Johnson’s Island originally was named Bull’s Island and was part of a tract of land owned by Epaproditus Bull, according to the Johnson’s Island Preservation Society’s website, www.johnsonsisland.org.
Bull and his family settled on the Marblehead peninsula in May 1809, but left in 1812 because of American Indian attacks. Bull died while they were gone from the island, but his family returned later and owned the island until 1852.
Leonard Johnson purchased the island, renaming it Johnson’s Island, and cleared part of the land for farming.
In fall 1861, the U.S. Army leased 40 cleared acres to establish a prisoner of war depot, the website says. Prisoners were housed there from April 1862 until September 1865. The following year, the Army auctioned off surplus equipment and materials, the buildings and the stockade walls. Most of the lumber was salvaged, and some of the smaller buildings were moved across Sandusky Bay to Marblehead when the bay was frozen.
From 1866 to 1894, the island was used primarily for agriculture – fruit trees and general crops – and the prison site was plowed under to raise crops.
A small number of private lots were sold to individuals during this period.
In 1894, the website notes the first of two pleasure resorts was established on the island in the area north and west of the Confederate Cemetery. They were both named The Johnsons Island Pleasure Resort Company.
“The first resort went out of business in the fall of 1897, primarily due to the burning of the main pavilion and a wrongful death lawsuit for $10,000,” the website says.
A second resort opened in 1904 and closed in fall 1907.
“More than likely, it closed because of competition from Cedar Point and the dust and noise from a working quarry on the island,” the website says.
An existing quarry was enlarged in 1902 as part of the Breakwater Co., and a village that included a post office and school was constructed for quarry workers and their families. Quarry operations for the most part were discontinued in 1908.
The years 1910 to 1956 were quiet times on the island. It served as a Coast Guard training center and Army training ground for the Ohio National Guard.
In 1956, plans were announced to develop the island as a vacation home site. A causeway to the mainland was approved and started in 1964. The perimeter of the island was subdivided and individual lots were sold for cottages.
The causeway and island roads were not completed until the Johnson’s Island Property Owners Association, at its own expense, stoned and paved the roads in the 1970s, the website says.
In 1989, a second developer came to Johnson’s Island to create a new subdivision in the island interior and quarry area, but most of the building sites never got beyond the planning stage.
It was during this time that David Bush was hired by a developer to investigate the quarry area of the island to comply with federal historic preservation requirements.
And what he found led to the archeological project that continues today.