ORA L. WILDERMUTH
It was dark outside, but the lights were bright on the Christmas tree. Everything was waiting. Then we heard the sleigh bells. Dick and I ran to the door to let in Uncle O and Aunt Cordie. Now the magic of Christmas Eve could begin." That is the way Dorothy (Wildermuth) Vekasi remembers her uncle, Ora L. Wildermuth. He was a good deal older than her father and not a daily part of her life, but holidays always brought the families together. Uncle O, with his sense of history, was wont to savethings of the past-like the sleigh bells-so they could be a part of the future.

Ora Wildermuth's past harkened back to an era that was hard for his niece to imagine. Born in 1882 he attended a deestrict school in VanBuren Township, Pulaski County, Indiana. It was a one room school and the teachers often had no more than an eighth grade education. In class the students were drilled in the fundamentals, and, as they hiked through the forest from their farm homes to school, running their traps on the way, they learned firsthand about woodsmanship and the ways of nature. Continuing an education past eighth grade proved a challenge, but Ora seemed to thrive on challenge. He had to travel to Star City for high school, where, by his fourth year, he was the only student and the trustee refused to hire a teacher for one student. Undaunted, Ora boarded in Winamac, and completed high school there. He credited his farm upbringing and the education he received in Pulaski County, both in and out of the classroom, with giving him the breadth of background upon which he drew the rest of his life.

After high school Ora taught school for a season, then enrolled in Indiana University. For the next four years he divided his time between studying and earning money to continue. In 1906 he was one of six to received a LL.B. from Indiana University Law School. Ora was admitted to the bar, and moved to northern Lake County where a new town was being carved out of the sand dunes. For someone who liked challenges, the embryotic town of Gary was the place to be. He arrived in August 1906, when there was little besides a mill under construction and few people other than the construction workers. He worked for a couple of months laying concrete for the first blast furnace. With families beginning to arrive it became evident that there was a need for a school. A three-man school board was chosen with A.F. Knotts president and Ora was named teacher. Recalling those days when he and Knotts were rooming together at the old Fitz Hotel, Ora jokingly commented, "...the teacher had no difficulty in reaching his board, and the board was in comparatively frequent touch with the teacher, at least physically, for we slept in the same bed and he who slept in the back had to get in first for there was not room to walk around the bed."

The schoolhouse was located just north of what was to become 4th Ave. and the west side of Broadway. Its space for 36 students was not adequate for the number of youngsters and the story goes that, when the seats were filled, the door was closed. If you wanted an education, you couldn't tarry on the way to school. The need for books was quickly apparent and a committee of women suggested holding an oyster supper in the schoolhouse. They wondered about attendance, but word was sent to the construction camps and on the appointed night the schoolhouse was jammed. Enough money was raised for 75 books. Thirty years later Ora was quoted, "I took charge of the collection [of books], though I didn't know a thing on earth about handling a library. The youngsters found some cardboard somewhere and cutup cards. I'm sure our system wouldn't pass muster now."

Before winter-across Broadway from the schoolhouse-Ora constructed a tar-paper covered shack in which he lived and had his first law office. Because on cold nights tramps were wont to break into the schoolhouse and use the books to fuel a fire, the books were moved to Ora's office. Thus, within a few months, Ora Wildermuth had become Gary's first resident lawyer, first schoolteacher, and first librarian.

All of his life Ora maintained a law practice in Gary with offices at 690 Broadway. He was the first president of the Gary Bar Association and chairman of the committee on admissions to the bar from 1916 to 1925. He belonged to Bar Associations in the District and State as well as the American Bar Association. He was Gary's first city judge serving from 1910-1914. He is credited in a 1943 American Library Association Bulletin with rewriting Indiana's library laws and by Charles Roll in "Indiana 150 Years of American Development" with being identified with much of the important litigation that came before the courts during his years of practice. At a gathering of Gary pioneers in the mid 1950's, Judge Wildermuth was asked about the stories that circulated about his ridiculously low fees. He responded that those stories were greatly exaggerated and added, "First they said I defended a fellow charged with petty larceny and charged him $10. The next time around the charge was grand larceny and my fee was $5. Finally they said the charge was first degree murder and my fee was $2."

Interest in education became a lifetime commitment for Judge Wildermuth. In 1929 he was elected to Indiana University's Board of Trustees and continued on the board until he retired in 1951, serving as president for nearly thirteen years. At retirement he was named President Emeritus for life. He was one of the incorporators of the Indiana University Foundation and a member and officer of its board. He also served as a trustee of the Waterman Institute for Scientific Research. Ora's interest in educational institutions expanded and, in 1939, he was elected president of the Association of Governing Boards of State Universities and Allied Institutions. In a tribute from this organization, Ora was described as a "gentle, wise, scholarly man" with a "youthful spirit" who had a "lasting influence on the future of public education and of higher education." Indiana University awarded him an honorary LL.D. in 1952, and in 1971, named its Intramural Center in his honor.

