An early morning fire Saturday, November 19, 2016, broke out at 216 E. Main Street. Seven fire departments cooperated in containing the blaze that spread to 218 E. Main Street and adjacent structures. The former BrewHouse building was destroyed, and the legal, community foundation and accounting offices, along with second-story apartments, to the east were heavily damaged. NMFD Chief Cam Kissinger reported, “This is the worst one we’ve had downtown for many, many years.” [NM News-Journal, November 22, 2016]


Historically, North Manchester’s downtown area has been impacted at different times by major fires. In 1883 the American House at the northeast corner of Main & Walnut was destroyed. Also in 1883 the Bee-Hive at the southwest corner of Main & Mill burned. In 1885 the Opera House on the south side of Main Street & buildings to the west were lost to fire. In 1890 Henney’s Corner (Main & Market, northeast) burned to the ground, and rebuilding only took place years after the fire. In 1897 Bert Bonewitz’s restaurant and the Wood sisters’ millinery store were damaged by flames. In 1907 there was a fire at the Ulrey Block, Main & Walnut, in which the second-story Rex Telephone Office burned. In 1909 fires impacted the Hoosier Skirt factory and Peter Speed’s Shoe Shop. During the following year in 1910 fires took place at the Stewart & Naftzger hardware store on the alley and the Mort Grocery. The Young Hotel was lost to fire in 1943. In 1960 a fire badly damaged the Urschel Department Store at 208 East Main Street.


In addition to those mentioned above, there have been several other fire losses. A comprehensive listing is maintained at the NMHS website, along with links to articles about the various fires:   [tabs] more >fires


Some parallels can be drawn between the recent fire and that which occurred in January 1910, at 120 East Main Street. The heroism of our firefighters in both instances should be noted and applauded. The fires apparently started in each instance in buildings located on an alley, and then spread eastward to the adjacent buildings. The following newspaper account describes in considerable detail the fire that consumed the Naftzger hardware store, located where the western section of the Center for History is now located. The Oppenheim store at that time was operating in  two buldings to the east of the Naftzger hardware store.


Source: North Manchester Journal, January 20, 1910--

FIRE LOSS OF $40,000
Business Portion of Town Visited by Damaging Fire

The most damaging fire in the business portion of North Manchester for many years occurred early Friday morning when the Stewart & Naftzger hardware store was completely destroyed, and the building and stock of B. Oppenheim & Co. seriously damaged. The total loss will probably run above forty thousand dollars.


It was just a few minutes before four o’clock that Nightwatchman Dee Welsh saw smoke issuing from one of the windows of A.P. Smith’s office over the Naftzger store. He turned in an alarm, and the fire company quickly responded. The fire seemed to be located at the north end of the front room of the store, and the contents of the chemical tank was used at the north window of that room. This seemed to stop the fire for a moment, and it looked like it was out just as the last of the chemical solution was used. But the next instant there was a burst of flames and smoke from the window, and the hardest fight of the present fire department was on.


There was a complication of conditions that put the firemen at a disadvantage, chief among them being a low water pressure which was still farther reduced by a leaky hydrant. But the fight was waged bravely, and much more successfully than many thought it would be when it was at its height. There was a time when men in the block to the east would have parted with their holdings pretty cheap, and as one man said he was on the verge of telephoning to his help not to come down that morning to open his store.


As it is, the loss is heavy. Stewart & Naftzger saved nothing of their stock except the small portion that was stored in the rear of the Harter building. The building was 176 feet long and they occupied the basement and both floors, with the exception of the front room upstairs that was occupied by A.P. Smith. There is nothing left of the store today but a pile of debris and broken brick. The walls of the building were standing after the fire was out, but were in such a condition that they were dangerous, and the firemen pulled them down. The Naftzger stock was valued at from ten to twelve thousand dollars, with insurance in the Hardware Mutual of $6,000. The building was owned by Mrs. John M. Curtner, was valued at $7,500 and was insured for $4,000.


