16 April 2014

Symbol of Sacrifice

The cross represents so much, doesn't it?  In it we find hope, redemption, love, that constant reminder of salvation in all its splendor and glory.  Of course, we understand all this would be impossible without the sacrifice made by God in His son, Jesus Christ.  And we understand how Christ laid down his life-this sacrificial act that brought us redemption.

I wonder, though, do we see the beauty in the cross as a symbol of sacrifice?  And what does that mean for us if we choose to "take up the cross" and follow Christ.  I think it's a stake in the ground for daily living in sacrifice.  In giving up our rights....and that's a painful thought, isn't it?

Through Christ's sacrifice we find life.  It would seem true that in our own personal sacrifices that new life can also be found.  The act of laying down your life, or rights, and the expectations you have in your life, if sacrificed, might produce the new life-a better life-than we could imagine for ourselves.  And most certainly through our sacrifice, new life for those around us.  Christ understood His sacrifice was for us; for whom or what should we make this sacrifice?  Daily nonetheless.

Through the years I've seen the cross in many different lights, but I tend to want to keep it up on the wall behind the pulpit where it can be safely admired from a distance.  I've never fully invited the cross to thrust through my spirit in a way that I think is demanded of us.  It's hard...because it casts a long shadow over the things I think are best for me, though they must pale in comparison to what God wants for me.  The cross is only beautiful because we understand what it led to....what was on the other side of death.  Life.

This Easter, and moving forward, I want my life to demonstrate the cross.  Not around my neck or tattooed on my arm, but I want it to become more powerful than my own will.  I want the cross to fill my spirit and pierce my heart until my will flows out like the blood and water from my Savior's side.  In that sacrifice can real life be found.

14 April 2014

Marshall County: My Hometown

Our family on closing day, 1996
Somewhere along in my life I started to realize that I never had that strong connection I heard peers or adults talk about in relationship to growing up in their hometowns.  I lived a ways outside of town and was transported some distance to attend a private school in Plymouth throughout my high school years.  I didn't have Friday nights at the grid iron, nor the hardwoods.  The community I knew revolved around my small high school, with kids from all parts of the county, and our family business which was a local hub of sorts for farmers, firemen, and the like.

Yet, as my wife can attest, I have this strong connection to Marshall County.  And as blogged earlier, I am running for county commissioner, so there probably is a bit of campaign stumping embedded in this post.  I think there are two reasons for this connection.....something that I think comes across when I talk with people.

Community at Garners Truck Stop
The first is related to my roots.  As my kids know all too well, we can't hardly drive down a country road before I'm pointing out where their forefathers lived.  Our roots go deep in the soil.  In North Township, my ancestors first settled in the 1840s.  In German Township, they settled in the 1830s.  In Walnut Township, they came in the 1840s.  In Green Township, they arrived in the 1860s.  And the family lived in Culver and the Tyner area during the 1930s-50s.  And then my mom, a Bremen girl, and my dad, a LaPaz boy, met at my grandparents' truck stop-Garners.  Then it was my turn to establish a family and I married a Plymouth girl and we began raising our family on Michigan Street.  Being a guy maybe a bit too consumed by history, I can't help but recognize that it wasn't one town that made this man-but I owe a great debt to this collective place I call home.  There's something that gets in the spirit of a person when they understand the blood, sweat and tears left on the soil by their ancestors.  To be surrounded by nearly 200 years of that humbles a guy and makes him want to do his part in building this place for future generations.

The second reason I think I feel this deep connection is maybe because of what I lamented at the beginning.  Thrown into a small school made up of kids from Culver, Argos, Tyner, LaPaz, Bourbon, and Plymouth made me realize the rivalries that far too often go beyond the basketball court, didn't translate within our friendships.  Which then led to hanging out at the Culver drive-in and going to their theater, grabbing supper at the Log House in Argos, or spending many a Friday nights in Plymouth.  Add to that, traversing country roads in and out of every little hamlet and burg, and soon it began to feel like all of Marshall County was my hometown.  Now, I have great memories of going to LaPaz School and the Church of God, and in many respects, Bremen felt like home since we did most of our shopping there, including getting my haircut at Don the barber's.  But the broader appreciation, and the ghosts if you will, from having spent my growing up time in each of our communities, spurs a greater devotion to make sure we all are succeeding.  We might not always agree or see things the same way, but we truly are stronger together.

If a guy can claim a whole county as his hometown, I'd like to stake that claim.  The memories, the history, and working with others over the last 20 years blurs the lines on the map.  In the words of Rodney Atkins, "These are my people, this is where I come from.  We're givin' this life everything we got and then some."

10 April 2014

The Schroeder Family of North Township

The Robert Schroeder Family
Here's a little history (ok, a lot of history) on the family who developed our farm:

Robert Schroeder, Sr. was born in Dearborn County, Indiana on October 27, 1815 to Peter and Nancy Lyons Schroeder.  This was one year prior to Indiana being granted statehood.  Peter was born in Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania on November 11, 1786 to Nicholas and ____ Schroeder.  Peter’s parents had emigrated from Prussia in 1785 and settled in Schuylkill County, PA.  Nicholas was born in Prussia in 1745 and died in 1819 in Virginia.  He was a Lutheran minister who moved briefly to Dearborn County, Indiana before returning to Virginia.  They had two children:  Peter and John.

