NMHS NEWSLETTER, Feb 1985
WEST MANCHESTER CHURCH
Otho Winger, president of Manchester College, was asked in 1922 to write the newspaper account of the old West Manchester Church of the Brethren which stood on the site of the present church. The schoolhouse shown in the copy of the 1882 illustration is still standing.
The old meeting house was built in 1858, a large structure whose dimensions were 40 x 80. Both the lumber and work for the house were entirely donated; only $500 in cash was needed.
As you approached the house, the first thing you met was the old-fashioned stile, a wooden platform 10 x 20 and just high enough to allow people to alight easily from a big wagon or from horseback. You passed on into the church beneath a row of thick willow trees.
On the north side of the house (facing Highway 114) were three large doors, the center one of which was seldom used. Men entered by the left door, women by the door in the enclosed porch on the right. From the porch the women stepped into the large kitchen and in winter warmed themselves and their babies by a blazing fireplace. Here also was the wooden cradle in which over the years many infants were rocked.
Many a mother felt that among the usual preparations for Sunday morning was a basket filled with apples, raisins, and cookies to keep the little ones quiet.
Communion Meeting Great Event
The main audience room was not unlike the ordinary meeting house of that day. The backless seats which had first been used were replaced by better ones. The long table in the center of the room served as a “pulpit” where the preachers sat on one side and the deacons on the other. In opening the services the deacons were given the privilege of reading the Scripture lesson. Usually several preachers would speak at a morning meeting, although this custom was not as common after Elder Robert Henry Miller, Sr., came.
There was a large, roomy upstairs which was a place of real interest, especially at communion meetings for which many would bring their bedding and remain there over night.
The communion meeting was the great event of the year to both members and non-members. A 10:00 a.m. Saturday service usually began the service. After dinner another preaching service followed at 2:00 p.m. Somewhere in the community there usually was a grocery stand to which the children and young people flocked during the intermissions.
The evening services extended late into the night. In the morning breakfast was served to all. There was no Sunday school then, but the Sunday morning service was given to “farewell talks” by the “laboring brethren,” as the preachers were familiarly called.
Annual Meeting 1878
At this meeting house was held the Annual Meeting of 1878. To accommodate the crowds, a 80 x 72 tabernacle was erected. One reporter stated that there were 15,000 peo0ple present. Many of the most prominent leaders of the church were present, such as D.P. Sayler, James Quinter, Enoch Eby, R.H. Miller, and S.H. Bashor. Perhaps the most interesting was Sister Sarah Major, the woman preacher. The Manchester Journal reported that during the meeting she preached to a large audience in the Lutheran Church of North Manchester.
Winger’s article concluded by stating that in the year before Elder Miller came to West Manchester a brick Church of the Brethren was built in North Manchester on Walnut Street and evolved into one of the largest congregations of the Church of the Brethren.
Miller had been president of Ashland College for two years
before he came to West Manchester. There were those who distrusted him because
“he had had connection with a college,” and he also had all the difficulties
with the division in the church. However, Miller served the West Manchester
Church with faith and efficiency, and it grew under his direction, even amid
those trying times.
Mrs. N. F. Cunningham, a 90 year old artist of Malvern, Arkansas, writes that her parents moved to North Manchester in 1900. Her father was employed at the grain elevator owned by Horace Kinsey who had been a country school teacher.
The family lived on West Fourth Street on a corner opposite the owner, John Coz. Mrs. Cunningham began school at West Ward (Maple Park) under Martha Winesburg, a lovely lady with silvery hair, floor-sweeping dark skirts and “Gibson Girl” shirt waist, often with a ribbon bow under the chin.
There was a small portable organ for music lessons each day. The “big” boys carried it across the hall where Ethel Shaffer taught third and fourth grades in time for music class in Miss Shaffer’s room. Then up the stairs to Miss Blanche Forrest’s fifth-sixth room. U. R. Young had seventh and eighth on the north side of the second floor. Orville Watts was janitor and presided over the huge coal furnace in the basement. He sharpened the pencils and shouted at boys on the playground when they got into little kid “scraps.” In the basement were stored extra or damaged desks. In winter the country kids who brought lunch from home would eat their lunch at those desks. (When it was nice weather, they ate outside.” } “Sometimes in winter when the weather was very bad, Mom would pack lunch for me and I had the treat of eating in the basement near the huge furnace.”
