Wednesday, January 15, 2020

A Mystery House

Since my previous post talked about the Saager family, I thought I'd post this unidentified photo from the Lester Harms collection that somehow relates to them.

2020-01-15. lh008 a
(Click on images to enlarge)
Images courtesy of Eldon Harms.

As farmhouses go, it's modestly pretty, and typical enough to be anybody's. The only evidence linking it to the Saagers is what's written on the back of the photo:

2020-01-15. lh008 b

We know who August Saager was. And we know that the August Saager farm eventually became the William Prochno farm, of which we have a photo. From what I can see of the house in that photo, though, it does not look like the house in our mystery photo.

And I don't know who on earth H. Jaeger was. Of course, I immediately thought of the Ainsworth-area Yager/Jaeger family, but there was no H. among them. The house in the photo looks a bit like the old Yager house still standing on 73rd Avenue — assuming some remodeling — but, again, that temple-and-wing style was so often used in houses in this area. And the mystery house appears to sit very close to the road, unlike the Yager house.

There is a long blank in the history of the Saager/Prochno land (1874-1908), during which someone named H. Jaeger might have lived there — but as I noted before, the mystery house does not resemble the Prochno house. I can't identify any H. Jaeger in the census records in Lake County around the turn of the 20th century.

It seems that the H. Jaeger house was somehow important to August Saager. From general appearances, the photo seems to date to the late 19th or early 20th century — a time when photography was not the simple process it is now and may have required the services of a professional. And then the photo was mounted on a decorative cardboard frame like a family portrait, someone wrote both names on the back, and the photo was preserved all these years.

It's a mystery to me.

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1/18/2020 update: I believe that Rachel has identified H. Jaeger (see the Comments to this post), and the house where he lived in 1918 (per his draft card), 2239 W. 15th Ave. in Gary, is still standing, and only slightly remodeled.

The only mystery remaining is why that house was so important to August Saager.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A Brief and Murky History of the Lester Harms Farm

Until recently, all I knew about the 80 acres comprising the west half of the northwest quarter of Section 25, Township 35 North, Range 8 West of the Second Principal Meridian was that they were once owned by Lester Harms.

Then I received an inquiry about the farm's history and decided to look into it a little more. I didn't actually learn a lot, but I'll be darned if I spend that much time researching and not get a blog post out of it.

The earliest record I can find of that land is in Early Land Sales, Lake County. Unfortunately, the book shows those 80 acres being purchased in September 1850 by both Hiram Bonesteel and Caleb Pierce.

Hiram Bonesteel was born in 1809 in New York. His wife, Phoebe, was from Vermont. The 1850 Census shows the Bonesteels in Illinois, but they were in Ross Township for the 1860 Census:

2020-01-08. Bonesteel 1860 census
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image from

(You will notice that there was a Hiram Bonesteel, Jr., further up the page, who would have been too young to buy land in 1850).

Here are Hiram Sr. and Phoebe in the 1870 Census:

2020-01-08. Bonesteel 1870 census
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image from

Phoebe died in 1872, Hiram in 1874, and both are buried in Crown Point.

As for Caleb Pierce, he and his wife, Almira, both came from New York, where he was born in 1808. They show up in Ross Township in the 1850 Census and 1860 Census, then disappear. (Merrillville historian Alice Flora Smedstad tells me that her Great-Great-Great-Uncle Caleb moved to Wisconsin and died there.)

Since census records don't give exact information about where people lived, I can't be sure of which of these people actually lived on those 80 acres. It would have been nice to know, since the farmhouse on that land was built in 1860, according to the county records, and I could have made an informed guess as to who built it.

Next, we turn to the plat maps. The earliest one I have, circa 1874, shows the entire 80 acres owned by someone named C.C. Ely:

2020-01-08. L.Harms farm 1874
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From the 1874 Plat Map.

I believe he shows up as Coles C. Ely in the Ross Township census of 1880:

2020-01-08. Ely 1880 census
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image from

Coles' wife, Clarissa, was a Bonesteel by birth; surely she was related somehow to Hiram Sr. and Phoebe — possibly a daughter? Coles and Clarissa came from New York State and seem to have moved around a bit between Indiana and Illinois, to judge by where their children were born. Coles died in 1901, Clarissa in 1913, and both are buried in Graceland Cemetery, Valparaiso.

The 1874 map shows a farm west of the Elys' owned by H. Bonesteel. That might be Hiram Sr. himself, as his H-initialed sons, Hiram Jr. and Henry, seem to have left the area after 1860 (ending up in Washington County, Kansas).

The 1891 plat book compiled by the Northwest Indiana Genealogical Society doesn't include Section 25 of Ross Township, so I don't know who owned it then.

The 1908 plat map shows the 80 acres being owned by Albert C. "Sanger," but I am pretty sure that is a misspelling of Saager (which also shows up in various places spelled "Saeger" and "Sayger").

