Vol. II, No. 3 (August 1985)


By Orpha J. Weimer

A North Manchester resident performed his duty to the country in the ominous Manhattan Project but eventually closed that chapter of his life to return here to live and teach.

Harry Raymond Weimer was born on a farm in northwestern Wabash County to Cain C. and Adella Hill Weimer on December 9, 1906, and into a rapidly changing world. The social dictates of the older generation of hard-working Midwestern rural culture prevailed. You did not gamble, dance, or play cards. You attended grade and high schools, if possible. Christianity and politics were taken seriously, and you were sure that America had been ordained by the Lord to save the world.

Cain Weimer came from Pennsylvania to visit pioneering relatives, taught school for a few years, later marrying into the Hill-Gamble family. He began farming one of the Gamble farms with a brother-in-law, Titus Hill, who later became a Methodist minister. Cain Weimer went back to an earlier trade as carpenter and craftsperson. Often he spent long winter evenings reading to his children.

Young Harry, a shy child, grew to love literature and became an omnivorous reader, digesting an average-size book in an hour. Even as a child he had a sense of responsibility, assuming care for his mother and siblings when his father was away.

With an uncle in the ministry and an aunt who was a Methodist nursing deaconess, the family expected this serious-minded child to enter a life of Christian service. Harry himself did not give up this idea until his high school years. About this time science captured world thinking. His faith, his church, and his responsibility as a Christian gentleman always held priority, yet scientific research and the teaching of its application to human welfare dominated his mind.

His early school years were uneventful. He did little reminiscing; he was not musical; and family chores gave him little time for athletics. Reports and records prove that he was an excellent scholar, and he held several class offices.

After the death of two small sisters, the family sought a better life by moving to Logansport where Cain worked in the railroad shops. Mrs. Weimer did not like the city life, so the family moved back to Wabash County after a very short period, purchasing land of Joseph and Martha Metzger on the west edge of town. Harry entered West Ward School under Martha Winesburg.

Cain Weimer began work with the Cox Showcase Company as a cabinet maker and built a new house (1210 W. Main Street) for the family and gradually pieces of furniture which the family now values. Harry was taught the use of tools to become an excellent cabinet maker on his own.

In 1912 Mrs. Weimer and a neighbor, Mrs. Charles Ball, began to pool their appliances and efforts to do home canning. Mr. Weimer contrived small, workable tools to help them. One was a metal can-sealer and a small sized steam system for processing the finished product and a small steam hoist for lifting. These he taught young Harry to use.

From this small beginning grew the Weimer Custom Canning Factory (located next to the home) which employed as many as 80 local people, with Harry and his father responsible for its upkeep. They spent long days, 15-20 hours each at times, inventing alternatives, trying new skills and dealing with shortages, a few labor problems, and pre-war tension. Harry received ¼ ¢ per can for his pay. This financed his education along with a final teaching assistantship at Ohio State University to complete his doctorate.

He had been advised to take a master’s degree and go on if war did not interrupt. He received his Ph.D. in the fall of 1933. Jobs were not available, so Weimer, his wife and two sons, moved back to North Manchester where he took a job sorting onions on the Noah Frantz farm.

In the spring of 1934 President Otho Winger told Weimer of an opening in science at Bridgewater College to replace the ill Dr. Starr. “We packed and left for Virginia on a half day’s notice. His salary was $100 per month, but we considered ourselves lucky to get it.”

“Our five years in Virginia were very pleasant ones. They were a gracious and kind people, and we loved them. In the fall of 1938, Winger called Weimer back to Manchester College. Harry’s father was failing in health and needed assistance. Regretfully we said good-bye to our many friends but were glad to return. Responsibilities and temp of living increased drastically.”

The Teacher and the War

“War came. Harry was just beyond draft age. We canned products for the government. College enrollment dropped. Harry’s brother, Paul, was home from Purdue to help the family when a call came for Harry to transfer his teaching to Navy personnel at Ball State. With the consent of Manchester College, he did that while his family remained to help at home.”

