Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Cap" Cornish

by Carmen Doyle

From the age of three to age 97, Frank Cornish was a Hoosier devoted to Fort Wayne. His story is recorded in the book “Cap” Cornish, Indiana Pilot: Navigating the Century of Flight.  This book is wonderful for aviation fans.

Ruth Ann Ingraham, Cap Cornish's daughter

The book discusses not only Cap’s fascination with air travel, but also how flight and aeronautics changed from 1900-1995. What was intriguing was how planes changed. One early account quotes a pilot as saying, “The airman was more often than not separated from the mire a mile below by little more than a hope and a wish.” WWI airplanes were a far cry from what we think of airplanes today- they weren’t designed for passenger flight. (For some pictures and further information about WWI aviation, check out the Aviation exhibit on the second floor of the History Center.) The descriptions of how the attitude of the public changed over the course of time are fascinating. Early runways weren’t concrete- they were mostly dirt, which meant that after it rained it was impossible for planes to land. 

Cornish was originally interested in radio communications and the book is filled with details about the start of long distance radio. The author uses a lot of technical jargon to describe what is going on, which can make it difficult to follow, but the enthusiasm by everyone involved is clear.

One of the neatest things about this book is the sidebars filled with related materials. There is a section in the chapters on radio communications with quotes from an early enthusiast describing an airwave “ham”- and how they stopped further “pests”-- by inviting “interferers” to join the Fort Wayne Radio Association and teaching instead of “whipping”.  

The narrative really gets interesting when it starts to talk about flight developments. Describing the increased interest in aviation, the author talks about how dangerous the early planes were. There is mention of barnstormers, acrobatics and wing walkers, and how only a few brave people would be willing to be passengers, (the planes at the time were open two-seaters) but many people were willing to spend a few dollars to see a plane up close. To get an idea of how dangerous these planes were, there is a description of one pilot who was trying to break an altitude record. At a certain point, his eyelids froze shut and the plane controls froze. The pilot managed to make it back to earth safely, but the description is terrifying. And this pilot was only seven miles in the air!

Another thing that was interesting was how airports and runways have changed. Early runways were dirt, which made landing when raining difficult. Planes were not originally equipped with lights to land at night, not that many airports had lights at night anyway.  The description of landing at DC is mind-boggling, as originally not only was it a sod runway, the planes would have to dodge cars in order to land. When one airport manager installed a stoplight at his own expense, warning cars that a plane was landing, the city demanded he take it down as it was interfering with traffic control.

Author Ruth Ann Ingraham will be speaking at the History Center on November 2 for our George R. Mather lecture, and will also be signing copies of her book on Cap. Cap’s story is a fascinating look at how aviation changed over the course of a century.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Where Do We Come From? -- Our Holy Space Part Two

(Part three in a series about the Unitarian Universalist congregation in Fort Wayne. Written by Sandra Maze.)

In the late 1990’s the growth of our church came into the forefront.  The issues that needed to be addressed were handicap accessible restrooms, a kitchen remodel, and Religious Education and meeting space.  On January 9, 1996, the Building Futures Task Force, headed by Rachel McNett, met for the first time.  They started by collecting information from the UUA and other congregations who had undertaken a building project such as the one our congregation was considering.  We were on our way!

In her article, in the February 11, 1996 newsletter, the Rev. Dr. Laurie Proctor wrote about the process the church was embarking on for the new building.  She also expressed her dreams for the new space.  She wrote, 

      “I dream of religious education space that is bright and big enough to hold all of the children at once and allows each group to concentrate without hearing every other teacher and child in the place.  And I imagine a social hall where we can move around without bumping into one another and where we can pull up chairs for a Quiet tête-à-tête - a place where we can share meals together and with lots of bulletin boards where we hang information about who we are and the great things we’re doing. And a library—a room for small meeting and thinking.

      We are in the process of building a building, but, most importantly, we are creating our religious home, “The cradle for our dreams, the workshop of our common endeavor” a place large enough to welcome in all those Unitarian Universalists who don’t yet know about us.  In regard to the latter, I was told by another colleague that once a congregation commits to building, people start coming because they know there will be a place for them.”

This building was finally built with some ups and downs.  You will notice that the new addition is raised above the original structure.   This is because we are in a flood plain.  Many of Laurie’s dreams were realized upon completion of the project.  We have a dedicated Sanctuary with upholstered chairs, which came much later, but we have them now.  We have been using the Social Hall for potluck dinners and wedding receptions and meetings.  The Bhajan Society also uses this space to worship, building their own altar in 2004.  The RE now has space for several grades and a nursery, as well as adult religious space.  The choir also has a space to practice.

On June 3, 2001, our new building was dedicated.  There was also an Act of Rededication of the Meetinghouse as a whole.  The music was composed for this celebration by Anne Littlefield.  She wrote music to the poem To the New Roof Line written by Nano Honeck Coffman in 1960.  The poem was written in honor to the Meetinghouse in 1960.  Anne renamed her piece “Ode to a Roofline”.  She composed two original pieces, “For Our Forebears” and “New Space”.  It was a beautiful and wonderful service, one in which I was pleased to be a part of as a member of the choir.

The following was written by Dodd. M. Kattman, the architect for our new space.


          A celebration of the circle of life!  The expansion to the Meetinghouse respects and applauds the energy and ideas dedicated to the original structure while providing meaningful space to gather, work and learn.  The connection of the new and old allows both to accept one another absent of competition and ego.  The addition opens its arms to a comfortable entry sequence and provides for a future meditative outdoor garden.  The newly created lobby is flooded with daylight and emits a warm, welcoming glow at night.

          I hope that visitors will be well served by the new space and develop renewed a relationship with an old friend.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Fort Wayne’s Heritage Trail Anniversary

by Tom Castaldi 
In 1991, while planning the celebration for Fort Wayne’s first 200 years, a survey was conducted among the city’s citizens to determine the desired permanent legacies for the commemoration. Media surveys supervised by the Bicentennial Celebration Council revealed that a program for identifying and permanently marking notable historical sites in central Fort Wayne was one of the more popular legacies the city might undertake. Michael Hawfield, Allen County Fort Wayne Historical Society director at the time, prepared a 38-page Prospectus in 1992 unfolding the vision, plan and associated costs. Thus a trail idea was hatched and became one of the foremost “lasting legacies” of the Bicentennial Celebration of 1994. Original financial support for the Trail came from the Journal-Gazette Foundation and Essex Group, Inc. in conjunction with ARCH, the historic preservation organization that assumed responsibility as trustee. After twenty years, this free and open-to-the public walking trail continues to celebrate and trace Fort Wayne’s history.

A committee to develop the details of a trail was formed and began its work in 1992. Serving on the panel were Craig Keoun, who chaired the group, Tom Cain, Tom Castaldi, Karen Gardner, Michael Hawfield, George Mather, Irene Walters, and Mike Westfall. Inspired by such national examples as the Boston Freedom Trail, the Committee decided not only to mark notable historical sites, but to develop a self-guided program that became known as “The Heritage Trial.” The result of its efforts was the creation of thirty-three new historical markers for the significant sites in the central city and incorporation of twenty previously marked historical sites. Also produced was a map brochure indicating the location of trail routes and markers.

Criteria for choosing the sites focused on historical significance rather than on commercial or architectural interests. Decisions were made by the Trail Committee following the recommendations of a variety of local authorities. Rather than attempt to provide a comprehensive history of Fort Wayne, the Trail was intended to stir interest, to provide basic information, as well as to create excitement about the community’s past. The Trail recalls dramatic confrontations, battles and sporting events and along the path are beautiful homes, thriving industries, centers of finance and government, places dedicated to the arts, towering churches and great lines of transportation.
You can begin your walk in Freimann Square at the Anthony Wayne statue.

It was apparent to the Committee that walking a single trail would be an exhaustive venture if it were to do justice to the story of our region’s rich heritage. To make the trail a reasonable user experience, it was separated into four shorter ones that interconnected: The Central Downtown, West Central, South Central and the Kekionga or Lakeside Neighborhood. Although the Trail is designed to join in any place along the way, the Central Downtown Trail that begins at Freimann Square Park is a convenient starting point. The markers that describe the various stops are oriented for pedestrian viewing, so walking the Trail may be a better plan than trying to sightsee from a car window. Such a motorized tour is possible especially if a docent is on hand, but there is much more to see, feel and imagine by choosing a sidewalk experience.

A guidebook titled On the Heritage Trail was envisioned in the early months of the Trail Committee’s work to give additional information on each of the sign topics, providing the original sign text for old historical markers and offering information about certain other sites and topics that are important in our region’s history. Short essays about important individuals and subjects were included in the Guidebook following the route of the Trail. Its words, written by Michael Hawfield and George Mather, are in a style to help the reader conjure up an image to accompany the discussions. Proofread by Betty Stein, indexed by Amy Beatty and edited by Tom Castaldi, the book offers suggested readings to learn more about each topic.

During 2005, several new sites were added and assigned to the appropriate original four trails. This expanded the Trail and a newly printed map was prepared to address each one. Among the additions are those in Headwaters Park as well as new markers added to mark the Wabash Erie Canal remnants in Rockhill Park which also makes a connection to the Wabash Erie Canal Towpath Trail. North, four markers are added to describe the St. Joseph River Feeder Canal that can be found on the west border of IPFW’s soccer campus. Also added to the map are three color coded routes marking the line of the River Greenway, the course of the Lincoln Highway and the path of the Wabash & Erie Canal.

