18 January 2020

Gafill Oil Company in Argos

My great-grandfather (above) may have started our family in the fuel business with his employment as the agent for an oil company in Argos during the 1930s-1950s.  Harley Garner became the manager for the Gafill Oil Company in Argos; the company had both a bulk sales and retail sales location in town.  The Gafill Oil Company was established in South Bend by J. Bruce Gafill in 1915 with capital of $10,000.  It was sold by about 1958 when many of the larger companies were buying up small distributors.  Gafill was no small operation though, their distribution was widespread through Northern Indiana and was a familiar sign seen along the Lincoln & Dixie Highways (Argos being on the latter) for tourists.  In 1940, both Harley and Merritt Garner (his oldest son) worked for the company's Argos location, as the New Year's greeting below demonstrates.

In 1946, Gafill built a new service station on the northwest corner of Church and Michigan (old 31) Streets in Argos.  The 60 x 56 building set back from the street and had concrete paving "improving the eye value of the location."  The new building offered "tile lined, sanitary restrooms to serve the traveling public." The company said the station with its bulk plant nearer the railroad was one of its main distribution centers.  Harley Garner and Herman Ault had the two delivery routes in that year.  HY Pershing owned the service station by 1947, though my great-grandfather continued on as the agent into the early 1950s.  The building was one of the best preserved relics of the town's Old 31 history, which was the second-most traveled highway in Indiana when the station was built.

11 January 2020

When & how did Marshall County get its roads named?

I remember maybe 30 years ago flipping through the abstract of my grandparents' farm and truck stop property and seeing the name associated with the road their farmhouse was on was not one with which I was familiar:  McCullough Road.  Looking at older abstracts, that name was associated with some farms further south-which is no doubt why it got that name.

But that got me wondering, when did Marshall County adopt its road names?  Lately, I've been geeking out on a free service that provides historic newspapers on-line.  Argos, Bremen, and Culver are on that service-unfortunately Plymouth's papers are not.  Many of the early entries reference road names associated with early settlers in that region.  A handful are named for geographic conditions or villages to which the roads connected.

The answer to that question-through a lot of word combinations in the search field-was 1954.  Surprisingly late.  It appears that the county surveyor at that time had been advocating for a numbering or naming system for the county's roads since the mid-1940s, but the $6000 estimate to post signs (there had been no stop signs, let alone road signs) proved cost-prohibitive to the county.  Finally, my mid-July 1954 (the article below is from the Bremen Enquirer 22 July 1954), county road crews were installing signs that featured 3" tall black letters, a white field, and black border, all porcelain.  This style of sign was also adopted and installed in Bremen later that year, and no doubt throughout the other towns about that time.

I remember these signs, do you?  I know they lasted until at least the late 1980s because the one at the corner of Lilac Road and US 6 had gotten knocked by snow plowing and my dad gave me heavy gauge wire and told me to go put the post back up and fix it to the old concrete corner field post.  That means they lasted over 35 years.  They were replaced with green signs, which have now been recently replaced with blue signs.  I thought I had a picture of the old sign on Lilac, but could not find it.  The photo at the top is not from Marshall County, but is nearly identical to the old signs.  If anyone has a photo of the old signs-please share.  I don't believe any of the towns still have these installed.  If anyone has an actual sign from Lilac Road-I may be in the market for purchase.

The county surveyor recommended a naming system that, I believe, followed St. Joseph County's which had been adopted earlier with tree and shrub names on north/south roads in alphabetical order east to west.  And numbered roads, based on mile increments with designations of A, B, and C for roads closer together than a mile.  So, 1st Road and 2nd Road are a mile apart, going north to south, and 1A or 1B would be within that mile block.  The historian in me wishes that we had kept many of those old road names, but clearly from emergency response, a system makes sense.

A few road names did survive like Goshen and LaPorte written about previously.  Muckshaw was derived, according to early county historian Daniel McDonald, from farmers who hated the muck through which the road ran exclaimed "pssshaw!"  Another early road name which continues down from St. Joseph County is Miami Road, whose name is derived from the "old Indian trail" of the Miami Indians leading from the St. Joseph River to the Tippecanoe.  King and Queen Roads were supposed to be the leading north/south collector roads, spaced equally to each side of Michigan Road (the center spine of the county) and the county lines to the east and west.  If there are other road names not associated with the 1954 system that I am forgetting, please let me know-but for some reason, I am very familiar with our county roads-wink emoji.  Above is the 1954 article announcing the installation of the road signs.

