Sunday, October 31, 2010

Wild Grasses of Ainsworth: Phragmites communis

Or, in the vernacular: reeds.

(Click on image to enlarge)

Communis means "growing in colonies" (according to my wild grass guide). This colony was growing on the shore of Big Maple Lake. The inflorescence is gray because it is in fruit, rather than in flower, as you might expect in the month of October.


A Thief in the Night

Throughout the wee hours of the morning of April 6, 1916, a little crime wave washed over the heart of Hobart.

It began on Center Street at the home of Harry and Fay Paxton. About 12:30 a.m., Fay heard the clinking of a bottle against on the cement sidewalk outside their house. She went to investigate. When she saw a flashlight shining through one of their windows, she quickly got on the phone to "Central" and alerted the town's Night Policeman, Burt Guyer. The would-be burglars apparently noticed her, too, and they slipped away into the night.

While Officer Guyer was checking out the Paxton house, the burglars were probably two blocks over on New Street, checking out the home of Harry Gutelius. This time they managed to get in without waking up the occupants. It would not be until morning that the Guteliuses realized they'd had nocturnal visitors who made off with a suit of clothes, a gold watch and chain, and about $175 in cash taken from Harry's clothing and his wife's purse.

Sometime later, the widowed Emeline Lounsbury was startled awake by a mysterious noise somewhere in her Cleveland Avenue house. Upon investigation, she found that someone had broken a window lock by prying one of her windows open. Frightened by their own noise, or perhaps by Emeline's approach, the burglars had fled.

Around 2:00 a.m., John W. Thiel was awakened by one of his children crying. When he got up, he noticed that the bathroom window had been pried open. Checking around, he found the kitchen door open as well, and just outside, a spade that didn't belong to him lying on the ground — the tool the burglars had used to pry the window open, he guessed. But the child's cry that had awakened John probably alarmed the burglars as well, and they left the house richer than they had found it — "a spade ahead," as John said. He phoned in his report to "Central," and now Marshal Fred Rose joined Officer Guyer in the search.

Around 5:00 a.m., another call came in, this time from John and Mary McDaniel. They had just awakened in their Devonshire Street home to the horrifying realization that burglars had been in the very room where they were sleeping. A suit of John's was missing, with its watch and chain and about $1.20 in its pockets; the other contents of its pockets — papers, keys, a pair of tweezers, a screwdriver — were scattered about the floor. The thieves had probably entered through the cellar, which in turn led them into the bedroom; and apparently John and Mary were heavy sleepers.

Officer Guyer and Marshal Rose had spent a frustrating night, always behind the quick-footed burglars, but now dawn was approaching and the crime spree was over. The culprits had gotten away — for the moment, anyway; there remained the hope that they might be stupid enough to wear the stolen clothes and thus be recognized.

Later that day Paul Newman reported a visit to his garage the previous evening by two mysterious young men. They stopped in to have a tire on their Empire car fixed, but they had no money to pay for it. They gave him the White Garage in Valparaiso as their reference for credit; Paul preferred something tangible — say, a watch and chain. The young men refused that deal, and left the garage driving east on a flat tire. Sometime later, a couple of Hobartites returning from Crown Point noticed a strange car parked just south of the Unitarian Church.

On hearing Paul's report, Marshal Rose called the White Garage in Valpo to found out if anyone there recognized the names the young men had given, or the description of their car. Nobody did. A call to the Secretary of State to check out the car's license plate number (Paul Newman had made a note of it) proved it registered to George Boyd, who lived in western Ross Township. Evidently the two young men were car thieves, traveling under fake names, which made them the best suspects in all the burglaries that night. The task remaining was to find out who they really were and track them down.

♦ "Additional Local News." Hobart Gazette 14 Apr. 1916.
♦ "Homes Visited by Thieves." Hobart Gazette 7 Apr. 1916.
♦ "May Have Been the Robbers." Hobart Gazette 14 Apr. 1916.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Pear-Shaped Puffball

(Click on image to enlarge)

Found on a [guess what] in [guess where].

Pear-Shaped Puffballs are edible so long as you pick them when they're young and their flesh is still pure white. And when I say "you" I mean not me.

Why do I find all the boring mushrooms? As I'm paging through the color plates trying to identify these stupid things, I'm coming across mushrooms with such fabulous names that I wish I could find them just so I could have the pleasure of typing out, e.g., Hated Amanita, Destroying Angel, Questionable Stropharia, Big Laughing Gym, Poison Pie, Corpse Finder, and Many-Headed Slime.

A Milk Famine

Milk Shippers on Strike
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Unidentified Lake County milk shippers on strike in the spring of 1916. From S.J. Craig, The Lake County Agricultural Advisor (Crown Point: Lake County Star, 1916).

