28 March 2020

Glory to be Restored for 150th

Proposed restoration drawing of courthouse tower with window
Marshall County Commissioners embarked on a rather impressive vision for a courthouse that would grace the public square for the next 150 years when they hired Gordon Randall, an architect of Chicago, in 1870.  According to an expert in Indiana courthouses, Marshall County's courthouse was the very first example of a "county capitol" building that shifted the tower to the center of the building.  Up until that time, Indiana courthouses had their bell-clock towers centered on the front or in a front-corner of the building.  Randall, a native of Vermont who providentially landed in Chicago prior to the Great Fire, also designed the courthouse in Benton County with a similar look, but with the traditional tower and Second Empire style (1874).  Randall did extensive work in Illinois, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

Original appearance of the Marshall County Courthouse, taken shortly after construction
(note the tower window and that the clock face is missing its hands)
What many people don't realize is that the internal organization of spaces and some minor exterior changes were undertaken that changed Randall's original design.  Inside, some rooms were reorganized and the basement became offices for the county.  Generally, interior finishes were upgraded with marble and tile, and the building received a new marble staircase that was lit internally with a stained glass skylight.  The architects for the renovation project, which occurred in 1913, were Freyermuth & Maurer, a noted South Bend firm.  The renovations cost $30,000.  During that renovation project, windows in the courtroom (south end of the building) were shortened and stained glass installed.  And it was also during this renovation, we believe, that the building's iconic tower was changed to eliminate windows centered in the portico-like belfry on each side.  Likely due to maintenance, the windows were replaced with louvers to match those flanking the opening.

Argos Republican, August 14, 1913
Most people also would believe that the tower is constructed of stone or iron.  It is not.  It is wood.  Remember, this was a new technology for 1870 and Randall no doubt considered the weight and rocking of the bell when he engineered a most-unusual heavy timber system that includes a tall chamfered post that extends into the spire.

The bell that will become visible once more
In 2018, in response to the need for restoration work on the tower, we applied for funding to complete an engineering analysis and preservation drawings of the building and tower.  Those plans include restoring the original design of the window openings in the tower, which would allow Marshall County residents to once again peer up and see the massive iron bell in the belfry when lit at night.  I personally am excited to see this design feature come back to such an important Indiana landmark as a "first of its kind" and in anticipation of the building's 150th anniversary coming in 2022.  The cost of the building when completed in 1872 was $109,254.  That's about the same amount now anticipated to extend a sprinkler system throughout the roof and tower.  Few buildings can represent the collective will and pride of a people than their public courthouses.  This is the best we have in Marshall County and we owe it to past generations, and future generations, to prepare it to serve another 150 years.

Clockworks level
Clock face

21 March 2020

Faithful in Little Things: Coronavir-US?

Typically on my weekly posts, I try to include historical perspective on today's headlines, or maybe vice versa.  A few weeks ago, I posted about the 1918-1920 Spanish Influenza epidemic when the Coronavirus was still only in China.  Strange how things can change in such a short time.

I've seen a number of posts about how Christians should respond.  We are not given "a spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind" (2 Timothy 1:7), so we should keep our cool, restrain our conversation, and maintain a calm head.  Anxiousness should not define a Christian's response "be anxious for nothing" (Philippians 4:6), nor should we label it something that stirs a racist or angry response "a soft answers turns away wrath, but grievous words stir up anger" (Proverbs 15:1).  All these deal with how we allow our spirits to respond to this situation.  But what about our actions?  We are called to "obey all those who have authority in this world because that will make the Lord happy." (1 Peter 2:13).  This should give us the parameters, the boundaries, for our actions during this time.

But there is another verse that I have been thinking about during this time, one spoken by Christ in Luke.  "He that is faithful in very little is also faithful in much; and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much." (Luke 16:10).  Why this?  Because as Christians, we are being called to be faithful in something very little.  We are being called to stay home.  Greater generations than ours were called to far greater things, far greater sacrifices.  While our current situation is no small thing, what we are being called to is indeed little.  I fear that in not being faithful, not obeying those in authority, that if and when bigger things come, we will be found wanting:  our disobedience, a result of our selfishness.

