Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Indiana Historian Ross Lockridge and Son


(“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – September 2014, No. 117)

Indiana Historian Ross Lockridge and Son
Tom Castaldi
One of the renowned fictional accounts of Indiana made famous both in book and on film has roots here in our Three Rivers country. A look at the author and the storyline reveal an Allen County influence. The book made it into the top 10 national best seller list of 1948 and later produced as a film by MGM with the enchanting title Raintree County.  It was a popular movie that starred Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Cleft, Eva Marie Saint and Lee Marvin.  Ross Lockridge, Jr., wrote the story of nineteenth century Midwest history, folklore and landscape that took place somewhere in a fictional Indiana county of the 1840s.

Lockwood, Jr., of course suggests there was a senior. The senior, his father, was born in Miami County, Indiana in 1877 and went on to graduate from Indiana University in 1900.  Ross Lockridge, Sr., married and returned to his north central Hoosier home.  He became the principal of Peru High School, and later earned a law degree from IU in 1907. Not long after, he moved to Fort Wayne and went to work for Wayne Knitting Mills.

While in Fort Wayne, Lockridge Sr., helped to organize the Allen County Fort Wayne Historical Society. During this time his reputation grew as a history writer of pioneer Indiana.  Between the years 1937 to 1950, Lockridge served as a director of Indiana University Foundation’s Hoosier Historic Memorial Activities Agency.  Some of his works listed by Indiana Historical Society include: George Rogers Clark (1927),  A. Lincoln (1930), LaSalle (1931), The Old Fauntleroy Home (1939), and Labyrinth (1941), Theodore F. Thieme (1942). His The Story of Indiana (1951) was primarily used as a text in Indiana at the junior high school level.  Other writings from this historian tell about Johnny Appleseed, the Underground Railroad, as well as Indiana’s trails, rivers and canals.  Still another extended work which continues to aid transportation history researchers is Historic Hoosier Roadside Sites, commissioned in 1938 by the Indiana State Highway Association. His clear and concise writing style has added to our knowledge of our past.

Ross Jr. was born in Bloomington, Indiana, and after arriving in Fort Wayne assisted his father with historical projects. Sadly, here too in Fort Wayne, another son Bruce drowned at the age of five. When son Ross was nine years old the family moved back to Bloomington. The senior Lockridge certainly must have shared many stories of Indiana and her rich history with his son.  Could it be that while yet in Allen County the younger Lockridge first envisioned the notion of a mythical tree that grew in Raintree County?

In the book, Johnny his main character had returned from the Civil War and a school principal who failed to finish his epic poem about the beginnings of America. Although Johnny had his successes, the character is witnessed as he flashes back in memory wondering about the country’s future.  The tree Lockridge sought to feature in his tome is based on a real Golden Rain Tree which blooms in late June and July with subtle yellow flowers that drop like a raining of yellow pollen dust and flower pedals.  In the book, Johnny is influenced by several cultural concepts one of which is to find the legendary Rain Tree supposedly planted somewhere in the Raintree County by the celebrated Johnny Appleseed who is buried in Allen County.

Author Don Blair gave a four season description in The Story of New Harmony writing that this tree puts on a show of beauty throughout the year. He says that it begins even in the dormant stage with its bare limbs which is followed by a leafing-out of a showing of its leaves.  Next comes the golden blooms when dropped creates a golden shower and followed by lime-sized, variegated pods which appear as Japanese lanterns. Once the pods have shed at summer’s end, the tree blends into the forest with its autumn colors.  Before returning to dormancy at the end of its cycle it has the appearance of a dead tree.

In 1948, shortly after his only book was published, Ross Lockridge, Jr., at age 34 took his own life in Bloomington, Indiana. Ross Lockridge, Sr., died in 1952.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.

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Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Valerius Armitage Canal Contractor


( “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - August 2014, No. 116)

Valerius Armitage Canal Contractor
Tom Castaldi



Valerius Armitage first arrived in Indiana in 1830 to work on the Wabash & Erie Canal. In 1836 he was joined by his wife Mary Hewitt Armitage and their five children.   

