Royse One of Warsaw's
Most Popular Mayors

by George Nye

This is the fourth in a series of articles, written for The Times-Union by County Surveyor George Nye on the history of Warsaw mayors. The first three articles dealt with the regimes of Hiram Biggs, William Cosgrove and Edward J. Green, respectively.

Lemuel Willard Royse was mayor of Warsaw from 1885 to 1891.

Royse came from a family that settled in this county in 1835. His parents were G. W. A. Royse and Nancy Chopin Royse who came here from New Hampshire. L. W. Royse was born on a farm south of the present site of Pierceton on Jan. 19, 1848. His father was a Methodist minister who rode the circuit. He was also a teacher and it is said that he taught the first school in this county. In 1836 he and William Felkner, of Milford, took the enumeration for Kosciusko county. Felkner taking the west half and Royse the east half.

The elder Royse died in 1858 and L. W. at the early age of 11 began to work for a farmer of this county where he stayed until he was 16. He attended what schools Warsaw afforded at this time and by diligent reading on his own accord prepared himself to teach school. He taught at Wooster several terms.

About 25 years ago, Royse wrote an article for the Daily Times concerning his life around Ryerson's mills in the days when the stage coach ran from Fort Wayne to Plymouth. In these early years he accepted the responsibility of caring for his aged mother.

Joins Edgar Haymond
In 1872, L. W. began to read law in the offices of Frazer and Encell in Warsaw. He had a voracious appetite for good reading and could retain much of what he read. About 1873 he was admitted to the bar and became a partner with Edgar Haymond. The firm of Haymond and Royse is advertised in the Indianans for these years.

In 1883 Royse married Miss Belle McIntyre at Hillsdale, Mich. In 1876 he became prosecuting attorney and in 1885 he was elected mayor of Warsaw. From 1894 to 1898 he served this district in congress at Washington, D. C. From 1904 to 1908 he was judge of the Kosciusko circuit court. Judge Bowser followed him from 1908 to 1920. Royse then took the judgeship again and held it with distinction for two terms, retiring from office in 1932 at the age of 85.

For many years the firm Royse and Shane was advertised in the papers. Their offices were in the present telephone building. Judge Royse was interested in religious work and attended the Presbyterian church where he taught the men's Bible class. Royse died in 1946 at the advanced age of 98. He was a good speaker, and able lawyer and an intelligent citizen. It is doubtful if Kosciusko county has ever produced a more outstanding man than Royse.

Built Water Works
It was during his time as mayor that Warsaw began to have city water. Several costly fires had awakened the city dads to the need of better fire protection. A water works plant was built on lots sold to the city by Perry Jaques. Six miles of water mains were laid on your streets and hydrants put on the main corners. On July 20, 1886 the new system was tested by shooting four streams of water over the court at one time. The day of fire cisterns in town was definitely over.

One of the first fires that tested the new setup was at Thomas and Manley's mill at Center and Columbia streets. This burned Jan. 10, 1887 when the temperature was below zero. On Aug. 9, 1886 after sunset, 22 electric arc lights were turned on and Warsaw's uptown streets were lighted by electricity for the first time. Gas was an improvement over kerosene lamps but electricity was to prove a much bigger improvement over gas. Gas lights, however were used a decade longer to light the streets in the outlying districts. Arc lights were used at most of the main crossings for about 25 years.

The change in the water system caused three fire departments to be formed. The Lesh Hose company was on West Market street, the East End Hose company was at Scott street a block north of Center, and the Center company was at Center and Indiana streets.

The old steamer was sold to J. D. Kutz who took it to Spring park for watering lawns. If there was a fire in town it was broadcast by the Lesh whistle, the tolling of the Baptist church bell and the blowing of the siren whistle at the water works. This was the signal for the drays in town to make a run to the fire houses and connect up to a hose cart or the hook and ladder wagon. There were no bad fires in town during the mayorship of Royse.

