of the North Manchester Historical Society, Inc.
Volume XXVI Number 2 May 2009
COMSTOCK'S CATTLE DRIVE TO NEW YORK CITY, 1855
By John Knarr
Published in 1884, Helm's History of Wabash County on page 288 made reference to a remarkable event in the annals of early local agriculture. It was claimed that John Comstock (1802-1879) of Liberty Mills in the summer of 1854 drove 120 head of native steers (three and four years old) to Toledo, Ohio. Then the cattle were shipped by rail to New York City to fetch $27 per head. In the 1850s the Chicago stockyards were yet undeveloped and the railroads had not yet reached towns such as Liberty Mills and North Manchester.
My research challenge: What do the historical records reveal about this extraordinary feat by a prominent local farmer? It was in the spirit of checking the historical facts as presented in the Helm history that my research was undertaken. Helm observed in the very first sentence of his volume that "the essential features of a local history are accuracy and completeness." He also goes on to say that "some errors of fact" may have escaped his scrutiny. As editor, Helm acknowledged that the recollections of Elijah Hackleman were relied upon for much of the writing of local history, and that the history of Chester Township had been prepared by L.H. Newton. But many stories contained in Helm's remarkable history offer no other source documentation and apparently rely upon "recollections."
Helm [p. 288] claimed that the summer of 1854 was very dry, "cutting short the pasturage" when Comstock decided to send 120 head of cattle to New York. It was true that drought gripped much of the country during the summer of 1854. The land was literally parched, as reported by the newspapers and farm publications. [Toledo Blade; weatherarchives.owlinc.org]
When were the rail lines completed that would have enabled Comstock to ship his cattle to NY? According to the 1913 Annual Report of the NY Central Railroad System, the last link in the chain of railways from Chicago to New York to Boston was completed in 1853. But the track was tore up in 1853-1854 between Erie, PA, and Buffalo, NY, because contracts were let to make uniform the gauge of the track (four feet ten inches from six feet). In February of 1854 the first train passed from Buffalo to Erie over the uniform gauge.
So far, Helm's story was consistent with my findings on the timing of the drought and railway construction. Could I then locate corroborative evidence for the cattle drive date being the summer of 1854 and the price of the cattle at $27 a head?
As a researcher, I had access to the Allen County Public Library microfilmed copies of the New York Tribune for this time period. Could it be possible that the Comstock sale was reported or otherwise described in that newspaper?
In the Tribune one can read the weekly reports of "receipts and selling prices of BEEVES, MILK COWS, VEAL CALVES, SHEEP AND LAMBS, AND SWINE; with a carefully prepared account of the number, quality and price of BEEF CATTLE at the great Wednesday market WASHINGTON DROVE YARDS, 44th St." Also listed in these weekly reports were the names of owners of droves of 30 or more, names of States where the cattle were from, and the names of the commissioned agents or cattle brokers!
In scanning these weekly reports, I did not locate any entry for Comstock in the summer months of 1854 and 1856. But "J. Comstock of Indiana" did show on an August 16, 1855, weekly report for the New York Cattle Market. The salesmen were Meed & Oakham. The relevant paragraph in the Tribune: "Meed & Oakham have 120 head from Wabash County, Indiana. They are young steers and very thin, but fair quality. Average weight, 560. Price about $40 a head. They were driven from [sic]Toledo at the rate of twelve miles a day. Were only two days in coming from Buffalo to Bergen; from home fifteen days." The NY reporter apparently intended to say that Comstock's herd was driven from Liberty Mills to Toledo at the twelve mile rate. Consequently the cattle drive consumed about ten days overland, while the rail transportation took nearly five days from Toledo to NY.