An 1899 Carroll County Citizen article states that Armitage first came to Allen County, Indiana, to build the canal’s feeder dam at Fort Wayne in 1832. This was no ordinary dam. Canal planners determined that the dam must be at a high point near the proposed water route to effectively “feed” the project. The site selected was on the Saint Joseph River where impounded water could be directed through a channel six miles long running south to the main line at Fort Wayne.

To build the dam, trees were felled and brush collected to form a foundation on which wood “log cabin” style cribs were fashioned and filled with stone.  The trees were laid lengthwise with their tops facing the flow of water in the riverbed to trap sand and sediment.  As the branches fill in, the dam formed and the river water held back. When completed the 230 feet long structure spanned the St. Joseph River and stood one and one half stories high.

Once the feeder channel was ready for use, the reservoir formed by the dam supplied water into the main line with great capacity. It could deliver water about thirty-three miles to the east at the Six Mile Reservoir in Paulding County, Ohio, and to the west as far the Forks of the Wabash. As a matter of interest, the St. Joseph Feeder could send its waters into Wabash County a distance of approximately fifty-four miles.  Beyond that point, other dams were necessary and were built along the canal line as needed.

Securing the business of building locks seems to have been an interest of Armitage.  The locks were design that raised or lowered canal boats nine feet. It is what made movement possible overcoming the up or down changes in the land’s elevation.  Without a lifting lock canals would only function on stretches of level terrain.

After completing the St. Joseph River Dam, Armitage’s other canal contracts in Indiana were at Huntington, Wabash and in 1835 he took a contract to build the locks at the Fitch farm west of Logansport.  Interestingly enough, the locks at Fitch Farm were identified as numbers 25 and 26 among the numerical sequence that began with number 1 near the Indiana-Ohio line east of Fort Wayne.  Both were formed by constructing them with cut stone from an adjacent quarry.  The only lock in City of Wabash was also a cut stone; however, six locks in and around the town of Huntington were constructed of wood, one being a combination of both wood and stone.

It seems that Mr. Armitage was pretty good working with the various materials available at the time. By 1853 the canal had reached Evansville on the Ohio River, all made possible because of the St. Joseph River Dam.  Much of the credit was due to Valerius Armitage who died in 1838 at the age of only forty six.










Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.

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Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Thomas Edison in Fort Wayne

(“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Jul 2014, No. 115)

Thomas Edison in Fort Wayne
Tom Castaldi

Downtown Fort Wayne offers surprising history.  The Landing on the western end of Columbia Street holds a cluster of structures from the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries which were once at the center of Fort Wayne.  It was designated an historic district in 1965 and saved from the general dismantling of the rest of Columbia Street. In 1994, the Landing was recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.  

The old street began as an unplanned trace that led westward from the U. S. fort at the confluence of the Saint Joseph and Saint Mary’s rivers and eventually led travelers to the beginnings of the portage to the Wabash River. When the Wabash Erie Canal came along, it became the landing place or depot for disembarking and loading of both passengers and cargo which encouraged economic development in the region.
On Columbia Street at the age of seventeen, Thomas Edison is said to have arrived in the summer of 1864 to work as a telegraph operator. A demand for these facilitators of nineteenth century communications increased during the Civil War years. It was here that Edison found a position in Fort Wayne as an itinerate telegrapher working for the Wabash Railroad Company. Unfortunately the building in which he worked was raised in 1980.

Historian John Ankenbruck noted that Thomas Alva Edison came to Fort Wayne from Port Huron, Michigan and took a room in a three-story brick building at the northwest corner of Columbia and Calhoun Streets. He is also believed to have lived at rooms a block east at Clinton and Columbia. It should be noted that others question if anyone knows for sure where Edison worked and lived while in Fort Wayne since his employer was the Wabash Railroad Company. If so a workplace near Baker Street may be more to the nature of the efficiency of a genius’ thinking.  Edison wasn’t in town too long and in less than a year moved to Indianapolis with Western Union Telegraph Company and still later to Louisville, Kentucky.

Thomas was born on February 11, 1847, about a three hour drive east of Fort Wayne in Milan, Ohio.  Robert D. Parker writing for a July 1978 Fort Wayne publication noted that Edison’s formal schooling lasted a mere three months. However, he had the advantage of being home schooled by his school teacher mother who was convinced Tom deserved better than the school’s rating that had him placed at the bottom of his class. During his younger years, Tom bought a small printing press and working with the telegraphers used it to publish The Weekly Herald to cover events in the towns on the Grand Trunk Railroad line between Detroit and Port Huron.  At age twelve, riding the rails selling Detroit newspapers, he also printed and distributed news for the small communities not covered by the big city publishers.