The double store of B. Oppenheim & Co., next to the Naftzger store, was badly damaged, and the loss there will be very heavy. At one time it looked like it would be impossible to save that building, for the fire got into it from under the edge of the roof, and at one time was blazing fiercely, but by hard work it was kept from spreading to other parts of the building. As it is, practically everything in the store is damaged to some extent. In the room where the fire was there was a lot of new rugs that had never been unpacked. The edges of every one of these were burned, and they were saturated with dirty water. There were large stacks of muslin that the edges were burned from. Hundreds of boxes of thread were burned just enough to be ruined, and so on through all the stock that was in that building. In the dry goods department down stairs the goods were not touched by fire, but were damaged by smoke and water, the water at one time being four or five inches deep on the floor. Nearly all of the clothing was carried from the store, and stored in the Emmons pool room, but it was all more or less damaged in the hasty handling that was necessary. This stock was insured for $22,500 and the loss will probably run to nearly fifteen thousand. The Oppenheims owned the west building where the most of the fire was, and it was insured for $5,000, with damages amounting to at least half that much and possibly more, for it is hard to tell how badly the walls are damaged. Harmon Naber owned the east room of the Oppenheim store, but it was not damaged beyond a few broken windows.


A.P. Smith lost all of his office fixtures and furniture, and places his loss at about five hundred dollars. He also had a very narrow escape himself, as he slept in the back room of the office, and was not awakened until the room was so full of smoke that he was nearly suffocated.


Lack of Water Hindered Effective Work of Firemen.

In going to the fire Driver George Parmerlee took the route around past the Burdge corner for two reasons. First, there is usually a truck or two in the alley by the Byrer packing house, making it doubtful whether he could get through from the Market street entrance, and second, because on account of the icy condition of the approach at the Naftzger alley it would have been risky to have tried to drive in from Main street. A line of hose was laid from the Burdge hydrant, and brought into the Naftzger alley from the north. The wagon was stopped at the north window of the main room, and the chemicals used from there. When it was found that they were insufficient, he drove through the alley to the south, laying a line of hose from the hydrant in front of the city hall, and then another from the Burdge hydrant. Later another line was laid from the Burdge hydrant, making four in all and one thousand feet of hose was in use. Still later more hose was brought from the west side.


The water pressure was weak, and continued weak for quite a time after the fire started, but at no time was it quite as bad as some of the kickers like to say. For an instant after the chemicals were used it seemed that the fire was under control, but then came the burst of flames from the windows, and the whole store room quickly filled. Some think that with sufficient water just at that time the building could have been saved, but there are others who doubt it, for the fire was right by the side of a lot of oil and gasoline tanks, and it is believed that the fire had such a start in these that the chemicals could have but little effect, and water poured on it was practically useless. It was only a minute or two after this until the fire reached the front of the building.


Dynamite Lets Go. As the fire swept to the front of the building it reached the stock of ammunition, and the cracking of cartridges sounded like there was a battle in progress. Then came an explosion that shook the building, and drove the spectators back a few feet and all the time the fire was getting hotter. Probably ten minutes after the first explosion came a second and much stronger one, that blew a hole in the west wall of the building, that lifted the roof of the Oppenheim building, and that wrecked the glass in many of the buildings on the south side of the street, besides knocking down two firemen and several of the spectators.


Oppenheim Room in Danger. After the explosion was when the Oppenheim room was in the greatest danger. The roof on it was lifted, allowing passage for the fire to get in past the fire wall, and then came the hard fight to save it. That the fight was successful can be credited to the fact that the firemen and their willing helpers worked with tireless energy, and with the skill and endurance of professional fire fighters. There was no show for anything spectacular. It was just a hard piece of the hardest and most risky kind of work. At five o’clock it looked like the chances were against the Oppenheim room, but a little later the prospect began to brighten, and by six o’clock all danger was past, and the fire was thoroughly under control.


Pulled Down Damaged Walls. The walls of the Naftzger building did not fall in, but they were so badly damaged that they were unsafe and they were torn down by the firemen. It was nearly noon Friday when a rope was hitched to the lintel over the front door of the store, and it only took a slight pull to bring it out, letting the front of the building come tumbling into the street. The side walls of the main building were then pulled in. Saturday it became evident that the rear walls, too, were dangerous, and they were tipped into the ruins, furnishing attraction for a large number of people who stood around in the cold watching the work.