I have family members and friends engaged in the health care industry.  I have friends who are at risk.  By "not being faithful in very little", you put your own interests above theirs.  While that message applies to all, it should apply most to Christians.  If you are continuing to meet and gather together in groups of 10 or more, you are failing the most basic thing, the little, that is being asked of you.  And by doing that, God can't trust you with the big things.  If you are providing a forum for that to happen, thinking that it's up to the individual to make a decision of obedience, think again.  It would be like handing a drunk their car keys and hoping they don't kill anyone.  Honestly, if your judgement is that impaired, I can't trust you to do the right thing.  

When I served as county commissioner during the Flood of 2018, we asked the public's help by staying off the streets.  This was done for two reasons specifically.  It was done for their own safety, but it was also done for the safety of emergency responders.  We did not want selfish actions on your part to put our responders at greater risk.  We are being called to this today-your health may not be in jeopardy, but you may put others, exponentially, at risk.  And now, as more counties and states raise the level of emergency to essential travel only, the Christian response demands obedience.  Furthering the spread will only aggravate the health care system, potentially causing more deaths, and extending the situation where people are losing jobs.

The Christian response?  This is bigger than "us".  Stay home.  Be faithful in little, so that you can be trusted with much.

14 March 2020

Pitchfork Justice: it's where you got your mean streak, son

Lewis Swihart
Another story that Gramps used to tell was about his grandfather, Lewis Swihart, who purportedly ran his pitchfork through a fellow during a dispute about a creek that ran through his property.  The fellow consequently died from the injuries sustained.  Knowing Gramps' proclivity for telling tall tales, I had my doubts on this one as well.  But, knowing Gramps and my great grandmother, descended from Grandpa Swihart himself....made me think, well, yeah, I could see that.

Gramps "Jack" (the younger one) and his brother, Merritt sitting on the stone porch Grandpa Swihart built
Grandpa Swihart was a tall, strong man.  Both farmer and stonemason, I imagine he was a force to be reckoned with.  He descended from two generations of Dunkard preachers and took a wife with deep Quaker roots.  Somewhere along the line, that pacifist gene was lost to the generations.  The story that Gramps told was set southeast of Argos, where Lewis Swihart had a large farm and fishing ponds.  Evidently his neighbor upstream dammed a creek that fed the ponds and watered Swihart's cattle.  Breaking open the dam, Swihart was angry enough that when confronted, he took the pitchfork in-hand and ran it through his farmer-neighbor.

Argos Reflector 1910
So I went looking for evidence to this story.  And there is more than just a kernel of truth to it.  I found no follow-up about a pitchfork or anyone dying, but indeed, there was an altercation and Grandpa Swihart was threatened with a gun by this farmer-neighbor, named John Eckert, in 1910.  Gramps left out the part about his grandfather threatening to kill Eckert's livestock.  Of course.  I wish there were more details than this.  I also found an article about Lewis's brother, Milo, who was shot by chicken thieves in 1933.  He managed to crawl to Lewis's house a few hundred feet away.  Those Swiharts were a hardy stock.

Logansport Pharos-Tribune 1933
The Swihart Family held reunions of a few hundred relatives at Grandpa Swihart's farm a little northeast of the Walnut Church of the Brethren, where he and his parents attended and are laid to rest.  We discontinued the Swihart Reunion in 1998, the 100th anniversary of the first one held at the farm.  Grandpa Swihart constructed a new home for himself at the ponds in 1911.  Being a stonemason, he built the rubble-stone porch himself.  The concrete fence posts at the farm were capped with large rubble-stone caps, a few which remain today.  My great grandmother, Ocie "Granner", took two of these to her house in Argos and when she moved onto Gramps' farm, she brought them with her.  They then landed at the truck stop for about 30 years before being taken to my parents' house.  A few years ago a buddy of mine with arms the size of my legs loaded them into the back of my truck for transport to my farm.  They flank the lower walk to the front door.

A rolling stone gathers no moss they say.  Stories though, pick up more moss the more they roll.

07 March 2020

Dueling Druggists of Downtown Argos

Moore's Drug Store ad in the Argos Reflector November 23, 1893
This is the story of Dr. Clark Chapman and Col. William Moore, both of whom operated small drugstores in Argos in the late 1800s.  Clark Chapman received his medical degree from LaPorte Medical College during the 1840s-1850s.  The New York State native settled with his father's family in Argos in about 1850.  William Moore, who enlisted from Illinois during the Civil War, achieved the rank of colonel before being wounded, captured, and placed in a Confederate prison.  Moore moved to Argos after the war to form a partnership in a lumber mill with his brother.