03 January 2020

The LaPorte & Goshen Roads' History

With the closure of the intersection of Plymouth-Goshen Road at U.S. 30, I thought it would be good to look back at the history of this road most of us probably are not aware of....and with it the parallel history of the Plymouth-LaPorte Trail.  Only the Michigan Road through Marshall County claims an older history as an established road.  I think sometimes it's hard for us to not think we're the center of the universe, here at the crossroads, but I'll take you back before there was a Plymouth.

Imagine most of  Northern Indiana, north of Logansport to the south edge of the St. Joseph River Valley, was largely unsettled in the 1820s-early 1830s.  A few posts existed in Michigan City (due to the Michigan Road), LaPorte, South Bend, and by the early '30s, Goshen.  This great middle part of Northern Indiana between the Wabash River (canal) and St. Joe River lacked roadways which is why the Michigan Road became so important to the settlement of the state.  To understand the development of the LaPorte and Goshen Roads, you'd have to understand the Michigan Road's history.  Surveyed in 1829, the road connected Madison to Michigan City (established as a port at the northern terminus).  Construction of the road began in 1830 and by 1836 it was mostly complete (passable).  Plymouth was founded in 1836 by three men, one of whom was the chief superintendent of construction on the road-Mr. William Polke.  The road was originally conceived to go north from Logansport to LaPorte, but surveyors felt that the Kankakee Marsh proved too difficult to build through, so it doglegged and went northeast, then straight north toward South Bend.  Both Rochester and Plymouth followed the road.

Prior to Plymouth being established, both LaPorte and Goshen were interested in the construction of the Michigan Road as it came north from Indianapolis.  The Michigan Road brought trade and postal carriers, but more importantly, settlers to the region.  Because of the road's crossing of the Yellow River in what would become Plymouth, both Elkhart and LaPorte County Commissioners felt there was a need to tap into the Michigan Road at that point.  LaPorte County was first to do so.  In 1833, the LaPorte County Commissioners paid for the establishment of the "Yellow River Road" to go southeasterly out of LaPorte toward a crossing of the Kankakee River where a ferry was authorized.  The road also extended northwest from LaPorte to tap into the Michigan Road leading from South Bend to Michigan City.  A bridge over the Kankakee followed shortly after, and the road was planked by the 1840s.  According to Daniel's History of LaPorte County "the road and ferry did much to advance the county in population, as it made Michigan City the market for all the country as far south as Logansport."

Today, this route is part of the state highway system in LaPorte and St. Joseph Counties, but not in Marshall County.  State highway designations are U.S. 35 from its intersection with the Michigan Road (U.S. 20) south to LaPorte, then State Road 4 southeast of LaPorte until 4 turns toward North Liberty-the old trail follows State Road 104 to the west edge of Walkerton (which was not established until the early 1870s).  With some diligence, one can make out segments of the old Yellow River Road, which took on the name "Plymouth-LaPorte Trail" through the southwest corner of Walkerton, then into Marshall County.  While the route succumbed to some straightening on section lines, the old trail can mostly be followed to Plymouth where it enters from the west and becomes LaPorte Street ending just a half-block north of the Yellow River Bridge on Michigan Road.  While not evidenced as much in Marshall County, in LaPorte County the old trail features some of the oldest architecture in Northwest Indiana, including the Major Lemon House, built in 1837 at the crossing of the Kankakee.

The Plymouth-Goshen Trail has a similar history.  Elkhart County Commissioners set to building "highways" a term that literally means "roadways built on high ground" shortly after the county was organized in 1830.  The years 1831-32 saw considerable road building.  But, according to a news article, what became known as the Plymouth Trail was established on October 19, 1835.  The desire of Elkhart County Commissioners would have mirrored those of LaPorte's, to open up a direct route, at its shortest point, to the Michigan Road for settlers, commerce, and postal carriers.  Tapping into the route on the north bank of the Yellow River made the most sense, so the Plymouth-Goshen Trail stayed north of the river, only crossing it at its narrow fork width near what would become Bremen, then meandering southwesterly until it joined the Michigan Road about a mile north of the Yellow River Bridge.  The situation with this route, however, was a little different within the  boundaries of Marshall County because of Bremen being established within ten years of Plymouth, along this route.  That meant that a good trade route between the county's two largest villages was secured.