Hurt By The Explosion. George Ulrey was dragging a string of hose into the alley and had just entered the south end of it when the big explosion came. It hurled him to the ground, and he was badly stunned. He was helped to his feet, and given medical attention, but it was found that his injuries were not serious, and he was soon back at work fighting the fire again. His escape was little less than a miracle, for he was within less than twenty feet of where the walls were blown out. Fred Horne was standing near the middle of the street in front of the building, and was struck by something that rolled him over and to the south side of the street. Something struck J.B. Peabody on the head cutting a slight gash. J.A. Browne was hit by some flying missile and a slight scratch made on his face. Others had slight scratches, but none were serious, though it is a wonder greater damage was not done.


Capt. Hippensteel and Clyde Overholser, two of the firemen, were badly stunned by the explosion, and cut and scratched, but were soon back fighting the fire. Tony Stocker though not a member of the company, was hard at work and was stunned by the explosion and had to be helped to his feet and away from the fire, but he, too, was soon back at work.


Broken Glass. The plate glass in front of the J.B. Williams drug store, Mrs. L.C. Townsend’s millinery store, and J.A. Calvert’s grocery store were splinted, glass in the front of A. B. Thomas’ office were broken, and one transom glass was knocked out of the Journal office. In the second and third stories from the Williams drug store east to the Grand Army hall nearly every glass was broken. Not a window in the Grand Army hall was broken, but several east of there were shattered, and a transom glass in Norris & Freeman’s music store was broken. The force of the explosion seemed to cross the street and travel eastward, for no glass on the north side were broken until the Helm, Snorf store was reached, and several glass windows on the west side of it were knocked out. West of the fire the windows in the Harter drug store, in Isenbarger & Fleming’s office, and the Mort grocery were broken.


Three Pounds of Dynamite. There were lots of stories about there being fifty pounds of dynamite in the building, and many were afraid to go about the ruins, for it was said that it had not all exploded. This story was exploded by the statement of J.K. Lautzenhiser, chief clerk in store. His statement is that there was a twenty-five pound powder can on the east side of the store, and that it was about one third full. He thinks this was the first to explode. On the west side of the store, and right south of where the hole was blown in the wall was another can of about three or four pounds of gun powder. Right north of this there was a box of 200 dynamite caps, of the kind used to explode dynamite, and under the counter between these were three pounds of dynamite. He believes that these all let go together. People for many miles about felt and heard the explosion, it coming at an hour that many farmers were getting up, and it attracted their attention to the fire.


Will Work Harder than Ever. ”There is nothing to do but to go again and work harder than ever,” said L.J. Noftzger, manager of the store, who though over 75 years of age has more grit than most men of thirty. The store belonged to Stewart & Naftzger, the Naftzger being A.H. Naftzger, whose home is in California, but who is now in Europe, probably France or Germany. It was managed by his brother, L.J. Noftzger, who has been doing business here for more than forty years. This is the second time that L.J. Noftzger has been burned out in North Manchester; the first time being when his foundry was burned in the fire that wiped out the Dunbar factory, about eighteen years ago. A peculiar fate too is that the water pressure was poor in that fire. The building burned Friday was erected under the direction of Mr. Noftzger, who made a creditable record in its construction. There was an old frame building on the ground, and it was just moved away until the firm had occupied the new building that was erected in its place.


Alarm Friday Night. Harry Wilson and C.E. Brady, who were watching in the Oppenheim store Friday night, and having fire on the mind turned in another alarm. They discovered their mistake in a minute, however, and notified the fire department before the wagon left the city hall, but not until the alarm had been sounded. The reflection came from fire that was blazing in the ruins, and the firemen thought this looked dangerous enough that they went over to it and poured water on it for awhile.


The Insurance. The Stewart & Naftzger stock was insured in the Hardware mutual for $6,000, being carried in three states. The Maude Krisher agency carried all the insurance on the Curtner building, there being $2,000 in the Liverpool and London and Globe and a like amount in the American Central. This agency also had $10,500 on the B. Oppenheim stock and building, divided as follows: American Central $3,000, New York Underwriters agency $3,000, Liverpool and London and Globe $3,500, Fireman’s Fund $1,000.