After the tuberculin-testing crisis of 1908-09, the northwest-Indiana dairy industry settled down for a time. In November 1914 the discovery of hoof-and-mouth disease among some newly arrived livestock in Merrillville and Wheeler resulted in a quarantine; but by the early spring of 1915, Lake County Agent S.J. Craig was assuring locals that the quarantine was practically lifted, and the hoof-and-mouth scare was over.

And so dairy farming went on with just the usual difficulties, which always included the struggle for a share of the industry's profits. The railroads that carried the milk into Chicago sought to profit from the transportation as much as the market would bear. So did the Chicago dealers and retailers who sold the milk to the consumer. For several years leading up to the spring of 1916, those retailers had managed to increase their own cut, until the dairy farmers lost patience with what seemed to them an unfair division of profits.

The local farmers were well organized. Lake County had its own milk producers' association of many years' standing, with John Gruel now its president. Porter County had a similar organization. These two Indiana counties joined with eight counties in Illinois and three in Wisconsin to form a regional Milk Shippers' Association, representing a total of 12,000 dairy farmers.

In March 1916, the regional association took the drastic step of declaring a five-day milk "famine" — a dairy-farmers' strike against Chicago — to begin on April 1. No milk would be shipped from any of the 13 organized counties surrounding the city. The Gazette's announcement of the strike conveyed a stern warning from the Milk Shippers' Association to "traitors" who might try to ship in defiance of the strike: any milk found on trains would be pulled off and dumped by the wayside.

On the first day of the strike, scarcely a dozen cans of milk went out from all of Hobart and Wheeler combined.

The Chicago retailers folded, fast. A few days into the strike, retailers began capitulating to the farmers' demands and signing new contracts — so many of them that, before a week had passed, milk shipments were almost back to normal.

The Gazette of April 14 printed an open letter from Roy Sherburne, one of the regional association's officers, declaring victory in the "milk war." He gave credit for the strike's success to "this great army of dairymen" whose "real co-operation and confidence in one another" gave the regional dairy association its power.

♦ "Dairymen Win Milk Fight." Hobart Gazette 14 Apr. 1916.
♦ "Foot-and-Mouth Situation in Lake County." Hobart News 18 Mar. 1915.
♦ "Lake County Placed Under Quarantine." Hobart News 12 Nov. 1914.
♦ "Local Milk Shippers Elect Officers." Hobart Gazette 28 Jan. 1916.
♦ "Milk Fight Still On." Hobart Gazette 7 Apr. 1916.
♦ "Milk War On." Hobart Gazette 31 Mar. 1916.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Tinder Polypore

(Click on image to enlarge)

They don't get much more boring than this, do they?

Found these on a fallen tree in Deep River County Park, as if I ever find anything anywhere else.

Don't worry, soon winter will be here and I will have to stop torturing people with my mushroom pictures. But there's always next spring!

"To the Front"

In March 1916 the Gazette proudly reported that George Severance, Jr., had volunteered to be sent "to the front." How I wish they'd mentioned which front.

10-29-2010 To the Front
From the Hobart Gazette of March 24, 1916.

I haven't been able to find any source indicating that the U.S. sent troops to the European front before its official declaration of war in 1917. This article may have been referring to the "front" on the Mexican border, where the U.S. army was now responding to several earlier incidents involving the Villistas. That may be why George was heading "west" from Chicago. Or maybe he was just going to a training camp in the west.

Oh, well, maybe I'll find out more as I keep reading.

George Jr. was, of course, the eldest son of George and Agnes Severance of Ross Township, whose daughter Pearl had recently married George Yager.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Spongy White Polypore

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Found on a fallen tree in Deep River County Park.

*sigh* Here's how I usually decide on a mushroom identification, after paging through the color plates and comparing them to the living specimen before me: "Well, it doesn't really look like [Mushroom X], but it looks even less like anything else, so I'm going to call it [Mushroom X]."

Judging by the variety of images I bring up when I Google [Mushroom X], most of the other dilettante mushroomizers are probably doing the same.

The Death of Gilbert Bullock

I don't know what "acute gastritis" meant to a doctor in 1915 or 1916 citing it as the cause of a patient's death. What we today call gastritis does not seem life-threatening. A couple of its complications can be — ulcers (if they rupture) and stomach cancer. Perhaps our circa-1915 doctor would be dealing with one of these conditions, or some other condition that now has another name, or perhaps "acute gastritis" was a catch-all diagnosis when none other seemed to fit.

This meditation brought to you by my puzzlement over the fact that two Ainsworth people I've come to know died from that same cause within a few months of each other: Cyrus Smith in 1915, and now Gilbert Bullock in March 1916. In both cases the patient had for some time been suffering indigestion or "stomach trouble," but death came more or less rapidly and unexpectedly.