Col. William Moore wearing the ring he carved on his left hand
It was said of Dr. Chapman that he rode horseback from his country home to tend the sick, with his medical bag thrown over the saddle, and an elixir that had been patented under his name.  Chapman, in partnership with his brother, opened a drugstore in Argos by the 1870s.  Colonel Moore found mill work too strenuous due to the wounds he sustained during the war.  A similar issue grew out of farming.  He settled on opening a drugstore in Argos during the 1880s.  Moore had a talent for carving and furniture-building.  He fashioned a ring from a horse's leg bone during his time in military prison.  He crafted inlaid lead into a pattern in the ring and wore it until his death.

Dr. Clark Chapman, tin type, c. 1855
The dueling druggists, who also offered a wide variety of drygoods in the small village of Argos, no doubt were in competition for the same patrons.  But small towns being as they are, found Clark's son, Henry, and William's daughter, Lucy, desperately in love not unlike Romeo and Juliet.  The couple married in 1887 and established a homestead and farm next to the doctor's north of town.  They were my great, great grandparents.

Chapman's Pharmacy ad in the Argos Reflector December 14, 1882
I have Henry Chapman's rocking chair.  The museum has the ring carved by Colonel Moore in their collection-they let me wear it during my wedding.  I wish I had Dr. Chapman's medical bag.  I was told that old family members remembered seeing it but they were unsure what happened to it.  Dr. Chapman died in 1898 and Colonel Moore died in 1893.  The Clark and Henry Chapman families are buried at Maple Grove Cemetery east of town, while the original pioneer, Ezekiel Chapman is buried at the old town cemetery along with William Moore and his wife.  I had the privilege of speaking at the dedication of a monument to the town's pioneers at the cemetery a few years ago.  As I ran my fingers across my ancestors' names inscribed on the stone, that stands in lieu of removed markers, I couldn't help but wonder what life was like for them 150 years ago.

Purchase list from Moore's store-this is likely a settlement with family members since two of his children are listed on it, including my great, great grandmother, Lucy Moore Chapman.  Check out those prices.

29 February 2020

Our Gold Star Memorial in Bronze: Pompeo Coppini, Sr.

Coppini's Bronze
In 1923, the American War Mothers of Marshall County began fundraising for a monument dedicated to the 29 individuals who died during World War I.  Their plans were announced in May of 1923, but included just 26 names.  An additional three names were added to the roster by the time it was inscribed and dedicated in 1925.  It was announced that ground was broken for the monument on September 11, 1924.  The site, at the east entry to Oakhill Cemetery off Oakhill Drive, was donated by Harrie Buck and A. B. Wickizer.  This part of the cemetery was originally called Buck Cemetery.

Marshall County's "Gold Star Memorial" 1925
Five names stand out among those 29, at least for historical reasons.  Hannah Burden was a nurse who died from Spanish Influenza while treating soldiers at a military camp, and is the only woman counted among the war dead.  Charles Reeve of Plymouth, Otho Place of Bremen, William Fleet of Culver, and James Corey of Argos each had their hometowns honor them with naming their respective American Legion Posts after them.

Dedication inscription on back of the monument
The  monument was officially called the "Gold Star Memorial" when it was dedicated on May 25, 1925.  It was described as tall piece of light marble (actually granite) surmounted by a cross bearing suitable inscription and a bronze tablet.  The 16' tall monument is surrounded by small marble crosses bearing the names of the dead, each fitted with a flag, and is flanked by drives splitting off the main drive on axis with the memorial.

The woman depicted represents the Motherland laying a laurel wreath
The man depicted represents a young American offering himself for the protection of the Motherland
After several years of attending Memorial Day services at the monument, I became more and more intrigued with the bronze tablet recessed into the face of the monument.  The bas-relief is an extraordinary cast, heavy in Art Deco influence, and is one of very few pieces of sculpture in the county.  The other day I examined the tablet closely and found the artist's signature in the bottom right corner:  P. Coppini Sr.

