Volume V, Number 4 (November 1988)

MONEY MAKES THE MARE GO And a purse of $1,000 will make several go here on August 2
(from The Journal, July 12, 1888

The project of having races here this summer, which has received frequent mention in these columns, has taken definite shape, and an association has been formed for that purpose.  Twenty substantial men have guaranteed a purse of $1,000 for a day’s races, and a meeting was held at the office of B. F. Clemans on Monday evening to perfect all arrangements.  L. J. Notfzger was elected president, Lewis Signs, secretary and A.C. Mills treasurer.  Thursday, August 2nd, was fixed upon as the day and six races as follows arranged for:  Free-for-all trot, purse $250,00; Free-for-all pace, purse $250.00; Three minute trot, purse $150.00; Two-forty-five trot, purse $150.00  Two-fifty pace, purse $100.00; Half mile running race, purse $100.00

The races will be governed by the American Trotting Association rules, and there will be the customary division of monies---fifty, twenty-five, fifteen and ten percent, based upon at least five entries and three starters, mile heats, best three in five.  The races will begin promptly at 9:30 o’clock and last the remainder of the day, giving plenty of amusement for the large crowd which will surely be on the ground.

The money offered is very liberal and will bring here a large field of fleet horses, and we feel confident that the public, will be well entertained.  The Fair Association have  expended about $500.00 on the track this spring, and it is in splendid condition for the races, giving every opportunity for making fast time.  The fact that every foot of the track from start to finish can be seen enables all present to enjoy all the race and adds much to the days sport.  People who love sport of this kind will find this a rare opportunity to see some good races, and everyone should take advantage of it.  Further particulars can be had from bills or by addressing the secretary. 

E. H. Beckley, General Passenger Agent of the C. W. & M. road, has written that their line will sell tickets of the round trip to the races here on August 2nd, as follows: Warsaw 80 cents; Claypool 45 cents; Silver Lake 35 cents; Rose Hill 20; Bolivar 15 cents; Urbana 25 cents; Wabash 60 cents; Treaty 80 cents; Lafontaine $1.05; Marion $1.45.

An Electric Light Enterprise North Manchester to be lighted with incandescent light
(from The Journal, November 10, 1887)

But few towns can boast of as much thrift and few of as many enterprising citizens for the size of it as does North Manchester.  We are led to this observation by the fact that George Burdge is making an effort to put in an electric light system here and is meeting with such success as will make it an established fact.  George has been working at this scheme for several days and the other evening called at this office and gave us a brief outline of it.  He proposes to put in the Jenny system of incandescent lights for store and residences and has secured upwards of 125 lamps and a representative of the Jenny system will be here today to contract with him.

He proposes to put in the lamps and fixtures, keep them in repair and furnish the electricity at the low price of one dollar and one dollar and a quarter per month, owing to whether the 9 o’clock circuit or 11 o’clock circuit is used.  The lamps ordinarily used will be sixteen candle power but stronger ones may be had if desired, up to 300 candle power.

The system of lighting is one of the most convenient and satisfactory of any now in use and is absolutely free from danger in every way.  While it may be a little more expensive than coal oil lamps, the satisfaction attending its use more than balances the difference in expense, and once tried by our people we think that nearly all the business houses, and many of the residences in the city will be lighted with electricity.

There is no little amount of expense connected with putting in a system of this kind.  The dynamos, of which he expects to put in two of a hundred lamp power each, cost $1,000 a piece and the wire costs from twenty to forty cents per pound.  When it is known that over two and a half miles of main line besides the large amount of inside wire will have to be put up, saying nothing of the cost of the lamps and the expense of putting in the system, it will be seen that it is an enterprise of more than ordinary importance and involves an outlay of a considerable sum of money.  At the same time it is a benefit and improvement to the town and should receive a cordial support from all our citizens.

There is absolutely no danger of accidents of any kind with this system.  The wire is all insulated so that nothing can break the current, and the fixtures are constructed so that there is no more danger from them than an unlighted lamp.  This is one of the features that makes the system a success.

After putting in the house lamps and getting them in good running order, George will then make an effort to put in street lights and motors for running sewing machines and other light machinery.  The question of street lighting will come up later but should receive careful and prompt attention. 

