Missionary Island


Missionary Island is located about two miles south of Waterville, across from Farnsworth Metropark just south of the legendary Roche de Boeuf Rapids. At about 230 acres, it is the largest island in the Maumee River. It is also the longest - about 1.6 miles from north to south.

Also known as Indianola Island and Station Island, it indeed has a lot of history: Chief Pontiac hid out on the island during the French-Indian War and there was an Ottawa Village here during that same era. Indeed, Indian graves were found on adjacent Grave Island, which was once part of Missionary. (Click on map, above)

In later years, after the Indians left, the island was primaril used for farming, with sections devoted to summer houses. Houses had existed on the island since at least the 1860s, and by the 1930s, there were about twelve such structures located throughout the island, as well as several outbuildings. Part of the island was even platted into a 150-lot subdivision, known as Indianola Island. But only about three houses were built there.

Early maps depict and old bridge and later a ferry service that provided access to the island from the opposite shore. On the mainland, it was located where the boat ramp at Farnsworth is today. The houses appeared to be summer residences. Only a small part of the island was actually wooded, mostly along the shore.

Missionary Island continued to be farmed through the 1960s. Then in 1969, the State of Ohio began buying up the farming parcels on Missionary and adjacent islands for purposes of creaing a wildlife refuge. The farmers left soonafter, leaving their farming implements and even houses behind. Over the next 40 years, with no farming taking place, the forests slowly began to regenerate. In time, the few remaining houses and barns were either removed or succumed to the elements. Today, no houses remain, but remants of the islands farming past can be found all over, including tractors, pick-up trucks and other old implements and even an old corn shed.

I have been wanting to visit Missionary Island ever since I took the kids biking at Farnsworth Metropark several years ago. Shaun was really into island hopping too, having previously visited Ewing and Blue Grass Islands, near Maumee. But on Missionary Island, there is no access except by canoe or wading across the river. But this winter, the ice has been thick enough that it was safe to walk across.

Shaun was scared to go at first, but after he saw me stomp up and down on the ice at several places, he knew that it was safe. And we visited just in time too. The recent warm temperatures, would turn the river into a sea of floating ice in less than two days!

Checking to see if the ice is safe

The ice was thick enough, but due to the warm tempatures, water began pooling, and even flowing on top of the ice. There was no danger of falling through, but we sure got our feet wet! Luckily I brought extra socks and a towel.

Looking downriver toward Waterville. Missionary Island is on the right.

A little scared, but nothing to worry about

Landfall at last!

Remains of an old pick up truck. We would find many relics from when the Island was farmed back in the 1960s and earlier.

View of the interior, near the western shore. Roads once ran along most of the perimeter of the island, and in the interior as well, but it has been so many years since they were used, that it was difficult to tell where they once ran.

Power lines cut a swath through the southern part of the island. There were lots of thorny bushes in this vacinity, making walking tretcherous

More old farming equipment

Another old pick-up truck

Remnants of an old tractor. Probably not used since the Johnson Administration.

A steel beam. We found several of them in this section of the island. Perhaps there was some kind of steel barn or other outbuilding here.

We are now back along the western shoreline, a few hundred feet south of where we originally set foot on the island. There was supposed to be a house aroudn her, but we could not find any trace of it. Perhaps on a return trip here, when the snows have melted, we may find traces of it.

Looking upriver

The mainland. So close, yet so far away.

Feet frozen from all that water! Despite having an extra pair of wool socks, they soon got wet too, due to leaky boots. I would have loved to explore longer, but Shaun's feet were getting very cold. So I knew that it was time to head back.

Breaking for the mainland.

Safe at last!


Dillon S. P.

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