Again, much like the LaPorte Trail, the Goshen Road follows a southwesterly route from Goshen ignoring cardinal points of a grid, much less section lines.  The trail is intact, for the most part, with its current designation of State Road 119 between Goshen and State Road 19.  However, it suffered from rerouting onto designated county roads as well.  The Plymouth-Goshen Trail is fairly obvious in the northeast corner of Marshall County, and from its intersection with State Road 106 west of Bremen to King Road where it follows about two miles directly south before it cuts off to the southwest again north of King Road's Yellow River Bridge.  Older maps would likely give a better idea of the route before it was conformed to the grid.  The State of Indiana felt that the old route was important enough still to maintain it as an overpass for the new U.S. 31 northeast of Plymouth, however, with the number of accidents occurring now at its intersection with U.S. 30, the road was cut off.  I recall a vote while on the Plymouth Plan Commission when the state asked us which intersection was the most important to address for safety (in about 2005), and we indicated U.S. 30 and Plymouth-Goshen.  And since that time, they've improved three other intersections on 30, but not the one we requested.

If you imagine Plymouth, as a county seat, being connected to all of its neighboring county seats and mostly larger population centers, due to these roads, we should have had greater prosperity.  We had direct routes, the best of their time, to Goshen, South Bend, LaPorte/Michigan City, and Rochester/Logansport.  When the Yellowstone Trail was established in the early 1900s, we were also connected to Warsaw/Ft. Wayne and Valparaiso/Chicago.  I did wonder, though, why the routes in Marshall County were never designated state routes when they were in LaPorte and Elkhart Counties.  So, I did a little investigation that yielded only a little information.  Evidently, when the state highway commission began in earnest designating state routes, Highway 17 had been proposed between Logansport and Goshen, following its current route from Logansport to Plymouth, but then following the Plymouth-Goshen Trail for its last leg.  This was being promoted, particularly by Bremen, as early as 1929 (photo above).  Why it never occurred, and why only the portion of 119 was designated (by 1940), is a mystery to me.  Marshall County was left out.  The Plymouth-LaPorte Trail's lack of designation in Marshall County is also strange.  During the early 1930s, the old trail was considered an "improved" county road in all three counties it touched, however, Marshall County's segment was of a lower quality construction.  This remained true in 1940, though in all counties, the construction improved.  But by 1945, both State Roads 4 (between LaPorte and North Liberty) and 104 (south to Walkerton) had been designated.  It remained a county road south of Walkerton. This may have been in part to the development of the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant during WWII, just west of these routes in LaPorte County.  Left out again.  Did the lack of designations in the 1930s-40s have an economic impact on Marshall County?  It's hard to say.  Being the crossroads doesn't necessarily put you at the center of the universe, even as we sit here now at the crossing of two of Northern Indiana's most important highways: 30 & 31.

01 January 2020

On Center

This past Sunday, pastor brought to consciousness in a new way-at least for me-the importance of Jesus in the role of human history.  He stands at the very center of it.  Nothing before or after could carry more weight for all creation than what Christ completed on the cross 2000 years ago.  All of the war and sorrow, human development and ingenuity leading up to and away from the cross all take a knee to the redemption power that struck the earth on a hill outside of Jerusalem.  And the power flowed down and dripped into the earth so that no despair or counter-power could ever reverse the finished work of redemption.  Nothing before, nothing that came after-human history centered on the cross.

And that got me thinking about where Christ stands in my life.  Center or standing off to the side?  Does the cross pierce through me in the same way it does human history-does Christ stand at my core, or is the cross just something I lean on, run to?  Does all my life-the actions, decisions, relationships-balance on Jesus who stands in me or is He just someone I consult with?   In order for me to be in balance with my Creator-He has to stand at my core in the same way a pin works in a hinge.

