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

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Christmas tree walk

The tree lighting for the Christmas tree walk is scheduled for Saturday at 5:30 in Potawatomie Park. There are 14 or 15 trees up as of Friday morning and there may be one or two more ready before the lighting.

The Alzheimer's Association has a tree and a bike. The bike is is there for the Ride to End ALZ event.
 This one is only identified with a HOPE sign.
 Valley Oaks Health is the new name of Wabash Valley Alliance. Their office is on Drexel Drive.
 The light was not right to get a good picture of the dog in the doghouse beneath the tree of the Jasper Count Animal Shelter.
 I assume BAE is Bombers for Academic Excellence.
 I thought this might be a John Deere display until the Brown Garden & Floral Shoppe sign was added.
 A tree from Ci Insurance.
 A corny display that is not labeled. Perhaps IBEC?
 Hope Community Church has a lighted cross.
 The white tree is from the Police Department and the one with the fire truck is from Fire Department. The Police Department tree is my favorite and I suspect will be the favorite of most little boys. I hope they can keep their hands off the ornaments.
 There was no identification for this tree but it may be the favorite of the birds. It has strings of cheerios and other food bits as ornam
 I also could not identify who put up this tree.

The Rensselaer Library also has a variety of trees from various organizations. Maybe I will show them in a future post.

On Friday morning the Tourism Commission met for its monthly meeting.  JCEDO with the aid of South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority had applied to host an economic development conference next September and their bid or proposal was accepted from the ten submissions. It will be held at Fair Oaks.

Most of the meeting discussed the application forms for getting Jasper County Tourism Commission funding. They would like to tighten up the requirements for festival funding. The application says that the event that gets funding is supposed to report back to the Commission but apparently few do. (I was there to give a final report on the Weston Cemetery Walk. The Tourism Commission would like to see growth or an upward trend in the festivals it funds.

They are also developing a capital improvements application. The thought of the members is that if there can be improvements that make the County more attractive to visitors, those improvements should receive help. However, they do not want to be funding maintenance. The grant that they gave to the Parks for People campaign is a major reason that they are trying to iron out the rules for this kind of funding.

A representative of the South Shore was at the meeting and mentioned that they were looking for someone to contribute to their blog about tourism and entertainment activities in Jasper and Newton Counties. If you are doing outdoor activities or other things that might be of interest from a tourism perspective and you would like to write about them, contact South Shore. Their blog is Along the South Shore and they have pieces on Jasper and Newton Counties (especially Newton because of Kankakee Sands.) Who knows what doors something like this could open. (I am not interested because I am too old to do fun things.)  It should be easy to do at least one post a month about Jasper County events and activities.

Leaving the meeting, I noticed that the Country Bumpkin shop has moved in with Thee Dragonfly. Both had the same owner and consolidating space is sensible. Thee Dragonfly now occupies the entire space that was once Long's Gift and From the Needle's Point. It has a variety of vendors selling there. Some were once at Greene's Antique Mall.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Animal shelter, wind farms, and more

Late last week Saint Joseph's College announced that it had reached a settlement in the Sodexo lawsuit. 

On Saturday the annual Christmas parade was canceled because of the forecast of thunderstorms at the time of the parade. The actual thunder came later and there was only some light rain during the scheduled parade time. The parade was canceled, not postponed, because it requires a permit from the state highway department to close US 231.

On Monday the Commissioners met for the first of two December meetings. (There is always a second December meeting to take care of items that need to be resolved before the end of the year. This year's second meeting will be on December 26.) The first item of interest was the opening of bids for a new Wheatfield Township fire station. This was the second round of bidding. The first round produced bids that the Township thought exceeded its budget for the station. There were three bids, with the base bids ranging from $1,479,500 to $1,585,800. However, there were eight alternatives, some adding features and others deleting features, so the final bid price could be different from the base bid. The bids were turned over to the Township.

Next the Friends of the Animal Shelter gave a long presentation in which they said that their plans to add on to the current shelter had changed and they now wanted to build a new shelter. They wanted and received approval to move forward so they could hire a consultant to tell them how big a new building should be. There was some concern that building to the south of the current shelter might run into problems with the foundation of the old County Home (Poor Farm). The Commissioners warned them that they should expect no funding from the County and that the County did not want a new facility that would increase expenses. The representatives of the Friends of the Animal Shelter expressed confidence that they could raise the funding needed to build.

The representative from Financial Arts, who is coordinating the County's switch of health insurance, discussed some changes and details in the new health insurance that needed Commissioner approval. A person who wants to expand a pond was next. He has not yet gone before Planning or the BZA but wanted to know what he needed if he had the material excavated hauled over County Roads. He was told to come back when and if he actually hauls material.

