The Bash Mansion

by George A. Nye

The Bash mansion, which is now being torn down to make room for the new postoffice, has adorned the northwest corner of Lake and Market streets for almost half a century. The early history of this particular corner may be of general interest at this time to a number of readers. It is said that the first grocery store in the village of Warsaw was in a pole cabin erected on this corner about 1836. It was owned and operated by William J. Pope, Esq. Besides acting as storekeeper, he was a justice of the peace and his name appears on the first plat of Warsaw, made in 1836 by Christopher Lightfoot.

Pope's store, it seems, was one of the social centers of the village, where Indians and whites alike met to do their trading. Doubtless about the fireplace on a winter evening could have been found such benders of the village as John Staley Wynant, Reub Williams, "Billy" Williams, George R. Thralls and that Indian boy who always was a favorite with the whites- Bill Squawbuck. Here they would swap fish and their stories about as they might have been, but not exactly as they were. The old corner was a common hangout where the village damsels could buy for less than a shilling such common delicacies as dried apples, smoked herring, stick candy, filberts, prunes and tangerines. In the barrel in one corner was to be found some of the best whiskey of the day which was traded to the Indians for furs, unless they preferred blankets or trinkets, all of which were kept on hand by the traders of the day. Common store whiskey was also known as fusel oil or tanglefoot. It was sold by most all grocerymen until after the Civil war. This building stood on this corner for a quarter of a century and was torn down in 1860. The editor of "The Northern Indianian" wrote the following lament in the issue for Thursday, May 31, 1860.

"The old one-story frame building, known of late years as Stapleford's Corner, was torn down one day last week. This was one of the first buildings erected in Warsaw and has been standing nearly one-quarter of a century. It was built and occupied first by W. J. Pope, Esq., as a store. In the spring of 1838, Samuel L. Craig had a small stock of goods there. He died in the fall of that year which was known as the sickly year and was buried without much ceremony by the few who were able to help. All old settlers remember the sickly season of 1838.

"At the time the old house was occupied by W. J. Pope. Our esteemed fellow townsman, William Williams was his confidential clerk and Indian trader. Later Daniel Underhill sold goods in the same house and lost all he had and more too. Many a gallon of 'sugar-water' was sold there in those days and some Wabash too, for just as much money, but not quite so much drunk. It was here that the sharp trader bought the white coonskins at big figures and then the Indians would laugh and say "Some white men call them 'possum' sometimes."

"We remember about the first trading we ever did in the old house. We had been on a road surveying expedition with Uncle Ike Kirkendall, Enos Willets and others. It was a cold turn and deep snow. In the thick woods east of the Little Turkey Prairie, we found a raccoon in a hackberry tree, caught and killed him, then carried him by turns for two days in a knapsack. At last Ike and the writer threw up a copper-heads or tails-for the coon and we won. This coon we traded at the old store for two pounds of store coffee.

"But the old house is immolated-torn down by the ruthless hand of modern improvement to make room, as we suppose for a finer and more costly edifice. Soon the last pioneer will be borne away, but a few now remain, and, like the old house, they will give up and make room for a more polished and grateful race; whether a more honest or nobler one remains to be seen."

Such is one of the many writeups concerning the passing of an old landmark which appears in the papers of long ago. Just what, if anything, was built on the corner after Stapleford's grocery was torn down is not known. In a house to the north, a frame building still standing was the home of Dr. John K. Leedy, whose card appears in the papers all during the late fifties and early sixties. Dr. Leedy had come to Warsaw in 1849 from Richland county, Ohio, as a young man about thirty years of age. He had married Miss Regina M. Chapman, only daughter of Hon. John B. Chapman, founder of Warsaw. During the Civil war he was a surgeon in the army. His jovial disposition did much toward the healing of his patients, as much perhaps as his calomel and quinine. When Dr. Leedy first arrived in town the three doctors already in the field here were Stacy, Crihfield and Whitinger. Stacy was once the town postmaster. After Dr. Leedy returned from the war he built the fine brick house at the southwest corner of Columbia and Fort Wayne streets where he was permitted to enjoy life but a few years. In February of 1876 he contracted lung fever and died quite suddenly. The funeral was attended by a large concourse of friends.

It was in the early eighties or late seventies that the Bash mansion was built. Surrounding the site at this time were frame buildings to the south. Mrs. John Lane had a jewelry store on the southwest corner of Lake and Market streets and west of it was the town calaboose. The latter was built purposely, as the editor would have us believe, for the overflow of Democrats on big rally days. North of the site were more frames one of which was the old Losure Tavern, which had been on the corner since 1836. To the southwest was the home of Braddock Cosgrove, the general contractor of that day. A white frame church stood on Cosgrove's corner which was known as the Cosgrove meeting house. To the southwest was the new Lesh factory and beyond it the Ironclad warehouse of A. J. Mershon. Across the marsh to the west the new Catholic church overlooked the community. Where the Pennsylvania depot now stands was a hill on which reposed a cotillion of old mansions dating back to the forties from which the sweet strains of "The Arkansas Traveler" and "Golden Slippers" stole forth from the violin and organ until the wee wee hours of the morning when nothing was left to dance but Mike Fitzgerald's ghost.

Dr. J. M. Bash who built the Bash mansion came to Warsaw in 1877 from the vicinity of Indianapolis. Born in 1848, he had worked his way to the front and had graduated from Indiana Medical College in 1874. Not long after coming to Warsaw, he married Miss Elizabeth Wallace, daughter of Samuel Wallace of near North Galveston (now Clunette). The Wallaces were among the wealthiest families on the prairie. The three brothers Samuel, Moses and Washington* came to this county from Greenbrier county in Virginia together with a wealthy old bachelor known as Uncle John Bringolf. Elizabeth Wallace and her sister, Jennie Wallace were know as two of the most beautiful girls in Prairie township. Jennie became the bride of Jeff Quick, a silversmith and jeweler on Center street. They resided on the northeast corner of Washington and Market streets. Elizabeth became the bride of young Dr. Bash and resided on the next corner east. Another couple of beautiful girls on the prairie at this time were the Hall girls, living two miles east of North Galveston. It seemed that the broad stretches of Little Prairie were conducive to that school girl complexion which never fades.

Fifty years ago the Bash mansion was by far the finest house in Warsaw. All the interior finishing was of the best of wood. The rooms were all spacious and the walls decorated with pretty designs. Brussels carpets were on the floors. Some of the floor space as in the front hall had a tiled floor. The stairway was a work of art. Several fireplaces heated the house together with a furnace in a brick building to the northwest, the steam being piped into the lower rooms. There was a full basement under the whole house. In the upper rooms where the round windows were in the towers was a large garret in which there was a large storage tank for water which was pumped by a force pump in the kitchen. To the northwest was an excellent barn, where Al Means, a colored servant, took care of the fast horses that the doctor owned. It was a day of race horses. When the stone masons were erecting the courthouse Dr. Bash contracted for a stone fence at a cost of over four thousand dollars, the most elaborate boundary line that has ever existed in the city. This was about 1882. It was the day of large houses. Thralls had built the first one back in the forties, the first brick house in Warsaw. The Oldfathers, the Chapmans, the Gibsons, the Conrads, the Thayers, the Frazers, and the Funks, all had mansions in the east part of the city. On the west side reposed the mansions of the McSherrys, the Bolloms, the Leedys, the Encells, the Runyans and the Moons. The Bash mansion, however outshone them all in beauty of design and in dignity and splendor. For a long time it was home to a family that has meant much to the city's growth. Two children, Wallace and Flint, were reared on the premises. The yard and barn furnished a place for the boys of the day to play black man, hide-and-go-seek, and chalk the rabbit. Lettie Helms, a trusted and faithful helper, who had worked for Samuel Wallace, was in charge of the Bash mansion during all the time that the Bashes lived there. During his high school days the writer was the doctor's general roustabout and official adviser on all matters pertaining to the furnace and the Jersey cow.

The Bash lot was chosen for a site for the postoffice about thirteen years ago. The home was then owned by the sole survivor of the family, Flint Bash. It was sold to Uncle Sam for ten thousand dollars, the price that the government had set aside to pay. At the time several others were considered. The Oldfather site across from the present library was on the list. The Funk corner south of the Methodist church was considered. A site west of the jail was talked about. On account of price or other reasons all were dropped from the list except the Bash site. Shortly after selling the property Flint Bash moved to a more modern home on the southeast corner of Washington and Main streets. For the last eight or ten years the old mansion has been vacant. What took months to build is now being torn down by the ruthless hand of progress and another landmark will soon be only a pleasant memory on the yellow stained pages of the great "Book of Time."

* The three brothers who emigrated from Virginia were Samuel, Moses and Alexander. Their brother, Washington Wallace lived his life out on the Wallace homestead in Virginia.

Bash Mansion, Corner of Lake and Market Streets, Warsaw

Warsaw Daily Times October 25, 1930

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