Peter Schroeder married Nancy Lyons in Dearborn County, Indiana in 1812.  Nancy’s parents emigrated from England, first settling in Virginia then moving to Indiana.  Peter and Nancy Schroeder had seven children:  Susanna, Robert, Eliza (Cummins), Peter, Jessee, John, and Joel.  They moved to Rush county in 1820, then to Clinton County in 1831.  Eliza (1817-1884) married David Cummins in Clinton County; they moved to Marshall County in October, 1834.  David Cummins was described as one of the oldest citizens of North Township, having always lived in sight of where he first located (McDonald, 1881).  The Cummins lived just northeast of the Schroeders, on the first road north of the Schroeder Farmstead.  Jessee Schroeder moved to Iowa during the early 1830s, but relocated to Marshall County with his wife, Emily, in 1833, settling along the Michigan Road, but then after 1860 moved to a farm in Polk Township.

Peter Schroeder and Robert Schroeder came to the area that would become Marshall County first in 1832 for exploration purposes.  The two dug ginseng and gathered cranberries to sell to markets in Logansport and Lafayette (History of Indiana, Marshall County Edition, Vol. 2, 1890).  The two spent a few months in the area then returned to Clinton County.  Robert was so pleased with the area that he returned in September, 1833, and settled near the location of the farmstead; he resided in the county for the remainder of his life.  When Robert settled in the county there were only two white families living in the county:  Samuel Taber (his son, Cyrus, was the first white child born in the county on June, 26, 1833), and Charles Ousterhaut.  Both families settled in the spring of 1832 and lived south of Plymouth.  Upon arriving in the county Robert was employed as a superintendent of construction by contractors opening the Michigan Road through Plymouth and some distance north and south of the town; he also assisted in constructing the first bridge across the Yellow River in Plymouth (McDonald, 1881 & 1908). The 1876 Illustrated Atlas states that Robert and Jesse Schroeder (brothers) settled along the line of the Michigan Road in 1832 and were the only white inhabitants in the area until 1835 when the remainder of the lands was open for settlement.

Siblings, c. 1910, prior to dredging Brush Creek
In 1834 Robert was joined by the remainder of his father’s family.  Peter located on Michigan Road lands a three miles north of Plymouth.  This appears to be on Section 9 of Michigan Road lands in North Township, in the vicinity or partly located on the original Robert Schroeder Farmstead.  The Hoosier Homestead awarded to the Schroeder Farmstead in 1977 stated that the farm had been in the family since 1833, indicating a portion of it had been the land on which Robert Sr. settled when he first came to the county (Farmers Exchange, June 17, 1977).  A quit claim suit in 1935 names Peter Schroeder (first, January 17, 1837) and successive owners of the “south part of the north half of the northwest fractional quarter of Section 9 of Michigan Road Lands by Galeman Dexter.  This would appear to be on the east side of Michigan Road, and the south side of 5B Road, an area where it is reported that Peter and Robert operated a cooper shop in the mid 1830s (Marshall County Genealogical Society Library Links, Summer 2011).  Peter Schroeder (Sr.) was present at the organization of the county in 1836, being appointed one of two first associate judges when the first term of court was organized in October, 1836 (1876 Illustrated Atlas); he continued in that role until 1843.  Peter was also listed in estry papers in 1838, having found a cow on his property.  Nancy Lyons Schroeder died in 1846 and was buried at Fairmount Cemetery, just north of the farmstead along the Michigan Road.  Peter (Sr.) died on November 15, 1868 and was also buried at Fairmount Cemetery (Marshall County Republican, Vol. 13, November 26, 1868).  Their son Joel, aged 15 years, 8 months, and 26 days, died on November 20, 1840 and was also buried at the Fairmount Cemetery.  This would have been one of the earliest interments at the cemetery.

Robert, in conjunction with Mr. Packard, erected the first sawmill in the county on Pine Creek in what would become Polk Township in 1835, as well as a log hut in which he resided during that time.  Robert Schroeder’s first home was described as a log cabin that had been built on what was the Frank Martin farm in the 1920s; this is located in the northwest corner of the intersection at Black Bridges (LaPaz: First 100 years).  The saw mill was abandoned.  Robert returned to central Indiana to marry Catherine Driskill on February 1, 1836 in Tippecanoe County.  Catherine was born on January 28, 1817 to William and Elizabeth Driskill in Clinton County, Ohio.  Robert became the North Township Constable in 1837 and held the office of County Commissioner from 1849-1851.  In 1840 both Robert and Peter Schroeder are listed as heads of households in Marshall County.  And in 1843 both are listed under a tax duplicates list for North Township.

Robert and Catherine were the parents of nine children, three of whom died in infancy.  The children who grew to maturity are John (b. 1838), Caroline (Thompson) (b. 1841), Mary (b. 1844), Susanna (Byers), Catherine (Trowbridge) (b. 1852), and Robert Jr. (b. 1860).  Two children who bore their father’s parents’ names, Peter and Nancy, died December 26, 1857 (age 1 year, 7 months, and 11 days) and November 16, 1850 (age 1 year, 8 months, and 8 days) respectively.  They are buried next to each other at the Fairmount Cemetery.  The name of the third child, its’ death and burial location is unknown, but likely it occurred prior to 1850, and likely it was buried at Fairmount.