I'm not well-versed in sculptors of this period, or any period.  So I googled Mr. (Pompeo) Coppini (1870-1957), and found that he had an extraordinary career.  The Italian-born American immigrated in 1896 with just $40.  He lived in Texas most of his life where his greatest works are located.  His depictions of George Washington also gained fame and were placed in cities even outside of the United States.  A foundation and museum is named for him and it occupies his former studio in San Antonio.  Maybe his most famous work is "Spirit of Sacrifice" or the Alamo Cenotaph, a work commemorating the defenders of the Alamo.  He was also commissioned to design the Texas Centennial Half Dollar in 1934.  His work is also displayed on the grounds of the Texas State Capitol, Texas A & M, and the University of Texas.

"Spirit of Sacrifice" Alamo Cenotaph by Coppini
But Plymouth, Indiana?  How did the American War Mothers chapter find Coppini and commission him to create this impressive bronze?  This aspect of the story remains a mystery.  Coppini was in Chicago for a few years where he was a member of a Rotary Club.  He traveled to Fort Wayne and Decatur, Indiana in 1920 promoting the idea of public sculpture, particularly related to Fort Wayne's pioneers.  He spoke at Rotary clubs in both of these cities.  Could Plymouth have also been a stop for Coppini?  It is believed that we are home to the only Coppini sculpture in Indiana.  The Plymouth Republican carried an announcement a few days prior to Memorial Day that the memorial would be dedicated and gave this description of the bronze:  "...representing a young American offering himself for the protection of the motherland from whom he is receiving a wreath of laurel.  This is a reproduction of the work of Pompeo Coppini, a noted sculptor of Chicago."  The description of the bronze sounds like the words of the sculptor describing his work.  If there is an official name to the sculpture, it is not part of the newspaper's account.  Also noted is that the paper calls this a reproduction.
I reached out to the Coppini Museum in Texas, and did my own on-line searches.  And I came up with a twin (the only one I could find) to our memorial located in  Jones Park, a downtown square in the middle of Canton, Illinois (southwest of Peoria).  It was dedicated on Veterans Day 1922.  Mr. and Mrs. Ulysses Grant Orendorff presented the monument to the citizens of Canton in Fulton County, Illinois to commemorate those who died in World War I.  I believe that the couple commissioned Coppini for this work given this description provided "the bronze figure represents a young man, an American citizen, shielding with his own body the motherland, America, and she is bestowing upon him a wreath of laurel.  The young man is not in the uniform of a soldier as that would typify militarism which the donors of the gift especially desire not to do."  Fulton County, Illinois lost 110 men in the war.  The monument appears to still be at their park.

This photo is dated 1926, but it would accurately depict the scene of the Plymouth dedication a year prior, with Scouts and Vets standing side-by-side
The dedication of our monument had much fanfare on Memorial Day, May 25, 1925.  The unveiling was witnessed by a large crowd from all over Marshall County.  General Gignilliat, superintendent of Culver Military Academy, provided the main address.  The Academy's Black Horse Troop, military band, and a detachment of cadets with full presentation of colors and flags of the allies were present in a march that led to the monument.  Also in the convoy to the monument were the American War Mothers, in automobiles, Civil War Veterans (most in their 80s), Boy Scouts, and Camp Fire Girls.  This must have been quite a scene.  The ceremony was concluded with firing a salute and playing of taps.

22 February 2020

Marshall County's Battle with Spanish Influenza 1918-1920

While some have succumbed to hyper-fear of the coronavirus, nothing could reach the fervor of the fever feared most: Spanish Influenza in 1918-1920.  While the worldwide epidemic reached its most aggressive spread in 1918, strains remained into 1920 and in some local communities claimed more victims during the later period of the virus.  For example, Clinton County suffered twice the deaths from the flu in 1920 than in 1918.  The height of the flu's toll reached our local communities about September and October 1918.  By October 17, 1918, there were over 23,000 cases reported in Indiana.   Remarkably, Marshall County accounted for more than 10% of Indiana's cases with 2,453 people reported that same week.  The flu hit young people into their early 30s particularly hard which seemed to contradict normal understanding of viruses.  It was estimated a quarter of the world's population was affected.

During those two months, our local newspapers carried article after article of the grim reaper's harvest, including young soldiers who had enlisted from Marshall County to fight in WWI only to be stricken with the flu as they trained in military camps.  By mid-October, county health officials met with elected officials and school leaders and called for an outright quarantine across the county.  Schools, churches, theaters, and other areas of public gatherings were ordered closed.  This lasted for more than a week.  The quarantine occurred again in the early months of 1920 with deaths resulting from the virus well into the late part of that year.