The Sheriff and a representative from Franciscan Health gave a presentation on employee mental health. Nationally first responders have more depression and mental health issues than the rest of the population because in their jobs  they witness traumatic situations. The Sheriff said that he would be working with Franciscan but wondered if there were any other County employees who might also benefit from the arrangements he was making. Mr Culp said that he would have the item on a meeting of Department heads next week. The Commissioners approved a contract with Lake and Porter Counties to house juvenile defendants. This is an annual contract and in 2018 Jasper County exceeded the number of days in this year's contract.

The Health Department asked for and was granted permission to hire a part-time food inspector. The Commissioners approved with little discussion the CAFO and floodplain ordinances that had come to them from the Plan Commission.

The last item on the agenda was a third ordinance from the Plan Commission, a wind farm ordinance. Because of widespread public interest in this item, the meeting moved upstairs to one of the court rooms which have much more seating than the Commissioners room. (Pictures from the Rensselaer Republican here.)
Mr Culp announced that there would be no vote on this item at this meeting and that the session would end at 11:45, which was more than an hour later. First Vince Urbano, a member of the Plan Commission, went over the various changes that the Plan Commission had made and answered questions from the Commissioners. Then members of the public had a chance to voice their concerns and opinions. It was all very orderly.

In the afternoon the Drainage Board met. It revised the boundaries of the watershed of the Amsler ditch. When it was being reconstructed, a tile was discovered draining into it from land that was not considered to be in the watershed. The change will reduce the amount that people who had been in the watershed will pay but may be an unpleasant surprise to those who discover that they are in the watershed.

The Board reviewed plans for the KV High School athletic improvements. These plans have been scaled back from what was originally desired because of the prospect of lost property tax revenue in a few years. It also looked at the drainage plans for the Casey's General Store in Wheatfield. The building has already been built and it did not get Drainage Board approval earlier because the builders did not realize that they needed it.

Here is a final picture, the current state of the Autumn Trace Apartments. I think the weather has slowed progress.
Speaking of slowed progress, the weather has also delayed the opening of US 231 north of Rensselaer. Work on the bridge over the Iroquois is not yet finished.

Friday, November 30, 2018

The bicycle craze of 1896

While looking for something else in old newspapers using the Library's microfilm reader, two advertisements caught my attention. The first was a huge ad for bikes. Ellis & Murray mostly sold clothing.
 The second was a bit smaller.
 Seventy five and a hundred dollars do not sound like a lot to pay for a bike today, but that was a huge amount in 1896. According to this site, the average wage in the 1900 Census was a mere $450. (The site also says that there were only 10,000 millionaires in the world in 1900.)

I also stumbled on the item below. Earl or Earle Reynolds is one of Rensselaer's "almost famous" persons—people who were fairly well known nationally in their time but forgotten today. He was a skater who toured with a skating act, mostly with his wife. More info is here.
 Can you imagine learning to ride a bike as an adult? As for Melba and Calve, info on them is here and here.

I checked the Internet for information on the history of the bicycle to see if I could discover why suddenly there are big ads for bikes in the Rensselaer paper. I found this article that gives a lot of detail about the development of the bike. It was not until the late 1880s that the chain and pneumatic tires made the bike look like the bikes we know today.  Another article, The Bike Boom, specifically mentions 1896 as a year of bike craze: “In the year 1896, there was simultaneously an increase in bicycle popularity and a severe economic depression. Bicycles were one of the few areas of the economy where sales were growing; people were buying bicycles ‘whether they could afford them or not’. This attracted hundreds of manufacturers into the bicycle business.”

In the United States the bike mostly disappeared as a means of adult transportation after 1900, replaced by the auto. However, in other parts of the world the bike is still an important means of getting around.

One other ad caught my attention. I will show it without further comment.


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

CAFOs, wind farms, and solar parks


The City Council meeting ran unusually long and the Jasper County BZA meeting started earlier than usual, so I missed it completely. There was only one item on the agenda, a special exception from Union Township from someone who wants to rent a loft on a nightly basis, perhaps via Airbnb. It passed. The Plan Commission meeting followed and I missed the first item on the agenda, the amendment to the UDO for confined feeding set-back requirements. This issue had gone back and forth between the Commissioners and the Plan Commission earlier this year and the differences had been narrowed, but not eliminated. This amendment restarted the process. I was surprised to learn after the meeting that it had been sent to the Commissioners with no recommendation; the vote was split 4-4. Apparently the sticking point was a revised setback of 300 feet to an A1 property. The setback that the Plan Commission had previously passed was 500 feet to the property line without mention of the zoning of adjacent parcels.

