Friday, February 22, 2013

Recapping an OFN article for Black History Month

In an Old Fort News published in 1982 (Vol. 45 No. 4), Marjorie D. Wickliffe provided a “History of the Negro in Fort Wayne, Indiana”. Here, in celebration of Black History Month, is a recap of her article. (Please note that names, dates, etc. have not been verified by further research.)

Andrew Franklin Dickerson, Mrs. Wickliffe’s father, came to Fort Wayne after his father was killed in the Civil War. Dickerson was born in Salem, Ohio and moved to Indiana in 1861 with his mother, Sarah Ann Dickerson, and his sisters Mary and Louise. The family traveled by horse and buggy to Weaver, IN, where they stayed for several months, finally spending five days on the road from Marion to Fort Wayne, where they settled. The family found a home on Baker Street with the assistance of Mr. and Mrs. Chaplain Rhodes and Mr. and Mrs. Moses Moten. Moses Moten was a night watchman at Kerr Murray Foundry and Chaplain Rhodes was a janitor. Both are buried in Lindenwood Cemetery.

Moten’s son, John, worked for the Pennsylvania Shops and was asked to go South to bring more African-Americans to Fort Wayne to work for Bass Foundry, Pennsylvania Shops and the Rolling Mills. Rolling Mills was located in a section of the city known as Westfield, owned almost solely by the Rockhill family. Many of the black families lived in this part of town. Rockhill encouraged the purchase of property by blacks in Fort Wayne and Mrs. Wickliffe’s father and mother purchased property at 1210 Erie Street, now East Berry. For 31 years, they were the only black family living on Erie Street.

Other African-American families of note were “the Bradshaws, the Ridley family, Edward Jones, the Charles Lacklins, the Ransom Youngs, Thomas Adams, William Warfield, Elias Bassett, Frank Brown, the Alsups, the Noah Green family, Rev. and Mrs. John Curtiss, John Black and several others.”

Miss Emerine Hamilton gave Turner Chapel, located at East Wayne and Francis Streets, to a group of African-Americans and a group organized “the first Negro church in Fort Wayne in 1871. Under the leadership of Rev. John Green the first Baptist Church was organized. Coming later were the Rev. and Mrs. Graham Jordan who built a church, the first Negro congregation to build a church. It was called Mount Olive Baptist Church.”

International Harvester attracted a number of African Americans who had worked for the company in Akron, OH and were able due to their seniority to save enough money to buy and build homes.

According to Mrs. Wickliffe, “Looking back over the years since 1861, the Negro feels that he or she is an integral part of the city of Fort Wayne. With the churches, Wheatley Social Center, NAACP, fraternities, sororities, Lodges, both Masonic and Elks, McCulloch Recreation Center and playground, ‘Old Fort Y’, Fort Wayne Urban League, and the unique understanding between races of people, the Negro is proud to be living in Fort Wayne with its many opportunities for advancement. Scholarships for our children all were made by the many sacrifices and the sincerity of our foreparents who labored in the fields, over wash tubs, and burned the midnight oil with a desire to make an honest living. All this has helped Negroes to be good citizens and kept their hands in God’s Hand.”

Mrs. Wickliffe lived in Fort Wayne her entire life. She was a charter member of Wheatley Social Center and the NAACP.  “Both organizations gave me the encouragement to keep trying to reach for higher goals.”

With her husband and children, she organized the Wickliffe Concert Company, which arranged concerts featuring her husband, who had a “rich baritone voice”, and her daughter and son, who had studied at the School of Dramatic Art with a Mrs. Whitely. The family’s first concert was in the Packard Hall on West Berry over the Packard Piano Company and subsequent concerts led them to Lima, OH; Danville, IL; and Detroit. They also appeared on Edgar Guest’s radio program.

Her children were both college graduates and Mrs. Wickliffe studied business administration at Purdue leading to her being hired by Magnavox Radio and Television.

In Part II of her article, Mrs. Wickliffe offered brief profiles of some other notable Fort Wayne African-Americans.

Tommy Adams

Tommy Adams moved to Fort Wayne from Ohio and lived with his family, working in the machine shop of the Pennsylvania Railroad, later becoming a porter on the train that ran from Fort Wayne to Chicago on a daily basis. He, his wife and daughters Goldie and Blanche, lived on Hayden Street.