In the 1850 census Robert is listed as a farmer and head of household in North Township.  His wife, Catherine, and children John (12), Caroline (9), Mary, Susana, and Nancy are also listed.  John was called the second white child born in the county in a news article reporting his death in 1925 (Plymouth Pilot, November 3, 1925); his birth would have been in 1838 and the article stated that his family had settled near Burns Bridge.  Robert, along with his brother John and Mr. Woodward (also from the area) left for California to mine for gold in 1852; they returned in 1855.  The same year the Marshall County Agricultural Society was formed “chiefly through the efforts of Robert Schroeder” and two other men (1876 Illustrated Atlas).  In 1857 Robert became a Wesleyan Methodist minister and in 1858 he was admitted to the Marshall County Bar.  He made a lucrative business of drafting legal documents.

The house, as it pretty much looks today too
The 1860 census lists Robert Schroeder Sr. as the head of household in North Township.  Catherine, his wife, and children Caroline, Mary, Catherine, Susan, and Robert, Jr. are also listed.  From 1860 to 1868 Robert Sr. engaged again in the mill and lumber business.  The family moved into their new homestead in 1867; it was located on a parcel containing just over 150 acres.  In 1870 the family is listed in the North Township census with children Mary, Catherine, Robert, and grandson Edward who was Mary’s son (born in 1862) and retained the Schroeder name.  Farmhands and maid William Wilkinson, Joshua Bryan, and Margaret Middleton, also resided with the family.  Robert Sr. was elected Justice of the Peace for North Township in 1874 and held the office for four years.  When the Old Settlers’ Society of Marshall County formed in 1878 he was unanimously elected President, since he was the oldest resident in the county at that time.  He was also a Notary Public from 1858 into the 1880s.

The 1880 census lists the family with children Mary and Robert Jr. still residing at home, along with grandson Edward.  Jane Wade, a maid, was also living with the family.  In 1880 Robert Sr. ran for the office of State Representative; he lost by only 331 votes.  Robert Sr. was a staunch Republican, having originally aligned himself with the Whig party then gravitating to the Republican Party when the Whig party dissolved.  He was also a firm promoter of the Temperance Movement.  Robert Sr. drew up a will on November 26, 1886, naming Robert Jr., and Edward, his grandson, at co-executors.  The will provided that the entire estate be left to his wife Catherine in the event of his death, with a stipend of $50 annually to Mary as long as she remained unmarried.  In the event that Catherine would die first, the entire estate was to be divided equally between Robert Jr. and Edward, and again, provide for the annual stipend to Mary.  Robert Sr. indicated that his other children were remembered by advancements he had made.

Their daughter Susanna, who had married Jacob Byers and moved to Iowa, made yearly trips back to the farmstead to visit the family.  She struggled with an illness in 1887 and thought a trip to the comforts of her native home would improve her health.  She instead died at the Schroeder Homestead on September 12 of that year, with her parents by her bedside.  She was buried at Fairmount Cemetery.

The mother, Catherine, died on March 14, 1890.  The location of her death was not mentioned in the obituary, but it is assumed she was at the homestead.  The obituary complimented Catherine by stating that the “hospitality of the Schroeder Household is known to almost every person in the county”.  She left behind her husband, three daughters, two sons, 26 grandchildren, and eight great grandchildren.  Services were held at the Fairmount United Brethren Church and she was buried at Fairmount Cemetery.  Robert Sr. died at his home on Tuesday afternoon of August 7, 1894 after being ill for several weeks, only able to sit in a chair “day and night”.  His funeral service was also held at the Fairmount United Brethren Church, and he was buried next to his wife.  At the time of his death he was called the oldest settler of Marshall County.  Their tombstone is inscribed with “first white settler of Marshall County.”

John Schroeder, the eldest son of Robert Sr., married Mary Abshire (b. 1843) in 1861.  They are listed in the 1870 census for North Township with the following children:  Milroy (possibly also known as James) (b. 1862), Mary (b. 1865), Sarah (b. 1867), and William (b. 1869).  William was a private with company M, 157th, IVI, in the Spanish American War; he died in the war.  There are two J. Schroeder residences listed on the 1880 North Township plat map.  One contains 80 acres and is immediately south of the Robert Schroeder Sr. farmstead.  The other contains 82 acres and is located just west of the Michigan Road, west of the Schroeder farmstead; the latter was owned by Carrie Schroeder in 1908.  These could be John, the son, or John the brother to Robert.  Both John (presumably the son) and Robert Sr. created a mortgage for the property south of the farmstead in 1876; likely the son built the homestead on that property that appears in the 1880 plat.  John, the son, was estranged for his wife for several years prior to his death in 1925.  He died at the county home at which he had been a resident since 1919; he was buried at Oakhill Cemetery in Plymouth.  Mary died in 1933 and was also buried at Oakhill.

