Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

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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 Quaker faith.

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 courteous.

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 patriotic.

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 movements.

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 good-bye.

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 as Riverside.

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 this event.

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 house!
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 uptown.

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 corrections.

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 6, 1959.
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 cheek."

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 predators.

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.

Source: NMHS Newsletter, May 1991
On George and Julia Gaddis

By James R.C. Adams

My wife and I had never been attracted to the Midwest.  It 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,  San Francisco.  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 Manchester.

In fact, the 300-block looked like a park.  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.  “What park?”  they wondered.  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 “Riverside House.”  George was a diminutive man, very energetic and friendly.  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 inexpensive.

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 ourselves.  Max had already made the hard decisions and had done a good job.  Without his intervention we would never have acquired the house.

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 big.  The 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 songbirds.  He had a system of mirrors arranged so that he could see who was at the door from various places within the house.

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 attic.  For years people came to take cuttings and whole plants, from asparagus to aspidistra, because George could make things grow.

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 been altered.  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 of love.

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.