When I did arrive, discussion of the proposed Wind Farm Overlay District had just begun. The draft they were considering was a new draft, one prepared by the special committee that had been formed at a previous meeting. There were a couple of small suggested changes made by members of the Commission before the public was invited to comment. One of the people who was in the forefront of the opposition to wind turbines thanked them for the work they had put into the draft. A lady from Wheatfield spoke of the negatives of coal-generated power, implying that she preferred wind-generated power. A farmer from southern Jasper County objected to the ordinance saying the regulations would stop him from doing what he wanted with his property. He suggested that wind turbines would make sense in along the southern border because they were already just across the county line and he and his neighbors already had the ill-effects of turbines but none of the benefits. Someone mentioned that there are plans for a very large solar farm near Wheatfield and that it could dampen the adverse financial effects of the closure of the Shahfer Plant. A couple of consultants spoke and argued that the sound and flicker restrictions in the ordinance were too strict.

The Commission then passed the ordinance and sent it on to the Commissioners who must also pass it for it to take effect.

I did get a copy of the passed ordinance on Tuesday. It requires a setback of 1.5 times tip height to the property line and the greater of 2,640 feet of 6.5 times the tip height to any non-participating property (someone who has no contract with the wind farm company). The setback to a non-participating residence is one mile (which can be waived, though why it would be waived by someone who does not sign a contract is unclear to me) and one mile from any lot zoned R1, R2, VR, M1, M2, or IS. (I do not know what some of those are.) No shadow flicker is allowed on a non-participant and the maximum sound level at the property line of a non-participant is 35 decibels. 

Even if this ordinance is watered down a bit before it is passed, I suspect the setbacks combined with the widespread opposition to turbines from those living in the area will kill any plans to place wind turbines in Jasper County.

The Commission then turned to a flood plain amendment that is basically mandated by FEMA. The Rensselaer City Council had passed this rather quickly earlier in the evening, but there was more discussion at the Planning Commission. The vote to send it to the Commissioners with a recommendation was 7-1.

The final item on the agenda was a ordinance for solar energy systems (solar parks) but it had not been properly advertised so could not be discussed. It will be on the agenda for the December 17th meeting. (The Plan Commission and BZA will probably be moving their meetings next year from the fourth to the third Monday of the month.)

The first tree for the Christmas Tree Walk in Potawatomie Park was up on Wednesday. It featured decorations about Alzheimer's Disease awareness. The trees will be lit after the Christmas Parade on Saturday afternoon.
A few more ash trees were being cut down in Weston Cemetery on Wednesday. The west part of the cemetery looks very different now than what it looked like a few years ago.


Tuesday, November 27, 2018

City Council 11-26-2018

Monday's City Council meeting lasted longer than I expected. First up in the Citizen's Comments section was Alice Smith who is involved in the Trunk or Treat program at Halloween. She wanted the Council to set the date for Trick or Treat for the next two years to be on the last Sunday of October. She said that otherwise she could not be sure that the Fairgrounds would be able to accommodate the event. After some discussion, the Council set the date for Trick or Treat 2019 on the last Sunday of October. Mark your calendars.

She also said that in the past revenue from the haunted house supported the event and that money is almost gone. So there will be fundraising next year.

The Council then passed a flood plain ordinance that FEMA requires if the City and its residents want to get any help from them. It passed.

The City's financial consultant was there to request an amendment to a past bond ordinance that is needed for the City to issue bonds. The amendment increased the amount by $125,000 (the total issue will be $3.5 million) and extended the maturity by one year to July 2039. This money will allow the City to get another connection for natural gas, this one near Pleasant Ridge. The financing should be in place before the end of the year. The expected interest rate is about 4%. Interest rates have been rising and that was a reason for getting this done now.

Following were some items that were fairly routine. There was a transfer of funds for the Police Department and opening of supply bids for gasoline, diesel, and tire repair. The bids were given to a committee to evaluate. The Council approved a quote for a pick-up truck for the Fire Department of $36,940 after trade in from Gutwein Motors. The Urban Forestry Council was given $2500 for shrubs to go above the big conduit leading from the high-rate plant to the river. That money will come from the Public Relations fund, as will $700 that the Council approved for two tables at the upcoming Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner and Awards Program.

There was a discussion of the old INDOT subdistrict lot on Maple Street. Someone from INDOT contacted the Mayor asking what stipulations the City would make before taking the lot. There have been discussions of this in the past and nothing has come of it. After some discussion, the Council authorized City Attorney Riley to write a letter saying that the first step would be a Phase 1 environmental study. One has been done in the past but it has hit its expiration date. The study should give the City some idea of what potential environment liabilities the site may have. (The site had gasoline tanks that leaked,) If that study comes back favorable, the City will want a protection letter that says that the state will share in any cleanup costs if they ever occur and that the site be donated without payment.

