of the North Manchester Historical Society, Inc.

VOLUME XVIII                  NUMBER 2                     MAY, 2001


Drawing of the Howe Vacuum Bait Company by Allan White, based on the memories of Dr. L.Z. Bunker


The Howe Vacuum Bait Company

Presented by William R. Eberly to the North Manchester Historical Society, March 12, 2001

Among the numerous unusual businesses that have flourished in North Manchester in the past was a company that manufactured artificial fishing baits (called lures by the practitioners of the art). The lure was designed to catch the common bass, much sought by fishermen throughout the country. Like the mythical "better mouse trap" a better bass plug should be a hot item in bait shops everywhere. And the North Manchester bass bait seemed to make it to the top of the list for awhile.

The Vacuum Bait was a triangular piece of well-polished cedar

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  wood painted with bright colors to imitate various natural food items of the bass. The fishing line was attached at the wide end of the bait and three sets of treble hooks were inserted along the sides and end. The hooks were of a unique patented design that would rotate freely in a complete 360 degree circle. This was supposed to prevent the fish from twisting itself free from the hook. But now, back to the beginning of this interesting story!

The inventor of the Vacuum Bait was Francis O. Howe, commonly known as Frank. He was born in Ohio in 1874 and came with his family to North Manchester in 1889. His father was David N. Howe who was the founder of the North Manchester College which was later called simply Manchester College. Frank would have been fifteen years old at the time of the move and had several brothers and sisters. Frank's mother died here and his father later married two more times and had a total of twenty children. Frank married in 1895 and remained in North Manchester after the Howes moved away that same year. One of Frank's children was Bruce Howe, a very colorful character in North Manchester society for many years.

Among other things, Frank Howe was a musician, performing and teaching instrumental music, especially piano and violin. He was associated with Manchester College as a music instructor, at least during 1899-1900. He was a protégé of Maude Quivey, outstanding musician of the community. At the memorial service, one of his brothers said, "Some men are builders of steel; others are strong on finance; some love the gift of speech; but here was a man whose soul was touched by music, the language of the soul."

But Frank had at least two other qualities often overlooked; he

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loved to fish, and he was a man of some mechanical and inventive talents. It seemed a natural outcome of these two interests that he would invent (and manufacture and sell) the perfect bass bait. Working in his home in the 400 block of Walnut Street (across from the high school, then) he made 
many of these baits for his own use and for his friends, and eventually started to sell them.

The North Manchester Journal for May 13, 1909, declares that Frank O Howe "...has spent more time in scientific fishing than any other man in this part of the country in the past few years. He has studied the habits of the fish, and when he became interested in the bait question he spent his time trying various baits, and finding the weak places and how to remedy them. The result is Howe's Vacuum Bait..."

His application for a patent was granted October 5, 1909. He formed a partnership with Charles H. Olinger and J. W. Warvel which was incorporated in August of 1909. The capital stock was $5,000 divided into 100 shares valued at $50 each, all of which were owned by the three partners. Demand for the bait (distributed through dealers in the area) was so great that a new location was soon needed. A room in a building owned by Dr. J. L. Warvel was equipped for the new factory. This was previously the location of a bicycle repair shop

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  operated by Charles Olinger. Outgrowing that location, Olinger, in partnership with Warvel, went to a new location and soon moved into the automotive business.

The building housing the new factory was a frame house located just east of the Lutheran Church and near the river, somewhat behind another building in what is now the town parking lot. Dr. L. Z. Bunker recalled this quite well. Her father was a fisherman and used the bait and Dr. Bunker herself had fished some and had used the bait on occasion. In a phone conversation with the writer on November 4, 1991, Dr. Bunker described the bait with uncanny accuracy shape, color, general texture of the surface, etc. While I was talking with her, I had in front of me one of the Howe baits. She knew just the main color pattern, i.e., which was with red marks. She described the red markings as if you took a comma and straightened it out.

