of the North Manchester Historical Society, Inc.

Volume XXII Number 4 November 2005

The Wabash Road and Chris Speicher too!

by Jack Miller

Through the years I have traveled up and down that road between North Manchester and Wabash hundreds of times. When I was a kid living in North Manchester, this road had a name: Hills-Lake Road, painted on telephone poles along the way. But everyone called it the Wabash Road.

I am guessing it was around 1840 when the road was established as North Manchester was platted in 1836, and became a town in 1837. It must have been a dirt rut in the beginning, as most of North Manchester's road money went east and south through New Madison (Servia) to Lagro and to the Wabash and Erie Canal.

Oh! I know Wabash had the canal, also, but that entrepreneur, John Comstock, who practically owned Liberty Mills, had already blazed a road down to Lagro. All North Manchester had to do was build a good road to lock into Comstock's. Comstock blew his stack, and built another road from Liberty Mills to Huntington and the canal over there.

OKAY! So much for that. What about Wabash road? There wasn't much improvement in the two ruts until after 1856. In 1856 the Toledo, Wabash and Illinois (Western? ed) Railroad arrived from Toledo from Fort Wayne, and business went to Wabash. Fresh gravel was used to improve the road and in the 1920s some crushed limestone was used. I remember well in the early 1920s coming to Wabash in my dad's Model T Ford Touring, the white dust from that limestone was worse than the foggiest day.

Now the Wabash Road took on real importance with commerce flowing both ways. In 1854, the 7-Mile town, Urbana, was platted along this road, halfway between North Manchester and Wabash. It didn't hurt that John Speicher moved to one mile east of this location. With 11 sons and four daughters, is it any wonder that the Speichers had such a good influence on this region? We all remember Daniel Speicher and that world-famous Cyclone Seeder, manufactured in Urbana.

Halfway between Urbana and Wabash was a new town called Speicherville. It went on the map by that name in 1881, but Chris Speicher was busy long before that day. I am sure he belonged to that John Speicher clan east of Urbana as he had that drive to make things go. I would say Chris was real busy by the time the Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan Railroad reached Speicherville coming down from Urbana. This one-man town had a post office, a store, drug store, school, community hall, church, sawmill, tile mill, blacksmith,. a hog packing house and two elevators. Chris issued his own script for money for payment of purchases good in any store in Speicherville.

I believe you can judge this Chris Speicher by this story told about him. When the railroad reached the little town coming down from Urbana, he wanted to know when the railroad was going to build him a depot like at Urbana. They tried to explain the population wasn't big enough. Finally, to quiet his demand, the railroad official said, "If you build a station and there is passenger, we will stop and pick them up."

Well, Chris did build a station, next to the tracks. Oh, it wasn't much - just a shelter big enough to hang a "Speicherville" sign on both ends. Four passenger trains per day passed by that little station, but no one got on or off. The night train number 40 ran north from Wabash about 8:30 in the evening. That climb up and out of the Wabash Valley was a battle for that little steam engine. They were just rolling good by the time they reached the level land at Speicherville.

Holy cow! Put on the brakes!! There was a red lantern waving wildly in front of the station. It was Chris Speicher. "See," he said to the infuriated engineer and conductor. "I've got a ticket to ride to Urbana." And he did! Then, he walked back to his namesake town in the dark.

Main Street, South Side from East to West

- continued from last issue

227 East Main St. - Dr. Zera Merritt Beaman started his practice in 1907. He was at this address in the 1924 phone book and was here until 1930. On July 13, 1933, R. R. Schue advertised Plumbing and Heating here. In an ad on June 25, 1936 the grand opening of the Double Dip was announced in the Rufle Building. Dr. C. K. Neher, MD was also at this address, as indicated in a Novembeer 23, 1936 ad. Dr. C. Eugene Cook moved his office from his home at 112 North Market Street and replaced Dr. Neher at this address per an ad of October 2, 1939. Harting furniture expanded to this address in the early 1940s.

225 East Main St. - In the April 17, 1930 News Journal, Alice Hippensteel advertised the opening of Ali's Flower Shop. Then this address was occupied by a number of doctors, starting with Dr. Worth Walrod, Osteopathic doctor, in 1931. By December 1933 Dr. Walrod had moved to Market Street. Good Year Service, managed by R. A. Duffee, advertised here in 1935, 1936 and 1937, In November of 1939, Good Year moved to Priser Auto Sales on West Main Street. Dr. Earl Cripe was at this address at some point. Dr. O. G. Brubaker, Eye, Ear, Nose and Throat, was here in the 1930s, then moved to the Union Trust Building in 1935. In the late 1940s, Leon Bazzoni had a business at this location. He sold new lightweight metal screens and storm windows so homeowners could replace the heavy wooden ones that had always been used in the past.

