Warsaw in 1880-81 - Some Local History

by George A. Nye

In the early 1880's we will remember that the world was not supposed to last much longer. Mother Shipton of the 15th century made a prophecy that--
"Carriages without horses shall go--
Around the world thoughts shall fly
In the twinkling of an eye--
The world then to an end shall come
In eighteen hundred and eighty-one."
This little poem of some twenty lines created quite a stir in 1881, but when the first day of January, 1882, dawned bright and fair, people had about as much faith in Mother Shipton as did the renegade Wea Indians have for the one-eyed prophet after the Battle of Tippecanoe.

During the years 1880 and 1881 Warsaw had a population roughly placed at 3,300. In twenty-five years the population had quadrupled, for in 1857 it was listed at 822. We were in 1880-81 just getting introduced to gas. J. D. Kutz had come here as the first gas man, superintended building the gas plant, laying the pipes, and the dispensing of the new fluid.

Gas Plant Established
Twenty gas posts were ordered by the city council, these to be placed at strategic places up town--such as Runyan & Millice's book store corner, at Gibson's store in the Moon block, and at such places as Harry Oram's corner, Market and Lake streets, and Hitzler's corner at Center and Lake streets. It was a common belief that leaking gas had killed about 150 shade trees in town, so the company was ordered to investigate the new pipe lines to see that none were leaking. The placing of the mains across Buffalo street in front of Pyle's drug store called forth an article from the pen of General Reub Williams entitled "The Old Cat Swamp" which he said used to be in Buffalo street from the old book store corner south to the alley at the Lake City bank. He had seen wagons mired in front of the drug store site until the axle touched the mud.

Gas was not thought of for cooking at this time but was much desired for lighting. They had no mantles but just the bare flame. It was perhaps some better than a coal-oil lamp, but not very much. To make the proper effect rooms were darkened and then the gas lights lit. Robert Ingersoll made the famous talk at his brother's funeral standing beside the casket in a darkened room in which the gas-lights were lighted during the day. Lesh & Matthews' factory was a large establishment that John Eicher piped in 1881 for gas. The twenty posts were increased, until in 1895 the writer remembers many gas posts about the residence district which required the services of George Crist as lighter and globe-swabber. It is said that many miles of gas-pipes were used in a new home being built for Vanderbilt in New York City. The gas craze swept over the country just as did the canal craze of the 20s, the railroad craze after the Civil war, and the automobile craze of our own day. Every epoch of history has, it seems, its own particular guiding star.

Present Court House
There was much building going on here at this time. The new court house was begun in the spring of 1881. The old one was sold t Amos Thompson Shaw Kist for $130, and the brick office building that sat just north of the courthouse sold to A. W. Thomas for $290. He tore this down and built two brick homes just south of the railroad on Columbia street which are still standing sadly in need of repair. Kist had William Dickensheets and Austin Funk tear down the old court house and sell the lumber. Much of it went into a barn out west of town, which barn unfortunately burned up. A lathing hatchet was found in the wall and returned to its owner, William Williams, who as a young man in 1844 helped to build this house of justice. The hatchet was one made by Philip Lash, our first blacksmith, who lived out on South Buffalo near the creek. Williams prized the hatchet as a rare souvenir. Williams, but far our best known citizen of early times, now lies in a grave at Oakwood marked only by a small tombstone furnished by the United States government. It seems that a man who swayed large audiences all over Indiana, who represented us in congress, who built much of Warsaw's business district, a man who was sent by Garfield to Montevideo as charge d'affaires, should have a more fitting tomb. Whatever became of the hatchet is a mystery.

Other Buildings in That Year
The building of the new court house caused henry Lathrope to build opposite to the east. His saloon had for years been a landmark. Hendee & Wright built on Buffalo street just south of the present Globe. Hendee's hall became a favorite place in which to trip the light fantastic toe. Hendee & Glessner were pioneer boot and shoe men of the town. Selden Webber also built his building in the fall of 1881 on West Market street east of Lake street. so cold was the weather when this was being completed that they warmed both brick and mortar. Webber then moved from the present Globe building to his new location and H. M. Zekind & Company started there a one-price clothing store, the forerunner of the Globe. I. J. Morris and Oliver P. Jaques built the two brick business rooms north of the Opera House block at this time. There was considerable agitation for a water-works, but this was to come later. The Presbyterians started a new brick church on the southwest corner of Market and High streets, the congregation having outgrown the old frame church which they sold to the newly organized United Brethren congregation. Daniel Deeds skidded it to the west part of town on bobsled runners during the winter. The same bell that hung in this old frame church is now still used in the present U. B. church. It would take much space to tell of all the building of the time, but among the projects were Gibson's house, now the K. P. hall, the old Bash mansion where the postoffice is now, the Fred Hessel home on Lake street where the Standard Oil corner is now and the brick rooms back of the present Lantz & Dufur drug store. These were built by Funk Brothers, who were then in the dry goods business.

