31 March 2014

Author & Finisher of the Notebook

From one of the retreat hikes
I have this old leather bound book-part sketchbook, part notebook, part journal, part prayer book.  I picked it up in 2003 during a trip to Galena, Illinois.  I keep it in a drawer in the coffee table.  It's very handy that way.  It isn't full yet, several more years to go, I'm sure.  The book has walked with me through some pretty difficult times in my life, through some dark times, through some pretty amazing times too.  It's become a chronology of the last decade of my life.

In February, 2008, it followed me to a cabin in southern Indiana for a focused time of prayer and seeking God.  I prepped my time by writing out several probing questions I wanted to ponder.  Instead I came back, questions unanswered, but with a much broader understanding of what God was doing in my life by just telling me to stop and enjoy "the clearing".  Several pages were filled during that retreat-and in looking back the scribbles became almost prophetic as life took some surprising turns later that same year.

Earlier this year we scheduled a meeting of the Historic Michigan Road Association in Madison, Indiana last week.  Realizing my wife and kids would be in Florida, and that I really love that area of Indiana-it seemed only appropriate to take a few days for myself.  But, booking a room where I had wanted to stay became an issue and ultimately I landed on returning to the state park, an hour away from Madison, where I had retreated to the cabin in 2008.  This only seemed appropriate since my wife "gifted" this retreat idea to me at Christmas.

The notebook followed me again to the cabin.  Early Thursday morning, before I set out for a hike, I started flipping through the book and landed on the pages filled six years ago.  So much has happened in those six years.  The words I read began to settle pretty deep in my soul.  And on the sleet-bathed hike they began to gnaw at me.  I got back to the cabin, plopped down on a couch, and started flipping back page by page chronologically.  And what it revealed, honestly, began to almost overwhelm me.

There was God.  Every step of the way.  In every page, walking through this notebook as if He were the author building and revealing plot lines in His own timing.  In simple journal entries from reading through the Bible in a year, in entries made from questions out of a book about our destinies, in simple questions and prayers that I scribbled down beginning in 2003.  In freehand sketch after sketch of the David Tree, of the lake outside that cabin, of a cleansing waterfall.

After reading aloud the fifth or sixth entry to my buddy who was trying to do his own thing......he said "that's quite a record" probably to shut me up.  I know, right?  So, I made a simple entry in the book during this retreat.  I wrote out my life verse, Micah 6:8, and journal-prayed it underneath the passage.  And that seemed like enough.  The affirmation found in seeing God page after page, made me realize.....well.....that that's all I really needed to know.  He'll be in future pages building and revealing the plot.  God, the Author & Finisher of our faith, my faith.....here in a tangible notebook.

27 March 2014


Flipping through some old files from my earlier campaigns I came across a letter written to party leadership in April, 2006, along with a "manifesto".  I don't see that my core values have changed during this time, but I found it quite interesting.  I soon remembered the scenario that led to the letter and values document.  The term manifesto has gotten a bum rap-often tied to probably the most famous manifesto (the communist one), but Ron Paul called one of his books a manifesto-so we find it used at both ends of the spectrum.

Today's leaders are careful not to fulfill the definition of manifesto in their words.  They hold their fingers up to see which way the wind (money too) is blowing, and then make decisions on that.  Not to be caught in flip-flopping or taking a position that might be unpopular with some, we see leaders with hidden agendas, scurrilous motives, and unable to take a stand for much of anything.  Looking back now, though I felt a bit indignant in having to defend myself, giving definition to who I am and what I believe has made me stronger in my convictions.  So...it's all good.

My letter stated that it was done to defend my conservative nature and began with "To write briefly of my Republican"ness":  I am descended from generations of Republicans and for over a decade had the opportunity to glean insight from probably our best party model, Doc Bowen......Regarding a possible agenda, I have no defense.  I do have an agenda-it's called a vision, a set of goals.  The thought that it is somehow hidden is ridiculous.  Likely I have been scrutinized more than most because of what I have produced.  There has been nothing hidden or inconsistent since I returned to my community after college.  My agenda is to serve the public, to make our community and county the best they can be."

