Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Babe Ruth

 (“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – August 2015, No. 127)

Babe Ruth

Among the highlights of the 1927 baseball season in Fort Wayne was an exhibition game played at League Park by the New York Yankees against the Lincoln Lifers. Blake Sebring in his Fort Wayne Sports History wrote that the Yankees who were in first place had stopped off in Fort Wayne on their way to take on Chicago.  Now at what is Headwaters Park between Calhoun and Clinton streets, League Park had erected a wooden structure in 1883.  Rebuilt several times, the place received a major overhaul in 1908 with new grandstands and a grass infield.  After the damage caused by the great flood of 1913, additional restoration was required. It was readied as a host park for semi-pro Central League teams including the Lifers when they moved up to a minor league status. Bob Parker writing in, Batter Up: Fort Wayne’s Baseball History, mentions the “Chiefs” as another local team that went up to become a St. Louis Cardinal farm team.

League Park’s grandstand was filled with more than three thousand fans, as was all the available standing room, that 1927 exhibition season. Enthusiastic Fort Wayne fans came streaming in, eager to see high drama from George “Babe” Ruth, Lou Gehrig and the other Yankee legends. The fans were not disappointed. All in the stands were sensing the Babe’s charge into the annals of American history. During the regular 1919 season, playing for the Boston Red Sox, Ruth established what was dubbed an, “unreachable mark” of twenty-nine home runs.  However, the very next year, the “Bambino” as his fans nicknamed him, crushed his record by knocking out fifty-four homers.  A year later, in 1921, he hit fifty nine.

On October 26, 1926, Babe Ruth had come to town on a personal visit.  After putting on a show during batting practice, he joined the Lincoln Lifers’ squad in a game against a very good Kips team.  Ruth proceeded to put on a demonstration by playing every position except catcher.  He topped the game off by hitting two balls out of the park.  The Lifers won 11 to 1.

Returning to the Lifers-Yankee exhibition game of May 6, 1927 the regulation nine innings was played.  The Lifers held the Yankees to a 3 – 3 tie in the tenth, with two out and a runner on first when “The Sultan of Swat,” another of Ruth’s appellations came to the plate.  He took two strikes and then in classic style belted the next pitch over the center field wall landing on the roof of one of the city utility barns across Clinton Street.

 The stands emptied as The Babe was mobbed by adoring fans. A newspaper illustration appeared of Ruth blasting a mighty tenth inning home run enabling the New York Yankees to defeat the Lincoln Life team 5 to 3. It has been said that the Babe often referred to that blow as possibly the hardest hit ball of his career.

Later that year on September 30, 1927, facing St. Louis Browns’ pitcher Zack Walton, Babe stood waiting in the batter’s box on a ball he liked.  When it came, it was in the eighth inning and a two-run, game-winning, record-setting homer which marked Ruth’s 60th of the season. It was a record that stood for thirty-four years from 1927 to 1961. Baseball historian Don Graham, however, has made the observation that in 1961 “Ruth hit his 60 home runs in a 154 game regular season schedule. Roger Maris hit his 61 in a 162 regular season schedule. It took every one of those 162 games to hit both number 60 and 61. Maris ‘set’ a record, but did not ‘break’ a record.”

John Ankenbruck wrote that after citing the official long hits by Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle and others, one sportswriter declared that, Ruth hit a longer one in Fort Wayne, according to the Bambino’s version.  He was on a barn storming tour after the 1927 season and played a game at League Park on North Clinton Street. Ruth belted a ball over the left-centerfield fence and claimed that the ball landed in a freight car which was passing the park at the time.  Local baseball historians are quick to note that if true the ball would have had to clear the fence then make a right angle, travel another six hundred feet to land on the railroad tracks.

Even so, 1927 was a memorial year for baseball and stamped with the name of George Herman Ruth, the “Babe,” the “Bambino,” “the Sultan of Swat.” It was a year to remember baseball in Fort Wayne and Babe Ruth was on hand to help to make it more than just a big hit.


Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio. Ft. Wayne 106.3 FM and South Bend 95.7 FM.  Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history centerfw.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

News Sentinel Building

 (“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – July 2015, No. 126)

News Sentinel Building

The News-Sentinel Building was constructed in 1925 by Oscar Foellinger, publisher of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel. Tracing its history to the first newspaper in Fort Wayne, The Sentinel, which began publication as a weekly on July 6, 1833, its first editor of this Democrat newspaper was Thomas Tigar.  Living in Indianapolis at the time, Tigar was a native of Beverly, Yorkshire, England born there in 1807. He came to America in 1826 as an experienced printer and landed in Ashtabula, Ohio. He met his partner S.V.B Noel in Indianapolis and the two came to Fort Wayne to establish the original press for the paper on West Columbia Street. Tigar continued with the paper until 1865. He died in 1875 and is buried in Lindenwood cemetery.

