|Source: NMHS Newsletter May 1993
A Conversation with Dr. L. Z. Bunker
By Jay A. Taylor
To my question about when we could get together and talk
about her remembrances of Mr. Gaddis, Dr. Bunker
inquired, "How about now?" Thus we began.
His name was George Foxx Gaddis with the double XX after
that of the Quaker divine, George Foxx. She mentioned
that she had no information about the kind of earlier
life experiences that may have thus linked him to the
He and his wife Julia, whom he had met while stationed
in the standing army in the Philippines, came to North
Manchester, acquired land and built a small dwelling in
the Riverside section (south Market Street). From the
smaller dwelling he began his larger house in which he
did all the masonry, carpentry, electrical, plumbing and
heating work. Dr. Bunker especially remembers that he
bought salvaged piping from her father's establishment
on West Main St. and created a steam heating plant that
was still in operation after his death.
He was a short, rather muscular man, whose decorum was
always very refined. He was described by her as alert,
intense, well-coordinated, determined, kind and
There were no children known to her, and she knew of no
relatives from out of town who came to visit as you
would expect had there been an extended family. He was
very much in love with Julia, and he spoke of her
tenderly. He was very attentive and courteous in his
behavior toward her.
Julia had apparently been a teacher before coming here,
but was not known by Dr. Bunker to have taught in the
schools after their move here. She, however, did serve
as a tutor in this locality. At some point in her
earlier teaching career she had apparently been given a
silk gown by some of her students. At the time of her
death, probably at her earlier request, it was adjusted,
and she was "laid out" in that beautiful gown.
George Gaddis was a supporter and participant in the
Christian Science Reading Room in an outbuilding behind
the home of Sam Oldfather, who lived at the corner of
Market and Second Streets. For a number of years public
readings were made in the room, and when these were
discontinued, the room was still maintained for several
years as a place where anyone in the community could
find literature about that religious belief. Like many
institutions, that too, no longer has a presence here.
Dr. Bunker mentioned two specific features of the Gaddis
home. One feature was the light kept burning inside the
banister on the flat portion of the roof of the home.
Upon my inquiry about its purpose she supposed it was,
as reported, that he used it to guide his way home at
night from up town. I then shared with her a mystery
that I had heard from family as a boy and from one other
person in my study of the Gaddis Family at this time.
Could it be, as I had heard, that the light was kept
burning so that when "the Lord returned with one foot on
water (Eel River) and one foot on land (Riverside), "
Gaddis would welcome him at his home? She had not heard
that exact version, but she affirmed it would have been
in character with his moral and religious convictions.
The second feature was the presence of a flag of the
United States of America, always well cared for and
flying on the premises. He was indeed very religious and
Mr. Gaddis was always something of an available man to
do good around North Manchester. He attended Town
Meetings where he was very vocal about general morality
and particularly about the saloons. Yet he was always
very proper in his remonstrances.
He was available to work through almost any engineering
or construction problems of the neighborhood. As a
carpenter he created most anything needed in his
well-equipped shop. He also made castings and worked
with metals. He was the kind of workman who always made
each move count. There were very few false or wasted
Dr. Bunker remembered that her father engaged George to
build a chicken house in 1918. He came, bringing his
lunch, and since the weather was not comfortable for
eating outside, Mrs. Bunker invited him in to eat. He
did not sit at the table with the Bunkers, but ate
nearby where they conversed. She remembers that her
mother commented that the lunch seemed a little less
than adequate for a hard working man. However the
building was complete, and the doors and windows opened
and closed snuggly. Everything fit together well.
Dr. Bunker shared another time Mr. Gaddis helped work
through a remodeling problem in the dwelling at the back
of her current location. She had taken another carpenter
to a barn near Collamer, on the River Road, to affirm
that an open, walnut staircase which had been salvaged,
stored and then placed up for sale, was sound and worthy
of reinstallation. After settling on the price with
delivery, four extra door frames and a fireplace mantel
for $25, it was brought to the present site. That was a
rather hefty price in depression dollars.
