Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fort Wayne’s First Sister City

Fort Wayne’s First Sister City
by Michael Rice, 200@200 Intern

When most people in Fort Wayne hear about “Takaoka,” they say “Yeah, Hall’s Restaurant!” The name comes from our sister city in Japan. We started our relationship with Takaoka through Sister Cities International in 1976 for America’s Bicentennial.  It was interesting for me to find out Fort Wayne also has three other sister cities: Plock, Poland; Gera, Germany; and Taizhou, China. Takaoka, however, was our first foreign friendship and shared cultural interest.
Crews hang objects for the Sister Cities exhibit at the Fort Wayne Botanical Gardens

               Sister Cities International was created by President Eisenhower to help foster bonds between people all across the world. This organization has over 2300 partnerships in 150 countries on six continents. The partnerships have allowed many communities to create strong bonds and overall make the world even smaller.        
Exhibits Coordinator, Jessie Cortesi handles an artifact for the exhibit

               Takaoka is located in the northwestern part of Toyamo, which is centrally located in Japan, located on the coast of the Sea of Japan. Like Fort Wayne, the majority of the city is comprised of residential housing, office buildings, commercial facilities, agriculture, and public property. Takaoka in addition has large forests and some mountains.

When Takaoka and Fort Wayne first met they exchanged gifts. We received beautiful kimonos, plates with inlay, traditional masks and many other items. Even the hand made boxes in which the items were shipped, could be considered artifacts themselves with the intricate joinery, fine wood, and fine finishes with hand written Japanese language characters. We use quality boxes as well here at the History Center, but those are winning with style. I love woodworking so I was just as intrigued with the containers as I was with the contents.

               The 40th year anniversary is upon us this year and the Fort Wayne Botanical Gardens will be using some of the Fort Wayne History Center objects that came from Takaoka for an exhibit.  Our bond with Takaoka is special and hopefully the cultural exchange will encourage our cities to understand each other a little better and foster the strong friendship for many years to come.                      

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Indiana Historian Ross Lockridge and Son

(“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – September 2014, No. 117)

Indiana Historian Ross Lockridge and Son
Tom Castaldi
One of the renowned fictional accounts of Indiana made famous both in book and on film has roots here in our Three Rivers country. A look at the author and the storyline reveal an Allen County influence. The book made it into the top 10 national best seller list of 1948 and later produced as a film by MGM with the enchanting title Raintree County.  It was a popular movie that starred Elizabeth Taylor, Montgomery Cleft, Eva Marie Saint and Lee Marvin.  Ross Lockridge, Jr., wrote the story of nineteenth century Midwest history, folklore and landscape that took place somewhere in a fictional Indiana county of the 1840s.

Lockwood, Jr., of course suggests there was a senior. The senior, his father, was born in Miami County, Indiana in 1877 and went on to graduate from Indiana University in 1900.  Ross Lockridge, Sr., married and returned to his north central Hoosier home.  He became the principal of Peru High School, and later earned a law degree from IU in 1907. Not long after, he moved to Fort Wayne and went to work for Wayne Knitting Mills.

While in Fort Wayne, Lockridge Sr., helped to organize the Allen County Fort Wayne Historical Society. During this time his reputation grew as a history writer of pioneer Indiana.  Between the years 1937 to 1950, Lockridge served as a director of Indiana University Foundation’s Hoosier Historic Memorial Activities Agency.  Some of his works listed by Indiana Historical Society include: George Rogers Clark (1927),  A. Lincoln (1930), LaSalle (1931), The Old Fauntleroy Home (1939), and Labyrinth (1941), Theodore F. Thieme (1942). His The Story of Indiana (1951) was primarily used as a text in Indiana at the junior high school level.  Other writings from this historian tell about Johnny Appleseed, the Underground Railroad, as well as Indiana’s trails, rivers and canals.  Still another extended work which continues to aid transportation history researchers is Historic Hoosier Roadside Sites, commissioned in 1938 by the Indiana State Highway Association. His clear and concise writing style has added to our knowledge of our past.