Gilbert — known to family and friends as "Gib" — had been up and about all day on Monday, March 6, 1916, attending to the real-estate business he'd been running in Hobart since his retirement from farming over a decade earlier. From the early hours of Tuesday morning, a bad attack of indigestion kept him confined to bed, but he'd been subject to such attacks for years, so no one was seriously concerned until that afternoon, when his doctor began to notice signs that his heart was weakening. Gib died about 4:00 a.m. on Wednesday, March 8.

His wife and all his children were present; they all lived in or near Hobart, and although Hubert was on a business trip to Indianapolis, a telephone call or telegram had brought him hurrying back on Tuesday evening. Gib's brother Simeon still lived in Hobart as well. His sister Ruth and her husband came down from Chicago for the funeral, which was held in the Unitarian Church. Burial took place in Crown Hill Cemetery.

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Grave marker of Alice (who went by her middle name, Estella) and Gilbert Bullock in Crown Hill Cemetery.

The owner and editor of the Hobart News, O.L. Pattee, added a personal eulogy to the paper's report of Gilbert's death and funeral:
It has been a pleasure for the editor of The Hobart News to know Mr. Bullock, as he was one of the men we dealt with in the purchase of The News when coming to Hobart, and found him to be a man of his word in every way, a wise and conservative counselor, and considered him not only a friend of The News, but a personal friend as well.
Estella Bullock was appointed administratrix of her husband's estate. As her attorney she hired a long-time family friend, Miss Alta Halsted — Hobart's first female attorney. Alta had been admitted to the Lake County bar just a month earlier. She had gained day-to-day knowledge of legal work through her six years' employment as a stenographer in the office of Hobart attorney R.R. Peddicord; during the last three of those years she had been studying law; and now she was qualified to practice in her own right, one of only four women so qualified at the time (the other three being in Crown Point). The Bullock estate would be the first such matter she would handle in her career as a lawyer.

♦    ♦    ♦

About a month after his father's death, Hubert and Daisy visited Nappanee, Indiana. Hubert had done road-construction work there the previous year, in the employ of a former Lake County Auditor named Charles Johnson. Hubert decided to go back to work for Charles immediately, while Daisy and the children stayed in Hobart until the end of the school year.

Late in April about a hundred friends threw a surprise farewell party for Daisy. The following month, Daisy closed up her Hobart boarding-house, and with Elmer and Cecil went to join Hubert at their new home in Nappanee.

♦ "'Gib' Bullock Passes Away Suddenly." Hobart News 9 Mar. 1916.
♦ "Honored Citizen Passes Away." Hobart Gazette 10 Mar. 1916.
♦ "Local Drifts." Hobart Gazette 14 Apr. 1916; 5 May 1916.
♦ "Miss Alta Halsted Admitted to the Practice of Law." Hobart News 10 Feb. 1916.
♦ "Personal and Local Mention." Hobart News 9 Mar. 1916; 16 Mar. 1916; 25 May 1916.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Elegant Polypore

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Found on an upright dead tree in Deep River County Park. I don't know why it's called "Elegant"; that word did not come to mind when I first saw it.

What came to mind was "King Tut."

Anyway, I thought the pores on the underside were pretty cool.


View from above:


Donald Lee's Bad Luck

Poor kid — in August 1915 a broken arm, and now this:

Donald Lee operation
(Click on image to enlarge)
From the Hobart News of March 2, 1916.

Just in case you didn't believe the News, here's the Gazette saying the same thing on March 3:

Donald Lee 3-3-1916

I don't know where the Parish Leaflet Flats were, except that their back entrance opened onto East Street, and the street on which the building fronted had no sidewalk (this description from "Town Board Doings," Hobart News 16 Mar. 1916).

I wonder if all those people gave permission for their operations to be reported on, or did the doctors (or the hospital) just blithely go ahead and publish regardless?

The operation must have gone well, as little Donald was able to return home soon afterward.

Donald Lee 3-9-1916
From the Hobart News of March 9, 1916.

Charles Lee is still being very quiet. I don't see him advertising at all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Chicken Mushroom

(Click on images to enlarge)

I think that one day Mother Nature was in a good mood and said to herself, "I'm going to draw a picture of joy," and this mushroom was the result. Have you ever seen anything look so exuberant?

Here's a picture from the side. It doesn't look quite so exuberant from this angle.


The name comes from its taste, which is supposedly chicken-like, but I'm going to have to take that on faith.

New Love For That Other One, Too

Clara Sauter Rowe and friends, in costume
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Handsome fellows, aren't they? … These young Hobart women are in costume for some sort of performance (date unknown).
Back row, left to right: Edith Wood Parker, Ruth Nitchman, Clara Sauter Rowe, Bess Hayward, Elsie Mummery.
Front row, left to right: Unknown Wilson, Carrie Bullock, unknown, Mabel Rowe Black.

