Boeing Wonderland: The Fake Cities on America’s West Coast

Through clever visual trickery, vital West Coast warplane plants were made invisible to prying enemy aerial eyes.

By Bill Yenne

When I was a young boy in Seattle, my father told me about a fake town that had been built on top of Boeing’s Plant 2 during the war. This naturally fired my imagination. What an ingenious way, I thought, to fool the enemy bombers that might being coming over the Emerald City to wreak havoc. He told me about it with exaggerated caution to underscore the fact that it had been top secret during the war. Nobody was supposed to talk about it, although everyone in town knew about this faux neighborhood that employees called “Wonderland.” By the time people in the know were allowed to talk about Boeing Wonderland, the company was tearing it down.

Wonderland was kept out of the newspapers until the war was almost over, but it was an open secret. Just as “Loose Lips Sank Ships,” loose lips could also bring Mitsubishi G4Ms swarming over that little neighborhood on East Marginal Way South. (Read more about the audacious plots used to foil Axis powers inside WWII History magazine.) 

Indeed, the entire monumental effort made to camouflage West Coast aircraft factories was an open secret. Tens of thousands of men and women went to work beneath bogus villages every day, quietly assuming that it was a vital necessity that was serving to protect their lives. At the same time, they knew that they dare not mention it.

In retrospect, we know that during World War II, enemy bombers never clouded the skies over any American city—except Honolulu, of course. In retrospect, too, we know a lot about what might have happened, but did not, during the war. At that time, though, it was not so obvious that Japanese bombers would never appear.

People living on the West Coast were not convinced that this could not, and would not, happen. Pearl Harbor is nearly 4,000 miles from Japan. If the enemy could launch a large-scale air raid in two waves on Honolulu and environs, what was stopping them from doing the same, also without warning, against any city from San Diego to Seattle?

The War Approaches the West Coast

Within a month of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Japanese had captured Manila and Hong KongSingapore fell about a month after that. The West Coast was jittery and very afraid. In 1942, nobody went anywhere near a beach without looking long and hard toward the horizon, half expecting to see a Japanese invasion fleet.

Few persons in authority were more shaken by the dread of a Japanese invasion than General John Lesesne DeWitt, the commander of the Fourth U.S. Army and the Western Defense Command, who imagined spies and saboteurs under every bush and used his overactive imagination to justify his draconian enforcement of Executive Order 9066, which led to the internment of all Japanese American civilians—including those born in the United States—who lived in the West Coast states.

The nervous DeWitt even ordered that the 1942 Rose Bowl Game be relocated away from Pasadena for fear that the Japanese would bomb the venue. His biggest fear, though, was what a Japanese invasion might do to his career. He knew the troops under his command were entirely inadequate to meet a force such as the enemy had just used to invade and conquer the Philippines.

He was not alone in his concern. On February 23, the Japanese submarine I-17 shelled oil storage facilities about 10 miles up the coast from Santa Barbara, California. The following night, nervous gunners thought they saw an armada of Japanese bombers over Los Angeles, and the sky was illuminated with searchlights and exploding antiaircraft shells.

The people in the City of Angels had seen the newsreels of the London Blitz, and they knew that the Luftwaffe had leveled cities from Rotterdam to Coventry. Of course, they were well aware of what had happened in Hawaii in December. There was little reason not to believe that California’s Southland was getting its turn.

The government, specifically Navy Secretary Frank Knox, announced that the “Battle of Los Angeles” was a “false alarm,” and there is no evidence that it was not. However, even at the time, many people assumed that sinister government obfuscation was in motion. Today, the Battle of Los Angeles “cover-up” still rates its own small cadre of true believers whenever conspiracy theorists congregate.

Even if Los Angeles was a false alarm, Santa Barbara really happened. Then, just as those who had held their breath got up the nerve to exhale, the Japanese submarine I-25 attacked Fort Stevens in Washington state on two consecutive nights in June. Also in June, Japanese forces invaded and occupied the Aleutian islands of Kisksa and Attu, establishing a Japanese base on Alaska’s doorstep.

This excellent overview of the camouflaged Douglas factory in Santa Monica shows how detailed and realistic the false rooftop neighborhoods were. In addition to tree-lined streets and buildings of varying shapes and sizes, there were sidewalks, detached garages, and empty lots. Note the sizable, but unplanned, “potholes”—actually rips in the cammo netting, in the center. By the time this picture was taken in 1945, such potholes were no longer being repaired. The Clover Field flightline is visible in the upper left.

Meanwhile, a number of American merchant ships were being sunk off the West Coast of the United States. Attacks also came from the air. In September, Nobuo Fujita flew two bombing missions over southwestern Oregon in a submarine-launched Yokosuka E14Y floatplane.

These are the events that actually did happen. For each of these, there were a hundred widely believed rumors that are not chronicled in the history books, but which governed the perceptions of those who lived with them in the midst of mankind’s biggest war. It was a frightening moment in U.S. history.

These events, real and imagined, defined the apprehensive mood of the home front in 1942. The Axis armies seemed invulnerable abroad, and the West Coast felt too dreadfully exposed, especially to air attack.

Everyone—from the military planners at the War Department to the civilians on the street gazing nervously at the sky—knew that World War II was an air war. It was the first war in which air power played an essential role, and air power was proving itself to be a prominent and devastating weapon.

The National Defense Advisory Commission

Just as the enemy, especially the Luftwaffe, was wielding air power so effectively, military and industrial planners in the United States understood that America’s own aircraft production must be the highest of priorities.

In the spring of 1940, more than a year before Pearl Harbor, President Franklin Roosevelt had famously proclaimed that America should have 50,000 combat aircraft. Between them, the Navy and the Army Air Corps had less than a fifth that number, and most of these were trainers. To assure that the services had enough airplanes, production had to be ramped up. Aircraft factories suddenly became the most vital element in American defense procurement and in Roosevelt’s emergency mobilization of essential industries.

In May 1940, the administration created the National Defense Advisory Commission to oversee this industrial expansion, and Congress authorized funds for both the expansion of existing factories and construction of new facilities that would be government-owned and managed by a new bureaucracy known as the Defense Plant Corporation but operated by existing manufacturers.

To head this commission and to serve as commissioner of production, Roosevelt tapped William Signius “Big Bill” Knudsen. An expert on mass production and auto industry executive, Knudsen had been president of General Motors since 1937.

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In areas at Douglas in Santa Monica where the camouflage netting ended with buildings, the edges were “softened” through the addition of artificial trees mounted on brackets.

In 1940, nearly 90 percent of airframe manufacturing capacity measured in square feet of floor space was located in five states, with 65 percent along or near one of the coasts; California alone had 44 percent.

Of America’s five largest aircraft manufacturers by total aircraft weight, four—Douglas, Consolidated Vultee (with plants in San Diego and Downey), North American, and Lockheed—were located in Southern California, with their factories within five minutes flying time of the Pacific Ocean. The fifth, Boeing, was only about 100 miles inland from the Pacific in Seattle. On the East Coast, meanwhile, Grumman, Martin, and Republic were all closer to the Atlantic than Boeing was to the Pacific. Of the major American aircraft manufacturers, only Curtiss and Bell, in upstate New York, had their flagship factories more than an hour from the coast.

In the wake of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt and Knudsen realized that they had been right. America’s plane-making infrastructure was dangerously vulnerable. If the same carrier battle group that had zeroed in upon Pearl Harbor had been sitting 200 miles off the Malibu coast, Douglas, Consolidated Vultee, North American, and Lockheed would be out of business for months—or longer. They also realized that Japanese planners knew this as well.

The new Defense Plant Corporation factories were being built well inland, in states such as Illinois, Michigan, Missouri, and Texas, but in the dark days of early 1942, most of the industry was still exposed to the potential of enemy attack. Because everyone now had a graphic illustration of what could and did happen, protecting this vital manufacturing infrastructure was an even bigger priority than it had been on December 6.

Enter Major John Francis Ohmer, Jr., a man with a plan at a time when a plan was needed.

John Ohmer, Jr.’s Camouflage Scheme

Born in Dayton, Ohio, in 1891, he was the son of John Francis Ohmer, Sr., an inventor, manufacturer and founder of the Ohmer Fare Register Company. Young John earned his masters degree in engineering from Cornell University in 1913, and served with the U.S. Army’s 404th Engineer Battalion in World War I. He later returned to the family business but retained captain’s rank in the Engineer Officers Reserve Corps.

Ohmer, an amateur magician and a photography hobbyist, also began to develop an interest in both the art and the science of camouflage. In 1938, he formed the 604th Engineer Battalion as a camouflage unit within the California-based Fourth Army.

Studying the success of the Royal Air Force in camouflaging their fighter fields from the Luftwaffe during the Battle of Britain in 1940, Ohmer proposed the same to the U.S. Army Air Corps (renamed U.S. Army Air Forces after June 1941).

He even carried out some demonstrations of suggested camouflage techniques at places such as Fort Eustis, Virginia, and such air bases as Langley Field, Virginia, and Maxwell Field, Alabama. However, prewar budgets were tight, and there was no money for operational camouflage.

In March 1941, Ohmer was ordered back to active duty as a major under the command of the office of the Chief of Engineers, Operations and Training Section, in Washington, D.C. That fall he was sent to Hawaii to study defenses. He recommended an extensive camouflage plan for Wheeler Field on Oahu, about 12 miles north of Pearl Harbor. The cost of the project, around $50,000, was too much for the USAAF, and it declined. A few weeks later, on December 7, the USAAF lost most of its Wheeler-based aircraft to the same raiders that decimated Pearl Harbor.

By this time, Major Ohmer was based at the USAAF’s March Field in California’s Riverside County, east of Los Angeles. Against a backdrop of fear and revamped priorities, General DeWitt ordered Ohmer to develop a camouflage plan for the West Coast. Ohmer, who had done a lot of thinking about a project such as this, found himself with a dream assignment.

With money no longer an object, the amateur magician implemented his well-considered plan to make California’s aircraft industry vanish. He began with March Field itself, using it as a demonstration project, an operational training exercise to work out specific techniques and technical details.

Tapping Hollywood’s Talent

Ohmer’s proximity to Hollywood gave him access to an incredible pool of talent in the form of the best movie set designers and large-scale scenic painters in the world. Meanwhile, all the major studios were more than willing to provide their services for the war effort. Ohmer had his pick of the best talent at Columbia, Disney, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Paramount, Twentieth Century Fox, Universal Studios, and others.

“In the early weeks of 1942, March Field came alive with creative talent,” writes Dr. Dennis Casey of the Air Intelligence Agency (now Air Force Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Agency). “Indeed, some Army observers remarked that it looked like a Hollywood studio back lot.

A bombardier’s-eye view. At first glance, it is hard to spot which areas of this aerial photograph of the Lockheed camouflage project in Burbank are real and which are fake. The area on the right is the main factory building (with ant-like humans seen as shadows) where thousands of aircraft were built below the faux village. Lockheed built 9,423 P-38 Lightnings in Burbank.

“Depending on where you might walk, you could run into a small farm being created complete with animals, a barn, a silo and other buildings. Pastoral settings were under construction using frames of lumber and large spreads of canvas. When a pastoral setting was used to conceal an ammunition storage area, the whole thing achieved near reality when a neighboring farmer grazed his cows near the phony buildings.”

According to Casey, Ohmer and his team disguised 34 military air bases in Washington, Oregon, and California, as well as Mills Field, the future San Francisco International Airport.

Their most dramatic attention, however, was reserved for the Southern California aircraft manufacturers, including Lockheed in Burbank, North American Aviation in Inglewood, Northrop in Hawthorne, and Consolidated Vultee in Downey.

The idea was to make the aircraft factories “disappear” by cloaking them to appear as innocuous suburban neighborhoods to an observer flying at an altitude of 5,000 feet. Operational bombing altitudes were generally higher, although the attacks on Pearl Harbor had come in much lower.

Ohmer’s Villages Two-Dimensional Villages

The disguises consisted of painting what appeared to be streets and greenery on real runways, and erecting entire faux subdivisions on factory rooftops. Standard-issue camouflage netting, stretched on massive wooden scaffolding served as the basic canvas on which the Hollywood artists painted contrasting color detailing to suggest streets and other features. The netting was foliage green to begin with, but areas were sprayed in subtly different shades to give the scene a more realistic look. Some “lawns” in the subdivisions were painted brown to suggest that they had not been watered.

Dozens of fake houses, as well as schools and public buildings, were made of canvas. Hundreds of artificial shrubs and other ground details were created, using burlap over chicken wire matrices.

The movie industry illusionists developed a method of crafting trees using tar and feathers. Chicken wire was lightly coated with tar, and then dipped in chicken feathers. The finished product, which had a soft, leafy appearance, could be formed into a rigid structure of any shape and sprayed multiple shades of green.

Chimneys and vents in the roofs of the factory buildings were allowed to poke through the netting, and were painted to simulate fireplugs.

In Burbank, full-size inflated rubber “automobiles” were parked on the “streets” above Lockheed’s plant (where the Bob Hope Airport is located today), and workers went up periodically to move them around from place to place to suggest that they were being driven and reparked. In some cases, clothing was even taken on and off real clotheslines that were installed behind the houses. In the event Japanese reconnaissance aircraft were secretly overflying Southern California, Ohmer’s team wanted to give their fantasy world a lived-in look.

Ohmer’s villages were as accurate as possible in two dimensions, although not in height. The houses and trees were not very tall; indeed, most of the buildings were no taller than six feet. The reason was that the camouflage was designed to be seen from high above, not from ground level, and to be studied in minute detail only in the form of two-dimensional aerial photographs. In practice, a bombardier would have no more than two minutes, if that, to view the target, and he would be looking straight down.

Boeing workers Suzette Lamaroux and Vern Manion inspect one of the rooftop bungalows above Plant 2 (“Boeing Wonderland”) in Seattle, July 1945. Such elaborate deception may seem today like an unnecessary waste of time and resources, but it calmed the fears of those who worked there.

“Ohmer’s camouflage works by deceptively combining a technological feature of photography with one of its contingent social meanings,” writes Austin Nelson in a March 2012 blog post on the Camera Club of New York website. “On the one hand, Ohmer’s work took advantage of a fundamental technological truth about the camera, namely that it’s mono-focal.

“Photographed objects are rendered in perspective but by a single lens and onto a flat 2D surface. The effect is that the space around and between things looks squashed, especially in cases like aerial shots where the depth of field is very shallow. At the same time for Ohmer’s paintings to work as camouflage when photographed, he had to assume that despite the apparent unreal flatness of any aerial photograph with a shallow depth of field, the enemy still believed in the literal truth of such photographs….

“If Ohmer could count on the Japanese’s [sic] belief in the literal truth of photography (and the very existence of their aerial reconnaissance program would have given him reason to do so), he could reliably use the flattening effect of photography to his advantage. That is, as long as the Japanese expected aerial photographs of on-the-ground reality to look flat no matter what, that ‘reality’ could be simulated with an equally flat painted canvas. Ohmer added some three-dimensional props to his tarps, like shrubs and rubber cars, but these were accents to a painted picture that had to be convincing in its own right.”

Nevertheless, the overall terrain of the “landscape” was not flat. In order to compensate for the irregular height of various factory buildings, the subdivisions appeared at ground level to have been built on gently rolling hills.

In a lecture that he delivered to military personnel on September 15, 1943, Ohmer, now a colonel, described his technique as “visual misinformation.”

H. Roy Kelley and Edward Huntsman-Trout: Donald Douglas’s Magicians

Meanwhile, when it came to visual misinformation, John Ohmer’s was not the only game in town. Donald Douglas, whose Douglas Aircraft Company operated plants at Santa Monica, El Segundo, and Long Beach, had decided not to wait for the Army Engineers. In 1941, Douglas had asked engineer Frank Collbaum to find him someone who could design a plan to camouflage the Douglas Aircraft flagship plant at Clover Field in Santa Monica. Collbaum, whose history at Douglas included his having been the flight engineer on the debut flight of the immortal DC-3, suggested the noted architect, H. Roy Kelley.

