Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fort Wayne’s First Park

by Tom Castaldi

In 1863, at the height of the Civil War, Fort Wayne created its first public park on the site occupied by the last two American forts.  This small lot - about one-fifth of an acre - was sold to the city by Harry Seymour for $800. An iron fence and flagpole were quickly donated by Henry M. Williams, a Civil War veteran who, with his wife Mary Hamilton, later donated to the city Williams Park on the south side of Fort Wayne.

The present-day monument of a well and “well-sweep” recall the remnants of the old U.S. military garrisons as they appeared in 1838, giving only a pale reflection of the earlier days of the Indian wars.  In 1838, the Wabash and Erie Canal had cut through the northwest half of Major John Whistler’s 1815 fort, leaving only the well, a broken flagpole and the remnants of the officers’ quarters. The last building of the fort was finally taken down in 1852.

The Old Fort Park continued throughout the nineteenth century to serve as a revered monument to all military veterans.  In 1888, the Maumee Valley Monumental Association held its annual gathering in the park; in 1900 the Spanish-American War cannon, located in Swinney Park since 1956, was dedicated in Old Fort Park.
Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine, “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” May 2005 No.12, p. 32

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Jesse Hoover and St. Paul’s Lutheran

by Carmen Doyle

Jesse Hoover was in Fort Wayne for only a few years, but he left a lasting legacy for Lutherans.

Jesse Hoover’s arrival in Fort Wayne was due to Henry Rudisill. When Rudisill arrived in Fort Wayne, his family was the only American-born German family as well as the only Lutheran family. Rudisill had come to Fort Wayne to help administer property for John Barr. When Rudisill tried to find help to clear land, he found that there wasn’t much local labor and what labor was available was expensive. Rudisill suggested that Barr recruit “some Germans from Germany and send them out to me… They are more industrious and temperate than our Americans.”  Rudisill preferred families, as families usually meant that both husband and wife would work.

Soon Germans started arriving, and Rudisill realized that a German-speaking pastor would be needed. He placed an ad in a German newspaper back east.  Jesse Hoover replied and came to Fort Wayne.

A quick visit to Fort Wayne in 1836 to visit and preach to Germans in Allen and Adams counties resulted in Hoover deciding to take the job. However, there was a problem. The counties did not have enough money to fully support Hoover and his family. Hoover was also not formally assigned to Indiana by his synod, so he could not receive a stipend from them. He was determined to become a missionary despite the obstacles. Hoover’s great amount of energy and amiable disposition had people convincing him to stay and settle.

One thing Hoover did to earn money was to teach school. Fort Wayne already had a school with two teachers. It was decided that three would open up a tuition academy with Hoover serving as principal. As there was no Lutheran church building at the time, school was held in the lower level of a partially completed Presbyterian church. The school was non-denominational, but some religious education in the form of students learning Bible verses, was included. The teachers had nothing but praise for Principal Hoover.

Another way Hoover was able to earn money was to preach at a local Presbyterian church while they were looking for a new pastor. None of the preachers who came to Fort Wayne measured up to the standard set by the previous pastor, who had died a few months before. Susan Man, one of the teachers, (and who later married Hugh McCulloch, who became Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury) wrote to friends in New York complaining about the quality of the visiting preachers, but noted that Hoover preached “excellent sermons, and we are therefore poorly prepared to listen to such poor ones”. Hoover spoke German as well as English and many Germans came long distances in order to listen to a sermon in their own language. The first year Hoover was in Fort Wayne, he preached to the Lutherans exclusively in German and the next year in English in order to help the foreign-born members become “American Lutherans”.

It took several months before Hoover’s German congregation had been developed enough that he was able to celebrate a First Communion in which 63 people participated.  In the fall of 1837, Hoover formally organized the First German Evangelical Lutheran Church of Fort Wayne, which was later renamed St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church.
In the spring of 1838, Jesse Hoover died unexpectedly at age 28. His energy and devotion helped shape the foundation of the Fort Wayne Lutheran community.

Information came from Frontier Faith by George R. Mather and Old Fort News 50:01, 1987.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Celebrating Memorial Day

by Nancy McCammon-Hansen

Whether by the grace of God or the luck of the Irish, my father was on deck the morning the U.S.S. Lexington was torpedoed and sunk in the Coral Sea by the Japanese on May 8, 1942. As a shipfitter, he often worked far below the aircraft carrier’s flight deck, but that day he’d been summoned “up top”. He never forgot it.