Clara Sauter seemed always a few steps behind her little sister Lizzie, in joy and in sorrow. She was three years behind Lizzie in becoming a wife and three months behind her in becoming a widow. She was still a widow when Lizzie remarried in July 1915, but she too was on her way to new happiness.

After the death of her husband John in 1910, Clara had remained in Hobart, living quietly, occupied with caring for her little son. When her brother George opened a store in partnership with Armen Meckeldey in the summer of 1913, they hired Clara as their bookkeeper. She held that position for two and a half years, but as 1915 turned to 1916 she resigned, and the Gazette commented: "Dame Rumor says she is to be married the coming month."

Dame Rumor was right in this case. On February 1, 1916, Clara married Frank Severance. He farmed just east of Hobart in Porter County (and I don't know if or how he was related to the Ross Township Severances). Because he lived in Porter County, he and Clara thought they were acting properly in going to Valparaiso for their license, but there officials turned them away on the grounds that the bride's residence was in Lake County. So they had to make the trip to Crown Point. There they were quietly married, and quietly returned home, not even having planned any reception.

That evening a group of relatives and friends showed up at their "beautiful country home" to throw a surprise reception for them. (Clara had also been surprised a week earlier by a shower, organized by and held in the home of her mother, Augusta (Mrs. John Fiester).)"Both are popular and well known in this vicinity," said the Gazette, "and their many friends will wish them a prosperous and happy companionship."

If her father, Ed Sauter, was present at any of these events, no one saw fit to mention him.

♦ "Local Drifts." Hobart Gazette 31 Dec. 1915; 28 Jan. 1916.
♦ "Personal and Local Mention." Hobart News 6 Jan. 1916.
♦ "Severance-Rowe Nuptial." Hobart Gazette 4 Feb. 1916.
♦ "Severance-Rowe." Hobart News 3 Feb. 1916.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Hen of the Woods

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Found at the base of a live tree in Deep River County Park. Also known as Ram's Head, Sheep's Head, and in Japan, Maitake (or so the internet tells me).

If this is really Hen of the Woods, it's edible, but I'm not sure enough of any of my identifications to risk an agonizing death, or what is worse, having to admit to the EMTs that I was stupid enough to eat wild mushrooms when I've only just begun learning them.

♦    ♦    ♦

From the Hobart Gazette of September 3, 1915:

10-25-2010 Toadstool 1915

The Performing Wollenbergs

1-10-2011 Will Wollenberg 1917
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William F. Wollenberg, Jr., as a high-school senior in 1917.

By the end of his sophomore year at Hobart High School, Will Wollenberg, Jr. began to show an inclination for public performance. On May 18, 1915, high school students put on a performance of skits and a play, the latter being Richard Brinsley Sheridan's The Rivals (which gave us the word "malapropism"). Our own Will Jr. played the part of Sir Anthony Absolute.

10-25-2010 Class Night Programme
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The Class Night Programme, containing the casts of characters and synopses.

Half a year later Will Jr. showed that his talents extended to music as well: in the Hobart High Christmas Program, he performed a clarinet solo in what I'm guessing was Richard Strauss' Wiegenlied with the vocal part set for clarinet.

10-25-2010 Students Christmas Program

♦    ♦    ♦

The next month Will Sr. had his own opportunity for a public performance, and although less artistic than his son's, it concerned a weightier matter. Appearing before the Hobart Town Board at a meeting in mid-January 1916, Will Sr. presented a petition signed by numerous residents along the Hobart-Ainsworth Road (State Road 51), from William Bracken's land just above the Hobart-Ross township line down to and including Ainsworth. The petitioners asked Hobart to extend its light and power service to them.

Will Sr. told the board that all the signers of the petition, as well as some residents who hadn't signed, intended to become Hobart's power customers. The board took the matter under advisement, instructing Oscar Shore, superintendent of the power plant, to furnish a report on the cost of the project and establishing a committee to study the matter.

After a month's study, the committee reported that the project was "impracticable" for reasons not specified in the newspapers' accounts. The town board accepted the committee's report and the matter was closed, thus leaving Ainsworth unelectrified, except perhaps by Will Jr.'s clarinet-playing.

♦ "Class Night Programme." Hobart Gazette 14 May 1915.
♦ "Students' Christmas Program." Hobart Gazette 24 Dec. 1915.
♦ "Town Board Doings." Hobart Gazette 28 Jan. 1916; 18 Feb. 1916.
♦ "Town Board Doings." Hobart News 27 Jan. 1916; 17 Feb. 1916.

