30 December 2013

Duck, Duck, Goose...my prayer for the flock in 2014

Further exasperated by the flu, I'm sure, which has been an ongoing battle for nearly a month, discouraging issue after issue compounded with a couple of sucker-punches took their toll on me from the end of November thru much of December.  A serious suspension from blogging was the result.  Maybe that was for the best considering the lines I had woven together in my head.

I felt a bit blasted by mediocrity here in river city going into Thanksgiving.  So help me, if I hear another comment about brain drain I will come unplugged.  A few circumstances made me realize no matter how hard one works to make Republicania county a better place, for many in leadership there is a certain relishment in the banal, in the good enough........while the rest of the country and much of the state pass us by, again.  This is what I mean when I say it takes a great deal of character to love this place we call home.  And man, am I a character.....so I'll keep loving away.

Then shortly thereafter we heard Rush Limbaugh schooling the pope of all people on theology.  Marxist?  Seriously Rush?  The guy points to scripture to form his theology on immoral aspects of capitalism and you state that someone must've gotten to him?  That he must've been listening to someone?  Yep-if you'd been paying attention in Sunday School you might just have the answer.  And then a week later we were mired in Duck Dynasty.  Positively the worse black eye the church received this year.  I was saddened to see fellow Christians run to their defense.  It made me want to ask did you really read what he said?  Not so much his position on the issue, but what he said, including his comments about African Americans?  Friends, if we've decided that Phil Robertson is going to be a role model for our faith and spokesperson for the church we've got serious issues to work through.

The growing culture in the American church continues to drive a wedge between ourselves and those Christ told us to reach, to love, to heal, to be His hands and feet for.  What I saw in this last month was a reaction of rage and assertion of rights that continues to polarize.  And I try for the life of me to understand how that fits the person of Christ who gave up his rights, as he called us to do, and only lashed out at the religious leaders.  The Christ, who healed, who said give away everything, who came not only to be our sacrifice (where we like to keep him), but our model.

My prayer for the church going into 2014 is to stop and consider the actions and the life of Christ, who we are to follow, and begin to remove the other voices around us that pollute our understanding of the scriptures.  I would pray that we spend more time reading and living the words in red than modeling what we see on cable, read on Facebook, or listen to on a.m. radio.  My prayer is that we would be much less concerned about our rights than the souls of others.....and realize our words, actions, and easy spouts and shares on FB could make the real message of the Gospel be ineffectual.

Consider these words from Matthew 5, Christ's directives from the sermon on the mount, and then reflect on how the church demonstrates, or does not demonstrate, these today, and then pray with me that we bow our knees in repentance in 2014.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
11 “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. 12 Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.
13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

09 December 2013

Remembering Studebaker

It was on this day, December 9th, 50 years ago that South Bend was dealt a pretty tough blow.  Studebaker announced that it would be closing its plant after a long history of production in the city from horse-drawn wagons to automobiles.  That history has been extensively erased from the city's landscape, but two buildings serve as towering reminders of a past that put South Bend on the map.  The following are photos I recently snapped from a tour of the last surviving assembly building on the city's near south side.  Here's to hoping for better days again......

Typical assembly floor

Stair tower

Top assembly floor

Stair tower

Top assembly floor

Looking down on the Studebaker Administration Building

Last assembly building and administration building flanking Lafayette Boulevard

27 November 2013

Thanksgiving Photo Essay from Plimoth

To turn our hearts and minds toward the roots of our Thanksgiving, I offer this photo-essay from our family vacation to Plymouth and Provincetown, Massachusetts this past summer.  Happy Thanksgiving......and let us be truly thankful to our creator for all He has blessed us with.

Stained glass window in the old Pilgrim church, commemorating the signers of the Mayflower Compact.  Two of my ancestors' names are included in this, Stephan Hopkins and William Brewster.

Our kids at the grave of Pilgrim and first governor, William Bradford in the old Pilgrim cemetery on the knoll overlooking the bay where the Mayflower landed.
Makes me want to break out into the song "Rocky Top"
The reconstructed Plimoth Plantation

The Pilgrim Memorial at Provincetown

A park near the bay is the location of Elder William Brewster's original home

The enshrinement of "Plymouth Rock"

25 November 2013

Sycamore Hill, In His Service

We've hit the 4th anniversary from when Sycamore Hill "found us" so to speak.  Coffee-clutching at Starbucks with some buddies in 2009 led to a visit just to see the barn and the rest is history.  November has traditionally held some shake-ups in our lives, and always for the better.

I remember a conversation with my sister-in-law around the time we were buying the property.  I remember her asking if we planned to honor God with it.  Hmmm.....well, I had thought about establishing a nudist colony, but didn't figure the plan commission would go for that....so, sure, the alternative seemed fine.

Well of course we would.  We've been blessed to host family and school reunions, our pastor's birthday party (and if a 70s-themed party doesn't honor God, I'm not sure what would!), and I've had my 3rd and 4th grade boys' Sunday School class out to the farm for campouts.  While doing the 20s ministry we held campfires and get-togethers out here.  I've sat in the barn with buddies and recounted the blessings God's granted here on the hill, and that included hosting a wedding for friends of ours.  But it doesn't end there....because of the picturesque quality of the farm it's become a popular backdrop for photographers' family shoots.  In fact we were double-booked a few Saturdays ago.