She described the factory as "an old house, white, with a porch, located back of the Filling Station, a restaurant located toward the west side of what is not the parking lot and market." The restaurant was subsequently operated by Paul Hathaway and named the Flamingo Grill. A Mr. J. J. Martin operated a photographic studio in this complex of buildings. The house/factory could be reached by a rambling walk around the west end of the restaurant. With guidance from Dr. Bunker, Mr. Allan White, an artist and designer from North Manchester, created a drawing of the Vacuum Bait factory.

For a while, at least, wood blanks were made by the Caswell-Runyan company in Huntington, a factory that made cedar chests. They would have an abundance of scrap cedar wood from which to make the bodies for the Vacuum Baits. It appears that the fabrication of the special hooks was done in the Manchester factory. Fred Horne, an outstanding tool maker of North Manchester, installed machinery (probably a multiple automatic screw machine) in the new factory. It is not known where the tin boxes that enclosed the baits were made.

Business was very brisk for a number of years. Bait stores and hardware stores sold the baits almost as fast as they could be produced. The baits came in two sizes and about 30 color patterns, usually duplicated in both the large and small sizes. The company advertised extensively. Some of the brochures not only described the various

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  versions of the bait but also gave hints and instructions for using it. Some ads contained testimonies. "In about 2 hours casting with your bait I landed 7 black bass, combined weight 22 lbs." "It is the King of all surface Lures." "Was out May 21st, used four kinds and no strikes, put on a Vacuum and caught 10. I consider them a first class Bait." "On June 22nd, caught by actual count 50, largest 7 one-half lbs."

William E. Billings, writing about North Manchester Industries, said, "Many fishermen swore by it, and possibly some swore at it. Tom Peabody, who always believed in efficiency, brought a bait back one Monday morning with the complaint that only two hooks were working, as he could never catch more than two fish at a time."

Eventually, though, the business folded. Perhaps Olinger and Warvel felt they could make more money in the automotive business. Maybe Frank Howe's health even then was beginning to fail. In about 1920, Howe sold his patent and a quantity of unused parts for making the baits to the South Bend Bait Company. It was first advertised in their 1921 catalog and may have been listed up into the 1940s. The South Bend version differed slightly from the Howe version. For one thing, the South Bend company put eyes in their plugs. South Bend also used a more simple hook attachment with the hook swinging only in one plane. They continued almost the same color patterns in both the large and small sizes.

One can always identify a Vacuum Bait; nothing else looks even remotely like it. But they are scarce today. There is always a ready buyer if one becomes available. The containers (both tin and cardboard) are even more rare.

For North Manchester, the Vacuum Bait company ranks right in there along with the DeWitt Automobile, the Blackmore cigars, the bonnet company, the instant water heater company, the folding bathtub company, and other quaint and unusual products manufactured in our town.

Editor's note: And the North Manchester Historical Society can always dream that perhaps a Vacuum Bait will be willed to the Museum and become a part of our collection. [Update: The author has donated a Howe Vacuum Bait in its original box and it now can be viewed in the Museum.]

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Excerpt from Tales of a Hoosier Village

By William E. Billings


Preface notes to the book, by the author:

Dedicated to the Home Folks of a Thousand and More Like Towns or Villages from which Our Country Draws the Energy, Initiative, and Common Sense to Meet the Ever Changing Conditions of Life of Today.

Stories of Real Life, with No "Hells" or "Damns," and in Which the Characters Do Not Stop in the Middle of Each Paragraph to "Light a Cigarette" or to "Mix a Drink."

Names Used in These Sketches are Naturally Fictitious, With the Exception of Those of Persons Well Known in Public Life.

Birth of a Hoosier Village Chapter 1, pp. 4-12

It was a lazy, hazy October day in 1834, the time of year when the Hoosier State is at its best, the Golden Rod in full bloom, and the Paw Paws ready for eating. It was nearing evening, and the sun was slipping behind a fringe of trees, modestly seeking seclusion in its preparations for the night.