Ora also had a lifelong dedication to library development. In 1908 in Gary he and William Wirt, the founder of the Gary public school system, felt Gary needed a full-fledged library. Ora researched the legalities of setting up a library board and found that the law required five year of residency for board members. Because Gary had not existed that long, it was a requirement that needed circumventing. Believing in the autonomy of a library board, the two men devised a method of establishing a library under the school board but run by a library board which merely reported its actions to the school board. Although awkward in the beginning, this system allowed the library board to be in existence from the start and, once the law allowed, totally independent. On March 30, 1908, the library was officially begun with the first board consisting of Msgr. Thomas Jansen as president and William A. Wirt, Mrs. John E. Sears, and Ora L. Wildermuth as members. Even though they had yet to get a stick of furniture or a book, the board hired a librarian, Louis J. Bailey. Later Ora commented with a chuckle, "Smartest thing we ever did." In the fall, when the library opened, it had 936 books, a traveling library of 250 books and 75 magazines. Ora remained a member of the library board for 50 years serving as president for 35 of those years. The Branch Library in Miller is named for him.

As with education, Ora Wildermuth's interest in libraries expanded and he served as president of the combined Gary-Lake County Library Board from 1940-1948. He became president of the Indiana Library Trustees Association and held various offices in the Trustees Section of the American Library Association which, in 1943, awarded him its Citation of Merit for his work as a trustee. In an address to that organization honoring Judge Wildermuth and recounting his role in establishing the Gary Library, Laurance J. Harwood said, "There was not [even] the oft-mentioned blade of grass from which to make two grow. He planted the first blade."

In a 1946 letter to I.U. Alumni Secretary, George F. Heighway, Wildermuth commented on his joy in working with the University and the Gary Library, but noted that it left little time for his law practice. He concluded, "Paradoxical as it may seem, one may enjoy living so much that he starves himself to death."

Despite these tugs on his time, his interests were not limited to law, education, and libraries. In the early days of Gary, he was part of a group that gathered in the only place they could find-above a saloon-to organize an interdenominational church. Later he assisted in the organization of Gary's First Congregational Church and was a member of its board of trustees from its inception. During World War I he was a "Four-Minute Man" receiving a certificate of honor signed by Woodrow Wilson, and during the depression he was Chairman of the Governor's Committee of Unemployment Relief. Judge Wildermuth was a democrat, and, when young, he was active in politics. He was a member of the old Commercial Club in Gary and was the sixth President of the Chamber of Commerce for a year. He was an active advocate and patron of the YMCA, where his favorite sport was volleyball. For a time he was a director of the Indiana State YMCA. He was one of the original organizers and officers of Turkey Creek Country Club. Judge Wildermuth showed leadership in commercial ventures serving as President of Gary and Southern Railroad Co. from 1918 until it was sold in 1928 and President of Gary and Hobart Traction Co. from 1916 to 1924. For a time he was Vice President and Director of Barnes Ice and Coal Co. in Gary, Secretary and Director of Lake City Ice and Coal Co. of Michigan City, and a Director of Glen Park State Bank.

Cordelia Wilds, daughter or John and Sophia (Kelley) Wilds, and Ora Wildermuth were married in Peru, Indiana, on September 3, 1907. Their daughter, Maxine, graduated from Emerson High School in 1927. She married John Tula who died in 1962. (Maxine died in Lake County on June 27, 1996 at the age of 87).. After a long illness, Cordelia died April 23, 1941. The following year Ora married Mae R. (Arnold) London, who had been Porter County Clerk for a number of years. Ora was widowed again in 1951 and four years later he married Mildred (Polak) Frolik, a long time teacher at Horace Mann High School.

For many years Ora resided at 626 Pierce Street in Gary in a large formal house surrounded by ample grounds enclosed in a wrought iron fence. A tunnel connected the garage to the basement where Ora had set up a small woodworking shop. Ora loved wood and would seek out some special piece that had meaning for a retiring president of a governing board and would then fashion it into a gavel as a gift. Ora also built an informal home at 7432 Lake Shore Dr. Later in life, after a serious illness, he wintered in Naples, Florida, where he maintained a residence as well as one at 5251 E. 6th Place in Gary. While in Naples, he served on the Collier County Library Board of Trustees and was a member of the Florida Library Trustees Association.

Ora Wildermuth died in Gary on November 16, 1964. Funeral services were held at the City Methodist Church with Herman Wells, President of Indiana University, giving the principal eulogy. He is buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. He will, of course, be remembered for his many accomplishments. He will also be remembered as a man in touch with his roots, yet ever interested in the present and how he might best serve it. He was a the consummate storyteller-always including a sprinkling of humor.

Author's note: In 1995 Ora L. Wildermuth was placed in the Steel City Hall of Fame.

Submitted by: Dorothy Wildermuth Vekasi


Reuben Chapman was born in Middlesex Co., Conn., July 24, 1810, and was one of a family of four children born to Oren and Penelope Chapman, who were also native of Connecticut, where they were married and remained until their death. Their family were named Reuben, Julia, Samuel and Robert, our subject being the eldest. Reuben remained at home until he was twenty-one, and the following fall went to Cuyahoga County, Ohio, the next year to Cook County Ill., and thence to Kankakee County, near the town called Momence, where he assisted in building the first mill. In 1834, he came to Lake County, Ind., where he has remained since; he was married in June, 1837, to Mrs. Matilda Bailey, who was born in Virginia September 25, 1812, a daughter of Josiah Brant. They have one son, Oren. Shortly after his marriage he purchased and moved on a farm in West Creek Township, Section 7, and after about two years he sold it and purchased and moved on the farm where he now lives, in Section 12.