War continued. Pearl Harbor and Battan were fresh in our minds. Some of our church people suffered in the Philippines; some of our friends were lost on troop ships bombed at sea. During this period Harry received still another call from one of his former instructors at O.S.U. …”Would you participate in a government-sponsored program involving a totally new field of science with no questions asked or answers given?” Harry agreed. Quietly doors opened and he was transferred to the Monsanto Chemical Plant in Dayton, Ohio.

“Housing in Dayton was short, so the family stayed in Manchester where our 11 and 13 year old sons and I were needed. Harry was given weekend leave every three weeks and I received a gas ration card to pick him up in Fort Wayne. I knew he was under oath, had daily physical checks, and that his roommate was an Army colonel who could not wear his uniform publically. They worked 24-hours-a-day in an isolated building. That was about all I knew.”

Harry came home after a few months and literally walked the floor all night long. Exhausted by morning he picked up a cup of coffee and remarked, “We have succeeded, but I wish to God we hadn’t. It’s awful, but it has to be!”

Awesome Project

Rumors and speculation were everywhere. Grossly absurd tales were told, and people were afraid. A lady in Dayton near their building reported that her four cats were poisoned by licking the brick-colored dust which settled on her morning milk bottle. The landlady of the rooming house called the police to arrest a spy because she found an Army uniform hidden away in a coat closet. The poor fellow had to be transferred to another unit.

It wasn’t all stuffy. The scientific workers were mostly young fellows. Harry gleefully related one incident in which they strapped guns about their waists, drove their trucks to Wright-Patterson Airport, briskly ordered all persons safely back while they loaded on a harmless shipment of raw rock from Canada before a gaping audience. High jinks or no, they became a close-knit group of valued friends and the achievers of later years.

The Manhattan Project was known of, but little known about. For an undertaking of its size, how the secret was kept is a miracle. Parts and bits of the work were scattered all over the nation. Definitely the right hand did not know what the left was about. Perhaps this was its secret. Oak Ridge was “X,” Dayton was “Y,” and Hanford, Washington was “Z.” That spring of 1944 was quiet. Harry came home to work at the cannery. He did not always get to see the morning paper so I was primed to scan the news quickly for a certain word and, if it appeared, to call him at once. But he was home. He paced the back yard, then over the radio came the stultifying news – the bomb had been dropped on Japan, and a new era for the world had begun.

Beyond the Manhattan Project

Harry told in latter years several amusing and interesting anecdotes, but he never discussed his feelings. He was still under oath and never grieved over spilled milk. He accepted nuclear energy, for which we needed much more study, as the link between our fading fossil fuels and future use of solar energy, but he did not entirely trust man and military power. He was invited to White Sands and Bikini Island for demonstrations but did not go. He trained an assistant to replace him, left Monsanto, cut his salary in half and returned to Manchester to teach. It was a closed chapter. One of his favorite quotes was “Undress your mind at night as you do your body; rest, and be ready to meet the new day.”

We’ll always say (fondly) we knew her before she was “Doctor T.”
Good Luck, Dyanne.
By Barbara Welborn

A twenty-eight year old dynamo, more energy than ten people, teacher, super educator, loved by the young and old(er), constant goals, never idle! Have you guessed who this special person is yet? Right – Dyanne Tracy, better known as Fo’ty (long o) by those who are closest to her. But that is another long story.

Dyanne graduated from Wawasee High School in 1976 and from Manchester College in 1980 with a B.S. majoring in elementary education and minoring in psychology. After completing her student teaching in second grade at Maple Park, not much persuasion was needed to employ her as a fourth grade teacher at Maple Park. That was just a beginning for Dyanne. Not only did she really dig into her career as a teacher, she didn’t let much dust collect on her desk and books. Enrolling immediately at Indiana University, she began work on her Master’s Degree which she completed in 1983 with a major in elementary education and a special teaching endorsement for gifted and talented classes.

During her five years at Maple Park School she was the first to organize a chapter of Little Hoosiers, which she kept very active. Dyanne and her Little Hoosiers were responsible for organizing other chapters in our school system. She also continued her studies toward her doctoral degree.