Peter Ogan, hardy pioneer, with his wife, Mary, no less brave or hardy, stood on the bank of the Kenapocomoco, looking down at the waters as they murmured and whispered on their easy going way to the Big River. Half way down a clear running spring broke through the river bank, its sparkling water trickling down to join the slower moving river.

"Here's where we make our home," said Ogan, and Mary, who had uncomplainingly accompanied him on many a wild search for the End of the Rainbow, answered: "It holds good promise." And so a Hoosier Village was born.

The Ogans had driven over a dimly marked Indian trail from the Place of the Big Treaty, looking for a spot they might call home. They had crossed the Kenapocomoco river half a mile above, over a bed of gravel where the water was shallow, and had driven westward on the high ground along the river bank. Here to them seemed the Land of Promise. There was good water, and the woods promised plenty of

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  game. What more could they ask? Their scanty belongings were in a wagon, drawn by a pair of tired looking horses, so home to them might be easily where they stopped.

Before night a couple of trees fell to Ogan's axe, and it was not many days until there was a "clearin," and all was in readiness for a "house raisin." By that time others had arrived, looking for homes. One was Martin Swank, then a boy of fourteen, who with his father had come from Ohio. It was this Martin Swank, who seventy years after told me of this "raisin," proud that boy though he was he had had the honor of "taking up one corner" of the one room cabin.

Ogan was a planner of big things, but was possessed of an "itchy heel" that had driven him to move on again and again before his dreams could realize fulfillment. He had cut the pathway through the woods by which the supplies and the officials made their way to the Paradise Springs Treaty Ground in the fall of 1826. For the eight years since then he had followed the will o' the wisp of promise, the next field always seeming to hold prospects of a brighter future. And so they had come to another location, looking and hoping.

He and Mary were alone in their settlement for the first winter, but the next summer brought back some of the prospectors who had "looked" the fall before, Martin Swank and his parents being among them. There were the Simontons, Harters, Stricklers, Willises, Thorns, Krishers and Fannins.

Towns were being started all around, and Ogan could finally see promise of a reality of his dream. The honor of being the "Proprietor of a Town" was tempting, so in the fall of 1836 he called in a surveyor, and a part of the little more than a hundred acres he had purchased of the Government was platted into town lots.

As I. A. Tomlinson, the surveyor, put the last lines on the sketch of streets and alleys, he asked of the already proud parents, "What shall we christen the child?"

What moved Ogan, though Irish and red headed, to say: "The child shall be called Manchester," has never been explained. Mary nodded her willing approval, and so Manchester it was until "North" was added by the Postal Department to distinguish it from a Manchester down in the hills of Southern Indiana. And so it remains as North

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  Manchester, though the Manchester away down near the Ohio river has long since lost its post office, its few remaining cross roads residents being served by rural route from Aurora.

Ogan's plat was recorded at the County Seat in January of 1837. With a vision and foresight that was hardly to be expected in his day, Ogan planned a town with wide and roomy streets, six streets being laid out a hundred feet wide. Avaricious lot owners, in the horse and buggy days, prevailed upon unwise town officials to narrow three of these streets to sixty-six feet. Forgetting this unwise act as best we may, we still point with pride to the three streets that remain a hundred feet wide, that are the admiration of our visitors, and the envy of our more unfortunate neighbors.

It is a far cry back to the evening when Peter Ogan and his good wife, Mary, stood by the Kenapocomoco and visioned a home. There have been trials and tribulations. The Ogans stayed but a few years, departing for newer fields, still looking for the End of the Rainbow. Five times our people have responded to the call to arms to fight in wars only one of which could be in any way called of our making. Some have gone from us for important tasks in the Big Outside World. Others have stayed to do equally important work at home, while a few have "just gone," or have "just stayed." The wildest fancies of those dreamers who that October evening in 1834 stood by the Kenapocomoco river could not have visioned our town as it is today, enjoying comforts and conveniences then unknown and undreamed.

