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Joe's Story

Joe Root was an Erie native, Born in 1860, little is known about his childhood but at some point, he fell in love with Presque Isle and in his teens he made it his home. As one of the peninsula’s first permanent inhabitants, He built a number of shacks in various parts of the peninsula to suit the particular activity of any given day. He built his shacks out of driftwood, packing crates and anything else that washed up on shore. He sustained himself by fishing, gathering eggs, eating wild fruit including cranberries that grew in abundance on Presque Isle, and hunting without the use of a gun or bow and arrow. Joe would use a club or rock and his exceptional woodsmen skills to capture his prey. It is told that Joe could mimic any wild birds call with his high squeaky voice.  Joe Root loved children and they grew to love him in return. A family would show up on the peninsula for a picnic meal and as soon as they would spread their blanket, Joe would magically appear. He would entertain the children with ventriloquism and stories about his friends, the Jee-Bees, unseen little people who could accurately predict the weather. Joe was an accomplished ventriloquist and he would carry on conversations with his hat or hollow tree stump. He would usually get invited to a free picnic meal at the urging of the children. Eventually, families would pack extra food when visiting the peninsula in the hopes of seeing Joe Root.   On rare visits into town, Joe would swap stories of his business ideas in exchange for a drink. One idea was of a balloon factory using the prevailing westerly winds to transport travelers to Buffalo. Another idea was a feather factory utilizing the abundance of birds that can be found on Presque Isle. Joe’s favorite idea was to begin a circus that would feature wild animals being transported in a wheelbarrow over a high wire stretched from the peninsula and the mainland. Most people found Joe’s ideas amusing and harmless, he never found the financial backing to realize his dreams. Others feared Joe would claim squatters rights to the peninsula and in the event shrouded in secrecy he was committed to the State Hospital for the insane in Warren Pennsylvania on April 14, 1910, for an act of violence that witnesses say Joe was the victim. Joe died in 1912 longing for just one thing, to return to his beloved Presque Isle. How much would Joe’s holdings be worth today if he had owned the peninsula? Legend has it the sand replenishment needed each year is simply because Presque Isle loved Joe Root as much as he loved her. This is why she keeps slipping away in search of the “King of the Peninsula.”