But if there was one culminating moment where it dawned on me, yep, truly Sycamore Hill has been used in God's service it had to be while watching the video at the top of this post that was filmed in our barn for our church's celebration service.  Enjoy.

20 November 2013

Never more at home in Indiana

As I walked the narrow winding road from Adams Mill to the covered bridge over Wildcat Creek, the late afternoon sun dappled through the dense tree canopy overhead.  It was a warmer than usual September day and the sun's rays were quickly absorbed by my black t-shirt.  With my camera to my side and the camera strap causing beads of sweat to form between the shirt it was pressing against and my back, I became acutely aware of my surroundings.

At first the silence in the vale seemed only broken by the few birds perched high in the canopy, and then by my own footsteps on the road surface, but then ultimately it was my own breathing I heard until I reached a point where the ripples in Wildcat Creek drowned out the other incidental noises I had become aware of.  As I approached the old covered bridge the smell of aged timbers wafted through the air.  I walked slowly across the bridge to absorb both the history and scenic vistas offered through its portals.  The floor boards, even under my light steps, creaked appropriately to inform me of my surroundings.

I reached the other side and didn't delay in snapping a few shots of what I thought would be clever perspectives, but knowing I could never capture the essence of what I was experiencing.  My stride was quicker on the way back across and this time a motorist met me at the other side.  The driver, an older lady with both hands on the wheel, smiled and nodded as if to say "I get it-I know why you're here".

I eased my way down the embankment to the edge of Wildcat Creek and began to walk its semi-sandy, slightly mushy edge guarded by massive sycamore trees whose gnarled roots held back the soil in drifts washed over by the rise and fall of creek waters.  I turned toward the covered bridge again, snapped a few shots, and then climbed back up to the road.  And again, my stride was quicker as I began to round the bend of the road and the mill came back into view.......and then almost instinctively I slowed again as I noticed the sycamores roadside whose large branches stretched out above me.  Their ghostlike white arms and distinctive aroma halted me in my tracks.

And I said aloud, though so perfectly alone, "I'm never more at home in Indiana than when I can hear the gentle churning of a creek and be shaded beneath the great outstretched arms of a sycamore tree."  And then like flood waters against my very soul, I was overwhelmed by a rush of memories that flooded my mind, some taking me back to my childhood, and I have to admit becoming a little misty-eyed to feel so blessed.

What is it that makes you feel at home in Indiana?
Visit Adams Mill for yourself:  www.adams-mill.org

18 November 2013

Higbe's Corner on the Michigan Road

If you travel the Michigan Road through Marshall County, and pay close attention to the road signs north of Plymouth you might notice one sign that reads "Higbee Corner" on the same sign marked 5th Road.  As long as I can remember this little crossroads at the top of a small knoll has carried this designation.

In the mid 1830s an official survey was completed through the county to establish sections for land sales.  The map included natural features and any existing settlements, either Native American or white settlers.  Prior to the establishment of any town in Marshall County, the Higbee Corner crossroads was denoted with an inn/tavern.  The area southwest of the cabin was marked as an Indian settlement.  As more people settled in the area stretching out along the Michigan Road, the loosely formed community became known as "Fairmount".  The only real reminder of this village is Fairmount Cemetery, the oldest cemetery in the county, located north of Higbee Corner and established in 1834.  A small child of a pioneer family traveling the road in 1834 died and became the first white person buried in the county.  A short time later a Native American tribe which had been christianized, brought a child that had died, to be given a Christian burial at Fairmount.  This post is the first of a few that will feature some of the early pioneers interred at Fairmount Cemetery.

Which brings us back to Higbee Corner.  Silas Higbe (also spelled Higby and Higbee), moved to Marshall County during the mid 1850s.  He had been born in 1814 in New York state and was living in Akron, Ohio in 1850 with his family and mother, Catherine.  His occupation was listed as "boatman", presumably on the Wabash & Erie Canal.  Silas Higbe opened a store at the small crossroads in Fairmount prior to 1860.  The store building was two stories tall and included a public hall on the second floor and post office on the first floor.  Census records for early settlers in the area were marked with "Fairmount" as their post office box location.  Silas and his son Byron were listed as merchants in 1860 and Silas was listed as a tavern keeper in 1870.  Over time the name that stuck wasn't Fairmount, but rather Higbe's Corner.....translated today as Higbee Corner, though the building is long gone.

The row of Higbe family members at Fairmount Cemetery
Silas brought his mother from Akron sometime shortly after 1860.  She died and was buried at Fairmount Cemetery in 1863.  Her stone is marked "Wife of Silas Higbe" (Sr.).  She was born in 1785....no doubt one of the oldest folks at Fairmount.  Silas Jr.'s first wife, Betsy, died in 1867.  He remarried two years later.  Silas Jr. died in 1873.  It isn't clear how much longer the store continued to operate.  Byron served as a corporal in the 155th Indiana infantry during the Civil War, but by 1870 he appeared to have moved on from Marshall County.  Silas's second wife, Lovina, remarried the same year he died....not letting any grass grow I guess.