The study of electricity is too deep for us to enter into a treatise on it even if we could, and so is the manner in which it is applied in this system.  The lighting apparatus of the lamp consists of an air tight and hermetically sealed glass bulb, from which all the air has been pumped out, with a bent wire resembling in shape an elongated horse shoe on the inside.  The electricity, which is generated by the dynamo, is forced through the wires and heats the wire in the bulb till it throws off a bright, steady light much better than the best coal oil lamps.  It is from this that it gets its name incandescent.

If Mr. Burdge is successful in every way, he tells us he will have the system in by the first of December.  He will get his power to run the dynamos from some of the factories in the west end.

It Is No Myth
All arrangements have been made and the contracts signed between George Burge and the Jenny Electric Light Company of Indianapolis and now only time is all that stands between the town and an electric light plant.  Mr. J. I. Ayer, of that company, was in town this week and made the agreement with Mr. Burge and the time specified for the plant to be ready for use is before Christmas.  Mr. Burdge contracted for two dynamos of sufficient power to run 100 lamps each and will put in lamps of twenty candle power instead of sixteen as he had intended.  A lamp of this capacity gives one fourth more light than the sixteen candle power lamp and they are said to be strong enough for ordinary street lighting.  The price, he tells us, will be the same as the other size, one dollar and one dollar and a quarter,  according to the Journal, many more lamps have been taken and the machines will be run to their full capacity.  We think a trial will only be necessary to prove the excellence of this system of lighting and that in short time it will become so popular that more machines will have to be added.  There is with this system absolutely no danger of any kind.  All wire is insulated, and every precaution is taken to prevent accidents.  When the time for using the light arrives, all that is required is the turning of a thumb-screw to throw the electric current through wire in the globe.  To put out the light simply reverse the operation.  The enterprise and public spirit of Mr. Burdge should receive ample rewards at the hands of the public.

Let There Be Light
Not having a complete understanding of the proposition made by George Burdge to the Town Board to put in an electric light plant to light the town, the Journal made a slight mistake in its mention of the matter last week.  Instead of lighting “Main Street” the proposition and petition was to light the main streets, and thoroughfares, such as the Board might think necessary, and to put in a system of as many lamps and as strong a power as might be wished, the price to be agreed upon in the future.  Other parties having a similar understanding of the matter objected to the lighting of one street, and a remonstrance was made against it, but we understand that those who worked against the proposition have since changed their views.  The question will be discussed and probably be acted upon, either favorably or otherwise  at the next regular meeting of the Board.  The question is one that interests everybody, and we have no doubt will receive careful and conscientious attention by the Board.  A system of electric lights on the principal streets of the town will be of immense value and convenience to all and would be a great card for the enterprise of our citizens.  As the terms of the contract are yet to be made after the Board decides on the question the number of lamps, the price per lamp, hours of lighting and all other features of this kind will be arranged in a manner that will be satisfactory in every way to the public.  For our part we hope an arrangement for a system of lighting will be entered into by the Board.

The question of lighting the town will come up before the Town Board for consideration next Monday evening, though it is not at all likely that it will be settled at that time.  Of Mr. Burdge’s proposition to put in a system of electric lights similar to those now in use in the stores we made mention last week.  In the meantime nothing new has developed, and the question does not seem to excite as much interest as questions of this kind usually do.  There seems to be a sentiment in favor of some kind of street lighting but so far as we have learned it has not taken definite shape.  The Town Board will, no doubt, act wisely and deliberately on this matter, and what they do will be for the best interests of the town as they see them.  The Journal believes that an efficient system of street lighting would be a good thing for the town and in making the selection we would say that Mr. Burdge has some claims that should be taken into consideration.  He is a resident of the town and has already invested quite heavily in a plant for inside lighting, and will, no doubt, be able to furnish as good service as any other.  We also understand that he offers to put in lights cheaper than the same service is furnished elsewhere.

Dr. Bunker Responds
The article, “A Grand Success,” an account of the first reunion of the 47th Indiana Volunteers published in the May 1988 issue of The Newsletter, brought several questions to the minds of your editors and so we turned to our noted historian, Dr. L. Z. Bunker, for some answers.