Gas Boom On
In the late 1880's there was much boring for natural gas in and around Warsaw. A gas boom had been on in the counties south of us. In fact gas was so plentiful there that it was left burning day and night rather than to hire someone to turn it off and light it again. A gas company was formed in Warsaw at $1,000 a share. John Robinson, father of Herb Robinson came here to do the boring. One well was on West Center near the Eagle Creek bridge, another was on South Indiana street. Boring went as deep as 1,900 feet. At 600 feet on South Indiana street they struck an excellent vein of magnetic water. Although the borings continued to as deep as 1,900 feet no gas was found.

Gas was supposed to be associated with Trenton rock. A man named Booher who lived at Findlay, O., was brought here to solve the problem. This man was so constituted physically that whenever he was standing over a pocket of natural gas he would have a funny feeling especially in his neck and go through a sort of a dance. He was taken around over the terrain here in town but experienced no such feeling. However, at Orion where the railroad crosses the river he registered quite emphatically and they bored for gas there but found none. Booher charge $50 a day for his peculiar services.

In spite of the discouragement of others Will and Joe Thorne decided to sink a well on some land they owned near Monoquet and take whatever came up, be it natural gas, crude oil, benzene, turpentine, pop, lemonade or milkshake! The well on South Indiana street reached a depth of 600 feet and a fine flow of magnetic water came up charged with iron. Sam Oldfather, who owned the ground, thought it cured him of his rheumatism and so he started a sanitarium. People came there, drank the water, bathed in it and claimed they went home cured. The well flowed for some years and was called the jag well.

Form Resort Group
It was during the time that Royse was mayor that the Warsaw Summer Resort association was formed. John Widaman, Jack Glessner, Dr. Webber, Clave Gilliam, Sam Oldfather, Amos Kist, Wilbur Maish, W. H. Simmons and W. D. Frazer were some of the company. A tract of land was purchased on the western shore of Pike lake and Lakeside park was started. It was a popular resort for about 20 years. Two steamers were on the lake to take people on a tour of all the bays and beaches. A large boathouse housed the two steamers which were in charge of Del Middleton. It was here that the steamers would load and unload.

The upper story of the boathouse was used as a dance hall. Here to the tune of Blackberry Quadrille, The Girl I left Behind Me, Captain Jinks or other hoe-down tunes, the dancing couples would trip the light fantastic toe until far into the night.

Forty rods or so north of the boathouse was a bathhouse. Here the swimmers could go down a roller coaster on a sled and scoot out into the deep water. A good restaurant was back in the trees and north of it a grotto where there was a flowing well.

Over to the northwest was a tabernacle where meetings could be held. It seated about 1,000 people. The grounds were well kept and the flowers and beautiful trees made it really a delightful place to hold a picnic or to go to on the Fourth of July. Sunday school picnics would be held here. The cars that the picnickers came in would be sidetracked until evening when they would be ready to go home. With the "Y" at the railroad junction either railroad could reach the park.

Big Fourth Program
The Fourth of July program would be climaxed by a grand balloon ascension. Prof. Ira Crowl or Prof. Herbert Kehler would go up with the balloon into the thermal firmament and when about out of sight would pull the cord and come down in a parachute perhaps landing several miles from the park. A boy having 50 cents or a dollar to spend on the glorious fourth was rich. Pop was five cents, pie five cents, sandwiches five cents, and a big dish of ice cream cost only a dime. The gate to the park was on Park avenue near Arthur. General admission was as low as 10 cents. Near the entrance were some pretty flower beds and a large fountain.

Reub Williams said lakeside park was to common a name for the place because there were already 2,000 lakeside parks in the U.S.A. and Canada with all of Europe to be heard from.

Two leading items of national news during the time Royse was Mayor were that in June, 1986, at the White House President Grover Cleveland and Frances Folsum were married, and in 1890 Nellie Bly, a reporter from the New York World, went around the world in less than 80 days. She travelled alone and was met at her stopping places over the long trail by large crowds of people.

Warsaw Times Union Friday March 4, 1955

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