13 November 2013

Trip to Williamsport: Not more than a trickle

I mentioned in my last post that the first time I went to Williamsport was with a college buddy who insisted I see Indiana's tallest waterfall.  Yeah right-we had just come from his nearby farm in Illinois that was so flat you could see lights from towns nearly 50 miles away.  But he insisted....so I went along with it and we ended up in Williamsport.  The problem was, it was about 10:00 p.m, and while I could hear a slight trickle of the waterfall tucked in behind the downtown....I couldn't see anything.
A very dry Williamsport Falls
This time my visit was in broad daylight....the problem this time was that there wasn't even a trickle.  The Williamsport Falls is 90 feet tall-that's impressive-but it does go dry, so if you plan a visit go in the spring.  During the winter the falls is known to produce a reverse ice volcano.

Fall Creek Gorge and the Potholes
Prior to visiting the falls my client insisted that he show me "the potholes" as we prepared to leave the farm I was documenting.  The potholes?  Typically one would avoid those I thought to myself.  The look in my eyes must have given my thoughts away because he laughed, asked if I minded gravel roads, and then said follow me.  As we sped down rural Warren County roads, kickin' up dust, I felt like I was back in high school or college again out looking for trouble....and certain to find it.

The "potholes" are part of the Fall Creek Gorge Nature Preserve owned and managed by the Nature Conservancy since 1986.  The gorge has steep stone canyons and rushing waters that have formed potholes in the stone stream bed over thousands of years.  Just a warning if you go-the rock surfaces at the creek are very slippery-as my client quickly learned as he did a cartoonish road runner reenactment, without falling which left me highly impressed.  The preserve has been described as "modern art on an ancient canvas".  I'll buy that.  It was pretty moving and would have to be even more breathtaking at the height of fall color.  It's a little tough to find, but it is located on "Pothole Road" just off Highway 41 north of Williamsport.

11 November 2013

7 years sober...from politics!

It is all-too convenient to have a personal day of remembrance land on a national day of remembrance.  It......well.......reminds me to remember I guess.  Each Veterans Day rolls around and it takes me back to a long day of prayer after a week of fasting...and a pretty significant decision in my life.

I was having dinner with a friend Sunday night and recounting this story nearly took me off-guard in the realization that, yes, tomorrow is November 11th, the 7th anniversary of being sober from politics as it were.  Here is a blog post from the first anniversary in 2007 and a second post written in 2008 that described what led to the decision.



06 November 2013

Trip to Williamsport: Warren County Courthouse

Old Glory hanging in the Warren County Courthouse
I have a small project in Warren County, a place I haven't visited in nearly twenty years.  Warren County is southwest of Lafayette, at the state line.  I've been to Williamsport, the county seat, twice now in the last month.  The last time I visited Williamsport I think I was still in college and a college roomie from the area took me to see the sites....which included the town's main claim to fame.  You'll have to wait in anticipation until my next post for that!

Election returns on the main hall of the courthouse
I had to search land records while in Williamsport last week.  That led me to their courthouse and the recorder's office where cabinets stacked with massive and ancient books lined the walls from floor to ceiling.  Here I traced the lineage of a property first purchased from the federal government in 1834 up to 1863.  The original patent holder called his property "Sugar Creek Farm" in his will of 1836.

Main staircase leading to the courtroom
I usually find a reason to go into Indiana's county courthouses whether I have business to conduct or not.  The Warren County Courthouse was no disappointment.  The interior had a complimentary look and feel of a time long-forgotten.  I think I was most impressed with the large chalkboard on the main level hall that listed candidates for office, changed with each election cycle.  It was though I could smell the energy and probably cigar smoke in the air from those heated races generations ago.

Main entrance
The Warren County Courthouse replaced an earlier one constructed during the 1880s, but burned in 1907.  The current building was constructed the same year in the Classical Revival style.  It was designed by J. W. Royer, an architect from Urbana, Illinois.  Williamsport's political claim to fame is James Hanly, Governor of Indiana between 1905-1909.  Hanly campaigned on ending gambling at the casino towns of French Lick and West Baden.  Not only that, but Hanly also worked to prohibit liquor throughout the state.  By the time he left office 70 of Indiana's 92 counties were dry.  Next post-some impressive natural features in Warren County.

The courthouse as it faces downtown Williamsport

04 November 2013

Everglades of the North

What I imagine the great Kankakee Marsh looking like this time of year....taken at the Kankakee State Wetlands
No doubt at least a few of you have watched the program on local public television entitled "Everglades of the North".  The show has been on once or twice, and is being featured at the Marshall County Genealogical Society's annual meeting this month.

The "everglades" refer to the vast inland Kankakee marsh that once extended from the western regions of Saint Joseph and Marshall Counties westward to the state line following the watershed area created by the Kankakee River.  The stories about this area are fascinating.  Isolated islands of oak trees on sand bluffs called oak savannas filled the marsh.  Vast wetlands filled with waterfowl would "blot out the sun" when lifting off en mass.  Hunters and trappers used the area from prehistoric times into the first decade of the 20th century.  These included presidents and tycoons who came to well-established hunting lodges along the Kankakee.

And then man felt that they needed many more acres of less-than-marginal farmground for production and the great dredge began.  The land went dry.  The wildlife left.  And the lodges became shuttered as the huntsmen became as rare as the game they sought.