Elias Bassett

The Bassetts—Elias and Lydia—moved to Fort Wayne from Kokomo and lived on Melita Street. Bassett was a chef on the Wabash Railroad. The family eventually relocated to a new home on Eliza Street.

John Black

Black moved to Fort Wayne from Weaver, IN and was raised by his sisters after the death of his mother. He has a family connection to the Rev. George O. Curtiss, who served as one of the clergy at Turner A.M.E. Church.

Samuel Bradshaw

Bradshaw’s parents were the first African-Americans to live in the Bloomingdale area of Fort Wayne. Bradshaw was the first known black chiropodist in Fort Wayne, going “from house to house with his little black satchel to care for feet of the wealthy white people. Mr. William Shambaugh was one of his regular customers. His feet were bad because he did a lot of walking.”
Mrs. Ollie Bradshaw, a relative, traveled the United States, singing and playing the piano. She eventually returned to Fort Wayne and became the organist for Turner Chapel A.M.E., which “had the only Negro Choir in Fort Wayne.”

Frank Brown

Brown and his wife Leana lived on Canal Street. He worked as a janitor in several buildings on Calhoun Street and enjoyed a reputation as being good at his work and willing to help other black men obtain jobs cleaning offices.

Billy Butts

Butts worked as a porter for the Pennsylvania Station and later as a baggage man and train announcer.

Mr. and Mrs. Brannigan

The Brannigans moved to Fort Wayne in 1900 from Ohio and purchased a small farm west of the city. They sold milk and chickens and were eventually able to buy a horse and wagon so they could deliver their products to blacks within the city. As they grew older, they sold their property, which is adjacent to where the Fort Wayne Country Club is now located, and returned to Ohio.

Noah Green

Green, his wife and seven children moved to Fort Wayne from Darke County, Ohio in 1900. His daughter, Adeline Rhodes, was hired as an information clerk by General Electric after her husband’s death, and “was well known by many who came to her desk for information. She, too, was so well liked that many General Electric employees came to visit Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church to meet many Negroes. Mrs. Adeline Rhodes’ name will live always because of her kindness to many.”

Tommy Harrison

Harrison was the first African-American to be hired at the “Feeble Minded Home” on State Street where he worked in the laundry. He slowly lost his vision, quit his job and went to live at the Soldiers Home.

Edward I. Jones

Jones was one of the first African-Americans in Fort Wayne to make a living hauling trash, rags, etc.

Sarah Ann Dickerson and Nettie Davis

Dickerson is mentioned earlier in the article and was a cousin to Davis. Both moved to Fort Wayne from Marion in search of work. In a short amount of time, they found “day work” in the homes of white residents, many of whom found small jobs for the children the women had in tow.

Charles Lacklin

Lacklin was a chef at the Wayne Hotel when he decided to become a clergy person. He married the oldest daughter of Sarah Ann Dickerson and was known for his preaching on Sunday evenings at Turner Chapel A.M.E. Church.

Moses and Amanda Moten

The Motens moved to Fort Wayne from Kentucky. Moten worked at Kerr Murray Foundry at night and was responsible for blowing the curfew whistle for all children to get off the streets.

Mr. Rom Peters, Barber

Peters opened the first barbershop for blacks at the corner of East Wayne and Barr Streets. He also formed a band and marched in fraternal parades.

Dan Ridley

This family moved to Fort Wayne from Nashville, living and working here for many years.

Will Smith

Smith was the first African American employed by the Fort Wayne Post Office.

William Warfield

Warfield and his wife, Anna, moved to Fort Wayne from Ohio. He worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad. The company purchased a house for the family on Montgomery Street, where they boarded the waiters and cooks for the railroad.

Ramson Young

Young and his family moved to Fort Wayne from Weaver, IN. He worked at the Pennsylvania Depot and later as a porter on the trains.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Storefronts of State Boulevard

by Mark Meyer

In storefronts across Fort Wayne lie stories of our city's past. That insurance office down the street may once have housed a business that offered a quite different product to its surrounding neighborhood. Grocers, druggists, realtors and other professionals may well have come and gone from that building as the city changed around it. If you arm yourself with a handful of Fort Wayne City Directories from the Allen County Public Library, you can track the occupancy of that corner building that stands in your neighborhood. It way well pique some memories for yourself and neighbors and provide another view of the growth and development of the area you call home.

