Buckeye Island is a small island of the U.S. state of Ohio, in Lake Erie. It is located just off of the northeast tip of South Bass Island, in Put-in-Bay Township, Ottawa County. It has a connecting rocky landmass making it an isthmus when water levels are low. When high it is separated from South Bass by only a couple feet of water. It was populated early in the 20th century, but is now abandoned.
But who once populated this small piece of paradise among the lake Erie Islands just a stone throw away from Southbass Island?
This island was once the property of a man named Henry Pletscher. For Henry this was his own private retreat. It was a place of peace and serenity where he spent his summer days tending his garden and fishing with friends and family.
The Story of Henry Pletscher
Henry was born in Cleveland in 1842 and served with the 13th Ohio Volunteer Infantry in some of the Civil War’s fiercest battles. After 3 years’ service, he returned home to marry his childhood sweetheart. Following the death of their two-year-old son from diphtheria, Henry headed West in search of his brother. Gone for nearly two years, Henry discovered upon his arrival back in Ohio that his wife, believing him dead, had married again. Heartbroken, Henry set out for the West once more. He re-enlisted, serving in the U. S. Cavalry in the Dakotas and the Arizona Territory with famed Indian fighter General George Crook.
It was Henry’s stories of high adventure fighting the Apaches that held his nieces spellbound. In a 1991 article in the Put-in-Bay Gazette, niece Elsa Watters shared her childhood memories of summer afternoons with Uncle Henry, listening to his tales as they picked raspberries, caught crayfish, and searched for seagulls’ nests.
According to his niece, Henry purchased the island in 1909. There he built a cabin, tool shed, and dock for his fishing boat and those of the many relatives he invited to Buckeye. Sharing his special place was Henry’s way of repaying family members with whom he stayed each winter.
But Henry’s days on that idyllic island came to an end on his 76th birthday. After stopping for a drink, Henry mistakenly signed papers agreeing to sell Buckeye. The following day, after realizing what he had done, Henry was nearly overcome by the loss. But he knew his little retreat was gone forever. Elsa recalled that “after that day, he seemed to shrink in stature.” It wasn’t long after that he left his beloved island for the Sandusky Soldier’s and Sailor’s Home.
On their visits to Put-in-Bay, his nieces would often stop at Sandusky to see Uncle Henry. They thought he seemed content enough, but life was never the same for Hnery. As Elsa put it, “his sparkle was gone with his island.” Henry Pletscher died there in the spring of 1922.
Without Henry, the winds and waves of Lake Erie began to take their toll on the little island. The garden, cabin, and dock soon were gone. But for Elsa Watters and her sister, their childhood memories of summer days on Buckeye Island with Uncle Henry would remain forever.