Number 1 (February 1991)

O.C. Burkhart Poultry & Eggs
A Visit with Herschel and Mary Ellen Burkhart Merritt
Submitted by Lois and Merrell Geible

[Photo: Inside Burkhart Poultry and Eggs, an old photograph showing (left to right): unknown, Forest Johnson, Dorsey "Sport" Metzger, Ollie Burkhart, unknown.]

Ollie C. Burkhart began working for Byer Brothers Poultry and Eggs in 1924. Esli Miller operated the business, and Ollie worked for him. Armour Packing Company had it for a while. Byer Brothers bought eggs, cream, and chickens from local people and picked up the produce, but some people also delivered their own products to the firm.

Ollie bought the business from Byer Brothers in 1928. The business was located at the northwest corner of the alley intersection behind what is now 105 North Market Street, and the wooden egg cases were made on the second floor of the building occupied by Tranter Printing and Walnut Street Barbershop. Herschel Merritt went to work for the O.C. Burkhart Poultry and Egg firm in 1938.

When fiberboard cases were made, behind the barbershop, high school students helped make them after school and on Saturday. Tom, Dick, and Harry Ogle, Bob Maxwell, and Jim Grossnickle were the young employees. The day employees would fill the egg boxes made the night before. Chickens were placed into the “coops” which were like cages, with feed troughs under each one.

A truck would hold 147 coops (12 chickens of larger size or up to 17 leghorns, smaller size chickens, would be placed in each coop) and would weigh about 9,000 pounds. These chickens were trucked to Chicago or Detroit to the market. They would be unloaded from truck to store coops. The store coops were twice as big, and the chickens were sorted by weight (above three pounds or under three pounds) and then would be purchased by butcher shops.

Burkhart furnished chickens to many Jewish storeowners. They would be accompanied by a rabbi who was there to provide a special blessing to the chickens (Kosher them). Jewish customers always bought live chickens. They never scalded them to pick off the feathers but picked them dry. They sometimes did the picking right at the store and sometimes caught the blood to take it home to make blood pudding. One Jewish father and son, Pop and Harry, came here to pick up the chickens and always got into lively arguments.

Local people also came to the company to purchase chickens and eggs fresh. Young fryers would last from March for twelve to sixteen weeks. Geese, turkeys, and ducks were included in the business at holiday times. Chicken was primarily a Sunday meal.

In the 1950s and 1960s Burkhart’s picked up eggs from the farmers. They had varying supplies of them, from small to large. Burkhart’s collected money from the farmers for picking them up and putting them on the Erie rail car, shipping them on Friday to New York. The farmers would get checks from New York the next week. At that time about every farmhouse in the country sold eggs, until big operations began to take over and it no longer was profitable for farmers to sell eggs.

[Old photo which shows us the subtle changes along Main Street. O.C. Burkhart is standing by his truck, driven by Herschel Merritt. The owner of the service station, Russell “Mike” Michael, is trying out the running board of the truck. The station is now Mr. Dave’s Restaurant at the northeast corner of Main and Market. Photos courtesy of Herschel and Ruth Merritt.]

We asked Herschel if he had any amusing stories. He remembered that they always sent new kids to McClure’s and all around to get an “egg case stretcher.” They had an employee, Sherman Rhoades, who was easily angered, so one time, when he was getting ready to go on his route, other “friends” tacked the crates fast to the truck bed. When he went to take the crates, they were immovable!

Another time Sherm brought boiled eggs in his lunch. Someone traded fresh eggs for the boiled ones. Lunch time came, and Sherm went to prepare his eggs for eating. He cracked one on the steering wheel, and fresh egg ran down his front. He blamed his wife for not cooking his eggs, which she denied. He realized he had been tricked by those “friends” at work, and his temper flared!

Burkhart died in 1966, and Herschel ran the business for a year following that. He discovered that the business was too much for one person and not enough for two, so the business closed in 1967.

Town’s North End Students
Assigned to College Classrooms

By Edwin Grossnickle
Submitted by Orpha J. Weimer

In recent weeks a Manchester College staff member said to me that memories of the 1920s and 1930s may be lost is some of us who experienced those times do not step forward to contribute what we knew. With the plea that other people follow in this endeavor to remember I will step forward.

I have some advantage since I was born in North Manchester (in 1913) and did not move away until 1943.  After graduating from Manchester College, I first taught three years at Chester High School.  During summer school at the State University of Iowa in 1938, I was surprised when a telegram from President Otho Winger offered me a teaching position at a salary of $1,800.  The s$800 increase and the chance to teach at the college seemed an opportunity never to be surpassed for a whole lifetime!

But let’s go back to earlier years.  Some may not know that in 1919, when I entered the first grade, the children living in the north end of town were assigned their first six school years to rooms at the college.  My first and second grades were in rooms on the main floor of Baumgardner Hall, on the east side of the building, later the library.  This arrangement made it convenient to have practice teachers, frequently three in each grade or subject throughout the 12 years of school.

Grade school memories?  Yes!  While Agnes Kessler was reading a long Thanksgiving story to my third grade class, I was totally concentrating on the story and, without thinking, opened my pocket knife and began carving my initials into the desktop.  Suddenly there was total silence as Miss Kessler came to my desk.

“Edwin, what are you doing?  Step out in the hall at once!”  She wrote a note to Superintendent Humke, located at the old central high school on Fourth Street, and directed me to deliver it to him.  I was overcome, almost to insensibility, with fear.

At the superintendent’s office I was pale and clearly trembling.  He invited me in and, instead of paddling me as I had expected, I found what surely must be the love of God Himself in that great man’s kindly behavior.  With a careful admonition, he patted my shoulder and dismissed me.

At home a comparison was made of my misdemeanor with that told in a story circulating in town concerning college students who in the middle of the night at Halloween forced a cow up the stairways of the administration building to the top floor.  Surely, I was told, their crime was so much greater than mine.  My childish mind wondered whether they might be hanged.

I recall in those earliest days of my grade schooling the news that change was about to take place on campus.  All of the grass and large oak trees west of Baumgardner Hall were to be removed and an administration building erected.  In a tower on top chimes were to be installed.  Now, that was the talk of the town!

The momentous day of the first playing of the chimes arrived.  How wonderful it was to ride my bike from home on East Fifth Street and to stop in front of Mrs. Emma Fair’s house across from the chime tower.  No chimes in the cathedrals of Europe in later years ever impressed me so much!  The next best time they sounded was on a Sunday morning, March 3, 1935, immediately following my marriage to Fern Dilling in Rev. H.L. Hartsough’s parsonage.

My father, during the Prohibition days, admonished his seven children to stay out of the “dens of sin,” poolrooms.  There was one approved place to go—Noah Baker’s shoe repair shop, 200 feet south of College Avenue on the west side of Bond Street.  Noah, though unlettered, effervesced a kindly humoring for the ears of loafing kids.  To watch him was as much fun as double masticating a 10 cent chocolate marshmallow Sunday at Sala’s Drugstore downtown.

Dr. John Dotterer required an absorption in higher mathematics which required self-possession and most challenging elevation of one’s mind.  One day, while lecturing, the professor continued talking as he went to the back of the room to adjust a window shade.  As he stretched upward his trousers at the knee caught a radiator escape valve.  There was a large rip in two directions.  Instead of smiling at the mishap, he leaned over, placed his hand over the torn flap, and proceeded to walk with a limp up and down in the front of the chalkboard.  Our stomachs churned with spasms of laughter.

Down the hallway a professor of languages unwittingly simplified the preparation of his students.  During most periods he sat at his desk, beard pointed down and back as if he were gazing at his feet.  Because of this he was known as the “Sleeping Priest.”  Only occasionally did he lift his eyes, so the procedure for some students was to pass translations up and down the rows as each student was called upon.  The performance of the class, therefore, was at a commendably high level!

The same professor and his wife agreed to some housecleaning at home one day.  An observer walking by wondered how an obvious disagreement was going to be resolved.  They were carrying a long stepladder through the front doorway when the person at the front of the ladder began shoving the ladder back out of the house while the person at the back forced the ladder forward.  The swinging went back and forth until the back person shoved much harder, and the ladder tore loose.  Crash!  It slammed into a china closet.  At that point the observer on the sidewalk hurried away, almost at a run, as he heard, “You are to blame for this!”

During my junior and senior years I was the college postmaster for mail to students living in the dormitories.  The post office was located in the basement of the administration building, adjacent and east of the bookstore as it was then located.  My mistake was to take my wife-to-be into the darkened post office in the evenings for the splurge of sharing a five-cent Snickers bar.  In due time I received a visit from my boss, L.D. Ikenberry.  He said, “Now, young man, I learned that you have taken a girl into the post office in the evenings—and with the lights turned off.  That must stop immediately.  Is it clear that such will not happen again?”

