Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Myiel Pierce, Jr.

2017-5-31. Pierce Myiel as an old soldier
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Image courtesy of Alice Smedstad.

In a resolution honoring him after his passing, the Ross Township Farmers Institute described Myiel Pierce, Jr. as "the first white child born in Merrillville" ("Merrillville," Lake County Times (Hammond, Ind.) 30 Jan. 1923). And Myiel Jr. was a Civil War veteran. So you'd think he'd get a more substantial obituary than this:

2017-5-31. Myiel Pierce Jr. obituary
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Hobart News 23 Jan. 1923.

But thanks to his descendant, Alice Flora Smedstad, we know a bit more about him. In her book, Soldiers & Veterans Memorialized at the Merrillville Cemetery,[1] Alice mentions some military events that Myiel may have participated in — since they were were circled in his own personal copy of Daniel R. Lucas' History of the 99th Indiana Infantry (1865). She also includes a poem that the soldier Myiel sent to his sweetheart, Maria Prudence Muzzall.

This page from the Crown Point Register of September 2, 1862, lists the then members of the 99th.

2017-5-31. Pierce crownpointregister-sep041862-3
(Click on image to enlarge)

Maria Muzzall must have liked the poem, and the young soldier who sent it: she married him on November 12, 1866. The 1880 Census shows them with five young children: Alfred, Marion, Claudie, Arthur, and Maud. (Little Arthur died in 1882, Maud in 1883, Claude in 1916.) About 1884 they had another daughter, Nora, who would become the Mrs. Herbert Saxton of Myiel's obit.

About two months short of their 40th wedding anniversary, Maria died suddenly.[2]

2017-5-31. Pierce, Maria (Muzzall)
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Portrait of Maria (Muzzall) Pierce courtesy of Alice Smedstad.

A year later, Myiel married Alice Coffey (sometimes spelled Coffee). Since she was then 50 years old, it is not surprising that they had no children. Alice survived her husband by about seven years. It is interesting that, although the Pierce family grave marker bears her name and year of birth, her date of death was never added, and Alice's remains rest in the Coffey family plot. According to the gossip handed down through the family, Myiel's relatives did not like Alice (reason unknown), and perhaps she'd had enough of the Pierce name.

Our subject's father, Myiel Pierce, Sr., had built the California Exchange Hotel in Merrillville in the 1840s. Before the decade was out, Myiel Sr. met an untimely death, leaving his widow, Marcia, with young children in difficult circumstances — she being, in the words of Timothy H. Ball, "compelled to go into the hayfield and do a man's labor in order to maintain her family and home" (Lake County Encyclopedia). Even Marcia's obituary, over 40 years later, did not fail to mention that early hardship:

2017-5-31. Pierce crownpointregister-jan311890-7
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Crown Point Register 31 Jan. 1890.

The fact that the California Exchange Hotel served liquor suggests that Myiel Sr. was not abstemious. Now Alice Smedstad has a pet theory that the father's attitude toward alcohol and his early death and the son's Prohibitionism are all somehow connected. I love this theory as if it were my own, but of course we'll never know if it's true.

♦    ♦    ♦

Here is Myiel Pierce's farm as it looked in 1908:

2017-5-31. Pierce M 1908
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From the 1908 Plat Map.

The western and southern boundaries coincided with Broadway and E. 73rd Avenue, but there are no modern streets marking the other boundaries exactly; the closest would be 68th Place on the north and Delaware Street on the east.

Clifford Pierce Middle School is on land that was once the Pierce farm. So is Maxim's Restaurant.

Finally, an accidental shooting in May 1921 may or may not have happened on his farm, depending on whether you believe a Hammond newspaper ("Death From Forgotten Revolver," Lake County Times (Hammond, Ind.) 19 May 1921).

[1] On sale at the Merrillville History Museum (and can be ordered through their website).
[2] "General News Items," Hobart Gazette 14 Sept. 1906.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Wildflowers of Ainsworth: Common Cinquefoil

Back in 2010 I identified cinquefoil without knowing which variety I had found. Now I believe that one was rough-fruited, aka sulphur, cinquefoil.

And this is common cinquefoil.

