This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Are you ready for October?

September is almost gone and with it we leave the last bit of summer behind and head into autumn. It has not felt like summer for a week or two. Browns' Garden shop has adjusted to the change of seasons.
A picture or two of the harvest seems required this time of the year.
By this time more fields have been harvested than not.
This weekend is a busy one. I hope the weather cooperates for the OktoberFest Saturday evening.
The window above is in the Tucker Real Estate/Chamber of Commerce building.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Continuing construction at the hospital

It has been about a month since we visited the construction at the hospital. At that time a crane was lifting I-beams into place.

A couple weeks ago the cement trucks were back pouring cement for the floor that the I-beams supported. The workers used a long extension to take the cement from the truck to the spot on the floor that needed concrete.
Below you can see the pour from another angle. The concrete goes into the truck which pumps it out into the long tube or hose.
About a week ago I found a bunch of workers laying concrete blocks to form a wall. I thought the workers looked a bit like defenders of a fortress.
Yesterday they were still working on the concrete wall. The lift delivers the blocks. It seems that there will be a more decorative finish to the wall because there are supports for another layer. Whatever will be inside apparently does not need windows.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

News from the northside

In June I had some posts about the new Verizon store on South College. At the time there were no plans to close the existing store on North McKinley Street. Those plans must have changed quite quickly because the old store closed on August 28. (I guess this is not news--it is more like history. Sorry--I have not been out that way for a while.) I stopped by the South College store on Monday and asked why they had closed this one. They said it was all about location--a lot more people were using the new store than were using the old one.
 Across the street and a bit to the north a new occupant has been found for the old feed mill building that previously housed the Healthy Families office. The photographer going in here was previously above J&L Antiques and Furniture, which is in its last days of its liquidation sale.
 Further north on McKinley, just south of the Moose Hall and across the street from the Farm Bureau Store, a new cafe will soon open in the building that was until recently Whippersnaps Photography.
 It will be a morning cafe, serving breakfast and lunch, rather than a evening restaurant, serving lunch and dinner. The sign says that it will be open from 6:00 am until 2:00 pm and that it will be opening soon.
One other change that I think is pretty much common knowledge. Tom and Irene from Harvey's Copy Shop and Irene's Consignments will be retiring in a couple months. I was in a week ago to fax some papers and Tom told me that the copy shop business will cease on December 1, though similar services are available at Heritage Office Supply. (Maybe that is a business opportunity for someone.) The framing business will be continued by Kem's, and the consignment shop will continues but with a new name and a new owner.

When I was in the library skimming old issues of Vintage Views a month ago, I found an article on the Gerhing Farm in the Fall/Winter 2009 issue. It had a picture of an old ad for forklifts and noted that it was the first ad of its kind with a female forklift driver. That driver was Irene, who worked for the Gerhing Farm for 18 years until it closed. After it closed, she worked a number of years at Saint Joseph's College in the copy center, which is where I got to know her.

If you know more about any of these changes, feel free to share your information in the comments. (Or if I made a mistake, you can use the comments to correct me.)

Monday, September 27, 2010

Trees come and go--Updated

This past summer the tree removal crew was busy at SJC. Here there are taking down an ash tree near Halleck Center. It was an ash tree, but I think it was an imported species. It might have been one of Fr. Rueve's trees--he planted a wide variety of trees on campus.
The sweet gums south of the Post Office were taken out sometime in the early summer or late spring.
I was disappointed to see the apple tree next to Gallagher missing. Most of the apple trees on campus have been cut down this year, but this one had the best apples of any of the trees on campus. The three that are left have disappointing apples.
However, the grounds crew was also planting trees this summer. Here are holes ready to be filled
with what appears to be crab apple trees. If you have heard rumors that there is a plan to replace all the trees on campus with crab apple trees, I can assure you that it is wrong. I found a few new trees on the other side of the pond that were not crab apple trees.
On Friday there were marking stakes along the sidewalk from the bowling alley to the campus, and it looks like they will be planting some more trees.
If this is for trees, will they be crab apple and decorative pear trees, or will they be something more interesting?

Update: This afternoon I happened to find the tree planters in action. They use this machine to drill the holes.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that they were not putting in more crab apples. There were some Japanese maples and magnolias, some large locust trees, and some things I did not recognize.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Once a church--Barkley Methodist

At one time there were many small rural churches in Jasper County, and a few remain. One that closed about 25 years ago was the Barkley Methodist Church on Moody Road. Today it is being used as a residence.
I think my first encounter with this building was in1990 when I was working the census. I recall finding people living in a building that had been a church and I think it was on Moody Road. The census enumerators were given maps of residences that had been prepared by local officials, but sometimes they missed houses, and they did in this case.

The main building was built in 1885 and it was still being used as a church in 1985, because it was mentioned as still in operation in History of Jasper County, Indiana (1985). The records of the church are in an archive, and the archive has records from 1949 until 1985, so it may have closed in 1985.

Behind the former church is the Barkley Cemetery, which is still being used because it has very recent graves. It is reached by a narrow drive next to the church.
Like many small, old cemeteries, some of the tombstones are broken or knocked over.
Someone was still tending this grave of a girl who died over 70 years ago.
Immediately to the east of the old Barkley Methodist Church is the site of the Barkley Township school, which was built in 1922 and abandoned in the spring of 1964. It looked like a twin of the Hanging Grove Township school, though I am told that the decorative work that is done in ceramic tile on the Hanging Grove school was done in concrete on this school and also and another identical school near Newland. After it was closed, it was purchased by the Barkley Methodist Church and demolished. (The old Newland school is also gone, I believe.)

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Rensselaer Homecoming parade

I was reminded Thursday afternoon that the Rensselaer Homecoming parade was scheduled for the evening, and since I had nothing better to do, I meandered downtown to see what was happening. It has been a while since I last saw one of these parades, but during the years in which my kids marched, I attended them all. Not much has changed. Near the beginning was the car for the grand marshal. Jim Earnest was most recently a guidance counselor at the high school, but before that he was the band director.
The girls golf team was in a golf cart with a sign that said "Conference Champs." Rensselaer had had a tradition of producing strong girls golf teams. I recognized the cross country teams (on bikes), but if the volleyball team was in the parade, I missed them.
Each class had a float, and I guess political correctness forbids anything too cutting. I went to high school and college at St. Johns, and we were the Johnnies. If we were the homecoming opponent, there would be multiple "Flush the Johnnies" floats in the parade. I wonder if they are allowed to do that anymore. But Do-Si-Do the Devils?
After the sophomore float was a long line of tractors. Maybe this year I will pay more attention and get out to the high school for "Drive Your Tractor to School" Day.

If I were awarding the prize for best float, the Junior class would have won easily with their "Level the Devils" road construction float.
At the end of the parade were the fire trucks with the football team, which is something of a tradition.
There was a good attendance, and after the firetrucks there were a couple of trucks that were not part of the parade, but the drivers had some fun pretending that they were. It is nice that they had a sense of humor and enjoyed the situation rather than getting angry at the delay that the parade caused them.

Congratulations to the Bomber football team for winning their game against West Lafayette, 27-10. West Lafayette was ranked number one in Class 3A coming into the game, was the defending Class 3A champions, and had a 20-game win streak, so it was a big victory. With it, Rensselaer remains undefeated and may move up in the 2A rankings from their current number 2 spot.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Indiana's Everglades

On Tuesday I attended the meeting of the Jasper County Historical Society and heard a mention of a film called "Indiana's Everglades." I googled the term and found this video on youtube. I have done only a few posts that touch this subject, but it an important part of county and area history.

(Do not be surprised if on some days in the next two months I do not post. I have picked up an old project that requires I spend a lot of time in front of the computer doing very tedious work, so sitting in front of the computer and doing posts may be a bit too much for me. So if there are some dry spots, blame it on the macrons, breves, dotaccents, ogoneks, and carons.)

