The Firebugs of Northwest Ohio
When I first stumbled on references to the Northwestern Ohio Firebugs I was intrigued. Words like “diabolical,” “nefarious,” “despicable” and “infamous” jumped off the pages of old newspapers and my curiosity got the best of me. This gang defrauded the insurance companies of more than 1.5 billion dollars over a 25-year time span starting in about 1878.
The location of the Firebugs territory created a semi-circle around West Unity, Williams County, Ohio, which was the center of their activities. Arson was committed in the communities of Williams Center, Montpelier, Pioneer, Alvordton, Bryan and Kunkle. In Fayette County, Ohio, the towns of Archbold, Pettisville and Fayette all bore witness to the Firebugs’ torch. Toledo and Maumee in Lucas County, as well as Rochester, Indiana, and southern Michigan also felt the heat of the Firebugs. No one knew the identity of the Firebugs, or if they did, they feared for their lives and livelihood if they spoke out.
The undoing of the gang came from the confession of John AKA “Old Jack” Page. Driven by a need for revenge, and perhaps a bit of remorse, Page admitted his guilt and confessed his wrong-doing, while implicating the head of the gang, Homer B. Morrison. If not for Page’s confession the Firebug gang would probably never been caught.
About M. A. Mimi Malcolm (Toledo, Ohio Author)
Mimi Malcolm was raised just over the border of Toledo, Lucas County,Ohio in Temperance, Monroe County, Michigan. She became interested in Toledo history when she started updating her grandfather's family trees in 1995 and discovered she had family who came to Lucas County in 1832. Local history became her passion, and she has been studying the people of the area for over 20 years.
Bitten by the genealogy bug, she is a trustee of the Sylvania Area Historical Society and a member of the Toledo History Museum, the Toledo Area Genealogical Society (TAGS), the Ohio Historical Society, and the First Families of Lucas County.
She has authored over twenty articles for a local paper and the Bend of the River Magazine, a local history publication, and a Kindle book: Introduction to Victorian Trade Cards.
Mimi lives in Toledo. She has three grown children. She is a registered nurse and has worked for the Washington Local School district as a paraprofessional for twenty years. In her spare time, she is a stained glass artisan and a collector of Toledo history, especially Victorian trade cards.