Thursday, June 10, 2021

Kitten Break

Since I'm still overloaded with work and have no more news about the Berghoff roadhouse, here's a picture of some of my foster kittens.

2021-06-10 Kittens

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Back to the Berghoff Again

Whenever I'm overloaded with work, it seems, I resort to posting about the Berghoff roadhouse.

Since my last post on the subject, wherein I couldn't figure out if the Berghoff was on 37th or 39th, I came across this article, which says that the Wurffel gas station, previously described as being built across the road from the Berghoff, was on 39th.

2021-06-03. 1924-06-24 Gazette, Wurffel filling station on 39th
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart Gazette, June 24, 1924.

Now that the water of knowledge has been poured over that burning question, we can at last rest easy. Or we could, if we didn't have so much work to do.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Deadly Holdup at Tom Tierney's Chicken Dinner Roadhouse

This story from September 1924 about an attempted holdup at Tierney's restaurant is confusing in several ways.

2021-05-26. Tierney, News, 9-18-1924
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart News, Sept. 18, 1924.

Of course one of those names jumped out at me: could it be that John Dillinger? (I wondered.)

The Gazette mentions that this John Dillinger was a Gary resident.

2021-05-26. Tierney, Gazette, 9-19-1924
(Click on image to enlarge)
Hobart News, Sept. 18, 1924.

And indeed, the 1920 Census records a John Dillinger living in Gary: a 31-year-old railroad worker with a wife and child. That's probably our guy. Whether he was convicted of anything in connection with this incident, I don't know. He did not live to see his name become notorious throughout the nation; he died in 1930.

The man who was shot is even more elusive. The only record I can find of Henry Massey is his death certificate, which says he was a married steel worker, born circa 1896 in Tennessee to unknown parents (unknown, that is, to the informant). His burial place is given as Oak Hill Cemetery in Gary, but if that's true, his grave may be unmarked — I can't find it on

Next question: who on earth was the Patrick Tierney mentioned in the Hobart News account? He is described as Harriet Tierney's son, but my previous research into Harriet turned up only one son, Ernest Woods, from her previous marriage. (Harriet's second husband, Thomas Tierney, had died in August 1923.) The Lake County Times account of this incident[1] says that Harriet was in the restaurant with "the manager, Ernest Woods," which makes more sense. I think the News may have been confused.

We've met the deputy sheriff, Howard Walter, before. He was last seen driving Merrillville school buses.

The Lake County Times gave this description of the restaurant: "Tom Tierney's chicken dinner roadhouse at Merrillville [is] a popular resort on the Lincoln highway, much patronized by motorists and people in the vicinity."

[1] "Roadhouse Bandit Slain in Holdup," Lake County Times (Hammond, Ind.), Sept. 16, 1924.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Episodes in the History of the Harms' 73rd Avenue Farm

Thanks to the Harms family, I have a copy of an abstract of title to the second farm owned by Henry and Johanna (Anna) Harms. It comprised 80 acres on the west side of Randolph Street, straddling 73rd Avenue. They bought it while still living on the old Harms place.

The abstract starts with the 40 acres that lie on the northwest corner of the intersection of Randolph Street and U.S. 30, marked here on Google satellite view (and I hope I got the upper boundary right):

2021-05-18. Satellite view of SE 1-4 NE 1-4 sec 20 twp 35 n range 7 west
(Click on image to enlarge)

The first page tells us that those 40 acres (plus the 40 acres lying immediately north) were bought by Zachariah Elliott from the U.S. government (at the Winamac land office on January 10, 1852.

That would seem to indicate that Zachariah was the first private owner since the Potawatomi ceded the land to the federal government. Occasionally you find abstracts of title that actually give the name of the Native American who signed the treaty whereby the land was transferred. Unfortunately, this isn't one of them.

After holding the land for nearly two years, Zachariah sold it to John D. Willson (or Wilson).

2021-05-18. Elliott, Zachariah 1852 to John Willson 1853
(Click on image to enlarge)
Image courtesy of the Eldon Harms family.

I cannot positively identify either of these men in census or any other records besides land-sales records. I don't know where they came from, why they bought land in Lake County, or where they went afterward.

I love the name of the justice of the peace involved in the second sale — Socrates Griswold. Him I can find in the 1850 Census, a Vermonter born in 1807, living and farming in eastern Ross Township. Early Land Sales, Lake County shows him buying up some 230 acres in the same general area throughout the course of 1853. But he didn't stick around: by the 1860 Census, he had moved to Valparaiso and become a drayman.[1]

The next sale, in 1856, brings up a name we know.