The original installation had a 90° turn and the
staircase required adjustment to fit in its new
location. George came to help work through that. It was
determined that a new black walnut spindle should be
turned to complete the installation. No problem. It was
reproduced by Mr. Gaddis after the original design,
installed, and is still in use in the building today.
After some good-hearted sharing on rivers, dams and the
names of persons who might help further, we said our
Source: NMHS Newsletter Feb 1993--
The Intriguing Mr. Gaddis
By Jay A. Taylor
(Prepared for the North Manchester, Indiana Historical
Society and to be followed by a "slice of the life" of
George Fox(x) Gaddis shared by those who have such
memories of him.)
There was always something mysterious about George Fox
Gaddis to me as a child and a teen. He was known to me
because my father was always finding things to sell in
North Manchester during the depression. Dad would
deliver "Taylor Pure Maple Syrup" and later hard maple
firewood in town. Most of North Manchester was
uneventful to me except for the girls on Main Street and
the unique area to the south. At the time this was known
The warranty deed given when Max Kester bought the
Gaddis property from the estate describes it as "The
Town of Riverside" in Chester Township, Wabash County,
Indiana. The Gaddis Home was located in Riverside on
what is today called South Market where the James R. C.
Adams family lives. The home is on the west side of the
street and a bend of Eel River comes near the east side
of the road. At the very peak of the Gaddis home the
roof was flat and a banister was installed to create a
"widow's walk" similar to those along the sea where
women watched for their fishermen to return with the
catch. In the middle of this high point an arch stood
with an electric bulb that burned all night long.
The mystery of this man was as profound to me as the
apocalypse-- the second coming of Christ. The rumblings
of World War II had begun. Rev. Pascal of Calvary
Tabernacle, Fort Wayne, had decreed that the end of the
world would be in November or December, 1941.
Considering himself to be grounded in scriptures he
would do no more than name Hitler as the anti-Christ,
and would not dare to give the exact day or time for
It was also at this time I heard a story from my older
brothers that the light on the arch high upon the
"widow's walk" at the Gaddis home was to direct the
returning steps of Jesus. The way it was told to me was
that Jesus was to return with one foot on land and one
on water. George wanted the Lord to know he was welcome
at his house. I wasn't sure I wanted any of this at our
Someone who had not heard the land and water bit was
hard pressed to know how the returning Messiah was to
get down from the roof-top since there were no known
trap doors, ladders or stairs inside the house leading
to and from the "widow's walk." Of course less
compulsive persons speculated the light was a practical
way at night to guide Mr. Gaddis' steps home from
In 1945 the draft ended my speculations when I left this
community not to return until retirement in 1989.
Meanwhile, I had made my peace with the apocalypse.
Remember, I have a compulsive nature that still wanted
to solve the mystery of George Gaddis. By this time he
was dead, as was his wife, Julia, who had survived him
for a number of years. In my search I found access to
the Historical Society Newsletters that gave helpful
information. While visiting with Harold French, Lagro
Township, I discovered he had lived here, and had worked
for George Gaddis as an older child and junior high boy
while they lived west of the Gaddis home about 1925. In
addition, I went to our walking historian, Dr. Bunker,
and then at her suggestion to Mary Bazzoni who with her
husband moved from Chicago to the Riverside neighborhood
about 1945. Max Kester also gave valuable information
from his ownership and remodeling of the property.
Let me apologize to all the historical "purists." My
intent was to attempt to get the color and flavor of the
Gaddis family. I certainly don't want to cast aside
exact information, so would welcome any additions or
George Gaddis moved to North Manchester in August, 1903.
