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History of Sandusky. Part 3, the Hutter Century

In 1841 Sandusky, and its 512 acres, was purchased by George Christian Hutter who set up his home there along with his wife Harriet. This began the longest family residency of Sandusky, one that lasted 111 years across three generations.

George Hutter

George was the son of a German immigrant who settled in Easton, Pennsylvania. As a young man, during the War of 1812, he served briefly in the Pennsylvania militia but did not see any action. This however marked the beginning of a long military career. In 1820, he joined the US Army, in the Corps of Artillery, and was soon sent to Florida which had just seen the conclusion of the First Seminole Indian War (1817-1819).

He wrote in his diary, "Feb. 13 Received an appointment in the army of the U.S. as 2d Lieutenant to take rank from the 28th Jan, 1820."

For the next four decades Hutter served as a soldier throughout the Southeast and West; first in the Corps of Artillery, then in the 6th United States Infantry, and finally as a Paymaster. He ended his career as a Major and was often referred to by friends and family and "Major Hutter," even after his retirement.

It was at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri where Hutter met his future wife, Harriet Risque, who was a native of Bedford County. She was in St. Louis visiting her uncle, Governor William Clark. They married and settled in her home state of Virginia. They first rented a house in Lynchburg for a few years before buying Sandusky in 1842. In addition to the house, the estate included a kitchen, smokehouse, office outbuilding, privy, slave cabins, and a grist mill.

George & Harriet had six children, two died young, the remaining four were Ferdinand “Ferdy” Charles, Edward “Ned” Sixtus, James "Risque," and Adeline “Ada” Lawrence. George continued his military service, usually posted on the frontier. He served in several conflicts, the Seminole Wars, Black Hawk War, and the Mexican-American War, at conclusion of that war he was made Paymaster.

Life became much more dramatic for the Hutters in 1861 with the outbreak of the Civil War. At the time George was serving as Paymaster in Charleston, South Carolina. He regularly delivered the payroll to Fort Sumter’s Union garrison. Following the firing on Fort Sumter Major Hutter, already in his late sixties, resigned from the army and returned to Sandusky. Hutter’s three sons did join the Confederate Army and survived the war, although James “Risque” was wounded and captured twice. George’s sister, Amalia, had three sons who fought for the Union and one of his brother Sixtus's sons, William, served in the Confederate Navy and was killed at the Battle of Hampton Roads.

Hunters Raid

In 1864 the war came literally to the doorstep of Sandusky. General David Hunter was given the mission to capture Lynchburg. An avowed abolitionist Hunter was keen to make Virginia pay for her sin of slavery. For several days his army wreaked havoc and devastation in the Shenandoah Valley, Staunton, Lexington, and Liberty (present-day Bedford). On June 17 his army came marching down the Lynchburg-Salem Turnpike (present-day US-460 business) and soon met Confederate forces under Gen. John Imboden. After an afternoon of fighting in and around the ruins of the South River Meeting House, the Confederates retreated and took up positions closer to the city.

South River Meeting House

As night fell Hunter proceeded to set up camp at nearby Sandusky, about a mile from the Quakers' meeting house. Hunter found the house was owned by fellow veteran of the old US army, George Hutter. The Union officers took over the house and made it a command center by day and a barracks by night. Hutter was allowed to stay, along with Harriet and Ada, but they were not allowed to leave. Young Ada, just 17 years old, caught the eye of one officer who wrote:

"This Major Hutter 'had one only daughter, the divine'- but her name escaped us. For the inexpressible sweetness of her pure silvery voice and exquisite repose of manner, however, the lady’s image is yet a thing of vivid force in our faithful memory- her eyes shedding no tear as she saw in that hour of the gloaming, all the refined surroundings of a costly and luxurious home swept into ruin..."

For two day and nights the soldiers lived and slept throughout the house. The first night they “were in very high spirits at the supper tables….and boasted they would be in Lynchburg the next day.” Despite their confidence, Hunter’s army was defeated the next day due to Jubal Early's last minute arrival with a contingent from R. E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Union forces retreated westward into West Virginia, Sandusky, however, was left in shambles, Ada lamented this in her diary,

"The Yankees have left Sandusky in desolation. The broad fields of waving grain, the lowlands covered with rich looking clover [dell] that met the eye with joy and filled the heart with thankfulness, are destroyed. Nothing but dusty fields are seen in place, with here and there, the remains of dead horses. Mounds telling the sad tale of war."

Following the war, Hutter’s sons returned home and resumed civilian life. In July of 1879, at the age of 85, George Hutter passed away as described in the family bible, "Major Geo. Christian Hutter between the hours of 9 & 12 am Thursday July 31st 1879 in the 86 year of his age (85 years, 8 mos. & 20 days) He was at the breakfast table, as usual, that morning but complained of little appetite though said he had slept so well the night before. About 12 o’clock Mrs. H. J. Hutter went to the parlor and found him dead in the large arm rocking chair. Dr. Terrell expressed that in his opinion that he died without a pain."

For the remainder of the Hutter residency, several generations of lived together at the house, George's widow, his son, and grandchildren. His widow, Harriet, lived there until her death in 1898. His son, Risque, lived there with his family until his death in 1926. Risque was employed as surveyor for Campbell County and many deeds and drawings on file in the Campbell County Courthouse bear his signature.

Throughout the early 20th century neighborhood children cut through the Sandusky property, often picking berries and fruit to eat, and would stop to talk to Risque. One child recounted: "Colonel Hutter would very often be around and talk to us. Sometimes we would go up on the porch or into the house where we would gather around him while he would tell us about his war experiences."

Sandusky Milk Bottle

Risque died in 1923 at the age of 81, his son, Ferdinand Lee, operated a dairy at Sandusky during the mid-20th century, at least until the dairy barn was destroyed by an accidental fire. Ferdinand died in 1950; his widow, Janie, unable to keep up with the house and property, sold Sandusky in 1952 thus ending 111 years of Hutter ownership.

In the early 2000s Hutter family descendants rallied behind the preservation of Sandusky and through their donations, particularly those of Risque Hutter's grandchildren, George, Lottie, and Janie, were able to pay of the mortgage in a few short years. Since then, Hutter family members have donated troves of letters, diaries, and furniture to aid in the recreation of Sandusky as it appeared in the 19th century.

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