Then the Council had a heated exchange, something that almost never happens. Councilman Barton questioned what some past transfers were for. One was to purchase two police cars, which have been purchased. He noted that the Council never explicitly approved the purchase of those vehicles. After some discussion, Councilman Cover asked Police Chief Anderson to request the purchase of two vehicles, which he did. Cover than moved to approve the purchase of the two vehicles. The motion passed and the Council moved on.

The City's grant to the Community Crossings program was not accepted and it will reapply in January. The well house on Sparling is not yet in service and as of Monday neither was the new solar park.

In unrelated news, we missed a major snow storm on Sunday night and Monday morning. We got a bit of snow, but not the foot or so that some parts of northern Illinois received. The weather and the decorations remind us that Christmas is not too far away.
Also, Lafayette Bank and Trust will be changing its name to First Merchants Bank. Lafayette Bank and Trust has been part of First Merchants for 16 years but only now is changing its name. Other than the name change, there should be no other noticeable changes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Meetings before Thanksgiving

On Tuesday evening the Commissioners and County Council held a joint meeting to discuss items of common interest. The meeting began with a quick summary of Health Insurance. At their last meeting the Commissioners  decided to change health insurance carrier. Meetings with County employees to explain how this affects them have begun. The employees have three options from which to choose. They can keep a plan that is essentially the same as what the County has been offering, or they can choose one of two options that have higher deductibles but also much lower rates. If they choose a plan with higher deductibles, they can also start a Health Savings Account (HSA), but they have to do it themselves. There will be some expenses with runout claims, items that occur before the switch in insurance but not billed until after the switch. The County expects to save just shy of $1,000,000 from the switch.

There was a discussion of the manpower problems of the County Highway Department before their attention turned to NIPSCO and its plans to close the Wheatfield generating plant. Meetings have been scheduled and then canceled but perhaps there will be some that actually take place in the next week. The bottom line is that there are a lot of questions and no definite answers. Commissioner Culp would like to establish a task force to look at the impact the closing will have.

The negotiations between the County and PNC Bank to purchase the PNC building began in July. The deal should close in early December. The County will have to make significant modifications in the interior, including installing an elevator. There was a question of what the County will do with the parcel of land on which the Johnny Rusk building once stood. The purchase of the PNC building makes the lot redundant.

Andrew Andree had gotten some quotes for insulating the attic of the Court House. Currently there is no insulation there and a lot of heat escapes as a result. The Commissioners will decide whether to accept one of the quotes or not. The energy saving work on the Court House should be finished in a couple of months.

The County Council called its meeting to order a couple minutes after the joint meeting adjourned. It passed an ordinance to purchase the PNC Bank building. State regulations require an ordinance because the purchase was for more than $1000. The Sheriff next presented them with the annual jail report, which was a good report. He also expressed concern about the new stop sign on US 231 at the intersection of SR 16. Until people adapt to the change, there will be some who do not stop. So if you are traveling through that intersection in the next few months, be extra careful.

Then followed a long series of extra appropriations. The DLGF (Department of Local Government Finance) will not accept additional appropriations made after mid December, so this is the last meeting that they can be made. There were requests from the Sheriff, the Court, Animal Control, and the Highway Department. After these passed, there were transfers for the Surveyor, the Highway Department, the Prosecutor, the Veterans' Office, the Commissioners, and the Coroner. The transfers ranged in size from $50 to $878,118.61.

The Council passed a salary ordinance, which has to be done each year and specifies how much everyone is paid. There was a short discussion of taxes, where it was noted that Jasper County has property tax rates that are in the lowest 10% of the State and income taxes that are in the highest 10% of the State.

The third Tuesday of the month is a popular meeting day. While the County meetings were going on, the Jasper County Historical Society and the Rensselaer School Board were also meeting. The School Board approved an aviation program for 2019. Ray Seif, the Airport Manager, has been working on this program for a long time.

The Christmas street decorations are up.


The current exhibit at the Carnegie Center is the Limelight exhibit.


It is smaller this year and Cooperative School Services does not seem to be participating.

Unfortunately I did not get to the south part of town on Tuesday. The Autumn Trace development was pouring  concrete for the floor slab. On Wednesday the pour was finished but workers were busy doing something on the new concrete.
However, Autumn Trace did take pictures on Tuesday with their drone and put some of them on Facebook. See here. Even if I had been there, I could not have gotten pictures as good as what they have.