Addendum: I was disappointed to see the person playing the "greed card" at the beginning of the film. Using greed as an explanation is almost always either a sign of lazy thinking or an attempt to demonize people who have a different view of the world. Perhaps they will fix this in the final version. Land developers, like the pioneers who plowed up the prairies and cut down the forests, thought that they were doing a social good by turning wasteland into productive farmland. If you want to understand the vociferous opposition to the proposed wildlife refuge a few years ago, that attitude explains a lot more than some vague and nebulous notion of greed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Oil pipeline

This week we have mentioned that the area has in the past seen some natural gas extraction and the discovery of a (very) small oil field. They are gone, but we still have a pipeline through the area. It runs east of Rensselaer, going from SSE to NNW. You can see markers along some of the roads like the one below.
Just beyond the marker shown above, the pipeline surfaces and has what looks like a shut-off valve.
I spent a few minutes trying to find out more about this pipeline but could not. I do not know where it starts and where it ends and what it carries. Anyone know more?

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Happy Fall Equinox

Today was the fall equinox.

There are some other interesting astronomical tidbits this week. We are just past Jupiter opposition--Jupiter was closer to earth
Monday night than it has been since 1963.

The moon is also full today: "Usually the Harvest Moon can be seen in the sky before the beginning of autumn, but this year the moon reaches its peak point of illumination just six hours before the equinox." The full moon and the opposition of Jupiter means that they will be very close together tonight in the sky.

The fall full moon also kicks off an important Chinese holiday, the Mid-Autumn Festival.

Did you know that black gold was discovered in Jasper County?

Asphaltum seems a funny name for a place in Jasper County. It is a cluster of houses in Gilliam Township at the elbow in the road where 650N turns south to become 250E. Unlike most of the tiny little settlements in Jasper County, it has signs announcing its presence. The one below is on the north side of the "town" going east on 650 North. As you can see, there are a lot of woods along this stretch of road.
You can see a few of the houses in google maps. Someone out there has a sense of humor.
At the elbow of the road is a small garden that is rather an unexpected surprise.
It is a memorial to aborted babies.
Asphaltum, though, was not always so quiet and peaceful. It was for a few years early in the twentieth century a boom town when oil was discovered in the area and a refinery was built. A town was laid out, and a map of it can be found here. There may some ruins of the old refinery, but they are on private property. The town itself seems to have been located mostly east of CR 250E, in an area that is now a cornfield. A picture of the old refinery is here, with a better version here.

The oil was high in sulphur and asphaltum, and though there were over 100 wells that were drilled, they produced only small amounts of oil. The refinery had a short life of only a year or two before it was abandoned, but not before a spur of Gifford's railroad was built from Gifford to Asphaltum. The oil, by the way, was refined into lubricating oil and asphalt for roofing. After the refinery was abandoned, some of the brick was used to build houses south near Bailey's Corner, and one still is standing.

Some more information about the short history of the oil boom in Jasper County can be obtained here and here. A bit more information about Asphaltum can be found in the Vintage View's article on Benjamin Gifford in the Summer, 2009 issue, pages 8-11.

On the south edge of Asphaltum is another sign, this one with the name of a mayor. I assume this is a joke of some kind. Anyone know more?
The refinery closed in 1904 and the rail spur removed soon after. The wells produced a lot of water and not too much oil, and when the cost of pumping exceeded the value of the oil, they were abandoned. So there is still some oil there.

Some of the water wells in the Houston Subdivision south of town had problems with trace amounts of oil, and I think that is one of the reasons that the people there wanted annexation and city water. I wonder if their problems were caused by the same geologic formation that gave Asphaltum its oil boom.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Library Fence

Last week workers tore out the line of shrubs that separated the Jasper County Public Library parking lot from the Steinke Funeral Home parking lot and replaced it with a new concrete curb and an iron fence. I asked a couple of the people at the library desk why the fence had been constructed and they did not know, but they said that they liked the new look.
I do not like the new fence because I eliminates a shortcut. I was one of those who cut through the old line of shrubs when I walked to the library. Now I will have to walk a bit further.
The design of the fence is interesting. It has the pointed rails for a traditional look, but it makes sure they will not do what the old spikes were intended to do by capping them. It is a fence designed with lawyers and lawsuits in mind.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Natural gas history

Located a bit south of Francesville on US 421, across the highway from the Vulcan Materials quarry, is Pulaski County's only historical marker:
The text reads:
First Indiana Natural Gas Well
One mile southwest of this marker gas was discovered in 1867 by G. Bates while drilling for oil at a depth of 500 feet. Gas wells were drilled in 1887-1888; gas piped into Francesville lasted only four years.
Some natural gas was also found in Jasper County after a local Jed Clamppet struck oil. Maybe I can get that story ready later this week.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Pulaski Methodist

(I thought it would be interesting to use Sundays to focus on Rensselaer's churches and to see how many Sundays I can go before I run out of material. Indiana is richly endowed with religious denominations, with influences from North and South, East and West. This is related to that series of posts.)