2020 promises to be one of the most divisive years in recent American history, certainly since the fight for civil rights merged with growing unrest over Vietnam.  As Christians, I think we need to be very conscious of  how we engage in this coming year.  Will our words and actions be balanced on Jesus standing in us, or will our words fire out of us while He stands off to the side?  We do Christ no favors "defending" Him if He is not in the very breath we use to speak.  Will the cross pierce us to become the pin on which we hang our words and actions, or will our politics in 2020?  Those with Christ at their core will not get whipped into the frenzy or cast off fellow believers who stand balanced on Christ-the Gospel.  They will not get tugged into debate that seeks to divide.

Let us allow Jesus and His words stand at the center of 2020.  If it doesn't reflect Him, don't place it in His stead.  If we do this, 2020 could be the most healing, most effectual year the Church in America has ever had.

11 April 2019


Here is the power of words.  Several years ago, a colleague far wiser, more mature with a few more gray hairs than I shared a story after I had expressed some frustration with the way things were “back home”.  She didn’t know that the story she shared almost 15 years ago, as brief as it was, would stick with me and I’d often repeat it giving her credit.  And as she relayed the story she said “she once heard” I didn’t realize the impact it would have.  I’ve recalled it time after time in greater frequency these last few years.

My colleague offered comfort with these words.  There was a man who was told by God to push against a boulder.  So he did, his whole life, push against that boulder.  When he died and was welcomed home by God, the man said all my life I pushed against the boulder but it never moved.  To which God responded, I didn’t tell you to move it.

I hated and loved this story at the same time.  I hated it because we all want to see the fruit of our labor, we don’t want to feel like our lives were wasted, we want to know our life had meaning, purpose.  I loved it because it demonstrated trust and obedience.  It leaves results to God.
My frustration with the lack of vision and leadership in Plymouth and Marshall County is no secret.  There are leaders who put an anchor around the neck of our future a long time ago.  Being at our annual conference reminds me of this again, as I ready myself to go back to pushing on the boulder.  Most people get re-energized at these conferences, but I get depressed and frankly, find it exhausting.  Too often I think “why not us?”

There were massive opportunities missed a decade ago, or more, but because of politics, we are living with the results.  The lack of decent housing, and our gateway hotels are the most obvious outcome of policies thwarted by the opposition.  And while the public decried the condition of our roads, a deteriorating condition and poor planning 20 years in the making, they doubled-down and rejected real change that would have brought a much higher level of expertise into road building.  We can’t be this gullible.  We can’t be this blind.  I can’t continue to run my head into a block wall.  I’m tired of pushing on the boulder.

Whether the frustration arises from missed opportunities to make our communities better places, to make the dollars we invest in our roads go further, to protect our culturally significant places, to motivate our churches to step up to meeting human needs, to stop archaic practices that undermine our property rights, the list goes on and on….the reality is that the boulder hasn’t moved.  And the landscape around the boulder is looking more desolate.

Just a few days ago, figuring that the wisdom of my colleague was one of oral tradition, I searched the simple line “I didn’t tell you to move the boulder” and sure enough, the search proved fruitful. But there were two parts she left out, one that was encouraging, and the other-an ending that seemed to dilute the power of the story.

So the story goes that a young man walked out of his cabin and God showed him a boulder in the valley.  And God told the man to push on the boulder, so he did day after day.  He became discouraged after a long, long time pushing on the boulder and was about to give up but first he prayed and asked God, why.  Why have you asked me to push on this boulder if it cannot be moved?  And God responded, son, I didn’t ask you to move the boulder but just push on it.  Confused, the young man asked but why?  And God said look at your arms, your back, look at the strength that you’ve gained in your legs, the calluses on your hands.  Look at how your obedience has led to perseverance under pressure.  Through opposition you have grown much and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have.  This is not failure.  And I thought to myself after reading this, please God, let me see this in myself because the boulder only seems to be getting bigger.

The story’s ending, at least in one version I read, was sadly disappointing.  While I’m sure it was meant to inspire-and I’m sure a number of tired pushers it did-it left me realizing how much we mere mortals want to be gods.  We want our will.  The story ended by God saying to the young man “now watch me move the boulder” as if obedience wasn’t enough.  Not my will, but thine be done.  God, as much aggravation that may come from pushing the boulder, let me still be obedient.  Let the results of my labor be in demonstrating obedience, not in my expectations.  And not in the expectation of others, most particularly.  If anything, let others see obedience as the most important thing, not the inch or mile the boulder may be moved…if moved at all.  That the example of obedience may be the inspiration others need to move mountains.