In May 1935 the seniors went on “Ditch” Day to Lake Maxinkuckee near Culver.  It was a surprise to me that some students knew that the day was my birthday.  I was kidnapped, taken by strong arms to the scene of my torture, and forced to lean over.  A four-foot piece of house siding was the instrument of my punishment from 125 students lined up for their fun.

Now, 50 years later, I find it satisfying to recall the fellowship among the students and faculty family which fulfilled me far more than I had hoped from college.  With exhilaration from newborn idealism I wanted to emulate students and faculty who inspired me.  I saw life anew in Sadie Wampler’s Shakespeare class and stretched the experience for two more terms.  I felt my brain beginning to operate when I was introduced to inductive reasoning.  By observation and absorption I grasped the great importance of religion when I associated those who lived their religion.  I am grateful now, more than ever, for the distinct contribution which Manchester College makes to its students.

[Note: We were good friends with the Grossnickles when he taught at Manchester College.  When I found he had written about his family beginnings in Cass and Carroll Counties where I grew up, I wrote to buy a copy and suggested he write memories of interest to the Newsletter.  With my copy of his book was this article. OJW]


The Indians Called It Kenapocomoco  
By L.Z/ Bunker, M.D. Ret.

The Indians called it Kenapocomoco.  The French called it l’Anguille [an.’ghee], the Eel which is what the English and Americans called it.

One of the several rivers that drain south from the Continental Divide, the Eel begins in Allen County, Indiana, five miles south of Avilla and about five miles west of I-69 near the forgotten town of Ari.

The Indiana School Geography for 1914 states that “the Eel River rises from a great spring near Ari, Allen County, Indiana.”  The author visited the area in the early 1950’s and, alas, the “great spring” was nowhere to be found, and the river had its beginning in a large wetland with numerous grasses, cattails, watercress, arrowhead in the deeper reaches, a remote and murky place!  Large areas of land were not cultivated, and it seemed very remote indeed.

The river assumes the proportions of a creek and moves along southeast of Columbia City where it is fed by Blue River.  By South Whitley it has the proportions of a river and is spanned by a large cement bridge.  The river continues southwest through Collamer, Liberty Mills, North Manchester, Laketon, Ijamsville, Roann, Stockdale, Chili, Mexico, Adamsboro, and Logansport where it joins the Wabash.

The earliest history of Eel River comes from the geologists who tell us its basin represents a drainage area from the last glacier about 10,000 years ago.  This great ice sheet extended from the Atlantic seaboard to northern Kansas from Hudson’s Bay to Brown County, Indiana, in its midsection.  In some places it was two miles thick and carried the rocks that we find in glacial drifts.  One of these is in the riverbed south of Liberty Mills.

As the wetlands and eventually the river formed, mastodons roamed along it.  Prehistoric Indians lived near it, and then the historic Indian tribes, the Pottawatomies to the north and Miamis on the south.

Our first maps of the area were made by the French who were in the area as early as 1662-1667 and following.  By 1678 and into the 1700’s the French, explorers and missionaries, followed by coureurs du bois and the voyageurs, traversed this country.  The Eel River is marked on the earliest maps as l’Anguille, the Eel or Snake Fish which the Indians called it –Kenapocomoco.

This was beaver country, and the French hunted steadily as well as deer, otter, and mink.  The hides were removed by canoe to Detroit, then to Montreal and Quebec.  There was no birch to make canoes here, so, unless canoes were brought in, transport was by the Indian log canoe, the piroque, made from 20-foot logs.  The interior was burned and hacked out and with a shaped bow.  Three or four men could paddle these as in a lighter craft and were said to have made 110 miles per day on the river.

All the rivers were wider and deeper than we know them.  There was no drainage of the land, and the great stand of timber, reaching from the east bank of the Tippecanoe River to the Atlantic seaboard, held water in the ground.  As late as 1836 when North Manchester was settled, Eel River was 130 feet wide and 10 to 15 feet deep.  Now in the summer it is reduced to “a mere trickle.”