Among his many other accomplishments, Kelley is credited with having been an originator of mid-century California “ranch-style” homes, some of which were represented in faux form in the enormous rooftop commission that he undertook for Douglas in 1942. On this project, Kelley teamed up with an equally popular and well-known California landscape architect, Edward Huntsman-Trout, whose credits included the campus of Scripps College in Claremont.

Like Ohmer, Kelley and Huntsman-Trout utilized Hollywood set designers, specifically from Warner Brothers, in their project. According to Cecilia Rasmussen of the Los Angeles Times, their creation was made of “burlap supported by a tension compression structure of more than five million square feet of chicken wire and 400 poles.” It covered the terminal and hangars, as well as the parking lot.

The camouflage netting at Douglas in Santa Monica stretched seamlessly from building to open areas, obscuring the edges of the buildings. Note the “woody” ambulance in the background.

As Ohmer’s own Hollywood experts had done, they filled their “village” with houses, fences, and clotheslines. In turn, they designed their “street grid” so that it blended into the adjacent Sunset Park neighborhood. They even matched the scale of their “ranch” homes to match those in Sunset Park. Warner Brothers executives later insisted that their own lot receive the “Kelley Treatment.” They decided that their sound stages looked too much like aircraft hangers from the air, and feared that Japanese bombardiers, fooled by the Clover Field camouflage—or by Lockheed’s, only three miles to the north—would bomb their studio instead!

The Santa Monica camouflage was so effective that American pilots who were supposed to land at Clover Field occasionally got lost and had to divert to alternate airports. For a time, Douglas adopted a policy of placing men waving red flags at the ends of the runways to greet incoming planes.

Transforming Boeing’s Plant 2

In Seattle, Boeing’s president Philip Johnson followed suit with Don Douglas, moving quickly to protect his principal asset—Plant 2. On December 11, four days after Pearl Harbor, the company issued a press release tersely reporting that Plant 2 had been “entirely transformed from a daylight plant to a blackout plant, enabling all night operations during blackouts. This plant is believed to be one of the first, if not the first, major defense plant in the country to complete this transformation.”

On April 1, 1942, the Boeing News Bureau reported with a bit more colorful detail that “the suddenness of the Pearl Harbor attack and the urgency it created prevented wasting of any time in laying groundwork for the work of blacking out. Painters, janitors, maintenance men—all available nonproduction workmen who had painting experience—were quickly rounded up and added to a crew furnished by Austin Construction Company. Brushes, spray guns, all necessary equipment was rounded up, too. All equipment, including pressure tanks and hoses, was hauled to the roof by hand…. Wartime censorship rules do not permit revealing of the plant’s size or the number of windows painted in those two days and nights, but the number of windows was tremendous, and approximately four miles of air hose were used for operating spray guns.”

It was actually harder than it sounds. The crews had to experiment with five different paints before they found a mixture that would stick to the windows. When done, the black windows created a reflection problem and had to be painted over with gray to match the rest of the building. Finally, Austin Construction installed three layers of plywood inside the windows to protect workers from shards of glass that might be shattered by bomb blasts. It would have been easier just to replace the glass with plywood.

John Detlie’s Designs in Seattle

In May 1942, the Corps of Engineers undertook to camouflage the blacked-out factory. To design the job, Ohmer sent John Stewart Detlie, a talented art director whom he had recruited off the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot. Having earned his degree in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 1933, Detlie went to Hollywood to start a career in set design. In 1940, he was nominated for an Academy Award for his work on MGM’s Bitter Sweet, with Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy.

In 1940, the 32-year-old Detlie married an 18-year-old starlet named Constance Ockelman. Within a year, Constance had become one of the hottest talents in Hollywood, and had changed her name to Veronica Lake. Detlie was living the Hollywood dream—until Ohmer came calling.

Major John S. Detlie, far right, poses with Colonel Richard Park, Seattle District Engineer, and two civilians who received checks as part of an “Ideas for Victory” promotional campaign. Detlie, an art director and set designer for MGM Studios, was in charge of camouflaging Boeing’s Seattle aircraft plant.

As Veronica Lake became one of the favorite GI pinup girls of World War II, her husband reported for duty in Seattle. Detlie found an environment where the Japanese occupation of islands near Alaska was of particular concern. Seattle was 900 air miles from Juneau, the capital of the future 49th state. People in the Pacific Northwest readily imagined that when the other shoe dropped, they would be next.

My father, who was working at the Todd Pacific shipyard on Seattle’s Harbor Island—about three miles north of Boeing Field—recalls being called to work in the middle of the night on June 3, 1942. A Japanese radio transmission had been intercepted. Enemy bombers were on their way to Harbor Island!

The Todd Pacific workers battened down the hatches and waited for the air raid. Finally the “all-clear” sounded. The Japanese had bombed Dutch Harbor, Alaska, instead of Harbor Island, Washington. The radio intercept was misinterpreted. Still, Alaska was too close for comfort.

While my father was welding superstructures for Fletcher-class destroyers, John Detlie was a few miles away, working with Washington State Camouflage Director William James Bain and the Seattle architectural firm of Young and Richardson to hide Boeing from Japanese aircraft. They designed an elaborate camouflage plan that included a rooftop covering for Plant 2, as well as fake streets and foliage detail that would be painted across Boeing Field.

The “streets” that began on the roof of Plant 2 continued across the runway and climbed the slopes of Beacon Hill, on the opposite side of the field where Interstate 5 is now located. The latter was accomplished by cutting the paths through the brush on the hillsides that looked like streets.

Boeing Wonderland

The focal point of Detlie’s effort, his large-scale masterpiece, was the 26 acres atop Plant 2. Here, the crews supervised by the Seattle District of the Army Corps of Engineers, were presented the challenge of a “sawtooth,” rather than flat, roof. This uneven surface, stepping up and down with a variation of as much as 35 feet, necessitated scaffolding, platforms, and framing that consumed an estimated million board feet of Pacific Northwest lumber, as well as an elaborate sprinkler system to protect it from fire, accidental or caused by the enemy. In addition, the structure consumed 555 tons of steel structures and half a million feet of support wires.

Because of the variation in the height of structures below, there were several fairly steep “hills” in Detlie’s “Wonderland.” This imaginary town had at least three major streets, as well as alleys and driveways. The streets even had names. Though there was no way that a bomber pilot could read street signs from 10,000 feet, the people who built Boeing Wonderland had senses of humor and couldn’t resist; Synthetic Street intersected Burlap Boulevard.

Using the “tar and feathers” method also seen in Southern California, the engineers created some 300 artificial trees, some of them as tall as 12 feet. There were a total of 53 homes, two dozen garages, three greenhouses, a small store, and even a gas station. All of them were built of wood and canvas like those which John Ohmer had designed in California.

Many were only about four feet high at the eaves, although some were taller, and there were even a few which represented two-story houses. Inside, they were furnished only with fire-protection sprinklers. Mile-long catwalks served as “sidewalks” and provided access to all the areas of Boeing Wonderland.

A view of Boeing’s Plant 2, looking toward the southeast, clearly shows Boeing Wonderland’s “street grid.” The presence of B-29 Superfortresses on the ramp and runway indicate that this photo was taken late in the war.

At least two of these homes were built to be occupied by nonimaginary people. During 1942 and early 1943, the U.S. Army personnel who manned antiaircraft guns in Wonderland were housed on the Plant 2 rooftop.

Whereas the imaginary populations of the imaginary rooftop towns in Southern California “drove” rubber cars, the automobiles parked on Wonderland’s streets were made of wood and were just a couple of feet high. The angular design of these wood frame vehicles made them look more like AMC Gremlins from the 1970s than the smoothly rounded Fords and Chevies of the 1940s.

