My Thoughts About One of My Favorite Places--Northeastern Indiana's Amish Country

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Shipshewana Walldogs, Part Sixteen: M. Y. Miller General Merchandise

For the last of my series on the sixteen murals painted by the Shipshe Walldogs in summer 2014, I took a closer look at the M.Y. Miller General Merchandise mural.  This one can be found on the north side of the Forks Grocery building on State Road 5, and it is the northernmost of the murals.

Who was M.Y. Miller?  I thought I might have trouble with this one, since “Miller” is such a common name in the area.  But since the mural showed the year “1925” on the calendar, I went to and started with the 1930 census.  And there he was, Mahlon Y. Miller.  (And with a first name like “Mahlon,” it’s no wonder he used initials!)

In 1930 Mahlon Y. Miller, age 42, and wife Bessie lived with 7-year-old son Robert on Morton Street in a home they owned valued at $1000.  His occupation was “proprietor, general store.”  He is listed as a World War One veteran, which led me to look for his draft card.

Mahlon’s 1917 draft card says he is 30 years old and medium in height and build, with brown eyes and dark brown hair.  He was born in Lagrange County, Indiana in 1887.  His occupation was clerk in the general store of J.E. Sunthimer, who was the subject of another post in this series.  He claimed exemption from the draft due to a dependent, his wife.  But he was drafted anyway, as the May 18, 1918 issue of the Fort Wayne News & Sentinel reported that he and seventeen other local boys were headed for Camp Zachary Taylor, Kentucky for training.  So, when was he married?

I next found an Indiana marriage record.  Mahlon was married to Miss Bessie Alberta Nelson in November 1910.  So, Mahlon should be on his own in the 1910 census and married in the 1920 census.

Sure enough, the 1910 census shows Mahlon living with his parents, Yost and Elizabeth, and his younger siblings.  He is 23 and works as a clerk in an unnamed grocery store.  It appears Mahlon was destined for the retail trade from his youth.

The 1920 census shows Mahlon working as a clerk in the Sunthimer store, now being run by J.E.’s son Charles after his father’s death.  Mahlon and Bessie own a house on Middlebury Street, right next door to Mahlon’s boss, Charles Sunthimer.  So, Mahlon opened his own store some time between the 1920 census and the date of 1925 shown on the mural. 

The 1940 census tells us that he is still the operator of his own general store, where his wife Bessie is the clerk.  It’s not an easy life; the week before the census, Bessie put in 30 hours, but Mahlon put in 78.  And in 1939 he worked 52 weeks, so there were no vacations. But he and Bessie and son Robert, now 17 and still in school, had a good life; they owned a home worth $1,600 on Morton Street and lived in the same neighborhood as such entrepreneurs as W.L. Reifsnider and Edward Wolfe.  Not bad for a man with (according to the census) only an 8th grade education.

Mahlon appears in one more record—his World War Two draft card in 1942.  At age 55 he still has a store in Shipshewana.  He is 5’10”, weighs 185 pounds, and has brown eyes and gray hair.  His nearest relative is his wife Bessie. tells us that Mahlon lived to a ripe old age, passing away at age 88 in 1975.  He is buried at Scott Cemetery with his wife Bessie, who predeceased him.

Thank you, Walldogs, for your beautiful work in Shipshewana.  I’m glad I was able to be there to watch you at work.  Your sixteen murals are a wonderful addition to one of my favorite places in the entire world.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

H.E. Bucklen, Medicine Man and Real Estate Tycoon

In my last post, I talked about the Shipshewana Indians baseball team of the early 1900s, which is pictured on one of the Shipshewana Walldogs murals.  The founder of the team, Mr. H.E. Bucklen, had such an intriguing story that I decided not to skimp on it, but save it for another day—so here it is.  It’s my longest post ever, but there’s a lot to tell—and I’m just hitting the highlights!

Bucklen’s full name was Herbert Elijah Bucklen, Sr.  I searched for details about Herbert and his family on, and there was plenty to discover!  Articles from supplied even more details.  This man had a huge paper trail.