The M.F. Adams agency had $8,500 on the Oppenheim stock and store divided as follows: Hartford $1,000, Queen $2,500, Westchester Fire $1,500, Aetna $1,000, Home $2,500.


The Indiana State bank had $5,000 on the Oppenheim stock and building divided as follows: Glens Falls $2,000, Prussian National $1,500, Rochester German $1,500.


The H.B. Tilman agency had $2,500 on the Oppenheim stock as follows: Williamsburg City $1,000, Concordia $1,500.


The W.W. Barnhart agency had $1,000 in the National Union on the Oppenheim stock.


Gas Lifts Oppenheim Roof. The theory seems to be pretty well established that it was gas that set fire to the interior of the Oppenheim room. While the firemen were on the roof of that building there suddenly came a sort of an explosion or puff, like when the gas catches fire in a stove and blows off the doors. This tipped over a part of the fire wall and lifted the roof with the men on, but it settled back to its place, not however, without making their hair stand on end, for they did not know what was under them. It is the belief that unburned gas from the fire had penetrated the walls at the ends of the joists until the space between the ceiling and roof was filled with it. Then it caught fire. Immediately the fight was on in the Oppenheim room.


Start of the Fire. The firemen think that the fire started in the basement. D.J. Speicher was with Watchman Welsh when the smoke was seen coming from the Smith window. He went to the rear window of the front room of the store and there saw flames creeping up about the elevator shaft from the basement. Tip Taylor, one of the firemen, lives directly across the street from the store, and was one of the first to reach the street. As he came down the stairs from his rooms he heard the plate glass in the front of the store cracking. The firemen think that the flames had smoldered for some time some place in the basement, finding the only vent through the elevator shaft, and that there was a lot of fire in the basement when it was first noticed. What started the fire in the first place, is of course a mystery. There was a furnace in the basement, but it was not being used. There are various theories, and none are without some reason, but there is no positive information on which to base a conclusion.


Will Start Business Again. L.J. Noftzger, of the firm of Stewart & Naftzger, is arranging to start in business again at once. A room will be secured and a stock installed just as quickly as possible. The building that was destroyed will be replaced by a new and modern one as soon as it is possible to get work started.


S.A. Noftzger Loses Records. S.A. Noftzger, manager of the Manchester Manufacturing company, had his office in the building, and lost practically all of his books and papers, besides the office furniture and a good typewriter. He also lost a lot of his papers in reference to his poultry business, papers that would be of no value to any one else, but which to him were of much importance. All of his printed supplies and advertising matter were also burned.


Telephone Cable Destroyed. About a hundred feet of the cable of the Eel River telephone company was melted and fifty telephones in the north and west part of town were put out of commission. The damage was repaired Sunday.


Adjusters Here Thursday. The insurance adjusters are expected here Thursday. All of those who had damages have gone over their losses and gotten them in the best possible condition so that it should not take long to adjust the loss. The Oppenheim store had taken a complete invoice only a week before the fire.


Firemen Work Bravely. There is not a volunteer fire department in the country anywhere that has any more courage or endurance than the one in North Manchester. Time and again this has been shown, but never to better advantage than Friday morning. This company is composed of eight men, John Jenkins, Clyde Overholtzer, Lewis Overholtzer, George Ulrey, Silas Walters, Ed Enyeart, Clarence Hippensteel and Tip Taylor. Besides there were a great many citizens who in this case lent helping hands, and did much to assist the firemen. However, the brunt of the fight fell on these eight men, and not a one of them gave up for a moment when able to go, but stayed right with the fight from four o’clock in the morning until one o’clock in the afternoon when the walls were pulled down and the danger was over. Too much credit cannot be given these men. Their work was intelligent and effective, and but for them the fire would certainly have spread much farther than the building in which it started.


Conditions at Pumping Station Greatly Handicapped Firemen.

While there can be no real excuse for the scarcity of water at the fire Friday morning, there are plenty of reasons for it, and calm, business like study of those reasons should lead to conditions that will guard against a like occurrence. It is pretty well known by people who have paid any attention to conditions at the pumping station that things have not been as they should be there. The lifting pump, used to lift water from the wells is out of order and has been for several months. The first action of the new town council was to order repairs for that pump. This was done at the meeting on the third of January but the repairs have not reached here. No attention has been paid to the supply pipe leading from the river, and Friday morning when the water was low in the reservoir the engineer hated to attach to the river because he feared that the supply pipe might choke with ice, or that it was already frozen shut. Then, too, the hydrant most needed at the Friday morning fire was leaky, and had been known to be leaky for a long time. At the fire under the Lawrence bank more than a year ago this was discovered to be the case, but nothing was done to repair it, for it was hard to get at on account of being surrounded by concrete walk and brick pavement.


There was no one on duty at the pumping station at night. Grant Walters has been caring for the night alarms there, receiving as his pay the rent of the house by the station that is owned by the town. He had moved his goods from the house only a couple or three days before the fire. John Colclesser, who for years has given the town the best of service as engineer, has for a long time been unable to give much of his personal attention to the work though the town has kept him the position, largely for the knowledge he has of the plant and because of the faithful service he has given. John Fruit has been working days for some time in the employment of Mr. Colclesser and under his direction. Fruit had done his days work and gone home the night before, leaving his fires in good condition. But he lives away in the north part of town, and it took him some time to get to the station, and get his pumps going.


With a full stand pipe this would have made but little difference, for there is plenty of pressure in the stand pipe when it is full, but there was little if any over forty feet of water in it at the time of the alarm. By the time the pumps could be started and direct pressure applied, the fire had gained much headway.


These were conditions and not theories, and steps should be taken that they do not exist again. Statements of the town council members to the Journal have been in effect that nothing would be spared to make the pumping plant as perfect in the appointment as is the uptown part of the fire department. A regular day and night man will be supplied, and repairs made to everything needing them. The pumps will be put into the best possible condition, just as soon as repairs can be secured. The supply pipe from the river will receive attention.


Sunday afternoon when the fire in the ruins of the Naftzger building again broke into a blaze it was demonstrated that with a full stand pipe and a sound hydrant there is an abundance of pressure for fire protection. It was possible then to stand on the walk in front of the building and throw a solid stream against he rear partition wall. To assist in guaranteeing that the stand pipe be kept full, the Journal would suggest that a pressure gauge be placed in the lower room of the city hall in plain view from the street so that at any time any one desiring can see exactly how much water there is in the stand pipe may do so. A better system of turning from stand pipe to direct pressure is needed, as well as a more complete set of signals.







RALPH NARAGON (1936-2016)


Ralph Naragon was a great friend to the North Manchester Historical Society.  He served as treasurer of the organization for many years, and provided CPA services to us.  As the organization grew in complexity, the ability to manage several discrete fund accounts became increasingly important, and Ralph’s financial expertise was valued more and more.


After his retirement, Ralph became the volunteer building manager of the Center for History.  He worked at the Center almost daily, doing everything from removing and recycling outdated pipes and wiring, to making daily measurements of heat and humidity to protect our collections, to helping tear off our 1970’s façade.  He supervised the recent façade restoration project on behalf of the Center, and anticipated the systems and maintenance needs of our 140-year-old building.


A natural leader, Ralph loved to work behind the scenes.  He was part of a group of community leaders who promoted the growth of North Manchester starting in the 1970’s, and helped found or support many community organizations and planning efforts.


Ralph was named Volunteer of the Year in 2011 in recognition for his many services to the Historical Society.  Much of the success the Historical Society and the Center for History experienced the past fifteen years was due to Ralph’s direct or indirect involvement.  -submitted by Mary Chrastil

FERNE BALDWIN ( 1919-2016)



(Alma) Ferne Strohm Baldwin, North Manchester, IN, died at Timbercrest Health Care, in North Manchester, IN, on November 26, 2016. Ferne was born on September 29, 1919, in Bourbon County, KS, to John Alonzo and Mary Matilda (Derrick) Strohm. Her rural roots left her a country girl, at heart, her whole life. She graduated early from Uniontown High School, where she was known to beat the teachers in geography bees. Ferne was too young to start teaching, so left home at 16, and went to Chicago in 1936 to attend Bethany Bible School. She met Elmer Rufus Baldwin there, and they were married on March 11, 1938.