223 East Main St. - Flo Johnson advertised a hat shop at this address as early as May 1932. She moved the shop to her home on Mill Street in 1936. Jacob E. S. Lorenze moved his Jewelry Store here from the second floor of Manchester Printing in 1941 and remained until early 1943.

After the Young Hotel burned down in 1943, Mabel Dunbar moved the Indiana Motor Bus Station ticket office to this address. We believe that Mrs. Dunbar lived in the rear of the ground floor of this building. Willard A. Weesner also moved his taxi services here from the Young Hotel.

221 East Main St. - As early as 1924, Western Union was shown in the phone book at this address. Mrs. Emma Cunningham was the telegrapher. An article dated December 15, 1949 in the News Journal reported that Mrs. Cunningham was transferred to Plymouth (the article did not name a replacement, or if there was one). Ralph Leffel, also at this address in the 1924 phone book, managed the American Express Office. Ralph started in 1909 and retired in 1949, when Frank McDaniel replaced him. Both of these operations existed during our entire time period and long before.

219 East Main St. - Otho Hill was a tailor and dry cleaner at this location. We found an ad for his business in 1931. He stayed here until 1959 when he moved to 115 North Walnut Street.

217 East Main St. - Ademar Rufle, jeweler and optometrist, owned the Ademar Rufle Jewelry Store, founded February 5, 1892. Rufle started at 208 East Main Street (where the A&P store was in later years), then moved to 203 East Main Street (where the Wible Shoe Store was later). Then the Jewelry Store moved to a side entrance off Walnut Street of 202 East Main Street (where Gresso Department Store was later). On February 13, 1913 Ademar bought the Earl R. Tyler Store at this address.

Ademar died on February 15, 1940. His daughters, Anna Hazel Rufle and Mae B. Rufle, took over the store in the late 1930s and operated it throughout the 1940s. Dr. Mae B. Rufle was an optometrist as had been her father. Their 3rd sister, Esther Emma Rufle, didn't work in the store but stayed at their beautiful home on South Elm Street and did the cooking. Mae was the only one of the three sisters who ever married. For those who may take more than a casual look at this work, the 1958 North Manchester phone book lists "Rufle, Mae B. Dr 207 S Maple N Mnchstr - 98." The "98" was the phone number - back when all calls were operator assisted. This is exactly as published for the home address, including the abbreviated version of North Manchester. This address for Mae may have been for the residence she moved to when she got married.

A historical note: V. L. DeWitt, manufacturer of the DeWitt Automobile, had originally owned the home where Ademar lived.

215 East Main St. - This building, now occupied by the American Legion, originally was a large house and has an interesting history. We believe that the brick that was used in constructing the Opera House and this home came from David Hamilton's brickyard in Servia. The same type brick was used in both buildings.

William Oliver Jefferson, who was born in 1863 and married Emma Wolf in 1893, purchased lot #146 in North Manchester that included the home at this address as well as the livery stable next door, from Emma Johnson in November of 1900. They lived in this home, where Lawrence "Cap" Jefferson (noted later) was raised along with his two brothers. A picture, recently discovered by Donald L. Jefferson, shows this house, the opera house (covered at the next address), and the next two business addresses, which were the Rex Theater and John Lockwood's Tin Shop.

In late 1944, after the February death of Mrs. Jefferson, this home was sold to the American Legion for its home. The American Legion had started on April 14, 1920 on the second floor of the Opera House Building. The first officers were Harry L. Leffel, Commander; Russell Clark, Vice Commander; Gene J. Oppenheim; Adjutant; and Fred Ebbinghouse, Treasurer. The large addition to this building at the rear for a clubroom was added in the late 1940s.

213 East Main St. - The Opera House and Livery Stable, Automobile Repair Shop, a Buick dealer, a Willys Automobile Dealership, an Oldsmobile Automobile Dealership and, commencing in 1962, a parking lot are just some of the things we found at this location. As the aforementioned items indicate, the address has an interesting history.

The building originally at this address was constructed in 1880 for Samuel Hamilton. C. D. Johnson's Livery Stable occupied the first floor and the upper floor was the Hamilton Opera House. The livery stable provided various horse drawn vehicles for hire and met all the passenger trains on the Big Four and Vandalia Railroad lines. An article in the November 22, 1888 Journal says, "An elevator transfers the buggies not in use from one floor to the other floor. The gas for lighting purposes is furnished from a private machine.

In fact, everything about the place has a city-fied air, not often seen in places the size of North Manchester." Another article from an 1885 newspaper says that the roof caught on fire from the buildings burning to the west of this address. This building was repaired, while the others were destroyed. Many traveling theatrical companies performed at the Opera House. In late November 1900, William Oliver Jefferson purchased the livery business from Emma Johnson and maintained it until the 1920s.