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Artist's Conk

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These large shelf-like mushrooms were growing on a fallen tree in Deep River County Park. I'm not entirely sure of the identification: they don't quite look like the illustration of Artist's Conk in my mushroom guide, but then they don't look like anything else, either.

They do seem to have the salient characteristic of Artist's Conk, which is that their flesh bruises very easily, at the slightest touch. That's how they got their name — you can draw pictures on them, especially the light underside:


And the pictures supposedly will stay visible even after the mushroom dries.

Go here to see a drawing on an Artist's Conk (you have to scroll down).

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"On a Serious Charge Against His Daughter"

On the topic of crime, we get a hint of something disturbing around Ainsworth in mid-January 1916, when Christ Ols swore out a warrant for the arrest of Frank Fasel "on a serious charge against his daughter, Jennie."

Frank Fasel was the seventh of 12 children born to Henry and Mary Fasel. The family had been farming in northeast Ross Township in 1880, but by 1900 had moved into Hobart Township. In 1916 Frank would have been about 23. He had married Emma Gumm on December 30, 1915.

Jennie Ols was then only 15 or 16. She was the oldest daughter of Christian and Alpha Ols, who had farmed in Ross Township at least since 1900. They rented land and moved around, so it's difficult to place them, but in 1910 they seem to have been living somewhere between Ainsworth and Merrillville.

The circumspect language with which the News reported the case makes me think this involved sexual behavior. At best, I suppose, Frank and Jennie had merrily gotten together and when later she realized she was pregnant, he wouldn't or couldn't marry her; but in light of the disparity in their ages, the word "seduction" comes to mind. At worst, it (allegedly) wasn't consensual.

Frank was arrested and taken before Judge Killigrew in Hobart. He posted bond and a hearing date was set. Then the case was continued, and continued again, and then it simply disappeared from the news. Unless it resurfaces, we'll never know exactly what the charge was and whether Frank was found guilty or not. But the outcome of the case could not have been too disruptive to his life: when the 1920 census came around, he was a free man and still married to Emma.

1880 Census.
1900 Census.
1910 Census.
1920 Census.
♦ "Additional Local." Hobart News 20 Jan. 1916.
Indiana Marriage Collection.
♦ "Personal and Local Mention." Hobart News 27 Jan. 1916; 10 Feb. 1916.

Sunlight on Leaves (Random Pointless Photo)

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The problem with autumn is that it makes every idiot with a camera want to take pictures of the pretty leaves.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Jerome of Ithaca

It's been a while since we've heard from Ainsworth's one-man crime wave, Jerome Chester, but in January of 1916 he returned to Hobart … not from Chicago, as I had expected, but from Ithaca, New York, where he was working for a structural iron firm and where he had injured his thumb. So he came to visit his mother and rest his thumb.

History does not record how long he stayed, but apparently he got through the visit without committing any crimes.

Source: "Local Drifts." Hobart Gazette 14 Jan. 1916.

Friday, October 22, 2010

A "New Kind of Death"

An item in the "Personal and Local Mention" column of the Hobart News of January 6, 1916, described a "new kind of death" resulting from car exhaust in enclosed places. They called it "petromortis"; we, of course, call it carbon monoxide poisoning.

10-22-2010 Petromortis
(Click on image to enlarge)

Could this possibly be tongue-in-cheek? … No, probably not. But surely some scientists somewhere already understood carbon monoxide, its effects and its presence in car exhaust … didn't they?

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: White Cheese Polypore

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Found on a heavily decayed fallen tree in Deep River County Park.

Coffee, Tea and Thee … and an Appendectomy?

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Henry T. Harms, Jr., as a high-school senior in the Hobart High School Aurora yearbook of 1910. Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

A few months after the Harms family left their Ainsworth farm and moved to Hobart, Henry Jr. went into business for himself as a merchant of coffee and tea. The News spoke of his business as a "route," so apparently his customers could get their caffeine delivered directly to their doors.

10-21-2010 Hobart Tea Company

Henry Jr. was then about 23 years old, the second-youngest of Henry Sr. and Anna's children. Like all the Harmses, he was lively and gregarious, and a talented violinist as well.

He had good reason for wanting to become independent just then, for he was in love. And Miss Clara Cook of Chicago said yes. Early in January the announcements went out for their wedding. It took place in Chicago on Saturday, January 8, 1916. A reception was held at the bride's home, but very little was said about the festivities — it seems to have been a less extravagant affair than Herman's big bash. With the Sparks house on Water Street rented and ready to receive them on their return, Henry and Clara left on a short honeymoon journey.

The newlyweds soon had their first opportunity to test the "in sickness" part of their vows: just a couple weeks after the wedding, Henry fell seriously ill. Two physicians were called in, a Dr. Dobbins and Dr. Dwight Mackey.

