Boat rentals have been a part of the resort from its inception.
When Spencer and Pratt advertised their “Pleasure Grounds” Summer Resort for 1869, the first year for the resort, they noted that a “Pleasure Boat” will be kept also, that is in addition to the picnic grounds furnished with a spacious circular swing, ice house, bath house and grocery building.
At Cowles Creek, there were rentals of small sailboats, row boats and canoes over the years, going back as early as 1858. A natural estuary, the water backed up into the marsh of Cowles Creek whenever there was a sandbar across the mouth. There are several postcard views of the estuary and lake of several acres that would form and present a market small boat rentals.
Clarence Hoskins, who owned the Buckeye Hotel, appears to have been one of the first, if not the first, investor to offer speed boat rides from the shore. His Redwing II was ready for launch in March 1914. Postcards indicate that Hoskins got the boat as close to shore as possible and passengers had to either walk out into the water, a cross a plank from the shore to the boat. A lady could always seek the services of chivalrous gentleman to carry her to the boat. Later, a boat launch was built at the foot of New Street on Buckeye Beach.
The original Redwing is mentioned in a newspaper story of 1913. After the close of business at the resort that year. Gary Swan, and a number of his employees, made a trip across Lake Erie from Erie, Pa., to Port Rowen, for the purpose of fishing. This seems to have become an end-of-season event for the GOTL businessmen. Clarence and Charles Hoskins, who co-owned a boat, took the fishing party to Port Rowan in 1917, as well.
The Redwing was a zippy, 36-foot, flat-bottomed craft. Clarence and his brother, Charles (1892-1980), a legendary Great Lakes commercial fisherman, had joint ownership.
The Hoskins family had property at North Center, on Route 534, north of Geneva. Charles’ mother died shortly after his birth, and the children were dispersed to relatives. Charles lived in Avon, Ill., with distant cousins for a few years, but after his foster father died in 1898, his foster mother decided he had “a real bad temper and I needed a man to raise me so I was sent back to Geneva-on-the-Lake, where my dad had remarried,” Charles Hoskins wrote in an autobiography.
Charles attended school in the little brick, one-room building at Township Park. He listened to the “old timers” talk about the disappearing sturgeon, sailing and Great Lakes freighters. At the age of 17, he left home and shipped out on the freighter F.B. Squire as a porter, making $28 a month. He sailed on freighters until 1917, when he decided to go into business as a commercial fisherman.
He already had the boat, or at least half of it. He and Clarence were partners in The Redwing, an excursion boat. The Redwing launched from Buckeye Beach, which was at the end of New Street. Charles and Clarence had to pull the boat out on the beach on planks and rollers because there was no dock. Passengers walked a plank between the shore and front of the boat.
After the 1917 excursion season, Charles bought out Clarence’s share of The Redwing and lengthened the craft, installed a heavy duty Clay engine, put a deck on and built a house atop the vessel. He renamed the former excursion boat Mavret W., in honor of his future wife, Mavret Warren, and went to work making a good living from the boat.
Geneva-on-the-Lake has no harbor, but it can have a boat launching just the same,” stated a March 1918 newspaper article. “Sunday afternoon about 3 o’clock the tug “Maveret W.” slid into the water near Buckeye Beach, there being a good bunch of spectators from along the shore, and started on its maiden voyage, which was to Ashtabula Harbor. Charles Hoskins the owner and skipper will be engaged in fishing the coming season. He expects to commence immediately. Other tugs from the Harbor have been setting nets for some time.
The Maveret W. is the old Redwing built over and enlarged. Its length was increased five feet, making a total of 41 feet. It was built higher and decked over and new engine installed.
Under Charles’ very capable command, the Mavaret W. helped its owner make a good deal of money in the commercial fishing trade. He had a seven-ton lift of herring in the fall of his first year and a 6.5 ton lift of blue pike, the largest money lift to come into Erie, Pa., during the World War I years.
Charles did so well with her that he commissioned a second fishing boat be built, which he named the Maveret H (the H indicating that they were married by this time). It was 55 feet long and helped Charles gain the reputation for being one of the most productive commercial fishermen on the Great Lakes. That boat helped him set another record: In one week in the fall of 1921, he caught $3,600 worth of herring.