2020-01-08. L.Harms farm 1908

In that neighborhood also, August Saager owned the land on Colorado Street that would eventually be the Prochno farm, where Lester Harms' wife, Matilda "Sue," grew up. Matilda's mother was Louise Saager, August's daughter, who married William Prochno. I believe Albert was August's son and Louise's brother.[1] Here is Albert in the 1910 Census with his wife, Ida (née Luebcke), and their two sons:

2020-01-08. Saager 1910 census
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image from

The 1900 Census also showed Albert and Ida in that general vicinity, to judge by the names recorded on the same page, but they were renting their farm.

Albert Saager continued to own those 80 acres in the 1926 plat map and the 1939 plat map, and the family was recorded there in every census from 1910 to 1940 (although Ida died in 1924).

Finally, in the 1950 Plat Book, Lester Harms shows up owning the 80 acres. Lester, born in 1904, was recorded living on his parents' Cleveland Avenue farm in the 1920 Census through the 1940 Census. So he likely bought the Harms Road land sometime between 1940 and 1950.

Per the 1972 Plat Book, Lester and Matilda apparently sold off about 10 acres of their land north of Harms Road.

2020-01-08. L.Harms farm 1972

That is the most recent plat map I have.

Lester and Matilda lived on the farm to the end of their lives. Matilda died of cancer in 1980. Lester married Margaret Holt in 1981. On April 5, 1982 Lester shot himself in a shed on his farm (that shed is no longer standing). He is buried in Graceland Cemetery, Valparaiso.

The family that owns the property now bought it at auction in 1985 from Lester's widow.

[1] It's a bit confusing because there were two Albert Saagers in Lake County, both born in the 1870s, both with a wife named Ida, and both of whom died in the 1940s.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

Carrie Cunningham Price

In October 1923, Mrs. Fremont B. Price died in her farm home on the southeast corner of Colorado and 69th. It took this sad event to teach me that she was the daughter of Henry "Harry" and Elizabeth Cunningham, whose name clung so tenaciously to their farm south of Ainsworth.

2020-01-02. Price, Gazette, 10-26-1923
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart Gazette, Oct. 26, 1923.

I was a bit surprised to find her marrying Fremont Price at Devil's Lake, Ramsey County, North Dakota, of all places. The Cunningham family must have moved there after the 1880 Census, when they were in Chicago. The 1900 Census shows her widowed father farming with one son in Ramsey County. When Henry Sr. died in 1902, his body was brought back to Indiana to be laid to rest beside his wife.

Carrie was somewhat unusual in that all of her nine children survived childhood. But, as we know, there was heartbreak enough in store for her. We have previously discussed the death of her son, James, and his belated funeral.

2020-01-02. Price, Carrie Cunningham
Carrie Cunningham Price circa 1914. Image from

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The other obituary on the page above — of Mrs. Miles Allen McNiece, née Caroline Lembke — clears up the mystery of why I found her sister, Mary, involved with the Hobart Union Sunday School in 1876. The Lembke family did indeed live in Hobart "in the early days of the village," whatever that may mean, and M.A. McNiece ran a bakery there in the 1870s.

Caroline Lembke McNiece is buried in Blachly Cemetery.

Monday, December 23, 2019

A Sunday-School Christmas Program circa 1873

From the Union Sunday School minute book that begins in 1873 come these notes on the letterhead of Mathew W. Jory, giving the program for a Christmas pageant.

2019-12-23. USUN1873B Loose 013
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

The "Address by Superintendent" would probably be delivered by Mathew himself.

The names of the children performing, as best I can read them, are: Eva Harrison (can't identify); Louisa Black (b. ~1864 to Joseph and Catherine Black); Amelia Briggs (can't identify); Annie Gadsby (b. ~1869 to George and Sylvia Gadsby); Minnie Wadge (b. ~1867 to Richard and Electa Wadge); and Lillie Harrison (b. ~1870 to Thomas and Jennie Harrison). Was a three-year-old really performing in the pageant? — maybe this was more like 1875 or '76.

I wonder who dressed up as Santa Claus?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Lewis Hammond's Tavern

The 1979 collection of memories about downtown Hobart that forms the basis of my Downtown Hobart 1979 blog includes the assertion that at some unspecified time in Hobart's history, a man named Lewis Hammond ran a tavern on the site of the Hobart library. I would have been delighted to find evidence of that in the ledgers I've been indexing, but so far all I can establish is that a Lewis Hammond ran a tavern in Liverpool.

First we find him, in October 1847, renting a house in Liverpool from George Earle.

2019-12-18. DayB1840 176, 177
(Click on images to enlarge)
Images courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

In November of that year, he paid the rent for a tavern in Liverpool.

2019-12-18. DayB1840 178, 179

Throughout that ledger, Lewis shows up here and there, paying rent — or buying big sacks of flour, as he did on March 15, 1848:

2019-12-18. DayB1840 188, 189

The daybook of the Hobart sawmill records him making numerous purchases of lumber throughout 1848 and 1849. This page shows him buying lumber on May 10, 1849; and the "L. Hammond" of May 5 is probably our Lewis as well.

