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

Monday, October 30, 2017

Tales from the graveyard

It is the time of the year when people celebrate death in their decorations. Lawns sport skeletons and fake graveyards, and ghosts are everywhere. In the spirit of the season, today's post is about stories that the City's graveyard, aka Weston Cemetery, has to tell. The theme is not horror or fright but one of sadness at lives cut short by accident, disease, or both together. Below is a map showing the locations of the graves we will visit.

Entering the Cemetery from the Abigail Street entrance, we follow the road as it turns west until it again turns to the south. The graves to the right make up Section E and the graves to the left make up Section G. (You did know that most cemeteries are plotted so that each grave has an address, didn't you?) Just before we reach the bend, we walk into Section E looking for the grave of Floyd Rowen whose knee was injured while delivering groceries for his father. The injury did not heal properly but became infected, resulting in his death in 1916. (Click on the names of all the people mentioned in this post for more information about their lives and deaths.)

From the Rowen grave we walk a few steps to the west looking for the large Maines monument. Beyond it to the west is the unmarked grave of Benjamin King. A few days before Halloween in 1916 Mr King went to Rensselaer from a farm north of Parr to deliver hogs and do some chores. When the horses pulled the wagon home, he was unconscious and attempts to revive him were in vain.

We now retrace our steps back toward the entrance and take the road that forms the eastern boundary of the Cemetery, heading toward the river. On our right is Section A, the oldest part of the Cemetery with the earliest graves in the 1840s. As we approach the Iroquois River, we are next to Section B, an old section that contains many pauper graves. One that has a marker is that of Clifford Sumner, a mechanic who died quite suddenly in 1916 from an infection. Like many burials in Section B, little is known about his life or family.

Also in Section B and closer to the road is Daniel Watson, one of many in an unmarked grave. His story is one that occurs several times in this post, where an injury leads to a fatal infection. Watson's injury was the result of being thrown from a wagon in 1929 when his horses spooked. Infection leading to death followed surgery.

Returning to the road, we take the fork that leads up the hill. After just a few steps along this road we are next to the Day plot, a family plot, and in it is Woodrow Day, who died from kidney failure in early 1930 when he was 17 years old.

As we walk up the hill, Section C is on our left and Section D is on our right. The large monuments in Section D indicate that many of the leading citizens of early Rensselaer and Jasper County are buried here. When we reach the road that leads down to the creek, we take it. Section U is on our right and Section G, another section with many large monuments, is on our left. We look for the Leopold monument that is not too far from the road in Section G. In front of it are two reddish markers and one of them is for sixteen-year-old Milton Leopold. The grandson of one of Rensselaer's most prominent merchants, he was a student at Wolcott High School. He died of typhoid fever in 1916. Aren't you glad that antibiotics came into widespread use in the 1940s?

We go down the hill and across the Maxwell Ditch. In front of us are Sections M and N. We turn right and then turn left on the road that separates Section M from Section L. There are three graves along this road we will visit. It was a clear November afternoon in 1934 and there were no obstructions blocking the view of the tracks, but for some reason  Lurratta and Wayne Fleming did not see or hear an approaching train as they crossed the tracks near Fair Oaks. The Flemings are the westernmost grave we visit along this road.
Two rows to the east of the Fleming grave is that of Walter Lutz. He was a teacher at the high school in Marion, Indiana. In 1929 he went to Muncie to take a special three-week course and while there was afflicted with appendicitis. The appendectomy resulted in an infections that caused his death. A little to the east of the Lutz grave and on the other side of the road is the grave of  little ten-year-old Doris Rowley. She died of bronchial pneumonia-mastoid infection with meningitis a decade after the death of Walter Lutz.

The grave of John K Smith in the middle of Section M is harder to find. From the Rowley grave go east one row and then walk south. On the way home in late November of 1922 after making a delivery with his truck, he was hit by a switching train on the Webster Street railroad crossing. He died the next day from his injuries

 Willard Black was electrocuted in 1934 while rewiring a fan at the Harris Creamery. He is buried two rows west of Rowley and several yards to the north. Our next stop is nine rows to the east of the Black grave. Harry Eigelsbach was born Harry Reffelt but took the name of the family that adopted him. In May of 1939 Harry and some friends were returning from the Curtis Creek Country Club. It was dark and the driver misjudged the S curve on Bunkum Road a couple miles west of Rensselaer. The car flipped, injuring all in the car and but only Harry fatally. That S curve on Bunkum Road is known by some as Deadman's Curve and 25 years after Harry Eigelsbach was killed there, two Chicago Bear players lost their lives on this curve. See here and here.

Our final stop has a double dose of sadness. A few weeks after Demi Smith Gratner entered the Rockville Sanitarian in 1939 suffering from throat tuberculosis, she had a baby that died a few hours after birth. Less than two weeks later Demi died. To find her grave, go one row east of the Rowley grave and then go north almost to the road. Her baby was buried at the foot of the grave of William Gratner, who seems to be the grandfather. It is in the south west part of Section N.

This is but a small sample of stories that Weston Cemetery has of those who died too young. For a more diverse range of the stories from Weston Cemetery, visit this virtual tour of the Cemetery. (It is still under development and undergoing changes. Feel free to suggest corrections and additions.)

Friday, October 27, 2017


I have been looking for obituaries in old issues of past Jasper County newspapers and while browsing through issues of The Rensselaer Republican for the year 1916, found a few items that I thought amusing. If you were adventurous, you might be interested in a new car.
 The latest in kitchen appliances was Cole's High Oven Range.
 Years ago I purchased one of these Hoosier Cabinets at a sale, quite similar to the model as shown below. Before kitchens came with built-in cabinets, they were very useful.
 The train station was a busy place in 1916.
Rensselaer was about to get a public hospital. Look at the cost.
 The foundation for the water tank still remained the last time I looked for it. It is (was) west of the depot. (Click on the picture to get a larger version.)
In recent news, Rensselaer got its first frost of the season Thursday morning. It was obvious but it only killed a little of the sensitive vegetation. In contrast, student at my high school alma mater in central Minnesota were playing in snow this morning.

The rains have slowed or stopped the harvest. Driving east of town on Thursday, I saw a lot of fields harvested but a lot that were not yet harvested.

The Parks for People campaign was formally announced this week. The campaign's website is not yet finished but it has pictures of what is being proposed that are much better than the ones I took. The Rensselaer Republican posted the promotional video on Facebook.

Lafayette Limo will be adding a stop at the Jasper County Airport. Their route goes north to Chicago and south to Lafayette and Indianapolis. More here. Also, the Airport is partnering with 4H for a club for kids interesting in aviation. More here.

The Elza Street apartments will be opening on December 1.

On Friday the bridge crew was pouring concrete for the bridge approaches. The east side rail has not yet been poured, but the forms are mostly in place.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Meetings, the final day of the sale, and more

The City Council meeting on Monday was Caitlin Siever's last; she is leaving the Rensselaer Republican. The Mayor and Council gave her a bouquet of flowers to show their appreciation of her coverage of the Council and City. She seemed quite surprised and said she looked forward to a job that required only 40 hours per week.

John Julien, the City's financial advisor, reported on a bond offering. S&P did not give the City a rating because State Board of Accounts had not done a report on it for while, but still the City was able to borrow $2.8 million for the new substation at a 2.8% rate and to refinance $4.2 million of old debt for the same interest rate. The refinancing will save the City $36,000 per year for the next eleven years.

The next bond offering will be to finance the new water well and the water main that brings the water to the treatment plant. Construction bids are due at the first November meeting of the Council and that will allow some fine tuning of the offering that will be bid late in November or early in December.

The Council approved seeking supply bids for gas, diesel, and tire services. The Cemetery was granted permission to seek quotes on a trade-in of a mower and to purchase a trailer for the mini-excavator that it recently purchased. 

The Council opened three bids for a new street sweeper. They ranged from $157,505 to $204,000. It also opened bids for the next phase of street resurfacing. There were three bids ranging from $1,018,750 to $861,883.15. A committee was appointed to examine the bids and make recommendations at the next Council meeting.

City employees were give a presentation for the Parks for People fundraising. American Legion donated a new flagpole for Flat Iron Park. 
The water main under the Washington Street Bridge has been reconnected and is back in service.

The County Council met in an uneventful meeting on Tuesday night and approved budgets for the Airport, Northwest Solid Waste District, Iroquois Conservancy, and Rensselaer Central School Corporation.

Tuesday was the final day of the SJC sale and it was busy in the late afternoon. Even then new items were being carted in and one former faculty member told me that there would be an auction in the near future. 
For some people the sale was an early Christmas. 
Earlier this week the west railing of the bridge was poured.
By the time you read this, the cover may be off. The concrete used is colored red and the effect will be to make the wall appear as if it is made from bricks.
Two days of non-stop drizzle have slowed or stopped harvest. The leaves are finally changing color. And we may get some frost in the next few days as temperatures at night dip into the low 30s.

Friday, October 20, 2017

October odds and ends

The first annual Fall Family Fun Night held on Thursday at Brookside Park had a large attendance. The hay rides were very popular.
 There were pumpkins to carve.
And a large fire to enjoy. I missed the Riley Read part of the event.
 Other things happening: The north end of Elza Street is being widened by four feet. After the new strip of street and the parking lot for the apartments are paved, the apartments will be ready to rent. The City wanted the developer to widen the street and also to put in drainage along it.
 There is new sidewalk along College next to the Monnett Park property. The old sidewalk was in very bad shape. Several locust trees have also been planted along the sidewalk, the work of the Rensselaer Urban Forest Council.
The ends of the walkway through Milroy Park have also been finished, though some asphalt needs to be added to the streets to complete the work.

The SJC sale is in its final days. The last day is supposed to be next Tuesday. Currently most of the items are 50% off.

I drove US 24 though Remington on Thursday and noticed that construction of  the Pilot Travel Center at the I-65 interchange is underway.  The weather seems ideal for field work but most crops are still not harvested. The elevators are open late.

In Wednesday's Rensselaer Republican Caitlin Sievers announced that she would be leaving the paper and wrote about what she learned in her two years here. Her article is on the editorial page.

The Rensselaer Police Department announced that the group that has been working with Teen Challenge to develop some kind of facility to deal with the opioid epidemic has leased a property. The group that is doing the lease has a name, the Jasper County Recovery House Board.

Finally, the RCHS History Club is presenting a Haunted Rensselaer Ghost Tour on October 27. Tours will be at 7:00 and 10:00 pm and tickets are available at the RCHS front office, adults $9 and students $7.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Pouring concrete for the bridge and a funny e-mail

Tuesday morning the cement trucks started arriving for the Washington Street Bridge pour. By about 10:30 half the bridge was finished.
 When I arrived there were no concrete trucks, but in a few minutes three arrived. The guys in the hard hats are state employees who take samples of the concrete so they can test it back at the lab.
 The concrete goes up through the pipes and then is poured out onto the bridge. The boom was controlled by a man with a portable console who was standing along the side of the bridge. The yellow boom had a machine that you can see in the middle of the picture below that smoothed the concrete.
 By one o'clock they had finished pouring the concrete and were cleaning up. There is still some rebar showing along the edges and that will probably be for the rail and the sidewalks, so there is still some more concrete needed. And the bridge approaches are totally unfinished.
This morning I got a letter from Bernie Madoff telling me he was going to make me rich. Here is the letter:

Hello Dear

I am Bernie Madoff the founder of wall street firm Bernard L. Madoff investment securities LLC in 1960 and was the former chairman of NASDAQ. I was accused of fraud worth over $65 billion dollars and was arrested on Dec 11,2008 and on march 12,2009.I pleaded guilty to 11 federal crimes and admitted to operated the largest ponzi scheme in history, I am currently in Butner federal prison outside Durham, North Carolina, serving a 150-year sentence, I regret a lot of my mistakes and I want to make amends with the remaining days i have left, giving the people back what I stole from them.

Let me not go into many details. I have Millions of Euros in offshore financial house, This money nobody knows about it except my bank officers because the money was deposited under serial codes. I need your help right now not only to reinvest the money.50% will go to charity and 20% will be mapped out for the promotion of gospel and building of churches and mosques all over the world and 25% for you while 4% goes to the bank officials who will help you facilitate the transaction and 1% for my up keeping in the prison and I know that I will die soon because of my heart attack and kidney cancer. Ruth my wife will not come and visit or talk to me my two sons, Mark committed suicide in 2010, and Andrew died of cancer in 2014. I want to die knowing that i have touch life and make a difference please I want this business to be completed as soon as possible.

Kind respect
Bernie Madoff

It was in my spam folder and I rarely look at stuff there, but I was curious when I saw the name. It is the funniest example of the Nigerian Scam that I have ever seen. Unfortunately there probably are people stupid enough (and dishonest enough) to fall for this.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Art show, decorations, sale, and bridge (updated)

The current show at the Fendig Gallery is the annual themed exhibit, with the theme this year of "Shadows. The exhibit runs through November 3. The exhibit also features some works from early members of the Jasper County Art League, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary this year.

I thought this was a cute take on the theme of the show.
 I liked this picture but could not figure out where the shadows were.
 A different sort of decoration is popping up around town--it is time for Halloween decorations.
 Zombies are threatening for this yard.
 The SJC sale is still at 40% off and there are signs hung from the rafters that everything must go.
 New since I was there last are a table of microscopes.
 Also from some science lab or store room are collections of insects.
 It appears that the rebar has been installed on the bridge.
A strange looking mechanism that somehow helps place the concrete was being assembled on Monday morning.
Update: Below is the mechanism in place, ready to start receiving concrete. The picture is from late in the afternoon on Monday.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

A bit of business news

Several new businesses have popped up in Rensselaer in the past few weeks or months. In the back part of the Horton Building, where businesses tend not to last, Another Chance is temporary by design. The lady is selling her excess collection and plans to be there only four months. (The Rensselaer Republican had an article about her business and plans a week or two ago.)
She has a lot of stuff.
There is a new business in the back end of Charlie Roberts.  The name has a z but the website uses an s. I did not get to talk to them but they do a variety of home repairs.
E-ZEA Auto Center, which details cars, is no longer in the Roberts building but is still in business. However, they do not have an official business location and they may be working from DeMotte this winter.  They are still on Facebook.

The building in which E-Zea started and which most recently was home to Paul's Auto Repair is now empty.

Terra's Creations and Moore is a new business open in the building that houses Big Dog on North McKinley Street. It has floral arrangements, antiques,  and other decorative items
Fenwick Farms Brewing has been busy remodeling the building next door.

 As for the bridge update, this past week the workers have been setting rebar on the forms. The picture below was taken mid-week. There is more green on the deck now.
Congratulations to the RCHS girls cross country team for qualifying for semi-state.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

City Council 10-9-2017

The City Council had its first October meeting on Monday evening. The first item on the agenda was the salary ordinance that establishes salaries for elected officials and City employees for 2018. It had been worked on in special sessions and passed without discussion.

The rate tracking for the electric utility is an increase that will add about 95 cents to an average customers bill. The gas tracker for October is a small decrease per hundred cubic feet.

The Council approved payment of $1200 for a gas line easement needed when US 231 is moved a bit to the east at the Mount Calvary Road intersection. This is the little bit of the highway that was not resurfaced a year or two ago--if you drive on it, you notice that it is in bad shape. The Mayor had thought this bill had been paid but it was not.

The City attorney gave a short presentation on a firm that is bringing a lawsuit seeking damages against several manufacturers and distributors of opioids. The County Commissioners had heard a presentation on this matter at their October meeting and according to Mr Riley, they had signed on. The case is a contingency case; the lawyers get paid only if they win, and they then get 40% of whatever award there is. The Council approved joining the case.

The Police Chief had gotten bids for a new squad car and recommended taking a bit of $24.297 less trade in from Thomas Dodge. It will be an all-wheel drive car. The Council approved the purchase.

The City Project Manager had several items. One was a request to pay $9846 for shut-off valves to go with the 18 hydrants that were previously approved. The Council approved $60,340.10 for a new sewer camera. The state mandates that the city photograph a certain percentage of their lines each year and this equipment is needed to meet the state requirements. The Council approved $14,000 to Grimmer for work in isolating the water line that was on the bridge that was demolished. It also approved some work by Grimmer that will extend a water main so it will not be under pavement when Calvary Road is moved a bit next year so it lines up on both sides of the highway, which it currently does not do.

The Council approved spending $250 from the Public Relations fund for Trunk or Treat, which will be held on the 31st from 5 to 7 at the Fairgrounds. The Trick or Treat hours in town will be the same as last year, 5 to 8 pm on the 31st.

In superintendent comments, the Police Chief noted that the Board of Public Works approved the start of phase 2 on converting the old fire station to a new police station. The power outage on Friday night that hit the northern part of town was cased by a mechanical problem at the Eger substation on Melville, near the new Primary School. The southern part of Rensselaer was not affected because it gets its electricity from the Banet substation on Sparling.

Extension of storm sewers on Elm Street has been completed and the old water wells on Bunkum Road have been sealed off. This is Fire Prevention Week and there will be some kind of program at the fire station on Saturday but I have not found an announcement to link to.

On Monday the bridge construction crew was putting a new water main section into the bridge. By the end of the day it was totally in place.
Also on Monday, the Historical Society and the DAR had a small ceremony celebrating the placing of a marker on the grave of Eleanor Stackhouse Atkinson in Weston Cemetery. She was author writing in the late 19th and early 20th century whose most famous book, GreyFriars Bobby, has been in print for over a century. Her ashes were placed in the family plot in 1943 and until a week or two ago, her grave was unmarked. The Rensselaer Republican had an article about the celebration in its Tuesday edition.

On Tuesday night and Wednesday morning we got about two and a half inches of rain according to my rain gauge.

Monday, October 9, 2017


On Thursday as I was recuperating from the last Walk with A Doc event, I saw a strange vehicle that said Apple Maps go through the park. On Saturday I saw the vehicle getting gas at the station by the river and asked the driver what it was about. She would not give me any information. Checking the Internet, it appears apple maps is used for the i-phone.
 The other thing I noticed in the park was the new mini-excavator that the Cemetery recently purchased. It was being used to dig out a path from the road to the running track that will be made into a sidewalk. This is in preparation for the visit of the traveling Vietnam War memorial that will be here next May.

On Friday I noticed a film crew in the park shooting scenes for the video that the upcoming Parks for People fundraiser will use. They filmed a few seconds of me but I suspect that that little bit of film will end up on the cutting room floor. There was not much happening in Brookside Park, but they were planning to be filming at the soccer fields by the Monnett Park (that is what it should be called) on Saturday. There was plenty happening there.
 On Saturday RCHS hosted cross country sectionals. Two Rensselaer girls were in the lead at about 800 meters and if you click the picture to enlarge it, you can probably guess which of the girls won.  If you want to check your answers, you can here.
 Friday night much of Rensselaer had a power outage that lasted about 45 minutes. Among events that had to improvise were the Knights of Columbus Fish Fry and the CDC Resources Prom at the Fairgrounds.

Pretty much every post needs a bridge update picture. This was taken over the weekend.
 The sale at SJC continues and among the things for sale are lots of old pictures. Many are of sports but the one below is from a theatrical performance.

Among the pictures for sale are the pictures from the Sports Hall of Fame. That outraged some alumni and I noticed that although the pictures are still for sale, there is a note that says they are for sale only to relatives.

I wondered about the old wooden desks several weeks ago. Apparently some hid and avoided destruction. Now they have been found and are for sale.
 There are still lots of computer keyboards and small computer monitors. I did not see any remaining computers. Everything is now 40% off, so they must have reached fair value.

I am still waiting for fall colors, but perhaps the warm weather is delaying them. The City has had both its street sweeper and its green machine vacuum out in the last week or two.

Happy Columbus Day.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

First October meetings

After the opening preliminaries, the first item on the agenda of the Commissioners meeting was a presentation from a couple of Indianapolis lawyers who would like the county to join an upcoming lawsuit aimed at opioid manufacturers and distributors. Their contention will be that the opioid manufacturers and distributors created the opioid problems that Indiana is experiencing by promoting opioids as safe and downplaying their addictive properties. They said that the proper place for opioids is for end-of-life treatment. They will only be representing Indiana entities and the suit will be on a contingency basis, meaning that they will get paid from the winnings of the lawsuit, if any. The Commissioners wondered how much it would cost the County to comply with requests for information needed for the suit and then said that the matter needed to be discussed with the Council. The lawyers suggested that they may file the suit by the end of the month.

The Commissioners had intended to decide who would be awarded a maintenance contract for the jail's air handling and other controls but after some discussion, deferred the decision to November. They are not happy with the performance of the current contractor, a second did not show for the meeting, and the third was considerably higher in cost. Until then, the current contractor, Havel, will continue to do the work. The basic complaint is about availability of an IT guy--everything is computer controlled, so pretty much everything needs help from IT.

There were four bids for ambulance service for the center of the County. The winner will be decided at the November meeting.

Honeywell discussed the problems at Community Corrections--during hot weather, condensation is forming on ducts in the attic and then coming through the ceiling. A decision was made on what steps were needed next. Something called the guaranteed savings legislation allows projects to be approached in a way that they otherwise could not be.

The Sheriff wanted payments for employees made by direct deposit. When the issue was raised sometime in the past, most County employees did not want it, but apparently with time the sentiment has changed. The County Assessor wanted approval for aerial photography. It is done twice every six years and is used extensively in the Assessor's Office. The request was approved.

The Highway Department was given approval for repairs on the asphalt plant. There will be a public hearing on a speed limit change on a road in the DeMotte area in November or December. It was noted that this year most of the Community Crossings money went to cities and town, not counties. The County will continue recycling tires using it own manpower. The problem with stopping the program is that the tires then end up along side roads.

There will be a County auction on November 18. The meeting was continued until November 16 at 8:30 if needed.

On Monday evening the Rensselaer Park Board and Park Corporation met. Before they reviewed some plans for the upcoming Parks for People fundraiser and discussed some ongoing projects, they had to decide which one of three applicants for the vacant seat on the Park Corporation to accept. They thought any one of the three would be a valuable member but after looking at their individual strengths, made a decision. They hoped that they could find a way the other two could contribute to the park.

Harvest is underway.
Progress on the bridge reconstruction is evident day by day.
 The picture above resembles the picture below, which is from a 2006 or 2007 issue of Vintage Views, a publication of the Jasper County Historical Society.