On page nine of that issue and in many other instances, we have seen Front Street in N. Manchester referred to as Locust Street.  On the original plat of the town, the street is named Locust.  Although she didn’t know why the name was changed to Front Street, Dr. Bunker did offer this information.  “Black locust trees grew in profusion along Main Street and there are still some back of the Lutheran Church and other river bank areas.  There were still some of these about 1915 or so.  Doubtless they extended to what is now Front Street.  We will try to look at some old records in hope of finding where this change was made.”

On page eleven referring to Capt. T. I. Siling, Dr. Bunker writes, “It is interesting to hear of Tighlman I. Sililng in Rockville, Kansas, after the war.  At present, Rand McNally lists a Rossville, but no Rockville.  Siling and his brother are listed in Furniture Makers in Indiana, 1854 as being in South Whitley, coming from Maryland.  He later came here and built the Main Street Hotel and the 1858 the house on Second and Front Streets (the John Eckert home).  He married the sister of George Lawrence.  The family left here after he enlisted and there was no record of them.  I am surprised to see Siling listed as Captain.  One story said after re-enlistment he became a Colonel.”

On the same page eleven, the explanation of three phrases is as follows:  “The knocking machines were small boxes carrying an electric charge when activated and in contact with hands, feet, etc.  It was used to stimulate tissue deteriorated by strokes, old wounds and contractions from fractures.  They were in use for many years to 1900 or later, but it is doubted they did any good.”

“Catch penny fakers sounds out of Shakespeare---hawkers selling cheap remedies for a small sum.  Many veterans had painful wounds that caused them many miseries---amputation stumps, retained shrapnel and mini balls, causing osteomyelitis, poorly set fractures, etc., making them prey to swindlers offering medical help.”

“The reference to soap was interesting!  Did we have hippies in those days?”

On page seventeen, the treacherous quick islands, is probably referring to quick sand, Dr. Bunker thinks.  “Much of the South over which the 47th fought was wet and boggy, rural areas not drained or ditched.  I will be on the lookout for this reference, but I think this is the correct answer.”

If others of you have more information, we would be very glad to hear from you.

 A Silent Family Circle in Greenwood

When but a boy, L. J. Noftzger, for many years a resident of this city worked for John Comstock, and it was while working for him that he was effectively cured of any possible desire to drink liquor.  He did his first work on the Comstock place when he was but eight years of age and worked about there in many capacities for a number of years thereafter.  Sometimes his duties were about the distillery.  Rotten corn would be brought there to be made into liquor.  By the corn crib was a hog pen where the hogs were fed slops and where they wallowed in mud.  Men going from the hog pen to the corn crib never thought of cleaning their boots and thus a liberal amount of the filthiest kind of hog wallow would be carried to the rotting corn and from there into the vats of the distillery.  And with the hogs and the rotting corn naturally came rats, and sometimes these would fall into the vats and drown.  Mr. Noftzger pulled one from a vat one day that was very much dead and which in the fermentating corn had swelled to about four times the size of a real rat and as he pulled it out, it left behind a trailing essence of rotten rat.  He always after that wondered how many rats fell into the unprotected vats that were not pulled out and when he thought of that he did not care for whiskey.

But as mentioned earlier in these sketches, Judge Comstock soon became disgusted with the distillery business, though it was a big money maker, even at the low price at which the product was sold.  To think a thing was to do it with John Comstock and no sooner had he become convinced of the evils of the traffic than he closed his distillery.  He refused good offers for the plant, saying that he did not want in any way to be responsible for that business going any farther.  It was a big financial loss to him, but he stood it without a whimper, setting a worthy example for the big distillers of a later day who by popular feeling and national law were forced from a business of which they had at no time had an occasion to be proud.  John Comstock was a far bigger man than they.  He stopped the business of his own accord, because he did not want to be connected with it; it did not take a national law to force him to see his duty to others, and in this respect as well as many others, John Comstock was sixty years ahead of his generation, for it was in the early fifties that he shut the doors of the old still house and let it rot to pieces.