With regret, Maple Park and Manchester Community Schools said “good-bye” to Dyanne last spring. She is currently enrolled in her final coursework toward gaining her Ph.D., majoring in elementary education with minors in math and science. This fall she will be an assistant instructor in charge of sophomore math field experiences. As if this isn’t enough, she is involved with dorm government and will be working on getting a Little Hoosier chapter organized in the Monroe County Community School Corporation. Dyanne will take her oral and written exams in February or March that will determine her candidacy for her doctorate. She has discussed that ideas for her doctoral dissertation will probably center around gender differences of elementary school students, especially in math and science, with some attention given to gifted/talented students.

Are you exhausted? That’s not all! Dyanne has all kinds of goals for the future years. In two years, after earning her final degree, she would like to teach elementary education courses at the college level, writing journal articles and speaking at workshops.

In another ten years she would like to author or co-author academic books. Twenty years from now she will probably have achieved another goal – building an underground house. And our biggest reward will be Dyanne’s thirty year goal! In that period of her life she predicts that she will return to N. Manchester, the Historical Society, and Manchester College, if they’ll have her.

Do you believe that all of this will be? Anything Dyanne chooses to do, she almost always accomplishes!


drawing of Sheller Hotel]


Compiled by Edna Heeter; assisted by Marie Dillman

No. 1

Salem or the Ridgley School in the Ridgley neighborhood, southeast of Servia on Road 113

No. 2

Moore School on the Gilbert Moore place, 2 miles east of the Shepherd School

No. 3

Concord School, 1 ½ miles east of the George Merkle Golf Course then 1 mile south. There seems to be no particular reason for naming this school or the church at that point though there may have been a reason at that time.

No. 4

Barnes School, located in the Barnes neighborhood, 2 miles north of No. 5

No. 5

Baugher or McCutcheon School. Families of these names [Pat McCutcheon, father of Cal McCutcheon] living near it. Daddy knew it as No. 5 or the Pleasant Grove School. He went to school there and taught there 2 months. It was located 1 mile north of the Clevenger Corner.

No. 6

Jordan School, near the W.S. Jordan farm, he being the marrying preacher of this locality for many years. Located 1 mile south of Clevenger Corner.

No. 7

Shepherd School, on the Robert Shepherd farm. It is 2 miles south of the Jordan School (sout of Brady farm) or 3 miles south of Clevenger Corner south of the Brady farm.

No. 8

Daniels School, on the Payton Daniels farm, 2 miles south of the Shepherd School. It’s a mile north of Elks. There’s a cemetery across the road from it.

No. 9

Misener School, on the Jacob Misener farm, 2 miles south of Servia


New Madison School or Servia School in Servia.


Walters School in the Walters neighborhood north of Servia at the crossroads east of the Carl Ulmer farm where Glen Beery, in later years, has his apple house. About a mile east on Road 114 and a mile south of North Manchester.


Heeter or Hidy School, there being many in the district by both names. Across the road from Mrs. Harry McClure farm, 2 miles west of No. 5. Mary and Forrest Heeter went to the Hidy school.


Liberty Mills School in Liberty Mills.


Blickenstaff School on the John Blickenstaff place. 1 mile east of our No. 19 school and a little south on a knoll on the east side of the road. It was north of the Gidley house. Gidleys lived there 1940-1960. Dora Miller and Fern Swank Metzger went there to school. South of Red Heeter’s place and across the creek from Heeter farm.


Krisher School on the Rudolph Krisher farm, a mile south of N. Manchester on the Light Harness Pike.


Wood or Africa School, taking its name from the fact that David Hamilton for some time employed a number of colored people on his farm in that district. Located one mile west of Servia then south ½ mile, then west about ¼ mile on the south side of the road on a slight knoll. Daddy started to school there when his folks lived on the Cottrell farm. Cottrell farm was 1 mile west of Servia, 1 mile south then jog east and again south a little way, on the east side of the road. This is where Ruth Dillman was born.


Pratt School in the Pratt settlement, south from No. 16 school. South of the Cottrell farm to the crossroads then west ½ mile.


Farley School in the Farley neighborhood. This was where the Jacobs Gravel Pit now is on the east side of Highway 13, the Wabash Road, south of North Manchester.


Miller School was built in 1890, Harold Miller told me, on the John Miller farm, 2 miles north of North Manchester. The school first stood ½ mile west of the crossroads. Uncle Jake Karn went there to school. At that time there was a half mile road going south from there where the Miller Schoolhouse stood.

The No. 19 school which replaced the one described above was at the crossroads on the corner of the Ellis Miller farm (later it became the Harold Miller farm). The schoolhouse was just ¾ mile south of our home. That is where my brothers and I went to grade school through the 8 grades.


The farm that joins our farm on the east used to be called the Cook farm. That was before my time. I knew it as the Staver farm. There was a frame schoolhouse that stood on the Cook farm (in Judge Comstock’s day) about at the end of Red Heeter’s lane or thereabouts, and on the west side of the road. Jim Swank lived on what is now Red Heeter’s farm in those early days (about 1800 or 1890). The no. 14 school replaced the Cook School. I don’t remember the No. 14 school.


North Manchester school had no number. The school stood on Fourth Street where Central School stood.




 Phil Oppenheim, the present owner of the Oppenheim Department Store in North Manchester, is the great grandson of Jacob Oppenheim, who founded the business in 1875. This family-owned business is located in a community of 6,000 people in the heart of a farming area forty miles from Fort Wayne.

Jacob Oppenheim is the first Jew who settled in North Manchester. He was born in East Prussia, and came to America as a young man in 1870. Members of the family preceded him to America, and they settled in Detroit, Michigan. Shortly after his arrival in Detroit, Jacob became a peddler. In 1873, Jacob and Louis Jacobs formed a partnership and opened the New York Store in Paw Paw, Michigan. On January 8, 1875, the True Northerner of Paw Paw carried the following advertisement for the New York Store:

Piece goods, cloth cashmeres, coating, melton, cheviots, beaners, chinchillas, jeans, satines, etc.

The store also advertised:

Flannels, linseys, checks, felt goods, caps, hosiery, notions and the largest stock of men’s and boy’s ready made clothing ever brought to Van Buren County.

The partnership was dissolved in 1875. According to Phil Oppenheim, Jacob came to North Manchester in the same year with his share of the Paw Paw stock—worth about $500—and opened his own store, Oppenheim’s New York Cheap Store. Phil explained that the term “New York” implied the highest quality, while “Cheap” was synonymous with value. We found one article which mentions the fact that, when Jacob arrived in North Manchester, there were thirteen competitive dry goods stores already established, but “he chose his site and hung out his shingle.”

When Jacob Oppenheim started his business, he no doubt had many of the items listed in the advertisement quoted earlier. In addition to men’s, boys’, and ladies’ clothing, Jacob also sold groceries. As he prospered, Jacob purchased the building, which was subsequently enlarged as he added new lines. He later stopped selling groceries.

The Oppenheim store did cash and credit business, as was the practice of the local merchants. We examined the first ledger kept by Jacob, and it is interesting that he entered every sale written in Yiddish. With few exceptions, the entries show sales from 5¢ to $1.50. All of the early bills from suppliers were posted in a book. Records of credit to customers were kept in Yiddish until they were all written in English.

Ben Oppenheim Founded Telephone Company

The history of the business is inextricably tied up with the history of the Oppenheim family. When Mr. and Mrs. Jacob Oppenheim came to North Manchester, they brought with them one son, Ben, who was seven years old and who was born in Germany. Four other Oppenheim children—Ike, Fanny, Ida, and Etta—were born in North Manchester. In 1883, Jacob already had a successful business and erected a large home at 205 West Second Street. Unfortunately, he died in October of 1883, a month before the family moved in. Jacob was buried in Detroit, Michigan. His unmarried daughter, Fanny continued to live in the family home until she died in 1966.

