OF THE NORTH MANCHESTER HISTORICAL SOCIETY, INC.
VOLUME VII, Number 1 (February 1990)
Snows and Cold of Yesterday
By Dr. L.Z. Bunker and Mrs. Edna Frushour Heeter
Unlike religion and politics the weather is not a controversial subject, hence its popularity for discussion. The severe cold in December has brought out many tales of past winter chill!
Our present United States Weather Service began in the office of the U.S. Surgeon General Lovell in 1818; his efforts were later combined with the U.S. Army Signal Corps and the Smithsonian Institution. Since the combined services are less than 100 years old, we depend on local tales and family legends for information.
There are stories of deep snows in the trackless land of the pioneers, later snow to the height of fence posts, and snow that was tunneled to a farmer’s barn.
Civil War buffs tell us of the cold New Year’s Day, January 1, 1865, when bitter cold extended from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Coast and east to the Atlantic Ocean. This was near the end of the Civil War, and General Sherman’s army was marching through Georgia and into the Carolinas. Advancing without the usual supplies, the troops suffered severely from the cold. No temperature readings are available for this period. One local soldier, Charles Kohser, wrote home to his folks to send him an overcoat.
Early tales tell of schools closed for weeks due to deep snow. The rivers were covered with ice, though occasionally some broke through and were drowned.
The early years of the 20th century were marked by excessive cold and deep snow in this area. Horse-drawn school buses were abandoned for bobsleds, and Dr. George K. Balsbaugh, a North Manchester physician, had a farmer drive him in a bobsled to see his patients. Frostbite was a common ailment.
The lowest temperature recorded in North Manchester was -28 degrees F in the winter of 1912-1913. A storm had struck in October and kept the country frozen until late February.
The 1918 was marked by heavy snow and, as a little girl, Edna Frushour Heeter who lived on a farm eight miles south of North Manchester took a snapshot with a Brownie camera of snow up to the porch roof of her farmhouse. She sent this to her two brothers who were with the United States Army (AEF) working as airplane mechanics near Versailles, France.
There are more stories of cold and snows, especially severe in the early 1930’s. With radio and later TV reports and warnings from the expanded United States Weather Service, however, much misery and disasters could be averted.
The year 1978 was a year of heavy storms, snow and ice extending over wide areas. But the all-time record for cold was in our recent December 21, 1989, storm when the official temperature was -30 degrees F, the lowest ever recorded in this area.
GOOD OLD DAYS OVER
By Orpha J. Weimer
George and Catherine Beauchamp and Harry and Orpha Weimer were good friends. Both couples were young faculty members at the college in the early 1950’s and members of a church school class noted for its good fellowship and unusual activities.
One evening while playing bridge over tea and cinnamon toast, Catherine and Orpha decided they wanted to do a little civic festivity and determined to have two dinner parties. They had many friends in common and didn’t want to leave anyone out. After talking it over, a plan evolved; even the men joined in.
Each couple had a large old home, just three blocks apart, so by combining assets they could do a large group at one time. They chose two consecutive nights after the Holiday season with the same menu for both. Catherine and Orpha would do the cooking; Harry would use the canning factory truck for transportation; and George would plan entertainment for both nights with slight variations. Each couple had a teenage son to run errands, answer the door and show guests to cloak rooms.
They drew straws: college members fell to the Weimers the first night and the church school and a few neighbors to the Beauchamps the second night. They combined china, silver, and glasses. They borrowed chairs from the church and ten card tables from friends. Younger family members were sent to spend the night with grandparents. Any necessary laundering could be done on the day between. Thus they managed to seat 50 to 55 guests.
Strange to say, it worked beautifully, except for two minor hitches. Just to be different the invitations, delivered by the sons as paper carriers, were written up as Christmas sales advertisements. One dear soul of the college group immediately threw theirs unopened into the wastebasket. A little sweet talk by Catherine finally got her consent.
The other problem was a little more effort. Our back porches for refrigeration didn’t work out due to a remiss of the weatherman. Some last minute cooking had to be done for the mashed sweet potato puffs with their surprise pineapple heart had to be done over. Strong-armed husbands and pressure cookers saved the day.
