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Metroparks Meetup: The haunted history of Providence

A cavalcade of characters will help history come alive next weekend across from Grand Rapids
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 7:19 PM EDT
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PROVIDENCE, Ohio (WTVG) - The town of Providence hasn’t existed for nearly a century, yet its early days saw over 160 residents along the mighty Maumee.

“We’ve got hotels, warehouses, homes... we’ll sprinkle in a church or two, but really more taverns than anything else. This was a canal town,” explains Shannon Hughes, director of programming.

The iconic Isaac Ludwig Mill across from Grand Rapids is actually older than the Miami & Erie Canal and carries perpetual water rights to keep the nearby lock operable. This is technically the 4th mill to stand here, though as Hughes explains, Ludwig himself only built the first: “The first cholera epidemic that took place here in 1849 killed (Isaac)... and that was after the fire that decimated the first part.” The third cholera epidemic made for another morbid affair, as the mill had to “spend 6 weeks making nothing but coffins”.

Providence and Grand Rapids both had mills and fought for the canal rights, with a perfect metaphor to result. “Folklore tells us that they would sneak across and blow up our bridge,” Hughes says, “to stop the canal traffic so people would still have to use their side cut.”

The canal’s construction provides its own haunting history, with workers falling victim to illness, mosquitoes, or even dynamite: “If they passed away along the canal, they were actually buried right into the walls of the canals.”

All of this rich history deserves a spotlight -- or lantern light -- with the “Ghosts of Providence” nighttime tour taking place next weekend (Friday, Oct 22 / Saturday, Oct 23). As canal experience coordinator Jodie McFarland explains it, the event is “less ‘haunted house’ and more getting to know some of the townspeople that were here once upon a time, and maybe how they met their untimely demise.”

This year is already sold out, but for those curious, “there is a waiting list you can sign up for, in the hopes you get lucky enough to be a part of it.”

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