22 September 2015

See you at the Pole: maybe it's time to grow up

It's been more than four months since I've sat down to pen a post.  Life has taken on a number of busy twists and turns that's left me with little time to think, much less reflect on happenings around me.  Recent tragedies in our community prompts one to reflect on what truly matters though, so I thought I would share some things that came to mind as I sat and waited for my son outside of the high school last night.

We expect an awful lot out of kids today, packing them down with schedules and responsibilities that few adults would want, let alone could bear the burden of.  Tomorrow is national "see you at the pole" day, during which time a remnant of kids will join hand in hand around their school's flagpole and pray for their school, their classmates, and try to be the light of love and peace.  This unifying, harmonious moment that we in the church, again, expect our kids to be at to "take a stand".  Because of the loss of one of their classmates this week, the day will be especially poignant here in River City.

I think about everything going on in our country, in our state, and our community....all the rage, defiance, arrogance, and the rush to Facebook to spout-off that appeals to elements of our darkest nature.  I think about the example we are setting for our kids.  I think about the divided, hostile world we are nurturing to leave them in our wake.

I think about the fact that we expect them to be adults, when in reality we're the ones acting like children.

Rather unceremoniously, but maybe providentially given tomorrow's event, a flagpole was raised today in a very prominent position north of our community where a few thousand people will pass by several times a day.  And that got me thinking about what I would say to, and pray for our next generation as they join hands tomorrow.

First, I'd say forgive me for being part of the problem and not working harder to bring peace to our community, for not representing the image of Christ that I've been called to be.  And I'd pray that we would all, parents or otherwise, be better examples for them.

Then I'd pray that they would be the generation to bring healing, not only to our community, but to our world from the strife and upheaval our generation has created.  I'd pray that they could embrace and reflect the Gospel in a way the Church in America has seemingly forgotten.

I think it's time we grow up and be the examples these kids need.  Otherwise, we will continue to perpetuate the problems of this world when we choose violent rhetoric over civility, and our rights over what is right.

So I'm asking, how will you pray for our kids as they gather tomorrow?

13 May 2015

Hobart's more than just a sign on U.S. 30

Ever travel that stretch of U.S. 30 toward Chicago and think, hmm....Hobart, it has a little sign out here on the highway and a mile or so of strip mall shops-but where's the rest of Hobart?  There really is more to Hobart-but you've got to get off the highway to see it.  Now, you may think that you've wandered into a land of medieval knights due to the false half-timbering here and there.  Evidently this was all the rage when their redevelopment commission began the stucco and board crusade in the early 1970s.  Personally, I like the kitchy feel.  The downtown was placed on the National Register in 2014.  Here's a little history on Hobart:

In 1846, George Earle, who had a mill and was postmaster of a nearby village named Liverpool, purchased land and constructed a new mill by damming Deep River a few blocks north of downtown Hobart.  Earle relocated the post office to his new mill site and within a few years platted a new village he named for his brother, Hobart.  The first schoolhouse in the region was constructed in 1845, near the future mill site, at the current Hobart Masonic Temple location.  In 1849, Lake County organized Hobart Township, in which the newly established village of Hobart would become the center for community life in the township.  Earle built the first cabin in the village; his son, John, constructed the first residence a few years later.  The new village was located on the Chicago-New York coach route, which allowed the community to reap the benefits of frequent travelers and trade.

Hobart became the second railroad center in Lake County when the Pittsburg-Ft. Wayne-Chicago Railroad was established through the town in 1858.  The railroad was the only line located in the county until after the Civil War; therefore farms and industry in the region brought their goods to Hobart for shipment to outside markets.  By the 1870s, the population reached 500; there were 95 families recorded in 1871.  Hobart was incorporated as a town in 1889.  In 1895, the Hobart and Western Electric Railway was constructed down 3rd and Washington Streets; it connected Hobart to the booming city of Hammond in northwest Lake County.  The railway remained active until after World War II.

James Guyer established a brickyard in the town in 1872.  Brick making became the largest industry in the community; there were four brickyards employing over 100 people by the early 1900s.  W. B. Owens Hollow Porous Clay Tile Works and Kulage Brick & Tile were the largest companies in the early 1900s.  The National Fire Proofing Company operated from Guyer’s former brickyard until 1966.  The company produced fire-proof brick and tiles.  The town also had four lumberyards.