Robert Sr.’s daughter, Catherine Trowbridge, died in 1928 and was also buried at Oakhill Cemetery.  Edward, the grandson who inherited an equal half of the estate, constructed a home further east of the homestead in about 1900, on the same side of the road.  Edward died in 1919 and was buried at Oakhill; his wife, also named Carrie, died in 1964.  Edward and Carrie’s children were E. Naomi (Stoneburner) (b. 1901), Olive R. (Dodson) (b. 1904), and Clarice E. (b. 1906).

After Edward’s death the jointly owned property, owned by his heirs and Robert Jr.’s heirs, was divided.  Edward’s heirs received the easternmost 40 acres of the farmstead and the south half of the acreage owned west of the railroad.  The remainder went to Robert’s heirs.  The division of land, included in the abstract, stated that Robert Jr. and Edward had jointly erected two dwellings and one barn on the farmstead.  A verbal agreement between the two men resulted in a general division of the land for farming and a general division of the barn for each to use half.  The house occupied by Edward Schroeder was to be removed from the lands that would be divided to Robert Schroeder Jr.’s heirs, and to vacate his half of the barn without doing damage to the barn.  If the men jointly erected the existing barn on the property, it likely was constructed during the 1880s.  The second dwelling constructed by the men mentioned in the abstract may have been a small farmhand quarters on the property, possibly used by Robert Jr. until his father’s passing when he moved his family into the homestead.

Robert Schroeder Jr. married Carrie Kleckner (b. 1871) on February 2, 1888.  They took up residence in the homestead, possibly prior to his parents’ death.  They were listed in the 1900 North Township census with their children:  Agnes (b. 1891), Veva (Basset), and Lynda (Thomas).  By 1910 two other children were listed with them:  Mildred (Boggs) and Kenneth (b. 1906).  Carrie’s brother, Harry and his wife, Maude Kleckner, and Carrie’s mother, Malinda, were also living with them.  They had a number of boarders:  Samuel Zile, Otto Dock, Ben Farel, John Anderson, Herbert Espach, Cliff Sanseman, Frank Whitner, John Williamson, George Barber, and George Moslander.  A speculative interurban line was being constructed through the Schroeder farmstead during this time and the census states that at least two of these men were working on the “electric road”.  The others were denoted with “odd jobs”, possibly farmhands.

Robert Schroeder Jr. died in 1917 and was buried at Oakhill Cemetery.  The same year two of his daughters, Lynda and Agnes, moved to South Dakota to teach.  Lynda met William Thomas in South Dakota and was married there in 1918.  Their only child, Robert, was born there on July 31, 1920.  The mother, Carrie, died in 1933 and was buried next to her husband.  Their son Kenneth, who remained a bachelor, became the sole resident of the homestead.  Kenneth made improvements to the barn in 1926; his initials “KWS” and “1926” are inscribed in the concrete on the west wall of the basement.  Agnes, who also remained unmarried, received the homestead from Kenneth in 1938.  Kenneth died in 1944 and Agnes died in 1947.  Both are buried at Oakhill.

Lynda Thomas’s family moved back to Marshall County on March 20, 1940 and took up residence in the homestead.  William and Lynda Thomas began raising beef cattle on the farmstead, which they increased to over 200 acres.  Their son, Robert “Bob” married Dorothy Carothers on June 7, 1944, who grew up on the farmstead immediately south of the Schroeder farmstead (the home fronts the Michigan Road).  

08 April 2014

Old Bourbon Gym-Iconic Indiana

The Old Bourbon Gym is heading for a listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  This may open the door for funding to complete some restoration work on the beloved community landmark.  Personally, I've never been in a better preserved gym from the time basketball was quickly becoming THE Hoosier pastime.  Good luck Bourbon, and God bless for saving this icon of Indiana.  The following is a brief history of the gym courtesy of KW Garner Consulting.

The Bourbon Community Building-Gymnasium was used for entertainment and recreation, as well as other community functions associated with the school.  School plays were held in the building using a stage built into the east wall.  Usually two plays a year were held:  a school play and a senior play.  Graduation commencements were also held in the gym.  Prior to its construction, the community often used opera houses in the downtown or church sanctuaries for commencement programs and other entertainment functions.  It appears the first graduation commencement ceremony held in the gym occurred in 1931.  A program for the event indicates the location as the “Community Hall”.  The new building also included a projection room from which moving pictures could be shown to a large audience.  The new community hall/gymnasium had filled a previous unmet need in the community for a facility large enough to accommodate such social activities.

The most pervasive use of the building was for athletic purposes, and more specifically for basketball.  With the growing popularity of basketball at the turn of the century, communities typically found large open halls in the upper floors of downtown buildings in which to play the sport.  Bourbon was no different.  In 1915 basketball was played in the Davis Opera House, a facility that also had served as a site for graduation ceremonies.  The Bourbon teams were called the “Comets”.  A girls’ basketball team was formed in 1918.  In 1928, with the construction of the community hall/gymnasium, the community had a new facility in which to play the sport.  The Bourbon boys’ basketball team won the Marshall County championship game over Plymouth in 1940.  They won sectional titles in 1943, 1950, and 1962.  The 1962 sectional title was won in a close game over the Bremen Lions with a final score of 56 to 55.  After consolidation in 1963, the corporation’s team names were changed to the Triton Trojans.