Entertainment never bothered George. The guests all helped with gusto. They played the children’s rhythm band instruments like professionals and even a few whistlers joined in. A.R. Eikenberry proved to be a star on the triangle; Nina Flueckiger managed the piano with one hand and led with the other; and Paul Halliday squeaked away on the concertina. Even Dr. R.H. Miller shook a mean set of bells. As the orchestra rested, our good friend, Dr. Geisert, now president of Bridgewater College, directed the ladies quartet, singing “Up on the House Top” with some very surprising flourishes. George insisted they dramatize the song. Emerson Niswander was cast as Rudolph the Reindeer, a little reluctant until, wickedly, he was told he could choose six other victims. Orpha didn’t remember who played the role of Little Will, but Irene Stauffer was Little Nell and cried almost more than her doll would have. “No fool no fun,” the saying goes. I am sure they all had fun.
As to the church school group on the second night nobody can beat them at impersonating funny paper characters. A box of useful props had been provided but not many were needed. They were to put on an act while the rest guessed. Belle Smith (Courtner), now in Goshen Retirement Home, was a very peppery Mammy Yokum in Mother C.C. Weimer’s old sun bonnet and smoking one of the the boys’ soap bubble pipes. Esther Taylor and her husband Ernie (Jim Taylor’s parents) put on a hilarious Jiggs and Maggie. Helen Johnson (Greer) did a ridiculous “The Old Gray Mare Ain’t What She Used to Be.”
When things were progressing at fever pitch, the telephone rang. Roland Schmedel answered, since he was closest, lifted the receiver, and announced, “Beauchamp’s Pool Hall. Who’s calling please?” We could all hear a lady’s voice gasp and reply, ”Oh, I’m sorry… I must have the wrong number!” She hung up with a vim on our outburst of boisterous laughter.
What did it matter if the next day was another work day when wages were so low everyone had to count pennies. Never did we laugh so much. Many lasting friendships were built. We managed to live reasonably well and always there was a little extra to divide with a neighbor as well as pay the church pledge.
“Passed By Here”
By Dr. L.Z. Bunker
Recently the author was recalling a tour of the Southwest where one amazing sight was an inscription cut in red sandstone high above an ancient road, “Don Juan Onate passed by here 1569.” That was more than 400 years ago!
The same interest might well be applied to our own area. Who passed by here 400 years ago, and who since?
In 1590 Miami and Pottawatomie Indians, members of the
Delaware Confederation, moved about at will over this area for long distances on
“traces” or footpaths marked by broken tree limbs
and “trace trees,” saplings bent over and pegged to the ground.
Two of these existed on the ancient trace west of North Manchester which
eventually became the Michigan Road and today Indiana State Road 15.
These landmarks were removed in the 1930’s as a hazard to traffic, being
near the roadway.
Northern Indiana was travelled by the French coureurs du bois and voyageurs, trapping furs for the great French axis that extended from Quebec to New Orleans. Early explorers traversed the waterways in the area, one of whom was Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle. Jesuit missionaries were also active through here. Recently a large silver cross with Montreal touch marks was found in Pony Creek, lost by some important Indian who had been converted to Christianity by a Jesuit priest.
The French were challenged by the British in their conquest of the North American continent. Soon Indian tribes were dividing their allegiance. George Croghan, the celebrated emissary to the Indians, was in this area in the middle to late 1700’s.
After the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, the country fell under British and later American influence. The great Indian tribes were decimated by wars and epidemics, and it is hard to believe that by 1838 these once great nations were reduced so they could be removed to reservations on the “Western Lands.”
Now come the pioneers and amazing expansion. Whole communities arose at once…towns, trading posts, farms, and commerce. North Manchester was platted in 1836. In 1839 we had a United States post office, of which the first postmaster was William Willis.
Few visitors came to the new lands, such as an occasional circuit rider like Bryant Fannin or a trapper or pioneer moving farther west . A stage line operated on the old Indian trace, now improved and extending from the Michigan line to Indianapolis. Stephen A. Douglas was said to have campaigned against Abraham Lincoln in 1860 in this area, travelling by stage coach and probably meeting constituents at stage stops.
The first railroad came into southern Wabash County in 1857 but not through North Manchester until later, 1871. Southerners, seeking runaway slaves, had to ride horseback into this country. Later Civil War recruiting officers and procurement agents came here, still on horseback, from Fort Wayne, Peru, and Logansport. Following the Civil War and later the coming of the railroads, there was great expansion. By 1876, the Centennial Year, the country was alive with activity and movement in all directions. Business expansion, with salesmen from New York and the other mercantile centers, brought many strangers to our two local hotels, the American House (which stood on the northeast corner of Main and Walnut and covered the quarter block) and the Grimes House (which later became the Sheller Hotel), and each had large street-level “sample” rooms for displaying merchandise for sale to area merchants.