I hate politics.  I hate what I have seen in local, state and national politics over the last several years.  I can use hate because it is, in many aspects, sin.  It has held Plymouth and our county back in ways we can’t practically enumerate, but the desolation left around us is a witness against us.  I am tired of Christian culture that focuses on self, which can disguise itself as community if we’re not careful, and playing to that, churches operate as performance stages.  I detest this most unmovable boulder.  I find it demoralizing, strength-zapping, hopeless.  And too often I’ve complained to those around me, even encouraged others to find greener valleys where boulders don’t exist.  And then my mind goes back to the story my colleague told me those 15 years ago.  Just push.  Put a little more shoulder into it.  And maybe pray for more laborers.  I don’t care what party or church they come from if they help push the boulder.

03 January 2019

Songs that changed the course of my 2018

I won't forget it.
Walking into the doors of a church that would become our new family that first Sunday of 2018.  Broken, wounded, betrayed, scarred from years of cuts and just looking for a place to heal.  And one of the first songs played during worship was Reckless Love.  Neither of us had heard it before, but there it was, spilling out all of its truth, speaking directly to my heart and welling up in my eyes.

"Oh the overwhelming, never-ending, reckless love of God
Oh it chases me down, fights 'til I'm found, leaves the ninety-nine"

All along, I was expecting those who had hurt us to make things right, to "leave the ninety-nine" and fight for us.  It might have been right to expect that.  Guys get angry when they're hurt and expect to be "righted".  The reality was, God was leaving the ninety-nine to rescue the one.  Rescued into another fold.

"There's no shadow You won't light up, mountain You won't climb up, coming after me.  There's no wall You won't kick down, lie You won't tear down, coming after me."

And that's what God had to do in order to put us in a better place.  Somewhere, as I described to friends after that Sunday, a "place that I could breath again".  How often do we displace our trust and expectations onto those who disappoint us, when in fact, we know that only God can rescue, only God can heal.

Within a few weeks, a friend shared a song on Facebook that again, I had never heard before.  The video that ran with So Will I reminded me so fully of our connected-ness to all things God created, my brothers and sisters around the globe.  Those next door who need that simple act of compassion, all created in His image, all "immortal horrors or everlasting splendors" - C.S. Lewis.

"I can see Your heart eight billion different ways.
Every precious one, a child You died to save.
If you gave Your life to love them so will I.
You're the One who never leaves the one behind."

And as the flood waters rose in 2018, and I watched people act on that divine character of God, compassion, I realized that nothing else in 2018 mattered more than, well, people.  As obvious as that seems, how often do we really act upon that truth?

Some of the lyrics to that song came back to mind on a short hike this fall because of a conversation I had with a friend about how we think of our lives in relationship to our Creator.

God doesn't call us to brokenness to leave us broken, He doesn't call us into submission to leave us without a mission.  God calls us to live out, to be all, that He created us to be.  Through every talent, in every relationship, each interaction and moment of inspiration-God is saying live in the fullness of the life He created for you.  And in that-we reflect His glory, we worship Him.

"If the stars were made to worship so will I
If the mountains bow in reverence so will I
If the oceans roar your greatness so will I
For if everything exists to lift you high so will I
If the wind goes where you send it so will I
If the rocks cry out in silence so will I
If the sum of all our praises still falls shy
Then we'll sing again a hundred billion times"

On to 2019.

18 September 2018

Leave your gift at the alter...First be Reconciled

I don't think we preach enough about Jesus these days, at least not on how He instructed us to live.  But He doesn't mince words when it comes to conflict resolution.  Most Christians are quick to cite the passage on forgiveness "Lord how many times should we forgive?  Seven times?  Christ said, no, seventy times seven."

Commanded to forgive and move on, right?

But this only deals with half of the problem.  This doesn't address sin on the other side of the equation.  For that, we need to accept the passage on reconciliation as a commandment as well.  To do any less, would be a sin.  Christ says "if you bring a gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift."  Sometimes this takes a close examination of our hearts to know if we have hurt someone, and then there are times we know it, we've been told, and maybe the other person has done everything they can do, including forgiveness, to provide an environment for reconciliation.