Submitted by Kathy Huish
Source- Counties of Porter and Lake, 1882.


S. A. BARR, station agent Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad, was born in York County, Penn., May 5, 1842, and is one of six children born to Samuel and Sarah A. Dunlap Barr, both natives of the Keystone State. Samuel Barr has been a life long merchant, but is now living retired, with his wife, at Naperville, Ill. S. A. Barr was reared in Cumberland County, Penn., received an academic education, and commenced as a teacher when fifteen years of age. In 1862, he was married to Miss Emma C. Standish, at Naperville, and daughter of Hiram Standish, a lineal descendant of Miles Standish, of Plymouth Rock Colony fame. By this union they have had five children - Clarence W., Herbert S., Frederick A., Clara Leora and Harry, the last four natives of Crown Point. On August 6, 1862, he enlisted in Company B, One hundredth and Fifty Illinois Volunteers, was assigned to the Army of the Cumberland; his first engagement was Resaca, followed by the Atlanta campaign of eighty days fighting. Mr. Barr was wounded at Peach Tree Creek by a minie ball which he yet carries in his head - a memento of the time; he was discharged with the command June, 1865, having risen to be Second Corporal. After this time he was employed at Hinsdale, Ill., by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, also at Burlington, Iowa, as telegraph operator, and afterward by the Pittsburgh, Cincinnati & St. Louis Railroad, in charge of Crown Point Station, Ind. Mr. Barr is a member of the Masonic and Odd Fellow fraternities, having advanced very far in both; his father-in-law, Hiram Standish, was born in 1807, and is one of the oldest railroad men in Illinois; he learned telegraphy when fifty-six years old, and is in the service of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad at Mount Joy, Ill.

Data entry volunteer: Suzan Schaeffing
Source: Counties of Porter and Lake, Indiana, Historical and Biographical, Goodspeed and Blanchard, 1882
page 600, 601 Crown Point and Centre Township


Samuel Sigler
Made a claim near Turkey Creek. His log cabin is still standing on the first sand hill north of the Sykes place. His date of settlement is 1837. He had four sons and three daughters. One of the daughters married Hon. B. Woods, another married Joseph Mundell, and the third one, -not third as to age- married--- Walton, on Twenty Mile Prairie. Of the sons, Samuel is a merchant at Wheeler, Eli and Daniel are merchants at Hebron, and William Sigler is a merchant at Lowell. The father, Samuel Sigler, died a few years ago at Hebron. The sons have been for several years prominent business men. Some of the grandchildren are now in manhood and womanhood, and are scattered abroad and entering for themselves into active life.

By T.H. Ball-1873

The first permanent settlements in what is now the city of Hobart were made by a group of related families, three in number. My great-grandfather, Samuel Sigler, settled at the intersection of Liverpool road and Ridge road on September 4, 1837. With him in his little company of emmigrants were the families of his two eldest daughters, Elmira Sigler Hurst and Melvina Sigler Mundell. The Hursts settled almost a mile south of the Sigler claim, on what later was known as the Francen place. Mundell family settled on Ridge Rd near Wisconsin St., the Mundell school is now occupying part of the original grant. This land was Government land and cost $1.25 per acre. Some of it eventually sold for $1,000 per acre.

Samuel Sigler, son of Adam Sigler, a Methodist circuit-rider in the Shenandoah Valley and adjoining Potomac and New Creek regions and Elizabeth Michaels, was born near Fort Cumberland, MD, Sept 1, 1788. On Sept 28, 1809, he was married to Nancy Ann Taylor of Hampshire Co., Virginia, born Nov. 10, 1788, a daughter of Daniel Taylor and Margaret Thatcher, both natives of Hunterdon county, New Jersey. Daniel Taylor served as an officer during the seven years of the revolutionary war, and he received a large tract of land in Fairfax Co., VA at the close of the war, this immense region formerly owned by Lord Fairfax, being confiscated by Colonial Govt. and given to loyal Americans. The Taylor homestead is still in the hands of lineal descendants. After the National Road was partly completed, Samuel Sigler and family emigrated to Harrison County, VA. Here the two elder daughters married William Hurst and Joseph Mundell. In 1834, all three families emigrated westward, living two years in Elkhart county, Indiana, and then making their permanent home in Lake County Indiana. At the time they located here, Samuel and Ann Sigler had six children at home, Samuel Jr., William, Daniel, Eli, Ann Eliza (Mrs. Bartlett Woods), and Caroline Matilda (Mrs. Anderson Walton). William and Elmira Hurst had two children, Elizabeth Hurst (Hoyle) and Amanda Hurst (McClarkey). Joseph and Melvina Mundell had three children, Elmore, Samuel and Alonzo. Hence Hobart's first caravan of covered wagons contained seventeen persons.