The world seemed to be making a track to our door: William Jennings Bryan and Robert G. Ingersol, politicians and great orators, spoke here. Theatrical troupes, medicine shows, and Wild West shows appeared here.
Besides Vice President Thomas R. Marshall, persons who became celebrities lived in our town. Frazier Hunt, famous war correspondent in World War I, author and lecturer, grew up here in the 1890’s. Lloyd Douglas, the novelist, was pastor of the Zion Lutheran Church from 1903 to 1905. Grace Van Studdiford, the light opera star, was a hometown girl and often visited her parents here. The Redpath Chautauqua arrived by train for a number of years around the first World War, with prominent political figures, such as V. Steffanson, the Arctic explorer; Alice Neilson, the opera star; and Bohumir Kryl, the band master.
Theodore Dreiser, the novelist, and Franklin Booth, the artist, passed by, and Gene Stratton Porter drove over from the Limberlost in her automobile. Charles Evans Hughes campaigned here by train against Woodrow Wilson.
Numerous prominent people were friends of Otho Winger, president of Manchester College for over 25 years and they came to speak to college students and towns-people.
Prior to World War II, Arthur Morgan, the builder of the of the Tennessee Valley Authority which revolutionized the South, was here, as was Carl Sandburg, many other travelers, musicians, and Shakespearian companies.
The Second World War reduced our visitors notably leaving politicians and propagandist speakers, among whom was Clarence Streit, advocating “Union Now with Britain.” General Carlos Romulo spoke here and returned in 1944. Percy Grainger, the famous musician and composer, appeared with our orchestra.
Richard Nixon attended the National Plowing Contest in Urbana in 1953 and visited us also. In a few years many others, Charles Laughton, Henry Hull, Dennis King, Raymond Massey, Fred Waring and Duke Ellington and Peter Nero and his entourage brought luster to the coal state. Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt spoke here January 15, 1957, took the night plane at Fort Wayne and few back to New York. The Manchester College Artist-Lecture series became the chief source of speakers, orchestra, and players and provided the best in the country: Dr. Ralph Bunch, Vance Packard, Ralph Nader, Carl Rowan, Eric Sevareid, Sen Barry Goldwater, Captain Jacques Cousteau, and Buckminster Fuller among them.
Martin Luther King was in North Manchester in the spring of 1964, a time of much anxiety. An earlier visit had been canceled.
So, imagine if you can the panoply that has “passed by here” and more to come.
Our special thanks to Mr. Nolan Walker for providing listings of the Artist-Lecture series. Editor
THANK YOU, NANCY
Nancy Reed has been editor of the North Manchester Historical Society’s Newsletter beginning with its first issue in February 1984. Under her editorship the Newsletter has become an interesting and attractive publication, appreciated not only by members of the Society but by readers in other communities who frequently comment about its interesting articles and unusually attractive appearance.
Nancy found it necessary to resign as editor with the completion of this issue. She will continue to serve the society as vice president in 1990. We are sorry to lose her as editor but are grateful for the high quality publication she has created during the past six years. It is a challenge to the editor who follows her. Thank you, Nancy! Robert Nelson, Editor Designate
To an Old Covered Bridge
How many scores of years your rugged frame
Has spanned the river Eel here in our town!
But oh! How few, I fear, will be the years
‘Ere the careless hand of Progress tears you down.
The shade is ever cool beneath your roof
When summer sun shines down relentlessly,
And many a traveler in the earlier years,”
Pausing awhile, from weariness was free.
Your floor of ancient planks is sturdy, still ---
Has echoed steps of countless hurrying feet.
And often sweethearts in the years long past
There traced their steps so eagerly to meet.
Dear old familiar landmark, when you’re gone
Many there are who’ll still remember you;
For in the mind’s eye vision does not fail
But always there presents an image true.
Our Old Covered Bridge
I walked through the old red covered bridge today
Down at the southern end of Sycamore Street.
As I stepped inside, away from the noonday heat
That over the town in sultry stillness lay,
I was carried back through time for scores of years
To an era of old-fashioned carriages
Back to the almost-forgotten yesterdays,
And I thought of the tales of bygone times one hears.
It was quiet and dark and refreshingly cool within,
My footfall echoes upon the worn plank floor
Just as thousands of others had done before
And other thousands of steps will sound again.