Basketball was invented at Springfield College in Massachusetts in 1891.  Its inventor, Dr. James Naismith, conceived the sport to provide athletic activity for young men during the winter months.  Reverend Nicholas McKay was one of the students who learned the sport from Naismith while attending college at Springfield.  McKay was sent to Crawfordsville, Indiana after his studies ended in Springfield.  McKay, working for the YMCA, organized the first game of basketball in Crawfordsville in 1894 where a team fielded by the Crawfordsville YMCA played against a team fielded by the Lafayette YMCA.  The game was played in a large upper floor hall in downtown Crawfordsville, using wood peach baskets for hoops into which the basketballs were tossed.  The sport was particularly well-received in Indiana.  By 1911 the state’s first tourney was held at Indiana University in Bloomington; twelve teams participated.  By 1938 over 800 schools participated in the state tournament.  The popularity of the sport continued to grow through the 1940s and 1950s, but attendance began to waiver as school consolidation during the 1960s began to reduce the number of schools participating in tournament play.

E. P. Smith, who served as Bourbon’s principal from 1928-1956, described the gymnasium-community hall addition in a Bourbon News-Mirror newspaper article on September 5, 1929.  Smith said that the community hall or “gym” as it was more practically called provided seating for 500 people in the built-in bleachers on the south side of the gym.  “Knock-down” bleachers on the north side of the gym provided for seating for 400 more people.  The gym was described as having two shower room and two dressing rooms (these are located beneath the built-in bleachers on the south side of the building).  The shower and dressing rooms could accommodate either two boys or girls teams.  The article stated that the building also had a fireproof room for a moving picture projector, though it appears that the building was not furnished with a projector until the class of 1940 purchased it as a senior gift.  The building also had a 20’ x 30’ stage constructed off its east side into the existing school building.  Curtains for the stage were purchased by the class of 1928 as a senior gift.  The article described the interior finishes:  the walls were composed of glazed tile and the gym floor is maple.  The principal stated the need for the facility because physical training had become a required course of study in Indiana.

02 April 2014

Will God make it 3 for 3?

Hoosier Reborn & Family at Sycamore Hill, Indiana
So-this notebook from my previous post.  In September, 2007, a band by the name of Simple Man followed our church leadership to their annual retreat which, in my mind anyway, became one of the most important watershed moments for the direction of the church.  The band came back to the church at the conclusion of the retreat to hold some time of reflection and worship for the congregation, just as they had facilitated on the retreat.

While the band was in town, our pastor asked if the lead singer would come in and pray specifically for a couple of guys in our church-me being one.  Dan (the singer) suggested I read a book called Discover Your Destiny.  Hmmmm.  I'm not typically one to get into self-help, self-actualizing types of books, so I was pretty skeptical.  But, I relented...and went through the book, journaling out the questions at the end of each chapter in my notebook.

As I went through each chapter and series of questions, the book led me (any reader) to process through goals and desires in your life to better understand what may be preventing you from fulfilling those.  It helped the reader pare down all of the "stuff" into three concrete dreams/desires of your heart.  I landed on these three:  start my own business focusing on preservation, have a place of retreat in the country, and change the culture of politics particularly in relationship to the Church in America.  As I was reading through the broad aspects of what these would look like and what would be necessary to see these happen, all recorded right there in my notebook on pages dated from October through December, 2007, it was quite startling to realize that in just seven years two of the three have been fulfilled.  Two out of three.  2 of 3.  In seven years.

How would I have ever known that by the end of June in 2008, I would have to make a decision to step out of the only job I had ever known and start my own business....in my own words to "ride it for as long as God lets me."  God still has me on that ride.  And then at the end of 2009, I would stumble upon this place of respite in the country we call Sycamore Hill, Indiana.  Which, I realized in sketching out a logo for the farm using its initials, in reverse, they are I H S...in His service.

So, God's left the toughest one until last.  And it's the only one I didn't ask for myself, though I desperately want to be an agent for change in breaking the sad culture of politics in our community.....and more broadly, change the culture of the Church as it relates to politics.  I don't know what that looks like honestly.  And I don't even know if I will get to be a part of that.  But for both the health of the Church, and the health of our community, we need to more fully grasp the negative impact of politics as usual.  I've been told to keep these kinds of comments to myself-that somehow it is unhealthy to talk about it in light of the Church, or that it only alienates me in political circles.  Yeah, somehow I think ignoring it won't lead to change.

So, now with a new understanding of how I need to be truly thankful for realizing and living those first two goals, I can only patiently pray that God will answer the third.  But I can't keep quiet....not when I'm expecting 3 for 3.

31 March 2014

Author & Finisher of the Notebook

From one of the retreat hikes
I have this old leather bound book-part sketchbook, part notebook, part journal, part prayer book.  I picked it up in 2003 during a trip to Galena, Illinois.  I keep it in a drawer in the coffee table.  It's very handy that way.  It isn't full yet, several more years to go, I'm sure.  The book has walked with me through some pretty difficult times in my life, through some dark times, through some pretty amazing times too.  It's become a chronology of the last decade of my life.