Over the years, this Navy veteran changed his opinions on the nature of war. At one time he was a “love it or leave it” kind of guy. But then the baby of one of his employees was born with massive disfigurement and the doctors said it was because of Agent Orange in Vietnam. Then there was Tailhook, which brought about a disgraceful piece of history to the Navy. So his views changed with the times and events but he never forgot the sacrifices of many of his friends.

In 1984, he and my mother started the Avenue of Flags at the Kearney (NE) Cemetery and for this they received a Freedom Award from the Kearney Hub in 2002. The project is a reminder of what Memorial Day, once known as Decoration Day, is really about. Families donate casket flags from military funerals of veterans in the area and these flags are placed on tall poles throughout the cemetery from Saturday morning through the early evening of Memorial Day. Smaller flags and markers are placed at graves of those who served in the military, the auxiliaries of military organizations and the local volunteer fire department.

This year, for the first time, my father’s flag flew at the cemetery. His was the first one hoisted onto the flagpole to begin the weekend.

Memorial Day grew out of the Civil War where it is now estimated our nation lost about 750,000 soldiers, more than all of the other wars we have fought combined. In 1868, Maj. Gen. John A. Logan, head of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), established “Decoration Day” to honor the Civil War dead. The date May 30 was chosen, it is believed, because flowers would be in bloom throughout the country.

This national celebration was inspired by local celebrations and several cities have taken credit for having the first Decoration Day events. “….several cities claim to be the birthplace of Memorial Day, including Columbus, Mississippi; Macon, Georgia; Richmond, Virginia; Boalsburg, Pennsylvania; and Carbondale, Illinois. In 1966, the federal government, under the direction of President Lyndon B. Johnson, declared Waterloo, New York, the official birthplace of Memorial Day. They chose Waterloo--which had first celebrated the day on May 5, 1866--because the town had made Memorial Day an annual, community-wide event, during which businesses closed and residents decorated the graves of soldiers with flowers and flags.”
On that first official “Decoration Day”, many met at Arlington National Cemetery near the veranda of what had been the home of General Robert E. Lee. Arlington is just across the Potomac River from our nation’s capital and one of the most impressive cemeteries you will ever see, only eclipsed by the cemetery at Normandy in France.

“Various Washington officials, including Gen. and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, presided over the ceremonies. James Garfield, then a general, spoke and “5,000 participants helped to decorate the graves of the more than 20,000 Union and Confederate soldiers buried in the cemetery.”
Gen. Logan had declared earlier, “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance. ... Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic.”
In the early 1900s, Memorial Day was established as an ongoing tradition. After World War I, the intent of the day was expanded upon to include anyone who had died in an American war. Congress declared Memorial Day a national holiday in 1971 and placed it the last Monday of May.
“Many Southern states also have their own days for honoring the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrates Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observe it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3 and Tennessee calls that date Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrates Confederate Heroes Day January 19 and Virginia calls the last Monday in May Confederate Memorial Day.”
Each Memorial Day, Americans are encouraged to “pause wherever they are at 3 p.m. local time” for a minute of silence to remember the fallen who died in service to our country. The National Moment of Remembrance Act, P.L. 106-579, was established in December, 2000 and signed into law to create the White House Commission on the National Moment of Remembrance.

In the Parade article “War and Remembrance”, Drew Gilpin Faust is quoted as saying, “What’s striking is how everybody everywhere felt the need for a moment of reflection, so I like to think of Memorial Day as being created together by a nation rather than a single town or individual. You have to remember that probably half the Civil War dead were never identified because there were no dog tags or official next-of-kin notifications. It was a shared loss in the sense that so many dead belonged to everyone because they weren’t identified as belonging to any single one. These were also not the kinds of deaths that society believed were appropriate at the time. They were gruesome and happened far from home. Death without dignity imperiled the meaning of the life that proceeded it, so a day for memorial was meant to restore the dignity of those lives, underscore the contributions that had been made, and in some way ratify how important the courage and sacrifice had been. It was an important part of the nation’s mourning.”

My thanks to Lori McCammon-O'Brien for her photographs.

Sources for this article:

Drew Gilpin Faust is a historian and Harvard president and the author of This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, Thorndike Press, 2008

“War and Remembrance”, Parade Magazine, May 26, 2013, page 14

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Under the Gas Lights

by Tom Castaldi

In the era of gas lighting, Fort Wayne Gas Works, located on the site of today’s Hall’s Gas House restaurant on Superior Street between Barr and Lafayette streets, was the central public utilities operation in Fort Wayne.