The railroads and subsequent industry accelerated the community’s growth during the first decades of the 20th century.  In 1900 the population was 1,200.  It grew to over 6,500 by 1935.  The town responded by incorporating as a city in 1921 at which time the population had already nearly tripled to 3,500.  S. H. Henderson was the city’s first mayor.  Hobart’s population continued to climb dramatically through the middle part of the 20th century.  In 1950 the population had reached over 10,000 and by 1960 had grown to more than 18,000.  Hobart’s population currently is just over 29,000.

06 May 2015

The Erwin mark on Tippecanoe Township's Architecture

The 1879 Gaskill-Erwin House
Newly listed to the National Register of Historic Places is the Gaskill-Erwin House in Tippecanoe Township, Marshall County.  The house was built in 1879 by the Gaskill family but has had a much longer history with the Erwin family after they purchased it in the early part of the 20th century.

Joseph Gaskill and his family arrived in Marshall County from Stark County, Ohio in 1860.  Gaskill was the proprietor of a sawmill and also farmed his eighty acre tract.  They had eleven children between 1855 and 1876.  Lewis Erwin purchased the farm in about 1925.  The Erwin family had arrived in Marshall County from Stark County, Ohio during the mid-1850s.  Members of the Gaskill and Erwin families knew each other and jointly had sold property in Stark County, Ohio.  The Erwin family had accumulated considerable landholdings in the northern part of Tippecanoe Township and southern Bourbon Township.  Lewis, a grandson of the original Erwin to settle in the county, and Eleanor were the parents of two children, Emily and William.   The house remains in the Erwin family today.

The Gaskill-Erwin House is an excellent example of the Italianate style used on the construction of a large frame farmhouse.  The Italianate style was popular between 1850 and 1880, particularly in Midwestern towns where the expansion of railroads brought wealth to communities and created a building boom during the period.  Cupolas, towers, and bracketed cornices became the style’s hallmarks. The style was popularized by house pattern books by Andrew Jackson Downing during the middle part of the 1800s, but its popularity began to wane as it began to be replaced by the Queen Anne Style in the last decades of the 19th century.  While the Gaskill-Erwin House type is more typical of a late Georgian double-pile, its architectural style is in keeping with the popularity of the Italianate style during its construction date of 1879.

The 1855 Erwin House
An earlier house constructed by the Erwin family in about 1855 is just across the road from the Gaskill-Erwin House.  The earlier house was recently restored and is in the process of also
being listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The house is an example of Greek Revival architecture applied to an "upright-and-wing" house type, which simply means a dominant front gable, usually two-stories tall, with a one or one-and-a-half story wing on its side.  The Greek Revival style became popular in American building trends as the nation sought to emulate its democratic identity rooted in Greek civilization.  The style typically has some appearance of pilasters and an entablature, even in its most simple rural form, as a nod to ancient Greek temples.

29 April 2015

Exquisite Bungalow in Rensselaer

Here's a little history on maybe the most interesting bungalow I have visited-the house has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places in the last year and has undergone restoration.  The home's original owners were Oren and Adella Parker who were merchants in the city of Rensselaer.  Oren was born in 1875 and was the second generation of his family to live in Jasper County.  His father and mother, Francis and Mahala Walker Parker, were farmers in Barkley Township who maintained two farms north of Rensselaer that totaled 413 acres after they moved into the city in 1893.  The home, built in 1917, remained in the Parker family until Della's death in 1962.

The Parker House is best classified as a Craftsman bungalow, though the house’s details show an eclectic mix of other styles popular during the early 20th century.  The Craftsman style was inspired primarily by the work of brothers Charles and Henry Greene in California.  The term bungalow originates in India where it refers to a low house surrounded by porches.  The American form of the bungalow began in California and spread quickly through the country as an acceptable and desirable style for the growing middle class in quickly developing suburbs.  These homes were popularized in pattern books and other home magazines, again through the work of the Greene brothers of California.