And now publicly for the first time, the Manifesto:

I believe foremost in modeling Christ as the method to which I will apply myself and weigh decisions.  I will make and have made mistakes, but it is core to my belief system.  My values have been instilled through generations of conservative family and political leaders I admire.  Doc Bowen has been my model of servant leadership, I also admire the vision Ronald Reagan outlined for our country and the rugged spirit of individualism Teddy Roosevelt adhered to.

I believe in individual rights, but with those rights come great responsibility.  We must not infringe upon the rights of others or burden our society.  While my responsibility may be to serve the public, I believe our greater responsibility is to the next generation.

One should teach a person how to fish rather than give them fish, but not permit them to starve in the learning process.  Empowerment of the individual makes contributing members of our society, but in that must be understood the need to act collectively as a community.  I believe in, and am a product of, a strong work ethic and entrepreneurial spirit; my expectations of others are grounded in this.

I believe in order and enforcement of our laws.  There must be firm and appropriately severe consequences to the violation of our laws.

I believe in strict financial stewardship and diligent savings.  I do not believe in spending beyond available means.  I personally do not believe in the pursuit of wealth for its own sake; our calling should be our pursuit.

While me must continually find ways to streamline government and lower costs, I also recognize that our quality of life has the potential to attract people and investment to our community.  Dollars spent wisely will prove financially prudent long-term.

Private investment is the bedrock of economic success for society.  I also believe that there may be circumstances for government to apply itself or assist investment for the greater good when private investment on its own proves impossible.  I am also committed to the preservation of local vendors versus national competition for our local economy.

Government should set the standard for society.  Government should be a symbol of civic pride, just as our forefathers created it to be and left as a heritage for us.

We have been divinely appointed as stewards of our environment and therefore should work actively toward its betterment.  Our health depends largely upon its health.

I believe that there must be a vision for the future and careful planning to achieve it.  This vision must be one that is created by and for the people, championed by leaders and be grounded in our rights under the Constitution.

25 March 2014

The call to Fiji

My little brother's family-Fiji-bound
Sunday morning I dropped my wife and kids off at the airport in South Bend.  They were Florida-bound to spend time with her parents and soak in the warmth and sun.  Meanwhile, back in Indiana, snow is in the forecast again.

After I left the airport, I made a b-line for Middlebury where my little brother was preaching his last service at a church he had been with for eight years.  His family is Fiji-bound.  For two years.  That's a long time for so far away.  The church gave them a great celebratory service with a dinner after.  The theme of the service was answering the call.  My brother's family is answering a call by God on their lives in their move to Fiji to start a new ministry on the islands.

I began pondering what exactly a call from God can look like.  What the conversation with God goes like in answering the call, and how obedience to a calling may not necessarily result in how we think it should look.  I think the entire crux of "the call" isn't what may follow, but instead that we follow.  That we respond in obedience to what God is asking of us.  What happens next is entirely up to God.  Success, failure, joy, pain...all may follow a call on your life regardless if it is to Fiji or across the street.

God's just looking for obedience.  He's not looking for rock stars....quite the opposite I'm sure.  I hear of people who have stepped out and answered a call on their lives, only to be met with what most of us would perceive as failure.  And then we, and maybe because of us, those who answered the call, begin to question if they heard God correctly.  And doubt sets in.  Yet God's "success" was in the obedience and surrender of hearts in answering His call.  Not in what followed.

I've gently rebuffed comments by a few people who have framed my campaign as maybe part of some larger plan by God.  I used to think that way, but that's not what God is looking for.  He's just looking for someone to be obedient.  That's it.  It doesn't translate to a win or loss.  It's about understanding my heart, knowing God in how He created me, and answering the call.  And then learning about Him and myself along the way-in success and failure, in joy and pain.

Think about it this way.  When our kids were much younger, there were times we rewarded good decisions that they made by giving them a piece of candy or a cookie.  My wife and I weren't excited about the cookie-we were just pleased that they made the right decision, that they were obedient.  As our children grew older and we weened them off "rewards", they still (not always of course!) were obedient.  That's what brought us pleasure, because we knew that in being obedient they were making good decisions that would be for their own good.

