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 NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY
 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: NMHS Newsletter Feb 2008

The Beef Ring

E. William Ranck

I do not know when or where the idea originated, but one of my earliest memories (around 1896) was of going with mother to the barn and watching her harness Nelly and hitching her to the buggy. It was Tuesday morning and we were going to bring the beef home. Father and the hired man were already at work in the fields. We also would bring the beef for our good neighbors, the Henry Cripes, who lived on the farm across Clear Creek from us, half a mile west of North Manchester, Indiana. The next week Henry would bring our beef.

The Beef Ring consisted of 20 farmer members. Each was assigned a week when it would be his turn to supply a well fleshed, steer or heifer.

The Ring's butcher would arrive at the designated farm in his one-horse spring wagon with tripod and tools, late Monday afternoon. The spring wagon was a light weight, four wheel vehicle. A platform type spring seat up front accommodated a driver and two small boys --if they held on tight going around corners or over bumps. The shallow box bed was suitable for light loads. The butcher would kill, skin and quarter the animal, then drive to the farmstead of Isaac C and Mary Frantz Cripe, my mother's parents. They had a large, cool spring house. In it he would hang and wash the beef and leave it to cool all night.

In those days before farmers had electric refrigeration, a spring house like this one was very useful. Few had one so well located. In 1876 Grandpa built his three-story brick home 3 miles west of North Manchester. When they were digging to built a cistern near the Northwest corner of the house, they ran into gravel filled with spring water. Grandpa decided to make maximum use of this. A spring house was built 20 feet west of the southwest corner of the house, with its brick floor set four feet below ground level.

Steps led down into a small entrance room, where a stream of water from the captured spring fell from a pipe into a pool in the floor. A dipper hung nearby and many a thirst was satisfied there.

A screened door from this room led west into a 10-by-14 foot room, which had a two-foot wide concrete trough built along the north wall. A pipe from the pool brought water into this trough. The water was five inches deep. Covered crocks of milk, cream, meat, etc., set into it were kept cool. A pipe at the far end continued the flow out to a large drinking trough in the barnyard where the cattle and horses could enjoy fresh water that never failed and never froze. The entire system worked at all times and by gravity.

There was a long table along the south side of this larger spring house room. On a shelf above it were 20 shallow boxes, one for each Ring member. About 3 a.m. the butcher began to cut, weigh and wrap the meat for each box. Each family got the same amount and each received a total of four soup bones during the season.

People came early for the meat while the morning was still cool. Some farmers had their own ice houses and put up ice each winter from Eel River or some lake. They used it in an icebox refrigerator or in what was called a "creamery" to keep food cool.

Soon after the last beef of the season as butchered and distributed, a meeting was held "to settle up the Beef Ring". The entire family attended. The meeting was usually held in Grandma's family room and overflowed into the adjoining summer dining room.

Since the animals that were supplied varied somewhat in weight, the average net weight of all 20 was computed. Members whose animals fell short paid into the treasury at a pre-fixed price per pound and those who supplied more were compensated accordingly. A captain for the next year was elected. He would hire the butcher. Then each member drew a number indicating which week he was to supply the animal.

This cooperative venture enabled these families to enjoy fresh beef all summer at minimum cost, produced from their own pasture and feed. The only cash outlay was to pay the butcher. Nothing was charged for the facilities.

The business session was soon over. It was still early evening and what we youngsters enjoyed most would now begin. Big baskets appeared and the ladies began to decorate the tables in both rooms with beautiful cakes and pies while the men opened freezers of ice cream. Grace was said, then all enjoyed the abundant good food and the fellowship with good neighbors.

We children and the teenagers were soon exploring the many interesting things and places inside and outside the large and unusual home. It was a great time to make new friends and over the years more than a few romances began under the October moon at Grandpa's place-- because there was a Beef Ring.

Appeared in the Star Magazine, date unknown. E. William Ranck was a graduate of Purdue University, was an agriculturist and economic advisor for the State Department in El Salvador and Puerto Rico before he retired in 1958. Later, he lived in Ft. Wayne.



Source: NMHS Newsletter, August 1986

The Beef Ring – An Early Farm Co-op.

By E. William Ranck

Our people were not always dependent upon the government. They were often originative, co-operative and equipped with self starters. The Beef Ring was a good example of farmers organized for their mutual benefit.

I do not know when or where the idea originated, but one of my earliest memories (around 1896) was of going with mother to the barn and watching her harness Nelly and hitching her to the buggy. It was Tuesday morning and we were going to bring the beef home. Father and the hired man were already at work in the fields. We would also bring the beef for our good neighbors, the Henry Cripes, who lived on the farm across Clear Creek from us, half a mile west of North Manchester, Indiana. The next week Henry would bring ours.

The creek was small most of the time and a driveway from our buildings led across a shallow, gravelly ford up to Henry’s place. Also there was a flattened footlog on the downstream side of the ford. One end was chained to a tree, else spring freshets would have carried it away.

