Monday, November 30, 2015

Megan's Mystery Monday - Falling in Love with Ochmig

Welcome back mystery lovers! I’m here again with another tale from the museum. This week’s entry is on a man with a unique name and impressive past.
As you all know, the majority of the work I do here for my internship centers around cataloging and photographing the center’s fine arts collection. I handle anything from landscapes to portraits to photograph prints to posters. Of these, the most common is easily the portraits. Usually they’re fairly unimpressive, just headshots of prominent families or politicians that I, as a non-native of Fort Wayne, rarely recognize the names of. It can make them pretty boring to photograph, but occasionally there is the rare gem that completely changes my mind.
This find was definitely one of the rare ones. I discovered the portrait while cataloguing a shelf in the fine art’s room and at first glance, I thought nothing of it. By all accounts it appeared to be just another regular headshot of an old white guy, more than likely some political figure I’d never heard of. Closer inspection of the old record card sitting beside the frame though yielded a great discovery. I held the card for a moment, rereading the name over and over again in my head before snatching the portrait up and running to my boss to show her the best name ever thought up in anyone’s lifetime.
That name was Ochmig Bird.
Ochmig. Yeah. I know right? It simultaneously draws you in and forces you to adopt your best (or worst) German accent and phlegm like you mean it. Needless to say, I was in love. And when a historian falls in love, there can only be one course of action. Research!

A quick internet search later and I was greeted by another wonderful blog that really seems to know what it’s doing. The blog, titled ever so eloquently ‘The Strangest Names in American Political History’, explores the life of Mr. Ochmig Bird amidst many other colorfully named politicians. According to this site, Pennsylvanian native Ochmig Bird (who was of German descent, imagine that) moved to Logansport, Indiana in 1834. Over time, he made his way to Fort Wayne and became a very important mover in the development of the Wabash and Erie Canal project. In 1842 he was elected to his first public office as surveyor of Fort Wayne, but he didn’t stop there. 1851-1852 he served as a city councilman and from 1856-1860 he took up the mantle of Allen County treasurer.

But he didn’t stop there! Mr. Bird went on in 1849 to his first of many terms in the Indiana State Legislature, specifically the House of Representatives. In 1971 he even won a seat in the state senate. Sadly though, even the mightiest of Bird’s will find themselves brought low and ripped from the soaring heights. Ochmig Bird died on January 21st, 1878 and was buried in Lindenwood Cemetery here in Fort Wayne after cementing his unique name into the foundation of Allen County political history.
Now that I’ve thoroughly convinced each and every one of you out there to name your next child Ochmig, I’ll wrap this up and get back to work. Have a great Thanksgiving! Until next time!

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