For me, the building that drew my attention is the storefront on the corner of East State and Woodward Ave. I vividly recall pulling back the heavy plate glass door of Lapp Brothers Pharmacy and rushing back to the fifth aisle to check for a new shipment of Topp's baseball cards. I was part of the St.Jude's after-school rush that descended on the store and made the owners just a wee bit nervous. If a new box of cards had arrived my pockets were soon emptied of change. If the box had not appeared, my pockets were emptied anyway at the little soda fountain in the front corner of the store. There, one of the owners, Harold or Leonard Lapp, would mix a cherry phosphate, root beer, or a Suicide (a mix of three flavors).

If the cards and phosphates didn't call me, the store immediately to the west did. Feustel's Grocery was home to the finest collection of penny candy in the known world. A long counter ran along the east wall for what seemed to be a hundred feet. The shelves held such a variety of candies that a ten-cent purchase required several minutes of careful indecision before yielding a bag of goodies big enough to share.

At age ten we're blessed with a sense of permanence. I believed those stores had been there forever and would be there long after I grew up. Of course, I was wrong on both counts. Currently the storefront that housed Lapp Brothers Pharmacy (1937 E. State) awaits a new tenant after the recent closing of a smoke shop. Next door, the former Feustel's space (1935 E. State) is home to a bicycle shop. Of course the building had several other uses since it was constructed in 1926. The before-mentioned Fort Wayne City Directories provide a glimpse of how the building served the neighborhood through the years. What follows is a chronological list of occupants per the city directories. The directories reflected the occupants by address as of November of the given years. In some cases there was no entry, or the space was indicated as Vacant. It is interesting to note the presence of a neighborhood grocery in one of the two store fronts up until the days of the Supermarket arrived:

1935 E. State

Hoosier Grocery Corporation Store #41
Kroger (Yes, the same corporate grocer that returned to Fort Wayne in the 1980s.  At this time Kroger had several neighborhood groceries in the city.)
Feustel Grocery
Kwikie Mini Market
Roger's Formal Wear
Stan's Shoe Repair
Shaver & Pen Center
No occupant indicated
Hungry for Home (Restaurant/caterer)
Art Werks Bike Shop

1937 E. State

William H. Rupp Druggist
Reed & Long Grocer
Ralph Baker Grocer
John Funk Grocer
Thrift Home Store
Lapp Brothers Pharmacy
(Sadly the store closed after the murder of one of the brothers during a robbery)
Curtis Flowers
2006 - 2012
Smoker's Discount
Currently vacant

If you have an interest in tracking the occupancy of a building in your neighborhood, you'll find the resources at the downtown Allen County Public Library in the Genealogy Department. You'll also find a Help Desk staffed with knowledgeable folks who can refer you to other research materials that can be helpful in your search. Granted, it’s a bit of a nerdy thing to do, but if you’re lucky, it will stir up interesting memories for those you share it with and add to your neighborhood's sense of community. To me, any information that adds to my sense of place is information well received.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Do you know your Black History?

Some questions to test your knowledge of Black History:

1.      Gwendolyn Brooks was the first African-American woman to win this honor in 1950.   What did she win?
2.      In 1989, he was the first African-American to head the Joint Chiefs of Staff and later became Secretary of State. Who was he?
3.      Jackie Robinson was a star in this sport
4.      Eleanor Roosevelt supported this singer, who sang at the Lincoln Memorial in 1939? Who was she?
5.      Who was the first black heavyweight box champion (1908)?
6.      What African-American baseball star was born in Cairo, Georgia in 1919?
7.      What happened to the Little Rock, Nine in 1957?
8.      Where did the 1963 Freedom March take place?
9.      Who was America’s first African-American woman senator?
10.   What “firsts” did Shirley Chisholm achieve?

Here are the answers:

1.      The Pulitzer Prize. She also was poetry consultant to the Library of Congress—the first black woman to hold that position—and poet laureate of the State of Illinois.
2.      Colin Powell in 1989
3.      Baseball—Robinson was the first black major league baseball player
4.      Marian Anderson—after she was banned from singing in Constitution Hall; Eleanor Roosesvelt resigned from the DAR, writing, “"I am in complete disagreement with the attitude taken in refusing Constitution Hall to a great artist . . . You had an opportunity to lead in an enlightened way and it seems to me that your organization has failed."
5.      Jack Johnson
6.      Jackie Robinson
7.      President Eisenhower sent troops to escort these black students into an all-white school
8.      Washington, D.C.
9.      Carol Moseley Braun from Illinois
10.   First African-American woman to serve in the US Congress (1969-83) and the first black woman to run for President

These questions are inspired by “The Ultimate History Quiz Book” by Brian Williams, copyright 2010 by Parragon. Additional information has been provided from other sources.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Should Prizes be used as Incentives to Study?"