Today, nineteen of the Heritage Trail stops on the Central Downtown section have a QR code icon attached to the marker. Anyone with a digital device such as a smart phone with appropriate QRReader app downloaded can click and listen to a recorded version of the marker text provided by WBOI-fm 89.1 public radio.

ARCH, the financial trustee for the Trail provides organized tours of the Heritage Trail and invites classrooms and civic groups to explore the legacy of Fort Wayne’s Bicentennial gift. For a free map, group tour, or to purchase the Guidebook, contact ARCH at 260/426-5117 located at 437 East Berry Street. Remember Fort Wayne’s 200th anniversary celebration’s Heritage Trail is your legacy to a fascinating Heritage. (Editor's note: the maps and guidebook are also available at the History Center.)

Originally published in

Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail” – Oct 2009 No 59

This article was updated by Tom in October 2014.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

William Fleming Helped Open the Way for Fort Wayne

by Tom Castaldi

When 1874 came around, the Wabash & Erie Canal did not reopen on schedule with many of its mechanical structures in dire need of repair. In the previous year it was no longer possible to travel the entire length of the line and a court decree that year ordered that the canal to be sold beginning February 12, 1876. Twelve days later an auction took place and on March 29, 1876, Trustee Thomas Dowling sold the entire canal. A deed was conveyed to William Fleming of Fort Wayne for the bed of the old waterway from the western edge of Lafayette, Indiana to the Indiana-Ohio line for which $85,000 was paid.

William Fleming photo from History Center archives

William Fleming was born in 1828 in Wicklow, Ireland, entered national school and by age fourteen was sent to finish his academic work in Dublin. In 1848, William came to America via Quebec with his parents Luke and Sarah Holt Fleming. After they reached Canada, his father and four of his siblings became ill, perhaps of typhus or the cholera epidemic, and died during the quarantine time while tied up in the harbor at Quebec.

Sarah Holt Fleming brought William and his three surviving brothers to Fort Wayne. After his arrival, William taught school and worked as a stonecutter along with other employment until he took a position as deputy sheriff under Richard McMullen. When Sheriff McMullen died, Fleming assumed the position. He became interested in politics and Fleming served twice in that office as a Democrat.

He married Ann McLaughlin in January 1850, but in 1854 Ann died. His second marriage on July 7, 1859 was to Helen F. Mayer whose father George operated Fort Wayne’s Mayer House hotel. Fleming and his wife moved to a home that stood on the southwest corner of Rockhill and Berry streets. A three-story structure, it is believed to originally have been built by William Rockhill in 1857.

A man of many accomplishments, Fleming was the founder of the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad, which became the Nickel Plate Railroad. Later he helped bring it to Fort Wayne and served on its board of directors until the railroad was sold to the Vanderbilt people. He served as Treasurer of the Indiana School Book Company; President of the Salamonie Mining and Gas Company; Vice President and Acting President of the First National Bank of Fort Wayne; President of the Hartford City Paper Company, as well as a stockholder and director of several other businesses.

Publishing was another interest. In 1873, W.H. Dills and I.W. Campbell had merged the Fort Wayne Daily Sentinel with Campbell’s Fort Wayne The Times forming the Times and Sentinel. On January 15, 1866, they sold the paper to E. Zimmerman and Eli Brown who changed the name to The Democrat. Several others directed The Democrat, and in 1873, R.D. Dumm and William Fleming took control and restored the name to its former The Sentinel that S.V.B. Noel and Thomas Tiger had given it when they first started the paper on July 6, 1833. Six men underwrote the business risk: Henry Rudisill, Lewis G. Thompson, Joseph Holman, E. Ewing, Allen Hamilton and Frances Comparet. In 1874, The Sentinel Publishing Company was organized to manage the business. William Fleming purchased The Sentinel in 1877 and became its sole owner until April 16, 1879, when he sold to William Rockhill Nelson and Samuel E. Morss. In 2009 the News-Sentinel, a direct descendant of The Sentinel, continues to publish a daily newspaper. (note that this post was originally published in 2009)

Elected City Clerk, Fleming served for eight years until 1878 when he became Indiana State Treasurer. However, he lost his bid for reelection in 1880 when the balance of the ticket went down in defeat. Fleming regularly counseled his party and was often a delegate to the Democrat National Convention.

William Fleming died on January 13, 1890. Remembered as having been industrious, enterprising, and one of the wealthy men of the state, he was also known to have been a true and faithful member of his church, rendering it faithful service and substantial financial support. Throughout his life he made friends easily with a warm and genial nature. He possessed many estimable qualities of character and left his impression on his adopted city, state and country. William Fleming is to be remembered as the man who bought the canal and opened the path for the improved technology of steam railroading.

Originally published in Fort Wayne Monthly “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi”
 September 2009 No. 58

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast at 6:35 a.m., 8:35 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on WLYV-1450 AM and WRRO 89.9 FM. Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history