During the time of the livery business, a veterinarian had an office in the east front corner of the building. We are able to place Hayes & Bowers Buick at this address from the 1924 phone book. We also found, in the 1929 Manchester College annual, an ad for Hayes Motor Company -- Buick Sales. There was an advertisement in the January 9, 1930 News Journal for Buick sales at this address, which we are sure was operated by George Hayes.

In later ads, he added the Marquette automobile. By 1931 he had moved to West Main Street to the Urschel Building. In a September 24, 1931 ad Melvin Heeter advertised used cars at this address. On March 7, 1932 Royers advertised moving their repair shop from across the covered bridge to the Jefferson Building. M.R. Stukey and Donald Sheak advertised on September 29, 1932 that they were starting an auto repair and storage business.

In 1933, Vinson "Mike" Stukey and Milo Rudy "Rude" Stukey started Stukey Brothers Automobile Repair business. Mr. Jefferson sold the building to the Stukey brothers in 1934. Mike had learned automobile mechanics in the army in France during World War I and gained additional knowledge of the trade working to Leedy Chevrolet in North Manchester and at a garage in Warsaw.

The Stukeys obtained a Willys-Overland Automobile Dealership in 1937. They sold and serviced these cars, including the Wippet, then the Overland, and later the Willys. In an ad dated March 3, 1941 Stukey Brothers obtained an Oldsmobile franchise and indicated they were also a dealer for Willys. When World War II came and cars were no longer available, Mike, who was a World War I veteran, went to work in a defense plant in Knox, Indiana. Rude continued to operate the garage and sales agency. After the war, Stukey Brothers advertised their Oldsmobile dealership into the 1950s and as late as December 7, 1950 - the end of our study. They closed their business in 1956. Many of the details, including nicknames for the Stukey brothers were supplied by a daughter, Mary Jane Grossnickle.

Much later and beyond our time frame, Norman Weise picked up the Oldsmobile franchise and operated at this address. Later, Mr. Weise was appointed the Oldsmobile Dealer in Kokomo, Indiana and this building was left vacant. In 1962, the building was torn down (although we also find an account by Harry Leffel saying it was torn down in 1964) and the empty space created became a city parking lot.

213 1/2 East Main St.- We reported the opera house on the second floor of the previous building; we are presenting this address to show a more recent business. The American Legion started here April 14, 1920 and occupied the second floor of this address for a number of years before they moved next door to the former Jefferson home in 1944 (as reported earlier).

A July 8, 1948 News Journal article reported that DeVon Olinger and Gale Williams purchased the second floor from Mr. and Mrs. W. G. Hatfield and built a bowling alley. The first ad for the bowling alley didn't appear until November 21, 1949. On January 3, 1950 they advertised as Olinger & Williams, Inc. The bowling alley remained at this address until Mr. Olinger built a new one across from the city park.

211 East Main St. - About 1907 the Crystal Theater, owned by Harry Long , started at this address with a 5 cent admission. The next owner, Mrs. William J. Sirk, owned the movie house for about ten years, then sold it to John E. Swain April 8, 1920. At some point the name changed to the Grand Theater. Then in the 1924 high school annual it showed the name was the Strand Theater and (it) was owned by C. M. Walter. By 1928, W. C. West advertised in the annual as the Lyric Theater. By the 1930s, advertisements showed the Strand again with Walters the owner,. so he may have owned it when West ran it. Sometime in the next few years before it closed, the name changed again to the Rex Theater.

This information on the theaters at this location comes from many sources, depending on the memory of the writer in most cases, so we do not vouch for the accuracy of dates except where they are shown for an advertisement or news article. We think the Crystal Theater at this location was the first movie house, but there are claims the Dreamland down the street was the first.

American Shoe Rebuilders, which is covered more extensively at their next address, moved to this location in 1936 and remained until about 1941 when they moved to 113 East Main Street. An ad dated November 30, 1936 shows American Shoe Rebuilders at this address. Maiben Laundry placed an ad showing a new branch at this address on April 12, 1937. Maiben's was an out of town laundry and we presume they had their pick-up at the shoe repair shop, as they did later at the Sheller Hotel. An ad dated May 13, 1940 announced that Manchester Shoe Rebuilders, owned by Bob Luckenbill and James Stefanatos, Jr., would open at this address on June 8, 1940.

Then Shaw's Food Market, a meat market, opened on Monday May 12, 1941. Glen Gill had a used furniture store, called "Gill's," which featured a variety of used merchasndise. We found no record of when Mr. Gill started this store, but the first ad we found for him at this location is dated September 23, 1943. Gill was here well into the 1950s. This address lost its identity when the next address took it over in the late 1950s.