In February, 2008, it followed me to a cabin in southern Indiana for a focused time of prayer and seeking God.  I prepped my time by writing out several probing questions I wanted to ponder.  Instead I came back, questions unanswered, but with a much broader understanding of what God was doing in my life by just telling me to stop and enjoy "the clearing".  Several pages were filled during that retreat-and in looking back the scribbles became almost prophetic as life took some surprising turns later that same year.

Earlier this year we scheduled a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association in Madison, Indiana last week.  Realizing my wife and kids would be in Florida, and that I really love that area of Indiana-it seemed only appropriate to take a few days for myself.  But, booking a room where I had wanted to stay became an issue and ultimately I landed on returning to the state park, an hour away from Madison, where I had retreated to the cabin in 2008.  This only seemed appropriate since my wife "gifted" this retreat idea to me at Christmas.

The notebook followed me again to the cabin.  Early Thursday morning, before I set out for a hike, I started flipping through the book and landed on the pages filled six years ago.  So much has happened in those six years.  The words I read began to settle pretty deep in my soul.  And on the sleet-bathed hike they began to gnaw at me.  I got back to the cabin, plopped down on a couch, and started flipping back page by page chronologically.  And what it revealed, honestly, began to almost overwhelm me.

There was God.  Every step of the way.  In every page, walking through this notebook as if He were the author building and revealing plot lines in His own timing.  In simple journal entries from reading through the Bible in a year, in entries made from questions out of a book about our destinies, in simple questions and prayers that I scribbled down beginning in 2003.  In freehand sketch after sketch of the David Tree, of the lake outside that cabin, of a cleansing waterfall.

After reading aloud the fifth or sixth entry to my buddy who was trying to do his own thing......he said "that's quite a record" probably to shut me up.  I know, right?  So, I made a simple entry in the book during this retreat.  I wrote out my life verse, Micah 6:8, and journal-prayed it underneath the passage.  And that seemed like enough.  The affirmation found in seeing God page after page, made me realize.....well.....that that's all I really needed to know.  He'll be in future pages building and revealing the plot.  God, the Author & Finisher of our faith, my faith.....here in a tangible notebook.

27 March 2014


Flipping through some old files from my earlier campaigns I came across a letter written to party leadership in April, 2006, along with a "manifesto".  I don't see that my core values have changed during this time, but I found it quite interesting.  I soon remembered the scenario that led to the letter and values document.  The term manifesto has gotten a bum rap-often tied to probably the most famous manifesto (the communist one), but Ron Paul called one of his books a manifesto-so we find it used at both ends of the spectrum.

Today's leaders are careful not to fulfill the definition of manifesto in their words.  They hold their fingers up to see which way the wind (money too) is blowing, and then make decisions on that.  Not to be caught in flip-flopping or taking a position that might be unpopular with some, we see leaders with hidden agendas, scurrilous motives, and unable to take a stand for much of anything.  Looking back now, though I felt a bit indignant in having to defend myself, giving definition to who I am and what I believe has made me stronger in my convictions.  So...it's all good.

My letter stated that it was done to defend my conservative nature and began with "To write briefly of my Republican"ness":  I am descended from generations of Republicans and for over a decade had the opportunity to glean insight from probably our best party model, Doc Bowen......Regarding a possible agenda, I have no defense.  I do have an agenda-it's called a vision, a set of goals.  The thought that it is somehow hidden is ridiculous.  Likely I have been scrutinized more than most because of what I have produced.  There has been nothing hidden or inconsistent since I returned to my community after college.  My agenda is to serve the public, to make our community and county the best they can be."

And now publicly for the first time, the Manifesto:

I believe foremost in modeling Christ as the method to which I will apply myself and weigh decisions.  I will make and have made mistakes, but it is core to my belief system.  My values have been instilled through generations of conservative family and political leaders I admire.  Doc Bowen has been my model of servant leadership, I also admire the vision Ronald Reagan outlined for our country and the rugged spirit of individualism Teddy Roosevelt adhered to.

I believe in individual rights, but with those rights come great responsibility.  We must not infringe upon the rights of others or burden our society.  While my responsibility may be to serve the public, I believe our greater responsibility is to the next generation.

One should teach a person how to fish rather than give them fish, but not permit them to starve in the learning process.  Empowerment of the individual makes contributing members of our society, but in that must be understood the need to act collectively as a community.  I believe in, and am a product of, a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit; my expectations of others are grounded in this.

I believe in order and enforcement of our laws.  There must be firm and appropriately severe consequences to the violation of our laws.

I believe in strict financial stewardship and diligent savings.  I do not believe in spending beyond available means.  I personally do not believe in the pursuit of wealth for its own sake; our calling should be our pursuit.

While me must continually find ways to streamline government and lower costs, I also recognize that our quality of life has the potential to attract people and investment to our community.  Dollars spent wisely will prove financially prudent long-term.

Private investment is the bedrock of economic success for society.  I also believe that there may be circumstances for government to apply itself or assist investment for the greater good when private investment on its own proves impossible.  I am also committed to the preservation of local vendors versus national competition for our local economy.

Government should set the standard for society.  Government should be a symbol of civic pride, just as our forefathers created it to be and left as a heritage for us.

We have been divinely appointed as stewards of our environment and therefore should work actively toward its betterment.  Our health depends largely upon its health.