“We had art lessons each day, painting with Prang water colors – three small blocks of primary colors in a tin box. They cost 25 cents. My father ‘raised hell’ over the cost, but I was so interested in drawing and painting. He bought a 3 X 5 metal sign, had it framed in wood molding, and painted it with graphite paint. Then he bought me chalks and an eraser. He hung my board in the corner of the living room where I was usually busy at my own private blackboard!
“I recall those desperately cold winters,” she writes. “Thought nothing of it at the time. Frost on the window panes. I drew pictures in the frost. Evenings men with heavy coats and caps drove team horses, hauling logs to the saw mill at the west end of Second or Third Street. The men’s mustaches and beards were white with frost. The snow squeaked under the wagon wheels and the men walked beside the horses to keep from freezing. After they unloaded the logs, they would have to go back to the country in the dark – cold, tired, and hungry – men and beasts.”
“We lived in North Manchester for 12 years. I graduated from Central High in 1913. There were 17 in the class. At graduation exercises Bishop Quayle gave the address. He had red hair and said ‘Red haired people are the salt of the earth.’ He must have made other sage observations, but that’s all I remember! My parents did not attend the graduation; they had already moved downstate. I left the next day to join them.”
Mrs. Cunningham mentions she had two or three small watercolors on exhibit at the Saint Louis World Fair in 1903. She idolized her art teacher, Meda Sexton (Mrs. Charles), who let her use her pastels to do a picture of a home and large weeping willow tree for a woman moving to California who loved her tree. She feels she had unusual high school training; A. L. Ulrey, 3 years Latin; Ellen Dwyer, 2 years German; made Spanish easy; 12 years art classes, water color, pastel, pen and ink. Mrs. Cunningham is still painting, in oils mostly, strictly for her own satisfaction.
She remembers the ostriches raced at the 1904 or 1905 fair. The drivers claimed the ostriches would kick like an ill-tempered horse. When she moved to Arkansas 12 years ago, she learned that there were ostrich farms at Hot Springs about that time – possible source of racing stock.
She describes her first experience with the electric “auto-mo-beel.” “Mr. DeWitt drove it. Built to look like a single buggy with motor under the seat, a dashboard, a tiller (not a wheel like now) for steering.”
A crew put the brick pavement down on Main Street in 1901.
About that time Charles Reed and Dave Krisher owned a grocery and meat
market on West Main (at Buffalo Street?).
“My Mom would give me a dime and tell me to get a ‘dime’s worth of GOOD
steak!’ Round steak, usually.
Believe it or not!”
LITTLE HOOSIER RECEPTION
All four of the local Little Hoosier history clubs plus the North Manchester Historical Society had a reception on January 28, 1985! Parents were also invited to come.
Dyanne Tracy sponsor of the Maple Park Little Hoosier Historians and Keith Ross, president of the Historical Society, welcomed all who attended.
The respective sponsors of the three new chapters in our school system, Beth Rhoades, Laketon; Ed Schwenk, Chester; and Vera Regenbogen, Thomas Marshall, reported recent activities which their clubs had enjoyed.
Dr. Bunker narrated a short slide presentation, and the reception ended with refreshments.
Both the Historical Society members and the Little Hoosiers
felt the reception was a success.
by Robyn Jones, Reporter, Maple Park Little Hoosier Historians Club
March 11 Rosemary Manifold – Hats
April 8 Louise Marks – Marks Drug Store
May 13 Eleanor Malott – Street Names
June 10 Virginia Glist – Unsinkable Molly Brown House
NO FAIRER PLACE BY William L. Scott
Unless you are an authentic North Manchester old-timer or unless somebody told you, you would never guess that the Peabody Retirement Community was once the site of the old North Manchester fairground. Who could imagine the long cattle barn from Seventh Street south to the end of the grounds or the hog barn from Seventh northward? Who could imagine the 1-1/2-story log cabin or the women’s building with its many displays and wonders? Who could remember the horse barns, enough to hold 100 race horses? And what race horses they were; it is said that Charlie Anderson had a horse that was never beaten there. Who could disagree with such a story anymore?
Gone are the fragrances of the old fair, the pungency of Coney Island hot dogs, the savor of onion-ladened hamburgers, the sharp sweetness of cotton candy, taffy, and cold lemonade.
Few remember anymore how much it cost to get into the fair. Those living who once went were quite young, and kids “snuck in free,” as anybody knows. It is said that there was a loose board on the northeast corner of the fairgrounds, particularly convenient to crawl through!