2019-12-18. DBHM1846 032, 033

The latest reference I have found in the ledgers to Lewis Hammond (full name) is October 1849; to "L. Hammond," December 1849. There's also an entry in April 1850 that shows I. Wheeler paying money on a Hammond account that may or may not have been Lewis'.

Naturally I went to to try to find some background on Lewis Hammond, but background on him is remarkably scarce. I can't identify him positively in any local records.

The 1850 Census of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, has an interesting entry:

2019-12-18. Hammond 1850 census
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image from

Could that be our tavernkeeper? — an inmate of the Allegheny County jail?

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Mary Munch's Moonshine

When Mary Munch was caught with a still back in February 1923, she had claimed it wasn't hers. Seven months later, caught with two stills and 15 gallons of moonshine, she apparently didn't think anyone would buy the same story.

2019-12-12. Booze, Gazette, 10-19-1923
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart Gazette, Oct. 19, 1923.

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In the "Local Drifts" column above, we find a couple of locals leaving the countryside to become town dwellers.

While we've encountered the name Hooseline in several "South of Deep River" columns, I've looked into the family only in connection with the suicide of John's father-in-law. But looking a little more closely now, I gather that John's father, Michael Hooseline, came into this area with his parents (Michael Sr. and Rebecca) sometime between John's birth in 1842 (Maryland) and the 1860 Census of Union Township, Porter County.[1] By the 1870 Census, Michael Jr. had married Laura Tabor and moved to Ross Township, Lake County. Our John was born in the south-of-Deep-River countryside in 1871. The 1874 Plat Map shows the "Hooseline & Tabor" farm straddling Randolph Street at the divide between Ross and Winfield Townships, but from the 1891 Plat Book on, I can't find any land under the Hooseline name in Ross Township.

Here is John Hooseline's obituary from 1944:

2019-12-12. Hooseline, Vidette-Messenger, 2-28-1944
(Click on image to enlarge)
Vidette-Messenger (Valparaiso), Feb. 28, 1944.

The article fails to mention John's first wife, Rhoda Smith, whom he married in 1896. Rhoda was the daughter of Homer and Rachel Smith, although the 1880 Census doesn't list her (unless she is the "Rudie" whom the enumerator called a son; the birth dates match). Rhoda bore John Hooseline two sons, Harold and Hubert/Herbert (1900 Census), and died in 1902. In 1904 John married Emma Carbein Phillips. Their children were Kenneth and Velma (1910 Census, 1930 Census).

The other country-dweller getting out of the country was Simon Small, of Small's Crossing. From what I can find in the census and death records, he was a son of John and Mary (Riley) Small; odd that he wasn't mentioned in Mary's obituary. His children were all by his first wife, Cora Deardoff, whom he married in 1883 (Indiana Marriage Collection) and who died in 1902. He married his second wife, Anna Bean, in 1906 in Cook County, Illinois, where he may have been living already, as he was in the 1910 Census and 1920 Census. Apparently he moved back to Small's Crossing after 1920 just to leave it a few years later.

Here's his obit from 1945:

2019-12-12. Small, Vidette-Messenger, 11-20-1945
(Sorry, this image doesn't enlarge)
Vidette-Messenger (Valparaiso), Nov. 20, 1945.

I wonder if this leaves any Smalls at Small's Crossing? The Union Township plat maps shows that the old Small farm changed its name between 1921 and 1928.

[1] That's assuming the enumerator made an error in recording John's age.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Threshing Circa 1919

2019-12-06. EvaT015
(Click on images to enlarge)
Images courtesy of Eldon Harms.

There is no date on this photograph. I'm guessing at roughly 1919 based two things: first, the tractor is an International Harvester Titan 10-20, a model produced between 1915 and 1921 according to online information.

Secondly, the men in the photo are named on the back …

2019-12-06. EvaT016

… and the three I've been able to identify lived in the vicinity of the Sela Smith farm in Ross Township, where Eva Thompson (who gave the photo to Eldon Harms, who let me scan it) moved with her family in 1918.

Spade was the Americanized spelling of the German name Spaeth. Richard was born in 1874 to Edward and Alvina Spaeth (1900 Census). In 1897 he married Minnie Keiser (Indiana Marriage Collection). The Spaeth family lived and farmed on the west side of Clay Street at 83rd Avenue.

Albert Wilier, I'm willing to bet, was actually Albert Weiler.

Gust Kaiser is a mystery to me at this point. It seems possible that he was related to Mrs. Richard Spade, née Minnie Keiser, whom I think I've found in Hanover Township, Lake County, in the 1880 Census, but I can't find a brother or other relative of hers named Gust (August).

We've met Harry Sullivan before; he was Arthur's brother.