Three-level entry foyer and staircase
The architect for the house was from Chicago and that urban influence is also part of the home’s construction.  The wide entry door with small square windows and the general interior layout of rooms is similar to Prairie Style architecture of the period.  The spaces flow into each other and multiple levels are visible to each other from the grand staircase.  This creates the sense that the ceilings are fairly low and the area is organized more horizontally.  The carved stone capitals and the egg-and-dart trim at the top of the porch’s walls both display a quality identified with Louis Sullivan.  The stone capitals have a blended Prairie Style appearance with Sullivan’s work.

Buffet and murals in the home's dining room.
The other popular style of the period that is part of the home’s construction is the Tudor Revival style.  Predominantly this is identified by the wood trim in the house.  The home’s doors and windows have pointed arches as does the wainscot in the dining room.  The hand-painted mural above the dining room wainscot is another feature of the house that heightens the importance handcrafted details were to both the designer and the home’s owners.  No information other than the name of the home’s architect can be found, though it appears he may have concentrated his work in residential design in the region in and around Chicago.

22 April 2015

20 years ago

This past Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.  I remember having the television on in my grandfather's house, watching news coverage of the event.  It was unfathomable to me that so much hate could be generated by Americans against their government that they felt that they could act out in such a way that would claim the lives of 168 fellow-Americans, many of whom were children at a daycare.

In 2003, our family set out on a trip across Route 66 to see America.  It was important to me that we visited this site.  Here, in the absence of the former building, was a nearly still reflecting pool overlooked by the "survivor tree" and rows of empty chairs representing the victims.

Our son, then almost three years old, knelt down at the head of the pool to put his hands in the water.  That allowed me to snap this photo that captures, at least in my mind, the playfulness of innocence oblivious to what had transpired at the site.  An innocence that was stolen away from the families of the victims.  I truly hope that despite the political viciousness we experience today, multiple times that of 1995, we recognize that we're still one people with the most remarkable promise, and potential for good, that only America can offer.

15 April 2015

The Apotheosis of Lincoln & Washington

A box of old photos and photo albums was passed on to me last year from my aunt.  One album, assembled by my Moore ancestors as a memorial piece of the Civil War, included photos of the sons of Andrew Moore who enlisted from their Lowell, Indiana farm.  Three of the seven sons who served in the Union ranks did not come home.  I suppose one would question if the family thought the war was worth it.  Flipping to the back of the album, I think the answer is clear.  Nestled into their own gold-edged cardboard photo sleeves are images of Lincoln and Grant, including one image that I had never seen before.....and it seems like one of the most awkward Americana patriotic memorial photos I've ever seen.

The artist of "Washington and Lincoln in Apotheosis" is J. A. Arthur who created the image in 1865 shortly after Lincoln's assassination.  The image, which seems to have two versions, show Lincoln robed in black being greeted by Washington in the heavens.  Beckoning Lincoln to his eternal rest are hosts of angels in the upper left hand corner of the image, from which streams of light beam down on the presidents.  The angels are often cropped out or were removed in reprints of the postcard.  The postcard, which depicts Washington placing a laurel wreath on Lincoln's head, was produced in significant numbers in 1865.

I can't imagine the depth of sorrow felt by so many families across the country who had lost sons, husbands, and fathers during the war.  Then, as news spread from Appomattox, the elation felt by the nation as the long war was finally behind them....only to be covered again by the dark curtain of grief days later as news of Lincoln's death took hold of the country.  Commemorating the 150th anniversary of the close of the Civil War and Lincoln's death have been marked by a number of events throughout the country, but I thought-as odd as the postcard seems-sharing this image gives just a hint of what the country was feeling 150 years ago today.

08 April 2015

The Pennsylvania Railroad along the Lincoln Highway

"Built by Rochester Bridge Co. Rochester IND." Wanatah
 Late last winter/early spring I drove along the Pennsylvania Railroad in Eastern Indiana photographing bridge and other railroad structures along the way.  A few weeks ago I drove the Lincoln Highway, which parallels much of the Pennsylvania Railroad, west to Valparaiso, and photographed the remaining structures and landscapes.

American Bridge Co., east of Valparaiso
Lincoln Highway west of Hamlet

04 April 2015

What if the church was empty on Easter?