Spanish influenza took the lives of a few of our enlisted men during the war, but it also took the life of Hannah Burden, the only woman counted among the county's war dead.  She enlisted as a nurse with the Red Cross and was infected with the virus at Camp Sheridan in Ohio while caring for infected soldiers and died on October 26, 1918.  The late bloom of the virus that occurred in 1920 also took the life of my grandmother's sister, Blanchie, who was just two years old, and her aunt who was in her 20s.  During the harsh winters when the virus raged, my great aunt told me that the small farming community around their home decided to use their barn as a make-shift morgue until the ground thawed and loved ones could be buried.  The bodies of the flu victims were wrapped tightly, fitted in pine boxes, and stacked in the barn in which I played as a little kid.  These relatives stricken by the flu were buried at Mt. Zion (County Line) Cemetery near LaVille Schools.

My Great Aunt Blanchie Crothers (1918-1920) late victim of the flu
Crothers Barn on Marshall/St. Joseph County Line Road, makeshift morgue during the pandemic
Not unlike what we've seen with other pandemics, there was misdirected fear and reprisal.  Many people, even newspaper editors, feared that it was germ warfare distributed by the Germans.  This only fueled anti-German sentiment during the war, which led to recent immigrants to the U.S. to halt using their native tongue-something that was reflected in the end of sermons given in German in Bremen area churches.  Men were encouraged not to spit (must've been a thing back then) and onions were pushed as a natural remedy to the flu.  And of course, there were plenty of other remedies promoted to protect against the bug.  After that outbreak, all other flu epidemics were measured by the Spanish flu for decades after, including a particularly severe one in 1932 which was "much less egregious to the general population's mortality."

15 February 2020

Armed Robbers & Bootleggers in LaPaz

Garner's Truck Stop, under construction in 1958
When your little town is at the crossroads of coast-to-coast highways, there is likely to be some trouble with bootleggers and Bonnie & Clyde types.  During the 1930s, at the height of Prohibition and the Depression, our little corner of the world found its fair share of trouble.

In 1931, federal agents uncovered a massive alcohol distillery operated by individuals locally, of course, but connected back to others in Gary and Chicago.  The still, estimated to be contributing $20,000 worth of strong contraband, was discovered on the Dolph Farm between LaPaz and Tyner (I think they meant Teegarden, as the Dolph property was located north of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad).  The federal agents hurried off to Chicago after arriving on the scene in order to make further arrests of the crime boss and syndicate.  Seven were arrested in all, including one poor chap who drove up upon the scene to deliver a truck load of corn syrup.

A few years later, in December 1934, the Farmers State Bank of LaPaz was robbed of $3,549.00 by four bandits who fled south to Kokomo on State Road 31, which would have meant that they would have had to slow down to a crawl as they passed through Plymouth, Argos, Rochester, and Peru before arriving at their hideout in Kokomo.  Bank officials described the robbers as "young, dark and foreign looking."  Well heck, that would have described me.  Three of the four, one being a woman, were arrested in Kokomo.

And the third story was another of those that my grandfather would tell, but I wasn't sure to believe.  Garner's Truck Stop was robbed by gunpoint by four young men from Mishawaka in March 1961.  I can imagine it was an easy target on a road bordered by seemingly endless cornfields, a mile outside of town, and my grandpa the only one on duty.  When they were arrested, they were also charged with other robberies in the area.

Grandpa, cigar in mouth and money in hand, c. 1965

08 February 2020

A Remarkable, potentially paranormal, Case Indeed!

A few weeks ago, I had mentioned that verifying some of these seemingly crazy family stories all of a sudden became much easier with access to a newspaper search program.  My mother, backed up by her sister, would tell of a tale that sounded too spooky to be true.  But, accordingly, it had been passed down in their family for a few generations and when I'd tell my kids, they just kind of thought "sure, whatever dad....how soon before we put you in a home?"

But, in fact, here it is.  A remarkable case, as published in the Culver Citizen in 1916.  My great grandmother's sister, Rosetta, suffered from straw or thorn-like expulsions from her hands that proved to be very painful during the course of a few weeks.  It left doctors dumbfounded, to be certain.  This side of the family always seemed to be given a little to the supernatural, and so it had been passed on to us that the family had thought it was a curse from a tenant farmer's wife who lived on the property.  That is not covered in the story.

