28 March 2013

On a mission in Tefft: 46380

Hettie and Uncle Alonzo Hilliard, Postmaster at Tefft
As I mentioned before, I have collected more information on my family tree over the last few months which has led to a great cache' of pictures that I have found on-line.  This picture of my great x3 uncle, Orphus Alonzo Hilliard, and his wife, Hettie, was a great find.  Evidently Uncle Alonzo moved westward from LaPaz, Indiana to an even smaller town in the midst of the freshly drained Grand Kankakee Marsh in northern Jasper County, Indiana.  Now-whether he moved to Dunnville or Tefft in the late 1800s is unclear-but we know it was one and the same.


Isaac Dunn, a pioneer settler of the Kankakee Marsh, laid out Dunnville in 1883 just south of his log cabin which was located between Dunnville and the Kankakee River.  Dunn built a bridge across the Kankakee, according to oral tradition, from a Ferris wheel he scrapped from the Chicago Exhibition in 1893.  I've heard this refuted, but it does make for a great story....and the restored bridge would make for a great picture on a sunnier day.

Dunn's Bridge
Soon the folks in Dunnville began getting their fellow Hoosier's mail intended to go to Danville, and Danvillites began to get Dunnvillites mail, which made the postmasters go, well, postal I suppose.  Because of the confusion Dunnville was changed to Tefft, named for Dunn's brother-in-law.  When this occurred, I'm not sure.  But I do know that at least while Uncle Alonzo was postmaster in the community, it was receiving mail sent to Tefft.  Alonzo was postmaster from 1909-1937.  If you look closely at the photo at the top, a board with POST OFFICE and TEFFT painted on it is nailed to the corner of the building in the background between the couple.  My guess is that the photo is from the 1930s.

Welcome to Tefft!
So, being the inquisitive fool that I am, and since a trip to Tefft would only be minutes out of my way from my latest excursion to Monon, with this picture in hand I went looking for Uncle Alonzo's house and former post office.  Amid the unusually late lake-effect flurries of our post-spring equinox, I rode into town on a mission.

The Alonzo Hilliard family and home, c. 1900, Tefft or Dunnville?

Unfortunately, I think I was looking for the wrong house!  Because when I went back on-line to dig up a little more information on Alonzo, I found this earlier picture of my ancestor-which I believe is the same house some 30+ years prior to the shot of the house-post office.  Alonzo was also a carpenter, and since the house looks new in this earlier photo-I imagine he built it himself.

What I assumed took the place of the Tefft Post Office
I also wanted to see Tefft's current post office, which was even less evident than a scrap piece of wood nailed to the corner of a house.  It is now housed in their former schoolhouse which was constructed in 1916.  I saw the school.  I didn't see the post office.  Surprisingly enough, Tefft has its very own zip code:  46380.  Why do I get the sense that this little town's post office may be on the chopping block? 

Another trip to Tefft awaits.

26 March 2013

It all started with Koerting

After I gave my two week notice in 2008, from the only post-college job I had known, I was asked by a non-profit group if I wanted to write a National Register nomination for a house in Elkhart.

Uh, sure.....I think I can fit that into my schedule.  I had written a handful of nominations up to that point....but never for compensation.  A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had hit a milestone with the 70th National Register nomination that I had authored.  I would have never guessed that portion of my work would be so enjoyable, due in large part to the people that I have met.  But here we are, not 5 years into it and I'm wondering what my 100th nomination will look like.  I've written about several of these nominations on HH, but I plan to go back and hit the scores of others in a rather disconnected, elongated series, because of their connection to our Hoosier history and culture.

But it started with this one, in Elkhart.  Architect Alden Dow was a protege of Frank Lloyd Wright's from Midland, Michigan.  He took Wright's training to another level when he became accomplished in the International style of architecture.  He was contacted by William and Helen Koerting, who had lived in Japan and worked for Miles Laboratories, to design their home on the St. Joseph River in 1937.  Dow designed only one other home in Indiana, almost directly across the river from Koertings.  The interior space, particularly the living room and dining room, are amazing as views from interior balconies demonstrate a collision of multiple levels of the house.  Cool.

I met with the owners in 2008.  They were only the third family to own the house and had decorated it appropriately with their own love for oriental furnishings.  Mr. Owens offered us a martini.  The point at which my friend said "I hear you make a mean martini" I should have declined.  I had never had one, much less one that I would have described more as angry.  I didn't want to insult the host, so, after the second one........I don't recall that I made a lot of sense.

In my defense, it was hot.  I was hungry and thirsty.  And I'm a lightweight when it comes to the strong stuff.

