26 September 2009


We had our final meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Northern Alliance today in Logansport before jumping to the south half of the state for meetings this fall.

We are greatly encouraged by the turn-out and offers of support. Clearly the interest is there and Shelbyville, Greensburg and Madison have all made offers to host us later this year.

The new website was rolled out today. I encourage you to visit blogger Jim's excellent guide:


And if you're not familiar with the byway effort, the website will certainly give you an idea of the importance of this little road that winds from Madison to Michigan City...or as it was said today "coast to coast in Indiana".

23 September 2009

Fulton County Roots

Hoover Cemetery, Athens (photo courtesy of my 7 yr. old)

Prill School, 1858

Other than my home of Republicania County, no other place in the state has as many branches of my family than Fulton County. Fortunately it was a good mark left on the landscape. One branch of the family, the Prills in conjunction with another line, the Hoovers were some of the areas earliest settlers.

Hoover Mill

Henry and Mary Hoover were brother and sister, born to Quakers in North Carolina who migrated to Lafayette in the 1820's. Henry relocated to Fulton County and built a mill near the town of Athens. The first mill was destroyed, but the Hoover family reconstructed the mill about 1860, which still stands today having been converted into a residence. The Hoovers also donated land for a cemetery in Athens. Although the sign is dated 1891, the cemetery dates much earlier to the 1850's.

Mary Hoover Prill
Mary Hoover married Lewis Prill, my great x4 grandfather. Lewis Prill was born in Harpers Ferry, Virgina and his family settled later in Montgomery County, Ohio. It isn't clear how Lewis and Mary met, but they were married and living in Fulton County in 1837. American Indians were still living in the area at that time and their son, John, was said to be so friendly with the Indians that he "could've been one".

John Prill

I have several pieces of correspondence between John and his cousin, another John Prill, in Ohio from the 1850's. John married Pheobe Evaline Ulch who died in 1867 after giving birth to my great, great grandmother. I have several pieces of correspondence between Pheobe and two of her cousins on the front lines in the South during the Civil War. He remarried and had a large family.

John Prill Homestead, ca. 1850
The Prills lived along the Ft. Wayne Road north of Athens. John had a homestead as early as 1858 when he donated ground to build a one room brick school house known as the Prill School.

Pilgrimage to the Prill School in 1992

Interior of the Prill School
A number of my ancestors attended the little school house that is on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1992 members of my family including my grandfather and his sister made a pilgrimage to this little building. On our daddy/daughter day recently I stopped by there with my little girl.

John was devoutly religious and was known for his extraordinary character and generosity. When I pulled a picture of him out to show my daughter I asked who she thought he looked like and she said "Santa". Well, in some ways I think he may have been.

John Prill family....or should I say, the Clauses?

21 September 2009

Good eye for a 7 year old!

Ever wonder what the world looks like through the eyes of a 7 year old? On our Saturday trip my little girl asked to use the camera a number of times. Usually I'm a bit protective of the camera since it assists in making my livelihood. But I relented and was pleasantly surprised....I think she might have an eye for shooting. We stopped by a family cemetery and one room schoolhouse (more on these later). Then after we stopped for gas, she got the camera and shot all the way home.

At the end of our trip we stopped at the Flagpole in Rochester which has the best ice cream in Northern Indiana-well, equal to the Char-Bette in Logansport maybe....but I think they have the same supplier. I told her to hop up on "Sandy" the horse so I could take a picture. Then I stuck a quarter in and to my surprise...Sandy worked. I remember a horse like this in our old grocery store that I would beg my mom to let me ride. My daughter, on the other hand, begged to get off this thing that jerked around like a true bronco. I don't remember my childhood horse ride being that rough, but then those were the days before car seats. Were we tougher back then?

Making memories out of Apples

When I realized that my little girl and I would be spending the day all by ourselves Saturday I posed the question of what would she like to do....and threw out visiting every ice cream shoppe in northern Indiana as an option. Her brother was at the Purdue game, and mom was on a road trip with a girlfriend. Dad and his little girl would go.........???? To an apple orchard? That was the request. It seems the apple bug bit her hard last week during a classroom demonstration of applesauce making. And so, I figure, ok-besides it's a great way to get her into the country and in touch with her Johnny Appleseed roots.