How sad of a story it would have been had Mary Magdalene and Mary arrived at the tomb only to find Jesus still there.  I don't know what kind of impact the Christian faith would have had on the next 2000 years of world history had Jesus remained in the tomb.  The silence of the tomb overshadowed by death.  But our hope became established on that first Easter morning when death was overcome by life and Christ exited the tomb to bring fullness of joy, life, and peace to the world outside of the cavernous walls.  The stone, ordered fixed by Pilate himself, had become the permanent encapsulation of the tomb, across the doorway.  It is now and forever rolled away.

My wife was talking about a church in Texas that closes its doors on Easter and takes that life that brought Christ out of the tomb, to their community around them.  Think about it.  What if.....just what if our churches were empty on Easter, just like the tomb, and if people came a sentry could say

I know you seek Jesus who was crucified.  He is not here; for He is risen and His people have taken Him to the world.

And we, who are to carry the light and the life of Christ to this world are seen practicing a faith through service to our fellow man-being the hands and feet of Christ.  Imagine that.....what if we took Jesus outside of the four walls on Easter just like the life of Christ exited the tomb that morning.  What if it wasn't about pageantry or celebrating for our own enjoyment....what if the celebration was a sacrifice of love and service to our fellow man?

Imagine if every church was empty this Easter.  Imagine the impact.

01 April 2015

WWJD without RFRA?

I tend to try to avoid controversy these days-a reader brought that to my attention.  RFRA was a bad move politically and economically for the state.  Politically, House Republicans struck while the fire was hot, so to speak, coming off of the 2014 election with super majorities, they wanted to get this controversial bill passed, much like the Ritz bill, as quickly as possible so that people forgot by the next election in 2016....it's a strategy often used, but doesn't make it right nor representational of the people they've been elected to serve.  Economically, this was a complete disaster because of the message it sends and has undone much of the economic development advances made in the state in the last several years.  The bill is different than other states with similar legislation by the insertion of section 9, and by the fact Indiana does not have anti-discrimination laws protecting non-heterosexual individuals.  It can be interpreted to permit discrimination by businesses toward individuals based on the business owner's religious beliefs.  Does it say discrimination in the bill?  No-of course not, but it could be used for such.  For proof, look no further than the bill's biggest proponent Advance America's own website which states it crystal clear (if it's still up), not to mention the governor's own reluctance to simply say "No" when asked that direct question eight times on ABC.

But to me, RFRA is more a matter of faith, not politics, and I wanted to share some thoughts with why some recent events have me feeling really uncomfortable and wondering what is next for the Church in America.  So as someone trying hard to follow Christ, and not a politician, I'm just asking for some pondering by the readers.  If you believe that Indiana now has an image problem, I believe the Church has a bigger one, or maybe more accurately a heart problem that few in the pulpit are addressing.  Recent events seem to make it worse. Last week we saw Ted Cruz announce his candidacy at Jerry Falwell's Liberty University, invoking God into the 2016 race, I've seen another comment  "Pence stands with God", and of course House Bill 101 signed into law.

Let's look at our Biblical belief system more broadly in light of RFRA.  If I owned a restaurant, could I refuse to serve obese people on the premise that gluttony is a sin?  If I were a florist, could I refuse to cater a wedding if the bride and groom were sleeping together because sex before marriage is a sin?  How about divorced individuals?  Can I deny a developer the right to develop based on greed as sin?  How about the sins of idolatry, gambling, or pride?  Well, Dave Ramsey has said gambling's not a sin so we can eliminate that.  But the others,  I mean, I've got some rights here, right?  Maybe even some moral obligation to help set this state straight.

I'm not a proponent of RFRA, not because of the language necessarily, but because of the damage it does to the Church.  And frankly, I'm getting tired of defending my faith, not on the basis of Scripture or our model Christ, but on the basis of how politicians have seemed to assert roles as defenders of the faith.  As if God needs any help.  The depth at which politics has influenced the gospel and our churches should be alarming, but we've bought into it.....we've embraced it, and cheer it on like we do  the home team.