The project was completed within a few months.  After the house was officially listed, Mrs. Owens invited us back, Mr. Owens had since passed away.  She had an amazing roof-top bonsai garden that our family got the opportunity to tour.  Great people.

23 March 2013

Almost the sound of one hand clapping for Governor Pence

No clapping for yourself.
Ok-two hands.  With only a few weeks under his belt as Indiana's new governor, winning by the slimmest of margins in recent history, Governor Pence probably wasn't ready for the lead balloon reception he received from the gathering of Indiana's Association of Cities and Towns (IACT).

After easily winning applause for his comments on economic development from those assembled, I'm sure he was stunned  when he trumpeted his 10% income tax relief plan for Hoosiers and the room fell silent.  With the exception of one person who clapped.  One person.  One person clapping....everyone knows how awkward that is, for both Pence and his wife who was in the crowd.  I assume it was her anyway.

So, you should ask, "what the heck?  all us Hoosiers are in favor of tax reductions, right?"

But for those who are on the front lines, they understand all too well that the recession that began in 2007, and Mitch Daniels subsequent budget cutting measures that shifted incredible financial burdens onto municipalities, is literally killing Indiana's cities and towns.  I define killing as the purposeful act of destroying life.

Further cuts are irresponsible at best.  But the average joe doesn't understand that, and that's what the governor was banking on when he touted his plan during the election.

With a few exceptions of Tea Partiers who have actually gotten elected, most elected officials-Democrats and Republicans alike-understand it takes money to operate their communities.  Roads need paved (the biggie-especially in River City), municipal capital improvement projects need to be undertaken, be it parks or buildings, and employment levels need to meet the demand for services.  River City is fortunate to have a rainy day fund that would make even some of Indiana's largest cities happy, but that's not the case around the rest of the state.  Towns are hurting.  Bad.  And Pence's plan to put a few extra bucks in every Hoosier's pocket is a net loss for our collective vision for a better, more competitive Indiana.  Maybe that's why his own party-controlled state house gave him the cold shoulder on the 10% measure, and speaker Bosma has been chastising the new governor in the media.

A more competitive Indiana.  That's the point of all those tax breaks under Daniels, right?  If Indiana is serious about positioning itself in a national, let alone global, marketplace then we've got to re-fund our schools and other state agencies, build a 21st century infrastructure (not the grasping, and gasping, super-highways under Major Moves), and invest in a quality of life worthy of the types of businesses we hope to attract and retain......not the bottom dwellers who look for cheap labor, cheap land, and government corporate handouts.

21 March 2013

Even the Amish get into Ice, Ice, Baby

Perfectly Indiana

In celebration of Spring in Indiana, I thought I would post a few pictures from the Shipshewana Ice Festival earlier this year.  "Shipshe" oddly enough, has become one of our family destination hot spots recently, so when we heard "ice fest" and had nothing else to do over Christmas Break...we thought why not.  My wife likes to do a little shopping at an Amish drygoods store, the kids like the hot pretzels in the mercantile, and I'm always up for a little Hoosier hometown-ness.

Viewing the winners

Frozen Nativity Scene

19 March 2013

The Laramores of Goose Haven

George Laramore, Mayor of Knox 1868-1870
The title just doesn't have the same refined ring of say, oh, the Crawleys of Downton Abbey, does it?

At the end of 2012 I mapped out my year to include several small personal projects that I wanted to complete.  These included additional genealogical work to round out the research that I had started in college.  With the advent of on-line searchable databases and membership to ancestry.com I had much of what I needed at my fingertips....and now I am knee-deep in new information on my roots.

That research led me to a photograph of a great x3 grandfather named George Laramore.  While I had the Laramore line extended back as far as I could go and knew when and where the family settled in Indiana, I didn't have the photo and what is more, I didn't know that he served as one of Knox's first mayors.  Being that the Laramore name is decidedly Irish, I thought it was only fitting to explore this story post-St. Patty's day.

George was born in 1822 in Muskingum County, Ohio to Thomas and Mary Laramore.  Thomas died shortly after George's birth and that is all that is known of his line.  George's mother remarried and they traveled first to Tippecanoe County, Indiana, then Carroll County where George married Sarah Hatter.  George and Sarah moved to Starke County with Sarah's parents in 1851.  They first lived in the San Pierre area before moving to a farm northwest of Knox.  A sketch of the Laramore family in the county history book said that they dubbed their neighborhood "Goose Haven".  I can only imagine this descriptive name was tied to the abundance of waterfowl in the, then, undrained Grand Kankakee Marsh.

Nelson & Jennie Laramore Bryant, at their Starke County orchard

John & Eliza Laramore Bryant, at their Fulton County farm
George and Sarah moved into Knox, but kept their farm in the country.  He was elected mayor in 1868 and served through 1870.  He died in 1878 and Sarah died in 1887.  They are buried in the Crown Hill Cemetery in Knox.  Unfortunately, one time I stopped by the gravesite the stone had been toppled.  I inquired with the sexton if they would repair it.....yes was the answer, but the last time I stopped it was still down.  He must not have been a very popular mayor.  Their daughters, Eliza and Hannah (Jennie), married Bryant brothers, John and Nelson of Athens, Indiana.  Nelson and Jennie settled in Starke County.  I'm descended from John and Eliza, who stayed in Athens.  When I moved to River City I met some distant Laramore cousins and have always considered them some of the finest people I have ever met.  People don't often say that about family.

13 March 2013

The long and winding road

Labyrinth at New Harmony
Last night I did it.  After three years and three months and thousands of miles....I finished Blue Highways.  In an afterward added by the author in 1999, William Least Heat-Moon stated that he cut it from over 800 pages to the paltry 411 pages....that took me over three years to read.

There are aspects about the author's journey that encircled the American landscape I found appealing-but then, I love traveling off-interstate.  It is the only way to truly see what America is and what we are not.  And maybe what we'd like to forget that we are.  He often inserted Native American thoughts, or maybe revelations, in his discoveries.  Toward the end of the book he wrote how he traced on a map the path he took from Missouri east to the coast and then in a clockwise route followed the borders of the US until he reached Maryland and headed west again.  He compared the path to a Hopi symbol that speaks of paths and labyrinths.

Hopi symbol
How fitting then in the last two pages of Blue Highways the author finds himself in New Harmony, Indiana tracing the path of the historic labyrinth I myself have wandered a few times in my life.  The long and winding path to a small stone cottage in the center....the destination.  He found it unfortunate that the "correct" path had been so worn as to remove the mystery of the journey.

The journey.  In that we find our true calling, our true destination, don't we?

I can only guess the man I would be without the dead-ends, turn-backs, and temporary lost-ness I have felt over my life.  I can believe that a life without those would be easier, for sure.  But the journey filled with the experiences that have trained or retrained my mind, led me to a deeper understanding of the spiritual condition of our world, and has provided both hope and consternation is in fact the destination of the soul.

Comfortable lives are not lived at all.  A life not challenged is not successful regardless of wealth or status.  And a believer's life lived without chastening or trials is weak at best.

I think if we know our destination there is no joy in the journey.  And too often we set our destination as a certain amount of comfort or wealth, and of course it never is enough.  So we push our destination out further only to miss the people and places along the path.  Instead, like the purpose of the labyrinth, each step should be met with contemplation.  Of knowing.  Of experiencing what God has for each of us in each step we take.....even when it feels like we're stuck or lost.

I don't think I intended this post to take such a turn.....much like the path of a labyrinth.  But here we are.  Let's pray that God directs our steps, but that we stop to consider each of those moments in our lives and not so much what we perceive as our destination.  God, let my journey be the thing that honors you, not my successes.

11 March 2013

I refuse to press any key

We were enjoying a lazy Sunday afternoon.  My son was following up on his college picks from Saturday.  My daughter was watching reruns of Little House on the Prairie.  My wife was napping on the couch, trying to make up for that lost hour of sleep.  And I was working my way through the last chapter of Blue Highways (about 30 pages to go).  Then the phone rang.  Not unusual for a Sunday afternoon; it typically is for my wife and involves youth group that evening.

I answered and immediately knew I was the recipient of a computer-generated call.  I hesitated to disconnect and I'm glad that I did......because if I had, my name would have been added to the list of individuals who support the Keystone Pipeline.  By "pressing any key" my support for the pipeline would be made known to my congressmen.  Any key?

Taking that literally, and bothered more by the special interest group behind the promotion of the pipeline than the pipeline itself, I thought to myself-I wonder if by disconnecting that would put my name on the suck more oil roster?
I thought this was revealing.

So, I stayed on the line.  Actually I was hoping at some point, long after the message ended, an operator would come on and ask me to disconnect.  Instead the message repeated itself.  I continued to stay on the line and stood firm in not pressing any key.  A long pause after the message played the second time....a longer pause than after the first.  Then the message repeated itself a third time.  I was thinking to myself "ingenious".  This special interest group has figured out how to create a huge support list just by calling my number because they have you either way:  if you support it-you would press a key, if you didn't support it-you would disconnect.  Brilliantly dishonest.

The message ended its third run.  A long pause.  And then I received the sound that they had disconnected.  I can only assume that since I didn't press any key that my name will not show up on their list of individuals who demand from Secretary Kerry his support of the pipeline.

Does this kind of crap bother anyone else?  Regardless of whether or not you support the pipeline-does it bother you that large oil companies are pumping huge dollars into these political action committees to mislead the American public into thinking that by supporting such things we'll actually decrease our 1) dependence on foreign oil or 2) decrease cost at the pump?  Because both have been shown to be unaffected by more supply in the U.S.  In fact, oil companies are wanting to increase domestic production in order to boost their exports to foreign countries, and consequently, boost their profits.  They've admitted it won't affect gas prices.

I'm somewhat indifferent about the pipeline.  It has marginal benefit to the U.S. economy, and certainly less than what could be expected if we invested in alternative energy sources.  But its not about the good of the country, it's about oil company stock value.  I've been a firm believer and ardent proponent of curbing demand for oil as the answer to our dependence on foreign oil and the effects of additional exploration in the United States.  But see, that's not a popular position to take......we are the polar opposite of true conservatism in this country when it comes to the promotion of consumption.  After 9/11 what were we encouraged to do?  That's right-spend more.  When the economy started to tank in 2007, President Bush gave every family a chunk of cash in hopes that we would spend it.  Instead we paid down our debt and he decided he wasn't going to try that again.

We have an economy, really a society, under-girded by over-consumption.  If government debt bothers you, realize that it is only a reflection of our own personal debt.  And like a house of cards, the slightest disturbance could cause it to all fall down.  I guess that diatribe is for another post.

So, who else got that call yesterday?  Was it only because my name shows up on a Republican primary voters' list?

08 March 2013

The house that built this family

The kids on our porch swing in town....6 1/2 years ago!
About two years ago I was asked to write for a column in the South Bend Tribune.  The editor of the column knew of Hoosier Happenings and my writing style and thought it would make for a good read....or possibly lining in a bird cage, one of the two.  I asked what the topic should be and they said "up to you".  Recently our home has been undergoing a transformation, which may be part two to this story.  That transformation has me thinking about our old house in town and all of our own touches that made to it.  And now we're doing it all over again.  For now, though, I thought you would enjoy the article about the house that built our family:

A few weeks ago I drove the kids to school in the morning and passed by the home we once lived in in town.  Maybe it was the sprinkle of sunlight over the front porch that added extra charm to it that morning, but I sighed and said “there’s our old house”.  At that point my daughter asked “dad, do you miss our old house?”

I hesitated to respond.  It not only was our first home, but was also the only one the kids had known; we purchased it just two months after being married.  There are so many memories there, not to mention that we had just finished renovating and restoring it when we decided to move into another “diamond in the rough”.  The kids made a few comments the months following the move that pierced the heart, mostly “why did we have to move?”  Peace of mind is a hard thing to relate to an 8 and 10 year old.

Camping out in town
We moved into our place in the country just over a year ago; we dubbed it Sycamore Hill.  It is a Civil War-era farmstead surrounded by pastures, woods, and a creek.  We’ve established a garden and orchard and the kids have scoped out places for tree houses and forts.  They are begging for animals but I’m holding out on that request.  The sunrises are almost always picture perfect.  Being a guy born for history and the country the place simply felt like home the moment I saw it.

“Dad! Do you miss our old house?!?”  That’s right, there’s that question hanging out there.  “Yes.  Of course I do.”  I could have said no in the hope that the kids would feel like it was important to leave those things in the past and look forward.  But the fact is I do miss it.  I followed up my response by reminding them of all of the fun we’ve already had at our new place, which got them talking about the things they’ve experienced in the short time we’ve lived “on the Hill”.

I think about the frequency with which people move and relocate today and while maybe there isn’t the same emotional attachment, it still must be tough on everyone involved.  In this mobile society where putting down roots is difficult at best, it becomes all the more important that we validate the feelings kids have when they leave maybe the only place they’ve ever known.  And it’s ok to break from the tough guy image and admit that you miss seeing the place where your kids took their first steps.

There is a popular country song by Miranda Lambert entitled “The House that Built Me”.  Of course any time I hear the song I think about the home we make for our kids and wonder if they’ll think about this new place with the same fondness.  But we’ve all heard home is what you make it.  Laughter and tears, Christmas mornings, birthday parties, baking cookies with mom, planting a garden, all of those things are what make a home, no matter how often the scenery changes.