There is much controversy right now about education in our country and especially in our state. Recently, as he was going through some documents in our collection, our curator Walter Font pulled a copy of the Fort Wayne High School Vth Annual Commencement Booklet of Essays and Addresses to show to me. This work is dated June 17, 1869 and the commencement took place at Hamilton’s Hall. The writings were published by Keil & Brother Booksellers and printed by the Gazette Company, Book and Job Printers.

Among the essays were two on education that I thought you would enjoy reading some 144 years later. Both are the “affirmative” and “negative” of a question. Offered here first is

“Should Prizes be used as Incentives to Study?”

Affirmative by Lou. E. Strong

“Men are so constituted, that they are influenced largely in their actions by hope of reward. The highest human endeavor, the most heroic deed, the sublimest effort, come from those only how have before them some goal to reach, some end to be attained. As we look wonderingly out into the world, and see the countless millions of humanity swaying hither and thither, like an angry sea, or tossing and breaking like the mighty throes of an upheaval of the earth, do we ask, wherefore? It is that they may win success—the prize of all, who live and do. The miser toils for money; while the ambitious seek renown or power, worthily or unworthily, all, all are striving for good, either fancied or real. Take away these prizes for which men toil, and the world is a blank. This principle is so universal, that he who attempts to deny it might as well deny that the earth revolves around the sun. This state of man is recognized by the Almighty. ‘The crown of glory’ is the reward of well-doing in a devoted Christian life. Are we not properly influenced and prompted to labor day by day, to lead a pure and holy life by the blessings offered? The prize, eternal life! Let us see how these principles apply to the business of education. In our advanced schools we see the student pursuing his course up the hill of science, and when rugged barriers oppose, or a yawning precipice appears, and the way is one of weariness, seeing that a retreat is failure, and that success is beyond, he makes a firm resolve, and girding himself for a desperate effort, victory is won. Now, what incentives, what inducements, are before his eyes? Evidently, commendation, position and influence among his fellows. These are the prizes for which he contends. To be sure, he ought, and he may seek improvement, progress and growth for themselves; he may desire to excel, because excellence is in itself desirable, or he may seek to gain discipline and knowledge, as means of usefulness and happiness, but how universally are these sought merely for what they will bring; moreover, they are in themselves of the nature of prizes. The fact that almost every college in our country has felt obliged to offer prizes—yes, prizes of money, too, is evidence that ought to be considered. Now, then, if men do, and must have tangible prizes to labor for, if students in colleges must have money offered them; nay, if the Christian must set before him the prize of the high calling, is it not the result of profound ignorance to suppose that young children will eagerly climb the hill of science for the mere sake of climbing? I know that some children are wiser than their fathers. I know that there are some that have more sense than their superiors, so-called. I can mention scores of them who know enough not to smoke tobacco. I can name hundreds who know it is wrong to profane the name of their Maker; but I have yet to see children who could not, ought not to be influenced by the same means that seems so absolutely necessary for their elders. Go with me, friends, into our won schools, and from actual observation determine this matter. See what regularity of attendance. Learn that more than two hundred of your children have not been tardy once during the whole year ending to-day. Learn, too, that this has been accomplished not by whippings, poundings or other abominations, but merely by the power of a bit of pasteboard, bearing upon it ‘Grade of Honor.’ This is prize power. It is useless to attempt to fix the attention of pupils, large or small to their books, by constant signs, words or blows. They must be induced to study, not driven. It may be urged that it is unwise to create a desire for these less noble tings, but that motives higher and better should be set before children. We answer” We ought to place high aloft on our banner, the motto, ‘Duty,’ ‘Right for the sake of Right,’ ‘Study for the sake of Knowledge.’ But, when these fail, as they do with children, knowing that ‘straws swim on the surface, but pearls lie at the bottom,’ we see the need of more tangible inducements. The prize system tends to cultivate the latent faculties. The sluggard is incited to diligence, the diligent to more diligence. Through these immediate rewards, children gain the final one of knowledge, the power which moves the world.

