Our County History
by County Historian Marion W. Coplen

Probably many of our readers remember the time when our cities were illuminated by gaslights. Perhaps a few could name some of the local men who held the rather romantic position of "lamplighter." A short time ago Mrs. Elmer Funk handed us a clipping entitled "The Old Lamplighter," which has caused us to seek information concerning the day of the gaslight in our county. We are hoping that some of our readers might supply us with additional information, perhaps even a picture, of the gaslight era in our county.

In the early history of most of our towns there was no such things as street lights. When darkness came, every respectable person was expected to be at home. Very little can be found in either the 1879 Atlas or the 1887 County History concerning street lighting. It is probable that there were no lighted streets in our county prior to 1880.

The gaslights which were installed in Warsaw were set on a standard perhaps ten feet high. At first the flame was in the open, but in later years mantles were put over the light, thus producing more effective illumination. However, old timers report that at best Warsaw was a dark place in comparison with conditions today. Only the business district and a small portion of the residential area was lighted. Also there were lights only at corners, although Wall street, where most of the saloons were located, was furnished extra illumination.

The article which Mrs. Funk loaned us quotes a lamplighter as saying: "Some people know us because it's just ending daylight when we come around with the torch. It looks like an easy job to them. But that's because they never see us when we have to get up at half past four or five and go around turning all the lights out again." This article contains an illustration showing the lamplighter climbing a ladder to apply the torch to the burner. We have been told, however, that the Warsaw lamplighters remained on the ground, turning on the gas and applying the torch with a long pole.


Warsaw Times-Union Tues. Mar. 30, 1954