Comstock, for all his exertions, then received between seven and eight cents/lb. for his steers. The newspaper reported that First Quality Beeves were getting on average 10 ½-11 cents/lb; medium quality between 9-10 cents/lb; poorest quality 7-8 ½ cents/lb. On Wednesday, August 15, 1855, Comstock was among a group of twenty large western farmers selling droves of thirty or more beef cattle. Another farmer Jacob Moser from Tippecanoe County, Indiana, had 79. Other states represented were Illinois, Ohio, Kentucky and New York. Moser had sent his cattle by rail out of Indianapolis, but complained of "the inconvenience experienced on the Indianapolis and Bellefontaine Railroad, the cars on that road being very small, and the accommodations at the Union Depot for shipping the cattle are likewise very inadequate." A week later another large farmer in Indiana, H.C. Bruce shipped to this same New York market 150 steers from Jasper and White counties. The Tribune editorialized: "They came by the Michigan Central Railroad. We should be glad if this company would instruct their conductors to regard proprietors of cattle and drovers as men and not as beasts. On this road those who accompany a drove of cattle are compelled to ride [in cattle cars] with nothing but rough dirty boards for seats and ill-ventilated boxes to ride in. We can scarcely believe that the directors of this company are cognizant of this fact, and we take this opportunity of informing them of it, with the additional information that any repetition of such treatment will receive a deserved exposition before the cattle-owning public of the West." Indiana in 1855 was in the American West! And shipping cattle by rail was in its infancy.
The "cattle kings" in Ohio, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois had historically driven their cattle overland to such eastern seaboard markets as Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and even Boston. An infrastructure of "drove stands" with staging pens and fenced feed lots had developed over time. Farmers along the drover's path had earned money by furnishing feed and enclosures at night. With the completion of various railroad routes in the 1850s, such activity went by the wayside and was all but abandoned to the detriment of those who had profited from that infrastructure. [See "Hoosier Cattle Kings" in Indiana Magazine of History, March 1948; "The Beef Cattle Industry in Ohio Prior to the Civil War" in The Ohio Historical Quarterly, April 1955 and July 1955.]
The early 1850s represented a "golden age" for the cattle graziers in Ohio and Indiana, because of cheap land, marketing advantage over westward competition, and rising cattle prices between 1848 and 1855. New York was the "big apple", the most profitable outlet. Whereas the local market might bring $20-30 a head, the grazier could likely double that price in New York.
In 1850, stock cattle could be purchased for $10-12 a head, the cost of grazing was estimated at $5-6 for the calendar year. The cost of any cattle drive then had to be factored in. According to various accounts, the distance covered per day overland during a cattle drive averaged ten to twelve miles, which was consistent with the report on the Comstock drive. Before the advent of railroads, it took Ohio drovers on average 40-50 days to reach the New York markets. Even John Brown the abolitionist tried his hand in the 1830s in buying cattle in Ohio and driving them to Connecticut! [see ibid, p. 297]. It was estimated to cost in wages and feed from $10-13 per head to get a drove from central Ohio to NY. As one historian reported: "…it was up to the drover and his helpers to keep the animals out of corn fields, the unfenced logging fallows, and the miry swales, to make them take the one right direction instead of the two wrong ones at each crossroads, to force them past any other droves they might meet, and to get them through each village….The drove would rest at mid-day, and after a dozen miles or so would be quartered in some farmer's feedlot or pasture or in a village stockyard or pound." [ibid, p. 299]
During 1855, the railroad rate via Cleveland and Buffalo to New York was between $152 and $200/railway car. Usually there were sixteen cattle per car so the average cost per head was $10-12 to ship the cattle by rail and on average an additional $1 per head for feed, labor for the train trip.
Comstock was truly a pioneer in so many ways. He had big ideas and far-sighted vision. Along with other large agricultural operators in Indiana, he had driven his cattle to the biggest market over a long distance. He was intensely interested in improving his stock. He recognized the marketing potential of railroads. Involved in all sorts of economic and public endeavors, and seizing opportunity when it presented itself, Comstock made his mark on our county history. As early as 1837-1838, he was buying and selling hogs, cows and heifers, some of which he took as far as Michigan City [Helm, 288]. At one time Comstock owned over 1600 acres of land [Helm, 288]. To sum up: According to the records available for research, Comstock received a much higher price for his cattle in New York than that recalled in the 1884 Helm history, and the year was 1855, not 1854.
LOTS TO SEE IN THE CENTER
By Nancy J. Reed, Director of Displays
It was a very busy winter for the volunteers at the Center for History. Although the doors were closed to the public (except for pre-arranged tours) the building didn't sit idle nor did the staff. It took many days to arrange the glittering holiday windows with backdrops of sparkling material covering the walls of four storefront windows. Green was the backdrop for evergreen trees, leaves and branches for a woodland scene featuring Luke Hunt's gifted talent of taxidermy. A deer, skunk, coyote, porcupine, bobcat, duck and a variety of birds looked right at home and we were sorry to see them go when the windows were dismantled to make way for spring displays.