Herbert was born in Herkimer County, New York in 1848, but the family relocated to Coldwater, Michigan in the 1850s.  By late 1860 they lived in Elkhart, Indiana and at the time of the 1870 census, Herbert, age 22, was a druggist alongside his father, Isaac Bucklen. 

A biography of Bucklen appeared in The Indianapolis News (8/16/1902).  In it, Bucklen says that he began buying real estate and building small homes when he was a teen, reinvesting the profits in real estate—and by the time he was twenty, he owned 32 houses in Elkhart.  At the same time, he says, he worked in the back room of his father’s pharmacy developing his own special patent medicine—“Bucklen’s Arnica Salve.”  Herbert married a Michigan girl named Bertha Redfield in 1877, and obtained a patent for his salve in 1878.  He and Bertha then moved to Chicago, where he sunk his patent medicine earnings into real estate in the growing city.

The newspaper ads for Bucklen’s Arnica Salve were really something!  I went to and found at eight of them which ran between 1908 and 1911 in various Indiana papers.  Set up like little newspaper articles, they contained such headlines as “Best Healer in the World”—“Frightful Fate Averted”—“It Does the Business”—and “Suffering and Dollars Saved.”

The ads claimed the salve would cure cuts, corns, bruises, burns, boils, ulcers, eczema, old sores, cold sores, fever sores, scalds, scars, cracked lips, chapped hands, chilblains, sore eyes, skin eruptions, salt rheum, gangrene, pimples, and let’s not forget “piles” (hemorrhoids)!  And for the ladies—“Women desiring beauty get wonderful help from Bucklen’s Arnica Salve… It makes the skin soft and velvety.  It glorifies the face.”  Well worth the 25 cents!

Happy users gave testimonials like this one from Frank Disberry of Kelliber, Minnesota:  “I would have been a cripple for life from a terrible cut on my knee cap without Bucklen’s Arnica Salve, which soon cured me.”  Or this one, from Rev. F. Starbird of East Raymond, Maine:  “I have used Bucklen’s Arnica Salve for several years on my old army wound… and find it the best healer in the world.  I use it too with great success in my veterinary business.”  Piles sufferer L.S. Napier of Rugless, Kentucky reported that “when all doctors and other remedies failed, Bucklen’s Arnica Salve cured me.” 

By the 1900 census, Herbert lived at 265 Michigan Avenue in Chicago with his wife and three children.  No occupation is listed.  In 1910, he lives at 281 Wabash with his wife, younger son, and a maid.  Again, no occupation.  But that area of North Michigan and Wabash Avenues was a very wealthy neighborhood, both then and now.  This building (pictured below) was both his home and laboratory facility.

By then Bucklen owned real estate in Chicago, zinc mines in Missouri, gold mines in Colorado, and a great deal of land in northern Indiana—especially Elkhart, where he built a grand opera house in 1884 (shown in this photo) and remodeled a magnificent hotel in 1889.  (Neither building still stands.)  Although Bucklen’s primary residence remained in Chicago, he had a strong presence in Elkhart.  He considered it his true home, and he was listed in its city directories—“occupation, capitalist.”  He sent his son Herbert Jr. to nearby Howe Military School.

 Another of his pet projects was the St. Joseph Valley Line Railroad, built in 1904-1905.  (This was a different railroad line than the more famous Pumpkin Vine Railroad, which ran north from Shipshewana into Michigan.)  The St. Joseph Valley Line was a “traction line” that started in Elkhart and ran east through Bristol, Middlebury, and Shipshewana to Lagrange.  Later a “railway line” extended the Valley Line east from Lagrange through Mongo, Orland, Inverness, Angola, and Berlin to Columbia, Ohio—a total of 70 miles in all.  The section from Elkhart to Bristol operated on electricity; from Bristol to Lagrange by gasoline engine; and from Lagrange to Columbia by steam engine.