History of Lake County
Hobart Pioneers- by Alice Mundell Demmon in 1934


Thomas Daily (deceased) was born in Ireland in 1808. He received but little education, and when but a child came to America, and was located in Chicago, where he worked at tanning for some years. On July 17, 1853 he was married to Margaret Furlong, daughter of John Furlong of Ireland. In 1854, he sold his teams and moved to Wisconsin, where he engaged in farming. While living in that state, seven children were born to Mr. and Mrs. Daily-John, Daniel W., Georgiana, Martha E., Thomas, James and Franklin. He lived on his farm about twenty years, and in 1874 sold the same and came to Ross township, Lake Co., Ind., where he rented a fine farm, and commenced farming and stock raising. Soon after removing hither, he was stricken ill, and after much suffering, on March 13, 1879 passed away. He was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church, at Crown Point, and very greatly esteemed by friends. His widow, with some of her children, resides on the farm, and manages the same.

Submitted by Kathy Huish
Source- Counties of Porter and Lake, 1882.


THOMAS CHILDERS was born in 1810, in what was Miami County, Ohio, at the time. A few years later this area would become Shelby County, Ohio, as the population grew. He was the son of pioneers, John and Jane Childers, they having first settled in this wilderness area at least by 1798. He had seven known brothers and sisters. All of which lived to adulthood. Their names were that of JOHN, JAMES, JOSEPH, HARVEY, SUSAN, PHOEBE JANE, and ELIZABETH.

JOHN CHILDERS, THOMAS CHILDERS', father was a veteran of the War of 1812, died in 1826, in Shelby County, Ohio when THOMAS was but 16 years of age. The Childers homestead in Ohio would later become part of the Miami and Erie canal.

Thomas married Sarah Hopkins in Ohio in 1831, she was born in the state of New York about 1807. Of this union at least 6 children are known, Elizabeth J. born in Ohio in 1832, an unknown daughter born in Lake County in 1835 (died in infancy), Joseph G. born in 1837 in Indiana, George W. born 1839, in Indiana, Susan born 1841 in Indiana, and John born in Indiana as well in 1843.

In 1834 Thomas, wife Sarah, daughter Elizabeth, and possibly brother Joseph G. Childers left Shelby County Ohio for Lake County, Indiana. Wife, Sarah was quite possibly pregnant at the time along with having two year old in arms. Given popular trails at the time, the family most likely traveled due north from their home towards Fort Wayne, Indiana. Then in a western direction across northern Indiana entering Lake County on the trail of what is now Ridge Road. Leaving on the end of September or the early part of October they arrived at Lake County at the end of the month. This young couple in their early 20's, settled at first on section 17 in Cedar Creek. Thomas after living his life on the frontier must have had an eye for a good home site in settling here. Unfornantly, so did the native Americans, that had lived there for time eternal. Seems that this land had been promised to the Indians by recent treaty with the United States government. Thomas would later move his family to the south of what would someday be the town of Lowell, Thomas was a member of the squatters union, and at a later date a road commissioner in Porter County. There were several epidemics of scarlet fever during this early time in history in northern Indiana, this could have been the cause of Thomas' death some time in the late 1840's.

Of Thomas' children two of his youngest sons served in the Civil War, George W. and John. George would later become a successful farmer in Jasper County and active in the G. A. R. John, Thomas', youngest son would become ill shortly after joining the 73rd Indiana, and die just out side of Nashville, Tenn. of measles. As far as it is known he lies in peace there still. His widow would remarry Nicholas Haskins in November of 1850 and then later move to Kansas.

Submitted by Jack Childers


Elijah A. VanSlyke who lives two miles northeast of Chewelah is an active and industrious farmer. He also devotes considerable time and attention to mining and has various mining interests through the country. He was born in Crown Point,Lake county, Indiana, on March 20,1854,the son of John and Matilda (Brundage) Vanslyke, natives of Canada and Ohio,respectively.

The father's grandfather and a Mr.VanNess settled on the Mohawk river in the very early days.The father's father departed from his home when very young and located in Canada,following the sea.Our subject's father settled in Indiana and in 1854 returned to Canada,whence in 1863,he journeyed back to Indiana and five years later went thence to Kansas.The mother died in Indiana in 1865,leaving the following children: Alfred, who was second lieutenant in the Second Indiana; Levi, deceased; Edward, who perished in the war; Monroe, Darius, Elijah A., Willard Suphrona Shelper, Corinthia, John W. and Lyndia, twins, the latter married to J.P.Smith. Our subject was educated in various places where his parents lived during his minority and at the budding age of sixteen he went to Kansas and remained for five years. At the time of his majority he located in Iowa and in 1874 went again to Kansas. The indians being very thick and hostile they had much trouble with them. During these years Mr. VanSlyke had paid consierable attention to studying and also taught some. While in Kansas he was assistant postmaster and in 1890 he came to Washington, locating in Chewelah. Later he went to Spokane and worked in the post office, after which he moved to Utah and there in 1893 he was called to mourn the death of his beloved wife. Three years later, he returned to Chewelah, took his present place as a homestead and has continued here uninterruptedly. The date of Mr. VanSlyke's marriage was 1888,and his wife Stella M., was the daughter of S.A. and Lovern Manley, natives of Michigan and Illinois, respectively. Mr.Manley lives now in Stevens county,but his wife died some years since. Mr VanSlyke has two children, Letea and Leland M., both with him on the farm. In political life,Mr. VanSlyke supports the principles of Socialism.