I believe that there must be a vision for the future and careful planning to achieve it.  This vision must be one that is created by and for the people, championed by leaders and be grounded in our rights under the Constitution.

25 March 2014

The call to Fiji

My little brother's family-Fiji-bound
Sunday morning I dropped my wife and kids off at the airport in South Bend.  They were Florida-bound to spend time with her parents and soak in the warmth and sun.  Meanwhile, back in Indiana, snow is in the forecast again.

After I left the airport, I made a b-line for Middlebury where my little brother was preaching his last service at a church he had been with for eight years.  His family is Fiji-bound.  For two years.  That's a long time for so far away.  The church gave them a great celebratory service with a dinner after.  The theme of the service was answering the call.  My brother's family is answering a call by God on their lives in their move to Fiji to start a new ministry on the islands.

I began pondering what exactly a call from God can look like.  What the conversation with God goes like in answering the call, and how obedience to a calling may not necessarily result in how we think it should look.  I think the entire crux of "the call" isn't what may follow, but instead that we follow.  That we respond in obedience to what God is asking of us.  What happens next is entirely up to God.  Success, failure, joy, pain...all may follow a call on your life regardless if it is to Fiji or across the street.

God's just looking for obedience.  He's not looking for rock stars....quite the opposite I'm sure.  I hear of people who have stepped out and answered a call on their lives, only to be met with what most of us would perceive as failure.  And then we, and maybe because of us, those who answered the call, begin to question if they heard God correctly.  And doubt sets in.  Yet God's "success" was in the obedience and surrender of hearts in answering His call.  Not in what followed.

I've gently rebuffed comments by a few people who have framed my campaign as maybe part of some larger plan by God.  I used to think that way, but that's not what God is looking for.  He's just looking for someone to be obedient.  That's it.  It doesn't translate to a win or loss.  It's about understanding my heart, knowing God in how He created me, and answering the call.  And then learning about Him and myself along the way-in success and failure, in joy and pain.

Think about it this way.  When our kids were much younger, there were times we rewarded good decisions that they made by giving them a piece of candy or a cookie.  My wife and I weren't excited about the cookie-we were just pleased that they made the right decision, that they were obedient.  As our children grew older and we weened them off "rewards", they still (not always of course!) were obedient.  That's what brought us pleasure, because we knew that in being obedient they were making good decisions that would be for their own good.

Being God's children, we're left with decisions to be obedient all the time.  We're not entitled to rewards just because we answered the call.  If we demanded a cookie every time we obeyed God, the first time we weren't rewarded might be the last time we obeyed.

I'm fully confident my brother and his family are answering this call out of obedience.  In that sense, God's plan has already been fulfilled in his life....because His plan for each of us is simply to follow Him.  Too often we put the focus on ourselves by talking about a greater, larger plan of God for our lives.  God's just calling us daily to follow Him-let Him worry about the bigger picture and define what are our successes and failures.

20 March 2014

How much more German can it get?

Marriage certificate for my great, great grandparents-Carson & Clara Ewald, 1895.
If you haven't figured it out, I'm sticking with a family history theme this month.  My oldest roots in the county are deep in the soil of German Township.  During the early 1830s a few of my German-immigrant ancestors began to settle in the township that would ultimately bear their fatherland's name.  The following generations did what cultural anthropologists tell us runs counter-cultural to most immigrant groups.  They held on to their native traditions, and tongues.

Birth certificate for my great grandmother, Edna Ewald Hochstetler, 1896.
From my ancestors the Roths (later changed to Rhodes), Schwiesbergers, Walmers, Ewalds, Bargers (later changed to Bergers), and Geyers descended German traditions tied most tightly to the Lutheran and Methodist churches in Bremen.  St. Paul's Lutheran and Salem United Methodist both continued the tradition of preaching sermons in German well into the first decades of the 20th century.

Not long ago my great aunt gave my mother color copies of marriage and birth certificates belonging to the family.  These were printed in their native tongue.  Aside from the rich color graphics of two of the documents, and the gold-leafing of the other, it's the German lettering on the documents that make them great vestiges of family history.

Birth certificate from my great x3 grandparents, 1871.

The oldest document is a birth and baptismal certificate for George Roth and Catherine Schwiesberger (my 3x great grandparents), from 1871.  Their daughter, Clara, married Carson Ewald in Bremen in 1895, which is the certificate with the oval-shaped design.  Carson and Clara Ewald had my great grandmother, Edna, whose birth certificate is dated January 15, 1896 and has the image of a dove, rainbow, and Easter lilies.  I find it interesting that by the time Edna was born, the branches of families had been living in the United States for not less than three generations.

18 March 2014

A Culver Family's Sacrifice

The Howard & Coral Bryant, Norm & Louise Lamunion, and Wesley & Chloe Bryant families of Culver
One of my favorite old family photos, though it is in poor condition, is one that was taken when my grandparents and my grandmother's family lived in Culver during the 1930s-1940s.  My great grandfather, Wesley Bryant, lost their farm near Argos during the Great Depression.  They relocated to Culver and bought a small house in town.  They had four sons and one daughter, Alice-my grandmother.  The oldest son, Henry, and my grandmother were already married and out of the house.  My grandparents also chose to live in Culver where my grandfather worked for the state highway, and my grandmother was a regular guest singer at a Culver radio station.

