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 North Manchester, Indiana

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Source: The News-Journal, March 28, 1938


Travelers along the Disko road west of North Manchester and on the Laketon road south of Ijamsville wonder at the odd topography of the land near the road. Few know that it and a few faded stock certificates are all that is left of a vain dream of interurban lines into North Manchester. The question was cussed and discussed with fervor for two or three years in Wabash, Kosciusko, Miami and Fulton counties. The storm center was North Manchester and Laketon with Warsaw and Wabash playing both ends against the middle. During that time there were eloquence and promises galore, meeting after meeting of interested people in town and country schools, houses, bonus elections and talk of elections, and at least four groups of interurban interests, seemingly fighting to get preference in building the interurban lines.

It was in 1904 and the first half of 1905 that interest reached the fever pitch, but by the end of 1905, when some of the local business men were being sued on notes they had given to purchase stock, with the provision the notes were not collectable unless the lines were built, the belief gradually grew that there would be no interurban, and that we were "stung".

V.J. Drayer, Dayton, Ohio, promoter, seemed to have started the whole thing. He claimed to represent financial interests about Dayton who were interested in building a line through North Manchester. He was very vague as to his route, but did build some grade between Wabash and North Manchester following a route through Laketon. He interested some North Manchester and Laketon capital, and even yet it has never been fully decided whether Drayer was the J. Rufus Wallingford type of promoter or whether he really wanted to build a line, in the hope of making profit from it as a successfully run business. But judging from the North Manchester Journal of those days he was some promiser, and even when hard headed business men, distrustful of the sincerity of his intentions, sought to corner him and make him "put up or shut up", he dodged them and did neither. For he certainly put up no deposits asked as a guarantee of good faith, and he did not stop talking, at least for a long time.

While Drayer was doing his promoting, the Winona company with Sol C. Dickey, entered the picture. The plan of that company was to build a line from Peru to Winona by way of Chili, Roann, Laketon, North Manchester, Silver Lake, and possibly a second line from North Manchester to Wabash through Urbana. Later a proposal was made to leave out Silver Lake and build the line from North Manchester to Sidney, thence to Packerton and on to Winona.

Pleasant township had two elections, one voting on a $15,000 tax raised subsidy for the Drayer interests and another for the Dickey interests. The Drayer election was 190 for and 288 against, and the one for Dickey was 201 for and 241 against. The writer recalls meetings held in the district school houses in Pleasant township that year, and especially the one just before the Drayer election when Mr. Drayer in a meeting at the Bussard building, told with all his eloquence of the future prospects of his interurban lines. He told of what his company was doing in detail. There was none to dispute him until he mentioned Dayton. Then the late Robert Nelson, arose to his feet, told the group of neighbors and farmers that he knew Dayton, probably as well as Mr. Drayer, and that statements Drayer was making were untrue. Mr. Drayer was so discomfited he had little more to say that evening.

Elections on subsidies were scheduled for Chester, Noble and Paw Paw townships, but before they were actually held, suspicion had grown so rapidly they were cancelled. Jackson township did have an election and voted $5,000 subsidy to the interurban company that would build a line through Sidney. Needless to say the subsidy was never collected.

While the Drayer and Dickey disputes were going on Mr. Barry, superintendent of the Indiana Northern Traction Company, with a line from Wabash to Marion, entered the picture with a proposal to build from Wabash to Winona, paralleling the Big Four railroad. Barry's proposition sounded good, and he had the advantage of having a line already in operation. He asked and was given a franchise to use North Manchester streets. But by that time Drayer was also actually constructing the grade south of Laketon and between Laketon and North Manchester, and so the North Manchester town council decided to be impartial and also granted Mr. Drayer a franchise. Barry a few months later sold his interest to the Union Traction company, and the new company never displayed any desire to extend its lines. The company operating a line from Elkhart to Goshen, for a time considered building south along the Big Four, but that project did not get even to the meeting stage.

Dickey suddenly switched his plan to the route from Peru to Warsaw through Akron, and Drayer had told so many stories and made so many promises people would believe nothing he said. Local prospective investors grew more wary, and when the promotion money was gone, Drayer faded out of the picture.

It was a beautiful dream while it lasted, and back in the setting of those days, when automobiles were very much a rarity and their possibility not realized, it was no wonder people were eager for a tram service that would run on hourly schedules and stop at every farm house or cross road along the way. At that time the interurban people boasted they would put the railroads out of business, but instead they were put out of business by a new and then unthought of competitor, the trucks and automobiles.

Source: North Manchester News, March 21, 1906

Is Reported completed and Ready For Shipment.

The following concerning the interurban bridge has been published in some of the daily newspapers in this vicinity as a statement by J.A. Barry who is promoting the Indiana Northern line from Wabash to Warsaw.

"In an interview J.A. Barry stated that everything is progressing favorably on the Wabash-Warsaw line, and in all probability an early start will be made in construction. The bridge to span Eel river at North Manchester, is now ready in the yards of Henry Lewis & Co., of Philadelphia, and as soon  as the pier and abutments have been started the bridge will be shipped, and there will be do delay on this account.

It is the intention of the company to have the line between Wabash and North Manchester completed at the earliest possible date, so all the force can then be thrown on the north end of the line. With a pleasant autumn this year there is every likelihood that the cars of this line will be running from Warsaw direct to the capital city early in 1907.

The bridge to be erected at North Manchester has the following specifications. Two through, pin connected bridge spans, 100 feet long center to center of end pins, width fourteen feet, five inches center to center of truss, height twenty-one feet, six inches center to center of cords, the capacity of this bridge is two eighty-one ton locomotives with their following train loads. With this kind of construction the traveling public will have one of the best and safest roads in Indiana when it is completed.

Yesterday Mr. J.A. Barry presented at the office of county recorder George F. Ogden fourteen deeds for right-of-way between here and Wabash, for which his company has paid. They were as follows:
Thomas M. Beck, forty rods, $50.
James Van Buskirk, 100 rods, $300.
George Pretorious, seventy-two rods, $200.
Charles D. Reed, 160 rods, $300.
Daniel L. Speicher, 160 rods, $300.
George P. Miller, 160 rods, $300.
Henry Mills, 160 rods, $350.
Charles H. Siploe, 160 rods, $300.
Robert Thompson, 160 rods, $275.
Noah Eckman, eighty rods, $125.
James Harris, seventy-two rods, $125.
Catharine Olinger, 106 rods, $125.
Daniel Urschel, 160 rods, $300.
Abram Strickler, 102 rods, $250.

The deeds all contain a provision that if the road ever is abandoned the property shall revert to the original owners. This consideration had something to do with the prices that were accepted for the several tracts of land.