The English and Americans became involved in the fur trade and came into the area by 1750 or so, but there was no effort at colonization except in infrequent instances.  A few French people lived in and around the French fort in Fort Wayne in 1750.  Only after the Treaty of Greenville (Ohio) did Americans begin to venture into the area of Eel River and then slowly.  Collamer in Whitley County was settled in 1834, South Whitley 1835-1836, and North Manchester in 1836.  Settled a little earlier was Logansport where the river joins the Wabash which, of course, was navigable southwest to Lafayette and beyond to the Ohio and Mississippi.

Fords, Pontoons, and Covered Bridges
When the pioneers came, they needed to cross the rivers which they first did at natural fords.  There is a record of barrels being moved across the Eel River by a rope trolley.  Later pontoon bridges were used and finally the “rude bridge that arched the flood,” the covered bridge.  There were covered bridges at Liberty Mills, North Manchester, Laketon, and Roann.  There were grist mills at South Whitley, Collamer, North Manchester, Roann, Stockdale, Mexico, and Logansport.

In early times the river teemed with eels, hard and soft shelled turtles, bass, catfish, small panfrish, and three foot carp, which only the German settlers ate.

Great stands of timber covered the land along the Eel River and this gradually was cut and shipped away, much of it as hardwood building material and manufactured wagon parts, barrels and cooperage, tool handles, etc.  The last tool handles in the area were made of hickory as late as 1923.  Four to six-foot stumps of the early timber could be seen in old woods as late as 1915 or so. 

Canoeing is popular on Eel River now, and we hear reports of large cottonwood and sycamore trees, but the great yellow poplars, oak, and beech are no more.  The land is cut over and drained until the once formidable stream, supplying the homeland of the Pottawatomies and Miamis, is reduced to an indifferent flow.

Hero Worship  
By Orpha J. Weimer

1925 was a marvelous year.  October’s “bright, blue weather” held until nearly Thanksgiving.  The campus was lovely with colored leaves and cool pungent air which made everybody feel peppy.  Like Browning’s “Pippa Passes,” I can quote:
The morning’s at seven.
The lark’s on the wing.
The hillside’s dew-pearled.
God’s in His Heaven.
All’s well with the world.

That fall I became a full-fledged college student.  Indiana had begun upgrading her educational system, requiring all teachers to have four years of college training.  One or two-room schools were on the way out, and rural children were being bused to larger consolidated systems and better teaching facilities.

My two-room building was being closed, and I was out of a job.  Although my first two years of teaching had been satisfactory, I had not quite finished my first year of training.  I could not see a four-year goal as possible.  However, my former principal, Virgil Stinebaugh, advised me to hang on.  He, Mother , and I talked things over.  With Mother’s help and a college job and with Stinebaugh’s faith in me, I felt like trying.

Dean Schwalm enrolled me.  On learning that I liked his pet subject, history, as well as English, of course I took a major in history.  I got a job in the college library where I had worked much of the summers.  They even raised the pay from 30 cents to 35 cents an hour.  As a former student with two years’ teaching experience I was given a key to open up the first hour at 7:00 and to close the last hour at 10:00.  It gave me access to reserved books to take out for nighttime study.  The worst part was trying to chase out the courting couples at closing!

I splurged to buy a Lyceum (now the Artist-Lecture series) ticket.  Patrons for the popular public programs came by busloads from every direction, even a few from Fort Wayne.  The speaker for one late November program was Sir Wilfred Grenfell, a “lion” of the times, known as the Albert Schweitzer of America.

There was a rule that we could close the library early on program nights.  The old Wampler auditorium was filled to capacity.  Two seats were saved for us close up on the north side, and we squeezed into our seats just after the introduction had been made.  (And imagine our surprise when we had stepped across the back drive to find the ground white with soft, fluffy snow.)

Sir Wilfred Grenfell
I had never seen a British lord or anyone who had had the adventures Sir Wilfred had described in his book.  I expected a tall, well-built six-footer with a big, commanding voice.  But, no, a little, rather insignificant-appearing man stepped forward and spoke in a high, squeaky voice.  This couldn’t be the hero of the north!  But he went on and thanked us for our unusual and homelike greeting of snow on his arrival, assuring us it wasn’t quite what he was used to.  Then he spoke of his work, and I listened.

The Grenfells were blessed with a mania for helping the less fortunate.  The physician-surgeon and his wife, with their own funds, equipped a hospital ship, and eventually five ships, for the Labrador and Canadian coast.  Then, on a sightseeing tour inland, they found shocking needs there.

Many of the Eskimo Indians and early Scotch-English pioneers were living in bleak, Spartan conditions.  Since fishing and fur-trapping were about their only means of livelihood, subsistence levels were meager during the long winter months.  Again the missionary Grenfells brought medical and spiritual rescue from disease, appalling living conditions and poor self-image.

Beyond charity they also needed to find a way for these people to help themselves in the long term. Lady Grenfell and her traveling friend, Jessie Luther, had noticed attractive handwork produced in many of the small homes by the women in their long evenings and spare moments, especially the centuries-old craft of hooked rugs.

Luther was a Godsend: she had had previous experience with cottage creations, such as marketing a quality product.  Sir Wilfred was also a fairly keen businessman.  Soon Grenfell International Industrial Association was underway.  Lady Grenfell started on pattern and design, and kits were assembled.  Gone were Victorian posies and scrolls, and in came fish, seals, penguins, reindeer, and polar bears.  Dogsleds and teams drove past mountainous icescapes and icy water.

The men were good at carving wood, bone, ivory, and soapstone.  Small toys of sleds, stuffed animals, and birds appealed.  Luther kept strict control over product and management.  Clean, used materials were recycled, but with the snowy and icy backgrounds, new bright white materials had to be purchased, all of this difficult to get.  In 1915 when silk stockings and knit undies became so popular, a slogan was used: “When your stockings begin to run, let them run to Labrador!”

It was constant work to keep going, but it did show amazingly good results.  Sir Wilfred died in 1940, and, without him and his vigorous advertising, the organization faltered.  Machine-made trade muscled in, and many of the outlet stores had to close, although some still survive even today in the Northwest.

I flew to Gander Airport in the late 1970’s and was delighted to find a Grenfell shop which sold me a polar bear wallhanging.  I had learned to hook, and the College Women’s Club was teaching hooking in handcraft session.  Just this past summer in a magazine advertising crafts, a Chicago Grenfell outlet was offering some Canadian imports for sale.  Among them was a 26” X 40” hand-hooked Grenfell rug for $900.00.  A rug, probably valued at one time at $6.50 or $8.00, is now an antique bargain!

“Live and learn,” the old axiom goes.  With encouragement I managed my four years of college plus two more degrees.  I learned that not all heroes need to be six feet tall and can see more and more the wisdom of Grenfell’s humanitarianism.  I am learning with Browning and “Pippa,” God’s in His heaven and many things are all right in the world.

Covered Bridge Progress Report

The North Manchester Covered Bridge, one of the town’s best known historical landmarks, is undergoing structural renovation with special attention to replacement of decayed and weakened structural members on the underside of the bridge, new flooring, and reinforcement of the east end.  When repairs are completed the maximum load capacity of the bridge will increase from three tons to five tons.

A vital link in the town’s highway system, the bridge was closed in the mid-1980’s but reopened to traffic more than a year ago at the urging of the Historical Society.  A traffic count made early last fall indicated heavy traffic on the bridge, and without the bridge this traffic would be diverted to streets used by school buses and student pedestrians going to and from the North Manchester Elementary School.  This would create both safety problems and traffic congestions on the streets leading to the school and at their intersection with State Road 114.

Interest in preserving the bridge was especially heightened following the disastrous fire that nearly destroyed the Roann Covered Bridge.  Though efforts are underway to restore the bridge, much of it will be a replacement because so much of the original was consumed in the fire.  The North Manchester Covered Bridge is the only remaining one in Wabash County with most of the original structure intact.

The combined concern of the historical society, county, and town officials resulted in a county appropriation of $35,000 for repairs.  After work started, decaying beams were discovered under one end of the bridge, which required an additional $5,000.

Additional efforts seek to assure the security of the bridge.  Interior lighting of the bridge is adequate, but lighting at the approaches is being increased, and the feasibility of installing a security system is also being investigated.

The bridge was built in 1872 by the Smith Bridge Company of Toledo, Ohio, for $3,515, exclusive of stonework on abutments.  The entire structure is built of wood, put together with pins, iron bolts and square cut nails.  It is a single span over the river with no center supports.  For the Indiana Sesquicentennial in 1966, the bridge was extensively repaired with steel pylons near the west end, new flooring, and general renovation.

Our society monitors the bridge, marshalling resources to assure its preservation.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is a major artifact in the town’s outdoor museum.  With continued vigilance the bridge will stand for many more generations as a reminder of how our ancestors lived.  That is, after all, what our historical society is for.