25 March 2015

Christopher Whitteberry: Patriot & Pioneer

Famous painting of the Battle of Brandywine Creek
I don't know that I can claim any larger number of Revolutionary War ancestors than the next guy, I just happen to be interested in family history and it seems that the stories bubble-up when I least suspect them.  Such was the case when I was trying to make some connection for a branch of the family little is known about.  My ancestor, George Laramore, whom I've written about before, was the only child born to Thomas and Mary Laramore after their marriage in Muskingum County, Ohio.  The history we had on Mary indicated her name was Whittlebury and her husband died before George had turned a year old.  But it wasn't Whittlebury, as I learned from spending probably too much time searching, it was Whitteberry.  And after Thomas' death, Mary brought her infant son to Indiana.

By the time Indiana was being settled in large numbers, the age of Revolutionaries was approaching eighty years old which is why the Hoosier state became home, and the final resting place, to very few Patriots engaged in fighting the British.  But in following Mary and her son, George, I found that she moved on to Indiana to live with her aging parents who came in about 1829 to Tippecanoe County.  Her father, Christopher, and mother, Elizabeth Packer Whitteberry had made a homestead in their 70s.  Recently I found their humble grave sites in rural southeastern Tippecanoe County.  And I learned that Christopher Whitteberry, at the age of 17, fought in the Revolution.

Patriot Christopher Whitteberry's gravestone in Tippecanoe County, IN
Christopher was born October 11, 1760, in either Pennsylvania or Virginia, and in his youth made shoes for the Colonial Army.  In 1777, Christopher participated in the Battle of Brandywine Creek which was one of the culminating battles of the Revolution in which both sides suffered tremendous losses and the Colonial Army, under George Washington, was held at bay away from the fledgling nation's capital at Philadelphia.  After the war, Christopher Whitteberry married Elizabeth Packer and moved to Muskingum County, Ohio.  The parents, with their younger children, continued westward to Indiana on horseback and purchased 80 acres.  Mary was born in 1803, according to an entry in a family Bible.  Elizabeth died in 1835 and Christopher, in 1843.  They were buried on a corner of their farmstead in what later became known as the McDole Cemetery, named for the family that included a granddaughter of Christopher which later farmed the land.  Christopher Whittebury, as far as I know, is my only Revolutionary War ancestor buried in Hoosier soil.

18 March 2015

A Township Institution

We've said good-bye to too many giants of our community in the last few weeks.  One was my great aunt of nearly 94 years.  She impacted my life in a way few have, through her example of public service over nearly 50 years, which I got to observe first-hand.  Firetrucks and ambulances from the community she served led the procession to the cemetery.  She had become an institution and she'll be missed.  The following was read at her memorial service and is composed of excerpts from events held to honor her years of service.

My great aunt and me

“You know what the Lord requires of you.
Love mercy, do justly, and walk humbly before your God.”

There are very few people who embody those words, but Elma Konya did.  She was just and merciful in her daily work of serving others.  And she was humble.  When she learned that she would be honored by receiving the Sagamore, she said “Why do I need recognized, I’m just a farmwife.”

Elma Crothers was born to Lemuel and Bertha Crothers in 1921 at their farmstead in North Township, Marshall County.  Except for a brief time on a farm just across the county line, Elma lived her entire life within the boundaries of a township she served faithfully for nearly fifty years.  Elma worked for Bikeweb manufacturing for seventeen years and as a farm wife before entering a career as a public servant.  In 1962, Elma began working as North Township Deputy Assessor and continued in that capacity until running for North Township Trustee in 1970.  She faithfully executed the office for each of the following ten consecutive terms, winning the public’s trust for her honesty and fairness.

Elma with Senator Donnelly

Citing the continued excellence of the North Township Volunteer Fire Department in equipment and facilities, and the construction of its new building in 1993 as her proudest accomplishments, her unsung commitment to carrying out the duties as trustee and assessor in a fair manner is her true legacy.  This may be most exemplified within the township’s farm community.  With a working knowledge of farm practices, Elma assisted big and small farmers alike in a manner that could only be described as neighborly and above reproach.

For nearly five decades, Elma rode the waves of change associated with her job with grace and great fortitude.  Applying the core values she attained from her youth and life of public service, she understood the importance of self-reliance but was the first to personally lend a hand in practice of the Golden Rule.  This was her most honorable attribute.  By understanding their needs and assisting when others may simply deny their responsibility, Mrs. Konya has forever left a mark on the citizens and history of North Township as a friend and neighbor in the truest meaning of the word.

Elma served faithfully, selflessly, and without recognition-through times when politically popular and not.  Day in and day out.  She didn’t perform “acts” of service, it was her life.  Receiving the Sagamore of the Wabash from the Governor is truly an honor to any Hoosier.  There are times, though, when it is an honor, and there are times when it is an overdue payment for a life of service.

In 2011, Elma Konya was honored for her nearly fifty years of public service.  Surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues, Elma received a hero’s applause when she rose to her feet and reflected on the guiding principle she used to serve the North Township community over the last forty years as Trustee.

“I lived through the Depression. I knew what it was like to be hungry, to not have a roof over your head, to be without heat.  You care for each other.”

Senator Donnelly was on hand to offer words of appreciation to Konya and said “you are the inspiration to what the fabric of this great nation is made of…to quietly serve your neighbors and friends”. He then read a letter congratulating and thanking Mrs. Konya for her many years of service, and best wishes from the President.

11 March 2015

Whitley County Courthouse: walking on glass

The Whitley County Courthouse in the center of downtown Columbia City has one of the most unusual features found in a Hoosier county courthouse.  Long before the "sky deck" on the Willis Tower (Sears Tower) in Chicago was conceived, the brilliant architect, Brent S. Tolan of Ft. Wayne had an innovative idea for how natural lighting could fill the center of the limestone fortress.  Glass floors.  Two levels of glass floors, beneath a sky-lit dome, allowed natural light to fill the rotunda space of the Whitley County Courthouse, dedicated on June 14, 1890.  The floors are composed of glass blocks held in a framework of steel.  And I couldn't help but notice that one could look up and see the footprints from a visitor to this seat of justice.  Unfortunately a renovation in 1979, while saving the building, closed off the natural light in the dome-so the effect is restricted to the historic light fixtures, but still-what a great look.

04 March 2015

Schroeder Barn: the four seasons

OK-I give.  I think I'm ready for spring.  In the hope of a quick return to warmer weather, I offer up this collage of the four seasons at Sycamore Hill, featuring the Schroeder Barn, built in 1865.  Many thanks to my good friend over at Troy Sherk Photography for supplying the spring (top) and winter (bottom) photos.