Edison became interested in electricity while spending time in and out of telegraph offices. With a neighbor friend, he stretched a wire between their houses.  Using crude homemade keys, along with the purchase of batteries for powering their devices, the two became proficient with messaging to one another.  Meanwhile, in gratitude for having rescued a boy from a certain rail fatality, the saved lad’s station agent father, offered to teach Tom railroad telegraphy.  At age fifteen Tom already knew Morse Code and soon landed a job as the telegrapher in the Port Huron office.

Thomas Edison is the holder of 1,093 patents many of which have made their way into our everyday expectations. The more recognizable developments are those that emerged from the incandescent light bulb, phonograph cylinder, carbon microphone, movie camera, electric power distribution to mention a few.  Thomas Alva Edison passed away on October 31, 1931, was buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, New Jersey. However, in 1963 his remains were reburied in the Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey.


 
Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.

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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Great Lakes in Fort Wayne

 (Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - Jun 2014,  No. 114)



Great Lakes in Fort Wayne
Tom Castaldi

Our Indiana history has its roots firmly planted in the Old Northwest Territory within whose larger boundaries are found the Great Lakes and define this part of the North American continent.   Eventually, the Northwest Territory was carved into individual states and joined with the United States.

An old “school-days” memory trick to remember the five Great Lakes made use of the acronym H•O•M•E•S − Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.  It is more than obvious that the Great Lakes have had an important influence throughout our region.  For a time, Fort Wayne celebrated each of the five Great Lakes throughout the community by naming the streets after each of those large fresh water bodies.

Angus C. McCoy, born in 1886 authored a monograph titled, Streets of Fort Wayne in 1953 concluding that five streets were in fact named for the Great Lakes. Using our acronym, we begin with the first.  Huron Street originates on the east at Mechanic Street two blocks south of East Main.  A block or so long it melds neatly into a northerly direction and becomes Cherry Street.

Ontario three blocks south of Taylor, begins at Brooklyn Avenue and is laid out toward the west reaching McKinley near the railroad tracks. To add to the celebration of the second on our list, near its eastern end a circular drive can be found named Ontario Circle.

Now comes Michigan Avenue and unlike Chicago’s famed thruway, our Fort Wayne attribute is laid out as an east–west paved passage that extends from Riedmiller Avenue to Broadway on the East.  Michigan is three blocks south of Taylor Street.   

What was once Water Street likely took its name because it was bordered on its east and west ends by the oxbow formed by the Saint Mary’s River, and it also paralleled the grand Wabash & Erie Canal.  The street was renamed reminding us of the largest of the Great Lakes and according to Angus McCoy in a 1945 Quest Club paper the name was changed to Superior. During the canal era, many buildings along Superior Street served drayage wagons lined with loading docks, storage buildings, and warehouses such as the “Canal House” at 114 East Superior Street still standing. Also, extant is the Hugh McCulloch home at 616 West Superior where Abe Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury once lived.

Notice the one Great Lake name that’s not included.  Erie Street does not exist on present-day city maps. However, that wasn’t always the case.  Anyone living in Fort Wayne during its early years, and wished to call on say the Francis Comparet family, would find themselves standing at an address that read “59 Erie Street.”  Years later when Berry Street was extended, no longer dead-ending at Monroe Street where it meets the Maumee River, there was another road running a few blocks to the east. It was named Erie Street which disappeared when Berry was cut through.  It seems that Benjamin Berry Kerchival was a modest man who served as the sub-agent for Indian Affairs.  When approached to honor him using his name he declined, however, agreed that the community could use his middle name.

Out of the Old Northwest Territory were carved the familiar states we know as the “Great Lake States.”  Interestingly, the boundary that separated the Indiana and Michigan territories established on June 30, 1805, lined up horizontally with the lower shore of Lake Michigan.  Not long before Indiana gained statehood in 1816, the line was moved ten miles north to permit Indiana an access on Lake Michigan.

As our community expands, perhaps other byways have or will recall the names of our Great Lakes. They are truly a worldwide attraction and define our homes in more than one way.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.

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Monday, July 4, 2016

A Patriotic Past

A Patriotic Past- by Laura Markley

Each year as the 4th of July approaches, the telltale signs of of its arrival are all around.  Firework stores are sell out and lake cottages are full to the brim. The History Center decided to celebrate the birth of America by sharing patriotic artifacts from Independence Days in the past. We found quite a few neat objects from different time periods. Some of the artifacts include: a toy replica of Independence Hall, a commemorative plate from the 1876 Centennial, and a commemorative coin from the 1976 Bicentennial.

One of the neatest photos we found was a large poster filled with forty-seven individual photographs to celebrate the Centennial in 1876. There are photographs of past presidents and historic places in Fort Wayne. Notable pictures include, the corner of Main and Calhoun Streets and the first public school. American Centennial.JPG

People love to show their love for our country and their enthusiasm for red, white, and blue extends to a variety of consumer products. This Independence Day themed tablecloth is a festive reminder of how people celebrated the Bicentennial in 1976. The images include American icons such as the liberty bell and eagle among a stars and stripes theme.tablecloth 2.JPG

tablecloth.JPG



My favorite patriotic artifact is a tiny set of wooden earrings. They were made in celebration of the Centennial in 1776, and were made of wood taken from Independence Hall in Philadelphia. In honor of the liberty bell, they were carved into the shape of bells.

earring.JPGbox.JPG



Hopefully this post helped to prepare you to celebrate the 4th of July with your own fun patriotic themed items!

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Early Radio in Fort Wayne

 (“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - May 2014, No. 113)

Early Radio in Fort Wayne
Tom Castaldi

“Wayne Offers Wonderful Opportunities” followed by “What God Loves.”  Recognize those sets of words?  That’s right…the first letter of each forms the call letters for W-O-W-O and W-G-L. The region’s early broadcast stations.

Kneale Ross, who for many years worked at W-O-W-O or more recognizably, “WOE-WOE,” radio, recalled how the station held a contest in 1941 inviting listeners to create a slogan using the station’s call letters.  Sacks and sacks of mail were received and out of it all, came the award-winning phrase: Wayne Offers Wonderful Opportunities.”  Since its beginnings in 1925, WO-WO has been an active promoter of Fort Wayne, and it continues as a legendary station in the world of radio.




WO-WO was also connected to the very beginnings of radio in Fort Wayne.  Chester Keen built the earliest radio transmitter in the city in 1921 as a part of the showroom of the Lauer Auto Company; its call letters were WHBJ but these were soon changed to WCWK for Chester W. Keen and the operation was moved to a studio at 1729 South Lafayette Street.  At the same time Frederick Zieg of the Main Auto Supply Company had a powerful transmitter built in a room over his store.  He began operating in 1925 a station with the call letters WOWO using “W,” the designation for east of the Mississippi, and “O” because it was easy to say after the “W.”  They liked “W and O” so much they simply repeated it for the four-letter call sign.  By 1927, WO-WO became a pioneer first station when CBS organized the nation’s first radio network.

In 1928, Fred Zieg purchased the station owned by Keen, changed its call letters from WCWK to WGL, and put the two radio stations under one roof – at the Main Auto Supply.  During these years the WO-WO–WGL combination achieved several notable national “firsts” in the radio business, from the first basketball game to be broadcast anywhere, to the first “man-on-the-street-type” broadcast from the lobby of the Indiana Theatre on Broadway.

During the mid-1930s, Zieg sold both his radio stations to the Westinghouse Company, which then became affiliated with the NBC network.  As the WO-WO operation sought to dramatically increase its transmitting power in 1936, a new tower was envisioned north of Fort Wayne, at the Fortmeyer Corner.  After a long struggle with the Civil Aeronautics Board since it would be close to Smith Field airport, and after the personal intervention of Governor Paul McNutt, the tower was completed as the tallest structure anywhere in the state.  Later, the transmission tower was moved to a location south of Fort Wayne.

WGL radio was eventually sold to the Farnsworth Radio and Television Company of Fort Wayne in 1945, and in 1949 the station was purchased by the News Sentinel and became an ABC affiliate.  The station was next owned by Summit City Radio Group and in 2014 Adams Radio Group announced the purchase of Summit City’ stations including WGL 1250-AM.