Francesville and Medaryville both have large United Methodist Churches and they look much alike. The Francesville United Methodist Church is located at 110 N Salem. It does not seem to have a website, but there is info about it here and here. The church was built in 1904 and is in the Late Gothic Revival style.
The Medaryville Methodist Church is at 113 N Jefferson (or maybe 132 N Jefferson--I found two addresses for it). It was built in 1902. It shares a pastor with the Francesville Church. More information is here and here.
Virtually all the towns in this area have large Methodist churches that date from the late nineteenth or early twentieth centuries. Other United Methodist churches around Rensselaer include Trinity United Methodist church in Rensselaer, the Mount Ayr United Methodist Church, Brushwood United Methodist Church, Remington United Methodist Church. Kniman Methodist Church, Morocco Evangelical United Methodist Church and the First United Methodist Church of Morocco. See the link to the Trinity United Methodist Church for more on the United Methodists..

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Final thoughts on Little Cousin Jasper Festival

The Little Cousin Jasper Festival had a good run this year. The attendance was excellent and the event ran well, which indicates that the people who planned it did an excellent job. There were plenty of booths selling lots of useless crap, but that is part of what small town festivals are all about.
Almost all the booths east of the court house were food booths. Some were run by local groups that were raising money (VFW, Rotary, Lions, Brushwood Methodist, and Occupation Venture Crew #2152). (I had to ask what the Occupational Venture Crew was and found that it was an extension of the boy scouts. It is co-ed and tries to help young people discover what careers they would do well in.) Other booths are run by local eateries, such as Martins. (I asked why they did not use their booth that they use for the fair and they told me it took too long to set up for a three day event.) And finally, there are people who travel from event to event. Some are from the immediate area, and others are from further away. One of my former students has one of these booths, and I asked him where he will be this weekend. I think he said he would be in Attica. Food is huge business at the festival, as the support trucks parked on Harrison Street indicate.
Some of the food vendors need running water, and it is provided by tapping into the fire hydrant on the corner of Harrison and Cullen. Some also need electricity, and temporary wiring has to be put in place before the festival begins. There are many steps and little details that have to be attended to for the festival to run smoothly.
Kids seemed to enjoy the inflatable slide. Behind it you can see that City Office and Pub had set up an eating area on the bricks of Van Rensselaer. Also, you can see a bit of the farmers' market, which relocated for the day from Harrison Street.
On Sunday the attendance was much lower than on Saturday. Some of the booths tore down late on Saturday and skipped Sunday. One that did that was a booth for the Caboose Campground in Remington. On Saturday I asked the lady who runs or owns the campground why people would want to camp next to the Interstate, She said it was because she had a very nice campgroud. She has an open house on October 10 from 2-5 EDT. And you do not even need a camper to go there. She rents campers, so you can and stay in a rented camper. Or you can rent the caboose for $95 a night.

"Two of a Kind" sang to only a handful of listeners. They did gospel music in a country and western style.
The community band was very good but also had a smaller audience than they would have had on Saturday.
The Indiana Academy for Mixed Martial Arts gave a demonstration, but by this time I was busy helping a couple people take down their tents so I did not see it.
Most are easy to take down if you know how they work.
The Lion's Club packed up about the same time.
One of the handouts from the Jasper County Historical Society's booth was a walking tour of downtown Rensselaer. It does not mention the small building on the right, but says this about the City Office and Pub and the theater:
This part of the Worden building was built in 1928 and it shows the Parapet/Craftsman style. This had been a restaurant and a pharmacy.

The Kessler Building/Palace Theater is in the Art Modern style of 1928. This hardedge angular designed theater had its name changed to the Ritz, which was another theater in town. The new owner has returned the theater to its former style.
An hour or two after the official close, there was little left except the electrical boxes.