Another window featured a silver background for the two silver, aluminum trees with a colored wheel revolving and changing colors just like they did in the 60's when they were produced and very popular. The ground was covered with snow and there was a pond complete with snowman just waiting for anyone to come ice skating. This serene scene also featured snowflakes coming down from above and a crystal, lighted stag enjoying his reflection in the pond. For nostalgic purposes we included a dozen or so photographs of N. Manchester scenery from bygone days; each one showing off our beautiful snows of past winter seasons.
The third window reminded us of our Christmases in the past. The Oppenheim's Santa Claus made another appearance to a living room complete with lighted tree, cozy carpets on the floor, an easy chair & ottoman. (Santa needs some electrical work because he doesn't move any more. Anyone want to volunteer?) Close by was a new acquisition for the Center; a Peabody-Majestic fireplace. Santa had just placed many gifts under the tree, including a collection of tractors loaned by Joyce & Dale Joy. The packages had some special decorations on them this year. Pictures of the Kitson children from the 50's showing off their Christmas morning presents were attached to the packages. Of course we didn't forget a glass of milk and a plate of cookies for Santa to enjoy, but the family's puppy was sitting up and begging for a share.
The fourth window was all in royal blue sparkling through the night. This window could not have held another nativity scene as we featured Bernice Ford's large collection. The holiday trees were tree branches wrapped with blue lights and all of the shelving and boxes holding the nativities were covered in dark blue velvet. It was a very beautiful display. Our final window (the one with our logo and lettering on the walls), was kept simple with some of the toys and games that have been acquired by the Center for History over the years. (We don't have very many, so please don't throw yours away or sell them in an auction. We could certainly use them.) These were beautiful windows and we were sorry to see them go away, but then there is always next year.
Here is a list of some of the other displays that were improved or added just in time for our opening on April 4, 2009. New items and photos were added to the bank display. Union Trust Bank, Lawrence National Bank, and the Indiana Bank are all identified and explained. Several new pieces have been added to the Indiana Lawrence Bank collection as well. If these notes cause you to think about items that you have stuck away in your attic, garage or storage shed, remember that our collections are never complete. We sometimes struggle to find enough items to complete a display. Please think about donating to the museum the next time you are sorting through "stuff", don't know what to do with the old items, or no one in the family wants them. We want them!
The dresser gifted to a Dunkard girl and built in North Manchester now displays some dresser decorations of the period with some Currier & Ives prints on the walls. The history of Currier & Ives is nearby for anyone to read about. A closet hanging full of a wide variety of period clothing is featured in a new display just added. The closet invites visitors to look at the clothing by handling them by the hangar rather than touching the fabric of each piece. Also in the closet are many high button shoes, both for adults and children. Across the aisle we show off several interesting hats in our collection. There is space provided for one to sit down (on a 50's style hair dryer chair) and try on the hats. Mirrors reflect the beautiful image as you ponder what you might have looked like in your grandmother's or great grandmother's hats. We plan to expand this exhibit with gloves, handkerchiefs, and jewelry.
Nearby we still have the textile section, displaying our collection of sewing, weaving, tapestry, quilting, and other hand crafted items. Five quilts are featured; one of them made by Helen Garner's elementary school class. Spinning wheels, a treadle sewing machine, ironing board & iron, quilting frame, a loom, and tapestry frame are also part of this section of the museum. We had a collection of sewing notions and thimbles, loaned by Evelyn & Emerson Niswander, featured during the holidays. But, alas, they needed to return them to Theron Rupley's Antique Store where they are for sale. Theron frequently loans us items to complete our displays when we don't have enough. Thank you, Theron. He's just a couple of doors down from the Center to the east, so when in town, plan to stop by his store as well.
Nancy Reed has added two of her personal collections of art glass for your pleasure. The blue collection features a blue milk glass plate that was from her grandmother. Other items were also collected from her two great aunts. Most of the Reed side of the family collected antiques or had antique stores. Nancy said there were annual vacation trips made to Wisconsin, antique hunting and fishing. The second collection is cranberry glass and was acquired the same way. Some items, however, she purchased herself while working for auctioneer, Eldon Metzger, as his cashier for a number of years.