Ross Jr. was born in Bloomington, Indiana, and after arriving in Fort Wayne assisted his father with historical projects. Sadly, here too in Fort Wayne, another son Bruce drowned at the age of five. When son Ross was nine years old the family moved back to Bloomington. The senior Lockridge certainly must have shared many stories of Indiana and her rich history with his son.  Could it be that while yet in Allen County the younger Lockridge first envisioned the notion of a mythical tree that grew in Raintree County?

In the book, Johnny his main character had returned from the Civil War and a school principal who failed to finish his epic poem about the beginnings of America. Although Johnny had his successes, the character is witnessed as he flashes back in memory wondering about the country’s future.  The tree Lockridge sought to feature in his tome is based on a real Golden Rain Tree which blooms in late June and July with subtle yellow flowers that drop like a raining of yellow pollen dust and flower pedals.  In the book, Johnny is influenced by several cultural concepts one of which is to find the legendary Rain Tree supposedly planted somewhere in the Raintree County by the celebrated Johnny Appleseed who is buried in Allen County.

Author Don Blair gave a four season description in The Story of New Harmony writing that this tree puts on a show of beauty throughout the year. He says that it begins even in the dormant stage with its bare limbs which is followed by a leafing-out of a showing of its leaves.  Next comes the golden blooms when dropped creates a golden shower and followed by lime-sized, variegated pods which appear as Japanese lanterns. Once the pods have shed at summer’s end, the tree blends into the forest with its autumn colors.  Before returning to dormancy at the end of its cycle it has the appearance of a dead tree.

In 1948, shortly after his only book was published, Ross Lockridge, Jr., at age 34 took his own life in Bloomington, Indiana. Ross Lockridge, Sr., died in 1952.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.


Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Valerius Armitage Canal Contractor

( “Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - August 2014, No. 116)

Valerius Armitage Canal Contractor
Tom Castaldi

Valerius Armitage first arrived in Indiana in 1830 to work on the Wabash & Erie Canal. In 1836 he was joined by his wife Mary Hewitt Armitage and their five children.   

An 1899 Carroll County Citizen article states that Armitage first came to Allen County, Indiana, to build the canal’s feeder dam at Fort Wayne in 1832. This was no ordinary dam. Canal planners determined that the dam must be at a high point near the proposed water route to effectively “feed” the project. The site selected was on the Saint Joseph River where impounded water could be directed through a channel six miles long running south to the main line at Fort Wayne.

To build the dam, trees were felled and brush collected to form a foundation on which wood “log cabin” style cribs were fashioned and filled with stone.  The trees were laid lengthwise with their tops facing the flow of water in the riverbed to trap sand and sediment.  As the branches fill in, the dam formed and the river water held back. When completed the 230 feet long structure spanned the St. Joseph River and stood one and one half stories high.

Once the feeder channel was ready for use, the reservoir formed by the dam supplied water into the main line with great capacity. It could deliver water about thirty-three miles to the east at the Six Mile Reservoir in Paulding County, Ohio, and to the west as far the Forks of the Wabash. As a matter of interest, the St. Joseph Feeder could send its waters into Wabash County a distance of approximately fifty-four miles.  Beyond that point, other dams were necessary and were built along the canal line as needed.

Securing the business of building locks seems to have been an interest of Armitage.  The locks were design that raised or lowered canal boats nine feet. It is what made movement possible overcoming the up or down changes in the land’s elevation.  Without a lifting lock canals would only function on stretches of level terrain.

After completing the St. Joseph River Dam, Armitage’s other canal contracts in Indiana were at Huntington, Wabash and in 1835 he took a contract to build the locks at the Fitch farm west of Logansport.  Interestingly enough, the locks at Fitch Farm were identified as numbers 25 and 26 among the numerical sequence that began with number 1 near the Indiana-Ohio line east of Fort Wayne.  Both were formed by constructing them with cut stone from an adjacent quarry.  The only lock in City of Wabash was also a cut stone; however, six locks in and around the town of Huntington were constructed of wood, one being a combination of both wood and stone.

It seems that Mr. Armitage was pretty good working with the various materials available at the time. By 1853 the canal had reached Evansville on the Ohio River, all made possible because of the St. Joseph River Dam.  Much of the credit was due to Valerius Armitage who died in 1838 at the age of only forty six.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.


Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Thomas Edison in Fort Wayne

(“Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” – Jul 2014, No. 115)

Thomas Edison in Fort Wayne
Tom Castaldi

Downtown Fort Wayne offers surprising history.  The Landing on the western end of Columbia Street holds a cluster of structures from the nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries which were once at the center of Fort Wayne.  It was designated an historic district in 1965 and saved from the general dismantling of the rest of Columbia Street. In 1994, the Landing was recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.  

The old street began as an unplanned trace that led westward from the U. S. fort at the confluence of the Saint Joseph and Saint Mary’s rivers and eventually led travelers to the beginnings of the portage to the Wabash River. When the Wabash Erie Canal came along, it became the landing place or depot for disembarking and loading of both passengers and cargo which encouraged economic development in the region.
On Columbia Street at the age of seventeen, Thomas Edison is said to have arrived in the summer of 1864 to work as a telegraph operator. A demand for these facilitators of nineteenth century communications increased during the Civil War years. It was here that Edison found a position in Fort Wayne as an itinerate telegrapher working for the Wabash Railroad Company. Unfortunately the building in which he worked was raised in 1980.

Historian John Ankenbruck noted that Thomas Alva Edison came to Fort Wayne from Port Huron, Michigan and took a room in a three-story brick building at the northwest corner of Columbia and Calhoun Streets. He is also believed to have lived at rooms a block east at Clinton and Columbia. It should be noted that others question if anyone knows for sure where Edison worked and lived while in Fort Wayne since his employer was the Wabash Railroad Company. If so a workplace near Baker Street may be more to the nature of the efficiency of a genius’ thinking.  Edison wasn’t in town too long and in less than a year moved to Indianapolis with Western Union Telegraph Company and still later to Louisville, Kentucky.

Thomas was born on February 11, 1847, about a three hour drive east of Fort Wayne in Milan, Ohio.  Robert D. Parker writing for a July 1978 Fort Wayne publication noted that Edison’s formal schooling lasted a mere three months. However, he had the advantage of being home schooled by his school teacher mother who was convinced Tom deserved better than the school’s rating that had him placed at the bottom of his class. During his younger years, Tom bought a small printing press and working with the telegraphers used it to publish The Weekly Herald to cover events in the towns on the Grand Trunk Railroad line between Detroit and Port Huron.  At age twelve, riding the rails selling Detroit newspapers, he also printed and distributed news for the small communities not covered by the big city publishers.

Edison became interested in electricity while spending time in and out of telegraph offices. With a neighbor friend, he stretched a wire between their houses.  Using crude homemade keys, along with the purchase of batteries for powering their devices, the two became proficient with messaging to one another.  Meanwhile, in gratitude for having rescued a boy from a certain rail fatality, the saved lad’s station agent father, offered to teach Tom railroad telegraphy.  At age fifteen Tom already knew Morse Code and soon landed a job as the telegrapher in the Port Huron office.

Thomas Edison is the holder of 1,093 patents many of which have made their way into our everyday expectations. The more recognizable developments are those that emerged from the incandescent light bulb, phonograph cylinder, carbon microphone, movie camera, electric power distribution to mention a few.  Thomas Alva Edison passed away on October 31, 1931, was buried in Rosedale Cemetery in Orange, New Jersey. However, in 1963 his remains were reburied in the Edison National Historical Park in West Orange, New Jersey.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.


Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Great Lakes in Fort Wayne

 (Along the Heritage Trail with Tom Castaldi” - Jun 2014,  No. 114)

Great Lakes in Fort Wayne
Tom Castaldi

Our Indiana history has its roots firmly planted in the Old Northwest Territory within whose larger boundaries are found the Great Lakes and define this part of the North American continent.   Eventually, the Northwest Territory was carved into individual states and joined with the United States.

An old “school-days” memory trick to remember the five Great Lakes made use of the acronym H•O•M•E•S − Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior.  It is more than obvious that the Great Lakes have had an important influence throughout our region.  For a time, Fort Wayne celebrated each of the five Great Lakes throughout the community by naming the streets after each of those large fresh water bodies.

Angus C. McCoy, born in 1886 authored a monograph titled, Streets of Fort Wayne in 1953 concluding that five streets were in fact named for the Great Lakes. Using our acronym, we begin with the first.  Huron Street originates on the east at Mechanic Street two blocks south of East Main.  A block or so long it melds neatly into a northerly direction and becomes Cherry Street.