C. 1880 map of Newton County, Indiana showing Beaver Lake
I'm admittedly fascinated by historic landscapes-those untouched by man.  I often try to imagine on this rolling acreage we call home, what it looked like 200 years ago before the ax fell the tree and the plow turned the sod for the first time.  So imagining the great Kankakee marsh becomes almost dreamlike because of its vastness.  The documentary about the everglades of the north included mention of a huge lake called Beaver Lake that existed in northern Newton County.  The lake was over 36,000 acres.  To put this in perspective, the largest natural lake in Indiana today is Lake Wawasee......it measures just over 3,000 acres, or nearly one-twelfth the size of Beaver Lake.  The great lake was drained when a ditch was completed between the lake and the Kankakee in 1873.  Lemuel Milk the "Prairie King" was responsible for buying the lake and draining it to sell land.  About 1/10 of the lake remained, though most of its marshes were dry.  Within 20 years the last of the lake dried up.

The sole reminder of Beaver Lake and Bogus Island, on U.S. 41
Outlaws including horse thieves and counterfeiters used an island in the middle of the lake as a hiding place from law enforcement.  The island was called Bogus Island.  It was several acres in size and 75 feet at its precipice.  A recent visit to the area revealed that the island was likely carted away for sand many years ago.  Today a portion of the lake bed is owned by the Indiana chapter of the Nature Conservancy and is filled with prairie grasses.  The site is a few miles south of Highway 10 on Highway 41 in Newton County.  While I applaud the work of the Nature Conservancy, one can't help but get a sick feeling in their stomach when faced with the loss of one of the largest, and most unusual natural features in Indiana.

31 October 2013

The Haunting of Brush Creek Bridge

Brush Creek Bridge
One of the more interesting features of our farm we call Sycamore Hill is the creek that runs through a woods on the west side of our property.  Early settlers first named the creek Brush Creek, likely due to its primary path through wetlands now long since drained.  Just west of the creek is an abandoned rail bed that never saw even its first interurban car pass over it due to the company's collapse.  And just to the west of that is the abandoned Vandalia Railroad bed; the last train passed over it many decades ago.

At the back corner of our property Brush Creek takes a very sharp turn to the west before making another sharp turn north.  Over this short section of creek between its curves, the railroad constructed a steel bridge in the late 1800s.  Abandoned now, it serves as a picturesque reminder of our property's connection to the railroad....something I first noted in the photo at the top of this post when we visited the farm after a heavy snow, but before we moved in.

But it was what we didn't know about the Brush Creek Bridge that moves our conscious thought from picturesque to tragic.  The area near the bridge has an absolute silence, tucked down into the deep banks of the creek with lowlands on each side of the flowing water.  A few large trees send their branches out over the creek and a path worn by deer skirts the edge of the bank.  The rusted steel of the bridge creates a midnight-black form at night, removing all light and reflection from moonlight on the creek below.  Shortly after we moved to Sycamore Hill a friend forwarded a newspaper story from 1910 about a tragedy that occurred on the Brush Creek Bridge.

James Heminger, a veteran of the Civil War, was instantly killed on the bridge on December 13, 1910.  The older man joined another man by the name of Eli Silvius to hunt rabbits in the early morning hours of the 13th.  After some time Heminger handed his bag of game to his hunting companion and for some unknown reason headed to the bridge.  Speculation on Heminger's death indicated that he must have been standing on the ties of the bridge when an engine with the Lake Erie and Western passenger train struck him.  Heminger was deaf, which was the immediate cause reasoned for his not hearing the train as it approached.

The newspaper article stated that the body was badly mutilated.  The back of the head was crushed in, the left shoulder torn, the neck and left side of his face were cut open.  The lower part of his body was also crushed and the bones broken.  Heminger was described only as "an old soldier".

I've often wondered how one couldn't sense the approaching engine.  As anyone who has been even near a railroad knows, the vibrations in the ground-let alone a raised rail bed-would surely make up for other loss of senses.  Was this truly an accident?  And does the ghost of Private Heminger linger on Brush Creek Bridge?  While I leave out the more gruesome details of his death, I suggest to family and friends that the old soldier wanders the old railroad bed in search of his severed toe.

Great Halloween Story eh?  You can read the newspaper article here:  Killed by Train

23 October 2013

American (Neo-Tudor) Gothic

Our family has an annual Harvest Party tradition that is held at my parents' home each September.  Usually I am the official photographer, capturing each moment over the last 10+ years of grandkids hunting for pumpkins in the pumpkin patch, bobbing for apples, or carving their jack-o-lanterns.  Some fall seasons are warmer, or dryer, than others.....but this year seemed to be just about perfect.

I think my kids are starting to feel a bit too old for this now.  The oldest grandchild has a child of her own now, so I don't think the tradition is in jeopardy.

The grandkids with mom and dad

Usually as a way to "wrap-up" the festivities my mom and dad organize a group photo of the grandkids in front of a cornstalk in their front yard, bedecked with pumpkins, gourds, and bales of straw.  This year was no different, except for a brief moment after the official photo had been taken.  I never really thought of the main front gable of our house as the perfect backdrop for a photo....and not just any photo.  I managed to talk my mom and dad into staging what may be one of the best-known paintings in American history, American Gothic by Grant Wood.  As I snapped several shots my mom commented that I likely would be posting it on that facebook thing and make fun of them.  Hmmm.  Well, I did use it as my profile picture for the last month.  Grant Wood used a Gothic Revival-style farmhouse in his backdrop for the old farmer couple; I used my parents' Neo-Tudor house they built in 1974 as my backdrop.  Add a few props and presto.

