Our Town of Yesteryear -As Recalled by E. C. Aborn

Cowan Seminary, Old Central School, First Passenger Station, Old Cemetery are resurrected by Local Historian

by Edwin C. Aborn

[Your Daily Times is greatly indebted to its former and long-time employee, Edwin C. (Toby) Aborn for this page of most interesting local historical data and pictures of same supplied by him.]

When I remember all
The Friends so linked together
I've seen around me fall
Like leaves in wintry weather,
I feel like one who trads alone
Some banquet hall deserted,
Whose lights have fled, whose garlands dead,
And all but he departed

-Thomas Moore

It has been quite frequently said that youth seems to look constantly into the future, while age appears to live to a great degree in the past. Regarding the truthfulness of this assertion all will doubtless agree. When a man has passed three score and ten milestones on the rugged highway which leads to Life's terminal on this terrestrial sphere, he frequently, in a more or less passive mood lapses into retrospection, regardless of the fact that he may have been guilty of numerous and imprudent acts and violated some of the speed ordinances of the established moral code. Of course the above statement is the opinion of but one individual, but doubtless voices the sentiment of all fairminded persons who have fought the battles of life for more than three-fifths of a century.

A Morning Stroll
On a recent bright morning, when Dame Nature seemed to be putting forth her very best efforts to lure lazy humanity into the great outdoors, the writer became inoculated with an urge to indulge in a solitary ramble 'midst scenes of long ago.

Accordingly a trip was made through the southeastern part of the city. While Warsaw has perhaps not made as rapid [the] strides in growth as have some of its sister cities; but my how it has changed! Few of the old landmarks remain.

The Old Cemetery
The old cemetery on Smith street, where many of the early residents and members of their families who passed away were laid to rest, has long since been abandoned. A portion of the tract is now used by the gas plant of the Northern Indiana Public Service Company for its supply tanks and coal docks. The remainder has been for the past few seasons plowed up and converted into a vegetable garden. Many remains were exhumed when the tract ceased to be used as a burial ground and were reinterred elsewhere, principally in Oakwood Cemetery, but quite a number are still buried there and doubtless will be for evermore.

Early records tell us that on March 9, 1848, Richard L. Britton deeded to the commissioners of Kosciusko county a tract containing two acres, "For the purpose of providing a public burying ground near the village of Warsaw for the accommodation of the citizens of said village and adjacent territory." The first person buried there was Mrs. Vica Webb, wife of Daniel Webb, on June 12, 1837, age 36 years.

The old cemetery ceased to be used as a burial ground in 1874, when Oakwood Cemetery was made ready as a last resting place for the departed. It is a fact worthy of note that the first burial in Oakwood was that of Dr. Jacob Boss, the former owner of the land on which Oakwood is located. He was a prominent citizen of Warsaw and the father of Mrs. Wilbur Maish, Sr. His burial to place on August 6, 1874. Oakwood Cemetery has the reputation of being the most beautiful Necropolis in the Central West.

Metamorphosis of the Landscape.
The late Earl D. Conrad's factory now occupies the site where formerly was located an extensive lumber yard. Westward across the Big Four tracks were the stockyards where a great volume of live stock was kept, loaded into cars and shipped to the Eastern markets daily. A number of comfortable homes now cover this tract. Where now stands the factory building of the Warsaw Cut Glass Company and some attractive residences and the city's storage buildings was known as Hays' Field, where baseball and other athletic events took place every day in season.

A stroll north on Detroit Street led past the old Bradford Cosgrove tract, now covered with residences and a grocery store, with the yards of the Arnold Coal Company on the northeast corner. The entire block extending from what is now Winona avenue northward to the Pennsylvania railroad was the location of the Cowan Seminary, a large two-story frame structure which occupied the center of the tract. It was conducted by Mrs. Jane Cowan, grandmother of Mrs. H. J. Kutz, of the Kutz Coal Company. The seminary was destroyed by fire in the year 1884. Many of Warsaw's older residents received the greater portion of their schooling at this seminary.

Jane Cowan and her husband, Robert, arrived in Warsaw from Logansport, via horse and wagon, on May 5, 1851, five years before the Pennsylvania railroad was built. They first open school in a frame building which stood on the southeast corner of Buffalo and Jefferson streets. Later the seminary was built at the location of South Detroit Street, between Jefferson and Winona avenue. Mrs. Cowan passed away in the fall of 1876.