209 East Main St. - John B. Lockwood was at this address in the 1921 Manchester College annual. He is also listed here in the 1924 phone book. He later advertised a tin shop and used the name Ingot Iron Shop in a January 13, 1930 News Journal ad. Mr. Lockwood had a bankruptcy sale on Wednesday, August 24, 1938. On Saturday, September 24, 1938, John A. Snyder started the Western Auto Store at this address with Ralph R. Baggott as manager.

Sometime after 1941, Ralph Baggott and his wife Elsie Baggott became the sole owners of the Western Auto Store. This store, next to the bank, was originally a narrow storefront. Sometime in the 1950s, the 211 East Main St. address became available and Western Auto expanded into it, retaining their 209 East Main address. The current occupant of this wide location, while not a part of our study, is The Farmer's Emporium.

Dr. W. K. Damron - 1937 until 1940 ads said he was above the bank. Actually, the stairway next to the bank was used, but he was over 203 E. Main Street. He then moved to 125 East Main Street.

207 East Main St. - The G. A. R in 1886 completed building a second floor over one-story buildings that extended over 205, 207 and 209 East Main Street for their lodge. Their emblem is still on the building currently occupied by the Moose Lodge. The G. A. R. sold the second floor to the Moose Lodge in 1921. The Indiana State Bank was listed here in the 1923 phone book. This address is now part of a two front building that includes the next address, but in the 1920s it was a single storefront. The Indiana State Bank occupied this address in the 1920s.

On September 23, 1929 the Indiana State Bank and the Lawrence National Bank merged and formed the Indiana Lawrence Bank & Trust Company, When the banks reopened after the depression bank holiday, the Union Trust Company (started October 11, 1913) was absorbed by the surviving bank, according to a February 22, 1932 News Journal article.

At the beginning of our study, Calvin Ulrey was president of the merged banks, but Ad Urschel was president for most of the 1930s and 1940s. Mildred Heeter, who late got the much-deserved recognition of Vive President, ably assisted Ad.

This address was a single storefront until it was combined with 205 East Main Street by the Indiana Lawrence Bank and Trust Co. the surviving bank from the merger of the three banks in town during the depression. The Indiana Lawrence Bank modernized this two-storefront building and made it a single wide, marble-faced front in the early 1930s, ... The Loyal Order of Moose occupied the second floor of the bank building. After our study period, the bank moved to Market Street and the Loyal Order of Moose bought the building and moved to the ground floor, where it is still located at this writing.

205 East Main St. - In 1915, J. H. Bonner and Son's Furniture Store was at this address. Bonner was from Huntington and local George N. Bender was the store manager and undertaker. Around 1921, Mr. Bender bought the business and moved it to the east end of the street. Louie Longo told us that the address was occupied by a lady named Gladys "Bud" Rockwell and she operated a store that sold fresh dairy products including eggs, cheese and butter. She lived on Second Street, next to the alley, and had a dairy operation behind her home just north of Burkhart Poultry. When the bank took over this address as well as 207 East Main Street, they replaced Rockwell's store. We do not know if she continued to sell her products from the dairy location or not.

203 East Main St. - J. M/ Jennings had his original grocery store, Jennings Grocery, at this address in 1877. The building burned on October 15, 1885; Jennings returned when it was rebuilt in 1886. From 1893 to 1897, Jennings was in Chicago running a store at the Columbian Exposition. He returned to this location in 1897.

Then Walter E. Wright and Edith E. Wright moved their funeral home from Mill Street to this address on April 5, 1934, were bankrupt by December 6, 1934. (We do not know if the Wrights were husband and wife or brother and sister, but we think they were husband and wife.) Harry Wible moved here in 1935 from a shoe store in Ligonier, Indiana and opened Wible's Shoe Store. Wible then moved to the north wide of Main Street in 1944, which will be covered later. Mrs. Bea Wible and her sister, Mrs. Louise Karns, had a beauty shop on the second floor above the shoe store and called it the Uptown Beauty Shop, advertising their business on May 31, 1937. These sisters (maiden name - Urschel) had also operated their beauty shop with the same name in about 1935 and 1936 on Walnut Street, which is shown later.

Clarence Brady, located temporarily on the north side of Main Street after his building burned in February 1944, then moved to this address on Saturday April 29, 1944. This served as a semi-permanent location for Brady while his building was rebuilt. Mr. Brady then moved back to his rebuilt building in November, 1949. The five-year gap until his building was rebuilt is explained at that address. James Butterbaugh advertised the new location for his appliance sales here on Novembeer 21, 1949 (his old location was on West Main Street). He was here for only a short period of time. In an ad dated June 22, 1950, Mr. Butterbaugh announced a going-out-of- business sale (the ad stated that he would remain in the dri-gas business elsewhere). A July 31, 1950 ad announced James Fedewa was opening his appliance store on Friday, August 4, 1950. His store was here for a number of years, beyond our study period. The newspaper did not very often use addresses in their articles. They referred to the building at this address as the "John Building."