Submitted by Nancy Grubb
From "The History of North Washington" Published 1904


I have written several biographies which were published in Lake County Heritage, in 1990, with Ann Weitgenant, Project Director and Supported by The Friends of the Library. This is one of them:

MICHAEL AND ELIZABETH VEKASI
Although born in Nagy-Szelmenc, Ung Megye, Hungary, Mike Vekasi came to America when young and almost all of his childhood memories were of Donora, Pennsylvania. There he had a meager education but a wide assortment of life experiences. He was about twenty-one when he came to Gary, Indiana, with his parents, Peter and Julianna (Pataki) Vekasi, to whom he was devoted. Most of his life he worked as a crane operator in the open hearth but he also liked to tell of delivering sewer pipe to Glen park and especially of his experiences when, for a couple of years, he drove an ice wagon in what must have been one of the seamier sections of town.

As a young man, Mike enjoyed sports. In Donora he had played on a football team called the Donora Independents. There was a Catholic baseball league in northern Lake County and Mike was the catcher on the St. Emeric's team for a while. If they were short players, the priest would play outfield for them. Mike described it as fun with a good crowd to watch.

In August, 1924, at the First Hungarian Reformed church, Mike married Elizabeth Bazin, daughter of John and Barbara Bazin. Shortly thereafter Mike was injured at the mill when he was crushed between the crane and a wall. He was fitted with a brace but the mill doctors as well as the doctors at Mayo's Clinic offered little hope that he would return to normal activities. Although time and perseverance proved them wrong, he did suffer pain from the injury all of his life. Even as his memory was failing in old age, he would speak of the horrors of that accident. However, it did not prevent him from completing over 40 years of service at U.S. Steel's Gary Works before he retired in 1958.

In 1925 Mike and Elizabeth had a son, Michael Eugene, who attended Jefferson School then on to Horace Mann. There were no more children until 1943 when their daughter, Linda Sue, was born. By that time their son was a student at Purdue University and soon joined the Army Air Corps where he became a navigator. Both Mike and Elizabeth completed their naturalization process to become American citizens in 1946. The following year their son married Dorothy Wildermuth. He then went on to graduate from Purdue, move to Michigan, and rear three sons. Linda graduated from Horace Mann High School, married Ted Drygas, and moved to Hobart. In 1974 Ted was killed in an accident. After Linda reared their two sons, Anthony and Andrew, she married Joseph Garcia.

Mike and Elizabeth lived at 840 Van Buren St. all of their married life until about 1968 when they moved to 5140 Delaware. Elizabeth's health began to fail and she died in 1970. Mike lived alone for about five years then took up residence with his daughter. He died in 1987. He was a man whose devotion to parents and his family, loyalty to his employer, and integrity of person earned respect from all who knew him.

Dottie's notes in preparation of info for minister before Dad Vekasi's funeral.

Michael Vekasi was born September 1, 1892, in Nagy Szelmenc, Ung Megye, Hungary to Peter and Julianna (Pataki) Vekasi. He came to America about 1901 with his mother to join his father, who had come earlier. They first lived near Pittsburgh, then moved to Donora, PA, where they lived until he was about 18 when the family moved to Gary, IN. Dad remembered his youth in Donora with enthusiasm despite hard economic times. He spoke of swimming in the Monongahela River, skating on home made skates and sledding on the Pennsylvania hills. All of his life he remembered a particular grade school teacher with great respect & appreciation.

At an early age Dad Vekasi began contributing to the family's income--as a delivery boy then a helper on a meat wagon. These were the first of many experiences that opened his eyes to some of the world's undesirables and their unethical ways. Despite this influence, however, he chose the path of honesty and morality that served him in good stead all his life, and his loyalty to his parents never wavered.

As a young man, Dad participated in sports--baseball, football and even a brief fling at boxing. He loved to show the picture of his football team and tell stories of some rough and tumble baseball games.

Dad was not married until he was in his 30's when he met and married Elizabeth Bazin. Almost coincidental with the marriage was a very serious accident at the steel mill (where he was a crane operator) which crushed his hips and condemned him to recurrent pain the rest of his life. Despite the doctor's predictions that he would never walk again, he not only walked, but eventually returned to the mill and gave them 44 years of service. His marriage was a life-long commitment. I remember how caring he always was of Elizabeth, his wife, and his irreconcilable grief at her sudden passing in 1970.

Dad always seemed to have a special affinity for small children from the birth of his own son to his great-grandchildren. In a letter to his wife from Mayo Clinic where he was receiving treatment for the injuries from the mill accident, he speaks of his love of her and his thrill over their baby boy. Eighteen years, later when Linda was born, he must have felt especially blessed. I watched him through Linda's childhood and she was his pride and joy.

When we came for a visit with our three little boys, he always seemed to know just the right thing to do to entertain them. We never lived close enough to give him frequent contact with our boys, but by the time Linda had her children, Dad was retired and Anthony and Andrew were the light of his life. Even in these later years when most of the time Dad mind withdrew into a world of his own, a visit from one of his small great-grandchildren brought the old light to his eyes and we'd hear his special chuckle again.