Nonetheless, my great great grandfather, Frances Ervin, took her around the county displaying the straws (about 200 of them) to newspaper men like the one who published it in the Plymouth Democrat, which was also carried in the Citizen on August 31, 1916.  Hopefully, the article displays large enough to read.  Maybe read to young children as a bedtime story like it was told to us!

The Ervins had a large farm on Juniper Road in northern Marshall County.  From Frances and his wife, Jennie, descended three daughters and one son, and an infant daughter named Pearl, who died in 1913.  The children, whom have many descendants in the Bremen area today, are Bertha (Crothers), Dora (Thornton), Anthony Ervin, and little Rosetta (Booker), the subject of the thorn-phenomenon.  One of these descendants has proven themselves to be a bit of a thorn in my side too. 

So far, I haven't found a story that was told that hasn't had some truth to it.

30 January 2020

Willard White: The story of the one-armed clock cranker

Willard R. White gained some notoriety in Indiana, despite the rather mundane job that he had as a winder of the great towering clock in the top of the Marshall County Courthouse.  It was, in part, because of the skill it took to wind that old clock as a one-armed man.

Mr. White's arm was amputated some time before he accepted the job as custodian of the Marshall County Courthouse in the 1930s.  Willard spent some time out west before moving back to Marshall County, after marrying his wife, Bertha, in 1915 in Missouri.  In 1920, he was employed as a book dealer.  In 1930, he hired himself out for odd jobs, common during the Great Depression.  The couple, who never had children, lived with her widowed mother on South Sixth Street.  Bertha died in 1940 at 53, leaving Willard classified as a widower on 1940 census.  His job was listed as "custodian-county courthouse".

A newspaper in Edinburgh, Indiana thought the story interesting enough to run an article about Willard in 1944.  The article states that he climbed the 75' tower weekly to wind the huge four-faced clock that sets the time for Plymouth.  This required 150 revolutions of a 2-foot long iron crank, then another 150 revolutions on the striking spring.  Mr. White lived only a few years more, dying in 1948 at 67 years of age.  The couple's final resting place is Oakhill Cemetery on the south side of Plymouth.  Is anyone in Marshall County familiar with this story?

The next time I'm in the tower, you can bet I'll think of Willard White.

25 January 2020

Battle of LaPaz Junction

My grandpa was full of stories.

Some of those stories have proven to be made-up, like the one involving Cherokee ancestry, as much as I wanted it to be true.  But there were others, including one about a speed trap in LaPaz that caught the attention of prosecutors.  I racked that up to one of those he said was involved had a long-running feud with the family and rival in the truck stop business on the opposite corner of US 6 & US 31.  Now, delving into those headlines of papers long ago, I see that he wasn't making this story up.  But he failed to mention the role that the founders of our own establishment played in 1939.

The original Maddox Inn, built c. 1933 at 6 and old 31
As facts would have it, both Bert Albert, Constable of LaPaz, and Everett Maddox, Justice of the Peace of the same, were engaged in speed traps that resulted in exorbitant fines that the two accepted as payments for their services.  The "Battle of LaPaz Junction" as it became known as in local papers in 1939, finally came to a head when a defendant was not allowed a hearing with the county's prosecuting attorney.  Ultimately, the two seemed to cave under an ultimatum made by Judge Kitch that they resign rather than be brought to trial where they were faced with paying back to plaintiffs five-times the amount collected in the speed trap.

Everett Maddox established Maddox Inn on the southeast corner of US 6 and old US 31 when US 6 was completed through Marshall County as a coast-to-coast highway in 1932-33.  My grandparents bought the restaurant/filling station in the late 1940s, actually traded Maddox their farm for it, and renamed it Garner Inn.  It was razed when US 31 became a four-lane in 1956.  They opened the new truck stop in 1958 a mile east on US 6.  Harvey "Bert" Albert was part of the family that opened a filling station on the northwest corner of the intersection, along with the Alibi Restaurant and bowling alley, all of which opened after the road-widening in the late 1950s.

Next:  "Gramps, did your grandpa really kill someone with a pitchfork over a watering hole?"

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.

Glory to be Restored for 150th

Proposed restoration drawing of courthouse tower with window Marshall County Commissioners embarked on a rather impressive vision for a ...