Have a Safe Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Quilt display at the Historical Society Museum

The current exhibit at the Jasper County Historical Society is an display of quilts. Many of them are privately owned and are loaned to the Museum for this exhibit.
Quilts will be the topic of the monthly meeting of the Jasper County Historical Society on Tuesday evening (Nov 20) at 6:30. Members and guests are asked to share a special family quilt with the audience. If you are interested quilting, consider going to the meeting.
 This quilt is owned by the Historical Society and was made by the Rensselaer High School class of 1936. There are 72 blocks made by the seniors that year.
 More quilts.
There are over 50 quilts on display.
This crib caught my interest because of the sign. It was given to the Simon Parr Thompson family by one of the Van Rensselaers.

I was able to zoom in on the note in the original photo (I reduce all photos for this blog so they will load quickly).
Something else that caught my interest was a map on the wall. I may have had pictures of this one in the past. A lot of street names have changed since 1908.

Today the temperatures are above freezing and most of the snow has melted. While it was in the proper state for snowballs and snowmen, my neighbors kids built a couple of small snowmen, proof that winter is here.
In news of consequence, the intersection south of town at US 231 and SR 16 will soon be a four-way stop. I wonder how many accidents have happened there in the past few decades.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Fendig families (the ultimate post of a series)

The previous post in this series is here.

The third Fendig who settled in Rensselaer was Ralph Fendig (1836-1907). He married Frederica Rubel (1882-1909), the sister of Amalia Rubel the wife of Nathan Fendig, so the children of these two couples were double cousins. According to the article in the Jasper County Democrat after his death, he came to the United States in 1854 and lived in several places—New York, Connecticut, Alabama, Georgia and Chicago—before moving to Rensselaer in 1870. He was living in Chicago when the 1870 census was taken. In Rensselaer he initially worked for Abraham Leopold but soon started his own dry-goods business. He advertised a lot in the local newspapers. Below is an example from the 1890s.

When Ralph died, the Masons had an elaborate funeral for him and called off a special event that they had planned for the following week.

Ralph and Frederica had six children, only two of whom remained in Rensselaer when they reached adulthood. Their eldest daughter Matilda (1867-1946) married Samuel Borchardt (1859-1941) and moved to Tampa. Their third child, Albert (1870-1926) also married a Borchardt, Rosalie (1879-1928), and moved to Glynn County, Georgia. There are many descendants of this pair still living there. The Borchardt and Fendigs had previously intermarried, which explains how people from Rensselaer would come to marry people from Georgia/Florida. Louis Fendig (1877-1947) moved to Jacksonville, Florida where he had a career in real estate. He had two daughters. A final son, Arthur (1879-1879) lived only ten days and is buried in the Jewish Cemetery of Lafayette.

The oldest son, Benjamin, stayed in Rensselaer and after becoming a pharmacist, opened the Fendig drug store.  I found the clip below on the Hoosier State Chronicles.


Benjamin married Ella Watson (1882-1956) and they had three children: Ralph Watson (1908-1997), Frederick (1911-2001), and Phillip (1923-1980).  Ralph also became a pharmacist and continued the Fendig drug store. During the Second World War he served in Europe and met Lillian Bossom (1913-1985), a talented artist, while there. She had a son from a previous marriage but decided to leave London for Rensselaer.
Frederick left Rensselaer to become a banker in Chicago, but then in the late 1940s or early 1950s he purchased the Circle Z Ranch near Patagonia, Arizona. It was mostly a guest or dude ranch. He sold it in the early 1970s when he retired. (A recent book about the ranch includes pictures of Fred.) He died in Arizona but is buried in Weston Cemetery. Phillip Fendig (1923-1980) was valedictorian of the Rensselaer High School class of 1940. He worked for the State Department in Washington DC and was posted to a number of foreign countries. He had two daughters and three sons.

Samuel Fendig (1873-1947) married a much younger Bertha May Kepner (1892-1980). He seems to have taken up the dry goods store that his father owned; he is listed as a merchant or owner of a dry goods store in the censuses from 1910 to 1940. He was a director of the State Bank of Rensselaer from 1936 to 1947.
Samuel and Bertha had one daughter, Elizabeth (1925-2013), who married and moved to Montana. She had three children.

(I once thought that the word "penultimate" was the most unnecessary word in the English language. But then I encountered the word "antepenultimate". Thankfully "postpenultimate" is not a word, at least not yet. But "preantepenultimate" apparently is and now I have to find a way to use it.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Rensselaer received an inch or two of snow late on Monday night and because the temperatures never got above freezing during the day on Tuesday,  most of the snow is still with us on Wednesday morning. Some people admired the beauty but I suspect most cursed the inconvenience. The snow did not stop the City street crew from picking up leaves.
There were Christmas shopping opportunities over the weekend. There were many vendors and a lot of shoppers at Mistletoe Magic at the Fairgrounds. The event filled both the Community Building and the 4H Building.

Prairie Arts Council held its annual sale on Friday and Saturday. It was smaller than the Mistletoe Magic sale but it also had interesting items for sale.
Late last week I was part of a conversation that discussed the sale of the SJC commercial lots. The view of the others was that the lots went very cheap and that may have been because some potential bidders did not realize that there were two sessions to the auction.

There were three meetings late last week and early this week. On Friday the Commissioners met to continue their meeting from Wednesday. They spent about an hour further discussing health insurance. They had decided to switch carriers and were trying to decide between to alternatives. They voted to go with the one that they liked less but which was considerably cheaper by a couple hundred thousand dollars. The County employees will have three plan options from which to choose. The entire switch, which will entail considerable work for the Auditor's office, will result in a substantial savings to the County.

The other big topic of discussion on Friday was staffing the Highway Department, which has seen and anticipates several retirements. It also has a couple workers who are restricted in what the can do for medical reasons. The Department was worried that they would not have enough manpower to get roads plowed if we get a winter with a lot of snow. The question was raised if the County would be better off if it contracted more of the paving work rather than doing it in-house. The Commissioners approved the hiring of two more employees and the matter will now go to the Council.

There were a number of smaller items discussed. The most interesting was that purchasing the PNC Bank Building, which seems to be pretty much a done deal, was cheaper than replacing the HVAC system at the current Annex building.

On Tuesday morning the Alcohol Review Board met very briefly and approved the liquor license request of Ayda's Restaurant. The matter now goes to the State for final approval.

On Tuesday evening the Rensselaer City Council met for is first November meeting. They heard a report about the Safe Halloween event (Trunk or Treat at the Fairgrounds). About 2000 people showed up. The organizers would like to continue it on a Sunday evening.

The gas tracker for November is an increase of 1¢ per hundred cubic feet. There was a transfer of funds for three departments and the State said the City needed to cut its budget by $422,000. The cuts seemed to have been done by moving money around.

The Fire Chief requested and was granted permission to seek bids for a new command vehicle. The present vehicle is a 2002 Avalanche that is having electrical problems.

The Council ratified a phone vote to move the second December meeting to December 21 at 4:00. (The fourth Monday is Christmas eve.) The Council approved a bid from Practical Tree Service to remove another 29 dead trees from City right-aways and the Cemetery. There was one vote against, apparently because the City did not get a second quote.

After the meeting I asked what the status of Solar Park 2 was. The part that had been backordered had arrived and workers were installing it on Tuesday. The same backordered part has been delaying the start-up of several other IMPA solar installations.

Monday, November 12, 2018

The mystery of Kenneth M Robinson

Today (Monday) is the observance of Veteran's Day but the City celebrated the Day with a ceremony on the actual Veteran's Day, which was originally Armistice Day, on Sunday. The Sunday celebration was appropriate even though for some people it conflicted with church services because this year marks the centennial of the end of World War I and thus was a special Veteran's Day. The speaker for the event was Mayor Wood and he talked about "The Great War", the "War to end all wars" that actually helped spawn other wars.
The Rensselaer Republican had a lengthy insert in a paper last week about World War I. Included was a list of all the soldiers from Jasper County who died in the War. Most died of disease. Not included was the name Kenneth Makeever Robinson (1898-1918) who is buried in Weston Cemetery. He died in 1918 and the inscription on the marker indicates that he died in France in service. Sunday night I decided to find what I could about him using the genealogy site Familysearch.org.

The marker is hard to read in the poor light but it says "KENNETH M. M.G. CO. 139th INF. 35th DIV. DIED IN FRANCE"

Kenneth is buried with his parents, Benjamin Frank Robinson (1863-1912) and Ida Makeever Robinson (1867-1945) in northeastern part of Section G not too far from the striking monument for Benjamin Harris. Also buried in the lot is an infant brother who lived for ten months in 1894. Searching Familysearch I found that the family had moved to Iola, Kansas before 1900 and that Kenneth was born there. He never lived in Rensselaer which is why his name is not on the lists of residents who served in WWI. He shipped overseas in April 1918 as a member of Machine Gun Company, 139th Infantry on the ship Caronia and died in France on December 12, 1918 (after the Armistice) with the cause of death listed as disease. (That info was found on the ancestry.com link from familysearch.) Almost certainly the family bought the cemetery lot when their infant son died and then when other members of the family died, their remains were shipped back to Rensselaer and buried in the family lot. (The lot to the south was owned by Thomas Robinson and I strongly suspect that this was Kenneth's grandfather.)