When Jacob died, his oldest son, Ben, took over the management of the business. Later he was joined by his brother, Ike, who remained in the store until 1922. In addition to the store, the two brothers shared ownership in a local wholesale business. When Ike stepped out of the store, he became the sole owner of the wholesale business. Later Ike sold this business and became a manufacturer’s representative. Ike and his wife, Etta, had no children, and they lived in a large home a few blocks away from the house Jacob had built.

Ben continued to manage the business, which expanded. It developed into the largest department store in the area, with an excellent reputation. The store motto was, and still is, “…the best place to trade, after all.” For many years, Ben was also a wool merchant. In addition, he purchased many lots in the area for future development. In 1943, Ben was honored by the local Kiwanis Club, which presented him with the “Star Service Award” for service to the community. Ben was a founder of the North Manchester Telephone Company.

Ben was married to Nettie Kahn, who was born in Wabash, Indiana. They built a house and lived at 203 West Main Street. She was related to the Newberger family, prominent in the Wabash community. Meyer Newberger enlisted in the U.S. Army on July 15, 1863. He was one of the Indiana Civil War soldiers who died in Andersonville, Georgia on September 21, 1864. Nettie Kahn Oppenheim was a charter member of the North Manchester Women’s Club, organized in 1893. Ben Oppenheim died in 1950, and he and Mrs. Oppenheim are buried in the Rodef Sholem Cemetery in Wabash, Indiana.

Jean Oppenheim, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Ben Oppenheim, was born in North Manchester in 1896. He attended a preparatory school in Chicago, and later was graduated from Columbia University in New York. His first job was with the banking firm of Abe Ackerman in Fort Wayne. In 1922, Jean entered the family business, with which he was associated until his death in 1949. Jean’s major civic interests involved the bringing of new industries to North Manchester.

The Oppenheims must have built solidly. Like many stores which built on a sound foundation, they survived the Depression of the 1930s and continued to grow and prosper.

Continuing with the family history, Jean and his wife, Valerie (who died in 1971), were the parents of a daughter, Barbara, born in 1922, who is the wife of a doctor, Albert B. Eisenstein, and son, Jay Philip, who was born in 1925. Phil was graduated from Notre Dame in 1948, and entered the family business. Since the death of his grandfather, Ben, in 1950, Phil has been the owner and manager of Oppenheim’s. The present store is a half block in depth and is located just across the alley and two buildings east of the original building which housed the family business. The sales space now occupies the ground floor and basement, with many departments. On the second floor are the business offices and stock rooms. The store continues to do business with some families who have been trading with Oppenheim’s for about one hundred years. A number of retired sales people of the store still live in North Manchester, and the store continues to enjoy a good reputation in the community. Phil is a supporter of many local causes. His wife is a member of the board of directors of an area hospital.

For many years, the Oppenheims were the only Jewish family in North Manchester. At one time, another Ben Oppenheim family moved to the community, but did not remain there for long. One other Jew, Jerome Greengard, came to North Manchester about twenty years ago, and he continues to own a ladies’ dress store on the main street across from the Oppenheim Department Store.

Members of the Oppenheim family had many friends among the German Jewish families in Fort Wayne, whom they entertained in their homes in North Manchester. Ike and his wife, Etta (who are buried in New York City), left the Oppenheim Foundation, whose chief beneficiaries are Manchester College in North Manchester and Achduth Vesholom Congregation in Fort Wayne.

In our research, we discovered that, between 1900 and 1967, twenty-four Oppenheims were buried in the Shearith Cemetery in Goshen, Indiana. Relatives of the North Manchester Oppenheims owned stores in the Indiana cities of Goshen and Milford, and in the Michigan cities of Detroit, Kalamazoo, Jackson, and Dowagiac. Maurice Oppenheim is the owner of the I. Oppenheim Clothing Store in Dowagiac, founded by his father in 1873.

The story of the Oppenheim family and store in North Manchester has not ended. Phil Oppenheim continues to run the business and maintain the excellent reputation earned over the years since Jacob opened his small store in 1875.


OUR 1985 OFFICERS         

President, Keith Ross
Vice President, Mrs. Paul (Ramona) Miller
Secretary, Robert Nelson
Treasurer, Arthur Gilbert