   Bert Griswold relates the story of how the paper acquired its first press.  A used hand-press for the printing of the Indiana State Journal at Indianapolis was purchased and delivered to Fort Wayne. The way was difficult taking six days to transport the load over muddy roads and across swollen streams on rafts.   Type was set and in its July 6th first edition appeared the Declaration of Independence. Its first editorial recapped an oration given on the Fourth of July celebration of 1833 by Hugh McCulloch.

The Sentinel became a daily newspaper, while still publishing a weekly edition, and later merged with the Dawson Times to become the Times and Sentinel.  Under new ownership in 1866, the newspaper was known as The Democrat until 1873 when the name was changed back to The Sentinel.

By 1874, another paper began publication under the name Fort Wayne Daily News.  It was first published as a Republican newspaper which emphasized local news.  Known as “The people’s paper,” the Daily News was a financial success at the turn of the last century and in 1917 purchased The Sentinel.  The new company issued the first edition of the Fort Wayne News-Sentinel on January 1, 1918.

According to author Jim Sack’s chapter in The History of Fort Wayne and Allen County Oscar Foellinger began his newspaper career as a junior accountant at the News Publishing Company during the mid 1890s. In about a decade, Foellinger advanced to the position of business manager.  In 1920, Oscar Foellinger assumed control of The News-Sentinel, which became a leading voice for Republican politics in the region and a strong advocate for civic improvement.  Journalist and historian Scott Bushnell noted in, Hard News and Heartfelt Opinions about the history of the Journal Gazette that Foellinger became president and general manager of the News and Sentinel taking it to prominent heights. On an autumn hunting trip to Canada in 1936, Oscar died unexpectedly.  Upon his death his daughter, Helene Foellinger, became publisher and remained active until her death in 1987.

Author Sack noted that Helene Foellinger and her mother Esther established the Foellinger Foundation in the aftermath of the loss of father and husband. Financing directed to community projects such as Foellinger Outdoor Theater, Foellinger-Freimann botanical Conservatory were among the substantial contributions.

Since 1958, the News-Sentinel Building has been known as the Foellinger Center and later served as the headquarters of the United Way of Fort Wayne as well as other not-for-profit organizations.

In 1950, The News-Sentinel entered into a joint operating agreement with the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette to share common printing and other business activities.  Fort Wayne Newspapers broke ground in 1956 and both papers began publishing from a new facility at 600 West Main Street in 1958. A new pressroom and paper storage facility was completed during 2007.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio. Ft. Wayne 106.3 FM and South Bend 95.7 FM.  Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history centerfw.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

An Old Apple Tree of Fort Wayne Lore

 (“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – June 2015, No. 125)

An Old Apple Tree of Fort Wayne Lore

Miami “Chiefess” Tacumwah gave birth to Pechewa or Richardville in 1761 near an old apple tree somewhere west of the Saint Joseph River, in the village of Kekionga.  This fruit-bearing tree, with its trunk alleged to have measured twelve feet in circumference, became a part of local tradition.  It was an early example of a European tree foreign to North America and played an interesting role during the siege of Fort Wayne in 1812.

The tree is suspected to have sprouted from an apple seed accidentally dropped or deliberately planted by an early French trader or priest visiting the Three Rivers region. It was destroyed during a heavy spring storm in 1866, however, its main trunk was left behind for some time.  It produced fruit said to be small and usually ripened in October.  Jesse Lynch Williams, of Indiana Internal Improvements renown, was quoted as saying, “We need not question its identity. There are specimens of the hardier varieties in this country now bearing fruit at the age of 150 to 200 years.”

 According to a story recounted from the Siege of 1812 an Indian warrior climbed the ancient apple tree every day for several days to harass the soldiers in the fort. From high in the tree he would throw his arms about like a fowl flapping his wings, and would crow out like a rooster.  Finally, a marksman in the garrison knocked the taunting brave out of the tree with an amazingly well aimed shot which may have been three hundred fifty yards away.

 So popular were the local legends about the tree that George Winter, an important itinerant painter of the 1830s and 1840s, was enticed to include a sketch of the tree in his collection.  Author and historian Wallace Brice saw fit to include a drawing of an old apple tree as one of a very few illustrations in his 1868 History of Fort Wayne book.  A reproduction of Winter’s drawing is found in the exhaustive work titled, Indians and a Changing Frontier The Art of George Winter with a caption reading, “Sketch of the Apple Tree noted for being over 100 years old and the reputed birth place of chief Richardville. St. Joseph River, June 19th 1848.”

In 1962, the Dow Jones & Company’s National Observer published a column about the old tree.  The Observer reported, “The item cited the ‘famous apple tree’ of Fort Wayne, about which ‘Little Turtle, Indian leader, and his followers had their dwellings clustered’ in the late 1700s.” It continued noting that the tree was, “more than three feet in diameter at the time the print was made and was said to have been bearing fruit for more than a hundred years.”

