Elect William Cosgrove
Warsaw Mayor in 1879

by George Nye

This is the second in a series of articles written for the Times-Union by County Surveyor George Nye on former mayors of the city of Warsaw. This story concerns William Cosgrove who served as mayor from 1879 to 1882.

William Cosgrove was 67 years of age when he was elected mayor in May, 1879. Cosgrove had come west with his folks in 1817. They came from New Jersey in a one-horse wagon. He and his brother, Bradford, were working at the carpenters' trade at South Bend in 1843 when our commissioners advertised for bids for building a courthouse on the public square. The Cosgroves were the successful bidders and came to Warsaw about 1844 to live.

About this time William formed a partnership with another young man about the village, George Moon and Moon & Cosgroves General store east of the new courthouse was the main trading place of the new community. In 1849 they built a brick store building at the southwest corner of Buffalo and Center streets which was the first brick store room in town. The Cosgroves also built the Globe building about 1856 which is another oldtimer. Billy Cosgrove later bought the brick mill on Union street and put out a good brand of flour for several years. This mill had been built about 1857 by Heller & Gallentine.

Cosgrove married Lydia A. Carty, of South Bend, and their daughter, Josephine, married N. N. Boydston, and their daughter, Blanche, is now Mrs. (Dr.) John White of Winona Lake.

Built Schools
In 1872 the Cosgroves were contractors for three new school-houses in Warsaw and in 1870 built one in Pierceton. The Billy Cosgrove family used to live where the Sears store is now, and in the Civil war days there used to be a frame church on that corner known as the Cosgrove meeting house. It was a New School Presbyterian.

During the four years that Cosgrove was mayor Warsaw had a rather slow growth but with all it was a busy place where they handled much lumber and grain. N. N. Boydston was a lumber dealer at this time.

Some new houses were built at this time. One was by Oldfather on the southwest corner of Detroit and Center; another by Gibson at the northeast corner of Center and High streets, another by Billy Williams on Indiana street which in later years became the McDonald hospital and another was one by J. B. Roberds on South Buffalo.

The Gibson house is about to be torn down by Wilbur (Doc) Gill so as to enlarge his motel. A good many of these old houses built in close to town are now used as apartment houses. Several have been torn down and the site used for a filling station. In the days when they were built the families could hire girls to do the house work and the cooking for $2 a week and their keep but that day is gone forever. In 1879 women worked uptown very little as compared to today, and those that did work had jobs making cigars, clerking in a dry goods store, or working at dressmaking or in a millinery store where they made women's hats from the frame up.

Had 6 Councilmen
Billy Cosgrove's councilmen were Jim Cisney, Daniel Deeds, Perry Jaques, Nelson Nutt, Tom Nye and Levi Zumbrum. The marshal was John Killinger whose main business was looking after the streets and alley and locking up drunks in the caliboose. Jake Thralls got in this thing once and he put up a sign "smallpox" on the door and people walked on the north side of the street where the postoffice is now.

W. H. Wheeler was superintendent of schools during these years and was the first man to grade the schools. In the spring of 1879 he graduated the first class which consisted of three girls, Belle Weimer, Mary Shaffer and Alice Carpenter. Wheeler stayed only a few years and then went to Chicago where he became a publisher.

These were days of much amusement about town. Shindigs were held in some vacant hall if a few fiddlers could be coaxed into playing. Jake Thralls and Nate McConnell used to lead them off sometimes with "Ragtime Annie," "Soldiers Joy," "Pop Goes the Weasle," or some other popular tune.

Summer picnics were held at McCauley's landing across Center lake. Ice cream and strawberry festivals held on the courthouse lawn by some church group were always well attended. the town had about a dozen saloons and Saturday night the rowdies would go on a bender so that Buffalo street the next morning looked like a small cyclone had struck it.

Horse Races Popular
On Sunday afternoon there would be some fine turnouts in the way of horse and buggies, for some of the well-to-do vied with each other to see who could have the finest rig. About this time the fair grounds were just east of Scott street and reached out to Bronson. Here was some good horse racing when the track was solid.

In the wintertime sleigh riding was a pleasure and bobsled parties would go to Leesburg or Pierceton and after having some oyster stews they would return. These things with hunting, fishing, playing baseball, ice skating, etc. constituted the pleasure of the day when nobody ever dreamed of radio, television, and the many amusements we have now to take up our time.

It was considered a good joke to get a sign, say at Eli Snyders Occidental hotel, saying "Bar Room" and nail it up over the door of Sinner Philpott's fish and jewelry store a block away. These were also the days of big fish. Sinner Philpott who lived on North Lake street a few blocks north of Main street, caught a 27 pound pike and fed all his friends. Os Funk, who ran a saloon, caught a 45 pound turtle and made 11 gallons of turtle soup to feed his customers.

West Lures Many
Covered wagons went through Warsaw bound for Minnesota. The west lured many people so that even some from Warsaw went out to Kansas. Pottenger sold out his drug store and went to Hiawatha, Kan., to live. Once in a while a big, long rough-looking gentleman would get off the train here and go down the street with a giant stride. He was the immortal J. N. Free. Reub Williams of the Indianian would always give him a puff in the paper. He called the immortal J. N. the great jiasticutus of the age and would say that J. N. would lift the veil at Empire hall that evening and let light shine out through the darkness of tribulation, etc.

J. N. was a former lawyer from around Upper Sandusky. It was said that he never paid any fare on a railroad and yet they let him ride. He was a queer character who was still making visits to Warsaw in the 1890's.

The Indianian at this time was being published in a new building which is now used by the Lake City Bank. It had over 2,000 subscribers. The editor, Reub Williams, was well known and was not slow in publishing anything that he thought was good for the city. He stood firmly for civic improvement and his articles during a campaign gave the people to understand that he was a dyed in the wool republican who had gained the rank of Brevet Brigadier General in the Civil War. He was a personal friend of General Sherman and accompanied him on the famous March to the Sea.

Warsaw Times Union Friday February 11, 1955