Submitted By Dorothy Wildermuth Vekasi


William S. Babbitt, Superintended of the county farm, was born in Orleans County, Vt., December 19, 1825, and is one of the four children of Joshua and Betsey Scott Babbitt. His father was a native of New Hampshire, and moved to Ohio in 1826; he was a soldier in the war of 1812, and commanded a battery at the battle of Plattsburg; he was Sheriff of the county at the time of his death; his mother was a native of Vermont, and died in 1832. William S. Babbit lived with a man named Kimball until he was eleven years old, when he ran away and shipped on a Cape Cod fishing vessel, and afterward on a whaling cruise, making three voyages. He has doubled Cape Horn five times and crossed the Isthmus of Panama once. He has been twice shipwrecked, the crew being saved each time. In 1854, he quit seafaring, and settled to farming in Ross Township, this county. On December 25, 1854, he was married to Harriet Irish, a native of Vermont. To this union there followed five children, four living - John J., Aaron S., Lucia M. and Sabra H. Mr. Babbitt was a soldier in the late war in Company E, Twentieth Indiana Volunteers; eight months later he was commissioned Second Lieutenant, and in 1862 promoted to a Captaincy, and transferred to Company C. At the battle of Chancellorsville, he was severely wounded and discharged July 2, 1863. He was afterward Deputy Provost Marshall and Government detective during the war. He then resumed farming until made Superintendent of the Poor Farm in March, 1881. Mr. and Mrs. Babbitt are members of the Methodist Episcopal Church. Mr. Babbitt is a member of Lodge, 551, of Freemasons; he is also a Republican.

Data entry volunteer: Suzan Schaeffing
Counties of Porter and Lake, Indiana, Historical and Biographical, Goodspeed and Blanchard, 1882 page 599, 600 Crown Point and Centre Township


W. B. Brown, or Barringer Brown, as he is universally known in Lake County, a dealer in hay, grain and livestock, is a son of Alexander F. and Eliza A. (Barringer) Brown, and was born in Eagle Creek twp., Lake County, Ind., June 18, 1843, where his home has since been. He attended the schools of the day, and was reared a farmer. In Oct. 1877, he was married to Miss Carrie Sigler of Hebron, to which union there has been issue of two daughters-Mabel and Bessie. Shortly after their marriage, Mr. and Mrs. Brown removed to Crown Point, where they now reside. In addition to his present business, Mr. Brown has general charge of the old homestead of 600 acres, of which a stock farm has been made. The business of dealing in hay, grain and stock, carried on by Brown Bros., amounts to $60,000. Mrs. Brown's parents were among the oldest settlers of Lake and Porter counties, and mention of this family has been made in the history of Boone Twp. Porter county.

Submitted by Kathy Huish
Source- Counties of Porter and Lake, 1882


Ethel May Archer and Charles Augustus Welter Family
Ethel Mae Archer, born 27 Sept 1884 in Tracy, MN was the daughter of Wilbur (William) Franklin and Ida Frances Pierce Archer. She married Charles Augustus Welter on 22 June 1904 in her home in Lamberton, MN. Charles was born 25 Sept 1879 in Medo Township, MN. He was the son of Nickolas and Emily Marie Will Welter. Nickolas was of Dutch descent and Emily of Scottish descent.

Charles and Ethel moved to Lucan, MN in 1904 where Charles was in the Livery and Dray business. They were active in public and church affairs. They had six children, all born in Lucan. During the 1900ís there were few high schools in the area and children had to be boarded out to families in towns that had a high school in order for them to get an education. They wanted their children to have an education but to also live with them while going to school, so they decided to move to Gary, IN in 1919.

They bought a candy store called "The Sugar Bowl" when they arrived in Gary and while Ethel ran the store, Charles joined his brother, William welter, in the contracting business. They build the following buildings in Gary:
1. Ardel Apartments, named after Williamís daughter.
2. Elaine Apartments, named after Charlesí daughter (my grandmother), located on Virginia Street.
3. Webber Apartments, named after one of the investors.
4. Archer Hotel, named after Ethelís family.
5. Kelvinator Store, appliance store run by Charles and Ethel.
6. Alexander Apartments, named after Williamís wife.
7. Retlew Apartments, Welter spelled backwards, located at 5th & Polk.
8. Pierce Apartments, named after Ethelís mothers family, located at 4th & Pierce.
9. Cressmoor Country Club in Hobart, IN, built in 1924-25. The first and largest golf course built in Northern Indiana. It was a 36 hole golf course with 18 holes of sand greens and 18 holes of grass greens. (I have copies of the original year book for Cressmoor that I could copy and send to you.)
Charles and Ethel sold the Kelvinator store during World War II as appliances were not being manufactured during the war. They bought the Ardell Apartments which consisted of 50 apartments and managed them until they retired to Sarasota, FL in 1957. Charles died 23 Oct 1963 in Sarasota and Ethel died 4 Mar 1984 in Darlington, WI, just six months before her 100th birthday. They are buried in Manasota Memorial Park, Bradenton, FL.

Submitted by Linda (Walter/Eldridge) Wells


William Frank was born in Wurtemburg Germany, May 8, 1818; he is the eldest of seven children, of whom five are still living-William, Hannah, John, Louisa, and Christina. At the age of twenty-eight, William came to this country, landing at New York, going straight to Washtenaw County, Mich.; he lived there some seven years, when he came to Lake County, and has lived here ever since. In 1863, he bought his present place, one-half mile south of Hobart, but he lived one-half mile east of it until about 1870, when he moved upon it. He was married in 1851 to Selinda Kern, in Washtenaw County, Mich. She has given birth to six children-Moses, Peter, John, Frederick, David and Jacob. The oldest and youngest are dead. Mr. Frank has always been a good, honest farmer, and has always endeavored to act the part of a true citizen. He now lives on his very fine farm, one-half mile south of Hobart.

Submitted by Kathy Huish
Source- Counties of Porter and Lake, 1882.


William N. Hayden was born in West Creek Township, Lake County, Ind. May 24, 1855, one of fourteen children born to Nehemiah Hayden, the old pioneer of Lake County. His mother died when he was two weeks old, succeeded by his father in about two years; he was then taken by his brother, Lewis, with whom he remained until he was past twenty-one years old; he was married, August 21, 1876, to Maria J. Edmonds, who was also born in West Creek Township, March 13, 1855, a daughter of Melvin and Sarah Edmonds. They have one son-Jodie N. In 1878, he bought and moved on the farm where he now lives. He owns 85 acres of land.

Submitted by Kathy Huish
Source- Counties of Porter and Lake, 1882.


JOE AND MADELEINE WILDERMUTH
In the upstairs back bedroom of the family's farm house in Pulaski County, Indiana, Joe Henry Wildermuth was born on July 6, 1897. Named for his two grandfathers, Henry Wildermuth and Joseph Herrick, he was the fourth--and last--son of Elias and Olive Wildermuth. In 1907 he moved with his parents to the fledgling town of Gary, Indiana.

Ten-year-old Joe became Gary's first newsboy, selling Chicago papers like hot cakes to the construction workers returning home from work on the steel mill. He also had the only agency in Gary for the Saturday Evening Post and sold the first Gary Tribune. When his father hired an architect to design a commercial building he planned to have built, Joe was intrigued. It was the beginning of Joe's commitment to a career as an architect. When only thirteen, he worked for a summer in an architect's office and, while a student at Emerson High School, he prepared plans for a schoolhouse addition for the Board of Education. In 1920 he graduated from the School of Architecture at the University of Illinois and returned to Gary to become its first hometown graduate architect. During these years, he enjoyed summer sports. He became the tennis champion of Gary at one time and had a golf trophy for his efforts on the links.

About this time Madeleine Havens moved to Gary with her parents, Lola and Daniel (known as "Doc") Havens. After graduating from Emerson High School, Madeleine entered Northwestern University. Her mother died in the spring of 1922 and the following fall, Madeleine did not return to college. On January 10, 1923, she married Joe Wildermuth at the home of her aunt and uncle, Gertrude and Frank O. Hodson. The young couple moved to 755 Arthur St. It was a friendly neighborhood with Fourth of July block parties, and with baseball games in the middle of the street. Their two children, Richard and Dorothy attended nearby Horace Mann School. Madeleine became active in the social life of Gary and was a member of the Beta Gamma sorority. Their home was frequently the scene of social gatherings as well as always serving as a focal place for their children and the neighborhood. The children were allowed to use the living room for their self-produced plays which included rigging up sheets for the stage curtains, arranging chairs for the audience and selling homemade candy at the door. By the time Joe arrived home in the evening, however, everything was back in place.

Joe became Gary's school architect. In addition to schools, he designed for Gary many libraries, several churches, the Court House and Jail and, when only thirty years old, he was the architect for Gary's Memorial Auditorium. The Auditorium's cornerstone was laid at an exciting time in Gary's history. The headlines of the Gary Post-Tribune screamed "VISITORS MARVEL AS STEEL CITY MARKS ADVANCE WITH CEREMONIES."

The brand new Gary Hotel housed the out-of-town dignitaries who had come to witness Gary's "Discovery Days." It was a tight schedule with an inspection of the new Post-Tribune building at 2:30, the laying of the cornerstone for the City Hall at 3, the ceremony for the Memorial Auditorium at 4 and the formal opening of the Commercial Club at 5. Because the auditorium was designed to be used for many school activities, the ceremony at that site featured students with Joe the only adult speaker. Wanting to make the proper impression, 30-year-old Joe had rehearsed his speech at home. When the city fathers saw the series of events falling behind schedule, they asked Joe to shorten his speech, which, of course, he did. Family members were all present, but their memories of the events were overshadowed by a small boy. As Joe delivered the abridged version of the speech his three-year-old son, sitting on his uncle's shoulders to witness the ceremonies, shouted, "Daddy, you forgot something!"

Joe and Madeleine's world was shaken, when Dick, barely six, was hit by a car and suffered a fractured skull. The following year, while coming home from school, he was seriously injured when struck by a speeding truck. He seemed to be recovering from these injuries when a serious infection left him with an illness that required bedside teachers for a good part of each school year. This was reversed after 1937 when Madeleine took the children to Florida for an entire winter.

During the depression, Joe's architectural office stood empty while Joe worked as Assistant Manager and Chief Appraiser for the United States Home Owners Loan Corporation for Northern Indiana. Because the architectural work had required frequent evening meetings with school boards, etc., Joe's evenings had been frequently interrupted. Madeleine commented that the depression was the only period when the household was on a predictable schedule.

Joe authored a treatise, "Real Estate Valuation" in 1934 and the following year one on schoolhouse design. For a brief period, Joe took an interest in politics, and at one time was elected as a representative to the Democratic state convention.

When the economy improved and Joe returned to his architectural career, he resumed his work with Gary schools and libraries. He also designed buildings throughout Indiana including the Indiana State Board of Health Building, a hospital at the Soldiers and Sailors Children's home in Knightstown, and many buildings at Indiana University. Joe was on the Indiana State Architects Board for thirteen years serving as Chairman for several of those years.

In 1935 Joe helped organize the Gary Federal Savings and Loan Association and he served on its board from the beginning. For a time, after retiring from his architectural work, he served the bank as Vice President, then President, retiring in 1962.

In 1939 the family moved to 8605 Lake Shore Dr., which immediately became the summer gathering spot for the Horace Mann High School friends of their children. Even in the winter, when the tennis court in front of the house was flooded for ice skating or there was snow for tobogganing at Marquette Park, their home would fill with young people.

During World War II Dick served in the Army Air Corps; but summertime continued to find the girls--and any boys home on furlough--at the Wildermuth's beach home. Madeleine helped out at the Gary Service Men's Center, and regularly invited sailors from the Great Lakes Station to join the young people in the fun at her home.

Back when the children were young, a regular Sunday afternoon activity for the Wildermuths was to drive out into the countryside and look at farm land. Although Joe's family moved off the farm when he was quite young, he always insisted that he was a farm boy at heart. Eventually, he purchased some land southeast of Crown Point near Leroy. With little architectural work available during the war, Joe determined to learn everything about modern farming, He was in contact with the Agricultural School at Purdue and all but haunted the Lake County Farm Agent. Under Joe's direction, the farm transformed from a place of questionable buildings and land production, to a thriving, profitable farm with showplace barns and home. Joe personally went to Texas to purchase cattle and was perhaps his happiest when checking the conditions on his farm astride his Texas cow pony. Shortly after the war, they sold the lake house and moved to the farm. They also maintained an apartment in Gary at the Vesta Court apartment building (1619 W. 5th Avenue), which Joe had designed early in his career and later owned. Joe tended to become totally engrossed in what he was doing and cared little for conforming to convention. This combination often caused his actions to appear bizarre to others and the family had a whole repertoire of what they called "Joe Stories." One such time, Joe happened by a farm auction and stopped in. He soon began to participate and ended up the high bidder on a large sow. To transport his purchase, he just put down the top of his convertible, placed the hog in the passenger's seat and drove down the highway--unconcerned about the astonished stares.

Throughout the years the Wildermuths held membership in City Methodist Church where Madeleine participated in the West Side Division, where their teenage children were active in the Epworth League, and where their daughter was married. In 1947--within two weeks of each other--each of their children was married. Richard married Helen Cole, daughter of Amos N. and Lillian (MacAdoo) Cole. A graduate of the University of Michigan Architectural School, Dick practiced architecture in northern Indiana for most of his career and is responsible for many of its public buildings. After rearing their two children, Helen began a movement to clean up Gary's appearance garnering help from industry yet keeping a grass roots appeal. She served as Gary's commissioner for beautification under Mayor Richard Hatcher. In 1972, they moved to New England.

After graduating from the University of Wisconsin, Dorothy married Michael E. Vekasi, son of Michael and Elizabeth (Bazin) Vekasi. They moved to Michigan where they reared their three sons.

By 1953 Joe had retired from his architectural business in Indiana and built a home in the Florida Keys, where he practiced architecture on a limited basis. Each summer, however, they returned to their Indiana farm residence. Their children and five grandchildren were frequent visitors to their homes on the farm and in Florida. In later years they summered with their daughter in Kent County, Michigan and, when Joe died at the close of 1972, he was buried there. Madeleine survived him by six years.

Submitted by Dorothy Wildermuth Vekasi


W.W. Merrill, M.D., is a native of Merrillville, Lake Co., Ind. and the fifth of six children born to William and Caroline (Campbell) Merrill, old settlers of Lake County, living near Crown Point. William Merrill was a blacksmith; he died in 1860; his widow survives him, and lives on the old farm. Dr. Merrill's early education was begun in a village school at Merrillville, and afterward he attended the Crown Point High School; still later, he took a scientific course at Valparaiso, where he graduated; he then attended a lecture course at Bennett Medical College, Chicago, from which he graduated in 1880, and began the practice of medicine at Hammond in the same year; his office is located in Morton House Block, where he is to be found ready for service. On May 10, 1882, he was married to Miss Lotta A. Woods, daughter of Bartlett and Charlotte Woods, of Crown Point. Mr. Woods was a farmer, and has served Lake County as a Legislator. Mrs. Lotta Woods is a native of Ross, Lake County.

Submitted by Kathy Huish


Deb Murray