The distillery was the first of the numerous manufacturing enterprises of John Comstock to be closed.  His other manufacturing industries continued until in 1869 when he sold the water right and mills to C. T. Banks & Company, Mr. Banks being the father of W. T. Banks who died a short time ago in Fort Wayne.  Age had put its finger upon Mr. Comstock by this time and with increasing years came the desire to devote more time to his farm and also the desire to unload some of the worries of the manufacturing life.  His farm and his cattle were his pride.  Older residents today tell of Judge Comstock as a familiar figure walking along the road, wearing a linen duster and helping drive his herd of fine show cattle to the county fair at Wabash.  On his farm he built for endurance.  Only a few years ago his grandson, Charles B. Comstock, removed some of the old fence he had built.  Rail fences were common in those days, but it was hard to build rail fences in wet places so the hogs would not root under.  So John Comstock built a fence of split white oak pickets, setting them into a ditch in the ground where they were fastened to a retaining sill.  Some of these fences were in good condition until very recently.

Contrary to the belief of many people, Judge Comstock was not of Irish descent.  Away back in the sixteenth century three brothers, Austrians, and refugees from their native land, came to this country, and he was the descendant of one of them.  But John Comstock, like the Lord, loved the Irish.  There was always among his many hands on his farm and in his mills, a big sprinkling of Irishmen.  John Sullivan, well remembered by many in this locality today, was for years an employee of the Judge.  He was a good worker and because of that never wanted for a job on the many pieces of work that the Judge always had on hand.  John had the failing of occasionally drinking too much fighting whiskey, and after the saloons at Liberty Mills were all closed he would frequently come to North Manchester for it.  Sober, a big good-natured Irishman, drunk he became a fighter to be feared.  Many other Irishmen worked for Judge Comstock, and the story is told of one big newly arrived who was working in the wheat field binding wheat.   Suddenly he was seen start to running around and around in a circle.  At first it was funny, but it soon began to look serious.  The other hands could not catch him, and he ran and ran.  At last he fell unconscious.  To see if his heart still worked his shirt was opened and out jumped a cold, damp, slimy frog.  It had started up his pant leg, and, feeling its cold legs, the Irishman had thought it one o the snakes that St. Patrick had driven out of Ireland and ran himself to exhaustion while the frog was making its way up his leg to stop over his heart.

With the retirement of John Comstock from the manufacturing business, Liberty Mills at once lost both its most powerful business man and its worst enemy to progress.  Loyal to Liberty Mills at all times, ever ready to spend his money or to fight if need be for the glory of the place, yet John Comstock was short-sighted in thinking that any one man could be big enough to run a town.  He owned most of the land about the place that was at all suitable at a site on which to build a town.  He platted several additions to the town, one to the east and another to the north when the railroad came, but his prices were high and he sought to control all the enterprises that came to town.  It is said of him that when a harness shop came to town, he added harness to the stock in his store, and so on all the way through.  By powerful business connections he was able to freeze the little fellows out instead of helping them grow into big fellows to help him to make a bigger town.  He owned the land and could dictate its disposition.  North Manchester had some of the same in a couple of properties that long stood in the way of an expansion, but which were finally built around, putting the town of today in a different place from where it really should have been.  But at Liberty Mills there was no way to build around Judge Comstock’s domain and those who would have done so soon went to other places.

The last few years of this wonderful man were spent quietly on his farm, looking after his stock until the very last.  He was touched slightly with paralysis in the spring of 1879 but was better during the summer.  On the morning of September 30, 1879, he complained of pains in his shoulder but went about his farm some.  At four o’clock that afternoon while sitting in an arm chair in his home at the western edge of Liberty Mills he suddenly became unconscious and died as his grandson was lifting him to a cot.  October 3 his remains were laid to rest by the side of those of his wife, who had died about a year before, and those of his son---the only one of his seven children that was born in Indiana and that died when but a child.  It was probably the death of this child that was the first occasion of selecting a family burying ground and the highest knoll on the place was selected.  No one seems to know who made the plan for the arrangement of graves in his family cemetery, but knowing Judge Comstock and the wonderful scope of his mind, it is easy to think that this arrangement is a plan of his conception.  In the center and at the very top of the round hill are the graves of the father, mother and the one son that died in infancy.  Surrounding this in the form of a circle are monuments to the memory of the other six children, whether bodies are resting there or not, and back of these in a still larger circle are the graves or stones for their descendants.  Standing a few days ago in the center of the inner circle of this unique burying ground the writer removed his hat in honor of the hopes, the efforts, and the accomplishments of one of the men who by their initiative made possible the splendid community conveniences we have today.  If you have never visited the Greenwood Cemetery as it is named in the plat, or Comstock Cemetery as it is generally called, it is worth your while to do so.  It is between the Eagle farm and Liberty Mills.  A visit there, a little meditation over the part this one character had in the early days of the country, and perchance a little thought, too, about what you are doing yourself for your community will do you good.