When Bucklen was extending his railroad line eastwards from Lagrange to Ohio in 1905, he suggested to the residents of Angola, Indiana, that this would be a boon to their small community.  The millionaire asked the residents for $50,000 to help him with the project.  When they didn’t come up with the money, he was so offended that he decided to build a rival town.  An article in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (11/24/1912) said that the “Arnica Salve King” was planning to “build a city in Steuben County with the express purpose of injuring Angola, against which town he has conceived a grievance.”  But the railroad line did run through Angola, and the rival town (eight miles east of Angola) evidently was never built.

The railroad line was not nearly as profitable as Bucklen hoped—in fact, it lost a lot of money.   Running three kinds of power was complicated and expensive.  Business at the west end was very slow.  Bucklen poured large amounts of his own money into the project to keep it alive, but it was estimated by the Indianapolis News (4/4/1918) that he lost $1,750,000 on the project.  

Out of this interest, he was involved in the area baseball league which included the Shipshewana Indians, who played at a stadium he built on the south side of Shipshewana Lake.  An article in the Indianapolis News (5/30/1905) says, “Mr. Bucklen has prepared a plat for a summer resort at Shipshewana Lake, with streets and avenues and winding drives through the woods.  The resort is expected to attract many Elkhart people who have heretofore spent much time in Michigan.”  Special railroad cars brought fans to the baseball games on Sundays.

At one point Bucklen’s assets were thought to be worth $7,000,000, but when he died in 1917, he left his widow an estate which the Chicago Daily Tribune valued at $1,000,000.  (That would be equal to $17,000,000 today—still a nice chunk of change!)  Due to the popularity of his Arnica Salve, his death was reported in newspapers as far away as Honolulu. 

His wife Clara inherited her husband’s assets—but the Valley Line, managed by their son Herbert Jr., was already in financial trouble which only got worse as 1917-1918 progressed.  A severe winter, a drop of freight traffic, and a wreck in Inverness which produced serious injuries and fatalities were the final blows.  (The advent of the automobile probably didn’t help, either.)  The rail line soon went into receivership in preparation for being both legally and literally dismantled and sold for scrap.    

Bucklen’s funeral was held in Elkhart, and he was buried at Half Acre Cemetery in Cass County, Michigan, along with his wife Bertha.


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Shipshe Walldogs, Part Fifteen: The Shipshewana Indians

This wonderful mural, “Shipshewana Indians,” is found on the side of the Mishler building, in downtown Shipshewana on Morton Street.  Words on the left side say “Every Sunday Afternoon at 2 p.m.” and on the right, “St. Joseph Valley Line – Take the Train to the Game!”  It also says “Est. 1906.”  But even with these clues, I was unable to find any information about the baseball team online.  Luckily, I was able to contact Al Yoder of the Shipshewana Area Historical Society for help.

Mr. Yoder told me that the baseball team was formed from all local players by an Elkhart businessman, a millionaire named H.E. Bucklen.  Mr. Bucklen owned a hotel in Elkhart as well as having investments in Chicago.  He built a railway (the St. Joseph Valley Line) which started in Elkhart, ran east through Shipshewana (south of Shipshewana Lake), and then onwards east to the Ohio state line.  Near Shipshewana Lake, Bucklen built a resort—with a baseball field and stands.

The Shipshewana Indians played their games on Sunday afternoons, as the mural says, and fans came from Elkhart, Lagrange, and all points east.  The Valley Line Railroad ran special cars to accommodate the crowds.  During the games, the railroad cars would sit on a side track near the sawmill in Shipshewana, and then after the game, they would go back to pick up the fans.

The teams of 1907-1909 were especially talented, Al told me.  Fans came from all over northern Indiana and southern Michigan to see them play.  They played teams from neighboring towns like Goshen, Elkhart, and nearby Sturgis, Michigan.  All the players were local lads.  Some of the best were Pete Fahrer and Harry Eash (pitchers); Claude Lupold (catcher); Vern Butts (1st base); James Beecher (2nd base); Leo Hersberger (shortstop); Samuel Curtis  (3rd base); and lastly, Burns Summey, Clifford Sixby, and Jim Lemerck (fielders).