An often-repeated urban legend was that a cow was even let loose to roam Boeing’s Wonderland. However, this charming but improbable story has just as often been debunked by those in the know.

Passive and Active Defenses

Also involved in building and maintaining the elaborate camouflage project at Plant 2, Boeing Field, and Beacon Hill, were the personnel of the Passive Defense Division of the Corps of Engineers. Indeed, the Seattle office of the division was quite active during the war. LeRoy Robert Hansen, chief of the division’s Agronomy Section, who was probably involved in the Boeing project, published his 1943 monograph, The Use of Grasses and Legumes for Camouflage and Dust Control on Airfields with a Seattle dateline.

Different techniques were used for the sections of the phony village that were laid out across Boeing Field. As described by the Seattle District Engineers, the “problem was to obtain a texture to which camouflage paint would adhere and yet which would offer no interference to air traffic. After much experimenting, a crushed rock surface from one-eighth to three-eighths of an inch was rolled with an adhesive material for paved areas. For nontraffic areas, wood chips or hogged [sic] fuel with cement was used.”

In the areas between and beyond the runways, the “houses” were merely concrete slabs six inches thick, because anything higher was deemed to constitute too much clutter for ramp and runway operations. However, in these areas, “lawns” and vacant lots could be comprised of real grass and real weeds, carefully designed and tended by LeRoy Hansen’s agronomists.

While Detlie and the engineers managed the passive defense for Boeing, active defense, such as the planning and execution of fire and air raid drills and air raid shelters, was handled by company personnel, such as Glenn V. Dierst, the company’s plant protection manager, and his team of white-helmeted wardens. A 1943 Boeing News Bureau release states that all the plant personnel could reach the shelters in less than 12 minutes.

In this view of the Lockheed factory camouflage at Burbank, looking southeasterly toward Glendale, one gets an idea how complex much of the structure really was. On the left in the foreground is a hose nozzle for firefighting. Being made of wood, burlap, and tar, the whole affair was a potential fire hazard. 

In this view of the Lockheed factory camouflage at Burbank, looking southeasterly toward Glendale, one gets an idea how complex much of the structure really was. On the left in the foreground is a hose nozzle for firefighting. Being made of wood, burlap, and tar, the whole affair was a potential fire hazard.

Seattle presented a unique problem for the passive defense planners. As anyone who has gazed at the ground from an airplane has noted, it is much easier to identify a familiar location through the contrasting color and contours of land and water. New York and San Francisco, for example, are easier to recognize than Des Moines or Topeka because their shapes are strictly defined by rivers and bays. Because Seattle is sandwiched between the distinctively shaped Puget Sound and Lake Washington, spotting landmarks is easier than it is at Burbank.

For this reason, Detlie planned additional phases for the Boeing project. His master plan involved overhead camouflaging of the large Boeing employee parking lots, as had been done at the Lockheed and Douglas employee lots in California, as well as continuing the camouflage cover across sections of East Marginal Way.

Because the Boeing campus is defined geographically by the Duwamish River that flowed behind Plant 2, Detlie conceived of covering it as well and painting a faux river that had a different course in the vicinity of the Boeing facility. A further phase that was also seriously considered by the Corps of Engineers involved the construction of an entire dummy aircraft factory at a different location, complete with fake airplanes.

The Missing Photographs of Boeing Wonderland

While the Japanese never came, there are many tales of American pilots who had used the pre-war Boeing Field who were now confused by the camouflage and the absence of familiar landmarks. Indeed, with the field covered by scattered clouds, it was quite hard to make it out from the air.

Unless a pilot had gained actual experience with the camouflaged field, it was hard to know what to expect because no aerial photographs were published until the second half of 1945.

For a 1987 article in Seattle’s The Weekly, journalist Tom Watson spoke with Vern Manion, who worked as a photographer for the in-house paper, Boeing News. In 1943, he had been asked to take aerial photographs of Plant 2 so that the camouflage could be evaluated by the brass in Washington, D.C. He shot a couple of rolls from an open-cockpit Stearman and landed back at Boeing Field only to discover that one of his rolls was missing!

The aircraft was searched, then disassembled and searched. The roll had apparently fallen out somewhere over the field. An extensive search for the small object came up empty handed.

“The FBI questioned me for weeks,” Manion told Watson. “They were real worried.”

Finally cleared of suspicion of espionage, Manion went on to complete four decades of service to the company. The film never turned up. By early 1945, ground level photographs of Plant 2 had been published, but the public had yet to see any aerial photographs.

The Secret Cities Revealed

Meanwhile, the personal life of John Stewart Detlie was unraveling. His marriage to superstar Veronica Lake ended three months after her pregnancy was tragically terminated when she tripped and fell on the set of a movie she was making.

Detlie never went back to the film industry and did not return to California for two decades. After the war, he married Virginia Crowell and became a prominent Seattle architect, designing several landmark buildings at the University of Washington, as well as the Children’s Orthopedic Hospital. When Detlie lost a second young child—three-year-old Christopher Detlie died in 1960—the architect and his wife left Seattle permanently. After time spent in Hawaii and Baltimore, they settled in Southern California.

Detlie’s plan for “rerouting” the Duwamish River was never implemented, nor indeed were any further camouflage projects after 1943. By that time, the Japanese were on the defensive and had been routed from the Aleutian Islands. The likelihood of an attack had greatly diminished. The fear and apprehension of 1942 gradually faded to nervousness, and the nervousness faded to complacency.

Nevertheless, the open secret of the existence of all those rooftop villages in Seattle and Southern California remained unheralded. Indeed, it was not until the summer of 1945 that the admittedly transparent cloak of secrecy was officially taken down. A release by the Boeing News Bureau dated June 19, 1945, stated, “Today’s word and picture description of the elaborate Boeing camouflage job, made with the approval of the Western Defense Command, was the first public pronouncement on the subject.”

On July 17, nearly a month before the Japanese government announced that it was ready to surrender unconditionally to the Allies, the Army Corps of Engineers announced that it had already issued contracts to civilian firms to dismantle the hoax hamlets. Among others, the L.B. Colton Company of Los Angeles had been awarded $248,861 to dismantle Detlie’s Seattle Wonderland within 150 days. The Corps of Engineers press release put the cost of installing the Boeing camouflage project at $2 million, although a June 27, 1945, article in Boeing News estimated $2 million for Boeing Field and another million for Plant 2.

A group of employees gathers on a “lawn” in Boeing Wonderland. This was probably the only time these women were ever allowed to visit; a few months earlier it would have been a federal crime to be here, and a few months later the whole village was gone. In contrast to many other “homes” in the “subdivision,” the one shown here was close to accurate height. 

A group of employees gathers on a “lawn” in Boeing Wonderland. This was probably the only time these women were ever allowed to visit; a few months earlier it would have been a federal crime to be here, and a few months later the whole village was gone. In contrast to many other “homes” in the “subdivision,” the one shown here was close to accurate height.

Both Boeing and Douglas made a photo op of the official revelations, sending groups of women employees to their respective villages to be photographed by company photographers. The idea was to show the young women strolling and picnicking as they might in any average American suburb. These pictures appeared in the July 26 issue of Boeing News and the September issues of Douglas Airview and Boeing Magazine even as crews were moving in to tear down those tranquil appearing villages.

These few carefree photo sessions were just about the only occasions when anyone had the opportunity to spend any time photographing these mystery towns at eye level. A few months earlier and it would have been a criminal offense. A few months later, and there was nothing left to photograph!

Gone But Not Forgotten

By the end of 1945, the blackout paint had been stripped from the factories up and down the coast, and John Francis Ohmer had joined John Stewart Detlie in hanging up his uniform for the last time. By the end of 1946, the last vestiges of the gargantuan West Coast camouflage scheme had been removed.

They were gone, removed in their entirety, but they have never been forgotten. Even Mike Lombardi, Boeing’s corporate historian, continues to be amazed by the enduring fascination that the public, and even Boeing personnel, have with the hoax hamlets.