In view of these things, we must conclude that the prize system leads to renewed efforts, and more zealous working, to better thoughts and nobler deeds, the reward of which will be that success which is the end and aim of all who fight life’s battles.”

Negative by Maggie A. Tower

“In choosing incentives to study, we should be very careful to select those that will secure the best results, and be productive of the greatest good to those influenced. Should prizes be used as incentives to study? Will they secure the best results? Let us consider the nature of a prize. It is a reward gained by contest with competitors. We should at this point carefully distinguish between rewards of this character and rewards that are the natural outgrowth of true, earnest effort. The first urges those engaged to strive for the mastery, for the first position, even if obtained by rough elbowing and unfair jostling. The second excites all to earnest exertion and worthy deeds. Our heavenly Father does not offer us rewards for excelling others, but for patient continuance in well doing. Neither can every good we receive be called a reward, much less a prize, for what have we done to merit the numberless blessings which are continually bestowed upon us? When we give prizes, we must of necessity give only to a few, suffering the majority to pass unnoticed. Very few are stimulated by the prize, and those the very ones that, naturally quick and ready, need no such incentive. The duller ones are below the reach of this stimulating influence, and only feel their deficiencies more keenly. This undue stimulation acts but for a short time. When the prize is removed, the reaction takes place. Again, what is the character of the knowledge thus forced upon the mind? Where the awakened thirst for knowledge? Where the time for reflection and assimilation that gives the well disciplined mind? The pernicious influence of the prize system has led to its abandonment in all but a few of our higher institutions of learning. Here and there, in a College or University, the dust of ages has gathered so thickly that the light of the nineteenth century fails to penetrate it, and it is to the apparent success of the prize system in these institutions that we are directed. But leaving mere moralizing, let us look to actual experience for information. Listen to the words of one whose experience and knowledge in educational matters give weight to his testimony. ‘Many a college student is harmed for life by the corrupting ambition kindled within him by these incitements, not to genuine studiousness, but to class pre-eminence. From much visitation of schools and colleges, from conversation with professors, from testimony of students who have been prize winners, and from personal experience of the inherent viciousness of the prize system, I hold to the opinion that it is wrong, and ought to be prohibited.’ Are these good results; are they satisfactory? Will they secure us the best results? But the second question: ‘Will this incentive be productive of the greatest good to those influenced?’ We have shown that the results in an educational point of view were not of the best. We will say nothing of the propriety of giving a tangible reward for the acquirement of some thing that is intangible, and of infinitely more value, but we will speak only of the contest and competitors. Take the case of a young man desperately resolved to gain the prize. He is poor. The purse, or offered scholarship, is to him the way to success and honor. He studies incessantly day and night, even prostrating his health. All in vain. The great good, the prize is bestowed on his more successful rival, who has made but half the effort. He believes he is unjustly treated, and regards his rival with feelings of anger and jealously. Is this profitable competition? This cultivation of evil passions and disregard of the injunction, ‘Love they neighbor as thyself?’ Will our prize system tend to the best development of such a man? The mistake is this: we reward intellectual superiority, not intellectual effort. If taught in youth to labor for the sake of rewards, the habit will be so firmly established that it will become the motive power of all future actions. The supposition that pupils may be incited to labor for a prize, and thus led to love of study, is purely visionary. When has this dream been realized in practical life? What is the necessity for the use of prizes? Where is the intelligent teacher who will say that children cannot be educated to value study for its own sake? What true teacher that cannot arouse in her pupils a willingness, and even an eagerness, for that which incites them to perseverance and hard labor? To study that pupils may gain knowledge because it is right; to labor that they may please their friends; these we consider worthy motives. But to labor for a prize as the reward of earnest effort and diligent study—it were as wise to urge the miner to strike deeply through the rich, golden vein that he may reach the baser rock beneath. Prizes may have some intrinsic value; so have the grey rocks in their proper places. But to draw the attention from the rich, the golden reward, and direct it to such worthless results, is to depreciate the value of knowledge. Wherein will the use of prizes make the life purer or better, or discipline it for a higher and nobler life? View them in every light, and we cannot close our eyes to the withering effect they have upon intellectual effort, the debasing effect upon moral character. ‘The great end of all human study is human perfection, and none but noble motives can lead to the attainment of so noble an end.’”