Several years ago, a church I attended was trying to find its way after the senior pastor left.  There was some division in how to move forward, but unity was the "message".  Of course, it should be.  But I mentioned to the interim pastor that without the hard work of reconciliation, there can be no unity.  He must've contemplated on that because a few weeks later, he made that statement from the pulpit.

I try to live this, but more often than not, I find myself in the forgiving commandment and praying for some lifeline of reconciliation.  I don't want to come across as an expert on reconciliation, but I do think that I know what it looks like, and when it is being withheld.  And when that happens, it leaves those affected in a world of darkness, under the weight of hurt.  This is something that our family has had to cope with, after 10 years of extending forgiveness, time and again, the last cut was the deepest.  I said to one person, after an long conversation, that I wasn't going to beg for reconciliation.  But essentially, I was.  I was deeply wanting to be reconciled to my brothers.  An officially approved letter followed, after some time, and it appeared in our mailbox on a Saturday.  And it only deepened the wound.

So, for my own spiritual health, in the middle of one of hundreds of sleepless nights over those 10 years, I typed out a letter to my wife and myself, framing what I thought reconciliation would look like.  It brought some balm to the wound, and I sent it to two of the leaders whom I had considered my best friends at one time.  In return, several days later, I received an email back that they were going to process it.  And there it ended, 8 months ago.

Friend, whether you are a Christ follower or not, and you've found yourself in a similar situation, I get it.  I hurt for you.  Self-help books and counsel can only go so far.  It isn't about a lack of forgiveness on your part, and it can't be about forgetting.  God made you to be made whole, and if someone is withholding reconciliation, it is going against His design for your life.  In your waiting, which may go on until eternity calls, take that pain and use it in understanding others, in your interactions with others, use it to be Jesus to those around you who may also be hurting.  Sadly, there are probably a lot of us.  And if you are the one taking your gift to the altar, think carefully, ask God to search your heart, either in your corporate actions or individual relationships.  First....first.  First be reconciled.

09 September 2018

9/11: Winning the fight, losing the War

So much has changed since that fateful day 17 years ago.  A new generation has no memory of it, the war unleashed on our enemies continues to this day, and as a country, culturally, we've changed.  For those who can remember, in the days, the weeks and months following September 11th, we were absorbed in a kind of unity I don't know that we had ever experienced, certainly in my lifetime, as a people.  We experienced a compassion, courage, sacrifice, that erased the walls of race, mostly, and certainly of party and status.

But those months turned into years.  I recall co-hosting a local radio program at the one-year anniversary of 9/11.  On that, I wondered how long we would experience the unity, the understanding among ourselves. I wondered if we had already forgotten hearts standing united. I remember a caller regretted that could ever happen.

Several years after, I remember listening to a sociologist talk about what drives people together, and what drives them apart.  While not talking about 9/11 specifically, I couldn't help but make the parallel.  He said that the greater the trauma, the closer a society is driven together, but in that same high level experience of trauma, the society, after some time, is driven further apart.  The more frequent and/or greater the trauma, the more dramatic the chasm apart society is driven.  Think about what we've experienced since 9/11 with multiple mass shootings, protests, police shootings-both sides, natural disasters, and uprisings that would only exacerbate the trauma already weighing on our collective psyche.

Does this all sound like gobbledygook?
Have you seen an America more divided than it is right now?

I was born in 1968.  I didn't experience the racial divide of the 1960s, nor would I have been aware of the political unrest caused by the Vietnam War into the 1970s.  I've often thanked God I didn't experience those times, so please, correct me if I am wrong, but this seems unlike those times, even though I have heard it described as the "country coming apart at the seams".  This seems like rage.  A spirit of rage, unchecked, unnamed, excused, and even fanned to higher emotions from people behind keyboards, tweets and posts.

The war began at 9:37 a.m. on September 11, 2001.  We took that battle to their bunkers, thousands of miles away.  And we won the battle, as much as it could be won in a battle stemming from ideology.  However, if the terrorists' goal was to unleash unrest, to defeat a country because of principle, we should all stop and ask ourselves if a divided country is the same thing as a defeated country. We should ask ourselves if we are on a trajectory of losing the war because a nation divided cannot stand.