As he told me, “with nearly one hundred years of great airplanes, one would think that the most frequently asked questions directed to the Boeing history office would be about the B-17, the 314 Clipper, the 707, or 747, but hands down the most popular subject is the ‘neighborhood on top of Plant 2.’ To this day, the size, scope, and imagination of that project still captivate and amaze the public and employees.”

These amazing villages, which almost certainly were never even seen by Japanese recon pilots, disappeared virtually overnight, vanishing like mirages. But they continue to live on in our collective memory of the American home front of World War II.

Ohmer Park Improvement Association

Ohmer Park Improvement Association has quickened spirit of optimism in minds of residents of live suburb

– Dayton Sunday Times, Sunday, May 2, 1915

The Ohmer Park Improvement Association, one of the most progressive organizations of its kind in the city, is now in the second year of its existence, having been formed in December, 1913, for the purpose of promoting the general interests of the Ohmer Park district.

During the period of its activity the welfare of the community has been so thoroughly looked after that Ohmer Park is now one of the most desirable residential districts in the city. The association has been active in securing for Ohmer Park not only general city conveniences and improvements, but has fostered and encouraged the beautification of the naturally beautiful surroundings, so that now the people are vying with one another in improving and adding to the attractiveness of their lawns and gardens.

To encourage this spirit the friendly rivalry and quicken local interest and pride in the appearance of the suburb, the Ohmer Park Improvement association has offered the following prizes for the coming year:

Best General Appearance First – $7; second, *5.

Porch and Window Boxes -First, $5; second. *3; third, $1.

Trees and Shrubbery—First, $5; second $3; third, $1.

Flowers and Lawns First. $5; second $3: third. $1.

Best Appearing Back Yard—First, $3: second. $2.

Best Boys’ Garden (150 square feet or more)—First, $2; second $1.

Best Girls’ Garden (150 square feet or more) First, $2; second $1.

Not more than one prize will lie given to any one party. The progress shown last season in beautification was so marked and the result so pleasing, that a civic prize for general improvement of lawns, gardens and landscaping was awarded the Ohmer Park district.

OHMER PARK IMPROVEMENT ASSOCIATION

The Ohmer Park Improvement association is affiliated with the Federated Improvement association and has a large and active membership. Its affairs are directed by competent officers who have the greater good of the community at heart, and who have held office since the association was organized. They are:

J. H Kuhlman, president; J. S. Cole, vice president: Jerry McDonald, treasurer; George B. Bratz, secretary.

Executive Committee—Charles T. Ohmer, P. S Eicenbarry, Jess Boomershine.

Advisory Committee —J. H. Hohnstedt. David Reston. O. A. Browne.

Meetings are held regularly on the second Tuesday of every month at the M.E. church, corner of Arbor avenue and Clarence street, where comfortable quarters are established. During the past winter the committee on entertainment secured the city’s most prominent speakers to deliver addresses on topics dealing with civic welfare and improvement, and the present system of city government, which the association has gone on record as heartily endorsing. As a future acquirement, a welfare hall is contemplated, which will be provided with a library, reading room and an entertainment ball for meetings and amusements, which will meet the social needs of the community.

 

SUBURB HAS ALL CONVENIENCES

Ohmer Park Is a district that combines the advantages and pleasures of suburban life with all modern city conveniences, and it is the only suburb In Dayton that can boast of so complete a list of city conveniences. It has six brick-paved streets and miles of cement sidewalks. Water and gas mains are laid throughout the suburb and there is regular collection of garbage and ashes. The park has storm and sanitary sewers and its streets are well lighted with both arc lights and gas. There Is adequate police and fire protection and two city mail deliveries daily. The Wayne avenue and Dayton & Xenia city lines furnish excellent car service, the latter looping the park and bringing every lot within two squares of a car line.

BEAUTY OF SUBURB

Aside from the utilities, Ohmer Park has advantages that only a suburb so ideally located can possess. It Is situated in the southeastern part of the city and has an altitude of 200 feet. This insures the purest of air and a total absence of the noise and smoke of the city, besides removing the menace of floods. The land has a rich surface soil underlaid by gravel which affords excellent natural drainage. The rich quality of the soil is ideal for gardening and production, and renders fertilization unnecessary. There are neither saloons nor any undesirable element on the park and home builders are showing their appreciation of this and the many other desirable qualities of the suburb, by selecting Ohmer Park for the erection of numbers of attractive bungalows and other types of handsome residences. One of the many attractive features of the park is the fully developed shade trees which overarch the streets and beautify the lawns. Along either side of Wayne avenue is a row of magnificent old maples, planted by the late N. Ohmer 80 years ago, which make the avenue second in beauty to nine In the city. Creighton avenue is shaded by a double row of linden trees, while the perfect lines of symmetrical European elms that overarch Arlair avenue are the pride of the residents of that bountiful thoroughfare. Hundreds of full-bearing fruit trees, a portion of the N. Ohmer orchards, make the place a veritable bower of beauty in the spring time of the year and with the shade trees, furnish homes for the birds which are unmolested and constantly increasing in number.

The elevation of the suburb affords a magnificent view of the city, which makes a drive through Ohmer Park one of the most attractive of the favorite short motorings trips about the city.

CHURCHES AND SCHOOL

On Creighton avenue is located the Ohmer Park Reformed church in charge of the Rev. F. R. Schulte. Rev. Engle officiates at the Ohmer Park M. E. church on Alton avenue and Clarence street. These institutions are doing very commendable work along moral, social and charitable lines, and are a beneficial power in the community.

The board of education has purchased a tract comprising 13 lots, on which they are soon to erect a large modern school building that will meet the needs of the rapidly growing population. The site for the proposed school is a beautiful and commanding one, overlooking the city and valley and is one square from the street car line

ATHLETICS ENCOURAGED

In keeping with the spirit of city welfare work, spoils and athletics are indulged in by Young Ohmer Park and encouraged by the community at large. The Ohmer Park Athletic club has reorganized Its baseball team this season and entered the Dayton Amateur league. The club has a good ball diamond in the northeastern part of the park and plays regular scheduled games which never fail to draw in large and enthusiastic attendance. The personnel of the team is as follows: Davis, pitcher and manager; Farley, Ohmer. Broadstone, Hess, Thompson, Rasper, Bridgeman mid D. Wassum. The team Is a formidable one with a clean, square record of fairly played games, and intends to maintain it.

In winter the paved Wyoming hill affords Ideal coasting, and merry parties of young people enjoy tills exhilarating sport nightly when the right conditions exist.

In conclusion, the Ohmer Park Improvement association heartily endorses j and encourages everything that tends to maintain and improve the moral. | civic, social, material, educational and | athletic standard of Ohmer Park, and in that end are directed the united efforts of Its large and active membership.