Dr. Dwight Mackey.
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

They diagnosed appendicitis, but they decided against surgery on the grounds that Henry was too weak to stand it. By early February he was reported "much improved" (rather than "dead," as one might expect).

The same issue of the News that reported his improvement also mentioned that he had sold his coffee and tea business to Arthur Brabbs. Henry went into a Gary steel mill instead, working as a machinist.

The improvement in Henry's health didn't last. By mid-February, he and Clara had to take a second journey — to a Chicago hospital, where he was diagnosed with a ruptured appendix. There, according to the News, he received "special treatment" — I would expect an appendectomy, but that isn't very special, is it?

Henry remained in the Chicago hospital for a couple of weeks. By early March he was back at work in the Gary steel mill, and moving his household into the Stoeckert flat on Water Street in Hobart.

♦ "Additional Local." Hobart News 3 Feb. 1916.
♦ Advertisement. Hobart News 13 Jan. 1916.
♦ "Harms-Cook Nuptial." Hobart Gazette 14 Jan. 1916.
♦ "Harms-Cook." Hobart News 13 Jan. 1916.
♦ "Personal and Local Mention." Hobart News 14 Oct. 1915; 6 Jan. 1916; 27. Jan. 1916; 24 Feb. 1916; 9 Mar. 1916; 16 Mar. 1916.
♦ Personal interview with a Harms descendant, 12 Oct. 2010.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Things on Old Railroad Ties (Random Pointless Photos)

Things I found on old, scrapped railroad ties beside the Grand Trunk tracks on an October afternoon.

First, a date-stamped nail from 1960:

(Click on images to enlarge)

I wouldn't have know what this was except that somebody on eBay was selling a bunch of these from various years. They are not valuable.

Second, some very ugly mushrooms:


Third, a festive caterpillar.


Now Playing at the Gem Theatre

The Gem Theatre on Main Street in Hobart closed for renovations late in October 1915. The Gazette described the intended improvements:
[The theatre] will be modified in every respect. The floor of the present room will be lowered to conform with the grade of the side walk and will be declined towards the stage, which will be large enough to accommodate small vaudeville acts.

From the side walk one will enter an open lobby. There will be ample exits in case of trouble. The room will be heated by steam and beautifully decorated and illuminated.

Two Simplex, motor-driven projective machines will be installed in a booth built in accordance with the State Fire Law and there will absolutely be no danger of fire.*

A $1,200 piano with pipe organ effect and equipped with drums and other traps will grace the quarters. The new room will seat about 400.
A month later, the Gem triumphantly reopened, with a varied program.

10-20-2010 Gem reopening
(Click on image to enlarge)

"Fatty" Arbuckle was a tremendously popular comic movie actor at the time. It would be another six years before a sordid murder trial derailed his career.

The Blood of Our Brothers was a "pacifist allegory" intended to express opposition to American involvement in the European war. Its star, Crane Wilbur, had made his name as the male lead in the Perils of Pauline serials.

Image credit:

*They were asking for trouble, saying that. The owners of the Iroquois Theatre in Chicago said the same thing.

♦ Advertisement. Hobart News 18 Nov. 1915.
♦ "Notice." Hobart News 21 Oct. 1915.
♦ "The New Gem Theatre." Hobart Gazette 8 Oct. 1915.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Oyster Mushrooms

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Found on a fallen tree in Deep River County Park.

They do look like oyster shells. Unfortunately no oysters inside, and no pearls.

How Hubert and Daisy Made Money

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Daisy Bullock, with her son, mother and grandfather.
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

If you were wandering around downtown Hobart during the Independence Day celebration on July 3, 1915, you might have come across a tent pitched along Main Street just north of the Nickel Plate tracks, with a little crowd of merrymakers in its shade, and the air around it filled with savory smells. Under that tent, Mrs. Daisy Bullock and Mrs. Jennie McClaran hurried about, preparing and serving food to hungry celebrants. They had taken care to advertise well ahead of time that they would be serving dinner and short-order lunch from 11:00 a.m. onward throughout the day.

McClaran, Jennie and Wm.
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Jennie McClaran and her husband, William, in front of the Nickel Plate depot, date unknown. (William served as the railroad agent for some 30 years.) Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

It may have been a convenient way to make some money, but Daisy may have wanted, as well, to demonstrate the quality of her cooking, for she had bigger plans. Her next announcement came not two weeks later: "Mrs. Daisy Bullock has leased both of the flats in the Norton building on South Main street and will conduct a boarding and rooming house."