Grant Wood is my favorite American artist.  I have an original print of his entitled Arbor Day hanging on my office wall.  He has a series of prints entitled with the seasons, and it would be awesome to have them in the dining room.....if anyone wants a Christmas gift idea for me.

The original American Gothic by Grant Wood

21 October 2013

Ghosts of Birthdays Past

Me being all-contemplative-like, having a hazelnut latte' with my wife in Culver on my big 4-5

Last week I turned another year older, and maybe wiser-that's up for debate.  I tend to get a bit too reminiscent on my birthday, so I went looking back in HH's blog archives and pulled out the only two posts I did for my birthdays.  They were in 2007 and 2008 when I turned 39 (why does that seem so long ago?) and 40.  I definitely feel the effects of the last 5 years, but I continue to be blessed doing what I love and surrounded by family and friends.  Can you ask for more than that?

So here's a couple of posts from way back......

Best of My Life at 39
In Christ I Stand-at 40

16 October 2013

Politically Correct Rocky Top

The actual rocky top of Rocky Top
I remember once that a traveling evangelist who had been saved from the wiles of the devil's tunes had preached a series on music during chapel time at my school.  Insert here that I went to a very fundamentalist Baptist high school.  I think it was during the last session, when he took on the issue of Christian "rock", that he so much as invited us non-Baptist kids to leave.  A few of us did.  And I don't think he was invited back to speak.

But the former rock star didn't stop with Christian rock-a term I don't believe is used anymore-he included a lengthy dissertation on what was wrong with so many of the beloved hymns sung by the saints.  You see, during the time of Martin Luther and Charles Wesley, hymn authors used tunes and melodies that were familiar to the average person who couldn't read music.  They just gospelized the tunes......which often times were traditional pub and drinking songs.  The evangelist suggested that we no longer sing such hymns because it glorified this detestable behaviour.

Enter Rocky Top.

Plymouth Schools, well heck, Plymouth in general, has so few traditions to cling to that the outrage banning Rocky Top being played after a touchdown under the Friday night lights, came as no surprise.  The news item going national?  Well, yeah, that comes as a surprise.  Going back at least 20 years the Bluegrass classic about a mountain in Tennessee called Rocky Top, has been played as a sort of victory theme with each Plymouth Rockies touchdown.  Yeah, so what if it is in Tennessee, when the home field is called the Rock Pile, Rocky Top just seems befitting.  The school administration banned the song because of the lyrics in the second verse, which are never played after a touchdown:

Wish that I was on ole rocky top,
Down in the tennessee hills.
Ain't no smoggy smoke on rocky top,
Ain't no telephone bills.

Once there was a girl on rocky top,
Half bear the other half cat.
Wild as a mink, sweet as soda pop,
I still dream about that.

Rocky top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me.
Good ole rocky top,
Rocky top tennessee, rocky top tennessee.

Once two strangers climbed on rocky top,
Lookin' for a moonshine still.
Strangers ain't come back from rocky top,
Guess they never will.

Corn won't grow at all on rocky top,
Dirt's too rocky by far.
That's why all the folks on rocky top
Get their corn from a jar.

Rocky top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me.
Good ole rocky top,
Rocky top tennessee, rocky top tennessee.

Now I've had years of cramped up city life,
Trapped like a duck in a pen.
Now all I know is it's a pity life
Can't be simple again.

Rocky top, you'll always be
Home sweet home to me.
Good ole rocky top,
Rocky top tennessee, rocky top tennessee.

Rocky top tennessee, rocky top tennessee.
Yeah rocky top tennesee eee eee eee.

First of all, anyone who has ever watched the Dukes of Hazzard would know that the first part of the verse is referring to Revenuers who went looking to destroy the still.  Evidently the thought is that by merely singing the chorus, students are being driven to drink, or at least feel it is more acceptable.  Now, teenage drinking is a serious problem-no doubt about it-but we all know the obscure words in the song never drove anyone to drinking.  I guess if that were true, there would also be more Plymouth students being drawn to the hills of Tennessee, looking for girls half bear/half cat, and staying away from cramped-up city life.  Quite the opposite I believe.  Kinda' like I've never seen a stream of Methodist march out the aisles of church on Sunday to hit the local watering hole after singing A Mighty Fortress.

In talking with one of the football players I suggested he do what the great hymn writers did with drinking songs.  Change the lyrics.  So maybe the second verse would go something like this......

I enrolled in PBL at school,
best chance to get a great degree.
Learn-in' plenty in my class, that's right-
No college will decline me.

Drinkin's bad, we all know wrong from right,
Makes me dumb as can be.
Don't need no beer belly later on in life,
We'all love Mr. Tyree.

Good ole Rocky Top......near or far, native or not, you'll always be home sweet home to me.