Ship’s Manifest: Ship Carack, June 16, 1851

List of Passengers of the Ship Carack

Ship: CARACK

Arrival: New Orleans, June 16, 1851

Port of Departure: LE HAVRE, FRANCE

Captain: FALES, WM J

Last Name  First & Middle Name
ABTUL?  ADOLPHE
ABTUL?  ELISABETH
ABTUL?  GOTTFRIED
ABTUL?  JOHANN
ABTUL?  MELCHIOR
ABTUL?  SAMUEL
ANDRETTA  ANTOINE
ANDREWS  J
ANTON  REY
BAECIOCHI  GUISEPPE
BAHLMANN  JOHANN
BANSCHER  BABETTE
BANSCHER  CONRAD
BECK  MICHEL
BERKSWIZ  LOUIS
BERTRAND  PIERRE
BIDWELL  H
BISSINGER  JOSEPH
BOHN  JOSEPHA
BORDOLI  STEPHAN
BRAND  DANIEL
BRAND  LOUISE
BRAND  MADELAINE
BRAND  MARGURITE
BRAUD  ADOLF
BRICKMANN  FRANZ
BRONZWISKY  JACQUES
BRUNKANT  GABRIEL
BUB  WILHELM
BUNA  JOSEPH
BUNK  HEINRICH
BURNETT  GENEVIEVE
BUSER  ARO
CHAUVELOT  ANNA CLAUDE
CHAUVELOT  JN FRANCOIS
DACOME?  CHARLES
DANSMANN  ANNA
DANSMANN  CHRISTIAN
DANSMANN  MARGUERITE
DANSMANN  SUZANNE
DEHNER  CRESENESA
DEHNER  KUNIGUNDA
DEMBROWSKI  FRIEDERIC
DIETRICH  PIERRE
DUCHANGE  HENRY
DURCK  MARTIN
EKATHAL?  CATHRINE
ERNE  GERHARD
ERNE  JOSEPHINE
ERNE  MARIE
ERNE  PAULINE
FASNACHT  SAMUEL
FISCHER  CATHRINE
FLECKHAMMER  BELLY
FLECKHAMMER  CARL
FLECKHAMMER  CARL
FLECKHAMMER  CATHRINE
FLECKHAMMER  FRIEDERIC
FLORENTIN  AUGUSTE
FUCHS  WILHELM
GEMSCH  JOSEPH
GESL  JACOB
GOEBELER  ADAM
GOEBELER  JOHANN
GOETZ  GOETZ
GRAMELSBACHER  CLEMENZ
GRANDJEAN  ANNA
GRANDJEAN  NICOLAS
GROSDIDIER  DOMINIQUE
GROSDIDIER  GABRIELE
GROSDIDIER  HONARE
GUTMANN  FRIEDERIC
GUTOWISKI  JOSEPH
HAEMER?  FRANCISKA
HAEMER?  SUSANNA
HAEMER?  VERONICA
HAEMMERLE  ABRAHAM
HAEMMERLE  JN PETER
HAMMER  GEORGE
HARTMANN  NICOLAS
HAURY  ANNAMARIE
HAURY  BARBARA
HAURY  CASPAR
HAURY  ELISABETH
HAURY  ELISABETH
HAURY  ELISABETH
HAURY  JACOB
HAURY  JB RUDOLF
HAURY  JNN JACOB
HAURY  JOH JACOB
HAURY  JOHANN
HAURY  LIDIA
HAURY  MARIE
HAURY  MARIE
HAURY  MARIE
HAURY  MELCHIOR
HAURY  RUDOLF
HAURY  SALOME
HAURY  SAMUEL
HAURY  SAMUEL BUD
HAURY  SUZANNE
HAURY  SUZANNE
HAURY  VERENA
HEIDENNEICK  PHILIPPE
HEISS  ANTON
HENRY  FRANCOIS
HOEHNLI  ANNA BARBARA
HOEHNLI  ANNAMARIE
HOEHNLI  BARBARA
HOEHNLI  ELISABETH
HOEHNLI  FRIEDERIC
HOEHNLI  JOHANN
HOEHNLI  JOHANN
HOEHNLI  SAMUEL
HOEHNLI  VERENA
HOERMING  JOHANN
HOERMING  JOHANN G
JLG  FRANCOIS
KAEL  H BAPTISTE
KAMMER  CATHRINE
KAMMER  JACOB
KAMMER  LORENZ
KEMMER  VALENTIN
KERN  CHARLES
KIEFER  DIONA
KIENZ  MADAND
KIESMSKY  JACQUES
KISHN  CARL
KNECHT  ANDRE
KONOPASKY  FRANCOIS
KOULLET  MICHEL
KRAEMER  LOUISE
KRAUS  BARBARA
KREINER  GEORGE
KUHN  PETER
LAHIRE  ADELAIDE
LAHIRE  HORTENSE
LAHIRE  SERAPHINI
LANZ  MICHEL
LEGGETT  J
LEHMANN  AA ELISABETH
LEHMANN  ANNAMARIA
LEHMANN  ELISABETH
LEHMANN  ELISABETH
LEHMANN  HEINRICH
LEHMANN  HEINRICH
LEHMANN  JACOB
LEHMANN  JOHANN
LEHMANN  MARIA
LEHMANN  MELCHIOR
LEHMANN  REGINE
LEHMANN  RUDOLF
LEHMANN  RUDOLF
LEHMANN  VERENA
LEHMANN  VERENA
LEINGEM?  BERNHARD
LEINGEM?  LAMBERT
LEIUNCE?  ACHILLE
LEIUNCE?  ADELAIDE
LEIUNCE?  ERNST
LEIUNCE?  FRANCOIS
LEMM  CHRISTIAN
LENOIR  JN FRANCOIS
LIETHY  JOSEPH
LIETHY  MARTIN
LIETHY  SAMUEL
LOECKEL  FRANZ
LOMMEL  JN PIERRE
LOMMEL  SOPHIE
LOTZ  HENRY
LOTZ  MARGURITE
LOUIS  NICOLAS
MAERKT  VHEADONE?
MARECHAL  ANTON
MARIA  VERENA
MATHIEU  JEAN
MATHIEU  MARIE
MEIER  ANNAMARIA
MEIER  ANNAMARIA
MEIER  ANTON
MEIER  CAROLINE
MEIER  CASPAR
MEIER  JACOB
MEIER  MARIA
MICHELLY  JANE
MILLER  CATHRINE
MOHR  JOSEPH
MOLLENKOTT  AGNES
MOLLENKOTT  HEDWIG
MOLLENKOTT  HUGO
MOLLENKOTT  JOHANN
MOLLENKOTT  MELCHIOR
MOLLENKOTT  PAULINE
MOLLENKOTT  RICHARD
MOLLENKOTT  SOPHIE
MULLER  CHRISTIAN
MULLER  JN PIERRE
MULLER  MARGURITE
MULLER  WILHELM
MUSTER  DOMINIQUE
OHMER  TOBIAS
PAUSCH  JACOB
PERKINS  J
RAMENA?  KIEOLUS?
RAMENA?  JOHANN
RAMENA?  LEO
RAMENA?  THEODORE
RAPPONUKER  CATHRINE
RAPPONUKER  FERDINAND
RAPPONUKER  MARIE
RAPPONUKER  STEPHANIA
RAVEL  ANNA
RAVEL  GEORGES
RAVEL  HEINRICH
RAVEL  HELENE
RAVEL  MADELAINE
RAVEL  MARGUERITE
RAVEL  WILHELM
RAVEL  WILHELM
REISS  ZFRANZ
ROES  XAVIER
ROHRBACH  BERNHARD
ROSTE  PIERRE
RUFF  ALOISE
RUFF  ANTOINE
RUFF  GREGOIRE
SAINISCH  DANIEL
SAINISCH  MARIA
SAINISCH  MARIA
SAINISCH  PIERRE
SAINISCH?  HUBERT
SCHAF  CAROLINE
SCHAF  FRANZ
SCHAF  IGNACE
SCHAF  SOPHIE
SCHAF  WILHELM
SCHAF  WOLFGANG
SCHINER  EMANUEL
SCHMAHL  CHRISTIAN
SCHNEIDER  AUGUSTE
SCHNEIDER  CHRISTIAN
SCHNEIDER  CHRISTINE
SCHNEIDER  ELISABETH
SCHNEIDER  JEAN
SCHNEIDER  JEAN
SCHNEIDER  PHILIPPINE
SCHNEPF  CIRIAE?
SCHNUK  GEORGE
SCHNUK  MARIA
SCHOENER  CARL
SCHOENER  FRANCESCA
SCHOENER  URSULA
SCHOENER  WILHELM
SCHOENIS  CLARA
SCHOENIS  ETWIG
SCHOENIS  JOSEPH
SCHOENIS  LUCAS
SCHOENIS  MATHIS
SCHOENIS  PIERRE
SCHOENIS  STEPAN
SCHOENIS  VERONICA
SCHOENIS  VHENISIN?
SCHOENIS  WILHELMINE
SCHREIBER  ANSELM
SEINEY  ADAM
SESTER  CHARLES
SIMON  FRANCOIS
SIMON  FRANCOIS
SIMON  JOSEPH
SNOTH?  JOSEPH
SOLER  PAUL
SOMMEL  CARL
SOMMEL  CHRISTIAN
SOMMEL  CHRISTINE
SOMMEL  HENRY
SOMMEL  JEANNE
SOMMEL  LOUIS
SOMMEL  WILHELMINE
SPHAN  CHRISTIAN
SPHAN  ELISABETH
SPHAN  ELISABETH
SPHAN  GEORGE
SPHAN  JACOB
SPHAN  WILHELM
SPHAN  WILHELM
SPRITERSBACH  ANNA ELISABETH
SPRITERSBACH  CHRISTINA
SPRITERSBACH  MELCHIOR
STENSTENAGEL  LEO
STOLY  MARIE
UHILMANN?  JEAN
UHONIA?  CHARLES
URESCHER  ARMAND
URESCHER  EBERHARD
WAGNER  WILHELM
WASSL;INGER  JOHANN
WASSLINGER  JACOB
WASSLINGER  RUDOLF
WASSLINGER  MARIA
WASSLINGER  RUDOLF
WEBER  ADAM
WEBER  JOHANN
WEBER  JOHANN
WEIGOLD  ELISABETH
WEILAND  JACOB
WENTER  HENRY
WIRAY  JEAN
WURTENBURGER  JOSEPH
ZIEGLER  CHARLES
ZIMMERMANN  CATHERINE
ZIMMERMANN  CHRISTIAN
ZIMMERMANN  MARIE