05 March 2013

Radioville, USA

So, I've passed through this tiny little Pulaski County town between San Pierre and Medaryville often enough that it's quite amazing to me that I haven't stopped to take this picture until my last trip through in February.  What would take me down US 421?  The Jasper-Pulaski Fish and Wildlife Refuge to see the Sandhill Cranes of course, but also more recently my car has worn a path between home and Monon and Rensselaer.

Back to this little town.  Its name is "Radioville".  Now, you may think that's not so strange, but considering most towns were platted long before the invention of the radio, I thought, as I often do-outloud-to my wife, "I wonder how that little place got its name?"
And then I would speculate the remaining 1 1/2 hours home.  Outloud.
So a googling I went and this is what I came up with:

The land that the village of Radioville occupies was once part of a large tract of land originally owned by Irene Otto and was known as the Anthony Ranch. Radioville was laid out in 1933 by Margaret and Pearl Lauglin, of Illinois, who secured possession of some of the Otto holdings which boarded the west side of US 421 and extended east 3/4 of a mile with the Monon Railroad cutting through. The land between the highway and the Monon tracks were to be divided into 82 lots. Beyond the tracks the land was to be divided into 272 lots. The community never fully materialized and today consists of a dozen or so houses and trailers strung along the highway. A 1942 road atlas had Radioville still listed as Anthony. Maybe the name Radioville didn't have anything to do with the development in 1933, although the 1930s were the heyday of radio, and came later.
A swell, 1930s Art Deco-style radio.....much like the ones used in Radioville, I'm sure

I also found that it may have also once been referred to as "Strawberry".....fields forever.  Here's another piece that turned up from googling....and this time, the writer wasn't as complimentary of the rascals who founded it:

The following is from John Ghrist who has written a book about Radioville: Radioville is an interesting place. Back in the 30's, everyone was radio crazed.. There was the Radio Flyer wagon and lots of other things that attached the word "radio" to it to gain more interest. During that time, a "doctor" used radio waves to heal people from their illnesses.  He also created Radioville to sell swamp lots to mostly poor people coming to this country.  Most of them starved and left the area. Local farmers helped the rest of these people make it through the winter.

What I like to imagine the folks in Radioville do on Saturday nights

Today the west side of Radioville (west side of 421) is part of the Jasper-Pulaski Wildlife area and tree nursery.  No buildings remain.  The east side, and I don't mean to sound disparaging against the good folks of this fine city, is composed of a dozen or so small houses, shacks, and mobile homes or the remains of such.  One substantial building remains.  It has the appearance of a dance hall or bowling alley, which would have been popular during the 1930s.  The village is a strange little place and barely warrants a reduced speed zone.  Now that I've put that out there, I better be watching my speed the next time through.

01 March 2013

American Canopy & The Wabash: the story behind the stories, Chapter 2

A continuation from the last post:

And as if that wasn't enough......for me to read a book about the history of conservation, or the lack thereof, was at times pure torture. I had public radio on about a year ago and heard an interview with Eric Rutkow, author of American Canopy, Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation. I was fascinated by the interview and ordered the book the next day. It was lengthy, wordy, but well-documented and all-encompassing. The book traced the nation's history through the trees and forests that helped shape our culture and economy, right through to the modern environmental movement. The book was often depressing (from my standpoint anyway) but truly enlightening. I had been chipping away at this book since last spring, with fewer and fewer chips as the summer months rolled in. I'm a firm believer in understanding one's past to avoid mistakes in the future-the culmination of knowledge gleaned from the book would make a conservationist out of anyone, especially as understood for the long-term stability of our own country. I wrapped up American Canopy just over a week ago and forwarded it to a good friend.

Lastly, and what got me started on my book-binge again, was a book with a simple title The Wabash by William Edward Wilson, published in 1940.  It was part of an American River series the author wrote.  My wife and I stole away for a weekend in South Haven, Michigan for our anniversary in October last year. There is a great book store filled with old books, Black River Books I think, that quickly drew both of us in. I, of course, went to the history section and happened upon this book for $8.00. A steal. The book reads somewhat like an historical account of life in Indiana's Wabash River valley, but infuses a great deal of story-telling as well. It was full of intriguing facts that included the circumstances that nearly led Indiana to be a slave state rather than a free state. It included a large section on Lincoln, a chapter on Indiana's authors, and a rather revealing chapter about Indiana's dark history with the rise of the KKK during the 1920s. Told from the perspective of 1940-the book was a great read about history from a cultural perspective foreign to us today. I finished The Wabash last month.

I'm not sure what awaits after Blue Highways. I'm taking recommendations, because I should-should-be finished with it about mid-March....unless the eyes grow heavy again.