Did the family need her income? It's not clear to me when, or why, Hubert ceased to operate an auto repair shop in Hobart; I suppose his business might have failed. We don't hear of him until October 1915, when he came to visit his family from Nappanee, Indiana, where he was employed by a road contracting firm, operating a steam roller and "liking his work very much." He continued steamrolling until late November, when the weather put an end to road work for that year. By late December, he had found a job closer to home: he joined a construction gang building a steel mill in Gary.

♦ "Local Drifts." Hobart Gazette 8 Oct. 1915.
♦ "Notice to the Public." Hobart Gazette 25 June 1915.
♦ "Personal and Local Mention." Hobart News 15 July 1915; 31 Dec. 1915.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Gem-Studded Puffball

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Growing on the ground beside a fallen tree in Deep River County Park.

For this one, under "Edibility" the guide says, "Choice." My choice is no.

Goodbye, Pool Room; Hello, Garage

John Chester's pool-room venture did not last long after that very public squabble with his landlady. In mid-December came the announcement that John had purchased the Main Street garage business of Dale Taylor. Immediately afterward, he closed the pool room "to devote his entire attention to the garage business." He continued to run a livery or taxi service out of this garage (we find a taxi driver employed by John getting into a wreck in March 1916).

Charles Bradley, a machinist who operated a shop in the rear of the garage, said he intended to continue doing auto repairs there, as he had for the last six months. But in early January 1916 he moved out. That doesn't necessarily mean he couldn't stand John; it may have been simply a case of rising ambition, as he immediately opened his own shop on north Center Street, offering auto repairs and selling gasoline and tires.

Emma Chester fell ill at the time of John's purchase of the garage, but I suppose that was just coincidence.

We'll see how long this venture lasts.

♦ "Chas. F. Bradley Opens Garage and Auto Repair Shop." Hobart News 6 Jan. 1916.
♦ "Local Drifts." Hobart Gazette 24 Dec. 1915; 7 Jan. 1916.
♦ "Personal and Local Mention." Hobart News 23 Dec. 1915; 23 Mar. 1916.
♦ "Sells Garage." Hobart Gazette 17 Dec. 1915.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Bittersweet Nightshade Berries
(Random Pointless Photo)

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I'm sure you've all been wondering what bittersweet nightshade berries look like when they're ripe. Now you know. Remember, they're only "somewhat poisonous."

Saved by His Gut

An unknown woman of respectable appearance, in early 20th century fashions, carrying a muff.
Image credit: National Photo Company Collection/Library of Congress, Washington, D.C. (Digital File Number: cph 3c12574)

I used to devour true-crime books like candy and now do the same to judge shows, which means I've seen case after case of people walking into trouble with their eyes wide shut ("But I trusted him!") — which has caused me to develop a keen appreciation for those rare stories where someone's gut instinct alerts them to a problem before they become a victim and they actually heed their instinct.

Just such a case happened in Hobart in November 1915.

On Thanksgiving Day, a couple of strangers arrived in town. They registered at the Hobart House as man and wife; since the newspapers don't report what name they gave, let's just call them Mr. and Mrs. Skinner. Their manner was genteel, their appearance prosperous. They were from Utah, they said, but were traveling, and had just arrived from Chicago. Now they wanted to buy a small touring car to continue their journey and would be glad to hear of anyone in town interested in selling such a vehicle.

They were told that Paul Newman, who kept a garage, sold cars. They came to see him, asking for a new Ford. He had none in stock. But one of his patrons, Thomas Ingram, kept a used Ford touring car there that he was willing to part with. The Skinners got in touch with Mr. Ingram, and on Friday the parties came together to negotiate.

Once they had settled on the price, the Skinners explained that they did not have sufficient cash on hand to pay the full amount. Since they were due in Laporte that evening, they wanted to take the car immediately, so they proposed giving Mr. Ingram a 60-day promissory note along with something of value as security — for instance, the two diamond rings that Mrs. Skinner wore, worth $400 each. Mr. Ingram consented on the condition that the diamonds be determined by a jeweler to be genuine.

So the little party walked over to the Dell F. Beach jewelry store, Mrs. Skinner's ring-bedecked hands snuggling inside the muff she carried for protection from the chilly November air. Once in the store, Mrs. Skinner took off the rings and gave them to Mr. Beach. He examined the diamonds carefully and pronounced them genuine. He handed the rings back to Mrs. Skinner, who put them back on.

Now the Skinners had their own request: they wanted the rings held in safekeeping at a local bank. The three of them agreed upon the American Trust & Savings Bank. As the group walked out of the Beach jewelry store to go to the bank, Mrs. Skinner again slipped her hands into her muff. At the bank, she surrendered her rings, and a cashier placed them in the vault.

All that remained was to go to the Newman garage where Mr. Ingram kept his car, and fill out the paperwork to transfer ownership.

On the walk to the garage, and as he set about with the paperwork, Mr. Ingram found himself increasingly uneasy. The memory of that seemingly insignificant gesture just outside the Beach jewelry store — Mrs. Skinner's hands, with the rings on her fingers, disappearing into her muff — kept intruding into his mind, or rather, into his gut. He couldn't shake the feeling that something was wrong. It occurred to him that a switch might have happened under cover of that muff, and that the rings now safely stowed away in the bank vault were not the rings that Mr. Beach had pronounced genuine. At the same time, it seems, Mr. Ingram did not feel sure enough to make an outright accusation against such a respectable-looking couple. But after a few words privately with Mr. Newman, who advised him to be careful, his made up his mind. Abruptly he announced that he didn't want to go through with the deal; he'd keep his car, give back the promissory note, and the Skinners could go retrieve their rings.

The couple quietly left the garage. Sometime on Friday night they quietly left town as well, in a car, apparently their own, which they had "planted" somewhere in town.

If Mr. Ingram needed confirmation of his suspicions, he got it the next Wednesday when a report turned up in a Chicago paper of just such a con game having been attempted in Elgin, Illinois. The description of the couple involved and their technique of substituting phony diamond rings for real ones was so similar to his experience that he had to believe it was his own Skinners. The Elgin attempt ended with the arrest of the couple. To the police they gave their names as M. Randall and Mrs. Fern Hiller, she being allegedly recognized as a well known diamond thief. Among the couple's personal effects the police found promissory notes for three other autos that had been successfully "purchased" by the same technique.

Marshal Fred Rose lamented that he hadn't been alerted at the first suspicion — he felt sure that he could have collared the thieves. But at least Mr. Ingram's gut saved him from the being skinned.

♦ "Diamond Swindlers Couldn't Pull Their Game in Hobart." Hobart News 2 Dec. 1915.
♦ "Diamonds for an Auto." Hobart Gazette 3 Dec. 1915.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Common Mycena

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Found on a fallen tree in Deep River County Park.

We've had such a long spell of dry weather that I can lie flat on my stomach on the forest floor to get a shot like this, without getting all wet and muddy.

Lovisa Quits Farming

In the Hobart News of November 25, 1915, Lovisa Chester Nelson announced that she was retiring from farming.

10-16-2010 Lovisa Nelson Public Sale

I think the land that Lovisa farmed is the parcel shown as belonging to her sister, Carrie Raschka, in the 1926 Plat Book:

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The 1891 Plat Book shows that same parcel as the property of "H. Chester," and who could that be but their father, Henry? So its being in 1915 in the hands of his son Charles makes sense.

You're probably wondering why I outlined that other parcel, marked "Kegebein," on that map. (That's rhetoric. I know you don't care, but I'm going to tell you anyway.) I did that because early in 1916, we come upon this little news item: "Albert Witt moved [on January 26] to the Chas. Chester farm, and Glen Nelson moved to the Kegebein farm, both exchanging farms."

Oh, you crazy guys! The grass is always greener on the other side of State Road 51, isn't it?

Perhaps I was wrong about where Glen and Elsie were running a dairy in 1920; perhaps it was the Kegebein farm; but there are four more years until the 1920 census, plenty of time for more farm-switching.

In February, Glen and Elsie had a little boy — Lovisa's first grandson. Evidently something went wrong: although the baby was delivered at home, the following day Elsie had to be taken to Gary General Hospital.

1891 Plat Book.
1926 Plat Book.
♦ "Additional Local." Hobart News 10 Feb. 1916.
♦ "Personal and Local Mention." Hobart News 27 Jan. 1916.
♦ "Public Sale." Hobart News 25 Nov. 1915.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wild Mushrooms of Ainsworth: Vase Thelephore

(Click on image to enlarge)

Found in Deep River County Park in the neighborhood of the Jack O'Lanterns.

My mushroom guide has no edibility information on this one, which means no one knows if this thing is poisonous or not. "Do not experiment," the guide says. Well, how else are we going to find out? … But, mind you, I'm not volunteering.

Hobart Then and Now: Downtown from the North

Circa 1908 and 2010.

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I can't figure out exactly where the 1908 photographer stood. Has the angle at which Main Street connects to the bridge changed since 1908? And then there are all those trees nowadays; you can't see Hobart for the trees.

In the 1908 picture, at the right edge is the old mill. The next structure I can identify is the steepled church, which must be the Evangelical Lutheran Church. The little x marks (I believe) the Hobart House (see reverse of postcard below). Just to the left of that, I think we're looking at the Strattan Opera House superstructure. I don't know what any of those other buildings are.

Here's the reverse of the postcard:


Someone later did a colorized version of the same scene, which I've got on a postcard postmarked 1915.