2017-5-28. Common Cinquefoil
(Click on image to enlarge)

Friday, May 26, 2017

A Young Lady from Ainsworth

Today would have been Norma Lindborg Berg's 101st birthday.

Here is a studio portrait showing her around the age of 19.

2017-5-26. Norma Lindborg ca 1935
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Image courtesy of Norma Lindborg Berg.

She had done her hair carefully and put on her best dress, and traveled up to Gary to sit for this photo; I wonder if it was intended to mark some special occasion … perhaps her going off to college, or coming home for a visit from college?

Norma told me that her parents did not consult her about her career plans. They simply informed her, after her graduation from high school in 1934, that she would be attending Indiana State University at Terre Haute and would become a teacher. Norma was not thrilled about that — she had dreams of pursuing a musical career — but she wasn't ready to disobey her parents. They had scraped together the money to send her off, and off she went.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Hobart Then and Now: The Miller Corner

1970s, and 2017.

2017-5-24. img887-d
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Image above courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

2017-5-24. Miller corner 2017

I call this house the Miller house, because Eldon Harms told me that the Miller family lived there. But since I don't know when the house was built, I don't know who among the previous owners of that land might have lived there; nor do I know who might have lived there after the Millers ceased to own it. By 1950 it was part of Chester Wasy's extensive property, but surely he did not live there when he might choose the spacious Chester house or the riverside Nolte house.

If the house dated back to the early 1890s, it once housed Peter and Caroline Stolp, the maternal grandparents of Minnie (Rossow) Harms. They rented that farm for a short time. Peter may have died there (1892).

However, after that mystifying news item about John Miller moving his house, I don't know what to think.

The house was still standing when I moved here in 1990. By then it was painted green. There was a dog house behind it, and beyond the back yard a fenced-in area where a horse was kept, with a shed for its shelter. At the edge of the field to the south was a rusty farm machine — a tractor or some such thing. I liked that house. It was demolished before I began my historical research.

But getting back to the photo above — I'm dating it to the 1970s simply because of the style of photo. We have a similar photo, likewise undated, but taking in a car that looks like the sort of car you might see in the mid-1970s.

2017-5-24. img886-a
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

These two photos were taken at least a few months apart, since here the trees are in full leaf, while in the first one the leaves are changing color and falling. I think this photo was taken when the Tonagels had their store up for sale. We have some others taken apparently at the same time with a better view of the automobiles that are helping me date these photos to the 1970s.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Everybody Is Under Arrest

When federal marshals swooped down on Lake County Prohibition-flouters in January 1923, the News thoughtfully provided a separate listing of those Hobart residents caught up in the dragnet.

2017-5-21. Liquor arrests all over the place
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Hobart News 25 Jan. 1923.

Apparently all the liquor violators in Ainsworth got away with it, this time.

I do not know exactly why "the Springman brothers were arrested by Marshal Rose at the Traeger place," but I wish I did. It sounds interesting. I wonder if it could be that incident back in March 1921?

Incidentally, I cannot find a William Bussey in Hobart, and I suspect this may be Adeline Busse's brother Bill.

Another story a couple weeks later explained that the conspiracy charge against the Hobart citizens had been dismissed, but the charges of violating the federal liquor law would proceed to trial (except in the case of Mike Drakovich, who had already pled guilty).

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Dr. A.G. Miller

This photo of Dr. Miller is from 1934, about eleven years after he began his practice in Hobart.

2017-5-18. Dr. A.G. Miller 1934
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This was a press photo, and from the copy on the back we learn that … he had rhythm.

2017-5-18. Dr. A.G. Miller 1934 verso

His name is at the top of the building at 225 Center Street.

Monday, May 15, 2017

In Miller News

In January 1923, the Gazette announced that Dr. Arthur G. Miller was planning to set up business in Hobart.

2017-5-15. Miller news - Dr. A.G. Miller, John Miller
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Hobart Gazette 19 Jan. 1923.

More germane to this blog, however, is that mystifying move by John Miller. Can that be right? The southeast corner of the Miller land would be out in the fields. Possibly what was meant was the southeast corner of the intersection where the Lincoln Highway and present-day Grand Boulevard meet. That's where the Miller house stood until it was demolished some years ago.

I'm still wondering where the house was in the first place.

2017-5-15. Dr. A.G. Miller ad
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Hobart Gazette 2 Feb. 1923.

Friday, May 12, 2017

'Twixt Love and a Car

The accident in my last post put me in mind of this postcard sent by Herman Harms to Minnie Rossow on March 4, 1915.

2017-5-12. 1915-03-04-a
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Images courtesy of Eldon Harms.

2017-5-12. 1915-03-04-b

I think this is the latest-dated card I have from their correspondence. Just about three months later, they would be married.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Sweethearts Wrecked

The country roads in Winfield Township were dark and icy on the evening of January 13, 1923, when a car full of young people bound for Ainsworth skidded and overturned. Among its occupants were Lynn Peterson and Grace Nelson.

2017-5-9. Accident on icy road
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Hobart News 18 Jan. 1923.

Grace's brother, Wayne, must have been driving his own car (or a borrowed one) if he could take the young ladies home.

And in Hobart, that forward-thinking entrepreneur (and former Ainsworthite), George Sauter, was looking to put the ice-man out of a job.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Aunt Nancy's Birthday Pictures

These photos of Nancy Thompson, taken on two consecutive birthdays, survived among the many photos owned by the Harms family.

The first was taken on February 20, 1943, when she was 75 years old.

2017-5-6. redalbum147
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Images courtesy of Eldon Harms.

The second was taken exactly a year later.

2017-5-6. redalbum146

Nancy was born February 20, 1868, the first child of Valentine and Rebecca aka Anna (Winsell) Swartz, who had been married in Porter County in February 1867. The family shows up in the 1870 Census farming in Union Township.

Then they started moving around, it seems: if I've found the right people, for the 1880 Census the Swartzes were living in Cass County, Nebraska. By the 1900 Census, they had moved to Elk Falls, Kansas, and Valentine gave his occupation as a guard at a penitentiary. Valentine and Rebecca both ended their days there.

However, I would not be surprised to learn that between 1880 and 1900 they had come back to Indiana for a time — why else would Nancy, in 1898, have married George Morris Thompson of Porter County (Indiana Marriage Collection), rather than some nice young man in Nebraska or Kansas?

At the time of their marriage, the young couple planned to live in Hobart ("Local Drifts," Hobart Gazette 16 Sept. 1898), but, as I have tried to trace, they moved about a good deal.

I do not know much about where Nancy lived after being widowed in 1928, nor do I know where either of the two photos above were taken.

Not two months after the second photo, Nancy died in Hobart (Indiana Death Certificates). She was buried beside her husband in Salem Cemetery.

I am classifying these photos as belonging to the Eva Thompson collection even though, technically, that's not where I got them.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

So Where Was Albert Weiler's Farm?

That was what I asked myself in a recent post.

Albert, like the rest of the Weilers, is still something of a mystery to me. Thus far I've found out that he was born on November 10, 1888* to Michael and Fredericka Weiler (Indiana Death Certificates). Per the 1920 Census he farmed rented land … which might have been a farm of some 120 acres belonging to a Michael Weiler (his father?), shown here in the 1926 Plat Book:

2017-5-3. M Weiler 1926
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That farm was next door to William Foreman's, so any roving dogs would not have had far to go to kill geese on both farms in one night. In terms of what's there today — I guess all those times we've visited the Albanese candy factory, we've been walking on the old Weiler farm (just my estimate; I haven't checked the legal description of that land).

Michael Weiler bought that land in late 1899 or early 1900 from heirs of J.P. Jones.** In the 1910 Census, Michael and Fredericka are living on what appears to be the same farm (to judge by their neighbors). Albert, age 21, is still in their household, along with his younger siblings, Minnie, Emory, and Emma.

Later that year Albert married Amanda Henning (Indiana Marriage Collection). Per the 1930 Census, they had two sons: Donald and Gerald. In that census, they seem to be at the same location. Someday I hope to find out exactly when Route 30 came through and bisected their farm; I think it was circa 1937. In the 1940 Census, to judge by their location in the enumerator's report, they seem to have moved a bit southeast — but that's just my guess.

As to Albert's relation to the many other Weilers of Ross Township … that is going to have to wait for some obituaries.

*Or 1889, if you believe the WWI Draft Cards.
**"General News Items," Hobart Gazette 5 Jan. 1900.