WO-WO continued its remarkable growth to become one of the nation’s most powerful radio stations. Reaching 50,000 watts in 1954, reception was recorded as far away as Alaska, France, and South America. The station developed a wide range of programs, from live broadcasts from area dance halls and local basketball coverage to the Hoosier Hop, which became a national phenomenon. WO-WO was also one of the first stations in the country to pioneer in FM radio.  The station personalities such as Bob Sievers, Sam DeVincent, Jay Gould, Tommy Longsworth and Bob Chase, backed by writers like Carl Vandagrift, became national figures.  Their programs, the “Little Red Barn,” the “AM Drive,” and the “Big Band Broadcasts” from Bledsoe’s Beach, Lake James, Tippecanoe Gardens, and Lake Manitou, were fed to all the major networks in the United States and Canada.

After many years with Westinghouse, WO-WO became a part of Federated Media and in 2016 owned by Pathfinder Communications Corporation found by tuning into its popular call letters News Talk 1190 AM and 107.5 FM. Those early broadcast pioneers were prophetic when they suggest that Fort Wayne indeed offers wonderful opportunities.




Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

James Barnett


(“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Apr 2014,  No 112)

James Barnett
Tom Castaldi

Many of Fort Wayne’s early settlers made important contributions to the region but whose story may not be well known.  James Barnett, born in Pennsylvania in 1785, came to the Three Rivers Region in 1818.  He decided to stay and made his home near the old fort.  He first travelled here as a trader in 1797. In 1812, as Captain Barnett he returned with a company serving under General William Henry Harrison among the twenty-five hundred armed men responsible for relieving Fort Wayne when the stronghold was under siege.

In 1824, James married Nancy W. Hanna the sister of Judge Sam Hanna. Together they built the first brick building in Fort Wayne. A small structure, James and Nancy made it their home located on the north side of East Columbia just east of Clinton Street.  It stood there until 1909.



Barnett entered into a partnership with Judge Hanna, and in 1827, the partners built a grist mill by the crossing on the west bank of the Saint Mary’s River south of the Broadway Bridge. The partners also operated a trading post at the ford.  Goods stocked at the post came from Boston on the east coast shipped by water to New York; up the Hudson River across to Buffalo, New York to Lake Erie then up the Maumee and into the Saint Mary’s River.

At one time, the partners became embroiled in an Ottawa revenge war against the Miami people. It started when a Miami man, who was a member of White Raccoon’s band, killed an Ottawa man in a scuffle.  When the news reached the victim’s home camp along the Auglaize River, the angered Ottawa people sent hundreds of warriors up the Maumee. Here they staged their numbers in a camp about a mile east of the fort. They were led by Ocquinoxcy, a seasoned leader known to be impulsive with many kills against the settlers in previous skirmishes.

During the morning, an advance Ottawa party approached Miami Chief Richardville demanding retribution for the crime.  If the Miami would pay $5,000 in silver to the Ottawa, paid out of the next annuity consignment from the government, the Ottawa war party would return without incident.  If the deal were to fail the Ottawa threatened to attack.
Richardville and his advisors decided to acquiesce to the aggressor’s demands and when meeting found the Ottawa party armed ready to do battle.  Meanwhile the Ottawa leaders had decided to revise their stipulation substituting merchandise for silver.  The agreement was to immediately obtain $5,000.00 worth of merchandise or else.  

It was a tentative time because the nearest military force was at Newport, Kentucky, a post on the south side of the Ohio River across from Cincinnati.  It was too far away to offer relief before a bloody carnage throughout the village would surely have taken place.  Fortunately, James Burnett and Sam Hanna were in a position to satisfy the ultimatum in the form of supplies to be repaid from the government annuity of the Miamis.

Once the goods were handed over to the aggressors, loaded down with their new-found property, the Ottawa war party returned peacefully to their camp. Mr. Barnett seems to have been a man always willing and ready to serve his neighbor.  In April 1849, Barnett handed over a log house he owned at the corner of Calhoun and Berry streets to receive patients when cholera struck Fort Wayne.   Perhaps not well remembered today, James Barnett stands as an example of the hard working settlers who helped build the early community that became the city of Fort Wayne.  









Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.

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