Fort Wayne had turned to the production of artificial gas as early as 1853 when the Fort Wayne Gas Light Company was franchised by the city to operate a plant at the corner of Barr Street and the Canal (in a block that extended south of the present restaurant to the railroad tracks).  The company was incorporated in 1855 for private residence lighting only.

By 1857 a contract with the company provided for gas lighting several street intersections (property owners on the intersections were assessed their share of the cost in proportion to the amount of their property illuminated), but the company was dissolved in 1886 with the coming of natural gas.

In the last two decades of the nineteenth century, Fort Wayne was known as “a natural gas town” because of the great gas boom, and “nearly every home in the city was lighted and heated with gas for a time.”   Fort Wayne was supplied by the Salamonie Mining and Gas Company under the presidency of Fort Wayne attorney Robert Bell in the 1880s.  During Indiana’s natural gas boom of the 1880s and 1890s, gas seemed to be an endless resource for industry and city lighting.

By 1905, a new enterprise named the Fort Wayne Gas Company had been formed to import natural gas from elsewhere; this company was the predecessor to Northern Indiana Public Service Company (NIPSCO), which provides Fort Wayne’s present-day gas needs.

Since 1955, the site of the old gas works has been occupied by the restaurant started in 1955 by Don Hall.  The statue on the roof of Hall’s Gas House depicting a man proudly standing with one foot on a beer keg is that of Charles Louis Centlivre, one of Fort Wayne’s original brewers.  His brewery stood for many years north of this spot, at the intersection of Spy Run Avenue and Spy Run Extended, just beyond Sate Boulevard.  It is interesting to note that this statue located on the site of the old gas works was also where the first brewer in Fort Wayne, George Fallo (also, like Centlivre, of the German-French borderlands), maintained his brewery, though according to a local way, “the manner of his fermenting his beer was questionable.”

For a view of the Centlivre statue, go to:

Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine, “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – April 2005, No. 11, p. 31

Thursday, May 16, 2013

The Extraordinary Hamilton Family

by Tom Castaldi

The Hamilton Family appeared in the northern Indiana frontier village of Fort Wayne in the early 1820s and soon began to emerge as one of the most extraordinary families in the community.  The original homestead occupied a vast area south of Lewis Street stretching across the three blocks between Calhoun and Lafayette streets.  After the Civil War, the family built a grand mansion and carriage house on the eastern end of the property and enclosed the area with fences and hedgerows.

Despite this physical separation from the daily bustle of Fort Wayne, by the end of the nineteenth century the Hamiltons had become one of the premier families of Fort Wayne.  From their position of wealth and privilege nearly every member of this remarkable family left the confines of the homestead to make outstanding contributions to the community, nation and even, on occasion, the world.

Allen Hamilton (1798-1864), the patriarch of the clan, came to the United States as an impoverished Irishman in 1817 and settled in the wilderness village of Fort Wayne in 1823.  Almost immediately he was elected the county’s first sheriff.  He made the family fortune, however, through a variety of typical pioneer enterprises, from milling grain and fur trading to land speculation.  It was in this last, especially as the executor of the will of the Chief of the Miami Indians, Pechewa (Jean Baptiste de Richardville), that Allen Hamilton established his family as the wealthiest in Northern Indiana.  For generations to come, the family would benefit from this substantial patrimony.

As one of the foremost citizens of the community, Hamilton recruited the town’s first schoolteachers, two New York women named Susan Man and Aleda Hubbard.  In 1828 Allen married the extraordinary Emerine Jane Holman (1810-1889), a southern Indiana woman whose father, Jesse Lynch Holman, was a judge on the Indiana Supreme Court, a United States District judge and one of the founders of both Franklin College and Indiana University.  Her brother, William Steele Holman, was a Democratic congressman for thirty-two years.  Emerine was the Matriarch of the Hamilton Homestead, an enclosed three square-block area Hamilton Homestead where at one time as many as seventeen cousins lived with their three sets of parents.

One of the distinguishing features of the mansion complex was the thousands of volumes of rare and contemporary books that filled the shelves of several libraries.  Emerine was a passionate reader who often lost herself in her books.  Her children and grandchildren remembered being enthralled by her stories and poems.  She was an introspective but generous woman with a great sense of responsibility.   Typically, she gave away as much as one-fifth of her yearly income to the public and needy causes and she paid special attention to the small African American community in Fort Wayne.  She also gave to the American Women Suffrage Association and counted among her friends and occasional house guests Susan B. Anthony and Frances Willard.  She was the founder of the first public library in Fort Wayne, which dedicated its first reading room in her memory.  The children of Allen and Emerine, especially, continued their parents’ devotion to study and achievement.