Being God's children, we're left with decisions to be obedient all the time.  We're not entitled to rewards just because we answered the call.  If we demanded a cookie every time we obeyed God, the first time we weren't rewarded might be the last time we obeyed.

I'm fully confident my brother and his family are answering this call out of obedience.  In that sense, God's plan has already been fulfilled in his life....because His plan for each of us is simply to follow Him.  Too often we put the focus on ourselves by talking about a greater, larger plan of God for our lives.  God's just calling us daily to follow Him-let Him worry about the bigger picture and define what are our successes and failures.

20 March 2014

How much more German can it get?

Marriage certificate for my great, great grandparents-Carson & Clara Ewald, 1895.
If you haven't figured it out, I'm sticking with a family history theme this month.  My oldest roots in the county are deep in the soil of German Township.  During the early 1830s a few of my German-immigrant ancestors began to settle in the township that would ultimately bear their fatherland's name.  The following generations did what cultural anthropologists tell us runs counter-cultural to most immigrant groups.  They held on to their native traditions, and tongues.

Birth certificate for my great grandmother, Edna Ewald Hochstetler, 1896.
From my ancestors the Roths (later changed to Rhodes), Schwiesbergers, Walmers, Ewalds, Bargers (later changed to Bergers), and Geyers descended German traditions tied most tightly to the Lutheran and Methodist churches in Bremen.  St. Paul's Lutheran and Salem United Methodist both continued the tradition of preaching sermons in German well into the first decades of the 20th century.

Not long ago my great aunt gave my mother color copies of marriage and birth certificates belonging to the family.  These were printed in their native tongue.  Aside from the rich color graphics of two of the documents, and the gold-leafing of the other, it's the German lettering on the documents that make them great vestiges of family history.

Birth certificate from my great x3 grandparents, 1871.

The oldest document is a birth and baptismal certificate for George Roth and Catherine Schwiesberger (my 3x great grandparents), from 1871.  Their daughter, Clara, married Carson Ewald in Bremen in 1895, which is the certificate with the oval-shaped design.  Carson and Clara Ewald had my great grandmother, Edna, whose birth certificate is dated January 15, 1896 and has the image of a dove, rainbow, and Easter lilies.  I find it interesting that by the time Edna was born, the branches of families had been living in the United States for not less than three generations.

18 March 2014

A Culver Family's Sacrifice

The Howard & Coral Bryant, Norm & Louise Lamunion, and Wesley & Chloe Bryant families of Culver
One of my favorite old family photos, though it is in poor condition, is one that was taken when my grandparents and my grandmother's family lived in Culver during the 1930s-1940s.  My great grandfather, Wesley Bryant, lost their farm near Argos during the Great Depression.  They relocated to Culver and bought a small house in town.  They had four sons and one daughter, Alice-my grandmother.  The oldest son, Henry, and my grandmother were already married and out of the house.  My grandparents also chose to live in Culver where my grandfather worked for the state highway, and my grandmother was a regular guest singer at a Culver radio station.

Private First Class Harold Bryant's gravestone in Culver.
When World War II began, my grandmother's three brothers who still lived at home all enlisted.  Herberdean (Beanie), Hilton (Bugsy), and Harold (the youngest) were called away to serve their country abroad.  My grandmother and grandfather, who had a hearing impairment and could not enlist, went to work at the Kingsbury Ordnance Plant.  They had a ration of gasoline to get them, and a carpool of other workers, from Culver to the plant on a daily basis.  Henry established a factory in Kingsford Heights and made rubber boots and coats for soldiers.  Henry's daughter married a Kabelin in LaPorte and began the regionally-based hardware chain.

From left to right:  the Lamunions, Howard & Coral Bryant, Harold Bryant, and Wesley & Chloe Bryant at Culver Cemetery
The old photo-which looks to have been taken during the winter months-was the last snapshot of the family all-together on the front porch of their Culver home.  The last photo, because Harold never returned.  He was killed on Christmas Eve during the Battle of the Bulge.  He, and my great grandparents, were laid to rest in the cemetery on Culver's south side.  My great grandmother's sister, Coral, married my great grandfather's brother, Howard, and they had one child-Louise, who married Norm Lamunion-an old Culver family.  The Bryants and Lamunions all share a row in the cemetery's midsection.