Old National Bank
In the late fall of 1881 the State Bank was organized out of the old organization known as the First National Bank. The latter had been founded in August, 1863, and so had run for eighteen years and four months. In the new organization William C. Graves was president, A. O. Catlin, cashier, and Peter L. Runyan, teller. As the State Bank it continued to serve the people for half a century. At this time it was in the first room west of the Opera House block but it soon moved to the Boss block on Market and Buffalo. Tuesdays and Fridays were discount days. The Lake City Bank in 1881 had as its president Hudson Beck, a former merchant, and as its cashier, Albion Beck, son of Hudson Beck and Mary Johnson, daughter of our first school superintendent. Amongst the directors of the Lake City Bank at this time were Jackson Glessner, Washington Bybee, H. B. Stanley, C. C. Reynolds, John Grabner, Hiram Hall, Ed Moon and Metcalf Beck, pioneer merchant of Leesburg. This bank was in a new room built by Williams & Hossler after the fire of 1871, the same room which the bank now occupies. Before their day the only bank Warsaw had was the Bank of Warsaw, run by Billy Williams before the Civil war.

Extensive Ice Industry in 1881
Perhaps the greatest single industry in Warsaw in these years was the ice industry. This industry employed about three hundred men for about six weeks in the winter and a large crew during the summer. The ice had to be packed carefully so it would not start sliding and form itself into a miniature glacier, burst the side out of the ice house or do some other damage. If things were right during the harvest one ton of ice could be put away every minute. In the 80s Warsaw had storage room for 150,000 tons of ice. Ice houses were owned by Jaques & Oldfather, John Collins, Shurick & Leedy, Crowley, Myers & Co. and C. W. Chapman. Chapman's houses were on the west side of Eagle lake. Good judges estimated that the cost of putting up the ice was 25 cents a ton. About 46,000 tons were moved out of Warsaw requiring 3,285 cars. The ice was so clear that a newspaper could be read through a block ten inches thick. These ice houses stood about on our lakes until some ten or fifteen years ago when several mysteriously burned up. In 1866 William Haas, father of Richard Haas and the late Ed Haas, purchased the strip of ground east of Center lake and west of the Goshen road for $300 the parcel containing 8 1/2 acres. In 1881 he sold to the Peru Ice Company about four acres of it for $5,600 and 20 feet to C. W. Chapman for $300 so acute was the situation at that time. The first ice house erected in town--and probably in the county-- was one put up by Sinner Philpott or "The Old Sinner" as he delighted to call himself. His partner was Mr. Julian. This was on his property on North lake street about where Washington street enters. He sold ice from an old wagon pulled by a yoke of yearling steers. From 1854 to 1865 Philpott had a monopoly on the ice business, for Julian sold his interests in 1855. Philpott charged people who were able to pay, but gave ice free of charge to poor people who were ill. His icehouse probably held one hundred tons.

An Interesting Trait
In 1857 there was a general failure of ice and some parties came here from Cincinnati and offered Mr. Philpott a tempting amount for all his ice. He replied that he had put it up for Warsaw people and that he intended to keep it for them. Philpott had had much left over from the 1856 crop, this winter being a cold one. From 1865 to 1869 William Augustine had a [ice] house on North Lake street and supplied the town He also had a brewery. In the fall of 1868 David Huffman built a [ice] house near the same site. In 1864 Lang & Randels built a brewery about where the Phillipson home now is. Huffman was the first to ship ice from Warsaw. He shipped it in gunny bags or coffee sacks to Plymouth, Pierceton and Columbia City. He was a good-hearted, reckless, careless fellow and finally went out of business in 1875. In 1874 Mr. Collins, father of the late John Collins, came here from Wabash and built houses on Detroit street holding 3,000 tons. In 1876 Jaques & Oldfather built four houses just south of Collins. In 1878 they added four more rooms. Crowley, Myers & Co., built four on Pike lake about this time. Such is a brief sketch of the industry during the first fifty years of our history. Ice harvesting always ended with an oyster supper at Frank Manchester's, Charley Crosspitch's, Tom Terry's or John Baril's restaurant. Perry Brown, William Haas, Bob Hickman, Henry Lathrope, Cal Wilshire, G. W. Bennett & Son and Jackman & Son, all had private icehouses to serve their saloons, restaurants and meat markets.

Amusements of that Period
Amusements, of course, change as the years go by. Today we have seen pass the pewee golf craze, the jig-saw puzzle tornado, and the jou-jou wave. The postcard movement came and went fifteen years ago. In the nineties there was a grand wave for buttons worn on the coat saying "Just because she made them goo-goo eyes," and "Oh! You Kid," and other such phrases. In the 80's it was still possible to get a good crowd at the Opera House to see "Ten Nights in a Barroom." James Whitcomb Riley appeared here to a crowded house to read some of his poems. E. M. Crane and company played "Rip Van Winkle" here to a good house. Every New Year's day it was customary to keep open house and to advertise the same, so that visitors would know where to visit. A literary at a country school called forth its quota of townspeople. Schools near here were the Swihart school, the Holbrook school, the Kelly school, and Walton's or Walnut Creek school. Spelling schools and singing schools were well attended. Henry Goshert, who lives in Warsaw now, was then one of the active teachers in day school. At night he would travel long distances to teach singing school.

Another popular amusement of the day was walking marathons. So me were held here in the Opera House, in which the contestants would walk for usually six days. Blind man's bluff, home-sheep-run, chalk the rabbit, hide-and-go-seek, all of these and other games furnished amusement to the youngsters. The country still abounded with game. There were many places to fish, and many ponds in our lowlands furnished the young folks a place to skate. All of these, with hopping bobs, jumping logs, hopping trains, staging fist fights, sponsoring shows in hay-mows and getting up fish fries at kids' shanties, kept young America occupied most of the time. Once or twice every summer a big show came to town traveling through on wagons. It never carried any more than it advertised; the great herds of elephants, camels, and rhinos usually shrunk to one or two specimens before the grand performance reached Warsaw. It appears that the showgrounds were somewhere on South Buffalo street.

In the Business section
Miscellaneously we might associate the following events and facts with the years 1880-81 in Warsaw: Mrs. Harry Oram had been head of the dressmakers at N. D. Heller's big department store in the Opera House block. Heller quite business in 1881 and Mrs. Oram started a shop in her home on the present "Daily Times" corner. Joe Campfield, who had worked for Heller for 18 months, went to work for Scott & Bartol. It was the day of Henry Lathrope's Juvenile band. Hans Swanson was section boss on the railroad, succeeding Tim Leighton. J. R. Nye and sons, Charley and William, had a butcher shop where Schrock's are now on Market street. Andy Pollock ran a boarding house and was one of their best customers. Jackman & Son and Milice Bros. were others in the butcher business. The late Lew Dunnuck was a well-known United Brethren minister. A. W. Hayward had a boot and shoe store. Driven wells were something new, and a person wanting to drive one had to pay a royalty of $10. This however, soon blew over. School cards were for sale at Moon's The teacher that did not give his children a pretty card at the end of the school year was given a nolle pros, to say nothing of a de bonis non.

Wilbur F. Maish Sr., was teaching at the Swihart school. George M. Alford's sawmill on South Detroit street burned. Jacob J. Fogle, who had lived here since 1855, died in 1880. He was a former stagecoach diver for Peter L. Runyan, and for several years was a clerk at the Kirtley House. W. H. Ripple was selling Roth and McGrew buggies. Professor Sturgis was in charge of our schools. Orin B. Clark, son of S. B. Clark, was professor of Greek and English at Indiana university where there were 349 students enrolled. H. C. Milice and John H. Shoup were both building new residences in the west part of town. The former is now the Pfleiderer home. Flouring mills were going strong at Monoquet and Oswego. George Ettinger was in charge of the Thayer mill west of the public square. Eugene Williams was a familiar character at the postoffice where Capt. John N. Runyan was in charge. Gad Phillips worked at the Corner Book store. Dexter Biddelcome had a barber shop under Thomas' drug store. The Catholics had a big fair in Webber's new hall and Kist tore down the fence that for twenty years had graced the public square.

And so closes another act in the drama entitled "The History of Warsaw."

Warsaw Daily Times and The Northern Indianian Saturday, October 7, 1933

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