Private First Class Harold Bryant's gravestone in Culver.
When World War II began, my grandmother's three brothers who still lived at home all enlisted.  Herberdean (Beanie), Hilton (Bugsy), and Harold (the youngest) were called away to serve their country abroad.  My grandmother and grandfather, who had a hearing impairment and could not enlist, went to work at the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant.  They had a ration of gasoline to get them, and a carpool of other workers, from Culver to the plant on a daily basis.  Henry established a factory in Kingsford Heights and made rubber boots and coats for soldiers.  Henry's daughter married a Kabelin in LaPorte and began the regionally-based hardware chain.

From left to right:  the Lamunions, Howard & Coral Bryant, Harold Bryant, and Wesley & Chloe Bryant at Culver Cemetery
The old photo-which looks to have been taken during the winter months-was the last snapshot of the family all-together on the front porch of their Culver home.  The last photo, because Harold never returned.  He was killed on Christmas Eve during the Battle of the Bulge.  He, and my great grandparents, were laid to rest in the cemetery on Culver's south side.  My great grandmother's sister, Coral, married my great grandfather's brother, Howard, and they had one child-Louise, who married Norm Lamunion-an old Culver family.  The Bryants and Lamunions all share a row in the cemetery's midsection.

15 March 2014

Three generations at LaPaz School

My grandmother's diploma from LaPaz High School, 1941.  It has a nice graphic of the school in the center of the diploma, unlike my grandfather's which came from Bremen High School.

I first wrote about going to LaPaz Elementary School on this blog a few years ago.  Since that time, I've written a few posts, but I don't know if I shared that I was the third generation in my family to attend the school.  Recently, while going through a few boxes of old photos, I came across class pictures of my dad's class and my grandmother's classes from their elementary years.  So I thought I would find one of mine from about the same grade and place them in a row.  My dad, Jack, and my grandmother-who evidently went by "Rosy"-had their class pictures taken outside of the building-it appears to be outside of the 1928 consolidated school (just outside the music room for those LaPazites).  By the time I was attending LaPaz, it was only an elementary school and it seems like we always had our class photos taken inside the building.  In my picture, we are standing in the gym in front of the stage.  I certainly miss this old school!

My grandmother's second grade class at LaPaz School, c. 1931.  My grandmother's on the top row, second kid from the right.  Check out the kid on the bottom row with his hands over his face!

My dad's third grade class at LaPaz School, c. 1955.  My dad's on the bottom row with his arms crossed.

My second grade class at LaPaz Elementary, 1977.  I'm on the bottom row, first kid on the right.  The kid on the opposite side from me, bottom row, and I became best friends and got together just last night-37 years later.  And I'm friends with several of these kids on Facebook!

12 March 2014

Not to be left out: Cromwell

Main street - Cromwell
You have to be intentional about going to Cromwell, Indiana.  Such was the case when I was asked to visit the community and give my opinion on its downtown district, restoration opportunities, and its eligibility for the National Register.  Tucked away on the west side of Noble County, the folks had heard of the work being done in their county seat, Albion, and didn't want to be left out.  And now, with the exception of Avilla, every village of any size in Noble County is now, or will be, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  That's something to celebrate....and market.

Downtown Cromwell - the c. 1874 "Cromwell House", endangered of being demolished, on right
The town's history began when Harrison Wood employed the county surveyor to lay out the village of Cromwell in 1853.  The original plat included 28 lots radiating from the intersection of Orange (also known as Albion Road) and Jefferson Streets.  The first resident was Able Mullen, who had constructed a log house a few years prior in the spring of 1849.  The town was named after the English political and military leader, Oliver Cromwell.  The first school in Cromwell was located near the railroad tracks on the north side of town.  It was constructed out of logs in about 1840.  The railroad provided the impetus for quick population growth.  By 1895 the population was 450.  By 1899 it reached 500.  Then in 1901 it climbed to 640 and to 700 by 1919.  By 1953 the population stabilized.  Cromwell incorporated as a town in 1902; the same year it installed lights.  By 1914 the town had reached its historic boundaries with new plats mostly established on each side of Jefferson Street north to the railroad.

The extraordinary 1901 Queen Anne-style Hussey House
Cromwell is going through a bit of a renewal, embracing its connection to Oliver Cromwell.  Unfortunately one building, likely the oldest building in town at c. 1874, is threatened with demolition.  The old building had a hotel on its second floor that was known as the Cromwell House and Central Hotel during the late 1800s and as the early 1900s, and later as the Kimmel House.  The building has had a restaurant operating from its first floor since the early 1900s, known as the Home Restaurant.  The hotel rented rooms for $1.00 per day in c. 1910.  The building’s north storefront was used as a bank and the first picture show was shown from the same storefront in 1915; it continued as a movie house into the 1920s.  Another remarkable building in town is the 1901 Harry Hussey House.  The Husseys operated a large drugstore in Cromwell under the name Hussey & Son.  Harry Hussey joined his father, Martin, in the drugstore business near the turn of the 19th century.