Today our Town or Village is not much different from hundreds of other towns, some bigger, some not so big, but all with the often long delayed hope of growing bigger. We have lots of good folks, and a fair sprinkling of other people. We have our little differences which we sometimes settle, and our disappointments which we sometimes live down, but like most of other towns we can occasionally "point with pride."

Births, deaths, marriages, sometimes a divorce, successes, failures and just staying "as you were" make up the round of events. It is like many another town that may fade or flourish with the caprice of fortune. The people are all folks who have hoped, sometimes almost lost faith, but finally have hoped again.

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  Day in, day out it has gone along its way. The basic doings are all pretty much the same, with a change of actors for the various parts, and the very occasional relief of new and unexpected details. The path from the cradle to the grave has as many turns, twists and hurdles as can be found in the biggest of the cities, or the smallest of the villages.

Not many of our folks know or understand much about Albert Einstein's Law of Relativity, yet relatively the happenings of Our Town are fully as important to us home folks as are the doings in the cosmopolitan centers of the world to the big city folks. Humanity in thought, ideal and action is just the same in calico and denim as in silk and broadcloth. Our Town can have just as much fun on a fifty cent ice cream and peanut spree as our more sophisticated neighbors can get out of a thousand dollar champagne dinner, and with no headaches to follow.

Pete Smith, who with his ancient fliver, hauls the freight from the railway station, and who after the one train a day has departed, hauls coal and takes away ashes, is fully as proud of his work well done as is the Mr. Smythington Sylvester, who owns the transfer system in the hundred thousand metropolis some miles away.

Nor can the elegant Mrs. Smythington Sylvester of that metropolis have more inward satisfaction because of the thousand dollar dinner she served to the aspired and the aspiring, or of her full length picture in the photogravure section of the Big Town Herald than does Mrs. Pete Smith over the Sunday dinner of which Our Town paper said she "delightfully entertained the Rev. Samuel Longtalk, Mrs. Longtalk, and her brother, Jim Snodgrass." Our little comings and goings are as important to us as is a trip to the Orient by the Ronald Kensingtons. Even the whitewashing of Bill Jones' wood house is with us an event worthy of mention.

We have our little successes that are remembered; we have our failures, sometimes big, that we try to forget. It is in the memories of our few successes as they stand out on the canvas of the past that we find much of our pleasure and satisfaction, as well as the inspiration to push forward to more successes. That is what makes memory worth while. Most of us would be slow to turn back to Memory's Lane if the hardships, the days of sadness, and the hours of disappointment stood

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  out as distinctly as do the memories of our pleasures and our hours of happiness.

Personal and community memories are very much alike. The times we won the spelling matches; when our school beat the pupils of the Milltown school in the central examination; when our candidate for sheriff won over the fellow from a distant part of the county; when our Silver Cornet Band won first place and honors over the County Seat Band; the day our baseball huskies took a big score from the brag Peruvian team, all are remembered with pride and pleasure, forgetting the many, many times other folks had the lead, and we were left to drink the bitter dregs of defeat. For more than thirty years we have rejoiced in the memory of our school Basketball Team getting into the State Finals, but have long ago forgotten the gloom and sadness of the defeat that came with the second from the last game.

Away back in the early days there was a bitter rivalry between the folks of Our Town and the residents of Freedom, half a dozen miles to the east. Freedom was a little older than Our Town, the official plat having been filed with the county recorder a few days earlier. At one time it had the chance of being the metropolis and trading center for our section, but the greed of one man who was determined that he, and he alone, should control its business turned enough people our way to soon outclass it in population and business prospects.

It was in an unguarded moment that one of our too talkative boosters, with good intentions but poor judgment, spoke of Freedom as a "Jimson Weed Town." As a matter of fact Jimson Weeds were pretty plentiful in Freedom, but it was poor policy for us to tell them about it. It would have been better to have kept quiet; to have let her people nurse along that sure mark of neglect. But the words were spoken, and the loyal sons of Freedom were soon up on their toes. However they had the discretion to believe that Silence was Golden, that actions would speak more effectively than words.

That fall the Freedom folks gathered all of the abundant crop of Jimson Weed seed that the town could produce. In the dead of night they came to Our Town, scattering the seed plentifully in every place where it looked like a Jimson Weed would thrive, going home to let Nature take its course. Next year the crop of Jimson Weed was short

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  in Freedom, but we had plenty for that year, and for many years to come.

Despite the fight we had to put up to get rid of those Jimson Weeds, Our Town continued to grow. We can point with pride to the United States Census Records which show for us an increase in population for each decade. Once our record was saved by a very narrow margin. On the morning of the last day our census enumerator found he was short by seven of the record of ten years before. Going to the circus ground he found seventeen of the "Hi Rube" show followers who were as much at home one place as any other, and who had not been listed by any other enumerator. That put us ten to the good, saving our face, and giving us solid ground upon which to boast a "continuous and healthy growth."

Note: North Manchester had a population of 3,170 in 1940, but as this is being written in 1949 it has well over four thousand. It is the largest Village in the Hoosier State, and among the larger Villages of the country. Home folks seem to prefer it as a Big Village rather than as a Small City. A few months ago a vote was taken on the proposition of taking on city incorporation. The Villagers outvoted the Cityites by four to one.

The Kenapocomoco was the Indian name for Eel River.


How the Wabash River Got Its Name

Written by Michael McCafferty, Indiana University, Bloomington and used by permission of the author. This article first appeared in the Newsletter of the Wabash River Heritage Corridor Commission - L'Esprit de Ouabache.

"Wabash." the name of Indiana's important and legendary river comes from the Miami-Illinois language. This is an Algonquian tongue spoken in late prehistory and early history in Indiana and Illinois and later in Indiana and Oklahoma. This river's name dates to around 950 AD, the likely arrival date of Algonquian-speaking peoples in the Ohio River and lower Lake Michigan watersheds. The first historical appearance of this place-name is in the writings of the French explorer Rene Robert Cavelier de La Salle, who first penned the term in 1681 in the form Ouabanchi. His is a relatively good

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  recording if one ignores the -n- that did not exist in the native term. La Salle never visited the Wabash; he learned of its existence from local Indians. But, after having spent three additional years among Miami-Illinois-speaking Indians along the Kankakee and Illinois rivers, he revised his early spelling to Ouabaché, the form that appeared in 1684 on a map he helped design in Paris with the assistance of the royal mapmaker Jean-Baptiste Louis Franquelin. Later French writers, who like most Frenchmen in the 18th century, were lackadaisical about using accent marks, simply wrote the hydronym Ouabache, even though they always pronounced the name with a final vowel. Even so, it is precisely because they often failed to write accent marks that we today pronounce the river's name "Wabash" rather than "Wabashee", a spelling and pronunciation that was still common in English in the 1700's. After La Salle's time in the Illinois Country, the Miami-Illinois name that is the origin of "Wabash" showed up in the writings of late 17th and early 18th century Jesuit missionaries to the Illinois Indians. Later, it appeared in the recordings done by late 19th century linguists of Miami-Illinois language. 

In Miami-Illinois, the form of this place-name is waapaahshiiki siipiiwi. Siipiiwi is the word for 'river'. Waapaahshiiki is a verb meaning 'it shines white'. The components of this term are waap-'white, -aahshii- 'shine' and -ki, the third-person inanimate intransitive conjunct verbal suffix whose closest equivalent in English is "it". Verb-based place-names are very common in the Algonquian languages. This hydronym, which best translates to English "White Shining River", refers to the originally bright white limestone bed of the upper river between Huntington and Carroll counties. What is particularly curious about this river's Miami-Illinois name is that it referred to a water course much greater in length than today's Wabash River. In the minds of the Miami-Illinois-speaking people and from the French point of view right up to the time that the French lost control of North America to the Britons in the 1760s, waapaahshiiki siipiiwi, Ouabaché, bracketed a waterway that combined our modern Wabash River and the lower Ohio River right on down to the Mississippi. From their point of view, the Ohio River ended at the confluence of today's Wabash and Ohio rivers. 