Some future day will find this landmark gone,
Gone --- since its days of usefulness are past,
But for many of us the thoughts of it will last,
Cherished with other memories our hearts have known.
Poets’ point of view, no matter the timing, is poignant. These poems by Gladys Fawley Scheumann from “On Memory’s Canvas” were published in 1968. Editor
Kester Talks About
Goals and Announces Society’ Tax-Exempt Status
I have several goals for the Historical Society in 1990. The first and probably the one that will require a lot of work on the part of all the members is to find a location and establish an outstanding educational museum for our community. While we very much appreciate the Town’s letting us use the space above the town offices, the need for more space, preferably on the ground level, is quite evident. I believe that the best way to preserve and promote the history of North Manchester is our museum.
By Orpha J. Weimer
During the summer and again in the winter of 1924, I roomed on Bond Street in the home of Mrs. Mary Smith Winger, President Otho Winger’s mother. There were five of us, Lucile Baker, Mabel Zirkle, Gail Stephens and myself, and Gladys Smithers who had a tiny room all to herself. I believe that Gail Stephens Olds and I are the only ones still living.
Aunt Mary, as she asked us to call her, was a spicy, black-eyed, little person, full of kindness, good humor and fun, yet peppery and full of opinions, too. She loved to tell stories and had a generous supply of them. Many were Indian stories, of her youthful neighbors, of her children, and also of the many girls who had roomed with her. They were very interesting but never hurtful. She was well along in years, but her observations of her own life and times were delightful. It was easy to tell where President Winger had inherited some of his vigor and personality. We girls often laughed and declared that Aunt Mary had two remedies for everything: one, a dose of castor oil, and the other, to go talk to Otho. She really was a dear, and we appreciated her very much.
In her own practical common sense way she sympathized with our need to economize. Many a morning she would say, “Girls, I’m going to have a fire in the cookstove all day…better put on a pot of beans.” How good they tasted when we came in hungry. Our cooking facility was a kerosene stove in the basement. Peanut butter sandwiches plus a bowl of canned soup did at times get a little monotonous.
We also had living room privileges. Two of the girls were good at the piano, so we sang to our hearts’ content popular, college, church hymns, and even a few little made-up ditties. Aunt Mary knew them all, plus a few we didn’t and would join in. She didn’t even frown when we tried a dance step or two! We played games, such as Rook, Flinch, canasta, checkers, dominoes, chess and so forth. She knew these also and was a good partner. We tried to be tactful about other games which we knew were on the college taboo list.
Saturday night, Sunday afternoon and evenings we could bring our dates in. We could also use her kitchen to pop corn and occasionally to make candy. Aunt Mary retired to her downstairs bedroom generally, but we could hear her squeaky old rocker going strong. However, very shortly her door would open and with any bit of invitation, out she came, rocker and all, to join the crowd. She would watch a short while but was soon one of the gang. Sometimes she would tell us stories or ask when the popcorn, coffee, cocoa or candy was coming along. Then sometimes to the delight of the fellows she might bring in a big pan of cookies. Often there were enough extras to tuck into their pockets and take back to the dorm. In fact, we were never sure if they had come to see us or Aunt Mary! A home away from home if there ever was one.
We learned to know most of the Winger family fairly well, although they never came on weekends. Otho always came every morning to see his mother but quite early. We could hear his voice rumbling before we were out of bed. J.O. was away a lot and did not have any certain schedule, but John came two or three times a week to lunch with his mother, so we saw him often. He was jovial and friendly to us all. Frequently he would invite us for a pickup ride out to his farm home to visit his wife, Anna, and their young children. That was a real treat.
Some were critical of John as imposing on his mother, but Aunt Mary would not tolerate that. He was her baby son: she chided him, advised him, lectured him or cheered him, just as in years gone by. These visits were her pride and joy…she was mothering again. John teased her as well as any of us who happened to be around, and he brought her many farm gifts and did many little odd chores for her as well. Today I would love to have a son visit like that.
We did not see the Winger daughters as much, but they did come at various times, as a family group they all seemed very thoughtful of their mother.
About the only return Aunt Mary asked for her kindness was a photo of “Her Girls.” One wall of her living room was a veritable picture gallery. I’m not sure of all my memories but believe we five were about the last, if not the last, of Aunt Mary’s roomers. In all my years of teaching I have been fortunate in having many nice homes and pleasant landladies but never one who stands out so clearly as Aunt Mary.