In 1927 the captain invested in a steel tug, the 64-foot diesel Maveret H. (II). It was built for him by the Great Lakes Engineer Shipyard at Ashtabula. The vessel was one of the fastest and most productive gill net boats on Lake Erie. Throughout the 1920s, Charles R. Hoskins was the south shore’s top producer.
Hoskins earned his living fishing from this boat until June 1942, when the U.S. Coast Guard purchased it. After the war, the City of Cleveland purchased the tug and pressed it into the fire service on the Cuyahoga River Charles also entered the service of the Coast Guard, and looked over the conversion of the Mavaret H. from a fishing tug to a fire service tug. He was in charge of the tug and its crew, which were stationed at the Carter Road fire station in Cleveland.
The old fireboat was put on the auction block in 1962. The winning bidder was John L. Reulbach, who planned to remodel the boat, take it to Florida and use it for fishing there and in the Bahamas.
Hyler Shatto operates Allen Court, which was built by his late father-in-law. He has kind words for his parents, who, even though they did not stay together, found success as individuals. Homer Shatto, in his latter years, sold real estate and returned to Colebrook. A diabetic, he worked on inventions and patents until his death.
One pervasive legend of The Buckeye is that the third story of the extant building, during the 1920s, was used as a speakeasy during Prohibition (1920-1933) and that the hooch was stored in the wooden water tower behind the building. The Redwing, according to the legend, was used to haul illegal liquor from Canada to GOTL. But the dates don’t align; by the time Prohibition was in force, Charles Hoskins was running the Redwing as a fishing boat.
Further, Hyler Shatto says that his mother never would have allowed that kind of activity in her hotel.
“She was a lady; she would not have put up with it,” Hyler says.
Coming full circle with the Hoskins
Eleven years after divorcing Homer, Sept. 19, 1963, Bertha married Capt. Charles Hoskins, her first husband’s brother. He was 71, she was 61.
It had been an emotionally difficult journey to the altar for Charles. After Mavret’s death in 1961, he became engaged to Beatrice A Higgins. A widow for 38 years, Beatrice agreed to marry Charles and even set the wedding date, Nov. 10, 1962. But she died within weeks of her planned wedding day.
The couple moved to Erie, Pa., where Charles was active in his church and continued to following the commercial fishing industry and the fate of its boats and captains.
Bertha became a widow for the second time in 1980. She died in 2000 and is buried in Mount Pleasant Cemetery, Geneva, between her son, Roy, and first husband. Charles is buried in Erie, Pa.
The fate of the wooden Redwing is unknown. But both it and its two successors served Capt. Hoskins well, earning him a place of honor among the men who farmed Lake Erie for whitefish, blue pike, perch and herring.
“Captain Hoskins was an outstanding commercial fisherman due to inherent ambition, his good judgment and ability to plan ahead, not to mention his courage and bravery to punch on in spite of gale winds, high seas, ice, fog and discouragement,” wrote George P. Wakefield in the captain’s obituary. “He was a seaman with faith in people, ideas and God.”
Sources for this story included an interview with Hyler Shatto, “A Great Lakes Fisherman” by Capt. Charles R. Hoskins with George P. Wakefield and Capt. Hoskin’s personal scrapbook, which also provided the photographs of The Redwing and Marvets.
In the 1940s speed boat rides were offered by Leonard Gaetano, a licensed pilot who ran his speedboats off two piers at Buckeye Beach, foot of New Street.
Gaetano also had a guest house on the lake. His speedboat was known as the P-Gaetano, or simply Pee Gee.
Leonard’s boat seemed to be at the center of the action. In the wee hours of May 31, 1942, Gaetano was taking a group of five Pittsburgh residents for a boat ride to Ashtabula Harbor when a rogue wave, known as a seiche, came rolling across Lake Erie. An Ashtabula man who was on the 19-foot boat, Joe Spagnola, was the first to notice the 15-foot-tall wall of water heading forthem. Gaetano quickly turned the boat around and headed back to the pier, but there was no outrunning the seiche. The wave grasped the boat in its advance and tossed it and its contents some 200 feet onto shore.
“It was as though a giant hand lifted the boat out of the water,” said one of the passengers.
Seven years later, Gaetano’s speed boat rushed to the scene of a sea plane crash in Lake Erie some two miles from GOTL’s shoreline. Gaetano was able to rescue two of the three men, who were testing the plane for their employer.