Across the railroad tracks to the block now occupied by the modern plant of the Little Crow Milling Company stood a row of unattractive frame buildings, one of which had originally been the old Methodist Church, a frame structure moved from the corner of Market and Indiana streets in 1868 by A. T. S. Kist to make way for the erection of a brick church building, which in turn was replaced in 1915 by the present attractive edifice. The old frame church was converted into a grain elevator and warehouse and was used as such for many years.

Northward across Market Street, on the opposite corner, stood St. Andrew's Episcopal church, a brick structure, later purchased and transformed into a modern dwelling by the late Selden Webber, who for many years conducted a hardware store in Warsaw.

Big Four Railroad

Turning the corner east on Market street, the writer came to the passenger station of the Big Four railroad. A glance at the train board disclosed that the north-bound passenger train would arrived in about half an hour. Why not wait for it? The morning was an ideal one and here was an inviting seat on a bench under the awning at the south end of the station.

Scarcely had the writer anchored his anatomy on said seat when a double-header express train on the Pennsylvania line catapulted over the railroad crossing at a speed one might surmise would tear the steel mechanism known as "frogs" from their moorings.

That railroad crossing-ah, yes! A retrospective haze seemed to mementarily envelop the scene, and a panorama of the past began to unfold. Many years ago, about 1871, the very spot where now stands this passenger station was occupied by a large bridge-like structure upon which lomotives were turned--a turn-table. The road was then called the Warsaw, Goshen & White Pigeon railroad and Warsaw was the southern terminus.

First Passenger Station
A couple blocks north, on the southwest corner of Center and Hickory streets, a frame house, now remodeled, the residence of Mrs. Lulu Stouffer, was the passenger station. The house was then owned by Mrs. Levana Ludy, who resided in the west part of the building, the railroad company using the east side. An addition on the south side housed a small lunch room where Mrs. Ludy dispensed coffee, sandwiches, pies and cakes to waiting passengers and tired trainmen. The freight house and office were located in the old warehouse referred to above. A. T. S. Kist was the agent.

Train Service
Every week day a train consisting of an engine, four or five freight cars, a combination mail and baggage car and a passenger coach would depart about 8 o'clock a.m. for Goshen, arriving on the return trip about 4 p.m.

John Henry Porter was the first engineer; Walter Scott the first fireman; Joel Fessenden the first conductor; Mason Wells the first brakeman and baggageman. Captain Samuel Boughter was really the first conductor, but he was for the most part kept in charge of the construction train.

Engines Given Names
In those days it was the custom to name railroad locomotives as well as to provide them with numbers. On this new line-the W., G. & W. P.- there were but three locomotives. Engine No. 1 bore in lettering beneath its cab windows the name "A. G. Wells," the contractor who built the line from Goshen to Warsaw; Engine No. 2 was inscribed "Warsaw," while Engine No. 3 was called "Goshen." The foregoing is a recital of occurences that took place in the early 1870's. The first train left Warsaw for Goshen August 9, 1870.

The original survey brought the line into Warsaw from the north on the north side of Center Lake, thence turning southward and traversing the full length of West street. It was then the plan of the promoters to intersect the tracks of the P., F. W. & C. near the old passenger station on the latter road at Union street near the passenger station and freight yards. However, for some reason long ago forgotten, the survey was changed and the line constructed over the present right-of-way.

Southern Extension.
In 1872 a company was organized to extend the road southward and the name Grand Rapids, Warsaw & Cincinnati was agreed upon. The intention was to build to Peru, there, to form a connection with a line already in operation from that place to Indianapolis.

Accordingly a preliminary survey was hurriedly made and right-of-way in this immediate vicinity obtained for the extension. In those days it was the custom to subsidize railroad construction by holding special elections in the various townships through which the projected line was scheduled to pass, on the question of voting a special tax for the enterprise. So sanguine were the promoters in the belief that financial aid would be voted along the proposed route that the work of grading was started. The survey cut through the Seminary grounds, as well as the Bradford Cosgrove estate, and took a slice of about sixty feet off the old cemetery. Proceeding southward it invaded tracts owned by the late Elijah Hayes, Colonel C. W. Chapman and Presley Boydston. Then the route entered the Shaffer woods, where the big curve that turns the road to a southerwesterly direction is still in existence. When the grade had been completed to a point a short distance beyond the County Farm road, the promoters were informed that a canvass among the voters in townships along the proposed route disclosed that the project would doubtless be overwhelmingly defeated, as the people appeared to be much opposed to voting a subsidy. The work of grading was thereupon abruptly stopped, and the promoters held up proceedings for quite a while, pending some sort of reorganization.