14 October 2013

The October Series: Part 3 with William Cullen Bryant

Golden Beech Leaves
It is interesting to compare the style of writing between Riley and William Cullen Bryant, who wrote his verses on October close to 50 years before Riley's "Hoosieresque" style.  Bryant's style is in keeping with other New Englanders like Thoreau and Longfellow....and sounds a bit too aristocratic, but not uncommon for the era.  I can only imagine being inspired to write amid the fall colors of New England.

by William Cullen Bryant

Ay, thou art welcome, heaven's delicious breath!
When woods begin to wear the crimson leaf,
And suns grow meek, and the meek suns grow brief
And the year smiles as it draws near its death.
Wind of the sunny south! oh, still delay
In the gay woods and in the golden air,
Like to a good old age released from care,
Journeying, in long serenity, away.
In such a bright, late quiet, would that I
Might wear out life like thee, 'mid bowers and brooks
And dearer yet, the sunshine of kind looks,
And music of kind voices ever nigh;
And when my last sand twinkled in the glass,
Pass silently from men, as thou dost pass.

11 October 2013

A Post in Defense of Plymouth, or a Response to Ostrander

Plymouth's most glorious main street bridging the Wythougan and leading into its Downtown

Recently I was made aware of a rather uncomplimentary blog post regarding one of Indiana's most unique little crossroads cities, Plymouth.  More specifically, the blogger compared the picturesque town's supposed shortfalls with its neighbor to the east, Warsaw.  The Ostrander blog post is here if you find it necessary to read his defenseless (and rather silly, exaggerated) scorn of Plymouth whilst heaping undue accolades upon his beloved Warsaw.

Indeed I suspect that Ostrander is a native of the wannabe Kokomo on U.S. 30, and likely participated in sport at its school, that looks like a prison, where his disdain really stems from the age-long rivalry between the cities.  To the contrary, I am not a native of Plymouth but am quite familiar with the city.  The charming town of Plymouth was situated on a river dubbed "Wythougan" by the Native American, at the crossing of Indiana's most historic and important road, the Michigan Road.  Early residents named the budding village in honor of the settlement our Puritan forefathers, who sailed but with their faith, staked out that would become the foundation of a new nation.

No, indeed, Plymouth's streets are not paved with gold either.  But they are shaded by the most magnificent trees that define the main street as, in the words of university professors, the most impressive thoroughfare in all of Northern Indiana, Warsaw included.  And at this time of year the main street is illuminated in gold from its living sentries stationed along its sidewalks.  Added to the charm of this main street is its historic streetlights that sparkle like diamonds as you stroll the broad sidewalks at night.  And what can Warsaw say to this?  Within months Plymouth will boast its main street as the longest contiguous corridor on the National Register of Historic Places in Indiana, save Meridian Street in Indianapolis.

I cannot even determine where Warsaw stops and starts as the stoplights keep reproducing.

Furthermore, Plymouth-while bypassed not once, but twice, maintains one of the most attractive downtowns in Northern Indiana.  The city embraces its unique place in not only history, but in geography, as a crossroads of important routes now designated by the State of Indiana as State Scenic Byways.  Warsaw can boast only stop-and-go traffic on U.S. 30 and a convoluted street grid that defies even the most astute of minds.  Plymouth's parks are strung around the city like precious gems in a necklace, the most important of which is underway in the city's downtown.  Warsaw has a park, well removed from the city, that is used as a refuge for those wishing to escape the city's tired and worn neighborhoods.  Warsaw turned its back on its best God-given feature, a lake, and chose to pollute it instead.

The Ostrander blog post pictured an ominous backdrop to the county courthouse situated in Plymouth.  Unlike Warsaw's founders, Plymouth's early residents determined that the seat of government should be in the midst of the people because the government is elected by and for the people.  This location amid neighborhoods is one of only two such placements in the entire state.  Warsonians determined that their government should be under the close scrutiny and control of its bankers, lawyers, and merchant-tycoons.  Not the people.

So let us talk about Plymouth's people.....true salt of the earth people.  Plymouthites are those who roll up their sleeves and get to work, unlike the neighboring Warsonians who sit and wait for one of their medical industries to gift them something.  Plymouth people are more than generous, in fact, one day nearly a year ago, is being heralded as one of the biggest days of benevolence ever seen in Indiana where hundreds participated in a single day of giving that resulted in over a half-million dollars raised for the community......whilst Warsaw waits for more handouts.

And yes, Plymouth's mayor's head is bald, as Ostrander pointed out, but it is well-polished, like so many of the city's fine residences.  And unlike Warsaw's meager coffers, Plymouth-through the leadership of its state-recognized clerk-treasurer-has amassed wealth that would make a city ten times Plymouth's size green with envy.

Warsaw's answer to both industry and culture
Ostrander implied that Warsaw's many more chain stores confirmed the city's better standing.  As I read, I thought he had decided to compliment Plymouth, because how indeed are more greasy french fries a sign of economic vitality?  I applaud Plymouth's lack of chains that pump dollars out of the community.  For culture Warsonians have fled to their sister city, Winona Lake.  Again, Plymouthites roll up their sleeves to produce for themselves rather than sit back and feel entitled to be entertained.  The proof is in the Midwest's largest three day festival held, no, not in Warsaw, but in Plymouth.

For all that Plymouth may lack, this is certain, its residents do not lack hearts of gold, the hearts of champions, and the steely-grit and determination to never become like Warsaw.

Actually, Warsaw's not all that bad......the post is just in keeping with the tenor of the Ostrander post.

09 October 2013

The October Series: Part 2 with the Hoosier Poet Riley

Bridge over Deer Creek
Certainly one would expect the appearance of Indiana's most famous poet, James Whitcomb Riley, in a series of poems about October.  A few weeks ago I spent the lion's share of the day driving down scenic roads in Carroll County, particularly around the Deer Creek neighborhood where Riley was said to frequent his favorite fishin' spot.  Here is Riley's take on October.

Old October
by James Whitcomb Riley

Old October's purt' nigh gone,
And the frosts is comin' on
Little heavier every day--
Like our hearts is thataway!
Leaves is changin' overhead
Back from green to gray and red,
Brown and yeller, with their stems
Loosenin' on the oaks and e'ms;
And the balance of the trees
Gittin' balder every breeze--
Like the heads we're scratchin' on!
Old October's purt' nigh gone.

I love Old October so,
I can't bear to see her go--
Seems to me like losin' some
Old-home relative er chum--
'Pears like sorto' settin' by
Some old friend 'at sigh by sigh
Was a-passin' out o' sight
Into everlastin' night!
Hickernuts a feller hears
Rattlin' down is more like tears
Drappin' on the leaves below--
I love Old October so!

Can't tell what it is about
Old October knock me out--!
I sleep well enough at night--
And the blamedest appetite
Ever mortal man possessed--,
Last thing et, it tastes the best--!
Warnuts, butternuts, pawpaws,
'Iles and limbers up my jaws
Fer raal service, sich as new
Pork, spareribs, and sausage, too--.
Yit fer all, they's somepin' 'bout
Old October knocks me out!

07 October 2013

The October Series: Part 1 with Robert Frost

Frost's grave in Bennington, Vermont
A few times I have tried to make the ramblings in my head come out poetic.  Usually with little success, though.  The bug bites me every year about this time-since October is the best month on the calendar.  So instead of butchering the profession, I'll let the professionals take over for a few posts.  While my family was vacationing in Vermont this summer we stayed in Bennington and happened upon a fantastic, historic cemetery with a beautiful white church attached.  In it was the grave of probably my favorite poet (I know, not the Hoosier James Whitcomb Riley!) but Robert Frost.  Here is Frost's poem October.

by Robert Frost

O hushed October morning mild,
Thy leaves have ripened to the fall;
Tomorrow's wind, if it be wild,
Should waste them all.
The crows above the forest call;
Tomorrow they may form and go.
O hushed October morning mild,
Begin the hours of this day slow.
Make the day seem to us less brief.
Hearts not averse to being beguiled,
Beguile us in the way you know.
Release one leaf at break of day;
At noon release another leaf;
One from our trees, one far away.
Retard the sun with gentle mist;
Enchant the land with amethyst.
Slow, slow!
For the grapes' sake, if they were all,
Whose leaves already are burnt with frost,
Whose clustered fruit must else be lost--
For the grapes' sake along the wall.

27 September 2013

The Halderman-Van Buskirk Farm

Cornelius Halderman was born on May 30, 1815, in Preble County, Ohio, to John and Mary Kinsey Halderman.  At the age of 20 Cornelius began working for his brother in the printing office of the Register in Eaton, Ohio.  He worked at the Register for seven years, and then taught school for two years.  On November 12, 1843, Cornelius married Julia Reiner.  She had been born in Preble County, Ohio, on June 17, 1821, to Henry and Sarah Fouke Reiner.  The Haldermans purchased a farm near Camden, Ohio, in 1844 and remained there nine years, after which time he opened a mercantile in Green Bush, Ohio, and operated it for one year prior to settling in Roann in 1854.
Halderman constructed his first house and opened the first business establishment in Roann between 1854 and 1855; the store provided a full line of general merchandise.  He sold his business in 1857, but was still responsible for much of the town’s early growth and made subsequent additions to the town from his own acreage in 1872, 1881, and 1883.  According to oral tradition Cornelius Halderman began constructing this farmhouse in 1860, but due to a shortage of labor during the Civil War, the home was not finished until 1865. An historical account from the 1884 history of the county states that “his dwelling has been built nearly twenty years and is a substantial and comfortable residence of the style then in vogue.” The brick used in the construction of the home are thought to have come from a marshy clay pit area east of the farmstead.
Daniel Van Buskirk purchased the property on February 3, 1906.  The Van Buskirk name is inextricably linked to the development of the community of Roann.  Dow moved onto the farm in 1906; he was the son of Daniel and Martha Miller Van Buskirk.  Dow was born in Ijamsville (now Laketon), Wabash County, on July 18, 1875.  When Dow was two years old his family relocated from Laketon to Roann, where he remained his entire life. The Van Buskirk family was members of the Presbyterian Church, probably most associated with banking in Roann, and always at the center of civic improvement and duty for over 100 years in the small community of Roann and Wabash County.




25 September 2013

Roann on the Eel River

Roann, c. 1900

My first introduction with Roann came when I was still in highschool.  I took a round-about way to get to my cousins in Van Buren via Roann-which was a great little village to stumble upon.  The covered bridge welcomed me to the town nestled along the banks of the Eel River.  Another return trip occurred with my two kids, pretty young at the time, when we stumbled on their Covered Bridge Festival.  So it was a real honor when I got the opportunity to work with the good folks in town to place almost the entire community on the National Register.