Kenneth was probably initially buried in France and then after several years his body was dug up and sent back to the States. The Weston Cemetery records say that he was buried on July 31, 1921.

He had two brothers who survived him. Both of them and his mother moved to California where they lived the rest of their lives.


Update: Benjamin Frank Robinson was the son of Thomas and Margaret Parkison Robinson, who are buried in the lot to the south. Further, it was not only Been's family that moved to Iola, Kansas. So also did the families of his brother Joseph and his sister Mary (Mrs Luther Ponsler). See the death notice on Margaret's findagrave memorial.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Fendig familes (the penultimate post of a series)

(The previous post in this series is here.)
A second Fendig family that came to Rensselaer in the 19th Century is that of Nathan (1839-1913) and Amalia Rubel Fendig (1854-1926). The family appears in the 1880 census and Nathan's occupation was listed as "dealing horses." In the 1900 Census he was a shoe merchant, and in the 1910 census he was selling shoes while his son was the owner of the shoe store.

The 1900 Census asked women how many children they had had and how many were still alive. Amalia had had 11 children, 8 of whom were still alive. Only one stayed in Rensselaer, their second child, Benhart (1876-1925). He became a school teacher and is listed as such in the 1900 census. However, in the fall of 1906 he ran afoul the superintendent when it was discovered that the was playing poker with other Rensselaer residents. The superintendent revoked Benhart's teacher license, Benhart appealed, but at the appeal hearing he failed to make his case. He then took up his father's shoe business.


In the 1920s Benhart had health issues and after stays in a couple of sanatoriums, died in December of 1925. The editor of the Jasper County Democrat, who had worked with him in a group that later became the Chamber of Commerce, praised his civic involvement in the article reporting his death. He is buried in Weston Cemetery.

Benhart was predeceased by his younger brother Solomon (1884-1924). Solomon left Rensselaer after finishing high school and settled in Spokane, Washington. When the U.S. entered World War I, he enlisted and was sent to France. He saw action and was rather quickly discharged as being unfit for duty. I think that what he had is what today we call "PTSD" and in the old days was called "shell shock." Not all the casualties of war suffer wounds to the body. In the 1920 Census he was working for his brother selling shoes but the report of his death (you can find it here) said that he had been in veterans hospitals. He died in veterans hospital in Marion, Indiana and is buried in Weston Cemetery.

One other brother is buried in Weston Cemetery, Arthur (1878-1942). He left Rensselaer for Chicago where he was a salesman for a number of years and then moved to Detroit where he continued in sales. He never married. His grave is north of Benhart's and unmarked.

The fourth son, Robert (1886-1950), moved from Rensselaer to Hammond. Searching for Fendigs on the Hoosier State Chronicles finds frequent mentions of him in the Hammond paper. In the 1920 census he is in New Orleans selling shoes. He married and had two sons with his first wife. It appears that the birth of his second son had complications that resulted in the deaths of both mother and child in 1919. He then married Jessie Jacobs (1891-1973), the sister of his brother-in-law and had another son with her. In the 1930 census he was back in Rensselaer as a proprietor of a shoe store. This second marriage ended in divorce after about 15 years and he was back in New Orleans selling shoes in the 1940 census. Robert's son by his second marriage became a prominent businessman involved a great many organizations in Tampa, Florida. He even has a library named after him.

All four daughters married and left Rensselaer. The one that stayed closest was the youngest daughter Edna (1888-1942). She married Marion Jewell (1894-1980) and lived her life in Lafayette. Two daughters are buried together in a cemetery in Tampa, Florida. Oldest daughter Tillie (1874-1957) married Lewis Eisenberg and initially lived in Chicago. I could find almost nothing about her life in records from genealogical sites, though she seems to be living with sister Belle Weil in the 1940 Census. Third daughter Clara (1880-9155) married Sol Jacobs (1978-1941) and moved to Tampa, Florida. They seem to have had only two children. Belle Fendig married Leopold Weil and they made their home in New Orleans. Belle appeared in the 1910 Census living with her uncle Ralph's household and seemed to be living in Hammond when she married. I could find very little about the Weils other than what is in Census reports. They do not seem to have had children.

Below is a little piece that appeared in The Times of Hammond, Indiana.


There is a Rosa Fendig buried in Lafayette's Jewish Cemetery with no dates and it is possible that this is a child of Nathan and Amalia. Also, the Jasper County death index has a Noble Fendig who was five months old when he died on March 11, 1887 and this also may have been a child of Nathan and Amalia.

I could find only four grandchildren of Nathan and Amalia who reached adulthood and only two great grandchildren.

Two Fendigs fought in WWI. One was wounded in battle and another, mentioned in this post, suffered a wounded psychologically. On Sunday we celebrate the centennial of the ending of that terrible war. It was touted as the "War to end all wars" but instead set the stage for another terrible war, WWII. If anyone needs an example of elites making horrible decisions, WWI and its aftermath are examples that are hard to top.

On Friday morning Rensselaer woke up to a dusting of snow. The flag is part of a line of flags that were set out in preparation for the Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day) ceremonies at Brookside Park on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Early November meetings, 2018

The November Commissioners meeting was moved from Monday morning to Wednesday morning. I arrived a couple minutes after the start and the commissioners were getting information about health insurance from a potential new provider. I did not have enough background information to make much sense of what I was hearing.

Next up was the County Health Department, which wanted to replace a full-time person, one of the food inspectors, who had left. Kendell Culp seemed to surprise them by asking how they will adjust to a reduction in revenue when NIPSCO closes its generating plant in 2023. He said that all other County departments will be asked the same question and be asked to figure out ways to reduce their costs. The Commissioners do not want to wait until 2023 to figure out how to adjust. They want County administrators to start working on the problem now. The permission to fill the position was delayed.

Community Corrections received permission to replace a person who left for a job with the Tippecanoe Sheriff's Department. The person was paid mostly or entirely from state funding. Planning and Development had a proposal for the pay to a part-time building inspector and the Commissioners sent it on to the Council with a favorable recommendation. Southern, Keener and Wheatfield ambulance services had a contract approved that had a 3% increase. In the past their rates have been tied to the contract with the ambulance service serving Rensselaer, which is bid, but a year ago that bid was unusually low, resulting in county aid to the other ambulance services that financially stressed them.

At this point the Commissioners went into an executive session that lasted an hour and a half to discussion health insurance. When they came back into public session, they heard from a trucker living near Wheatfield who was concerned about the frost laws. He parks his rig at his home, but that is not permitted when the frost laws are in effect. He said that leaving his truck at a truck stop was not a good option because there are people who steal parts from parked trucks. The best the Commissioners could offer was to tell him that he could unhook his trailer and leave it somewhere and then drive the cab home. If they made an exception for him, it would open the floodgates of others who would want exceptions. After he left a couple from the Deer Park subdivision had a complaint about a neighbor who starts his truck at 4:00 in the morning and lets it run half an hour before he leaves. There were several options that may be available for them to pursue.

For me the most interesting item of the morning was a mention of the County's efforts to purchase what was the PNC Bank building that is across the street from the Court House. The Commissioners approved the purchase but it needs County Council approval as well. After the meeting I asked what the plan was. If the County does purchase the building, it would like to move the offices that are presently in the annex (the old REMC building on the corner of Cullen and Kellner) and then sell the annex. We will see how that develops in the next few months.

The Commissioners got an update from Trane on progress being made at Community Corrections and the Jail. Most of the work—replacing insulation, new water lines, new HVAC units, window and door sealing, and a few other things—is finished and the total project should be done at the end of the month. At the jail the company continues to gather data and information. They do not want to start work until they fully understand the problems. Before they develop the proposal for installing solar panels on the property, they need to meet with IMPA to see what IMPA requires. (IMPA would buy the any excess power.)

The rest of the meeting was devoted to a variety of smaller items. They did hear from the County Clerk that the poll pads that were recently purchased worked very well in the last election. (County results are here, by the way.) She said that there was a 47% turnout. The meeting was recessed and will come back into session on Friday at 8:30 to look at a few more items.

The Drainage Board met Monday and I missed the meeting.

The Rensselaer Park Board met Tuesday evening and heard progress reports on park improvements and activities. There will be two basketball courts at the Staddon/Monnett Park. 2400 tons of dirt were moved for new soccer fields and volunteered trucking services were worth six or seven thousand dollars.

The Scarecrow Walk in Milroy generated a lot of interest. The idea was borrowed from an event at Prophetstown State Park. Because it was as successful as it was, there is planning for a Christmas Tree Walk in Potawatomi Park at the end of the month. That park has plenty of electrical outlets, which Milroy does not have.

The Dog Park should be finished later this year or early next year. The Board thought it would be a good idea to waive membership the first year as a thank you to the community for their support. People would still have to sign up for membership to allow their dogs to use the park and if they want to continue using the park in 2020, there will be a membership fee.

There will be no December meeting of the Park Board. The next meeting will be on January 7.

Main Street Rensselaer would like to have a mural painted on this wall. Plans are still preliminary.
The exterior of the second of the Elza Street Apartments was almost finished on Tuesday.
 Peak color came and went very quickly this year. At the leaves turned, we got rain and wind that stripped many of the trees.