Civil War veteran Andrew Kline's former home at 2916 Sandusky County Road 174 in Rice Township has already been partially dismantled. The center portion of the home was built with timbers in the 1800s and additions on either side were added later. / Mark Tower/News-Messenger
RICE TOWNSHIP, OHIO -- North of Fremont, in an area of sprawling farmland and sparse residential development, it's easy to imagine life as one of Fremont's earliest pioneers.
One historic log home at 2916 Sandusky County Road 174, purchased by Civil War veteran Andrew Kline in 1852 and owned by the Kline family for half a century, stands as a testament to the determination of the region's early settlers -- though it may not for long.
The house, no longer owned by the family, likely will be torn down after local firefighters use the home for a training session Saturday.
As Don and Paula Stansberry sit in their Sandusky Township home, poring over 150-year-old photographs and newspaper clippings, their commitment to preserving their collective family history is obvious.
"I want to know my family history," Don Stansberry said. "That's all I want to do, is know."
Capt. Andrew Kline, shown in a photo taken during his military service, emigrated to the area from Europe with his family and served in the Civil and Mexican-American wars. / Submitted photo
Stansberry said his passion for ancestry began as a boy, when his grandfather took him to a nearby cemetery and pointed out a monument inscribed with the name Capt. Andrew Kline.
"He turned and said to me, 'You know you are related to about everyone in here,'" he said, recalling his grandfather's words.
It was then that Stansberry first learned Kline, a storied Fremont resident and veteran of the Civil and Mexican-American wars, was his great-great-grandfather.
Stansberry said passion for personal history fell by the wayside when he was a young man, until his grandson started asking questions about their family's history in 2009.
He started doing ancestor research at local government offices, libraries and online. While cleaning out a relative's home, Stansberry found boxes full of obituaries, news clippings, photos and other items dating to the 1800s.
Now, identifying people in the photos, reading stories about their ancestors and trying to build a complete family tree takes up much of Don's and Paula's free time.
"I have found out people that I am related to that I never knew before," Stansberry said.
Many local families with roots in the area, he said, descend from Kline or a handful of other earlier settlers. The surnames of the son-in-laws of Kline and his wife, Sarah Kreilick, include common names in the region such as Smith, Rhodenhausen, Gressman, Wolf and Zilles.
According to "Twentieth Century History of Sandusky County, Ohio, & Representative Citizens," published in 1909, Andrew Kline was 13 when he came to the Rice Township farm with parents Christian and Christina Kline. His parents originally hailed from Baden, Germany, where Kline was born in 1824. The family emigrated to America in 1837.
Kline enlisted in the 1st Ohio Volunteer Infantry at the age of 22 and fought in the Mexican-American War, during which his company was inspected by Col. George Croghan, the hero of the Battle of Fort Stephenson in Fremont during the War of 1812.
"In all probability, Captain Kline is the only survivor of all the officers who knew this old and grizzled soldier personally," the authors of the 1909 book wrote.
At 37, Kline again enlisted, this time in the 72nd Ohio Volunteer Infantry in November 1861. He was wounded in the Battle of Shiloh in southwestern Tennessee in April 1862.
Stansberry said he remembers his grandfather telling him a story about the minie ball that lodged itself in Kline's shoulder.
A December 1898 article in The Sandusky Star outlines how, at 74 years, Kline underwent surgery to remove the bullet he had been carrying in his shoulder for 36 years.
Kline resumed farming the Rice Township property in 1864 and eventually gave the 100 acres to his children in 1889, retiring to a home at 931 Rawson Ave.
Paula Stansberry said they feel lucky they have been able to find so many intimate details about her husband's family and that physical reminders of their lives, like the Rice Township house, are so close by.
"How many people can say they have walked through their second great-grandfather's house?" she said.
Don Stansberry said when he talks to people about history, he sees a night-and-day difference after he finds a historical connection to that person.
"As soon as you mention someone they know or are related to, they really start opening up to you," Stansberry said.
Sarah Kreilick and Andrew Kline, married in 1848, had 13 children, though four died young.
"This has long been one of the most highly respected families of Rice Township," the authors of the 1909 book wrote.
Stansberry said he hopes to continue sharing information with others who can trace their roots to Kline and other Fremont-area pioneers. Maybe, he said, he will find more relatives that he didn't know about.
As for the log home north of Fremont, Stansberry doesn't expect it to be around much longer.
Much of the home has been dismantled, Stansberry said, and by the end of the year there likely will be little left of the Kline home.
The current property owner declined to comment about the house's fate.
Stansberry's cousin, Wayne Stults, has tried to save the log home, asking representatives from the Sandusky County Agricultural Society if they could move it to the county fairgrounds to preserve it. Stults was told that is not an option.
"I read this book that had stories in it about Capt. Kline and thought they were so neat," Stults said. "And then to find out that I was related to him, that was amazing."
Stults said saving the home would preserve a piece of family and local history.
Whether or not the home stands to remind future residents of the area's past, efforts by Stansberry and other amateur historians will preserve at least some of the stories and artifacts from a very different time.
Email Mark Tower at firstname.lastname@example.org.
From the News Messenger