The Boom Has Started   Two manufacturing enterprises begun with good prospects for several others
(from The Journal, March 22, 1888)

At the meeting of the directors of the North Manchester Fruit Preserving and Canning Co. last week the enterprise was put squarely on its base.  The following officers were elected:  President, Emanuel Grossnickle; Vice president, Dr. D. Ginter; Secretary, Walter Brookover; Treasurer Jesse Arnold.  An executive committee of three to perform the duties usually falling to such a committee was appointed and consists of John Miller, P. E. Grossnickle and Noah Garber.  A Committee of the following gentlemen was appointed to solicit stock:  M. Snideman, Jonas Grossnickle, P. E. Grossnickle, John Miller, A. G. Lautzenhiser, George Core and I. Swank.  This is an enterprise that directly effects the interests of the farmer and gardener and it should receive a warm and cordial support at the town.  There is no doubt of its success and the mutual advantages such an institution would be to both.  From what we know of the interest being taken in it, the stock will soon be supplied.

The Excelsior Manufacturing Company with a capital stock of $10,000 has been organized here inside of a week.  While the enterprise has been contemplated for some time no definite action was taken until a week ago, and since that time the stock has all been subscribed, the officers and directors elected and a site chosen for the factory.  A meeting of the stockholders was held Monday evening for the election of directors which resulted in the choice of the following gentlemen: G. W. Lawrence, Jacob Harter, S. A. Argerbright, B. Oppenheim and A. C. Mills.  Of these the officers are as follows; G. W. Lawrence, president; A. C. Mills, Secretary and Treasurer; S. A. Argerbright, Superintendent of factory.  It is the intention of this company to manufacture a general class of furniture of all grades and as the capacity of their works is increased to add other branches of the wood working industry.  Of course at this time it will be impossible to give anything like a true estimate of the amount of men employed or work turned out.  The ground for the factory has been purchased of Harter’s on the south side of west Fourth Street and laying along the west side of the Wabash railway track.  The piece contains about an acre and a half, and work will be begin at once on the large brick buildings for the factory.  This enterprise is in the hands of a company of energetic and successful business men who know how to make a success of everything they undertake, and the town has cause to congratulate itself on getting this factory.  The best and most complete machinery for wood working purposes will be put in, and as the facilities here are as good as any point in the State, the Journal feels sure that it will take but a short time to establish a large and profitable business.  Help it along and make the boom generate.

The Excelsior, the new furniture factory here began work last week.  The appointments in the building are complete, unless it may be that some small machines may be found necessary as work goes on.  The scarcity of dry lumber suitable for use compels the employment of but a small part of the men who will be needed when supplies are attainable.  The men now at work are getting material out for a lot of six hundred bedsteads as a starter.  The factory has secured the contract for the manufacture of a wooden split pulley patented by D. Argerbright, of Troy, Ohio, brother of S. A. Argerbright, the superintendent.  The pulley is said by those competent to judge to be a device of great merit and bids fair to revolutionize the pulley making business.  The patentee is the inventor of a device in buggy attachments that has made the fortune of an Ohio, manufacturing company already, and the pulley he regards as by far the most useful invention of the two.  Taken altogether the new factory starts out with most flattering prospects which bids fair to bring its stock to a premium very shortly.