Andrew Holman (1834-1895), who succeeded his father as head of the clan in 1864, was an avid rare book collector (amassing more than 6,000 volumes, then the largest library of any kind in the city) and served two terms in Congress (1875-1879).  His brother, Montgomery, attended Princeton but left early to enlist in the Union Army during the Civil War.  After the war, he led a Bohemian life in Germany where he met and married Gertrude Pond, a kindred spirit and daughter of a Wall Street broker.

Once settled back in Fort Wayne, Montgomery became involved in banking and politics; but he also took an intense interest in the education of children.  He and Gertrude disapproved of the standard public school curriculum and chose to educate their children at home, stressing language, literature, and history and encouraging them to learn by reading on their own, including pursuing research questions in the family’s ample library.  One friend recalls that it was not uncommon to come upon the Hamilton children all in a circle outdoors heartily enjoying themselves reading Dante’s Divine Comedy aloud in the original Italian.

Gertrude had a profound impact on the many young cousins who grew up and were educated in the Hamilton Homestead.  She fostered the notions of personal ambition and achievement through learning.  Her daughter, Dr. Alice Hamilton, later recalled her mother’s admonition: “There are two kinds of people, the ones who say ‘Somebody ought to do something about it, but why should it be I?’ and those who say ‘Somebody ought to do something about it, then why not I?'"

In this atmosphere young Hamiltons such as the sisters Alice, Edith and Norah and their cousins Agnes and Allen grew and matured into extraordinary people.  Norah (1873-1945) was an artist.  She had worked in Paris with James McNeil Whistler (whose father had been born at the original log garrison of Fort Wayne, which his father had built in the days of the Indian wars.)   She also pioneered in art education for immigrant children at Jane Addams’ Hull House in Chicago.

Norah’s sister, Edith (1867-1963), was the most precocious of them all.  A passionate reader, she graduated from Bryn Mawr College and studied classical literature in Germany at the turn of the last century.  She became headmistress of Bryn Mawr School in Baltimore and developed it into a rigorous college preparatory school for women before her retirement in 1922.  It was after she retired that Edith became an internationally recognized scholar in Greek civilization and culture.  Her works on ancient Greece are still required readings in many universities today, an achievement for which she was awarded by the people of Greece the only honorary Athenian citizenship ever granted an American.

Sister Alice (1869-1970) went to Fort Wayne College of Medicine before attending the University of Michigan School of Medicine, from which she graduated with an MD in 1893.  Alice, driven by her desire to reach out and help others less fortunate than she, joined the settlement house movement at Hull House in Chicago and worked among the immigrant neighborhoods for many years. 

Her profession, however, took her into the new field of industrial medicine, and there her meticulous skills as a scientist combined with her rare abilities to negotiate and convince made her a formidable force in changing the American factory setting to one more healthful for American workers.  In view of this, she was invited to become the first woman on Harvard’s Medical School faculty to be a specialist in the field of industrial toxicology.

Her activities also extended far beyond the classroom and laboratory.  Always deeply committed to the primacy of personal freedoms, she became an active part in the movement for American neutrality in World War I and an ardent anti-fascist.  After World War II she was a fervent opponent of Senator John McCarthy; in the 1960s. While in her nineties, she actively opposed the Vietnam War.  She died in 1970 at the age of 101.  The last project on which she was working was the problem of disposing nuclear waste. 

Their cousin, Agnes (1868-1961) was a life-long friend of Alice.  She also became intensely involved in Fort Wayne social reform issues at the turn of the century and into the 1930s.  She worked daily with immigrant mill workers in the Nebraska Neighborhood in a community center she called “The Noon Rest,” and she was the first president of the Fort Wayne branch of the YWCA.  She spent the final decades of her life serving others at the “The Lighthouse” the Presbyterian settlement house in   Philadelphia.

Her cousin Allen (1868-1960) became a physician and an outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage and then women’s rights in sex-segregated professions.  His own wife, Marian Walker, was a practicing physician and mother, a dual role for women to which even most activists did not ascribe very readily early in the twentieth century.  Among the later generations one of the outstanding members was Holman Hamilton (1910-1980) who became an award-winning history professor at the University of Kentucky.

Throughout the Hamilton family’s extraordinary career, the thread that tied the members together over the generations and gave them all-purpose was education.  It was this above all else that was shared, relished, cherished and used by each in a world which they strove to make a difference.

Originally published in Fort Wayne Magazine, “Along the Heritage Trail” with Tom Castaldi – March 2005, No. 10, pp. 40-41