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

Friday, October 31, 2014

Tales from the graveyard (updated)

The site is a database of graves throughout the United States and in many other parts of the world. It relies on crowdsourcing, that is, anyone who wants can contribute to the database. One result, unfortunately, is that the entries are of uneven quality and they often contain mistakes. However, when the entries are done carefully, they can contain a great deal of information to those who are trying to trace genealogies. (It is no accident that purchased findagrave.)

Looking through the many thousands of graves that have been recorded from Weston Cemetery for findagrave, one can find interesting bits of Rensselear history. For example, do you know the contribution that Abraham Leopold made to building Rensselaer?

Another pioneer business man in Rensselaer was Fritz William Bedford who had a general store and also a brick and tile manufacturing business. He died in 1915. A bit later in 1934 Benjamin Fendig, part of an important family of retailers died.  James Chapman, one of the organizers of the State Bank of Rensselaer, died in 1935. Just a year later was John Eger, an early grocer passed away.

Weston Cemetery also has graves of people who were prominent elsewhere but are for some reason buried here. For example, Samuel Foster, prominent in Madison Indiana, died here visiting his daughter and is buried in Rensselaer, not in Madison.

There are also stories of personal tragedy in the clippings attached to some of the graves. (Very few of the graves have anything attached to them. Less than one third have a picture of the grave marker.) There were car wrecks and airplane crashes, fires and electrical accidents.

The story of a woman who died undergoing a Caesarean is very sad, but I think a suicide is even sadder.

(For maps of Weston Cemetery and lists of people buried there, go here and click on the links at the bottom of the page.)

Update: The trees were in the Halloween mood today, putting on their ghost costumes.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Health fair

On Thursday the Jasper County Hospital and Saint Joseph's College had a health fair at Halleck Center. Going in people could not miss the Marine Corp exhibit, which may not have been part of the health fair. The three marines were challenging the college men to see how many pull-ups they could do and the college women to see how long they could keep their chin above the bar.
 Inside the ballroom there were many exhibits, most giving out information (and freebies). There were also stations to have your blood pressure read, your blood tested for sugar, cholesterol, and oxygen, and your BMI bone density measured,
 On the way home from SJC I passed through Potawatomie Park to see how preparations were going for the volunteer day on Friday to plant a swale with rain garden plants. If you wondering what will be planted, you can check out the work from 10:00 till 1:00. My guess is that the plants will be similar to those planted in the rain garden at the water treatment plant (see here and here).

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Cars and candy at the city council meeting

The City Council meeting on Monday night had no big surprises. Cars and candy were the main topics.

The Park Department wanted authorization to look for a replacement for a 1994 pick-up that is starting to have issues. The Electric Department gave an update on its search for a replacement for an old SUV that no longer is reliable, and at this point two citizens, one a car dealer, objected to the way the search was proceeding. The council had previously authorized bids for a new vehicle, but the two members of the audience argued that an lightly used vehicle would be as good and would save money. Further, they argued, the city should try to buy locally, supporting local businesses. The council responded by amending its motion of the past meeting to allow for used vehicles with 15,000 miles or less.

Planning has been going well for the upcoming Trunk or Treat event that will be held Friday evening at the Fairgrounds. About $7000 has been donated to the Truck or Treat or the Haunted House (14 rooms!) that the Fire Department is sponsoring. Lots of people are involved, and among other things, McDonalds will have a bouncy house there.

There will be Veteran's Day ceremonies on Nov 11 at 11:00 at Weston Cemetery. The Council approved some spending of public relations funds for a breakfast to honor RCHS athletic teams that have won their sectionals (so far boys soccer and girls cross county). The fire department's aerial truck seems to be working again. Soil borings will be made Monday for the new fire house. LED street light have been installed on Owens and Mattheson Streets.

Monday, October 27, 2014


Today may have been the last great day of autumn, with temperatures in the mid 70s. What a great day for the local schools to have fall break I saw some kids enjoying the day in a very unusual way--they had a bounce house in their front yard.

High school soccer may be finished but some soccer league was still playing in Brookside Park on Sunday. The park was busy over the weekend.
 The farmers also appreciate the nice weather, but not for play. They work. The elevator was busy even late on Sunday with grain trucks delivering corn. Around Rensselaer it appears that more than half of the fields have been harvested.
Back to play, but of a different sort. The Columbia Players at SJC put on their production of Arsenic and Old Lace late last week. The play is a comedy about serial killers, some well-meaning and some not.
The leaves have been raining down all day and a lot of trees are now bare. This may have been our last great day of autumn, but we should have a few more good ones in the weeks ahead.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Downtown windows

The Beaver Law offices were getting new windows on Wednesday. I stopped by and asked what the final color would be and was told it would be like it had been.

This morning you could see the old colors reemerging.
 The new windows are among the few downtown on Washington Street that are not covered with messages of encouragement for the football team. I thought it was interesting that many of the messages meshed with the business of the stores.  Do you like your coffee strong and bold? 
 The sign in the left windows reads "Tic Tock No Stop on Our Way to The Top." Naturally, the store is Steffen's Jewelry.
Lyon's Crop Insurance has "Harvest a Win" and Claim A Victory." I did not see any "We are Banking on a Victory" messages at Lafayette National Bank, but that would have fit.
The one message I did not think fit the store at all was "Hustle, Hit, never Quit" on the windows of what was Bub's BBQ. 

I suspect the downtown windows will remain painted for a while.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Many things

Is it my imagination or does the sky look different in the fall than it does in the summer? I kept wondering that yesterday as the dark clouds mixed with patches of very blue sky.
 The city leaf vac is roaming the streets searching for leaves. It has ended one of the old rituals of fall--burning leaves. (Do you miss the smell of burning leaves?)
The Animal Control Board advertised that it was meeting in the Library on Monday night and because I had never been to one of their meetings, I decided to attend. (I was told that it had been a long time since any member of the public had been at one of their meetings.) They had six members plus the director of the shelter present, which was enough for a quorum, something they did not have at their last meeting. (A quorum is necessary for any vote to be official.)

After a brief discussion of the director's report on how many animals were received and what happened to them, the Board had a lengthy discussion of finances relating to donations. The whole issue came up when the Animal Shelter had a float in a recent parade. They wanted to use some funds in their donation budget to pay for some expenses, but were told by the auditor that they could not do that because they lacked the appropriate line item in their donation account. If that does not quite make sense to you, you can understand why the Board spent about half an hour discussing it.

I do not think I have ever been to a meeting where members had as many cell phone calls. Most of the members got at least one, and at this point in the meeting the chair of the Board received one and had to leave because of an emergency involving one of his dogs. The meeting continued with a discussion of a policy for comp time. I do not understand the nuances of this, but the issue is important because animal control people often have to come in at odd hours to deal with a problem. As I understand it, they are paid time and a half for these calls, but then are expected to adjust their work schedules so their total time worked is not affected. The policy passed and a couple more people had to leave.

Then there was a discussion of personnel issues that I did not understand at all, followed by a discussion of a pit bull that is being held at the shelter pending a court decision. The dog had bitten three people and its fate will be determined at a November 10th hearing. At this point two more people had to leave, so only the director and one member of the board were left. Since I was no longer at a meeting bur rather a conversation between two people,  I left as well.

The Tuesday night Historical Society meeting had one of the largest crowds ever. The program was about Indian artifacts. All of the items shown below and much more were found by one local collector.
Our area seems to be unusually rich in these artifacts. Much of our area was once swamp so people camped on the sand hills, and those hills are often full of arrowheads, spear points, axes, and other stone items used by the Indians. However, finding them has gotten more difficult because of the advent of no-till farming--wind and water erosion are friends of the arrowhead hunter. Also, land owners are much less willing to let collectors onto their properties than they used to be.

(Normally the County Council meets on the same Tuesdays as the Historical Society, but this month they moved their meeting back a week because county officials who need to be at the meeting were out of town. The County Council meeting will be next Tuesday.)

Monday, October 20, 2014

A bleak but musical weekend

What a bleak and dreary weekend. It is nice to see blue sky today.

The Iroquois Harmonizers had their annual show on Saturday. They sang and entertained for the first half of the show.
 After the intermission Wolffgang, a women's vocal ensemble group from Hobart High School sang. (The director is named Wolff, hence the name.) They were not a-cappella, which I thought broke the theme of the evening.

Closing out the show was another woman's group, Spot On. They were wearing crowns because last year they were crowned the 2013 Harmony Queens (Champions) at the Harmony Inc. International Quartet Contest. What was strange is that they were not living close to one another but rather in Indianapolis, Chicago, Saint Louis, and Louisville.
On Friday I noticed that workers were pouring a new entranceway to the Jasper County Historical Society Museum on Clark and Van Rensselaer. The Jasper County Historical Society has its monthly meeting on Tuesday night. The program, starting about 7:00, will feature Fuzz Kohley and his collection of Indian artifacts. If you are interested in who was living in Jasper County for the ten thousand years before the first white settlers, you might find the program interesting.

I think I forgot to mention last week that the city does not want sticks mixed in with the piles of leaves in the streets. The sticks clog the leaf vacuum. Please separate the sticks and branches and everything else from the leaves.

This coming Saturday will be the last farmers market on the court house square. That strikes me as strange because it is harvest time for gardens. Though the tomatoes are long gone, I still have sweet potatoes, kohlrabi, carrots, and beets left to harvest. I suspect that the unpleasantness of sitting in the cold is a bigger factor in closing the market than a lack of things to sell.

It is not just the garden that needs attention. I  have a lot of outside work to do to get ready for winter, so if I do not post much for the next few weeks, the change of seasons will be my excuse.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Out of town

On two days this past week I traveled out of town. On one of those trips I drove up US 231 through Wolcott. I discovered that the Dairy Queen at the 193 mile-marker exit is gone, replaced less than a month ago by something called Ludy's Burgers.

I stopped in Wolcott to see what they were doing with their sidewalks, something that the Wolcott Facebook page has mentioned a lot. They have installed what appears to brick dividers between the sidewalks and the street
 Below is another view, taken on a rainy day that does not show the sidewalks at their best. Wolcott has a small downtown that has some very nice old buildings. It is nice to see the community trying to make their little downtown as attractive as possible.
At Pleasant Ridge workers were re-roofing a large conical storage bin and they looked tiny on it. Unfortunately I was not able to take a picture.

Along the various highways less than half the fields had been harvested. I saw no one out in the fields harvesting, which was not surprising considering the weather.

The maple trees seem to be especially colorful this year and this week most are at peak color. A good example of their color is shown in the picture below. If the sun were out and the sky was blue, the leaves would be even brighter.

Today Town and Country was busy paving College Avenue. They finished the whole road but did not finish some of the connections at the intersections.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A routine meeting

Few citizens attended the city council meeting on Monday October 13 but they did not miss much. The council voted to approve the budget for 2015 that will spend almost five million dollars and also a gas tracker decrease of two cents per 100 cf for October. An Urban Tree Forestry spokesman addressed the council requesting that in future budgets a line item be established to aid in their mission of planting trees. The group is in its seventh year and has planted 187 trees. It has brought in $40,000 in state grants that it has matched with contributions or in-kind with work. However, grants from the state are becoming harder to obtain and with the threat of the ash tree borer (28% of trees along streets are ash, 40% silver maple), they foresee a lot of work ahead. The council passed a resolution to provide them with $1500 from the public relations budget provided that there are enough funds in that budget.

The council passed a resolution to keep the city's contribution to employee's HSA plans at $1500, which is what it was last year. (I think HSA is health savings account.) The council ratified a telephone vote taken between meetings to accept a one-time offer to seal coat the roads in Weston Cemetery. The work is finished and cost $9500. Finally the council approved investigating the replacement of a 1995 Suburban van used by the electric department. It needs expensive repairs and they thought was it was time to replace it. The mayor appointed a committee of council members and city employees to find a vehicle for the council to approve.

The gas department reported that it has six hookups to do on the gas line extensions and that it will probably get to SJC by Thursday.
College Avenue is torn up from Clark Street to the intersection with US 231. It will be resurfaced as soon as weather permits.

The most interesting bit of information from the meeting also was about College Ave/US 231. The state has plans to redo the Mt Calvary Road/US 231 intersection in July of 2016. (When the state is involved, things move slowly.) It will add a passing lane to the road and move the intersection 12 feet to the east. That will involve a gradual shift of the roadway starting several hundred feet either side of the intersection. The project will also align the two sides of Mt Calvary Road so that they line up--presently they do not quite do that. The project should not require the closing of US 231 to traffic.

The state has another project involving Rensselaer that will close US 231. It is planning to work on the Washington Street Bridge in August of 2016. I am not sure what that project will do other than close the bridge.

Monday, October 13, 2014

A lot of pictures

Last week I published a bunch of pictures of the IBEC plant but did not have a picture of the steam stack. Here it is.
The fermentation tanks are on the left, the control room and the equipment that grinds the corn is in the building to the right of the tanks, the building that dries the DRG is to the right of the stack. The elevator and bins to store corn, which were not shown in the original post, are behind the stack, and the room where DDG was piled is hidden behind the fermentation tanks.

More than a week ago I went to the reception for the new art exhibit. Not part of the exhibit but for sale were items that a local man makes from natural materials. I had not seen his dragonflies before.

Last week the Friends of the Library had their Fall Fest, with games and activities for all ages, but especially the kids. I think we bought the cake on the left in the silent auction.
The Families of the JCYC had an open house last week to celebrate their first year of operation. Elsa from Frozen. and many kids had their pictures taken with here. (I have never seen the movie, but my grandkids seem to have seen it several times because they can sing the songs that were in it.)
The Youth Center is collecting plastic bottle caps, the things that you are not supposed to put out in recycling. If they can collect 400 pounds (about a million caps?), they can get a bench made from recycled caps, though they have to pick it up in Evansville or some place in southern Indiana. If you want to help them, their collection box is in the entranceway to the center.

On Saturday I rode past Brookside Park and saw little kids playing soccer in front of a lot of parents. On Sunday afternoon others were out. The Park Board wants to convert this field into two ball diamonds and I have heard people suggest that as a result there will be more people using the park. The ball fields are used intensively for about six weeks and then they sit idle for the rest of the year. The soccer field is used throughout the spring, summer, and fall. If the parks convert this field to ball diamonds and do not replace the soccer field, I am pretty sure that usage of the parks will actually fall.
This past weekend was a busy day for sports in Rensselaer.  The boys soccer team won its sectional, a first for the program. Girls soccer fell a bit short and did not win their sectional. The football team defeated Central Catholic 9-0, the first conference defeat CC has suffered since they joined the league several years ago. (However, CC may get a chance to avenge the loss because barring an upset, the two teams will meet again in the tournament.) Finally, Rensselaer  hosted cross country sectionals on Saturday. The boys team finished sixth and will not advance, but the girls had five runners in the top ten to easily finish first. Only six of the eleven teams had enough runners to score as teams.

Progress is being made on the MacAllister  building. I could see what looked like a foundation. There are lots of building supplies on the site.
Last week Town and Country Paving was busy resurfacing roads throughout Rensselaer.  They still have some left to do, but driving will be a lot easier this week than it was last week.
The longest stretch of road to be resurfaced was Walnut from US 231 to the recycling center between Rachel and Melville. Several of the lots of land along the north side of the railroad and south of Walnut have been on the market recently. I think the lot between Franklin and Webster sold earlier this year. A few weeks ago crushed stone was spread over most of the lot and on Sunday I noticed a new sign on the building.

The remodeling of the front of the Fase-Kaluf  building seems to be finished.
In the downtown the paint is being scraped and sanded from the woodwork of the building that houses the Beaver law offices.
Below are some more pictures from the Oddfellow building. The door to the northern apartment has a peep hole in it. This would not have been the main door to the meeting room, but rather more a back door. I am not sure what purpose it served.
Here is the same door from the other side. The cover could be swung to open the hole and look out.
I thought the two signs on the second floor tattoo studio made an interesting contrast.

Here is another picture of asters for no reason other than I think these little asters are very pretty.

The days are getting shorter and it feels like autumn. There are so many things to do to get ready for winter.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Behind the new windows

If you have been downtown in the past week you almost certainly noticed that there are changes being made to the old Oddfellows Building. On Thursday I got a chance to see what was going on behind the windows.
 The Oddfellows Building has three floors. The stairway from the second to the third floor has a landing and decorative finials; similar finials seem once to have graced the top of the stairs from the street to the second floor.
 At the top of the stairs is a hallway. On the northwest side workers are readying a large apartment. It will have a bathroom and utility space (washer and dryer plus storage) through the left doorway below and a kitchen through the right doorway. At present plans are to leave the large room that makes up most of the floor space undivided.
 Here is a different view of the large room, showing the windows that are at the back of the building. This apartment will not have much of a view.
 Coming out of the back apartment one again enters the hallway. The stairs are on the left and a hallway to one of the new front apartments is through the arch. If you look carefully you might see some of the old coat hooks. The front part of the building was once a meeting hall and people would hang their coats in this hallway. (A fire escape will be installed on a window at the end of this hallway.)
 The large room at the front of the building has been cut into two apartments that are mirror images of each other. An enclosure has been made for the bathroom and utility room, and the top of this enclosure will be a loft reached by the new stairs. When completed, there will be railings on the loft and stairs. Through the door you can see into the back apartment where the carpenters were eating lunch.
 The center bay windows will not be divided between apartments. Rather they will be shared. The little alcove will have entrances from both apartments.
 The view from these windows is spectacular and a little unnerving for anyone with a touch of acrophobia.
Passing through the alcove, one can enter the second apartment. Below you can see the view looking toward the street.
Though things are still in a very unfinished state, it is easy to see that these will be wonderful apartments for those who want a view and a big open space and who do not mind two flights of stairs.

The owner is trying to restore the front of the building to its original appearance but only has old and indistinct pictures from which to work. If anyone has any color pictures of what the building looked like before the siding was put on, he would like to see them, though he suspects the siding may have been installed in the 1950s when most photography was black and white.