He came from the Philippine Islands where he was in the
standing army after the Spanish American War, and where
he had met Julia Cornwell, a missionary teacher. A copy
of his obituary found in a piece of furnishings bought
by Mary Bazzoni at the estate auction confirms that he
and Julia were married November 20, 1903, in Wabash. His
birth was at Neponset, Illinois in 1873 and his death
was at the VA Hospital, Fort Wayne, Indiana, September
Upon coming to town he had first built a small dwelling.
Then he constructed the larger house, doing all
carpentry, heating, plumbing and electrical work
himself. To these buildings he had added a machine-shop
in which he could create all joints, turnings, and
castings, and he even crafted the machines to create
whatever he needed to build! There were no eave troughs
on the house, but instead a concrete apron surrounding
the foundation to keep the house clean and protect the
ground from washing away. Since there was a cistern,
that water must have been caught from the eaves of other
buildings. Typical of Gaddis' ingenuity, the cistern
water was pumped to the attic of the house where it was
plumbed to some of the faucets of the home and into the
garden for irrigation.
Mr. Gaddis and Julia were small people, and since he
created his own doors, door frames and stairways, they
were usually made low and narrow for their smaller size.
It is reported that rooms originally were so small that
in one instance three of the small ones made just one
average size room. The Newsletter carried an article
telling of his system of mirrors that allowed him to see
who was at the door before answering. Dr. Bunker reports
that he bought much of his pipe from her father's
salvage yard on West Main Street for the steam heating
system he designed. He seemingly was able, without
resorting to standard sizes and practices, to create
everything he needed from scratch. Unfortunately, when
he was no longer able to maintain the property, much of
his creation stopped functioning. Persons unfamiliar
with his inventions found them impossible to repair.
Gaddis was well known for the arbor he created across
the road on the river bank. He seemed to be so energetic
that one might think he never took time to sit down.
Harold French tells of one learning moment when the two
of them sat on the arbor's bench overlooking the river.
Gaddis said, "Harold, if anyone ever hits you say,
'Don't do that again.' If they hit you a second time,
just maul the earth with them." French went on, "That
was the lesson he gave me about turning the other
Mr. Gaddis maintained honey bees and extracted the honey
for use and sale. Mr. French helped him raise asparagus
for sale and helped him in the shop. He reported that
Mr. Gaddis had unending patience. When screens had been
crafted they were given to Harold to put on the moldings
which had been bought and stored in long lengths at the
shop. As a youngster Harold often made a mistake in the
cutting and so wasted many pieces. He shares that,
"Gaddis was a good man. I want to emphasize that! He
never said a thing. I remember that every nail and screw
had to be dipped in red lead before I drove it."
It didn't surprise Dr. Bunker that French reported
another instance of patience and ingenuity. Gaddis had
just fastened a piece of wood that appeared to be 2 1/2
X 2 1/2 by 42 inches long in his lathe. As soon as he
put the chisel to it the piece flew out, hit Gaddis on
the forehead and opened a gash 2 1/2 inches long from
which the blood spurted. George said nothing, but went
up the steps into the house. In about half an hour he
returned with his wound sutured with common black
thread. Since there was no one else in the house and he
had not left the property, Julia had to have been the
one to have sewn him up. Again he said nothing, but
calmly put the piece back in the lathe and finished it
as if nothing had ever happened.
Truck chassis were de livered to Mr. Gaddis much as
those delivered to school bus factories in our day. He
would set about designing and building both truck cab
and body. The cabs were designed with sliding doors that
opened and closed with precision.
Periodically while the man and boy worked in the ship
there would be a disturbance among the birds. At this
point Gaddis handed the boy a 22 rifle and he took
another and they went hunting predators. The predator
was usually a cat. Cat lovers might be offended that
Harold and George usually got the culprit. It was also
known that the Gaddis home had several small port holes
from which aim could be taken at the undesirable bird
Every reporter on the life of George Gaddis mentioned
that he was known for following the astrological signs.
He liked to use bass wood, which had to be cut in the
woods, sawed into rough lumber, and cured under his
roof, all by the sign, of course. He was generous with
giving tree seedlings, asparagus roots and various
cuttings to any who would accept them. This, too, was
done at the proper moon phase. Few of us know these
signs, but I remember those who would only plant early
potatoes on Good Friday. An educated guess is that this
root crop needed to be planted in the dark of the moon,
or when the moon was waning. Remember, Good Friday, just
before Easter, comes after the first full moon after the
Vernal Equinox. Hence, potatoes were planted in the dark
of the moon.
Long after working for George, French remembers his
daughter's seventh birthday. George and Julia Gaddis
also wanted to celebrate that special day. Thus, timing
the moon phase, they showed up at the Huntington home of
the French's with a blue spruce seedling which he
planted. After all these years that tree still lives and
thrives in the front yard of the current resident.
Adjectives used to describe Mr. Gaddis have been: alert,
intense, well coordinated, determined, kind, courteous.
Mary Bazzoni remembers that he taught her to garden.
Many a child in North Manchester swung a ball bat with
no trade mark which was turned by the generous hand and
heart of George Gaddis. Not only was there a light
always burning on top of the Gaddis house, but there was
always a flag of the United States of America flying and
well cared for. Now his army mementos are in the custody
of the local post of the American Legion.
Mr. Gaddis was found frequently at the town board
meetings and other gatherings where he was vocal about
general morality and specifically about the saloons. He
was always courteous to Julia and even when he was
fighting an evil issue, his behavior was always proper.
He was frequently called wherever there was a
construction problem where he helped work through
whatever issues were presented.
He was a staunch supporter of the Christian Science
Reading Room which was maintained in a building at the
back of Sam Oldfather's residence on Market Street,
north of Second Street. Public meetings were scheduled
there for a time, and later the group meetings were held
in private homes. The reading room was still maintained
for private study for many years. The residue of the
Gaddis estate was given to the Christian Science Church
in Boston, Massachusetts.
Interestingly, when Julia left the Philippines, her
students made and gave her a delightful silk gown which
she treasured through the years. At her request it was
prepared for her burial dress.
I am sure this is not the end of the story of the Gaddis
sojourn in our town. For instance, I am curious why he
was named for the Quaker divine, George Foxx. Perhaps
the memory pump has been primed for additions and
corrections to flesh out more of the story.
Newsletter, May 1991
On George and Julia Gaddis
By James R.C.
My wife and I had never been attracted to the
isn’t that we had anything against it, but, when we
thought of places to settle down, we thought of more
“dramatic” scenery: the Rockies, Florida, Seattle,
The Midwest seemed, well, ordinary.
We came to North Manchester by chance, but we
stayed on purpose.
I am not attracted by flatness and
gridiron street plans.
With nothing else to go on, you choose a place by
its appearance and its climate.
By those criteria, I rate North Manchester C+.
But it didn’t take me long to realize that people
are more important than places and, as long as the
people rate A+, a C+ place seemed a fair tradeoff.
Shortly after settling into a
cramped apartment on the corner of Gridiron and Flat
Streets, in North Manchester, we went exploring for a
curve or a hill or any unique feature in what seemed to
us at the time a generic small town in the Midwest.
We turned at the town hall, crossed the old iron
bridge, and drove into what people used to call
“Riverside” and which our abstract call South
In fact, the 300-block looked like
Suddenly we were in a pine forest with geometrically
laid out Norway spruces, in the midst of which was a
large, white house, with much trellis work on both sides
of the road.
The gravel road curved along the river and was
beautiful for its shadiness and refusal to adhere to the
civic demands of rectilinearity.
Riverside was a rebel.
When people asked us how we liked
North Manchester, we said “fine” because we were brought
up that way, but then with some enthusiasm we remarked
that we really liked the little park down by the river.
Finally we learned that the “park” was the work
of George Gaddis, a local carpenter.
We grew to love that part of town and frequently
took walks there.
Once I had need of some picture
frames in a hurry, and I was referred to one George
Gaddis and found myself at what we always thought of as
George was a diminutive man, very energetic and
He had a huge machine-shop attached to the house with
all the power tools driven by one engine through large
belts running on an overhead shaft.
The frames were very well made and surprisingly
We left North Manchester to teach
in an equally small town in Germany.
That area, to, was very green but had the
advantage of hills, forests, and crooked streets.
People there asked us how we like it.
It was certainly prettier than North Manchester,
we would say.
But, then, “except for a bit down by the river,
which is like a park,” we would say.
When we returned to Manchester, we
took a walk to our favorite area and were distressed to
see the “park” overgrown and derelict.
Mr. and Mrs. Gaddis had died.
The house had been sold and was being renovated.
Great piles of broken cement were lying next to
it, the parkland was 20 feet deep in saplings and poison
ivy, the roof had been torn off the shop behind, and
piles of debris were on the other side of the road next
to the trellis arch over the bench.
What a time to have been out of the country.
At first we simply regretted
missing the chance to buy the house.
Then we found that Max Kester had bought it and
was planning to move into it.
In short, we talked Max into selling to us.
The fact is, the Gaddis house is so peculiar,
that we probably wouldn’t have tackled renovation
Max had already made the hard decisions and had done a
Without his intervention we would never have acquired
I have lived in “Riverside House”
now for over 30 years.
We have modified it and have gotten to know
George and Julia Gaddis through their house.
Both of them were small people, so they designed
their house for people their size.
The doorways were low and narrow.
So were the stairs.
There used to be many more rooms than now; Max
Kester made one room of three, and even it isn’t very
stairs had to be widened, and all the doorways changed.
The garage was designed to hold a small English
car, a real rarity in George’s day, and for several
years after we had bought the house, it continued to
house an English car.
Eventually I converted it into a pool room which
is still too small for a comfortable game!
George had his eccentricities.
All over the house and out-buildings were little
trapdoors and small wall openings.
I am told these portholes were for him to shoot
the undesirable birds who were robbing food from the
He had a system of mirrors arranged so that he could see
who was at the door from various places within the
We have had the opportunity to
experience the ingenuity, resourcefulness, and
craftsmanship of George.
His cement is the hardest I have ever seen, and I
have had to remove tons of it.
The oaken house is so hard it is impossible to
drive in nails without first drilling holes.
The garden could be made usable only after the
removal of hundreds of yards of irrigation pipe intended
to distribute rainwater from a collection tank in the
years people came to take cuttings and whole plants,
from asparagus to aspidistra, because George could make
He was a Christian Scientist and,
though I don’t think it is a necessary corollary, he
believed in “the signs.”
He did everything by astrology.
Not only did he plant according to the signs, but
he poured concrete by the signs.
I don’t know if
it was the work of the moon, or George, but
breaking up his concrete was no easy task.
George and his wife, Julia, spent
years in the Philippines as missionaries.
Julia was loved by her students who made her a
beautiful silk dress as going-away present.
She was buried in that dress.
Over the years I got to know George
through the neighbors.
No neighborhood child was without a ball bat.
George turned them out on his lathe.
George was just a sweet guy, according to all the
people who knew him.
The “park” is not the same.
Some of the land of the Norways had been sold
before we bought the house, and houses have gone up in
what used to be part of the park, but the people who
built also knew George, and as best they could,
preserved the trees.
Disease and wind have taken some, and the
trellised bench needs a lot of work.
The house has suffered a fire, and the roof has
Gone are the elaborate balustrades that used to
grace the flat roof on the south side of the house (gone
is the flat roof!).
Things are not the same, but the cherry wood and
walnut are still inside, and I think George would not be
too disappointed with what we have done with his labor
Just as a person seems more
attractive as affection grows, towns look better and
better as you get to know the people.
I still give the people an A+, but the town now
deserves at least a B+.
Either it has changed, or I have.