Nelly trotted briskly down our lane, which passed near the creek and through some woods as we came out to the graveled pike (now Ind. 114). When Nelly saw some of her friends pulling a plow near the lane, she nickered, frightening a rabbit which crossed in front of us. Mother taught me the names of the birds we saw: a brown thrush, two bob-o-links, a bluejay and in the pasture a pair of mocking birds. There were many beautifully colored song birds in Indiana then. The starling (that destroyer of birds) had not yet been introduced.

The Ring consisted of twenty farmer members. Each was assigned a week when it would be his turn to supply a well fleshed, beef type steer or heifer of approximately the specified weight..

The Ring's butcher would arrive at the designated farm in his one-horse springwagon with tripod and tools, late Monday afternoon. The springwagon was a light weight, four wheel vehicle. A platform type spring seat up front accommodated a driver and two small boys --if they held on tight going around corners or over bumps. The shallow box bed was suitable for light loads. The butcher would kill, skin and quarter the animal, then drive to the farmstead of Isaac C. and Mary Frantz Cripe, my mother's parents. They had a large, cool springhouse. In it he would hang and wash the beef and leave it to cool all night.

In those days before farmers had electric refrigeration, a springhouse like this one was very useful. Few had one so well located. In 1876 when Grandpa built his three-story brick home three miles west of North Manchester, he notched into the southeast corner of a long, low hill and built the first story in the notch. This floor had doors at ground level on the east and south sides. On the north, or front side, the ground was level with the second floor, which contained living room, parlor, library and two bedrooms. The third floor had two very large bedrooms and two smaller ones. Each floor had porches one above the other on the east and on the south sides.

When they were digging to built a cistern near the Northwest corner of the house, they ran into a stratum of gravel filled with spring water. Grandpa decided to make maximum use of this Godsend. The cistern could be placed somewhere else. The circular excavation was bricked up and closed with a brick dome and entrance at the top.  Then a springhouse was built twenty feet west of the southwest corner of the house, with its brick floor set four feet below ground level.

Steps near the east end of the south side led down into a small entrance room, where a stream of water from the captured spring fell from a pipe into a pool in a 30-inch diameter vitrified sewer pipe set into the floor with its top end reaching six inches above the latter. A dipper hung nearby and many a thirst was satisfied there.

My mother told us that once when her sister Edna had just learned to walk and her brother Dave was about five, the two were playing in the south yard between the house and garden. They decided to go down into the nearby springhouse and were there on hands and knees amused by their reflections in the little pool. Mother said that their guardian angel must have been watching, for Edna’s hands slipped on the moist rim. In an instant, she was standing on her head in water as deep as she was tall. Dave said, “I first started to dash up the steps and over to the house to call Mother, but decided it would be better to pull her out first.” Uncle Dave lived to be 84, but he never made a better decision.

A screened door from this room led west into a 10’ x 14’ room, which had a two-foot wide concrete trough built as part of the floor, but six inches higher, all along the north wall. A pipe from the pool brought all of the flow into it. The water was five inches deep. Covered crocks of milk, cream, meat, etc., set into it were kept cool. A pipe at the far end continued the flow out to a large drinking trough in the barnyard where the cattle and horses could enjoy fresh water that never failed and never froze. The entire system worked at all times and by gravity.

There was a long table along the south side of this larger room and on a shelf above it, twenty shallow boxes each named for a Ring member. About 3:00 a.m. the butcher began to cut, weigh and wrap the meat for each box. As near as possible each family got the same amount and each received a total of four soup bones during the season. People came early for the meat while the morning was still cool. Some farmers had their own ice houses and put up ice each winter from Eel River or some lake. They used it in an icebox refrigerator or in what was called a "creamery" to keep food cool.

Soon after the last beef of the season as butchered and distributed, a meeting was held "to settle up the Beef Ring", as it was called. And with no T.V. programs to keep them at home, the entire family attended. The meeting was usually held in Grandma's family room and overflowed into the adjoining summer dining room. Both were on the first floor. The former had a fireplace and kitchen in the south end, a long dining table in the center and an open stairs leading to the living room on the second floor. The summer dining room’s whitewashed stone walls were always cool because outside they were against the hill.

Since the animals that were supplied varied somewhat in weight, the average net weight of all twenty was computed. Members whose animals fell short paid into the treasury at a pre-fixed price per pound and those who supplied more were compensated accordingly. A captain for the next year was elected. He would hire the butcher. Then each member drew a number indicating which week he was to supply the animal. This Co-op enabled these families to enjoy fresh beef all summer at minimum cost, produced from their own pasture and feed. The only cash outlay was to pay the butcher. Nothing was charged for the facilities.

The business session was soon over, it was still early evening and what we youngsters enjoyed most would now begin. Big baskets appeared and the ladies began to decorate the tables in both rooms with beautiful cakes and pies while the men opened freezers of ice cream. Grace was said, then all enjoyed the abundant good food and the fellowship with good neighbors. We children and the teenagers were soon exploring the many interesting things and places inside and outside the large and unusual home. It was a great time to make new friends and over the years more than a few romances began under the October moon at Grandpa's place-- because there was a Beef Ring.

E. William Ranck, a graduate of Purdue University, was an agriculturist and economic advisor for the State Department in El Salvador and Puerto Rico before he retired in 1958. He has traveled in 61 countries and has written several articles and pamphlets. Later, he lived in Ft. Wayne.