2021-05-18. Willson, John to Chester, Charles 1856

This Charles Chester is not, of course, Truculent Chuck, but his grandfather. We don't know much about this Charles. From the biographical sketch of his son, Henry, we learn just a little about this Charles and his father:
His [father], John Chester, was a native of England, whence he came at an early day to Pennsylvania, and for seven years fought in the ranks of the patriots in the Revolutionary war, becoming an officer in the Continental army. He saw and talked with General Washington and was a prominent man. His son Charles, father of Henry, was born in Pennsylvania, and came out to Lake county, Indiana, as a pioneer in 1847, living here until his death in 1874. He married Mary E. Price, a native of Pennsylvania and of German descent, and they were the parents of two daughters and one son that reached maturity.
From the stones in the Chester Cemetery, we learn that Charles lived from 1798 to 1874, and Mary Price Chester from 1811 to 1878.[2]

Here is the first appearance of the Charles Chester family in Ross Township, in the 1850 Census:

2021-05-18. Chester, Charles, 1850 Census
Image from

There are three children: Rebecca, Henry, and Roxanna.[3] In December 1850, Rebecca married George Miller in Lake County, Indiana. They lived in Hobart Township (1860), then moved to Ross Township (1870), where they and their children lived on a farm somewhere southwest of Merrillville (to judge by their neighbors). By 1880 it appears they had moved to Black Hawk County, Iowa; there Rebecca died in 1881.

In July 1856 Henry Chester married Harriet Perry, daughter of Ezekiel and Olive Perry of Porter County. The Perrys are recorded in the 1850 Census farming in Center Township; by 1860 the parents had moved to Union Township. We need say no more about Henry: so much of this blog has been devoted to him.

Not quite two months later, in August 1856, Roxanna married her brother-in-law, Allen Perry (some 14 years her senior). They remained in Ross Township through the 1860 Census, but then moved to Black Hawk County, Iowa. (I wonder if things got awkward after Henry and Harriet divorced.)

To be continued.

[1] In 1856 he married Mary Frasier in Porter County (Indiana Marriage Collection). They remained in Valparaiso through the 1870 Census; the 1880 Census records them in Wisconsin, apparently visiting a niece; but they may have settled there, because both Socrates and Mary died there in December 1893, within a few days of each other. And I wonder if there is a story behind that.
[2] Someone has posted a photo of a Mary Chester on the entry, but unfortunately the photo is not of Mary Price, Charles' wife, but Mary Baird, the third wife of Charles' son, Henry.
[3] The wording of the biographical sketch quoted above suggests that Charles and Mary had at least one other child that did not live to maturity, but I can't find any information about any such child.

Friday, May 14, 2021

Marvelous Morels

2021-05-14. Morel
(Click on image to enlarge)

Thirty years I've lived here in Ainsworth and never saw a morel on my three acres before.

This year I found four of them out there. Would have been five, but I accidentally ran over one with my lawn tractor.

The stars aligned somehow, I guess. It will probably never happen again.

I sauteed them in olive oil with garlic, soy sauce and white wine. Unbelievably delicious.

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Golden Ragwort (aka Flower of Disappointment)

Late in March, deep in the woods, I came across a colony of wildflowers that I didn't recognize. I was excited because it's rare these days for me to find a new wildflower so close to home. The tightly closed buds had a purplish tint on the outside, so I thought they were going to bloom purple. Over the weeks during April, I went back to that spot often, eager to see them bloom.

Well, they finally bloomed. Yellow. It's just Ragwort. I already posted pictures of Ragwort … only this isn't quite the same variety as I had found near my own house back in 2010.

The buds are different:

2021-05-11. Ragwort buds
(Click on images to enlarge)

The upper leaves are more finely divided:

2021-05-11. Ragworth upper leaves

From what I can see of the 2010 pictures, I think the basal leaves here are wider, and more heart-shaped:

2021-05-11. Ragworth basal leaves

So I think what I've got here is Golden Ragwort, while the 2010 specimen was Round-leaved Ragwort.

Here are the yellow blossoms:

2021-05-11. Ragwort blossoms

Here's my dog posing with the blossoms:

2021-05-11. Buddy and Ragwort

A different variety of a wildflower I've previously identified — that's about all I can hope for these days. But when I go to the Indiana Dunes National Park, I see all sorts of wildflowers I haven't identified. Maybe one of these days when I get some time (!) I will start learning about the Dunes wildflowers.

Monday, May 3, 2021

Jeremiah's Autograph

Here is another item from the estate papers of the late, unlamented Jeremiah Wiggins, or, as he himself wrote it, "Jere'h Wiggins."

2021-05-03. Wiggins estate 28a
(Click on images to enlarge)
Images courtesy of Alice Flora Smedstad.

This tells us that Jeremiah was literate (at a time when contracts were sometimes signed with a mark — "X" — by people who could not write their own names). But it's a plain, unpracticed signature, not as if Jeremiah took any pride in his penmanship.

Judging by the handwriting of the body of the note (we will get to that next), most of it was written by the creditor, Charles W. Sloat. It reads (original spelling retained):
Lake CO India may the 28 – 1838
for value received ipromise to pay Charles W. Sloat or barer the some of twenty five Dollars on or be fore the fifteenth of Awgust next with youse[?] given from Onder my hand
According to an online inflation calculator, $25 in 1838 would be about $712.03, owed by Jeremiah to Charles.

I can't positively identify Charles W. Sloat in any census. Porter and Lake Counties (Goodspeed/Blanchard) found him in an 1837 assessment, living in southern Center Township. Early Land Sales, Lake County shows a Charles Sloat buying land in 1839 and 1840, in southern Lake County — possibly our guy.

He did receive his money, with interest, from Jeremiah's estate on December 7, 1839:

2021-05-03. Wiggins estate 06c

Someone handling the estate wrote out the acknowledgment of receipt, and then Charles signed it. You can see that the distinctive way he signed his name here matches the way he wrote it in the note above.