15 March 2014

Three generations at LaPaz School

My grandmother's diploma from LaPaz High School, 1941.  It has a nice graphic of the school in the center of the diploma, unlike my grandfather's which came from Bremen High School.

I first wrote about going to LaPaz Elementary School on this blog a few years ago.  Since that time, I've written a few posts, but I don't know if I shared that I was the third generation in my family to attend the school.  Recently, while going through a few boxes of old photos, I came across class pictures of my dad's class and my grandmother's classes from their elementary years.  So I thought I would find one of mine from about the same grade and place them in a row.  My dad, Jack, and my grandmother-who evidently went by "Rosy"-had their class pictures taken outside of the building-it appears to be outside of the 1928 consolidated school (just outside the music room for those LaPazites).  By the time I was attending LaPaz, it was only an elementary school and it seems like we always had our class photos taken inside the building.  In my picture, we are standing in the gym in front of the stage.  I certainly miss this old school!

My grandmother's second grade class at LaPaz School, c. 1931.  My grandmother's on the top row, second kid from the right.  Check out the kid on the bottom row with his hands over his face!

My dad's third grade class at LaPaz School, c. 1955.  My dad's on the bottom row with his arms crossed.

My second grade class at LaPaz Elementary, 1977.  I'm on the bottom row, first kid on the right.  The kid on the opposite side from me, bottom row, and I became best friends and got together just last night-37 years later.  And I'm friends with several of these kids on Facebook!

12 March 2014

Not to be left out: Cromwell

Main street - Cromwell
You have to be intentional about going to Cromwell, Indiana.  Such was the case when I was asked to visit the community and give my opinion on its downtown district, restoration opportunities, and its eligibility for the National Register.  Tucked away on the west side of Noble County, the folks had heard of the work being done in their county seat, Albion, and didn't want to be left out.  And now, with the exception of Avilla, every village of any size in Noble County is now, or will be, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  That's something to celebrate....and market.

Downtown Cromwell - the c. 1874 "Cromwell House", endangered of being demolished, on right
The town's history began when Harrison Wood employed the county surveyor to lay out the village of Cromwell in 1853.  The original plat included 28 lots radiating from the intersection of Orange (also known as Albion Road) and Jefferson Streets.  The first resident was Able Mullen, who had constructed a log house a few years prior in the spring of 1849.  The town was named after the English political and military leader, Oliver Cromwell.  The first school in Cromwell was located near the railroad tracks on the north side of town.  It was constructed out of logs in about 1840.  The railroad provided the impetus for quick population growth.  By 1895 the population was 450.  By 1899 it reached 500.  Then in 1901 it climbed to 640 and to 700 by 1919.  By 1953 the population stabilized.  Cromwell incorporated as a town in 1902; the same year it installed lights.  By 1914 the town had reached its historic boundaries with new plats mostly established on each side of Jefferson Street north to the railroad.

The extraordinary 1901 Queen Anne-style Hussey House
Cromwell is going through a bit of a renewal, embracing its connection to Oliver Cromwell.  Unfortunately one building, likely the oldest building in town at c. 1874, is threatened with demolition.  The old building had a hotel on its second floor that was known as the Cromwell House and Central Hotel during the late 1800s and as the early 1900s, and later as the Kimmel House.  The building has had a restaurant operating from its first floor since the early 1900s, known as the Home Restaurant.  The hotel rented rooms for $1.00 per day in c. 1910.  The building’s north storefront was used as a bank and the first picture show was shown from the same storefront in 1915; it continued as a movie house into the 1920s.  Another remarkable building in town is the 1901 Harry Hussey House.  The Husseys operated a large drugstore in Cromwell under the name Hussey & Son.  Harry Hussey joined his father, Martin, in the drugstore business near the turn of the 19th century.