God's so much bigger than Indiana, or America for that matter, yet it seems hard to fathom He ever got along so well without us.  Do you suppose He's grateful for RFRA?  I mean seriously, I bet Jesus had wished he could have had RFRA to fall back on so He could have avoided the prostitute, Samaritan, lepers, or tax collectors, against some there had been strict religious laws.  But I'm certain He anticipated a lawsuit and ministered to them anyway.  And me, the chief of sinners, I am so glad Jesus didn't have RFRA to fall back on because I would have never known a Holy God's redeeming grace.

Do I think that a preacher, organization, or individual should be forced to provide wedding services to a gay couple?  No, honestly I don't.  And frankly, this is what I don't get from the other side...........why would they want them to?  But I think it boils down to a heart issue of how to engage one's faith.  I have friends and family in the gay community that I love and respect, yet I believe in traditional marriage, no surprise there.  I think that they understand that's a belief drawn from conclusions of my personal faith, not because the state may or may not be able to define marriage according to my Judea-Christian beliefs.  And subsequently, I don't feel like I need the State of Indiana backing me up.  If I error, let me error on the side of grace, and if compelled to go a mile.......go two, and give my coat as well.

What truly concerns me is how this law may be misused by interpretation, despite its seemingly innocent language, in this heated and tumultuous environment.  The bill has been called innocuous and really "won't change anything".  But it will, and it has already, regardless of the prospect of a clarifying statement by the legislature.  Sometimes the message sent is bigger than the words penned.  It's created division, as I believe was planned, and it cast a long shadow over our state, but I care a lot less about that than the longer shadow it casts over the Church.  Only repealing the law will pull the state out of the downward spiral.  I'm not sure what it will take to change course for the Church.

This time of the year, between Palm Sunday and Easter, always makes me think of the parallels between those who cried Hosanna and the Church in America.  The Jews lining the streets with palm branches were much more interested in a Jesus who could overthrow Roman rule and establish an earthly kingdom....but that wasn't His plan, not at all, and so they left.  Too often I think as Christians we try to establish Christ's religious authority in our government, but that's not what He wants.  He wants us to follow Him, not try to somehow finish a job He chose not to do. The Church has got to figure a way out of the political binds we find ourselves in, to sound more like Christ and less like angry politicians.  But hey, that's our right........not what we are called to, but certainly our right here in the land of religious freedom.

25 March 2015

Christopher Whitteberry: Patriot & Pioneer

Famous painting of the Battle of Brandywine Creek
I don't know that I can claim any larger number of Revolutionary War ancestors than the next guy, I just happen to be interested in family history and it seems that the stories bubble-up when I least suspect them.  Such was the case when I was trying to make some connection for a branch of the family little is known about.  My ancestor, George Laramore, whom I've written about before, was the only child born to Thomas and Mary Laramore after their marriage in Muskingum County, Ohio.  The history we had on Mary indicated her name was Whittlebury and her husband died before George had turned a year old.  But it wasn't Whittlebury, as I learned from spending probably too much time searching, it was Whitteberry.  And after Thomas' death, Mary brought her infant son to Indiana.

By the time Indiana was being settled in large numbers, the age of Revolutionaries was approaching eighty years old which is why the Hoosier state became home, and the final resting place, to very few Patriots engaged in fighting the British.  But in following Mary and her son, George, I found that she moved on to Indiana to live with her aging parents who came in about 1829 to Tippecanoe County.  Her father, Christopher, and mother, Elizabeth Packer Whitteberry had made a homestead in their 70s.  Recently I found their humble grave sites in rural southeastern Tippecanoe County.  And I learned that Christopher Whitteberry, at the age of 17, fought in the Revolution.

Patriot Christopher Whitteberry's gravestone in Tippecanoe County, IN
Christopher was born October 11, 1760, in either Pennsylvania or Virginia, and in his youth made shoes for the Colonial Army.  In 1777, Christopher participated in the Battle of Brandywine Creek which was one of the culminating battles of the Revolution in which both sides suffered tremendous losses and the Colonial Army, under George Washington, was held at bay away from the fledgling nation's capital at Philadelphia.  After the war, Christopher Whitteberry married Elizabeth Packer and moved to Muskingum County, Ohio.  The parents, with their younger children, continued westward to Indiana on horseback and purchased 80 acres.  Mary was born in 1803, according to an entry in a family Bible.  Elizabeth died in 1835 and Christopher, in 1843.  They were buried on a corner of their farmstead in what later became known as the McDole Cemetery, named for the family that included a granddaughter of Christopher which later farmed the land.  Christopher Whittebury, as far as I know, is my only Revolutionary War ancestor buried in Hoosier soil.

