Sunday, July 28, 2019

Those Eternal Muskrats

I am in the process of indexing a daybook that begins in 1848. Early on, I came across another muskrats-vs.-dam story that took place in May of 1850. Muskrats tried to undermine what I believe is the Earle's Mill dam — but Isaac Spencer foiled their scheme.

2019-07-28. DayB1848 009, 010
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

Did he spend all those marked days working on the muskrat hole? — that must have been a very impressive hole.

The journal-keeper uses only his first initial, I, so I went looking in the 1850 Census and found Isaac Spencer, a 35-year-old carpenter, living in Hobart with his wife, Lucretia, and their children, Orsemus, Caroline, and Charles. We have previously heard of Orsemus, who married Lucy Hanks, sister of Henry Chester's second wife. Caroline eventually married Jesse B. Albee. As for Charles, he made music for local entertainments until his death in 1920.

According to Early Land Sales, in 1853 Isaac purchased Lots 57 and 58 in Section 32 of Hobart Township, which — assuming those lots are part of the original town of Hobart — would be on the northeast corner of Center and Second Streets, the site of the Rifenburg house and the parking lot next to it.

Isaac and Lucretia show up in Hobart Township in every census through 1880, then they vanish. I can't find out when either died or where they are buried.

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Below Isaac's entry in the ledger, we find someone who, it appears, may have worked with him on the dam for the last two days of May 1850. I had to stare at that name for about 15 seconds before I realized that it wasn't a woman's name, but a phonetic spelling of Lucius.

The 1850 Census shows Lucius in Hobart, working as a cooper (barrel-maker) like Edward Ensign, whom we've met before (and who also was born in Ohio, so I suppose there was some family connection). Lucius' household included his wife, Ellen, and four children, ranging in age from 13 to 3. Per the Indiana Marriage Collection, Lucius and Ellen were married in Porter County in 1845, so only the two youngest children could be theirs; the other might be from a previous marriage. Also in the household is a 70-year-old Hannah Ensign — perhaps Lucius' mother.

After 1850 the whole family vanishes, except for the youngest child, Linus, whom I think I've found in the 1870 Census living and working on the farm of Jacob Hale, along with Jacob's son-in-law, Edmund Ensign … who might be the same person as the Edward Ensign I mentioned above. (Exactly what relation he was to Linus, I don't know.) If I've found the right person, Linus soon married and moved to Kansas.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Sudden Deaths

Not two years after Alvah Fisher was killed in an accident at the Lincoln Highway crossing south of Ainsworth, that dangerous intersection took another life.

2019-07-24. Accident, News, 8-23-1923
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart News, Aug. 23, 1923.

2019-07-24. Accident, Gaz, 8-24-1923
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Hobart News, Aug. 23, 1923.

Both articles mention tall corn on the northeast corner blocking the view. I take this to mean that there was no building there yet, at the future site of the Tonegals' business.[1] The article below the main story in the Gazette implies that there was not so much as a stop sign at this intersection.

I can't identify the driver of the local car involved in the wreck. The News gives his name as John Myers; the Gazette gives him no name but says he is the son of John H. Meyer; both describe his home as being in Winfield Township. I've found the death certificate of a John Henry Meyer, gored to death by a bull in Winfield Township in 1927 (Indiana Death Certificates), but I can't find him there in the 1920 Census, or any other census for that matter. The 1920 Census does show a Meyer family farming in Winfield Township, but no John among them.

Speaking of dangerous corners — a couple weeks earlier, a fatal accident occurred near Valparaiso, at a location the Gazette described as "the Clifford turn west of [Valparaiso], called the 'death corner'" ("Auto Accidents," Hobart Gazette, Aug. 17, 1923). "Clifford" was probably a major landowner nearby. If I go looking for Cliffords owning land just west of Valpo in 1923, I find a lot of them. The most dangerous-looking "Clifford turn" is circled in red below on the 1928 plat map (which I'm using because it shows the road better than the 1921 map), on a stretch of road now called Clifford Road:

2019-07-24. Clifford land 1928
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image from

The intersection and crossing at the southeast end of that road look even more dangerous, but I don't know that they would be linked to the Clifford name. A couple less dangerous corners by Clifford land are circled in green. There must have been more than one fatal accident at the "Clifford turn" to earn it the name of "death corner."

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President Warren G. Harding died unexpectedly on Thursday, August 2, 1923, just when he seemed to be recovering from an illness. Eight days later (the day of his burial), a memorial service was held in the auditorium of the Hobart High School on Fourth Street. "The attendance of citizens was disappointingly small. The room should have been crowded but it wasn't. … Attorney John Killigrew, who had met the president on two occasions in 1920, spoke praisingly of his personal attainments as he saw and judged him at those times." ("Hobart Holds Memorial Services," Hobart Gazette, Aug. 17, 1923.)