With this information from Mr. Yoder, I was able to do a little more digging.  First of all, I wondered about H.E. Bucklen and his railroad.  (This was a different railroad line than the Pumpkin Vine Railroad, pictured in another Walldogs Mural and written about in another of my posts.)  There was so much to H.E. Bucklen’s story, that I’m saving it for another day. 

Who were these young men on the 1907-1909 Indians baseball team?  I decided to check the 1910 census records and the 1917 WWI draft records to find out.

·       Pete Fahrer (pitcher):  His name was really Clarence.  In 1910 he was 20 and was a baker in a restaurant.  By 1917 he was a farmer in Newaygo County, Michigan.

·       Harry S. Eash (pitcher):  I couldn’t find him in 1910, but in 1900 he was 12 and a farmer’s son, so in 1910 he would have been 22.  By 1917 he was a theatrical manager in Dodge City, Kansas.

·       Claude Lupold (catcher):  His first name was actually “Cloid”!  In 1910 he was 26 and a farm laborer on the home farm.  In 1917 he was a farmer, still in the Shipshe area.

·       Vernon R. Butts (1st base):  In 1910 he was 26, separated from his first wife, and living with his parents; he was a carpenter.  By 1917 he was remarried and worked in the Shipshe area as a locomotive fireman.

·       James A. Beecher (2nd base):  In 1910 he was 24 and worked as a miller at a flour and feed mill.  He was married with a 5-year-old son.  By 1917 he was a salesman for the Anthony Wayne Institute in Fort Wayne.  He was sent to Fort Benjamin Harrison Officer Training Camp that year, but failed the physical.

·       Leo D. Hershberger (shortstop):  In 1910 he was a 20-year-old public school teacher, having graduated from the local high school in 1907.  By 1917 he was a Methodist minister in a nearby town.

·       Samuel P. Curtis  (3rd base):  In 1910 Samuel, age 25, lived with his brother and they both worked in a meat market.  By 1917 he was a farmer in the area.

·       Burns H. Summey (fielder):  He graduated from the local high school in 1907.  In the 1910 census he was 21 and worked in a butcher shop.  In 1917 he was still working locally as a butcher.

·       Clifford F. Sixby (fielder):  In the 1910 census Clifford was the manager of a restaurant and 27 years old.  By 1917 he was a farmer in Newaygo County, Michigan.

·       Jim Lemerck (fielder):  His name was actually James G. Limric.  In 1910 he was 30 years old, married, and a plumber.  By 1917 he worked at the Smith Brothers Hardware Store in Shipshewana, in the plumbing/tinning department.

A look at didn’t turn up much, but I was able to find out that their home field was called “Lakeside Park.”  An article from Shipshewana in the Fort Wayne Journal-Gazette (7/11/1911) said, “A large number of fans from here gathered at Lakeside Park yesterday to witness the game between the Lagrange and Shipshewana teams.  The game was one of the best seen on the local lot this season but at no time was the outcome in doubt as Fahrer, pitching for the local team, had the visitors at his mercy throughout the game.”  I also learned that in September 1909, Goshen had won the independent baseball championship of northern Indiana and southern Michigan by beating Shipshewana 18-3 (Indianapolis News, 9/20/1909).

The Walldogs mural says that the team was established in 1906, which makes sense, given that Mr. Bucklen laid plans for his lakeside resort in 1905.  I was unable to find out when the team stopped playing, but perhaps World War I put an end to it.  Or maybe the fact that the railroad line that brought the fans was sold and scrapped in 1918 had something to do with it.  I would love to know more about the team and the baseball field and the resort on the south side of Shipshewana Lake.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Shipshewana Walldogs, Part Fourteen: Amish Heritage

One of the sixteen murals painted by the Walldogs in Shipshewana during June 2014 was this one, with the simple message “Amish Heritage.”  It can be seen on the north wall of Spector’s, a fabric store on State Road 5 which is frequented by the Amish.

The mural says that the Amish “first settled in this area 1841.”  Having done a lot of genealogy research for my Amish friends and written about it on mygenealogy blog, I’m familiar with the history of the Amish in this area of Indiana.  But I looked into the subject a little further to be sure I had my facts straight.