18 March 2015

A Township Institution

We've said good-bye to too many giants of our community in the last few weeks.  One was my great aunt of nearly 94 years.  She impacted my life in a way few have, through her example of public service over nearly 50 years, which I got to observe first-hand.  Firetrucks and ambulances from the community she served led the procession to the cemetery.  She had become an institution and she'll be missed.  The following was read at her memorial service and is composed of excerpts from events held to honor her years of service.

My great aunt and me

“You know what the Lord requires of you.
Love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly before your God.”

There are very few people who embody those words, but Elma Konya did.  She was just and merciful in her daily work of serving others.  And she was humble.  When she learned that she would be honored by receiving the Sagamore, she said “Why do I need recognized, I’m just a farmwife.”

Elma Crothers was born to Lemuel and Bertha Crothers in 1921 at their farmstead in North Township, Marshall County.  Except for a brief time on a farm just across the county line, Elma lived her entire life within the boundaries of a township she served faithfully for nearly fifty years.  Elma worked for Bikeweb manufacturing for seventeen years and as a farm wife before entering a career as a public servant.  In 1962, Elma began working as North Township Deputy Assessor and continued in that capacity until running for North Township Trustee in 1970.  She faithfully executed the office for each of the following ten consecutive terms, winning the public’s trust for her honesty and fairness.

Elma with Senator Donnelly

Citing the continued excellence of the North Township Volunteer Fire Department in equipment and facilities, and the construction of its new building in 1993 as her proudest accomplishments, her unsung commitment to carrying out the duties as trustee and assessor in a fair manner is her true legacy.  This may be most exemplified within the township’s farm community.  With a working knowledge of farm practices, Elma assisted big and small farmers alike in a manner that could only be described as neighborly and above reproach.

For nearly five decades, Elma rode the waves of change associated with her job with grace and great fortitude.  Applying the core values she attained from her youth and life of public service, she understood the importance of self-reliance but was the first to personally lend a hand in practice of the Golden Rule.  This was her most honorable attribute.  By understanding their needs and assisting when others may simply deny their responsibility, Mrs. Konya has forever left a mark on the citizens and history of North Township as a friend and neighbor in the truest meaning of the word.

Elma served faithfully, selflessly, and without recognition-through times when politically popular and not.  Day in and day out.  She didn’t perform “acts” of service, it was her life.  Receiving the Sagamore of the Wabash from the Governor is truly an honor to any Hoosier.  There are times, though, when it is an honor, and there are times when it is an overdue payment for a life of service.

In 2011, Elma Konya was honored for her nearly fifty years of public service.  Surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues, Elma received a hero’s applause when she rose to her feet and reflected on the guiding principle she used to serve the North Township community over the last forty years as Trustee.

“I lived through the Depression. I knew what it was like to be hungry, to not have a roof over your head, to be without heat.  You care for each other.”

Senator Donnelly was on hand to offer words of appreciation to Konya and said “you are the inspiration to what the fabric of this great nation is made of…to quietly serve your neighbors and friends”. He then read a letter congratulating and thanking Mrs. Konya for her many years of service, and best wishes from the President.

11 March 2015

Whitley County Courthouse: walking on glass

The Whitley County Courthouse in the center of downtown Columbia City has one of the most unusual features found in a Hoosier county courthouse.  Long before the "sky deck" on the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) in Chicago was conceived, the brilliant architect, Brent S. Tolan of Ft. Wayne had an innovative idea for how natural lighting could fill the center of the limestone fortress.  Glass floors.  Two levels of glass floors, beneath a sky-lit dome, allowed natural light to fill the rotunda space of the Whitley County Courthouse, dedicated on June 14, 1890.  The floors are composed of glass blocks held in a framework of steel.  And I couldn't help but notice that one could look up and see the footprints from a visitor to this seat of justice.  Unfortunately a renovation in 1979, while saving the building, closed off the natural light in the dome-so the effect is restricted to the historic light fixtures, but still-what a great look.