[1] The county records state that the building now housing Sharp's School Services was built in 1980, but we know that is incorrect.

Saturday, July 20, 2019

Mathew W. Jory Resigns

The last time we met Union Sunday School Superintendent Mathew W. Jory was in 1873 when he was dealing with tobacco-juice spitters. Here he is four years later, resigning as superintendent.

2019-07-20. USUN1873B Loose 011a
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

Perhaps his business took up so much of his time that he couldn't give proper attention to the Sunday School. Or … perhaps … there was a big fight among the Sunday School officers, and this letter is all exquisite sarcasm.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Greater Black-Letter Dart

I think what I've got here is a Greater Black-Letter Dart moth.

2019-07-18. Greater Black-letter Dart
(Click on image to enlarge)

Just another moth in the grass that I had to stop my lawnmower to avoid running over. They are common from mid-spring through late fall, according to the Peterson Field Guide to Moths.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

William Raschka Still Busy in Ainsworth

Lest we forget that William Raschka was still doing business in Ainsworth in 1923, in spite of having sold his department store business long ago, here is an ad for his feed, grain, and fertilizer warehouse:

2019-07-14. Wheat growers, News, 8-16-1923
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart News, Aug. 16, 1923.

In the left-hand column is the beginning of an article about the death of Kelly Norris. I find him interesting because (1) he might not have died if antibiotics had been available; and (2) his widow was the former Edith Busse. Here is the full story:

2019-07-14. Norris, News, 8-16-1923
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart News, Aug. 16, 1923.

It is interesting to see the number of Hobart people who traveled with his remains to Lagrange, Indiana, including George Sauter and Fred Rose, Jr.

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Speaking of George Sauter — his mother, now Augusta Fiester, had a nice 62nd-birthday party on August 9, 1923.

2019-07-14. Fiester, News, 8-16-1923
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart News, Aug. 16, 1923.

The Edward Sauter who attended was, I am sure, Edward Jr., not Edward Sr., Augusta's ex-husband. I have completed lost sight of Edward Sr. He was last seen in the 1920 Census, living in a rooming house at 1249 W. 103rd Street, Chicago, and working as a blacksmith, shoeing horses. I can't find him in the 1930 Census; can't even find a record of his death.

Above that item, the Pecks have returned from their hot and mosquito-ridden motor trip, and chosen to call it pleasant.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Crown-Tipped Coral

Found this interesting fungus while walking my dogs in the woods north of Big Maple Lake on a wet day.

2019-07-10. Crown-tipped coral 1
(Click on images to enlarge)

2019-07-10. Crown-tipped coral 2

It looks a bit like Crown-Tipped Coral, but I'm not sure those really are "crowns" on top of each stalk. It might be Yellow-Tipped Coral. The first is edible, the second is poisonous.

Friday, July 5, 2019

There's Only One Merrillville?

I'm sure everyone who's done online research knows the pain of chasing down wild geese that happen to have the same name as your own goose. There are towns in Iowa and Nebraska called Ainsworth, and both of them still exist, unlike this little Ainsworth of mine, and they clog up my search results. And in looking for Hobart, Indiana, I keep turning up things about towns in Tasmania, New York, Oklahoma, and Washington. The good thing about Merrillville is that there's only one … or so I thought, until I saw the first item in this "South of Deepriver" column:

2019-07-05. SoDR, News, 8-9-1923
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart News, Aug. 9, 1923.

Internet research fails to turn up the location of this town in Missouri. It does turn up references from the 19th century to a town called Merrellsville, but no one seems to know exactly where that town was. Google Maps, which identify such obscure places as my Ainsworth, don't acknowledge the existence of any Merrillville or Merrellsville in Missouri.

So if there is a Merrillville in Missouri, it keeps quiet. Very quiet.

Beyond that, the news south of Deepriver is not very thrilling.

Monday, July 1, 2019

Profane Language on the Streets

William H. Rifenburg was the Union Sunday School superintendent who, on September 23, 1877, had to lecture "the Boys on the disgrace some of them brought on the school by using profane language on the streets."

2019-07-01. USUN1873B 268, 269
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of the Hobart Historical Society.

William was then a vigorous man in his 40s, a Civil War veteran, former township trustee and justice of the peace,[1] so I imagine he was pretty impressive to these young people. Maybe he got them to stop using profane language for a week or two.

[1] See his biographical sketch in the Lake County Encyclopedia: