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.