by Nancy McCammon-Hansen
As we chronicle the lives of famous Fort Wayne Women this Women’s History Month, we turn to a booklet produced by Lindenwood Cemetery entitled “Pioneers Resting in Historic Lindenwood”. We hope you are spurred to do further research into some of these women as their lives and work made Fort Wayne a better place.
Baum was born in 1879 and was known as a prominent social worker and as one of the founders and first secretary of the Jewish Federation. She was also one of the organizers of the Fort Wayne Woman’s Club.
She aided in the founding of both the local Hadassah Chapter and the Fort Wayne Zionist district and made two trips to Palestine to “engage in welfare work there”.
She assisted in the organizing of the League for the Blind and the Inter-Racial Commission.
Born in Russia, she came to the United States at age 3 and lived in Fort Wayne for 45 years. She graduated from Chicago University.
She was a member of Achduth Vesholom and an honorary member of B’nai Jacob Congregation.
In addition to her affiliations with the Jewish congregations and their work, she was also active with Goodwill Industries, the Urban League, College Club and Fortnightly Club.
She died in 1956.
Jessie Maria Bond
Bond was known as a philanthropist. “At the time of her death it was reported, ‘perhaps no one individual in the city took a greater interest in works of charity than did Mrs. Bond.’”
Bond was born in 1844 and married Stephen E. Bond, former president of the Old National Bank. She was the daughter of Jesse Vermilyea, one of the original directors of the Fort Wayne Branch Bank. She was born in the family mansion built in 1839 in Aboite township.
Her work included the development of the former Hope Hospital, the Visiting Nurses League and the Allen County Children’s Home.
She died in 1914.
Margaret M. Colerick
Colerick, born in 1857, served as the head of the Fort Wayne-Allen County Library, beginning as assistant librarian in 1895 and becoming chief librarian in 1898. She served in that capacity for 36 years.
Colerick is described as a “kindly, cultured, little lady (who) truly laid the groundwork for the extensive expansion of the local library.” Under her leadership ACPL grew from its initial 3,600 volume collection, becoming the impressive library network we are blessed with today.
She died in 1934.
Margaret Ann Keegan
Keegan devoted her adult life to community service and is best known for founding the Christmas Bureau in 1936.
Born in 1903, she attended Fort Wayne Public Schools and received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, specializing in psychiatric social work. She worked for the Fort Wayne State School and later in the bureau of testing and measurements for FWCS.
In addition to the Christmas Bureau, she created the Fine Arts Festival and brought together many of the city’s cultural groups leading to the establishment of the Fine Arts Center. Arts United yearly presents an award named after her.
She died in 1966.
Isabelle McClure Peltier
Peltier was active in bringing culture to Fort Wayne, serving as a leader in Fort Wayne’s Morning Musical and the Community Concerts Association as well as a board member of the Civic Symphony and Philharmonic Orchestra.
Born in 1881, she was an artist herself and taught piano. She was a graduate of Westminster Seminary and European School of Music.
Her love of music led her to work to bring some of the finest concert artists of the day to Fort Wayne. Her estate provided gifts for Fort Wayne Fine Arts, First Presbyterian Church and Trinity Episcopal Church.
She died in 1961.
If you’ve followed Fort Wayne history over the years, you’ve likely heard of Bessie Roberts. Roberts wrote “Fort Wayne’s Album”, “The Glorious Gate”, “A Wayne Scrapbook” and the unpublished history of Abraham Lincoln entitled “The Frontier Line”.
Roberts was born in 1886 and worked as a reporter for the “Evansville Courier” before becoming the society editor of the “Fort Wayne Journal Gazette”. A graduate of FWCS and IU, she also taught in Fort Wayne schools for a time.
The wife of Frank Roberts, a former editor of the “Journal Gazette”, she died in 1964.
Wolff was a Union Army nurse and one of Fort Wayne’s better-known Civil War personalities. Born in 1836, she attended patriotic gatherings of Civil War heroes for over 20 years after the war’s end.
Wolff nursed the wounded in military hospitals in Cincinnati, Louisville and Nashville. She was publicly received by both President Lincoln and General Grant in recognition for her service and received a citation for bravery from Gen. Logan for her service to the wounded.
She died in 1925.
Clara Porter Yarnelle
Yarnelle was an active community leader, serving as president of the YWCA, College Club, Visiting Nurses League and Washington School PTA.
Born in 1884, she attended public school in Fort Wayne and graduated from Bryn Mawr.
Her other community activities included the Community Concert Association, American Association of University Women, Fort Wayne Art School, Needlework Guild, Fortnightly Club and First Presbyterian Church.
She also worked with mothers of young children, leading to the formation of Yarnelle Child Study Clubs.
She died in 1966.
If you read our blog post on Prince Kaboo http://historycenterfw.blogspot.com/2013/11/prince-kaboo.html
you can learn about Jordan Crossing within Lindenwood. Two African-American women buried there are Elma E. Alsup and Serlena Samuels Ridley. We reference here a booklet written for the Ride and Walk 4 Rides fundraiser of Community Transportation Network.
Elma E. Alsup
Alsup was born in 1897 in Humbolt, TN and lived most of her life in Fort Wayne. She was a social worker for 14 years, working at the former Wheatly Center (now the Urban League) and an organizer of the National Association of Colored Women’s Clubs, the Elma E. Alsup Club, the Lillian Jones Brown Club and the Girls Reserves.
She was also an officer in the Indiana Association of Negro Musicians.
Alsup ‘s “personal and civic contributions to improve the conditions of the African-American Community of Fort Wayne and Indiana continues to encourage through education and social events. Her efforts live beyond her mortal life.”
She died in 1985.
Serlena Samuels Ridley
Ridley was born in 1850, an enslaved child, and received an education when the Freedman Bureau initiated Fisk Camp Schools for African-Americans in Nashville. She taught school through the Methodist Church at a time when most African-Americans were not allowed to teach in many public schools in our country. She arrived in Fort Wayne about 1881 and continued her teaching career.
Ridley and her husband, Daniel, served as deaconess and trustee of Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church and were active members of the congregation. She was also a member of the Fisk Jubilee Singers and toured with the group throughout the United States. “She greatly contributed to up-lifting the African-American race.”
She died in 1918.