TODAY’S TOPICS: Thirty-five Years   Article written by W.E. Billings in the News-Journal in honor of his 35 years with the paper
(Submitted by Ruby Olinger Bemis of Seal Beach, California)

It will be thirty-five years tomorrow that the writer of this column began his newspaper work in North Manchester ---October 1, 1900.  Since then there have been many changes in North Manchester, in her people and in their way of doing things.  That at least most of these changes have been for the best is to be sincerely hoped.  A brief recital of some of the conditions as they existed in North Manchester at that date may be of interest.

Electricity was only for night use, being turned on as the shades of evening began to gather and turned off at midnight.  There was not an electrically operated device in town.  Gas was unthought of.

Most of the yards in town were surrounded by fences, for while the days of the “town cow” were over, yet considerable stock did get out and roam at large.

Two railroads operated passenger service, and there were sixteen passenger trains making regular stops, twelve on the Wabash and four on the Big Four.  Now there are four trains daily and none on Sunday.  A big part of the local newspaper man’s job in those days was to make the trains, for there he could learn of all who were going or coming, that being about the only way to get in or out of town.  Electric or interurban lines were just coming into attention, and in hope of having one on Main Street people were working themselves into an enthusiasm that later occasioned considerable furor.  We did not get an interurban, and we now have good reason to be thankful that we did not.

There was not a foot of street pavement in North Manchester.  Chain hitch racks extended along both sides of Main Street, and a line of cobble stone furnished a more or less insecure footing for horses as they stamped at the flies.  Street cleaning was not thought essential, and there were plenty of flies, as well as the ever present smell.

There were eight or ten saloons, and the over zealous customers were let sleep it off in the back room if afoot, or were loaded into their buggies, the horse untied, headed toward home and given a start slap.

Automobiles did not come to town for two or three years.  The first one recorded came one Sunday morning, stopped at a drug store for gasoline and later on was watched for hours as it made its way out of town.  Church attendance was small that morning.

A dollar a day was a pretty standard wage, and with many from sun to sun was considered a day, though there were a few holding favored positions who worked only ten hours.

Much attention was being given to getting factories.  There had been canning  factories of many other kinds.  During the summer of 1900 the Syracuse Screen & Grille factory was brought here from Syracuse.  Other factories in operation at that time were the Dunbar heading factory, the J. A. Browne & Co. wagon wood factory, the Miller foundry, the J. W. Strauss saw mill, and the Holloway or Eel River creamery.  It was not until in the fall of 1901 that the Peabody School Furniture factory was secured for North Manchester, it taking a building that had formerly been occupied by a bed factory.  Of the manufacturing establishments of those days only two remain, the Peabody and the Eel River creamery.  New ones have come; some have stayed, others have gone.

Stores usually remained open until nine o’clock in the evening, or until the lights in competitive stores went out.  People had no automobiles that they had to drive, and spent their evenings in the stores, on the streets, or visiting with their neighbors.  Conversation was a fine art in those day, and many and many a wild tale of the good old days was rehashed with additions for the edification of the listener.  We stayed in our home town at night and enjoyed ourselves, for there was no way to go to other places, and the hours would probably have been more dull away from home than at home.

Pretty generally we had an idea that we should pay our debts, for unless we did, credit was soon gone.  Thrift was encouraged, and lots of people thought they should have a home of their own before buying a horse and buggy.  Installment buying for luxuries was practically unknown. Debts were seldom created excepting to buy productive property, or to provide business capital in an earning enterprise.

We were satisfied with home produced music.  It was a glorious occasion when the home band marched down the street playing “Marching Through Georgia,” even if a few of the horns were a little bit flat.  Even the phonograph with its canned music was seldom heard, while the radio was unthought of.  Young people or old for that matter, at social parties depended upon themselves for their entertainment and did not feel they must hire some professional entertainer.  We knew our home folks and our home locality better.  Closer and more lasting friendships were probably formed.  We felt more of a personal kindly interest in our neighbors, and we found most of our real enjoyment in what today so many would consider out of date, or too common for consideration.  We have advanced in many ways in thirty-five years.  Inventions, progress and thought coupled with substantial effort have brought us many blessings.  We would not go backward in that respect.  But we have lost some things while we were getting the new; some that we have lost being probably more worthwhile than some that we have received.