This I admit to you.  When I stand for the anthem, I am in quiet prayer for healing for this country.  When I place my hand over my heart, I am pledging my life to fulfill the spirit, the dream, the purpose of America.  To see her rise to her full potential, for everyone.  I don't have it in me to hate.  I have no idea what it would be like to be a woman, a black man, an immigrant, or a gay man, and I'm not going to spotlight positions they take to further divide.  I also don't know what it is like to be a Southerner, a soldier, athlete or a police officer.  For some reason, God saw fit to drop this soul into a shell that would have probably the easiest path one could hope for:  a white, evangelical, Republican man from Indiana.  I am called to love every last one of those I am not like, and for me, that means understanding and sometimes extending a lot of grace, just as I hope they extend to me.

We are one people.  We discovered that at 9:38 a.m. on 9/11.  We need to find that again.

01 August 2018

What's in a name: Garro

I laid awake last night, pondering some political unrest in my own plight.  And through a string of half-related issues, landed on one that has kept Plymouth people puzzled for decades, and longer.

Where did the name Garro Street come from?

This street was part of the original plat of the town from 1836, though no names were on the plat except for the main street it was platted around, Michigan Street.  The furthest south (east/west) became South Street (later renamed LaPorte for its connection to the Plymouth-LaPorte Trail), the furthest north, North Street, and all those in between were named for the contemporary presidents beginning with Washington and ending with Harrison.  So, who was this guy "Garro" that a street so prominent in the downtown, between South and Washington, would be so-named?  The north/south streets were Water, Michigan, Center, Walnut and Plum(b-sometimes a "b" appeared on maps).

Back to Garro.  This street's importance escalated in the downtown as the Nickel Plate Depot, post office and library were built along it, and then as it crossed the river to the east, it was crowned with Lincoln High School in the 1920s, like the great city halls and churches of East Coast cities.  And now, it traverses one of the finest small city urban parks in the state, River Park Square.

As I understand it, no other name was associated with the street as far back as records show.  At one time, it was misprinted "Gano" on a city map, but that was post-Garro.  And at one time, East Garro was known as Taylor Street, but that was changed by the 1910s.

So, I did a little on-line research on the name Garro.  I could find only one family of Garros in Indiana during the 19th century, located in Posey County.  The name was confused with Gano as it was written in records, and it appears that the family used the Gano spelling by the second half of the 19th century.  Gano.....ok, let's look at that.  So, a research on the Gano name in Plymouth revealed the family of Jerry Gano living in the city in 1880.  He and his wife were from Ireland, he was day laborer and lived on South (LaPorte) Street.  Didn't appear to have much status in the city.  I have a hard time believing the street was named for him, particularly since he lived a block away, in case you were thinking his land was used for an extension of the street.

So, were there any famous Garros in ancient history that the town founders may have been honoring?  Well, indeed there is a pre-19th century famous Garro, Jose' de Garro, nicknamed El Santo (the Saint) was a Spanish military leader of the late 1600s and became the governor of Chile.  His religious piety earned him the nickname El Santo.  Were our founding fathers enamored with El Santo's exploits?  Interest in Latin America grew during the middle part of the 1800s.

Now, I'm not a Star Wars fanatic, but evidently there is another famous, 21st century Garro.  Nathaniel Garro, who was captain of the 7th great company of the Death Guard Space Marine Legion.

It would be interesting to know the true origin of this street name.  I don't think that there are any others without a clear explanation.  Or could we just adopt one of the more famous Garros above?  There's an accomplished artist named Mark Garro, and a Mexican author named Elena Garro.  If we can't find the true origin, maybe its time to embrace them all.  Maybe what this street needs is a Mexican-Irish Bar called the Garro-Gano, just to cover all our bases.

15 January 2018


This is me.

Born in a small town in Indiana.  Raised in a home with a mom and dad who taught me to love Jesus.  Worked through high school and college.  Fortunate to find a job in my hometown.  Christ continued to pursue me time and again.  Met my wife and bought a home.  Two kids followed.  Surrounded by friends.  I wouldn't call life easy, but it was, I never had to worry about food or shelter.

This is my brother.

Born in Haiti.  Found Jesus because someone cared enough to share.  Roamed streets to look for work to buy food.  Loves his family.  Surrounded by love.  He wouldn't call his life easy, but would never complain and still finds joy.