Indeed, as the mural says, the Amish first came to Lagrange and Elkhart Counties in the 1840s, mostly from Somerset County, Pennsylvania.  (These were the “Dutch Amish” who had come to Pennsylvania from Europe in the 1700s to escape persecution, and then moved westward into Ohio and then Indiana in the early 1800s.) 

For more details, I turned to the book History of Lagrange County by F.A. Battey & Company, published in 1882.  I liked having history from the viewpoint of those who might have been alive when the first Amish came.  And this book would have been written at a time when the non-Amish were just as “horse and buggy” as the Amish, so the differences would have been more subtle.

The first Amish settlers in the Newbury Township (later Shipshewana) area, according to the book, came to Newbury Township in 1844.  Brothers Daniel and Joseph Miller came on a scouting tour from Somerset County.  They liked it and immediately purchased farms.  Soon they were joined by Christian and Joseph Bontrager.  More German “Dutch Amish” followed, along with some of their brethren from Holmes County, Ohio.  John C. Yoder was another early Amish settler and patriarch.  The book says he was called “the doctor”—“on account of his skill in healing some of the human ills.” 

The book goes on to say that “This branch of the church [the Amish], which is distinguished by a strict observance of all the old customs, has a large membership among the Germans, who now occupy almost the whole of Newbury [Township]...  each district has its Bishop and two ministers.  The Bishop alone can perform the rites of baptism and marriage.”   The book also says this: 

“The peculiar characteristic of the church is a literal observance of every injunction of the Scriptures…  There are no meeting-houses, but they meet in the homes of the members; no written creed is used by the church; the apostolic rite of feet-washing is observed…  But the most obvious characteristic is that no ornament of any kind is tolerated on the person, nor in the way of paint or plaster in the houses, nor any brilliant coloring about the buildings…  As no conformity to the world is allowed, something like a German peasant costume is still used, and as buttons are under the ban, hooks and eyes supply the necessary fastenings…  German is also spoken continually in their home life, and this is another ‘tie’ and distinction from ‘the world.’”

The authors (members of the Lagrange County Historical Society) seemed to have a high respect for their Amish neighbors, as distinctive as they were even in 1882.  They go on to say, “A marked degree of morality pervades these people…  Financially they are prudent, frugal, and successful.”

The Amish thrived in Lagrange and Elkhart Counties, and today their settlement there is the third largest Amish settlement in the United States.  (There are no Amish settlements in Europe in modern times—only North America.)  Their numbers in have risen to over 14,000 in Lagrange County alone, as of the 2010 census—and although they mainly keep to themselves, they are good neighbors, good businessmen, and good citizens, and—for my husband and I—good friends.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Shipshewana Walldogs, Part Thirteen: Heminger Garage

The Walldogs mural found on the side of a building at the Shipshewana South Campground on State Road 5 is entitled “Heminger Garage.”  No other clues are given, other than a car which looks to be 1930s-vintage.  (My husband has a 1932 Ford hot rod, so I know about these things!)

Who was Mr. Heminger?  My old friend was no help on this one, nor were any local websites.  Turning to, I made a little headway.  Searching the 1940 census, a certain Willard Heminger was the only head of household by that name in Shipshewana, and bingo!—his occupation was “owner/mechanic.”

So then I went back in time, to start at the beginning… 

Willard Francis Heminger was born in Ohio in 1894.  At the time of the 1900 census the family still lived in Ohio, but by 1910, they had settled in Oakland County, Michigan. 

Somehow Willard made his way to northeastern Indiana as a young adult.  On his 1917 World War One draft card, he is 22 and a “machine (wood worker)” at the Crow Motor Car Company in Elkhart.  Perhaps this is where his love of cars was born.  He is listed as medium height and build with brown eyes and medium-dark hair.  He claims exemption from military service due to being a member of the Brethren Church. 

A newspaper article I came across on told more about this time in his life.  This is quoted from the Indianapolis Star (May 21, 1918): 

Hoosiers on Trial.  A precedent in military courts-martial may be established at Camp Zachary Taylor when a civilian minister appears as counsel for two soldiers on trial.  The Rev. M.H. Deeter, pastor of the Church of the Brethren at Elkhart, Indiana, will represent Willard F. Heminger of Elkhart and George Studebaker of Magley, Indiana, conscientious objectors, who will be tried on charges of violation of the Sixty-Fourth and Sixty-fifth articles of war.  They refused to obey the lawful commands of commissioned and non-commissioned officers…  The cases were then set for Tuesday.”

I didn’t see any records as to what happened at the trial.  Perhaps Willard avoided conviction by agreeing, as some other Mennonites did, to be transferred into a noncombatant unit.

In 1920 Willard is living in Berrien County, Michigan, boarding with the Wilheier family and working as a machinist in a machine shop.  He must have been engaged, as he was married later that year to SaDessa James in Elkhart, Indiana, and they settled in Indiana. 

By the 1930 census, Willard and SaDessa had three small children and were living in a rented house in Shipshewana.  He was listed as the proprietor of a garage and a war veteran.

By 1940, the census shows that Willard and family lived in a house on Middlebury Street.  Willard was listed as “owner/mechanic—auto garage.”  He had worked 56 hours the previous week, and 52 weeks the previous year—reinforcing the idea that owning one’s own business is not a life of leisure.  Willard had just an 8th grade education.  Again, he is listed as a war veteran.

Willard shows up in the records a few more times, next in the “Old Man’s Draft” for World War Two.  His draft card shows that he is 47 and lives in Shipshewana.  He is 5’5”, 170 pounds, with brown eyes and black/gray hair.  He no longer owns his own garage, but works for the International Machine Tool Corporation in Elkhart. 

City directories show that Willard continued to work as a mechanic or machinist in the Elkhart area into the 1960s.  He died in 1968 and is buried at Rice Cemetery in Elkhart with wife SaDessa and their baby daughter Wanda.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Shipshewana Walldogs, Part Twelve: Mechanized Mail Carriers

The subject of this Walldogs mural post is the mural which can be found on the south side of the Yoder’s Red Barn building on State Road 5.  (Pull into the parking lot of the next building to the south, for the best view.)  This one is the only mural to have a vertical orientation.

A look at the Shipshewana town website told me where the inspiration for this mural came from.  The image of the five mail carriers on bicycles is taken from an old photo which can be found there.  The caption dates the photo 1904. 

Another photo on the same site shows three mail carriers in open-top automobiles.  The caption here says, “By 1915, mail carriers were delivering the mail using early model cars.”

I wanted to know more about this era.  Last year I watched the television series “Lark Rise to Candleford,” about a small-town English post office at the turn of the twentieth century.  I remembered that the local postman was issued a bicycle at one point and told that he was to use it to deliver the mail.  The poor man had never ridden a bicycle in his life and was terrified of the thing…  So he put the mail on the bicycle and then walked the bicycle on his rounds around the village and countryside—until he was caught in the act, and a young person taught him how to ride it.

I found out a little more at the United States Postal Service website.  In the late 1800s, rural mail delivery was done by horseback or on foot, or by bicycle if the roads were good enough.  Because rural carriers in those days tended to abuse their government-issued bicycles, in 1888 the U.S. Postal Service declared that carriers had to purchase their own bicycles.  (They got a $2-3 monthly maintenance allowance.)  So the identical-looking bicycles in the mural were not government-issue; perhaps they were the sturdiest model (or the only model) available locally.

Another note:  American postal carriers were all men in those days.  Women weren’t given a chance until the onset of World War One, when the men went off to war and the postal service was desperate for replacements.

By the turn of the century, bicycles were used for both rural and town mail delivery in many places, as were motorcycles.  But both were eventually replaced by automobiles and mail trucks nearly everywhere—in America, at least.’s article on the Royal Mail says that British mail carriers are famous for their Pashley Pronto bicycles, which only began to be phased out in 2009.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Shipshewana Walldogs, Part Eleven: The Klondike Sawmill

The Klondike Saw Mill mural can be found on one side of the Landmark Woods building on State Road 5 in Shipshewana.  It is the southernmost of the sixteen murals painted in Shipshewana in the summer of 2014 by a group known as the Walldogs

The mural says the sawmill was founded in 1864 and at some point, the proprietor was Abraham Farver.  A little googling told me that the mural was painted by Astoria Design Studio of Portland Oregon.  Their website said that “The original Klondike Sawmill was steam-powered and looked something like an old locomotive.”  I wanted to find out more.

The Shipshewana Area Historical Society website has an old photo of half a dozen men standing on an enormous cut log.  The caption says it was taken at “the original Klondike saw mill near Abraham Farver’s homestead.”  

The Shipshewana town website tells us more.  The town history page says that the sawmill was first located south of where Shipshewana now stands, but the Farver brothers (Jonathan and William) moved their business into town when the railroad came (in the 1880s), and the new railroad built a switch line back to the mill.  Their lumberyard and sawmill were located on the east side of town (the section founded by Hezekiah Davis), where the town park is today. 

I next looked at a book called The History of Northeast Indiana, written by Ira Ford in 1920.  It contained a long biography of the Farver family.  By 1920, Abraham’s son Jonathan was the head of the Farver Lumber Company.  According to the book, Jonathan’s parents, Abraham and Harriet Snyder Farver, had moved the family from Holmes County, Ohio to Lagrange County, Indiana in 1863.  They purchased a farm about four miles south of what later became Shipshewana.  Abraham was a millwright by trade (one who designs or builds mills), but now he spent part of his time working as a cabinet maker as well, and from the information on the mural, he must have started the Klondike Sawmill soon after arriving in Indiana.  The book says that Jonathan learned cabinet making from his father.  After spending 27 years as a building contractor, Jonathan and his brother William opened a sawmill in the developing town of Shipshewana in 1889.   

I wanted to know more about Abraham Farver.  For that, I turned to 

Abraham and Harriet were married in Ohio in 1855.  The 1860 census shows them living on a farm with their three young children (and Harriet’s unmarried sister) in Holmes County, Ohio.  The agricultural schedule shows that they own 40 acres of land valued at $1400, where they are growing wheat, Indian corn, and oats, and raising livestock.

By the 1870 census they are settled in Indiana, and Abraham is listed as a farmer with land valued at $2800.  They have six children, ages 3 to 14.  Sadly, Harriet died the next year at age 43.

1880 finds Abraham a widower and still listed with farming as his occupation.  All six children still live at home, now aged 13 to 24.  The oldest son, the aforementioned Jonathan, is listed as a carpenter.

Abraham died in 1893 at age sixty, surviving his wife by 22 years.  They are buried at Miller Cemetery in Shipshewana.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Shipshewana Walldogs, Part Ten: J. E. Sunthimer Co.

The Shipshewana Walldogs put a mural on the front of the Wolfe Building on Depot Street that honors an early Shipshewana merchant, J.E. Sunthimer – purveyor, according to the mural, of “dry goods, clothing, boots & shoes, hats & caps, queensware, and groceries.”  But who was J.E. Sunthimer, and what is queensware?

First, the easy question:  Queensware, according to the Oxford Dictionary Online is “a type of fine, cream-colored Wedgwood pottery developed in the mid-18th century and named in honor of Queen Charlotte (wife of George III), who had been presented with a set in 1765.”

As for J.E.—his name was Joseph E. Sunthimer, and he was born in the Shipshewana area in 1863.  I found some details on and in an excerpt from the book “Descendants of Bishop Christian Yoder Sr.”

In 1884 Joseph married Ida May Stutzman from nearby Elkhart County.  Joseph must have been a responsible young man; according to, by 1889 he was appointed the postmaster of tiny Pashan, Indiana—until that post office was closed two years later. 

After their marriage, Joe and Ida had taken over the general store in Pashan from Ida’s parents.  But then, according to the Yoder book, “Joe soon recognized better prospects in the new village of Shipshewana, which was being laid out along the Pumpkin Vine Railroad, hardly two miles away.  He soon moved to the main corner on the Summey side of the town and established the well-known store which sold ‘everything’ for more than a generation.”  (Back then, Abraham Summey and Hezekiah Davis had competing villages on each side of the main road—a story for another day.) 

Joe and Ida thrived in the town that was later known as Shipshewana.  In the 1900 census he is listed as a “merchant,” and he and Ida have been married sixteen years, and they have nine children under the age of fifteen.  (The Pashan cemetery has a small grave for an “Ida May Sunthimer, 1883-1884”—could that have been their first child?  Ida doesn’t say so, stating to the census taker that she has had “nine children, nine still living.”)

By 1910 the Sunthimers have had four more children, and Joseph, age 46, is listed as a “merchant—general store.”  They live in a fine home on Middlebury Street, and their oldest son, Ira, is a clerk at the family store.  The two oldest daughters, Clara and Maud, are high school teachers. 

Joseph ran his store only six more years before dying in his early fifties in 1916.  The author of the Yoder book says this:  “When Joe died of food poisoning, it was a blow to the whole town…  I attended the funeral and I remember how surprised I was that it should have been held in the Forks Church.  I had no idea Joe was that connected…  It was the first time I ever heard of ‘mourning veils,’ which were worn by the mother and the ‘stylish daughters.’”  The book History of Northeast Indiana, written in 1920, says that at the time of Joe’s death, he owned a store in Topeka, one at Milford, and a farm in the country.  It also says that Joe attended the “normal school” (teacher’s college) at Lagrange, and that he taught school for five years before going into the retail business in the 1890s.

The 1920 census finds Joseph’s widowed wife Ida, age 52, carrying on with the store.  She has four children still at home, ages eleven to twenty two, but none work at the store.  By the 1930 census Ida is retired and lives alone in Elkhart, Indiana.  She died in 1952 and is buried with her husband at Forest Grove Cemetery in Middlebury.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Shipshewana Walldogs, Part Nine: Pletchers Pacing Acres

In Part Nine of my series on the Shipshe Walldogs murals done in June 2014, my subject is this mural, which is to be found on the outside of the recently-built Trading Place Pavilion on State Road 5.  The words say “Pletchers Pacing Acres—since 1935” and there is a photo of a fine-looking older gentleman, named as Lester W. Pletcher.

I looked for Mr. Pletcher on, and struck pay dirt.  His obituary is found there, as it ran in the May 27, 2006 issue of The Elkhart Truth.  Yes, he died in May 2006—Mr. Pletcher lived to be nearly 100 years old!  His obituary tells the story.

Lester William Pletcher was born in Indiana in 1906 and was joined in marriage to Irma Weirich in 1929.  The marriage produced three sons—Delmer, Dwayne, and Donald.  It goes on to say that Lester and Irma founded Pletcher’s Pacing Acres in 1935 and that he “raced many top horses around the Midwest in Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Michigan.”  His awards included admission into the Harness Horse Hall of Fame in Indiana and Illinois, as well as the Winning Hall of Standard Breed Horse Racing in both states.  The article says that Lester’s horse-racing legacy has been passed down to his sons and grandsons, who are still involved in horse racing.

Lester was a horse breeder of some repute, the article goes on to say.  Right Honor, Pacing Bay and Sherries Honor were three of his top winners, but not the only ones.  He raced and stabled his horses in Chicago, Detroit, and on the fair circuits.

The obituary mentions Lester’s other pursuits; he was a busy and energetic man and quite the entrepreneur!  He had a canned milk hauling business; a freight-hauling business; and he was a farmer. 

Old census records bear this out.  In the 1930 census, Lester was a 23-year-old newlywed, living with his 18-year-old bride in Clinton.  His occupation is listed as “farmer.”  No doubt his love for horses was already evident.

In the 1940 census, Lester and Irma are the parents of three young boys.  Lester is a truck driver for a “milk condensery” and he worked 35 hours the previous week.  In 1939 he worked 52 weeks and made $1,650—not a bad wage for those days.

Lester and Irma (who predeceased him by eight years) are buried at the Shore Cemetery.