Formation of New Company
For several months following the bursting of the Peru bubble, railroad talk lapsed into a more or less dormant state. However a number of Wabash citizens became interested and were instrumental in infusing new life into the movement for a southern extension of the line. Hence a new company was formed, called the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan Railroad Company. Petitions were circulated in the townships through which the line was projected and elections held to determine the question of a subsidy. The proposition carried in practically all of the townships, and thus the extension was assured.

That Big Curve
The new survey southward was begun at the end of the grade already constructed to the point west of the County Farm road which had been built that distance on the former survey to Peru. The new surveyors made an abrupt turn to the south in the establishment of the new route, thereby salvaging the grade already constructed. This information is given for the benefit of numerous persons who have expressed wonderment concerning the construction of that great curve through the Shaffer woods by a railroad planned to run in a direct north and south direction.

(The line was finally built to Claypool, Silver Lake, North Manchester and Wabash. Later it was extended to Marion; then to Anderson. The first through train was run from Anderson to Goshen on May 21, 1876.)

Railroad Crossing
In the meantime work was underway in preparation for the installation of the crossing mechanism over the track of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago railroad (now Pennsylvania), which at that time was a single-track line. Four giant steel castings, called "frogs," had already arrived and were a great source of wonder to the youngsters of the neighborhood who had frequently heard about one railroad crossing another, but had never had an opportunity to witness such an arrangement.

A Memorable Occasion
One morning in the early 1870's the announcement was made that on that day the crossing would be installed. As a consequence the youngsters were all worked up into a pitch of excitement to witness the operation.

The old schoolhouse then stood on the corner of Market and Detroit streets, which most of the children of that neighborhood attended. With dismissal of school at the noon hour on the day in question, four boys ranging in age from eight to ten years hurriedly scampered over to the scene of the proposed crossing and made inquiry as to the exact time the work of installation would take place. The workmen replied, "Right after dinner." Whereupon the lads hastened home, swallowed their dinner at one gulp, so to speak, and rushed back to the scene, arriving there before the men had returned. That group of boys consisted of Frank Upson, Charlie and Ted Piper and the writer of these lines. The workmen soon returned and proceeded to get in readiness to cut the rails and place the steel "frogs" in position.

Justifiable Cause for "Hookey"
But then-what a calamity! The school bell began to ring, causing a quartet of juvenile hearts to drop to several degrees below zero. An emergency had arisen. The lads immediately got into a huddle. It was moved and seconded and unanimously carried to remain on the scene and witness this auspicious event regardless of consequences.

Men Who Performed the Task
As the writer recalled, some of those who participated in the work were Timothy Leighton, John Hannagan, Michael Anglin and William Deneen, for the P., F. W. & C.; and Captain Samuel Boughter, Patrick Moore and Elias Crist for the C., W. & M.

When the "frogs" had been spiked down and the rails connected, Engine No. 2 (the "Warsaw"), of the new road with John Henry Porter at the throttle, crept cautiously over the crossing, back and forth several times, until O.K.'d by the inspectors.

Upon completion of the railroad crossing, the Warsaw, Goshen & White Pigeon and the Grand Rapids, Warsaw & Cincinnati companies were consolidated under the name of the Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan, by which name the road continued to be known until its absorption into the Big Four system in the 1890's. When the late Norman Beckley became general manager of the line in 1880 he had an extension built from Goshen through Elkhart and Niles, to Benton Harbor, Mich. For some reason, unknown to the general public, the Big Four management a few years ago ceased to operate said extension, and has now turned the line over to the Michigan Central, which, like the Big Four, is a unit of the New York Central system.

Prior to the inauguration of the double-track system by the Pennsylvania in 1900 the railroad crossing was guarded by large gates painted a brilliant red, called targets, which were swung across the tracks of both roads, and opened by the watchman only when a train wished to cross. All trains were required to come to a dead stop until the gates were opened. The first watchman at the crossing was Robert McNeil, an old employee of the Pennsylvania who was brought to Warsaw from Pierceton. "Uncle Robert," as he was familiarly called, was a great favorite with the trainmen as well as the youngsters of the community who made his shanty headquarters for their assemblages. He was an ardent Christian and permitted no profanity or obscene talk, using every effort to teach his juvenile friends the importance of morality and uprightness. Upon his retirement the duties at the crossing were assumed by Michael Anglin, another old employee, who served until the installation of the present interlocking system.

A Popular Engineer
John Henry Porter, the pioneer engineer above referred to, was regarded by the youngsters of that day as a wonderful person - "a mighty man was he." In those days the locomotives burned wood. The wood yard and water tank for this locality were situated north of town, a short distance from what is now Lakeside Park. Occasionally John Henry would permit a few kids to ride out on the engine when he went for wood and water. On one memorable trip he permitted the writer to ring the bell and blow the whistle, which afforded a thrill that tingled and will ever remain a bright spot in memory. Mr. Porter re-signed his position with the road soon after its completion and entered the employe of a Western line. After a number of years he returned and again accepted a position on the road as a freight conductor, which job he held until he reached the age of retirement.

Scene of Great Activity
Back in the 1880s and early '90's the old C., W. & M. passenger station and the freight house where adjoined it, were doubtless the busiest places in Warsaw, at least for two or three hours in the mornings and an equal length of time in the afternoons. The north and south-bound passenger trains met here twice daily, besides they were met at the adjoining junction by the Fort Wayne accommodation train on the Pennsylvania line. The consequent activity resulting from transfer of passengers and baggage created an atmosphere of activity not unlike that experienced in the union stations of the larger cities.

A Lone Survivor
All the individuals mentioned in the recital of the foregoing railroad episode, with the single exception of the writer, have passed into the Great Beyond-"that bourne from whence no man returneth." Is it any wonder a feeling of loneliness creeps over one after a retrospective review of this character? The only person now living who was an eye-witness to the installation of this railroad crossing and the movement of the first locomotives over the same. Alone! All are gone! But-

Holy smoke! What's that? The reverie is broken by a noise not unlike an approaching Kansas cyclone. Oh, yes! It's the northbound train being towed by that new-fangled contraption which generates a volume of snort and sneeze, spit and sputter, blow, blare and blubber sufficient to cause a Chinese jumping-jack to become animated, leap into a hole and try to pull the hole in after him. Just what the correct name for this motorized mechanical monstrosity may be is unknown to the writer but it is a fact that many residents along its route of travel referred to it by various names, some of which would not look well in print.

John W. Chapman Recalls
John W. Chapman, a native of Warsaw and son of the late Colonel C. W. Chapman, who now makes his home in North Mancheser, was in the days referred to a youth full of ambition and of a decidedly inventive turn of mind. He designed and constructed a hand-car which he and his associates were permitted to propel up and down the track in the evenings when trains had ceased operations for the day. Mr. Chapman delivered the Memorial Day address at Oakwood Cemetery on May 30 last. In conversation with the writer after the ceremonies he referred to those days of long ago when the Warsaw, Goshen & White Pigeon railroad first came into being.

Engine No. 2, the "Warsaw" of the Warsaw, Goshen & White Pigeon Railroad, first locomotive to cross the tracks of the Pennsylvania Line when the road was extended southward from Warsaw as the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan.


The Cowan Seminary, on South Detroit Street in center of block between Winona Avenue and Jefferson Street.


Dispatcher's tower at railroad junction from which operated the interlocking mechanism and semaphore signals for mile distant.


House at southwest corner of Center and Hickory streets, first Warsaw passenger station of what is now the Big Four R. R.

Warsaw Daily Times and The Northern Indianian Saturday December 2, 1939 page 2 & 8

OUR TOWN historian, Edwin C. (Toby) Aborn, telling OUR TOWN editor that last history published in OUR COUNTY was in the year 1879 by the Kingman Brothers, of Indianapolis. Title was "Comprehensive History of Kosciusko County". Toby expects to write history of Warsaw and Kosciusko county in near future. His most recent recallings appeared in your Daily Times publication of December 2. In this article Toby recalled to old-time OUR TOWNERS the old Cowan Seminary, Central School house, first passenger station, cemetery, the crack limited "Warsaw" and many other old-time landmarks. Toby was an employee of your Daily Times mechanical staff for more than 30 years.
Warsaw Daily Times and The Northern Indianian Monday December 4, 1939

Back to YesterYear in Print