The "Authors from North Manchester" section is nearly complete now. A reading corner has been provided for visitors to sit and enjoy the books, pamphlets and photographs of our local writers. Some of those featured include Lloyd C. Douglas, Thomas R. Marshall, Chief Clarence Godfroy, Dr. Ladoska Z. Bunker, Vernon Schwalm, William Eberly, Patricia Ringenberg, Otho Winger, Ida Winger, and William Billings. Some of their books were available from the Center's collection; however, there are many more we would like to have donated. We will gladly receive any works by local authors that we may not yet know of or have in our collection.
We have opened another section in this display for visitors to come in to look at the collection of N. Manchester yearbooks. We reserve copies of each yearbook in our archives that we don't allow the general public to handle. We already have two copies of every Aurora, Ravelings, En Em, Crest, and Laktonian stored in the library archives. The third copy of any of these books will be placed on the book shelves of our "Author" area for anyone to peruse.
In case you haven't been to our museum, here is a list of some other displays currently being featured:
Americanna Shoppe (souvenir items of N. Manchester for sale)/Cigar Factory/
Dewitt automobile/Early Brethren Conferences held in Harter's Grove/Hamilton Opera House/Lumber companies/Livery stables & horse shoeing establishments/
Giek Tile & Brick Manufacturing/House building styles of this area/Manchester Bonnet Factory/Manchester College/Martha Winesburg's classroom/Mastadon bones found in this area/One of the last remaining eels found in Eel River/
N. Manchester Covered Bridge/N. Manchester Fire Dept. Then & Now/
Oppenheim's Dept. Store/Peabody Furniture Factory/Radios, record players, Victrolas, Player Piano _ our music of the past/Rex Windmill/Rufle's Jewelry Store/
Shively Dairy/Hamilton-Strauss Mill/The art of Gladys Scheumann/Thomas R. Marshall, Governor of Indiana & Vice President of the U.S.
The North Manchester Historical Society wishes to thank the Public Library for the loan of an original oil painting of the Strauss Mill by Earl Egolf. The painting will be on display at the Center for History through the spring and summer months.
A new and exciting project is now under way at the Center for History. The four children of Eleanor & Harold Miller (Rosemary, Richard, Carol & Joann), have given his farm museum collection of implements and other items from four generations of Millers to the Historical Society. Nearly all of the items have been moved to the Center and are now being cleaned and accessioned. Volunteers are badly needed to help us clean the many items that have been donated. Mr. Miller had them displayed in his own museum room within his large barn on the 100-plus-year-old farm where he lived north of town. The same homestead was lived in and farmed by his father, Ellis Miller, and by at least one generation prior to that. Along with these farm items, the volunteers at the Center have already put in many hours cataloging and researching 2,000 paper items including farm records, receipts, ledgers, diaries, photographs, post cards, personal letters, calling cards, grade cards, school photos, ration coupons and much more. Just to whet your appetite, there is a bob sled, parts of a smaller Conestoga-type wagon, and what we believe to be a Studebaker wagon bed. Much work will be done to restore these items as funds will permit. Just as a reminder to readers, the North Manchester Center for History is run solely on donations and grants. Dues from the Historical Society members go to offset the cost of publishing our quarterly Newsletter. There is no paid staff; only volunteers.
At present our windows are featuring themes for spring. Our Manchester College art student, Cat Davis, who is interning this semester, has painted a wall-sized watercolor of the gazebo in Warvel Park. The window, titled "Playing in Warvel Park with Daddy" features a small child playing in the sand with old-style tin buckets and shovels. Their dog keeps watch over the baby nearby. Daddy, meanwhile, is reclining in the grass while flying two kites (made by Manchester Elementary School students). The mannequin of daddy is really a paper machete project completed by Manchester High School art students a few years ago. They plastered themselves and other models with paper machete and gave the Center many different posed mannequins to use for our various projects.
In the next window its "April Showers Bring May Flowers" as umbrellas are featured. Another paper machete mannequin of a young man who has fallen into a rain puddle is the center of attention. His umbrella is open upside-down, his MP3 player is saved from falling into the water by a wrist band, but the earphones are a bit askew on his head. Under another umbrella in the window, a mother rabbit and her baby take shelter.
The third window shows off a collection of doctor's office items (from the collection of Beth Davis). This collection includes nursing books, bedpans, medicine bottles, scissors, salves, and features a wicker wheelchair. From the Center's collection we added doctor's white jackets, scrubs, a nurse's uniform & cape, all of the doctor's bag in our possession (10) and the story of the building of Manchester Clinic. The photographs of Doctors Lloyd Smith, Paul Eiler, Michael Silvers, Wilbur McFadden, Parks Adams and Rex Wieland are displayed. Another photograph shows the whole staff on the 20th anniversary of Manchester Clinic. The business was established in 1961 by Dr. Smith & Eiler, along with Don Spitler, pharmacist, and Dr. William Gordon, dentist. Two other partners were William Sayer, who had already established his insurance business on the property where the Clinic was built, and Rev. Jim Overholt. We would like to enlarge our collection of medical instruments and memorabilia if readers have items to donate. Items pertaining to N. Manchester physicians, dentists, eye doctors, and veterinarians, are particularly desired.
The fourth window salutes the Boy Scouts. The collection of Dennie Unger is displayed along with a few items from Dave Hippensteel. Boy Scout and Cub Scout uniforms, ties, camping equipment, backpacks, books, badges, etc. are shown.
One of the most exciting new transitions that has taken place at the Center is that Manchester College's Art Department under the direction of Dr. Thelma Rohrer and supervised by Prof. Ejenoba Oke, is now working in conjunction with us to furnish an intern each semester to study all aspects of museum management. Our first intern was Catherine "Cate" Brelji, from Fort Wayne. She studied at the Center for History from September through December, 2008. Her grade for the semester was based solely on what she learned and completed at the museum. Among the assignments and training given, Cate helped to complete the holiday windows, painted the replica of the Rex Windmill, set up the Textile display, and learned how to accession, store, and care for the items donated. Cate traveled with Nancy Reed to the Kendallville Windmill Museum doing research for her model, and gave a presentation to the Historical Society membership of her experiences during the internship semester. Teachers, student and Center for History staff all judged this to be an extremely beneficial concept for all involved.
The second intern, Catherine "Cat" Davis, from Argos, started in March and will complete her internship in May. These students have talents and skills that are much needed for our displays and we teach them to appreciate the workmanship and skills of the past and how to preserve them. Cat says she is interested in art conservation for her future career. Cat and Jena are currently working on the restoration of our mannequins. We were lucky enough to inherit them from Oppenheim's store, but they are aging and needed a lot of work.
Many volunteers and items are needed at the Center for History. Volunteers may serve as docents, custodians or carpenters. They may help to arrange displays, assist with accessioning and cataloging items into the computer. They may help with the Newsletter and the NMHS website, do research, publicity, fundraising, or work with school schildren and tours to demonstrate skills and present programs of interest.
Currently we are looking for the following items to add to our collection: uniforms from the Viet Nam, Persian Gulf and Iran eras; a good sweeper and/or shop vac; picture frames in good condition and all sizes; Dunkard bonnets; saddle shoes and poodle skirts; color TV, VCR, DVD player (may be used); jewelry; working color wheel for aluminum tree (could use 2); old telephones; copies of yearbooks from N. Manchester area; old postcards or pictures showing scenery, businesses and people in N. Manchester or surrounding communities; barn lumber and siding.
CFH ACCESSIONS REPORT
by Joyce Joy, Archivist
Our collections date from 1984 when we first started collecting items. We now have over 17,500 items, including display and archival objects, books and photos. Among some of these items is Mary K. Peabody's sterling silver nine-piece dresser set with her initial on each piece. We have wedding gowns, children's, ladies and men's clothing, some dating from the late 1800s to the 1990s, sports uniforms and many other clothing items.
Our archives consist of abstracts, diplomas, report cards, genealogy and many other manuscripts. Our library has old school books, such as McGuffey Readers, old geography and arithmetic, medical and music books, family Bibles, school and college yearbooks, literature, genealogy, cemetery records, booklets about North Manchester history, ledgers from old businesses, including one recent donation dating from 1848-1852 (Jacob Simonton's Ledger, Liberty Mills), and William Comstock's diaries from 1853-1855, and many other interesting books.
Our largest and most recent and significant donation was from the Harold/Ellis Miller family, with four generations of items, including what was in their "Barn Museum." It consists of farm equipment and toys, crocks, a sellers cabinet, tools and much more from the barn. Items from the house include a wedding dress belonging to Ellis Miller's first wife, Anna Metzger, children's dresses, family photos, letters from family including letters from a World War One soldier, Jake Albright. The total items from the Miller's will number over one thousand.
In our photo and postcard collection, we have many wonderful photos of our downtown area, one dating back to 1876. We have photos of many prominent local persons including business people.
THEODORE DREISER IN NORTH MANCHESTER
PART TWO (1915)
By John Knarr
On Monday, June 21, 1915, Vice President Thomas Riley Marshall, who was born in North Manchester, dedicated a new stretch of the Lincoln Highway in northeastern Indiana. Arches with lights had been erected in Fort Wayne at the city limits marking the corridor. Signs on the high arches proclaimed the population of Fort Wayne to be 80,000. [See The Lincoln Highway Across Indiana, 2009] According to the local newspaper, "The city was gaily decorated with flags and bunting and the American flag waved from every public building." [Fort Wayne News Sentinel, June 21, 1915] 769 decorated cars, not including motorcycles and bicycles, were in a long parade. The famous Black Horse troop of Culver Military academy made an appearance. V.P. Marshall rode with his wife in the parade and it was reported, "all along he was given a tremendous ovation." The route of the parade was through the city of Fort Wayne, from Swinney Park to New Haven over the Lincoln Highway. Marshall then delivered the principal address on the campus of Concordia College, with Judge Olds (Marshall's friend and former law firm mentor ) presiding. Marshall then paid tribute to the memory of Abraham Lincoln, declaring that a more appropriate name for the highway dedicated could not have been selected. [Fort Wayne News Sentinel, June 22, 1915] The vision of a transcontinental highway had been promoted by Carl Fisher, the co-founder of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. [Barbara Quigley, "Going West -- The 1913 Indiana-Pacific Automobile Manufacturers Association Tour," Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History (Winter 2006), p. 23] In the parade, Fisher had ridden in the first automobile and Marshall and wife Lois in the sixth car.
In all likelihood, Theodore Dreiser and his traveling companions from New York City passed through the above mentioned arches almost two months later in the summer of 1915. Rather than follow the early path of the Lincoln Highway along what today is U.S. 33 in the direction of South Bend, Dreiser and Franklin Booth headed for Warsaw, and later North Manchester. As mentioned in Dreiser's A HOOSIER HOLIDAY, some of his mother's Snep relatives lived just north of North Manchester. [See NMHS Newsletter, Feb 2009.] Uncle Martin Fruitt and wife (sister to Dreiser's mother) are buried just outside Liberty Mills. Martin had died in 1899; Dreiser's aunt died in 1907. Uncle Martin's brother Christian Fruitt died August 18, 1914. Christian's wife Frances (Snell) died during Chautauqua Week on August 21, 1915, at the home of her daughter, Mrs. Joseph Cripe.
While Dreiser did not elaborate on some family connections in his writing, he did attempt a somewhat colorful description on several pages in A HOOSIER HOLIDAY of some encounters he had while passing through North Manchester.
Encounter 1—Dreiser, pages 339-340: "To the curb in front of another grocery store as I was coming back to the hotel [Sheller]drew up a small, rickety buggy—so dilapidated and antique, scarcely worthy or safe to be hauled about rough country roads any longer. In it were "my Grandfather Squeers"—jackknife legs and all—and his wife, a most spare and crotchety female, in a very plain black dress, so inexpensive, a grey linseywoolsey shawl and a grey poke bonnet. She looked so set and fixed and yet humanly interesting in her way."
Dreiser and James Whitcomb Riley. Dreiser had a fondness for Riley's poetry, but Riley never reciprocated an admiration for Dreiser's writings. More than once, Dreiser talked with regret that Riley did not regard highly his own (Dreiser's) works. Dreiser's characterization of "Grandfather Squeers" on the streets of North Manchester of course recalled Riley's poem with that title:
"He still chewed a dime's worth six days of the week, While the seventh he passed with a chew in each cheek….He was fond of tobacco in manifold ways, And would sit on the door-step of sunshiny days, And smoke leaf-tobacco he'd raised strictly for The pipe he'd used all through the Mexican War….No Old Settlers' Meeting, or Pioneers' Fair, Was complete without grandfather Squeers in the chair, To lead off the program by telling folks how He used to shoot deer where the Court-house stands now'—How he felt, of a truth, to live over the past, When the country was wild and unbroken and vast, That the little log cabin was just plenty fine For Himself, his companion, and fambly of nine!"
Encounter 2--Dreiser, page 339: "As I went up the street this early morning with my letters I encountered an old man, evidently a citizen of importance—present or past—being led down by his daughter (I took her to be). …He was blind, and yet quite an impressive figure, large, protuberant as to stomach, a Henry Ward Beecher, long, snow white hair, a silk hat, a swinging cutaway coat of broadcloth, a pleated soft-bosomed shirt ornamented with a black string tie, and an ivory-headed cane. Under his arm were papers and books. His sightless eyes were fixed on nothing—straight ahead. To me he looked like a lawyer or judge or congressman or politician—a local big-wig of some kind yet stricken in this most pathetic of all ways. The girl who was with him was so intent on his welfare. She was his eyes, his ears, his voice, really. …'Who is that man?', I asked of a grocer clerk putting out a barrel of potatoes. `That? Oh that's Judge Shellenberger—or he was judge. He's a lawyer now for the Monon, a railroad that runs through here. He used to be judge of the circuit court.' …Life is so full of great tales—every life in its way a masterpiece if seen in its entirety and against the vast background of life itself."
Dreiser Dissected. The author is obviously mistaken when he references the Monon as a railroad running through North Manchester. In 1915 the Vandalia and Big 4 Railroads, not the Monon, passed through North Manchester. "Monon" was a word used by the Potawatomi Indians to mean "to carry" or "to run swiftly", but the Monon railway was no where close to our community. Railroad historians inform us that the Monon rail lines linked Louisville, New Albany, Bedford, French Lick, Indianapolis, Delphi, Monticello, Rensselaer and Chicago. Consequently the Monon connected several of the state's colleges: Saint Joseph in Rensselaer, Purdue University in West Lafayette, Wabash College in Crawfordsville, DePauw in Greencastle, I.U. in Bloomington, Butler in Indianapolis, but Manchester College was certainly not in that loop! [see Barbara Quigley, "The Monon Railroad -- 124 Years on the Hoosier Line," Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History (Spring, 2007); also David E. Longest, The Monon Railroad in Southern Indiana (2008).]
Dreiser's penchant for developing composite characters contributes to creative, yet fictitious history. There was no Shellenberger who was a local "bigwig" or member of the bar at that time in Indiana. [See Courts and Lawyers of Indiana, 1916] He perhaps did encounter sightless John Ridgley who was a local Civil War vet, aided by his daughter Audrey Henney. In any event, it seems odd that Dreiser chose to couple a sightless person with an armload of papers and books.
Dreiser had arrived just before Chautauqua Week was to start in our town. As a featured Chautauqua speaker, silver-haired Ashton C. Shallenberger had been shown in prominent photographs in the local newspaper, North Manchester Journal (July 22 and August 12, 1915). In the photos, Shallenberger fit Dreiser's sketch of the described person, "quite an impressive figure, large, protuberant as to stomach, a Henry Ward Beecher, long, snow white hair…and an ivory-headed cane." But Ashton C. Shallenberger was not blind! There was a noted blind speaker on the Chautauqua circuit that summer, namely Congressman Gore from Oklahoma. But Shallenberger was the one speaking in North Manchester, not Gore. Ashton C. Shallenberger was then Congressman from Nebraska. In 1908 he had been elected governor of Nebraska receiving a majority nearly double that of William Jennings Bryan. Shallenberger was the only Democrat ever elected from his district to the U.S. Congress, and the second Democratic governor of Nebraska. He was a noted orator, and had a knack for getting the crowd with his first amusing story. He also appealed to farmers because he supported the first rural credits bill.
Dreiser's composite characterization was a creative literary device. As readers (or residents of North Manchester) we should not treat such as actual history. Interestingly, a recent email that I received (March 18, 2009) from Nancy Masten, Archivist at the Miami County Museum, appears to corroborate this very point: "I recently found that he [Dreiser] had written a book about his favorite people, and the first person he wrote about in the book was my great, great grandfather, Dr. Amos Woolley. He used a different name in the book for him, as he incorporated another doctor in the story….Amos left Miami County after the death of his wife, went on to Warsaw and married again two times." Others have also observed that Dreiser, in creating his characters often altered some basic facts and misrepresented the real person(s). Consequently there can be a lot of confusion between fact and fiction when sections of Dreiser's book are incorporated into local historical narrative. [See Tammy S. Ayer, "The Lake-Theodore Dreiser's Journey to An American Tragedy," Traces of Indiana and Midwestern History (Summer 2007), pp. 53-55.]
Editor's Note: Dreiser wrote a sketch about his own generous and kind family physician, Dr. Amos Woolley of Warsaw, IN. The sketch was a composite based on the lives of two different physicians, and the subject was given the fictitious name of Dr. Gridley. The Dreiser family had moved to Warsaw in 1884; Theodore was then 13 years of age. The Dreisers stayed in Warsaw for three years and then moved to Chicago. Dr. Woolley was their family physician while in Warsaw. In 1884 Dr. Woolley was 55 years old and had been practicing medicine in Warsaw for fifteen years. In Dreiser's sketch, "The Country Doctor", there is the anecdote where the doctor prescribes an unusual remedy for Dreiser's ill father that cost nothing and that resulted in an apparent cure for his father's gall-stone malady—amber-colored tea brewed from fresh peach sprigs. Also described is the doctor's medical assistance for one of Dreiser's sisters, and the doctor's willingness to make house calls in the middle of the night. [See A Theodore Dreiser Encyclopedia, ed. Keith Newlin, 2003, pp. 73-74; also "The Country Doctor," Harper's Monthly, July 1918, pp. 193-202.]
(To be continued—Part III to cover Dreiser's observations on the 1915 Chautauqua events in North Manchester)
QUILTS ON DISPLAY AT THE CENTER
by Bea Knarr
Wanting to raise money for the North Manchester Historical Society, Biddy Marks and Sally Allen decided to make a quilt. Steve Batzka was asked to make sketches of beautiful old homes and businesses here in town. Sally bought two shades of yellow/gold. The rust-red fabric was bleached to various shades of red to resemble the brick used. Needlework, showing windows, shrubs, bricks, porches, chimneys and walks all made to scale, was done by 26 people. It took several months to create the 50 detailed units. A blue fabric representing the Eel River winds down and through the town. Tepees of the Miami Indians edge the river. This incredibly beautiful quilt depicts 150 years of history. It was to be sold for as much as $5000 but it was too beautiful to part with so picture postcards of the quilt were sold to raise money.
The First Historical Society Quilt was completed in 1972, in time for Fun Fest held annually in North Manchester. It has red and cream blocks with blue needlework which name a business or businessman in each of the 64 blocks. Some navy blue fabrics add a nice contrast of color.
Helen Garner's 5th grade class, in 1976 for the 200 anniversary of the USA, made this red, white, and blue quilt. Each white block was designed by one of the students. The blocks represent important events, inventions, or people in the United States history.
The Little Red Schoolhouse Quilt in colors, red, white, green, and blue has the names of businesses written in blue on each of the 25 school blocks with apple blocks in between. The border has over 200+ handwritten names of community members on it.
An embroidered crazy quilt in satins and other fabrics has a variety of beautiful embroidery stitches connecting various diamonds, triangles, and other shapes. Colors of red, black, cream, blue, gold and brown make for a vibrant display.
2009 NMHS PROGRAMS-TIMBERCREST ASSEMBLY ROOM
Jun 8 N.M. Fire Department, Nancy Reed
Jul 13 A Pioneer Woman in First Person, Margaret Fritzel
Aug 10 Potawatomi Trail of Death, Shirley Willard
Sep 14 Folding Bath Tubs, Bill Eberly
Oct 12 History of the N.M. Greenhouse, Bernie Ferringer
Nov 9 America in Bloom & Flowers, Leesa Metzger
Dec 14 Christmas Program, The Peabody Entertainers
Our monthly meetings begin with an evening meal at 6 pm. If you want to make meal reservations, please contact Karl Merritt firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost of the meal is $7.00 per person. There is free admission for the program at 6:40 pm, held in the Timbercrest Assembly Room. The public is always invited.
Editor's Note: Please send communications, content material and articles for publication to: John Knarr, Editor/NMHS Newsletter, Box 306, N. Manchester, IN 46962. Email: email@example.com