10 March 2014

Albion-the "center" of it all in Noble County

Noble County's Old Jail Museum and Courthouse, Albion
The need to establish a central county seat of government in Noble County became the catalyst for founding “the center” which later was named Albion.  The document ratifying the location of the county seat was signed beneath three large white oak trees where the courthouse now stands. There had been three previous locations where the county seat of government resided:  Sparta, Augusta, and Ft. Mitchell.  Two square miles were carved out of York and Jefferson Township in 1846 and the new township was named Albion.  A plat was created and the community was selected as the county seat.  The public square was reserved for a courthouse and a lot was allocated for the county jail.  Samuel Clymer built the first residence on the south side of the square and a second one followed by 1847.

The Noble County Courthouse, 1888, Albion
The third and present courthouse was constructed in 1888 after it was determined the previous building was inadequate for the growing population of Noble County.  The former jail, now a museum, was the second jail built in the county, in 1875.  The Chicago division of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad was constructed through the south side of Albion in 1873.  This event and several fires in the downtown provided an opportunity to rebuild the commercial center of the town during the 1870s through the 1880s.  The new, large brick business blocks that were constructed reflected the new found prosperity the railroad brought.
Main lobby of the Noble County Courthouse
The population of Albion was 100 in 1850.  In 1870 the population had increased to 476.  Forty new residences had been constructed within a year after the railroad had been established through the town in 1873.  In 1874 Albion was incorporated as a town.  By 1890 the population had nearly tripled to 1300 and in 1906 the population was 1600.  In the first decade of the 20th century the town had installed electric lights, a waterworks and sewer system, and a telephone system.  The town’s wood sidewalks were removed and replaced with concrete sidewalks and the streets had been covered with gravel.  Albion’s growth stabilized by the middle of the 20th century and the district has remained the center of the community.  Albion entered the new year of 2014 with its courthouse square district listed on the National Register.

From the roof of the courthouse, overlooking the Albion Opera House, a preservation save by a local group

05 March 2014

North Liberty "Gateway to Potato Creek"

North Liberty's Downtown-the Yum Yum is on the right
One of the most recent listings to the National Register in Northern Indiana is one of the smallest downtowns to receive that recognition.  North Liberty's downtown, just a block long, was a lively place in its day.  The town is looking to the future by celebrating its past.  One place, the Yum Yum Shoppe, has become one of our favorite spots for pizza and ice cream...it's amazing how the car can find its way down lightly-traveled highways for ice cream.

North Liberty was platted in 1837 by Daniel and James Antrim.  It was surveyed by the St. Joseph County surveyor, T. W. Bray.  It is located at the conjunction of sections 28, 29, 32, and 33 in Liberty Township.  Liberty Township is recognized as one of the earliest settled townships of St. Joseph County.  During the 1850s, the land in the township began to be cleared for agricultural purposes.  Farming and lumber were the chief industries in the township by the 1880s.  A total of five sawmills were in operation by that time.

The first election in the township was held at James Antrim’s house in North Liberty in 1837.  The first house on a platted lot in the town was constructed in that same year by James Downey.  Four additional homes were built in the same year.  A gristmill was built in North Liberty in 1837 and a sawmill was constructed in 1839 by Hiram Bean and Alonzo Hill.  The first school was constructed in 1840 and in 1868 a high school building was constructed in North Liberty.  The first church was organized and constructed by the Methodists in North Liberty in 1851.  By 1880, there were three churches, the Methodist, Seventh Day Adventist, and Episcopal churches.  The town’s cemetery was established in 1842.  The Cole Brothers constructed a large planing mill and manufacturing facility in 1866.  The establishment burned in 1871, but was reincorporated in 1873 as the North Liberty Manufacturing Company which continued into the 20th century.  The company manufactured wagons and buggies.

By 1880, the population of North Liberty reached about 400 people.  At the end of the 19th century an extension of the Wabash Railroad and the arrival of the Chicago Belt Line Railroad, which was solely a freight line, assisted the general growth of the town and its industries.  North Liberty was incorporated as a town in 1894.  By 1903, the population had grown to 504 people.  Sidewalks were placed in the town in 1912 and in 1913 the community was preparing to be illuminated with electrical lights.