The difference is in the color of our skin, in where we were born.  I chose neither of those.  God's overwhelming love for those He created, who follow Him, join us in a brotherhood experienced throughout the earth.  God does not see color, He does not see country or state.  He sees His creation, a broken people needing a Savior.  Only people who do not know God would see things differently.  Only those with the darkest of hearts would have contempt for His creation.  And of all people, God's people should be those who defend the defenseless, love those who need love, and stand for those who cannot stand for themselves.  If He gave His life to love them, so should I.

I have been so deeply convicted over the events and comments of last week. I am waiting for God's church to drive out any hint of this wrong in our four walls, to ask for forgiveness because we failed to stand in the past, to not be complicit with our silence.  I am waiting for His church to say, enough.

07 January 2018

Renewing my faith in people of faith

"The every day kindness of the back roads more than makes up for the greed in the headlines."  - Charles Kuralt

Professors and pastors alike get time off for self-reflection, personal growth and refreshment.  I feel a bit cheated in this because if I could get a sabbatical, this is what it would look like:  me, going Charles Kuralt, and driving the countryside visiting church and parish, large and small, urban and rural to interview people about their faith walks.  Because, I've realized, somewhere along the way I've lost my faith in people of faith.

Now, before you fire back that we are not to look to people to sustain our faith, stop and ask yourself where exactly it says that we are to be islands in the development of our faith.  Of course we're not, that's why we plant ourselves in pews each Sunday.

I will admit to being saddened, maybe sickened, certainly dismayed by what has become the mainstream face of people of faith-the "headline" demonstration of our faith.  The movement toward civil religion will ultimately make the gospel of no effect in America.  Unless we come back to the heart of God and demonstrate the love of His Son, we will surely lose a generation.  Already our evangelical leaders' voices sufficiently clang with hypocrisy as they vie for political favor.

I believe, somewhere out there on the back roads, in the food pantries, coffee shops, orphanages, alleys, and migrant camps are those who understand the "call" that prods them out of the pews and away from the "show" on Sundays to live out the gospel in a way that it was intended.  I believe these people exist.  And I'd love to get to know them.  I need to have my faith renewed in people of faith.

These are the questions I'd ask:  What are the times you feel closest to God?  Is there a passion you feel for His creation?  How do you feel part of the brotherhood of man?  What do you sense in your quietest times?

I've really only ever known two churches my entire life.  I was about 4 when our country church of a couple hundred went through a split separating families and friends.  I don't remember much, other than the hurt it caused.  But the church I grew up in, well beyond my college years, was closer to a couple thousand.  It operated big, and there were big ideas, and we worshiped a big God.  But in the end, after I had left, it collapsed-in a big way.  I wouldn't give up the 25 years that I was there-it was solid teaching, but it also taught me what a church is not.

After my wife and I were married, and we settled into our hometown, we also settled into a new home church.  It became very personal, intimate, and as our family grew, so did our church family.  They become those we could count on, laugh and grow with.  Fellowship.  Our kids were dedicated, baptized, and mentored by friends until they, themselves, became mentors.  And now, 20 years later, I look back and understand these roles as part of a church family.  But, once again, I'm beginning to understand what that means, and doesn't mean, and how God can use adversity in those roles to make us seek Him in others.

People, particularly leaders, can and will fail us.  I'm not immune to that myself.  However, in those failures, are we learning and growing together?  Are we seeking unity through the hard work of reconciliation?  Are we becoming a stumbling block to the spiritual growth of others?  Are we being encouraged by the true demonstration of faith, of Christ, or are we just protecting the show?

I'd love to be on the road for a year to visit a mission in LA, a reservation in South Dakota, a church on the plains of Texas, a mighty cathedral in Boston, and a home church in Indiana.  I'd love to site down with my Catholic and Episcopal brothers, fellowship with Methodists and Baptists, worship with my Latino and AME family, have a conversation with Muslims and Jews.  God isn't in four walls, and his family is much bigger than the few hundred white people we sit with on Sundays.  If engaging others can restore what has been compromised and carved away for years, then we need to stop, ask, listen and learn.

When was the last time you stopped long enough to have your faith encouraged by someone you don't even know?

Gafill Oil Company in Argos

My great-grandfather (above) may have started our family in the fuel business with his employment as the agent for an oil company in ...