 Wesley Bashore writing for the Journal Gazette mentioned the National Observer’s reference and attempted to locate the site of the legendary tree. At that time he consulted with a number of local historians who suggested, “a spot about four houses down from Columbia on Edgewater.” Bashore was not satisfied and ended his story by saying that there simply was not enough evidence to locate precisely the positioning of the tree and that he, “was more than willing to hand this flaming torch over to others hands.”  One day reliable evidence may surface.  Meanwhile, an approximate location of the “Old Apple Tree” has been remembered along the 1994 Fort Wayne Bicentennial’s Heritage Trail at a marker found on Edgewater Avenue’s park strip.

During the years before Richardville died in 1841 he often pointed out the old apple tree to settlers. He recalled that it was there when he was a boy and that it was then a “bearing tree” and that the “hut” in which he was born stood very near.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio. Ft. Wayne 106.3 FM and South Bend 95.7 FM.  Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history centerfw.blogspot.com.


Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Kaboo the African Missionary

 (“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – May 2015, No. 124)

Kaboo the African Missionary

One of the most remarkable persons to grace the Fort Wayne region was an African male student born in 1873 who took the name Samuel Morris when he came to the United States in 1892.  Here he entered the Fort Wayne Methodist College to study to become a missionary.  Born in Liberia, he was known as Prince Kaboo from the tribe of Kru and had become a Methodist convert. He was known to have a charming personality and a zealous religious vocation that endeared him to his classmates quickly making him one of the best-liked students at the college.  However, Samuel Morris became ill in 1893 and died. Prince Kaboo was so loved and respected that his touching story of conversion, his enthusiasm for education and his untimely death was widely told and attracted many new students who enrolled in the Methodist College.

His life’s journey was a difficult one as well as one filled with discovery, great faith and charity.  As the son of the tribal chief, Kaboo’s father had lost a battle with an opposing village. Following some ancient custom, the victorious chief demanded the defeated chief’s son to hold as a hostage until certain tributes were paid. The demands were unreasonable and virtually impossible to pay.  Kaboo remained a prisoner and suffered difficult torturers including beatings with poisonous vines. He nearly lost his life even refusing to lessen his plight when the cruel master offered to exchange him for his sister.

One night after being severely beaten and passed out, he awoke to a bright light and heard a voice say, “rise and flee.”  Confused and probably in pain and dazed, he ran off into the jungle.  For days he moved through a vast and dangerous country, with no conception of where he might be but guided by a light. Lindley Baldwin writing Morris’ biography wrote, “Whether it was an external light or mental illumination that guided Kaboo, his pathway was made clear.” After experiencing one hazard after another, he stumbled onto a missionary camp the only important stronghold of civilized law.

Here he found refuge. Also, he was taught the English language and gradually learned he wanted to become a missionary.  Subsequently, Kaboo’s name was changed when he was baptized as “Samuel Morris” a name chosen for him honoring a benefactor banker from Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Sammy was told he must go to America to receive an education and was told to seek out Rev. Stephen Merritt in New York.

Without funds Sammy somehow managed to reach the United States.  After an arduous ocean crossing, he found Merritt, a wealthy soul, who took Sammy in, fed him and clothed him. Sammy repaid Merritt by surprising him with his convictions and according to author Baldwin, Sammy’s ability to communicate in a matter of fact tone never using “oratorical tricks of professional revivalist.”  Shortly thereafter, Sammy was sent by train to Fort Wayne to enroll at the Methodist College.  President Thaddeus C. Reade was hesitant to accept this poor, black boy, whose academic training had been sadly neglected.  The school was in severe financial trouble facing closure, yet Dr. Reade enrolled Sammy. On the following Sunday he told about Sammy who had arrived with no money and how he had accepted him on faith. Although only a little was first collected it spawned the idea of creating a “Samuel Morris Faith Fund” that continued to grow. It is that fund with the infectious faith of Samuel Morris that made it possible to move the school to Upland, Indiana.

Although Sammy dreamed of returning to his homeland as a missionary, in January 1893, he caught a severe cold and later developed symptoms that could not be overcome. He told his friends “I am so happy. I have seen the angels. They are coming for me soon.” Admitted to St. Joseph Hospital, On May 12, 1893, a nun of the Poor Handmaid of Jesus Christ, Sister Helen summoned Dr. Stemen who found Sammy had died in his chair.

When Fort Wayne Methodist College closed in 1894 and moved to Upland to begin a new life as Taylor University, one of its first two buildings was named Samuel Morris Hall and nearby a reflecting pool with lifelike statues all commemorate the spirit of Prince Kaboo.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast. Mondays on WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio. Ft. Wayne 106.3 FM and South Bend 95.7 FM.  Enjoy his previously published columns on the History Center’s blog, “Our Stories,” at history centerfw.blogspot.com.