After attending Nebraska Wesleyan University, the University of Wichita, and Bethany Seminary, Ferne and Elmer felt called, in 1944, to serve on the Church of the Brethren mission field in Nigeria, West Africa, arriving just weeks before their first child was born. Ferne’s work included teaching in the schools, language translation, producing books in the local language, keeping the mission books, and other office and deputation work, for 18 years. All three of her daughters were born there, in a land and among people loved by her family.

While on a year-long furlough in the States, Ferne graduated from Manchester College, in 1958, with a degree in philosophy. In 1962, the family returned to the States to stay. Ferne worked as manager of the Manchester College print shop until 1966; earned her Master’s and PhD. in social services from Ball State University in 1973, majoring in history. She was a professor of sociology and social work (becoming Chair of the department) at Manchester College from 1969...continuing to teach part time after becoming the Archivist...until 1999. She moved to Timbercrest Senior Living Community in 2004.


Ferne was an active member of the Manchester Church of the Brethren since the mid-1960s, serving a number of years as Moderator and Church Board Chair (including when the church burned and the new one was re-built). She was on the first Lafiya committee, was a long-time member of the church Historical committee, and taught Sunday school from time to time.


Activities in the larger community included the town Historical Society, the Manchester College Community Club, the Wabash County Genealogy Society, and bird counts with the Audubon Society...having served as President for all of them. Other interests included gardening, sewing, cooking, puzzles, and card games. She also enjoyed her travels to 32 countries and to all but two of the U.S. states (Hawaii and Connecticut). She was passionate about learning, treating the earth and its inhabitants kindly - with justice for all - living simply, and always trying to make a positive difference in this world.

(obituary excerpted from Manchester Church of the Brethren Newsletter)


(through 11-10-16)











Beaver Dam Lake



Cedar Lake


Columbia City




Fort Wayne


Gas City
















Liberty Mills












Silver Lake


South Whitley









Winona Lake




Out of State


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Austin, TX

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Dunedin, New Zealand

London, England

Mitaka, Tokyo, Japan




Some items we accessioned for the year 2016 include, the Time Capsule and contents from Maple Park School. Many items from the police department – radios, Breathalyzer, helmets, uniforms, badges, light bar, 1930 bullet proof vest and the bullet that shot Chief Presta Vickery, radar units, and much more from there. Also a German Helmet from WW I, 38 spear points and arrowheads, Weatherbird stamps from Wible’s Shoe Store, Books by local natives John Hackett and Loren Finnell, hand-made quilt from 1908.



Emily Aulicino administers the Ogan DNA Project at Aulicino is the author of Genetic Genealogy: The Basics and Beyond, and she has been an “Ogan blogger” and family researcher for many years. Recently, one of our local Ogan descendants tested for 37 of the Y-DNA markers. The test results for Kit 133598 confirm that our local Ogan resident is a direct descendant of Elias Ogan, brother to Peter and John Ogan, founder/pioneers of North Manchester. Their father was Samuel Ogan of Wayne County, Indiana, and their grandfather was Peter Ogan who was buried in Clinton County, OH, near the old Concord Meeting House (Methodist) one-half mile east of Port William. These Ogan families had migrated from Pennsylvania to Hampshire County VA [now WV]; then to Belmont County OH and later to Clinton and Greene counties OH, and finally to Wayne and Randolph counties IN, before entering Wabash County IN. John and Peter Ogan arrived here in 1835, while their brother Elias came later in 1853 to the southern part of Wabash County.


Correction--In the August issue of the Newsletter, it was mentioned that more than 100 Indians had died as result of the Trail of Death. An alert reader called the editor’s attention to the fact that  probably 40 died, while others unaccounted for in the muster roll probably had run off or returned to their former lands.