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North Manchester Ephemera

Ephemera can be described as those items that are usually discarded after brief use. Many are printed materials of some sort, often advertising items or business materials such as catalogs, receipts, sales slips, etc. Other items include calendars, envelopes and stationery, yardsticks, fans, can openers, pencils etc., with the name of the business printed on them. The variety is almost unlimited.

Such items provide an interesting window to look into North Manchester businesses. The museum already has some of these items which have been donated over the years. On the surface, these items seem worthless and they do not normally have any monetary value. But since people usually throw them away, these items are quite scarce.

Photos of town businesses are also wanted. Bring any such items to monthly meetings, or give them directly to Phil Orpurt, the museum curator, or to any of the officers of the Society. Items can be mailed to the Historical Society at P. O, Box 361.

There have already been several efforts to document North Manchester businesses. (See the recent issue of the Newsletter). Sometime we can prepare an exhibit in the new museum of artifacts pertaining to North Manchester commercial and/or professional enterprises and eventually a more complete history of all businesses can be written.


Early North Manchester Residents

1834 - 1865
Reprinted from A Sense of Place: Reflections on the Life and Times of North Manchester by Dr. Ladoska Z. Bunker.
What follows is an incomplete list of persons living in the town and its early additions from 1834 to 1865. A further listing from 1865 to 1900 is in the making. If you have relatives who were early residents or knowledge of persons on this list, any information would be much appreciated. Please get in touch with the North Manchester Historical Society.
  • Melitis Andrews, 202 East Third Street
  • Asa Beauchamp, owner of the American House Hotel.
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  • Bonewitz Family.
  • Phoebe Butterbaugh, first white child.
  • Cowgill family, shoemakers, tanners: Cowgill family, 201 North Mill: son Carey, daughters Kate (Harter), Rowena (Harter) Tryon.
  • J.R. Dailey, Black Hawk war veteran.
  • Francis Eagle, came here with the Harters, prominent attorney in Wabash.
  • Reverend Bryant Fannin, circuit rider.
  • Columbus Flook, potter.
  • Ezra Ford, 201 West Third Street; William Ford.
  • Frame family: Mahlon, James; William Frame, Mexican War veteran.
  • Goshorn family, one a physician.
  • Grist family, builders.
  • Allen Halderman, donated land for pioneer cemetery.
  • Joseph Harter, the pioneer: 11 children by first and second wives, came here in 1836: sons Joseph B. Harter, Jacob Harter, prominent citizens through early 1900s.
  • Col. Richard Helvey, 1834, 202 East Main Street.
  • Henry Lantz and wife, Lantz House hotel, 202 Walnut Street; had flour mill and other enterprises; to California in the Gold Rush, 1849.
  • Metzger family. One member went to california with Henry Lantz, 1849.
  • Noftzger family, 1845, L.J.; sons Charles and Sam.
  • Peter Ogan, founder of the town, cabin at 125 East Main Street, wife Mary Anne. John Ogan, brother of Peter, miller.
  • Morris Place, operated the Quaker school on South Maple Street.
  • Isaac Place, 309 South Maple Street, with the Underground Railroad.
  • Eli Rager and wife Jeannie Willis, 204 South Maple Street.
  • Ruse family, Third and Walnut Streets.
  • Hiram Sheets, with Underground Railroad.
  • Tighlman I. Siling and brother, furniture makers before 1854.
  • Alex Spurgeon and son John, builders.
  • Daniel Stone, here in 1836.
  • William Thorne, merchant, residence at 207 West Main Street; George, 1840 and following, had racetrack at the edge of town.
  • Ulrey family, 401 East Third Street.
  • Wallace-Marine family, South Mill Street.
  • Wicks, Martin, a pioneer.
  • Willis, William E., first postmaster, 1839.
  • Whitlow, Hiram, blacksmith.
  • Windle, Albert, 311 North Market Street.
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