School.

Pix #3 - Photo taken in about 1914 of students who attended Iler's one- room school. Top row, left to right: Bess Riffle, Freda Campbell, Irene Keaton-teacher, Mable Burgbacher, Edna Youngston. Second row: Olin Peeler, Berlin Burgbacher, Dewitt Drawn, Carl Omwake, Clyde Peeler, Iris Omwake, Albert Peeler, Helen Omwake.

Pix #4 - The railroad yards in Iler, many years ago...the station on the right. Edgar Leonard, shown, was the agent when photo was taken. Note the double track and the steam locomotive.

Authors Note: Today's article is the first in a series about the village of Iler, another of those settlements that came into existance in the last century. At that time, immigrants from Europe were settling in America, pushing westward to claim land grants and to start a new life amid a great wilderness.

Iler, like Amsden, Kansas, Burgoon and many other villages that sprang up in the 1800's in Seneca County, offered a point of union for the people who were claiming America for their new homeland.

Land was either free or cheap, and it offered an opportunity for a new life to raise families and live off the land. They needed to build communites for safety, exchange of skills, establish schools, churches, and stores for a variety of needs.


Many readers, especially those who have not always lived in Fostoria, may never have heard of Iler, or where it is located. Here's how to find it: pick up Ohio 12 on Sandusky Street and travel east, turning on County Road 592, which angles eastward continue to County Road 5 and turn to the left... and there you will find what remains of Iler.

In 1820, land was offered in Jackson Township, but there were few buyers. In 1827 Henry Huffman settled there, followed by the Rinebolts and Felix Beck. Jacob Iler, a native of Pennsylvania came in 1832, and it was after him that the village was named. Other early settlers in the area were U.N. Keller, the fenberger, George Yochum, E. Breneman and M. Young.

It was not until 1885 that the village was officially established with a U.S. Post Office in the general store that was started by Messers Bigham and Mike Walters, the latter being named postmaster.

In later years, Harmon Burgbacher took over the store. It continued as a family-owned store for many years. Berlin, a son, being the last one to operate it.


In addition to Mr. and Mrs. Harmon Burgbacher there were four children... Mabel, Rose, Perry and Berlin. Mabel became Mrs. Harry Zuelzke and Rose became Mrs. Leonard Grim. Mrs. Zuelzke, 108 Findlay St. is the only one living.

For a couple of years the Prante family owned the store, prior to Berlin Burgbacher taking it over.

The supplies for the store were brought by train from Toledo. Everything from groceries to shoes was stocked to supply the needs of the residents.

Eggs and butter were brought by farmers in the surrounding area. The women folk would work the butter with the big roller and then pack it in wooden tubs. The butter and eggs were shipped to Cleveland by train.

The general store's potbelly stove set the atmosphere for the men's social loafing place.

The owners of the store always lived in quarters on the second floor.


Next to houses and a general store, a church was always an important part of every village that sprang up in early America. At the corner of County Road 592 and County Road 5, there once was a Free-Methodist church that served the folk who embraced Methodism in Iler area. It was built in 1870 with Levi Wells as pastor. The families of Fosters, Kellers and Iler were members of it.

The German settlers in the area attended the Lutheran church, located on County Road 592, about a mile west of Iler. Directly across from the Lutheran church was its cemetery. The church was demolished in 1962, but the cemetery remains being well kept, and used by heirs of early settlers.

The Methodist church was also torn down. The advent of the automobile abolished the need for country churches, since the owners of those "wonderful vehicles" gave them a year-round way to get to the churches in town.


The Nickel Plate Railroad which passed through that area was probably the major reason for the establishment of the village at that location. But, its presence could not prevent deterioration of the village as time and changes continued.

Incidentally, Charles Foster, part of the family who settled Fostoria, and after whom it was named, was instrumental in getting the Nickel Plate to pass through this area.


Outgoing mail from the village was brought to the store, where it was deposited in a leather bag and taken to the railroad station. There it was placed on a large hook and picked up by the train when it went by in the event that it did not stop.

Incoming mail reached Iler via the leather bag being either dropped off by the moving train, or turned over to the station master in the event the train stopped.

If there were any important news events from the outside world, the postman placed a note in the mail bag. It was by that method of communcation that the village learned the news of President McKinley's assassination.

Norfolk & Western (N&W) that took over the Nickel Plate on Oct. 16, 1964. It continues to run through Iler, but now without any stops, just a train whistle is all that is left for residents there. The Norfolk & Western recently became Norfolk & Southern (N&S) since acquiring The Southern.

Recently, when I was in Iler collecting data for this series, and talking with two of its oldest residents, Mr. and Mrs. Carl Omwake. I noted that the railroad bed of N&S was being replaced. Mr. Omwake told me that in the "old days" when repair work on that railroad was done, approximately 50 of the wooden ties could be replaced per day. Today with modern machinery they can replace 5,000 in that same time.

Iler's peak population and activities were in the latter part of the 1800's and during the early days of the 1900's. Then, the village had a railroad station and freight depot, also two telegraphers. Earl Wisely was the first agent for the railroad, followed by U.N. Keller and Edgar Leonard. The railroad station was a boxcar, remodeled for the purpose.

Originally, the railroad had a single track through Iler, but there was an auxilary switch track for use when east and west bound trains met there, and one had to let the other pass. The switch track wasn't necessarily long, since they didn't move long trains like today.


Mrs. Raymond (Helen Omake) Rouser, a Fostoria resident, recalls that a full boxcar of binder twine was purchased by Harmon Burgbacher when he had the village store. It was used to bale hay, tons of which was stored in a large hay building in the village, and shipped to buyers elsewhere via the railroad. The business was owned by a Tiffin company whose name is list in antiquity.

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