Mel Heeter remembers that if you had 15 cents you were “good for the day.” The first thing he would do would be to exchange his nickel and dime for 15 pennies. They felt better in his pocket and gave him the feeling of being “close to rich.” And those pennies were worth something then…for just pennies he could buy a long piece of taffy or a delicious cone of cotton candy. For 5 cents he could buy a hot dog or hamburger or a glass of cold lemonade, iced down at Strauss’s ice barn…all to be had at one of those booths under the amphitheatre where paying customers watched (and bet) on the sulky races.
The sulky races were apparently the favorite feature of the fair. Occasionally celebrities were brought in to open the race; one fellow remembers Frank James, brother of the notorious Jesse, was the main attraction one year.
Besides the thrill of the Ferris wheel and joy of the merry-go-round, the delight of the young, there were side shows; gypsy fortune tellers, booths to win kewpee dolls, games to make you part with you money faster than “a dog could gather fleas.” It was said that one or two girls would dress up like men each year to get into the show for men only, but as far as anyone knows it never worked. And the men never said much about what went on in there.
Fairgoers were bombarded with brilliant reds, whites, and blues, as well as a wide assortment of others, as every booth sported a good old American flag, and bright pennants and signs announcing the wares of the booths. And there were the fall colors of new clothes the young people wore, not very appropriate for a fair, we might think, but then propriety yielded to the great need to show them off.
There were major spectaculars, including the big Wild West show. One year the amazement lever was enhanced with the presence of a diving elk, prodded to leap from a dirt platform into a waiting pool of water. Actually the number of shows could barely keep pace with the newspaper hyperbole. There was the Mangean Troup, “… the world’s greatest acrobats, from New York.” And there was Kerslake and his pig act, performing along with other “high class acts.” One ad for the 1923 fair announced, “The North Manchester Fair Association takes great pleasure in presenting this great program and asks your presence this week, where you can spend the day with your friends. No better place on earth!”
The sounds of the fair included everything from jovial barkers inviting attention to their food stands or sideshows to the accomplished bands of North Manchester, Bippus, and Laketon. And of course there was laughter.
An interesting pitch man by the name of Rube Wilkins brought more than comic relief to a long day of racing. Rube was from North Manchester and traveled throughout the U.S., working fairs, but he always was home for the Manchester event. Rube is remembered as being very good with his calliope and bringing the merchants of the town together for advertising. He was usually dressed in preposterous brown, homespun overalls.
The large building for women was the site of displays of fine quilts, flowers, and canned and baked goods, before the days of 4-H domination of fairs, mind you, and prepared mostly by adults.
The two railroads, Vandalia and Big Four, ran special trains from Huntington, Wabash, Peru, and Columbia City. On a single day as many as 10,000 people could be found at the fair.
The North Manchester fair sprang to life in the late 1880’s when a Mr. Shively sold the land to the Fair Association. Forty years later it vanished. Dr. L. Z. Bunker who remembers the period believes that several factors had made the fair popular, among which were the relative isolation and the simple life of small town folk and the agricultural economy. By 1928 the week-long fair was abbreviated to three days with no livestock exhibits. Most of the third day that year was rained out, including the fireworks display. That was the final North Manchester fair.
In 1930 North Manchester’s genial benefactor, James Peabody, bought the land to pursue a dream---to establish a gracious home for older persons. Since the home was opened in 1931 thousands have been blessed through his vision, and the 25 acre fairgrounds have grown more handsome through the meticulous stewardship of that dream.
All the color and excitement and clamor of the fiar is gone forever…except that, late at night and only rarely even then, if you are very quiet and listen very hard, you may yet be treated to the cry of the barker shouting out:
Made in the shade,
By an old maid,
Stirred with a spade,
Come and get it.
OUR PAST IN GLASS!
The North Manchester Historical Society will soon have for sale the most impressive souvenirs which it has ever offered to the public, In conjunction with the Sesquicentennial observance in 1986. We have already received samples of these hand-painted items bearing some of the buildings of Manchester College and sandcarved crystal items with the North Manchester Covered Bridge.
Head artist Michael Dickinson has reproduced by hand the art work submitted to Fenton Art Glass by the Historical Society. The original art was done by Allan White.
These pieces will be produced in a limited number and marked with a diamond stylus. The designs will not be reissued once they have sold. Orders are being taken through the Clerk’s Office and will be sold later at Hire’s Gifts and The Sampler.