Roann was originally platted in 1853 by Joseph Beckner.  The small village was a rival to a nearby community also located on the Eel River, about two miles west, named Stockdale.  Stockdale had been settled in 1839 and had a functioning mill on the river.  Beckner, himself an early settler, owned 600 acres of land between the south edge of the Eel River to about one mile south of present day Roann.  He established a tavern along an American Indian trail near the south edge of his property.  A town in the vicinity of Roann had been proposed for some time prior to the plat due to the location of a bridge over the Eel River in the same area.  When the Detroit, Eel River, and Illinois Railroad was projected to come through the area, Beckner seized the opportunity to establish the town on his land between the river and the proposed railroad.  The most valid story on the origins of the name for the community is from the name of a young woman who worked at Beckner’s tavern and Beckner’s daughter.  Both girls’ names were Ann; the worker’s last name was Roe.[1]

The famous covered bridge over the Eel River
Beckner sold the majority of his land in 1853, including the newly platted town of Roann, to Cornelius Halderman who returned to the area he first visited in 1835.  Halderman purchased 520 acres from Beckner and soon established a saw mill on the Eel River and the first store in Roann in 1854-1855; the store was located on the southeast corner of Chippewa and Allen Streets and functioned as a general store.  Halderman also constructed his residence in the town.  Levi Patterson was the first person to buy a lot and build a business in the new town; it was a dry goods store that continued to operate into the 1880s.  Patterson is shown in the 1875 atlas of Roann as a dealer in dry goods and groceries and a resident since 1861.[2]  His building was located near the location of the bank building.  Patterson retired after about 1890 and is listed as “retired” in the 1907-1908 directory at his residence on Washington Street.  A short time after Patterson established his business a blacksmith shop was established by Butler & Armentrout.  John F. Baker constructed his home on the hill on the east side of Chippewa (presumably the location of the town park) and established a cobbler’s shop in 1858.[3]  This was followed by the establishment of the post office in 1860; Baker was appointed Postmaster.[4]  It was not until the construction of the proposed railroad in 1871 that the town of Roann experienced substantial growth which developed it from a pioneer settlement to a railroad era town.

[1] York, pg. 15
[2] 1875 Atlas of Roann, pg. 20A
[3] York, pg. 17
[4] History of Wabash County, 1884. pg. 412

23 September 2013

Safe Haven-Haven Hubbard Home

Haven Hubbard Home, c. 1925

The origins of the Haven Hubbard Home date to the settlement of the Hubbard family on the Indiana Terre Coupe Prairie in 1836.  Jonathan and Hanna Hubbard moved from Oneida County, New York to Indiana, where they purchased 320 acres from Samuel and Elizabeth Garwood and created a small town that was called “Hubbard Town”.  The village was located on the Chicago Trail, also known as the Sauk Trail, an important stage coach route from Detroit to Chicago. Later the town was renamed Hamilton after an innkeeper of the community.

Haven, Jonathan's grandson, married late in life to Armina Hoffman.  Armina was a native of Germany who immigrated to the United States in 1892 and settled in Oak Park, Illinois.  In 1894 she was hired to care for Haven’s ailing mother, Marietta.  After Marietta’s death she remained employed by Haven as a housekeeper.  In 1909 Haven and Armina wed.  Haven, possibly due to the experience of his own mother’s need for care, had a desire to provide some means to minister to the needs of older people; however, his death in 1916 prevented his ability to realize that goal.  Armina followed Haven’s wish and in 1920 gave the 704 acre farm in trust to the Ebenezer Old People’s Home of the Evangelical Church for the establishment of the Haven Hubbard Memorial Old People’s Home.  Included in the trust were sufficient funds to construct the building which occurred in 1922.  Armina remained at the homestead until her death in 1946.

Hubbard Homestead
The Haven Hubbard Memorial Home (later known as Epp Hall) was constructed during 1922.  The architectural firm responsible for the design was Freyermuth and Maurer of South Bend and the general construction contract was given to Kuehn and Jordan, also of South Bend.  The cost for construction and furnishing the home was $160,000.[1]  Literature promoting the home stated that its good air, good water, shade, fruit and every convenience will make it an ideal place for tired old people and everything will be supplied that can minister to their comfort.  It further stated that the home will not be a poorhouse or infirmary, but a Christian home.[2]  This referred to the county home model that was in use throughout Indiana for those without means to support themselves.  The building did, however, follow the basic model of the county home.  Not only was it similar in its service as a respite for the aged, it also offered support to those who could not provide for themselves financially.  And like the county home model, residents of the home were responsible for tasks to support the general workings of the home including care of some aspects of the farm.  The building was also similar to the county home model with large residential wings, a central administration and superintendants core, dining hall and chapel, and rear area for employees’ quarters.  At the time of construction there were 35 guest rooms located on the first and second floors.  The home was dedicated on May 5, 1923.

After Armina’s death, the homestead house was remodeled in 1949 and an addition was created for use as a medical unit.  It also provided quarters for 14 staff.  It was dedicated as “Hubbard Hall”. In 1956 the addition was expanded to the south side of the house to provide for 28 additional resident rooms and examination and treatment spaces.  Though vacant now, the Haven Hubbard Home has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

[1] Johnson, Rev. E Garfield “The Haven Hubbard Memorial Old People’s Home”, pg. 7
[2] Haven Hubbard Home Brochure, 1934