The county 4-H fair was first held in North Liberty in 1928; it was held in the downtown until about 1935 when it relocated to another location in St. Joseph County.  After the arrival of the railroads and general conversion of land to agricultural production the town and township had slow measured growth during the remaining part of the 20th century.  North Liberty remained the only village in the township.  The town had a population of 977 people in 1940.  In 1960, the population had grown to 1,241 people.  By 1978, when Potato Creek State Park was established in the township, the population of North Liberty remained virtually unchanged at 1,250 people.

03 March 2014

International Overlook at the Dunes

Front of the Dr. Meyer House
 A few years ago I was contacted by the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore to prepare a nomination to list a house they acquired to the National Register.  The house, known as the Dr. Meyer House, was decidedly in the International Style.  The bonus for me was the ability to interview the architect, still living, something that had never happened with any of my projects to that point.

Harold Olin, the architect of the Meyer house, studied at the Illinois Institute of Technology from 1949 through 1954.  It was during this time that Mies van de Rohe was the director for the architecture program at IIT and influenced very heavily the school’s proclivity toward the International style.  While Olin was a student at IIT he attended a party sponsored by the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects to celebrate Mies’s birthday.  Olin met Martin Reinheimer, a principle partner in an important architectural firm in Chicago, at the party.  Reinheimer recommended a friend and client to Olin; the client was interested in building a home in Beverly Shores.  Olin had a home in Beverly Shores he had designed for himself in about 1960.

The client recommended to Olin was Dr. John H. Meyer, and his wife Gerda Meyer.  John Meyer was a Chicago area physician who practiced internal medicine.  Dr. Meyer, Gerda, and their daughter Miriam immigrated to the United States in May, 1949.  Dr. Meyer, born in 1913, began medical school in Berlin, Germany, just as Nazism and Adolf Hitler began a rise to power in the country.  In 1933 Meyer, being Jewish, was informed that he could not continue his medical training in Germany.  He then immigrated to Italy where he finished medical school at the University of Genoa.  He immigrated again to Ecuador on May 19, 1939, where he lived until World War II was over and he could relocate his family to the United States.  Besides his native language, Meyer learned both Italian and Spanish.  Later in life Meyer published a book recounting his survival of the holocaust and the persecution suffered by his family.  The book entitled Surviving Against All Odds has an introduction that states why Meyer wrote the book.  Meyer believed that accounts of suffering by Jews during the holocaust had to be documented and remembered.  He also believed the toll on the survivors’ health was also a topic to be considered.  Meyer stated that while many contributions were made by Jews who emigrated during the holocaust, they suffered emotionally and physically during their readjustment to new cultures.  He believed this was particularly true for the older generation whose health and survival was affected by immigration.

Stairs from the entry level to the living area
The Meyers wanted a quiet weekend retreat house and settled on a location in Beverly Shores, Indiana.  The lot they purchased was on top of a 70’ sand dune that overlooked Lake Michigan and had views to the Chicago skyline.  The home was built in 1961.  The Meyers showed great sensitivity and sensibility to the style of the home.  Their furnishings were simple and appropriately complimented the International style.  Many of the furnishings were imported from Italy, Mexico, and Israel.  Dr. Meyer loved music and played the piano himself, but not for guests.  As part of the house design Meyer requested electrical outlets and speakers be placed on the roof so that they could enjoy music and the view from the rooftop.  The Olins recall that they and the Meyers spent a fair amount of time on the roof.  Meyer also was a good photographer and carpenter.  Meyer established a photography dark room in the lower lever and a work room in the lower level of the addition.  Meyer fabricated the cabinetry in the dark room and in his work room.  His carpentry skills are evident in the casework wall he created between the master bedroom and living space on the main level.

The Meyers at first spent only weekends at the home, but eventually it became a year round residence.  Dr. Meyer commuted for a short time to his practice in Chicago.  The couple quickly fell in love with Beverly Shores and commented no other place compared to the resort community.  Mr. and Mrs. Harold Olin became lifelong friends of the Meyers.  Meyer and Olin were part of an entourage to Washington D. C. to advocate for the establishment of the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore.