Volume V, Number 2 (May 1988)

By Orpha Weimer

Salt of the Earth

If you want to hunt a needle in the haystack, try researching your family genealogical line.  Time consuming yes, but so interesting.  Gradually the gaps, bits and pieces come together like a jigsaw puzzle.  It’s really hard not to wander off on an interesting tangent.  I certainly know a lot more about Wabash County than I did.  Some of it is almost like a fairy tale, yet the people are very real.  They command respect, sympathy and admiration.

A good friend, Naomi Oldfather Floor, loaned me a precious old historical Atlas of 1845 which had belonged to her mother.  This record was not a drybone account at all but was brim full of meaty pioneer lore.  I have found nothing like it anywhere else.  It is far more enjoyable reading than the revised account.

I am also indebted to Mrs. Warby Clinker for information from her research of the South Pleasant Church records, and to a host of library personnel, friends and State records.

The object of my search was a record of the Thomas Gamble family, my mother-in-law’s stepfather’s family.  They settled on an estate of over 340 acres in Pleasant Township, the southwest part of Section #19 and northwest part of a quarter of Section #30.  They were three generations of staunch Methodists.  The S. Pleasant Church and cemetery grounds on Highway 15 were deeded to the State by them.  One early record states that Rev. Ancel Beach, an early circuit rider who held “classes” in that area, often used the Gamble barn to hold protracted meetings.  A young second generation Henry Gamble, who was the first Wabash County soldier to die in the Civil War, deeded a small plot of his government land for a church house just before he left for service.  The people gathered together to build a 125 ft. log building in his memory.

Material was hard to come by at the time so it was not chinked.  Many of the parishioners complained that it was too cold for meetings but Rev. Beach insisted it was God’s house and here meetings would be held.  Shame-faced and sheepish, they quietly found the materials and time to finish the first Methodist Church in the county.

Thomas Gamble, Sr. was a native of Pennsylvania (birth date unknown).  He had moved about several times before coming into Wabash County from Kosciusko County on February 19, 1835, along with his wife, Elizabeth Miller Gamble, and five children, John, Steven, Henry, Susanna, and Jane.  A sixth child, Thomas, Jr., was born in 1840.  Only three of the children survived beyond teen age.

Mr. Gamble, being of a roving nature, had learned to know both the land and the local Indians well.  The family came by a two-ox-team wagon with their baggage, skirting the treacherous Black Bear Swamp which stretched fifteen miles in an easterly direction toward Fort Wayne.  This swamp had already taken a heavy toll on travelers.

They arrived during a freak spring storm which dumped two feet of snow on the ground.  Having no shelter, they tramped down the snow under some brambles, placed brush and blankets overhead and spread skins and blankets on the ground.  Here the young children stayed while the father and his two older sons worked to construct a cabin.  A record states that the father had to drive an ox cart to Elkhart Prairie for food stuffs and that Mrs. Gamble suffered severely from Ague.  They were often cold and hungry that first year.  Before the cabin was finished one of the children died and the mother had to care for the body alone.

No one seemed to have money or much food at the time.  They lived mostly by barter.  A Mrs. Horace Tucker of Warsaw recalled that she had brought $2.00 worth of palm leaves with her and that she wove it all into hats to exchange for food.  Mrs. Sammuel Ruckel told that her husband sold some harnesses for a little corn, which he carried on horseback to Goshen to have ground.  She wove wild grasses into baskets which he peddled around for a little container of lard so that they could make cornbread.

Mr. Gamble and his two sons managed to clear ten acres for a corn patch by June that summer and although it was late, luckily it ripened. 

While the major portion of Wabash County was mostly settled by 1822, that to the north of Eel River was not.  Due to Indian legation and speculators who bought or reserved great tracts of land for the government price of $1.25 per acre, then held it as unimproved for a higher price, settlement was slow.  Also the Fort Wayne land office had it listed as swamp.  Many would-be settlers of the stalwart newly-wedded type simply drove on farther west.

In those days settlement was pretty much by squatter’s rights.  Later, the government made these legal.  There was one cabin four miles north of the Gambles’ and a second one fourteen miles away near the present Warsaw.  Only a short time went by before a Mr. Thurston settled over near the present town of Laketon.

Years later, Uncle Orville (Orrie), a third generation Gamble, pointed out to me a much bent tree along Highway 15, east of the S. Pleasant Church and yet another one like it growing on the Gamble land, which he called Indian trailmarkers.  These followed along a high clay ridge skirting low spots.  The low places had once been treacherous bogs and hard to cross.  The trail led in the general direction of Fort Wayne to Logansport.  A sizable Indian village had at one time been back of the Gamble land toward Akron.  They were peaceful and caused no trouble.  The Gamble dog, Tige, who didn’t approve of Indians, was a good watchdog.  Another story told of a party of twenty settlers who were belated after getting around Black Bear Swamp.  They found they were being followed by Indians.  Much alarmed, they saw the Gamble cabin and light.  They sought shelter and got it.  This was a pioneer trait, but one that remained with the Gambles as long as any of them lived.

Gamble Travelled With John Comstock?
Here my chain of facts breaks down a bit.  It is known that Mr. Gamble knew John Tipton, Indian Overseer and manager of the land office in Fort Wayne.  He also knew John Comstock.  Comstock had purchased reserve landrights for the area around the west side of Liberty Mills, in 1835, but he had not yet brought his family west.

I found one record saying that Mr. Comstock went back east and drove through with his family in a light horsedrawn wagon while a Mr. Gamble drove two team of oxen and a wagon with the baggage.  Also he looked after some pigs and three cows.  Was this our Thomas Gamble?  I have found no other by this name in the area.  Another coincidence is that the cabin which Mr. Comstock had thought was his was now occupied by a family and it was not on Comstock land at all.  To remedy the situation, Mr. Comstock purchased a partly-cleared tract with a house on it from a Mr. McBride who wished to sell and go farther west.  The earlier track held for Comstock was divided, part in his name and a large section going to our Thomas Gamble.  Later T. Gamble bought another tract of land adjacent to his first claim but not on the river.  He had seven years to improve and pay for this which a man with two growing sons could easily do.  We have the two deeds, 1836, signed by President Van Buren.

Thomas Gamble only lived ten years after the farms were acquired.  His wife, Elizabeth, survived him 35 years.  She added land for the present S. Pleasant Church year and cemetery to that which her son, Henry, had deeded.  These records and deeds are in the church lockbox and church history. 

The next record concerns the second generation Gambles.  The widowed mother continued to live on the farm with her youngest son, Thomas, Jr. (1840-1922).  Daughter Susanna had married, a Mr. Eichholtz (Marriage Records 1830-1853).  Later, widowed she remarried a Robert H. Hitzler of Warsaw.  Daughter Jane married S.J. Stevenson, moved west and I have no further trace of them. 

Thomas, Jr. was noted as being a very eccentric individual.  He married late in life, a widow with four children.  Mrs. Eliza Wertenburger (Hill) Gamble.  Mrs. C. C. Weimer was the youngest of the Hill children.  There were four Gamble children, Lulu, Rosella, Roscoe and Orville.  Only Roscoe ever married, but he left no heirs.  The land passed out of the Gamble family with this third generation.  I have heard it said, “They are the salt of the earth but queer as the Lord ever made!”

One interesting story which came down in the Weimer family concerned Grandpa Thomas Gamble (Jr.) who was an inveterate eavesdropper on the telephone.  While listening in during an electrical storm (which he had been told not to do), a spark flew out of the mouth piece.  He dropped the receiver, broke it, turned about quite dazed and said, “The durn thing nye singed my whiskers!”  He would never go near the phone after that.

Another action concerned the estate management after the death of Thomas’ mother, Elizabeth.  He absolutely refused to divide it with a sister although he carefully and religiously divided the farm income.  He never farmed but let that to his three young stepsons.  His income came from the periodic sale of choice timber.

The Third Generation
The older of the Gamble sisters, Lulu, trained as a nurse, became a Methodist Deaconness and spent many years as head of the Florence Crittenden House for Girls in Detroit, Michigan.  She contracted tuberculosis and was sent west to Bingham Canyon, Utah, for her health.  Here again, she served as a nurse and became engaged to a widowed missionary doctor.  Later she gave up all her plans to come home and help her sister, Rosa, take care of “Poppa.”  Mr. Gamble had developed a bad habit of running off and getting lost in their big woods.  Lulu also did a lot of voluntary nursing throughout the county.  She was an unusually good children’s nurse and did occasionally take on a case.  One of her last few jobs was caring for Mrs. Mark Honeywell’s son in Wabash

After Lulu’s death I found by way of some old letters, that she had been supporting two missionary families in India.  Quite a coincidence, one of these young men had the same name as the missionary doctor she had been engaged to years earlier.

The second daughter, Rosa, was a hard working farm woman who loved the out of doors.  She was housekeeper for the aging father and an ailing younger brother.  Also, there was always someone living with them who needed a home and a bit of assistance.

Brother Roscoe was the only one who ever married.  He and his wife, Blanche East Gamble, lived on a part of the original farm.  They had no children.

All are now deceased.  The second and third generation Gambles are buried in the S. Pleasant Cemetery.

Threading the atlases and records for the area and times are other interesting facts and stories.  The land from North Manchester, Laketon, Warsaw and LaGro was known as an Oak Thinning and was popular with settlers.  Indians had kept much of it burned over for years as grazing for wild life.  There were some trees but not the heavy dense forests so hard to penetrate.  There were small streams for mills and gentle rolling hillsides meant spring water for homesteads.  Clearing was not difficult and patches of well watered rich soil grew good corn.

After Paradise Springs opened up the Eel River section, settlers raced in.  One unique incident caught my attention about a lady and her cow.  Mrs. Lukens was much disgusted when the three cows did not come up for milking.  She and the dog had to go after them.  They found them after a bit but the cows were contrary and the dog bothersome, so she sent him home.  Soon after she realized she didn’t know which way home was among the tall grasses.  Not relishing the idea of spending the night in a tree, out of reach of the wolves, she hunted for a substantial stick, grabbed the lead cow firmly by the tail and gave it a good whack on the rump.  The cow took off with her holding on to the tail for dear life.  It threw mud, briars and brush.  She made it home in a very exhausted state much battered, scratched and bruised.  Her worried husband had lighted a signal fire and was pounding vigorously over a barrel, the boom-booming of which was the usual direction finder which they knew how to use.  It was estimated the Mrs. Lukens had ridden her tail-wind express a good three miles.  But no joking, getting lost and the hideous wolves were two very real problems at that time.

Wolf hunts were a very necessary sport.  A record tells of seven wolves taken one November afternoon in 1849 in the vicinity of Akron.

Another incident concerned a four year old boy, Joe Penrod, of near Laketon.  He wandered off one afternoon and could not be found.  The much worried parents and neighbors hunted and called during the night.  They were aided by a party of wolf hunters.  The child was found unhurt the next morning.  He had cried himself to sleep in a corn patch his father had planted.  Apparently the noise and moving lights of the searchers had discouraged a wolf attack.

In Orrie Gamble’s diary he tells of a muck fire which lasted three years about 1887.  He said it was very difficult to see for days because of the smoke.  One could see funnels of smoke coming up through the snow in winter and there wasn’t enough rain in the summers to put it out.  After the chaffy weeds and grass had smoldered and burned away, great pits were left which soon became marshes.  According to his account, several newly constructed roads had to be changed.

I still don’t know where the first generation Gambles are buried even after three years of work.  I don’t know whether to persist or give up.  But I’m curious about those broken spots---wish they had written family histories.  Some folks are doing so now.  I have mine pretty well along.  Come on and join in the crowd.  It is rather fun.


Continued from previous issue
Billing’s Account of the Comstock Impact on the Birth of Liberty Mills

From the beginning all of these enterprises were busy and profitable, but the distillery was particularly prosperous.  Liquor from it was hauled in barrels by ox teams to the Irish shovelers on the canal at Lagro.  It was also hauled to Warsaw and Mishawaka, there being extensive thirsts at both of those places.  Sons of Mr. Comstock, though objecting to the business, drove the ox teams through the almost unbroken forests.  It was on one of the trips that William Comstock, then only fourteen, drove into a stream near Warsaw thinking he could get across.  One ox went down and drowned.  The boy was able to climb from the wagon to the other ox, unyoke it from its dead companion, and on its back rode to shore.  When they arrived home, John Comstock declared that the ox had done enough in saving the boy to earn a life of ease, and true to his promise he never allowed the animal to be worked again, but let lit live among green pastures until a natural death came to it.

Along with the distillery and the slops and feeds therefrom naturally came cattle raising, and using the knowledge he had gained from old Deacon Whiting in New York, John Comstock soon was fattening many cattle and hogs.  These were marketed mostly in the east, many of them being driven to Buffalo and then shipped to New York.  Like most of the animals of that time they were just cattle.  He took a bunch of them to New York one time, and while he was selling them at three for a hundred dollars, over in the next pen he heard a Dutch farmer and a Jew fussing about the price to be paid the Dutch man for an old cow.  The Dutchman claimed the price was to be $96, while the Jew claimed it was only $95, but in that case the Dutch won, and got the $96.  To the ordinary observer the cow was not a bit better than the animals Mr. Comstock was selling at one-third the price, but she was a full blooded Shorthorn, though fit for nothing but beef.  That put John Comstock to thinking, and to think was to act with him.  On the way home he bought a $1,500 Shorthorn bull in Canada, and soon brought a half dozen full blooded Shorthorn cows from Kentucky and Tennessee.  That was the beginning of thoroughbred cattle raising in this part of Indiana, and gradually the stock on the Comstock place had its influence upon that of the neighbors.  In the early fair days the Comstock herd was a prize winner where it went, and the cattle business was one that John Comstock clung to so long as life lasted.

It was said that no man willing to work ever came to John Comstock in need and was refused, but he was an enemy of laziness in all its forms, and was a relentless fighter for power and control.  He owned most of the land about Liberty Mills; and by that means was pretty well able to control the mercantile interests there.  But at one time there were five dry goods stores that got started in the town, men whose names have since been prominent in the mercantile history of the county heading them.  But whatever his other virtues or vices may have been, John Comstock was a good advertiser, and promptly in front of his store on a shingle appeared the notice that he would sell goods to farmers on two years time.  Farmers needed, or thought they needed, this credit system, thought it is probable a spot cash system would have been just as good then as it is now, and by his own wealth and through eastern credit, John Comstock was able to give them that time.  So the days of the opposition stores were numbered.  Some moved to North Manchester and some to Wabash.

This spirit together with the spirits from the distillery was the undoing of Liberty Mills.  Naturally situated just as well as North Manchester, and having far the best of it in the start, it seemed that she was to become the metropolis of the community.  But there was no dominating personality in North Manchester.  The many little fellows coming here had a chance to grow into big ones, so while this town was attracting business enterprises, Liberty Mills with its distillery was drawing to it a class  of people not calculated to make a good business community.  Drinking was common in those days, and many an orgy was pulled off that would have given the gossips talk for a year in dry Indiana today.  Folks say that in those early days there were not half a dozen men in Liberty Mills who did not drink to drunkenness.  An open keg of whisky with a tin cup attached stood in the mill for all who came.  It was sold as freely in the stores as any other merchandise, and the price was not high.  Yet notwithstanding the word of the old timer who talks about the liquor of those days being harmless, the kick was there, and the men would get just as drunk on it as they can on the strongest of the white mule compounds.  A strong man in every way, entering into the life of those about him in every particular, it is not to be wondered that John Comstock was as weak as others, and at times, drank to excess.  But his own opinion of the habit is well expressed in a story told of him.  Once when he had been drinking heavily, a friend urged him to go home for the night.  But he refused, saying: “What!  Me go home!  I’m drunk and even my dogs would be ashamed of me,” and he spent the night in his ashery.  But he saw the error of this life.  He closed the distillery, refusing to sell it, though he had generous offers, and said the place should rot down, which it readily did.  And thus again was John Comstock ahead of his generation.

There are lots of other interesting incidents to be told of John Comstock and his part in Chester Township and Liberty Mills; of his fight for a plank road from Lagro; of his building one from Huntington, of his war against the thieves, of his services as probate judge; his work in the legislature; his ambitions to make Liberty Mills a county seat; and last, of the beautiful taste he used in selecting and arranging the family burying ground on a pretty knoll on what was then his own farm.   [To be continued.]


First Reunion of the 47th Indiana Volunteers A GRAND SUCCESS
Published in The Journal, September 27, 1883

History of the Regiment-Notes etc.
The first reunion of the 47th regiment took place at North Manchester Sept. 25 and 26.  The day opened auspiciously for the success of the meeting.  Many members of that command, residing here, felt that they would like very much to meet again as many of their comrades in the eventful scenes of the late war as was possible, and in consulting with one and another they concluded to invite the boys of their regiment to meet here and again renew their recollection of the many incidents of their army life.  Those members mentioned decided on having the reunion last spring, and the officers of the organization have been almost unceasing in their efforts to make the meeting a success.  Every member whose name and address could be found was invited and notified of the coming reunion.  Thus by early and constant toil and advertising this first reunion of the 47th Indiana Volunteers was made a grand success.

First Day
Tuesday morning opened rather cloudy, but it did not prevent the old war scarred veterans from joining together and enjoying themselves.  Promptly at six o’clock the first gun of the customary National salute was fired.  The men in charge of getting up this meeting of the old soldiers had everything arranged.  Some twenty tents were procured and also a canon.  The early morning was occupied by our citizens in arranging their displays of flags and bunting.  The National colors fluttered from all doors and windows on Main street.  Many private houses were tastefully draped in red, white and blue.  Mottoes, banners and flags met the eye from all points.  A large delegation arrived from Huntington and other points over the C. & A. [railroad] in the morning, and “old soldiers” and other persons began coming in early in the morning.  The band came out in their uniforms and marched to the depot, where they met a large delegation from the south, headed by the Wabash martial band.  A procession was formed and the crowd marched to the grounds in Harter’s grove, just at the north edge of the city.  The procession was headed by B. F. Clemans, Esq. on horseback, as marshal of the day.  Next the band followed by all of the regiment then present, marched on Main to Locust [Front], north to Third, west on Third to Market street: thence north to camp in the grove, a most beautiful park.  

On arriving at the grove the audience was called to order, and the exercises were opened with prayer by Rev. Samuel Sawyer, of Indianapolis, chaplain of the 47th during the war.  The invocation was followed by an eloquent and enthusiastic address of welcome by Rev. H. Wells, of this place.  No less eloquent was the response of Hon. W. R. Myers, Secretary of State, Captain of Company G. of the 47th.  He responded in behalf of the members of the regiment, and his words were heartily endorsed by all members present.  These speeches and address were intersperced with music by the band.  After the response by Mr. Myers the meeting was adjourned till after dinner.  The “old soldiers” were invited to partake of the “old army” repeat consisting of hardtack, sow-belly and bean soup.  About 200 of the “boys” ate bountifully of the dinner, and pronounced the cooking of Jake Jacobs equal to that they were accustomed to while in the service of their country.  After dinner the roll was called by Capt. J. R. Wallace.  Some 200 answered”here.”  Of the absent ones, some sent regrets, some were not notified, perhaps, of the meeting, while others had joined the silent, but victorious army, across the dark river, and are still “marching on” to glory.  We append a list as taken from the roster.  Following the roll call were addresses by Chaplain Sawyer, Capt. W. R. Myers, Capt. Wintrode and others giving reminiscences of army life.  Their little talks were very entertaining and were very highly appreciated by “the boys.”  Some time was taken up by these anecdotes.  The dress parade was held immediately after roll call, instead of after the addresses of the members.  There were members present representing each company and an almost equal number of States in the Union.  Only one man of Company A. was present.  That man was B. P. Steele, of Liberty Mills.  In the evening Mr. Hamilton tendered the use of the opera house to the veterans.  They then made a permanent organization for the purpose of holding annual reunions hereafter.  Maj. Shearer, of Huntington, was elected president for the ensuing year, and that place was selected to hold the next meeting at.  The time is left to the convenience of the people of that place.

Second Day
Wednesday forenoon was taken up in a general hand shaking by the veterans until 11 o’clock, when they fell in ranks, headed by the martial band, and paraded through the principal streets of town.  The afternoon was occupied by speeches by Rev. Chase, of Wabash, Lieut. Dane, of Illinois, Hon. G. W. Steele, M. C. of Marion, Capt. J. R. Wallace, of this place, Rev. E. D. Smith, of this place and others.  The meeting adjourned with singing the doxology and pronouncing the benediction.

The next reunion will be held at Huntington. 
It is estimated that about 2,500 people were in the city each day. 
Freeman Church attended the reunion of his regiment yesterday. 
It was a rare treat to hear the boys relate some of the incidents of their army life.
Spleer, the sattler, was not here, but the stand was run, and his place filled by Sol. Argerbright.
The canon was an object of much interest to the small boys.  They watched the gunners every movement with inquiring eyes.
About fifty members of the 47th came in a body yesterday over the C. & A. to attend the reunion, from Huntington and other points. 
Capt. T. I. Siling, of Company D. 47th Ind. Vol. Inf., now a resident of Rockville, Kansas, arrived in the city last week to attend the reunion.
The speakers stand was decorated with flags and flowers, and the pictures of Washington, Lincoln, Grant, Morton and Garfield adorned its front.
The Wabash Drum Corps furnished some good old war music, and did lots of violent sheep-skin pounding.  They received many compliments from the veterans.
Lieutenant Dane, of the 47th regiment, now a resident in Southern Illinois, and in bad health, attended the reunion.  His desire to meet again his comrades in arms, prompted him to undergo the fatigue of a trip here. 
To say that the reunion was a success is to put it very mildly.  At no time that we can recall has N. Manchester held, at one time, so many middle aged men, that seemed to be so happy and glad that they had come.  Long live the boys of the 47th.
Hon. W. R. Myers, Secretary of State, Captain of Company G. 47th Indiana Volunteer Infantry, arrived Tuesday morning to attend the reunion.  He is just returned from a trip through the West.  The Captain has a hearty greeting for each of his comrades.
The usual number of “knocking machines” and catching-penny fakers were on the corners during the reunion this week.  The man that ate cotton and spit fire was there in all his glory, but the man that sold “soap” was conspicuously absent.

Regimental History
The 47th regiment of Indiana Volunteers was organized at Camp Sullivan, Indianapolis, Ind., Sept. 1861; ordered to Kentucky in department of Gen. Buell, December 13, 1861; marched from Louisville to Bardstown; thence over Muldrangs Hill to Camp Wickliffe for military instructions under Gen. Nelson; brigaded with 8th Kentucky, 4th Indiana, 41st Ohio, under Col. Hazen.  During the storming of Ft. Donelson ordered to march to the support of Gen Grant.  After the surrender of Ft. Donelson, with Col. Slack commanding 46th , 34th and 47th Ind. Regiments, February 20, 1862, transferred to the department of Gen. Pope; reached Commerce, Miss., Feb. 23, and marched by the way of Benton and Sykestown to New Madrid, March 14.  The 47th, with the 34th Ind., marched at 3 o’clock a.m. with orders to advance the rifle pits 300 yards in the face of the enemy’s fire and storm New Madrid.  The Rebels apprehending an attack had fled.  Gun boats appearing in sight, both up and down the river, Col. Slack marched a part of his command into the fort.  By the cheerful help of his men, the canon, drawn by hand through the mud for one half mile, was mounted and the river effectually blockcaded in 36 minutes, March the 18.  The regiment had an engagement with seven gunboats at Riddles Point, Mo. with a single canon and their long range rifles.  They disabled three of the boats and the rest withdrew to Tiptonville, Tennessee, leaving them in quiet possession of the field.  The men behaved most gallantly during the terrible contests.  Island number 10 having been abandoned by the enemy, the 47th was assigned to take care of Tiptonville and its approaches, where it remained doing important service from the middle of April to the 12th of May, 1862.  May the 12th they embarked for Memphis.  They were the first union regiment that marched through the city of Memphis.  Here performed provost duty until ordered, under Gen. Hovey to Helena, Ark., at command of Gen. Washburn and acted as provost guard until materially weakened by sickness and death; accompanied the White river expedition, capturing a few rebels at Duvalls Bluff and St. Charles, Feb. 8, 1863, they were ordered through Yazoo Pass, proceeding to Fort Pemberton, in support of the gunboats, where they witnessed the burning of the cotton boat parallel.  April 12 returned to Helena, and the same day set out for Vicksburg, under command of Gen. Hovey; landed at Millikens Bend, April the 15, and 16 marched to Perkins Plantation and embarked on boat for hard times opposite Grand gulf to storm the works, waiting for the gun boats to silence the battering.  They at length marched to a place opposite and crossed over to Bruinsburg, witnessing a brilliant gun boat fight at Grand gulf; April 30 marched all night to Fort Gibson; and May first, without any rations, fought till sundown losing 47 men, in killed and wounded; entered Fort Gibson, May 2, and the next day marched and skirmished with the enemy, opposite Edwards Station; May 6, went to Rockey Springs and on May 8 were reviewed by Major General Grant; May 14, through a terrible rain storm, and mud in places knee deep, they marched to Raymond; thence to Bolton Station, they were double quick skirmishing with rebel cavalry and bivouacking in line of battle.  Next morning they marched to Champions Hill where their division met the enemy, and in that terrible battle the regiment lost, in killed and wounded, 143 men.  The next day they skirmished with the rebel cavalry, and on the 18 marched back to Edwards Station, and on the 19 to Black River, skirmishing daily with the enemy; on the 23rd reached Vicksburg to take a part in the siege.  Few casualties occurred during the siege; the place surrendered July 4 and 5, 1863.  The regiment, with Gen Sherman’s command, marched in pursuit of Gen. Johnson; overtook the enemy at Edwards depot, and drove them to Jackson, which place was invested on the 12, and stormed the same day.  Intrenchments requiring much labor were thrown up, and on the 17th entered the city.  The regiment returned to Vicksburg, July 23, having been under fire and within hearing of canon, and the shock of battle for 81 days; April 2, embarked on boat for Natchez, and on the eleventh arrived at Carrolton; August 22, the troops were reviewed by Major Gen. Grant; were ordered to Brashear City, where they remained for several days; Sept. 27 were reviewed by Gen. Ord; next day crossed Bernie Bay; Oct. 4, reached Franklin driving Dick Taylor’s forces before them; Oct. 10, marched 25 miles to Vermillion bayou, and reached Oppolusas, Oct. 23; returned soon after  to Grand Cateau, and engaged and repulsed the enemy, Nov. 17; while encamped at New Ibera had two teams and eleven men captured by the enemy.  At this place the regiment re-enlisted as veterans, and arrived at New Orleans, Dec. 21; were ordered Jan. 21, 1864 to report at New Orleans.

The regiment was ordered from New Orleans to Alexandria to the relief of Banks, and assisted in building the dam to relieve the steamboats and gunboats.  The return march was a hard one; for ten days the command was marched day and night, till they reached Morganza Bend.  There they took boats to New Orleans and Carrolton, where the regiment went into camp, from there to New Orleans.  Took cars to Thibedeaux; thence back to the river at New Orleans, spending a week or more there, from there to Morganza Bend.  From this point the regiment made an expedition on the Atchaffalaya Bayou, where they were ambushed and fired into on a night march, with some loss.  The following day they had a heavy skirmish, and returned to camp.  From this point an expedition of three or four days was made down the river to a point near Baton Rouge, and across the country, retiring after a skirmish, and the next point was the mouth of the White river, and from there to Duvall’s Bluff, and back without disembanking, and again went into camp.  Here the troops were reviewed by Gen Nelson.  Winter quarters were built here, but soon got marching orders.  The next stop was at St. Charles, Ark., where they again built winter quarters.  Ground their corn at a mule mill in the country; went almost daily to the relief of the cavalry, who encountered Morgan’s guerrillas; from here to Duvall’s Bluff by boats, and again built winter quarters, only to leave them ere they were completed, for Little Rock, by rail, where they went into comfortable quarters.  From this point a detachment of 100 men, under command of Capt. C. B. Rager, were dispatched to Fort Smith, with a supply of boat in charge; thence to Memphis, via Duvall’s Bluff, and the mouth of White River.  From this point another raid was made through the country in which there was some sharp skirmishing.  At this point the company’s officers, except two, were mustered out by general order from the war departments.  Again the regiment embarked for New Orleans, and from there to Kennerville, fourteen miles up the river.  Here they embarked aboard the Peabody, a gulf steamer, for Demphine Island, where they arrived after a two days cruise, in which they encountered a terric storm, in which most of their trains, stoves and camp equipage was lost.  From here the 13th  Army Corp was reorganized for the Mobile campaign.  Everything being in readiness they here transported to the mainland at Fort Gaines, and took up their line of march across the pine flats for Mobile.  After several days hard marching and building corduroy bridges, pulling wagons and artillery from the treacherous quick islands, they arrived in front of the old Spanish Fort by the same name.   Here the regiment took part in the siege for fifteen days, advancing the rifle-pits under cover of the night.  On the sixteenth day the regiment was ordered out, and took up their line of march across the country to meet Gen. A. J. Smith, who had in charge a supply train for Ft. Sumpter.  This took them into the works at Sumpter.  The evening of the terrible bombardment of Fort Spanish, preparatory to storming the works, the regiment and division were ordered to that place as reinforcements, but before their arrival the works had surrendered and the order countermanded.  They about faced and marched, each arriving in camp at daybreak, after an all night march.  Blakely was stormed that evening.  From here they marched down the bay to our landing, where they, together with a large portion of the army, embarked on steamers and crossed the Bay, effected a landing.  The rebels having evacuated the city, the mayor came down and surrendered the city.  The 47th marched inside the second tier of works and went into camp, but received marching orders a few minutes later, marched through the city, and took up their quarters in the Mobile and Ohio railroad depot.  From here they were transferred to a cotton warehouse, where kind providence spared them from total destruction.  They were ordered to Spring Hill late in the evening, by which they escaped the terrible disaster of the explosion of the rebel magazine, in which there were thirty-five tons of powder, prostrating all the buildings in the vicinity, among which was the 47th’s late quarters, with great destruction of life.  From this place they embarked aboard a steamer and went around via Lake Ponchatrain to New Orleans, and from there via the Mississippi and Red River to Shreveport, from which point they were ordered to Baton Rouge to muster out.


President            Robert Nelson
Vice President   Esther Nelson
Secretary             Bernice Ford
Treasurer            Lola Sanger

The following amendments to the bylaws have been proposed and will most likely be passed by the time the May issue of the Newsletter is distributed.  We’ll inform you if there were any changes or corrections made to this proposal.

It is recommended that Article III, Section 2 which reads “Membership dues shall be due in April of each year” be changed to read “Membership dues shall be due in January of each year and any member other than life, neglecting to pay their dues by the following May 1, shall be automatically dropped from membership.” Article III, Section 3 shall be deleted and Article III, Section 4 shall become Article III, Section 3.

It is recommended that Article V, Section 4 which reads “The treasurer shall collect and keep a record of all funds and hold them subject to disbursement by order of the president, shall make a statement of the same at each meeting, and give an annual statement at the close of each financial year.  The treasurer shall deposit funds in a North Manchester bank”: should be changed to read “The treasurer shall collect and keep a record of all funds and hold them subject to disbursement by order of the president, shall make a statement of the same at each meeting, shall monitor budget expenditures and give an annual statement at the close of each financial year.  The treasurer shall deposit funds in a North Manchester bank.”

It is recommended that Article VII, Section 2 which reads “The executive board shall have general supervision of the affairs of the Society between its business meets, fix the hour and place of meetings, make recommendations to the Society and shall perform such other duties as are specified in these bylaws.  The board shall be subject to the orders of the Society, and none of its acts shall conflict with action taken by the Society” should be changed to read “The executive board shall have general supervision of the affairs of the Society between its business meetings, fix the hour and place of meetings, make recommendations to the Society, prepare a budget for adoption by the Society during the annual meeting in January, and shall perform such other duties as are specified in these bylaws.  The board shall be subject to the orders of the Society, and none of its acts shall conflict with action taken by the Society.”

Out there in a lot of old trunks, attics and boxes are many forgotten memories of the years gone by in N. Manchester.  I’m in the process of putting together a pictorial history of our community and many of you can help me.  If you have old postcards, snapshots and portraits of town businesses, landmarks, events, street scenes, prominent residents, etc., won’t you contact me so that I can arrange to borrow them just long enough to get them copied.  Tender, loving care and security are assured and I’m hoping to come up with a program to be enjoyed by all and to preserve our history.  Now, before it’s too late and those treasured pictures get lost, destroyed or sold at auction, please let me know what you have and allow me to copy them.  Even if you aren’t sure whether they are of N. Manchester, there are people in this society who can help me to identify them for you.  Thank you.  Nancy Reed, Editor



The Depression years produced many phenomenon, among them, Woody Guthrie, Konjolas, the all purpose tonic, Eskimo Pie, and John Dillinger, the desperado who threatened to kidnap the Governor of Indiana and terrified its citizens with bank robberies and shootings.

John Dillinger’s early history was not remarkable.  He grew up in the area of Mooresville, Indiana, a few miles south of Indianapolis.  His family were law abiding, small farmers and workmen.  Somewhere under the stress or lack of work and lack of money, Dillinger became a bank robber.

Due to low prices and custom, country banks kept large amounts of money on hand, both in coin and currency in small denominations.  There was no such thing as credit cards and not many $20 bills.  All this was kept in the bank vault, locked up at night but open during the day.  It was easy to walk in, hold up the cashier and walk out with all the cash you could carry.

But the bankers became resistant and gun fights ensued, with injury and at least one death of a teller, who left a young wife and several children.  Communities were outraged, the Banker’s Association offered large rewards, the FBI declared Dillinger “most wanted” and mug shots of him were in the post office.

He was referred to as “John Dillinger and his gang” who seem to have been largely anonymous and changed from time to time.  So many people were out of work and in desperate circumstances.  The chance to steal some cash and drop out of the picture many have attracted persons not habitual criminals.

In the midst of efforts to seize him, Dillinger announced that he was going to kidnap the Governor, Paul V. McNutt, who had been urging his capture.  McNutt, who was not very popular, was said to have been terrified by Dillinger’s threats and went about with an armed motorcycle guard when abroad and had armed guards with him when in his office and at home.

Other bank robbers were confused with Dillinger’s gang.  Two robbed the bank in Culver, were pursued and captured by a posse, after a gun battle in a corn field.  One was badly injured.  Later when they were tried, Clarence Darrow came from Chicago to defend them.  This was never explained and made for bad feelings since they didn’t get the sentences it was felt they should receive.

During Dillinger’s heyday, it was said that he could often be seen visiting his family at Mooresville and no one urged him in.  He seems to have been regarded as a modern Robin Hood for a time, since many people had lost money in recent bank failures and were not too sympathetic to the banking community.

But as the gang became more violent and brutal, sentiment changed and mid-Indiana which was the scene of many depredations, became an armed camp.  Communities banded together for mutual assistance, alarm systems were set up and preparations were made to repel the robbers at any cost.

The gang seized Dr. Laird of North Webster and forced him to treat an injured member for gun shot.  They threatened to kill him if he reported this, which he did, and stayed in hiding, away from his practice and family for several months.  Outrages like this turned everyone against them.

Dillinger wrote crude notes to bank officials and town peace officers, threatening them.  Some of these were said to have been received in North Manchester and the town geared for battle!

Hunting was a major sport in the 30’s and numerous men in this area went to Michigan deer hunting, so there were many shotguns and deer rifles about.  Every store on Main Street had a cache of guns and ammunition and a part in the overall plan of defense.  Battle stations were selected from first and second story business buildings, which being of brick, were a good defense.  The best marksmen were prepared.

There had been an earlier merger of banks in North Manchester and the Indiana Lawrence Bank, located at 207 East Main Street the present site of the Moose Lodge, was considered to be the point of attack.  Inside it became an arsenal, with plans to repel robbers at any cost.  The door of the bank was kept locked and customers were let in by Carl Calhoun, a World War I sergeant.  Garbed in Oshkosh overalls and an old campaign hat, he stood at the door during banking hours.  He had two bandoliers draped over his shoulders, one with .45 caliber bullets, the other shotgun shells for one double barreled shotgun standing beside him.  He also had two .45 caliber Colt revolvers thrust in a leather belt.  Hot and thirsty during the long summer days, he looked grim!

Across the street in the second floor office of an insurance firm located at 204 East Second Street, Newt Lautzenhiser, a retired law man, sat at a window facing the bank, his finger on the trigger of a loaded deer rifle.  Local police officers, the sheriff and other communities pledging to help each other, were ready.

The gang had continued various depredations during the summer but attrition was wearing well down.  Then, Manchester received word, “Dillinger’s coming!”  Harve Shoemaker, the sheriff, and his deputies, filled the lobby of the bank.  Everyone was at his station.  All help not needed went home.  Word got out around town and citizens stayed in.  The long, hot day wore on.  Banking hours came to a close at 4:00 p.m. but Dillinger never showed up.  Perhaps he had come and seen such a show of force that he left!

Eventually the gang pulled out of mid-Indiana and stayed around Gary and East Chicago.  Dillinger was said to have become more paranoid, had an unsuccessful face lift and gradually broke down.  He was turned in to the FBI by a Romanian woman and was shot as he came out of a movie theatre in Gary.  Members of the gang had already severed their ties or formed others, so the outlaws were no more.


Springtime by Orpha Weimer

To me, Springtime is like an old-fashioned posey tied up in a love knot of ribbons.  Ribbons of sunshine, rain, wind and fluffy clouds, all set off with a dark-hued storm or two, especially if you live in Indiana.  One of my childhood reminiscences is of sassafras tea.  That pungent, rosy hued blend was used to thin the stale, wintertime blood and, like, to stop my dad from drinking so much coffee.  We always had gallons of the brew for supper and snacktime drinks.

Along the fence row at the back of the garden grew lots of young sassafras bushes where my brother, Orval, and I could get the sassafras roots easily.  Orval did the digging and I got the messy, dirty job of scrubbing and washing them.  Mother chipped off the tender bark and dried it on the window ledge which just held the long loaf cake tins.  It smelled so springy and good.

I used to buy it in later years from small, boy vendors or from the local grocery store.  There hasn’t been any around for several years now and I didn’t know why.  In fact I had almost forgotten it.  Then last year’s Outdoor Indiana Magazine gave me the answer.  According to their account, sassafras was borrowed from the Indians by our pioneer forefathers and was also a thriving European export commodity, second only to tobacco.  However, some European doctors falsely tagged it as a remedy for syphilis and the notoriety cost sassafras tea its respectability among the dignified populace.  Much later, some producers began using sassafras oil as a flavoring and also as a perfume for chewing gum, candy, root beer, toothpaste and even perfume itself.  But its volume never reached what it once was.  Some people even said it was “medicine”, but the final blow came in 1960 when the U. S. Food and Drug Administration tarnished it again by declaring it a potential carcinogen of the liver.

In 1976 the commercial use and sale of sassafras bark was banned.  Laboratory test, using large and extended doses of pure “safrole,” ignored the fact that sassafras tea had been proven to contain less than ten parts per million of the safrole oil.  Some people still ignore the ban, but quite a number refused to use it entirely.  So it is unfortunate that poor, much-libeled sassafras is likely to become a thing of the past.