PASSENGER COUNT 312

Ambrose Snow

This biography, while not directly related to OHMER genealogy, is included here because Captain Snow was the owner of the Ship Carack, on which my 3rd Great Grandfather Tobias Ambre Ohmer sailed from Le Havre, France to New Orleans in 1851.

Captain Ambrose Snow, a member of the Board of Pilot Commissioners, and widely known in Brooklyn and New York, died at his home No. 129 Bainbridge Street, June 28, 1895. Although eighty-three years of age he had experienced none of the ills which old age usually entails, but retained the active use of his faculties of mind and body almost to the day of his death.

Captain Snow was born in Thomaston, Maine, on the 28th of January, 1813. He came from an old New England family, his maternal grandfather having served as a private under Washington. He was trained to the sea from boyhood, and at an early age became master of a ship. During the palmy days of the merchant marine he commanded in succession the ships “John Holland,” “Leopard,” ” Leonidas,” “John Hancock,” ” Carack,” “Telamon,” and “Southampton.” When he was forty years of age he established a shipping firm in New York under the firm name of Snow & Burgess. He was elected President of the Marine Society in 1869, was re-elected several times, and was President of the Board of Pilot Commissioners for many terms. Upon the occasion of his twelfth successive election as President of the New York Board of Trade and Transportation in 1890, he was presented with a magnificent chronometer and diamond compass.

Captain Snow was President of the Board of Trustees of the Sailors’ Snug Harbor for seventeen years. He was coxswain of a barge manned by a crew of shipmasters from the Marine Society that rowed President Harrison ashore at the Washington Centennial celebration. A crew from the same society rowed General Washington from Elizabethport to New York at the time of his inauguration as the first President of the United States.

The funeral services were held at his son’s house and were as simple as possible in accordance with the frequently expressed desire of the deceased. The interment was at Thomaston, Maine, where he was bom and where his wife is buried. Captain Snow was married on March 16, 1836, to Mary Robinson, of Thomaston, Maine. He left two sons, Alfred D. Snow, of Brooklyn, and Louis T. Snow, of San Francisco.

Proceedings at the first and subsequent annual and spring meetings, and first and subsequent annual dinners, from 1880 to 1895, inclusive, of the New England Society in the City of Brooklyn, and names of members (1896).

Emma Ann ALTHOFF Ohmer

Mrs. Emma Althoff Ohmer, 92, of 135o Creighton Ave., widow of Charles T. Ohmer, a Dayton realtor and civic leader, died a 1 a.m. Saturday at her residence after an illness of one year

She and her husband developed the residential section known as Ohmer Park.

Born in Dayton, she was the daughter of the late Pius and Catherine Althoff, pioneer Daytonian. She attended  St. Josephparochial school and Mount Notre Dame Academy at Reading, O.

In 1882, she married Mr. Ohmer in the old St. Joseph Catholic Church.

As a young bride, Mrs. Ohmer braved the rigors of frontier life, as she and her husband moved to the then sparsely settled area of northwestern Minnesota to engage in wheat farming.

During her 23 years there and after her return to Dayton she devoted her interests to her family and the sick and needy.

Together, she and Mr. Ohmer, who died in 1942, established Ohmer Park and were active in the creation of Walnut Hills playground.

She was a charter member of St. Anthony Church, a member of the Altar Society of the church and of the Tabernacle society.

Survivors include four daughters, Ruth, who returned Thursday from the Marianists Holy Pilgrimage to Home; Alice and Susan Ohmer, all of Dayton, and Mrs .Carrie Sifferman of Seattle, Wash.; two sons, Earl, who is known to Daytonians as pioneer and conservationist in Petersburg, Alaska, and Paul of Cincinnati.

She also leaves one sister, Mrs. Lillie C. Gwinner of Dayton; 18 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren.

Clara K. WILLIG Ohmer

Mrs Clara K. Ohmer (Clara K. Willig), 75, 5995 Rapid Run Rd., Delhi Township, member of a pioneer farming family in that area, died Wednesday at St. Francis Hospital. She and her husband, Charles H. Ohmer, still active as a farmer, celeberated their 50th wedding anniversary last spring. Surviving also are two daughters, Miss Clara M. Ohmer and Mrs. Eileen Bovard; five sons, Anthony C, Ray F., Nobert W., Donald J. and Elmer E. Ohmer; a brother, Anthony Willig; 23 grandchildren and one  great-grandchild. Mass will be held at 9:30 a.m. Friday at Our Lady of Victory Church, Neeb Road, with burial in the church cemetery. Visitation is from 4 to 9 p.m. Thursday at teh Vitt & Stermer Funeral Home, 4619 Delhi Road.

Susan C. Ohmer (1884–1990)

 

Susan C. Ohmer Obituary

Susan C. Ohmer, the last surviving daughter of a pioneering Dayton family, died Tuesday, one month shy of her 106th birthday.

Miss Ohmer had lived most of her life at Floral Hill, a 14-room house on Creighton Avenue built in 1864 by her grandfather, Nicholas Ohmer. The neighborhood, near the Dayton Mental Health Center, is known as Ohmer Park.

She died at the Maria-Joseph Center, where she lived with her sister Ruth since 1987. Ruth Ohmer, a former society editor for The Journal and The Herald, died last July at the age of 96.

“Susie is the boss, the one who always decided things for us all,” Ruth Ohmer said in a 1987 interview.

Another sister, Alice, who also lived at Floral Hill, died in December 1986 at the age of 99.

Nicholas Ohmer planted thousands of shade trees and an orchard around Floral Hill. He died in 1902, and his son, Charles Ohmer, moved his family into the house in 1905. Daughters Susan, Ruth, and Alice stayed until 1987.

Funeral Services are pending at Westbrock Funeral Home, 1712 Wayne Ave.

Distribution of Ohmers in Germany

The circles represent the number of listings in each two-digit zipcode area.  They are plotted at the center of these areas.  Area of circles is proportional to the number of listings.  Check the counts by state to find the actual number of listings in each state.

 

#

 

%

 

#/M pop

 

State

197

62.1%

49.5

Rhineland-Pa

Rhineland-Palatinate

latinate (R-P)

40

12.6%

3.9

Baden-Württemberg (B-W)

35

11.0%

2.9

Bavaria (Bav)

13

4.1%

2.2

Hesse (Hes)

9

2.8%

0.5

North Rhine-Westphalia (N-W)

7

2.2%

0.9

Lower Saxony (L S)

5

1.6%

1.4

Berlin (Ber)

3

0.9%

2.8

Saarland (Saar)

3

0.9%

1.1

Saxony-Anhalt (S-A)

2

0.6%

1.2

Hamburg (Ham)

2

0.6%

0.4

Saxony (Sax)

1

0.3%

1.5

Bremen (Bre)

Ship Carack

LeHavre in the late 1800s

Tobias Ambre Ohmer, my ggg grandfather, sailed from LeHavre, France to New Orleans, arriving on June 16, 1851. The Captain was listed as W. J. Fales.