Ontario three blocks south of Taylor, begins at Brooklyn Avenue and is laid out toward the west reaching McKinley near the railroad tracks. To add to the celebration of the second on our list, near its eastern end a circular drive can be found named Ontario Circle.

Now comes Michigan Avenue and unlike Chicago’s famed thruway, our Fort Wayne attribute is laid out as an east–west paved passage that extends from Riedmiller Avenue to Broadway on the East.  Michigan is three blocks south of Taylor Street.   

What was once Water Street likely took its name because it was bordered on its east and west ends by the oxbow formed by the Saint Mary’s River, and it also paralleled the grand Wabash & Erie Canal.  The street was renamed reminding us of the largest of the Great Lakes and according to Angus McCoy in a 1945 Quest Club paper the name was changed to Superior. During the canal era, many buildings along Superior Street served drayage wagons lined with loading docks, storage buildings, and warehouses such as the “Canal House” at 114 East Superior Street still standing. Also, extant is the Hugh McCulloch home at 616 West Superior where Abe Lincoln’s Secretary of the Treasury once lived.

Notice the one Great Lake name that’s not included.  Erie Street does not exist on present-day city maps. However, that wasn’t always the case.  Anyone living in Fort Wayne during its early years, and wished to call on say the Francis Comparet family, would find themselves standing at an address that read “59 Erie Street.”  Years later when Berry Street was extended, no longer dead-ending at Monroe Street where it meets the Maumee River, there was another road running a few blocks to the east. It was named Erie Street which disappeared when Berry was cut through.  It seems that Benjamin Berry Kerchival was a modest man who served as the sub-agent for Indian Affairs.  When approached to honor him using his name he declined, however, agreed that the community could use his middle name.

Out of the Old Northwest Territory were carved the familiar states we know as the “Great Lake States.”  Interestingly, the boundary that separated the Indiana and Michigan territories established on June 30, 1805, lined up horizontally with the lower shore of Lake Michigan.  Not long before Indiana gained statehood in 1816, the line was moved ten miles north to permit Indiana an access on Lake Michigan.

As our community expands, perhaps other byways have or will recall the names of our Great Lakes. They are truly a worldwide attraction and define our homes in more than one way.

Allen County Historian Tom Castaldi  and retired Essex Vice President, is author of the Wabash & Erie Canal Notebook series; a contributing writer  for Fort Wayne Monthly magazine; hosts “On the Heritage Trail,” which is broadcast Mondays on Northeast Indiana Public Radio WBOI, 89.1 FM; and “Historia Nostra” heard on Redeemer Radio 106.3 FM Fort Wayne and 95.7FM South Bend.


Monday, July 4, 2016

A Patriotic Past

A Patriotic Past- by Laura Markley

Each year as the 4th of July approaches, the telltale signs of of its arrival are all around.  Firework stores are sell out and lake cottages are full to the brim. The History Center decided to celebrate the birth of America by sharing patriotic artifacts from Independence Days in the past. We found quite a few neat objects from different time periods. Some of the artifacts include: a toy replica of Independence Hall, a commemorative plate from the 1876 Centennial, and a commemorative coin from the 1976 Bicentennial.

One of the neatest photos we found was a large poster filled with forty-seven individual photographs to celebrate the Centennial in 1876. There are photographs of past presidents and historic places in Fort Wayne. Notable pictures include, the corner of Main and Calhoun Streets and the first public school. American Centennial.JPG

People love to show their love for our country and their enthusiasm for red, white, and blue extends to a variety of consumer products. This Independence Day themed tablecloth is a festive reminder of how people celebrated the Bicentennial in 1976. The images include American icons such as the liberty bell and eagle among a stars and stripes theme.tablecloth 2.JPG


My favorite patriotic artifact is a tiny set of wooden earrings. They were made in celebration of the Centennial in 1776, and were made of wood taken from Independence Hall in Philadelphia. In honor of the liberty bell, they were carved into the shape of bells.


Hopefully this post helped to prepare you to celebrate the 4th of July with your own fun patriotic themed items!