A Passion for Our People and Places

From journalist to author, Mollenkopf loves the writing life


It was a destiny he couldn’t fight. Jim Mollenkopf gave in to his love of writing, enrolling at BGSU to study journalism at age 40. He became a reporter, like his father, grandfather and great-grandmother before him.

At the Fostoria Review Times, Mollenkopf wrote “a lot of historical stories. Eventually, I thought I’d try to write a book.” His first effort, a now out-of-print volume about the Lake Erie shore, sold 1,500 copies in two months. He was hooked. 

Following his loves

He turned his sights on the Great Black Swamp, the wetlands that covered northwest Ohio and parts of Indiana and Michigan until the late 19th century. “Today, the Great Black Swamp is 98 percent gone,” he said. “I love to imagine what this area was like then,” he said. “If it was here today, it would be a national park. It also explains why Ohio’s so flat.”

He loves spending time in the marshes along Lake Erie, specifically Magee Marsh and the birding trails along the lake. “We’re so close to a major highway (Ohio Route 2) but in the marsh it’s silent,” he said.

Mollenkopf’s other great passion is research, which has filled his books with interesting characters. “I love finding stories, doing research,” he said. “Working in a library is like being in church.”

Among the compelling characters in his four Great Black Swamp books is Dresden Howard, a negotiator for the U.S. government with the Odawa Native American tribe in northwest Ohio. He was a state Senator, and also worked with the area’s Underground Railroad. “Howard opposed the forced migration of Native Americans,” Mollenkopf said. “He grew up with native families and believed we should have done better for them.”

Mollenkopf’s latest book, The Great Black Swamp IV, was released this year. That, and his four other books on the Great Black Swamp and its people, are available on his website, at Tiedtke’s Coffee in Maumee, Old Gilead Books, Grand Rapids, Encore Books, Toledo and Sauder Village Gift Shop, Archbold. 

He’ll also have his books at the Holiday Marketplace, 855 N. McCord Rd., on Nov. 19 from 9:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. and the Craft Show at Toledo Yacht Club, Point Place, on Dec. 11.