So, shortly after lunch we headed south to Miami County which boasts two great apple orchards. The first most people driving U.S. 31 probably use as a landmark-McClure's Tate Apple Orchard. This was her requested stop. The other I found online: Doud's Orchard on Highway 19, about 9 miles north of Peru. By the way, I love driving in the country this time of year.

We bought a handful of "honeycrisp" apples at Tates. I was informed by my daughter that this was the only worthy variety to get. We then got applesauce and an apple dumpling at the restaurant. Wow..did I forget how good their dumplings are.

From Tates we went drove over to Highway 19 through Denver, and detoured slightly to drive through the little town of Chili. Now, you know I like canoing and kayaking...so the Miller Canoe rental caught my eye. The town has perfect access to the Eel River and may demand a return trip next year for a little time on the water. I also noted that the canoe rental building must have been an old mill because it was on "Chili Mill Road". I love that name. I also love chili. So I'm thinking of opening a restaurant that specializes in chili and operate a canoe rental place out of the back. I would call it Chili Mill.

We headed north and came to Doud's. It's a great operation that isn't so commercialized. While you wouldn't know it from the outside, it is housed in a one room brick school with an old barn built around it in which the store is located. We bought apple butter and a candy stick. Take a look at at the construction of the orchard buildings at Douds. These look like large clay tile used for field tile drainage systems. I have to say...this was pretty cool. I highly recommend a visit.

While we weren't allowed any actual apple picking, we had a great time. And it took me back to my days with Grandad who in his spare time built wood crates for Lemert's Apple Orchard in Teegarden, Indiana. I remember heading over there after school some days to pick apples to our hearts content and gramps telling me to climb up in the tree and shake 'em loose. And I remember the old cider press that had a tin cup tied to it and we would all take a sip on the way out. Lemerts has been gone for some time now.

Yellow delicious were my favorite. In college I'd swing by our town's farm market and get a handful of yellows to take back with me to Andrews U. And usually eat one on the road north, remembering gramps. It was great making new memories in an Indiana apple orchard with my little girl. More on this trip to follow including seeing the world through a 7 year old's eyes.

20 September 2009

Rededication of Menominee: an act of reconciliation & resolve

The Centennial of the Chief Menominee Dedication was an amazing event to witness. The words shared were moving and poignant. Prayers were said in Pottawatomie and English. Songs were sung recounting the sad tale of Menominee and in encouragement to view all things in a circle, a continuum of life as we are all connected to each other.

Chief Menominee was a Christian man whose land was stolen by our government and he was removed in shackles. His tribe of nearly a thousand were marched to Kansas, many dying en route. Soldiers burned their village and the chapel in which they worshipped our God. This black mark on our history is known as the "Trail of Death".

The rededication of the statue erected in 1909 began unofficially Thursday evening with a short time of prayer at the monument with the sunset blazing at our backs as we stood in the footprint of the destroyed replica chapel. The intent was to pray for reconciliation, healing and a resolve to end racism our community experiences today....to allow the rededication be a dedication of ourselves to never let this happen again, in any form, to any people. To pray for us to be instruments of God's peace and for peace to fall on that site the following day.

I trust something deeply spiritual happened on Friday. I pray that eyes and hearts were open to not only the injustice in 1838, but the injustice experienced today. I pray that a healing took place in spiritual realms...that the transgressions of our forefathers are washed over and any residue of that wrong-doing that hangs like a mist over our community has cleared. I pray that the Pottawatomie that were gathered from across this nation understood this rededication was as much about atonement as it was remembrance.

The song about Menominee must have gripped the hearts of those present, but it was the words of Father Petit, priest to Menominee's village, as spoken by a young man from our highschool, that may have impressed me most deeply.....and possibly caused some to cringe at their ringing truths:

Though I was sent here to bring the message of Christ to them, they taught me His ways simply by their placid life. They seem to be closer to God than some of our French clergy—and certainly they are closer to Christ than some of the Americans who are seeking their removal.

The natives take the word of God with them wherever they go, teaching others the catechism and speaking of the love of Christ. Their lives are like living examples of the lives of the saints who lived on sparse provisions day to day and spread the Gospel.

They are so unlike the savages that the Americans paint them to be! I know who the true savages are here in the United States. Many of the Americans have hearts as dry as cork and only think of two things: land and money!

The human tragedy of such inhumane treatment of the aboriginal peoples of this land is incomparable. And all of this “removal” was performed by a people that claim the words of the United States Declaration of Independence which boldly proclaims: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, endowed by their creator with certain inalienable rights, of which are the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

These red men, women, and children were denied their God-given right. How could a Christian people allow for such an act of cruelty? How could the majority of decent American citizens meekly stand by and allow fellow human beings to be “removed” as if they were nothing more than bothersome insects or unwanted animals?

Chief Menominee said, “Civilized man considered our races savage and yet he has treated us most savagely."

19 September 2009

it keeps on raining....

Man, I've been irritable lately....as one of my evidently secret readers just found out. A lack of sleep and touch and go flu symptoms have started to wear on me. At the base of it all is just kind of a heaviness that seems to be compounded by more tragic events this week.

Around midnight the other night we awoke to sirens that stopped on the street in front of our house. I looked out the window and thought it was an elderly neighbor woman so I laid back down and began to pray for her. My wife couldn't fall back to sleep so she went downstairs, then I heard her go out our back door. When she finally came back to bed she told me it wasn't who we thought it was, rather it was another neighbor who found their son who had od'd with the intent, he thought, to take his life. My wife said the situation looked pretty grim.

This young guy moved back in with his dad after leaving Florida earlier this summer. I met him fairly quickly since we share a property line and soon he and I began to have frequent conversations, usually over the fence. I helped him clean up a tree he took down and he helped clean up some branches that fell from one of my trees. It became apparent this kid had a tough life. Obviously, my prayers changed immediately and I was left restless and awake for the next four hours.

My wife got a chance to talk to his dad that night. He said he appreciated how the neighborhood took him in and befriended him...and that he spoke highly of me. Which thrust like a knife, because I clearly didn't do enough to help this kid. I said I'd invite him to play pool sometime in my barn and never did....I had thought about asking him if he wanted to go grab breakfast or lunch sometime because he never leaves the neighborhood....but I didn't.

I've been exchanging emails with an elder in our church about "reaching out" which is code in most churches for evangelism. I grew up in a red-hot evangelistic church-for 25 years of my life. And I have real issues with it today. Not because I don't want to see people brought into new life in Christ, but because it tends to be void of love. What is the greatest commandment? To love the Lord your God with all your heart & mind...and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself.

My question was.....do you really know how to love your neighbor? Not love with the aim of conversion...but just love. The commandment wasn't to convert your neighbor as yourself, but to love them. Think with me evangelicals.....have we EVER been taught to love as Christ commanded? Have we even been taught to model Christ? I think we get hung up on holiness and conversion and believe that it's a recipe to fill our churches. "They will know you are my disciples by your love".

I've said this before and it becomes something that discredits me because of my actions. I step out my back door and my mission field is all around me....it's the six widows, seven fatherless kids and four people that struggle with serious addictions....and one young man that struggles with depression......all within a few hundred feet of my door. Most suburbanites haven't the opportunity to "love their neighbor" to the extent, and need, that I do.

Be praying for this guy. When I called the hospital yesterday he was in the cardiac recovery unit. And you can bet when he gets out, we'll shoot some pool.

16 September 2009

Random Summer Stuff

Campout in the backyard under the stars

With Summer drawing to a close I went through my picture file from the last few months and thought I'd share some random pictures with you from the Summer of 2009 with a natural theme.

Hatching our Monarch

Daddy Long-Legs' ascent

We grow weeds in our flower beds so that bugs can feast

Wildlife on ice after a terrorizing night

Our accidental hybrid yellow pumpkin-squash creation in our "volunteer garden"

Being accosted/loved on by an angry gorilla in front of South Bend Chocolate Factory in Downtown SB

In a traffic jam, only to find out this solar car was creating it. Yah, I don't see this catching on

14 September 2009

It always Rains....

Have you ever had one of those days that feels like it is pressing so hard on your heart that you try to breathe deep just to take the pressure off? A few weeks ago a young woman from our church, a girl who attended my 20x class, was struck and killed while out walking one night. This girl was unique for all kinds of reasons, the very least of which had to do with some health struggles that put her into the dangerous situation that became the tragic end to her life.

Sitting today in the memorial service held at our church for her, it became apparent how unique she was because of the testimony of so many who knew her and were touched by her overflowing love. And everyone was left with the question...why?

We've begun a DVD series by Rob Bell during our 20x class. They are the Nooma videos and of the two I have seen thus far, they have the ability to wrench the heart into action. The first one we watched a few Sundays back...it is entitled "Rain". In it Rob talks about a hiking experience with his baby son during which a torrential downpour began and his son was terrified and crying-drenched by the rain. Rob pauses and says in a exhausted demeanor "it always rains". Then later remarked that his son may end up in therapy asking why his dad put him through that; to which Rob commented that he would be crushed because that was one of his most intimate, precious times carrying his son. After the short video, and a few thought provoking questions, I asked the 20's if there were times when they couldn't understand why it was God was allowing bad things to happen to them.

There were a few typical answers, and being the "teacher" I gave a few typical responses, such as "there may be a purpose God intends this for that we just cannot know". Then Katie spoke up. She said.....I don't know...I...I just have a hard time accepting that. I don't see how there could be a purpose in bad things, like children being abused.

Knowing at least a little bit about her past, my jaw dropped and my lips formed a tight line. I'm supposed to know how to respond here, and I couldn't, except to say that maybe one day those kids could help other kids in that situation. Her face and her large, inquiring eyes have been burnt into my mind. I don't know why crap happens.....sometimes it just does.

The irony here is that she was the one asking, and with what happened to her, it has left us with the same question she had a couple weeks ago. But, now she knows. And while we try to ask the whys of her death, the more important thing is to understand the whys of her life. The "whys" were all gathered today....Hoosiers touched by a Texan who found her way here under dire circumstances.

They played "Rain" today. There were only a few of us who knew this aspect of the story behind the video. To me it was crushing.....my heart felt like it would stop. But, it always rains. And while we stumble around for answers in this life the key thing is to understand that our Father carries us.....and yes, even sends the rain. And in rain....there is life.

12 September 2009

Swedes of the Lakeshore

Chellburg House

During the second half of the 19th century Swedish immigrants began to descend on northern Porter County in huge waves to the extent that generally speaking, a full one-quarter of all Swedish immigrants living in Indiana between about 1860 and 1920 lived in this area. The towns of Chesterton and Porter had high concentrations of Swedes, but an unincorporated area just to the south of Lake Michigan's shore had a rural Swedish flavor all its own. The Swedish enclave of Baillytown developed as a loosely organized but highly relational community of immigrants whose descendents still call this area home.

Augsburg Cemetery
Much of what was known as Baillytown is part of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore today and incorporates several historic Swedish farms, the largest of which is the Chellberg Farm where the Lakeshore holds an annual fall festival on the interpretive farm. Many of the existing farms have summer kitchens, granaries, and windmill & pumphouses. A few have log cabins underneath the main structure. The most "Swedish" of the cabins was relocated to Portage. It has such fine scribing of the logs in v-groove channels that no chinking is required between the logs. That is some skill! Furthermore, the cabin was made from white pine, once native to that part of the state but now extinct in terms of natural habitat.
Linden Cabin, Portage (awaiting restoration)

If you have an interest in ethnic heritage and you happen to be near the Indiana Dunes, you should take a few minutes to drive to adjacent Baillytown to view the farms and visit the Augsburg Church cemetery which is full of stroms, sens, sons....among other Swedish names with many of their stones inscribed in their native tongue. Also look at the large bell that once hung in the previous church building from 1901. It too is cast with words in Swedish.
Bell at the Augsburg Church

Another must see is the Swensk Skola, or small Swedish schoolhouse on Oak Hill Road. It has a certain folk-inspired design and sits just below the Burnstrom Cemetery, a smaller Swedish cemetery on a knoll overlooking the skola. I wonder if Jens Jensen wasn't partially drawn to this area because of his Scandinavian roots. Jensen is largely responsible for the ecological protection of the Indiana Dunes.
Swensk Skola of Baillytown

Having familiarity with another small Swedish enclave near Donaldson, Indiana, probably diminished my appreciation for the Porter County Swedes; not understanding the rarity of the enclave or their determination to retain their culture. This makes me want to investigate the Donaldson Swedes more thoroughly because based on my understanding, outside of northern Porter County, other Swedish immigrants simply didn't have this same community mentality.