What follows is information I have pieced together on the Carack:

Built 1849 in Thomaston, Maine

Ship Carack, 874 tons
Built by R. Walsh
Chief Owner W.J. Fales, Robinson, Ambrose Snow

The Aug 1, 1857 edition of the New York Shipping and Commercial states that the ship was owned in Thomaston, Maine and was built December 8, 1849. It also mentions that the Carrack was bound for Liverpool from New Orleans when it caught fire and sunk Southwest of the Tortugas.

The Cutler files states the Master was Ambrose Snow and the owner was R. Walsh. She was surrendered Aug 7, 1857.

Ship CARACK, (Not COSSACK,) from New Orleans to Liverpool, was the vessel as before suggested destroyed by fire S. W. of Tortugas. A letter to the Charleston Courier, from Key West, says that her cargo consisted of 2780 bales of cotton , and that the ship was valued at $30,000, and the cargo at $200,000. The crew were saved, but the vessel and cargo are a total loss – fully insured. The Carack was owned in Thomaston, where she was built in 1849, 875 tons register.

The Times Picayune, on Sunday, August 2, 1857 published the following:

Key West, July 25, 1857. The Thomaston ship Carack, Capt. Stilphen, from New Orleans bound to Liverpool, with a cargo of 2,728 bales of cotton, was destroyed by fire on the 16th and 17th inst., 100 miles northwest (This conflicts with the report from The New York Shipping and Commercial) of Tortugas. Capt. S. arrived at this port on the 22nd, in the pilot boat Edna, Jones, having been taken from the bark Ann Elizabeth. Capt. Norgrave, off this harbor, which vessel had fallen in with his boat near Tortugas, the 18th. The captain gives us the following account of the loss of his ship:

“On the 16th inst., when 250 miles E.S.E. of Tortugas, with fine weather and light winds from S.S.W., about 12 M., a thunder squall came up and the ship’s main mast was struck by lightning, which, coming down the lightning rod attached to the main royal back stay, penetrated the vessel, descending into the hold. We discovered by the smoke soon after, that the ship was on fire, and used every exertion to get at and extinguish it, but without success; and, as a last resort, calked down the hatches, stopped all ventilation, and kept the decks wet. We made sail for Tortugas, that being the nearest point, and hoped to have reached that place before the fire broke out. The smoke soon became so thick in the cabin as to compel us to leave it entirely. We then had the boats made ready and launched, so as to leave the ship when the fire should force us to abandon her. The fire first made its appearance near the main rigging, forcing up the deck so that the smoke came through the seams. We still continued to wet the decks, and by that means kept the fire from bursting out before it would otherwise have done. July 17 – The ship still on her course for Tortugas, but the smoke becoming so thick that we could only keep a man at. The wheel for a few minutes at a time. About 2 P.M. fire burst through under the mizzen chains, and we then took the boats and dropped them astern. About 3 P.M. our painters burnt off, and we were cast adrift. We then were eighty miles from Tortugas. We remained in sight of the ship until she was on fire fore and aft, and her masts had burned off. We then started with the ship’s three boats for Tortugas.”

A squall came up that night, which separated the boats. The captain’s boat was picked up on the 18th, by the bark Anne Elizabeth, Capt. Norgrave, of Philadelphia, and left her off Key West the 22nd inst., the captain and crew coming here. The boat commanded by the first mate was picked up by the ship Dudley B. Moses, and arrived at Key West the 23rd.  The third boat, in command of the second mate, has not yet been reported; there were in her seven men, viz., the second mate, carpenter, and five seamen. Capt. Stilphen thinks that they were picked up by some passing vessel.

The Carack sailed from New Orleans, the 11th inst., with 2728 bales of cotton, bound to Liverpool. The ship was eight years old, 874 tons burden, valued at $30,000 and fully insured. The cargo was valued at $200,000, and is together with the ship a total loss, there being no possibility of her drifting ashore.

Capt. Stilphen sent part of his crew to New Orleans, in the ship S. R. Mallory, Capt. Lester, leaving this port the 23rd. He leaves in the Isabel, tonight, bearing to his owner the accounts of the sad disaster.

The Times Picayune
New Orleans, Louisiana
02 Aug, 1857 (Sunday)

Two days later, The Times Picayune published this additional information:

In the account given by our Key West correspondent of the loss by fire of the ship Carack, (published on Saturday evening,) it was stated that the third boat, in command of the second mate, was missing, and that there were in her seven men, viz: the second mate, carpenter, and five seamen.

We learn from the Tampa Peninsular, of the 25th ult., that the missing boat is safe. The Peninsular says:

It was the intention for the boats to keep company and sail for Tortugas. The were, however, parted in a squall on the following night. Mr. Stearns (the second mate,) having dismasted his boat and sprung some of her timbers, was compelled to keep before the wind, and on the morning of Monday, 27th, boarded the fishing smack Frank Pierce, when he replenished his water casks, which had been empty for twenty-four hours, and started for Egmont Light – twenty five miles distant – which he reached the same evening.

Mr. Stearns arrived at this place, in company with Capt. Treska, lighthouse keeper, on Wednesday last. The carpenter, being sick, was left at the lighthouse.

Mr. S. speaks in the highest praise of the kind treatment of Capt. Sparks, of the Frank Pierce, and Capt. Treska.

-The Times Picayune
New Orleans, Louisiana
04 Aug, 1857 (Tuesday)

Rhineland-Palatinate

Counts by place for Ohmer in Rhineland- Palatinate

     #     Zip                   City

   57  76863 Herxheim bei Landau, Pfalz
   19  67000 Ludwigshafen
   13  76829 Landau in der Pfalz
   12  76764 Rheinzabern
   10  76870 Kandel
    9  76751 Jockgrim
    6  76726 Germersheim
    4  76829 Landau in der Pfalz Mörlheim
    4  76877 Offenbach a d Queich
    3  76773 Kuhardt
    3  76761 Rülzheim
    3  55593 Rüdesheim
    2  67112 Mutterstadt
    2  67125 Dannstadt-Schauernheim
    2  67346 Speyer
    2  76829 Landau in der Pfalz Wollmesheim
    2  67433 Neustadt an der Weinstraße
    2  67466 Lambrecht
    2  76831 Impflingen
    2  76833 Walsheim
    2  67482 Freimersheim , Pfalz
    2  76863 Herxheimweyher
    2  76865 Rohrbach , Pfalz
    2  66877 Ramstein-Miesenbach
    2  76872 Freckenfeld
    2  56579 Hardert
    1  76756 Bellheim
    1  67134 Birkenheide
    1  67227 Frankenthal , Pfalz
    1  76771 Hördt
    1  67246 Dirmstein
    1  76776 Neuburg a Rhein
    1  56727 Mayen
    1  67354 Römerberg Berghausen
    1  67360 Lingenfeld
    1  76829 Landau in der Pfalz Nußdorf
    1  76829 Landau in der Pfalz Arzheim
    1  76831 Eschbach , Pfalz
    1  55299 Nackenheim
    1  76833 Siebeldingen
    1  67459 Böhl-Iggelheim
    1  66892 Bruchmühlbach-Miesau Vogelbach
    1  76863 Herxheim bei Landau, Pfalz Herxheim bei Landau Pfalz
    1  67480 Edenkoben
    1  55130 Mainz
    1  67716 Heltersberg
    1  76872 Erlenbach bei Kandel
    1  56321 Rhens
    1  76872 Minfeld
    1  55270 Ober-Olm
    1  76879 Ottersheim b Landau, Pfalz
    1  76889 Schweigen-Rechtenbach

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