A Talk With the Man Who Bought It 32 years Ago.
The Port Clinton, Ohio, News publishes an account of a call on J. De Rivera, of Put-In-Bay island, the old gentleman whose property has been put in jeopardy by the failure of a son, a sugar merchant, of New York City, he having obligated himself by signing a paper to aid his son in business. In 1854 Mr. Rivera purchased five entire islands in Lake Erie, South Bass (Put-in-Bay), Middle Bass, Ballast Island, Sugar Island and Gibraltar, containing 2,500 acres. He told the reporter how he came to make this purchase:
"I was a poor lad, born in Spain in 1813. At the age of 13 I came to America, and in time was engaged as the representative of a New York house which took me much abroad. I did well, and in time went into business for myself. Fortune was with me, and I accumulated wealth in the foreign commission trade. Withal I had a taste for agricultural pursuits on a large scale.
"In 1854 I made a tour of the southern states with the view of opening up a plantation manned with Spaniards. I found a suitable location, but was told a plantation cultivated by whites (in the days of slavery) would never do, and so desisted. I came north and heard of the beauty of the islands of Lake Erie and resolved to visit them. A Sandusky boat was engaged for the trip, and three unsuccessful attempts were made to reach the islands.
"I then went to the harbor near where now is Lakeside. A lone fisherman and his boat were chartered and the voyage was made in the night. This was 32 years ago. The old Mansion house was the only frame structure on the island, and to this I made my way. Next morning I was up with the sun, and walked about the island and down to the beach. I was delighted with its beauty. It was a case of love at first sight, and in 48 hours after I set foot on Put-in-Bay I owned the five islands at a cost of $44,000.*
"From that time on I have circulated much between New York and my island home, generally summering here. I first turned Put-in-Bay into a sheep ranch, at one time having a herd of about 2,000. Gradually I disposed of these and converted the land to a fruit farm.** As other people turned their attention this way I disposed of my interests until I have only 800 acres left. Jay Cook paid me $3,000 for Gibraltar, where his castle now stands.
"Fifteen years ago I retired from business a millionaire. The estate consisted of slate works in Vermont, a West India sugar plantation, a large property in Kentucky and other interests. Four years ago I came to Put-in-Bay to live permanently, where my family visits me in the summer. It is here I expect to pass quietly the rest of my life, and it was here the news came of my financial ruin."