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

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

More notes on the Dwiggins family

The March post about Zimri Dwiggins noted that many newspapers found his name odd. The name Zimri is Biblical and occurs in several places, most frequently in 1 Kings chapter 16 where Zimri is a short reigning and very bad king of Israel. Findagrave has two Zimri Dwiggins in its records, the Rensselaer Zimri and his uncle who is buried in Ohio. Along with uncle Zimri Dwiggins, many other Dwiggins are buried in Clinton County, Ohio.

A grandson of uncle Zimri Dwiggins achieved fame as a designer and typographer. His name was William Addison Dwiggins and he has a Wikipedia entry, and if that is not enough, much more about him is available here. I encountered his name 15-20 years ago when typography was my passion, but did not connect it to the local Dwiggins until a chance discovery in a google search.

 Zimri Dwiggins also had a nephew with the name Zimri, Zimri Paris. He left Jasper County for New York where he died after being struck by a street car and is either buried in Argos, Marshall County, Indiana or Kewanna, Fulton County, Indiana, USA. The post about Zimri mentioned his nephew John Paris who also was organizing banks using his uncle's methods. He and several of his siblings left Indiana for New York. In the 1900 and 1910 Censuses he is in the real estate business.

Zimri's sister-in-law married Abraham Long who owed and operated Longs Drugstore in Rensselaer. More about Long can be found here.

Elmer Dwiggins was the subject of a post in early February. In March I found his name mentioned in the Indianapolis Journal, 12/25/1890 p.3. The article begins with a statement by Dwiggins and then goes on to describe plans for an airship, a model of which was destined for the Columbian Exposition. The proposed airship would be 120 feet long and made from aluminum. It would use hydrogen gas for buoyancy. It is unclear from the article what connection Dwiggins had with this project, though one can guess he was a promoter because promotion was what he was good at. The story of what happened next can be found here. (Ten years later Zeppelin showed how it could be done.) What struck me as I read the article were the similarities between these plans and the spaceship that Dwiggins imagined for his sci-fi novel, Pharoah's Broker.

Below is a picture of Elmer Dwiggins found in a book that the Jasper County Historical Society has in its collection. The book was called Pioneers of Jasper County and was assembled from various portraits by Simon Parr Thompson and given to the Rensselaer Library in 1901. They apparently discarded it because someone found it on the sidewalk and put it back together, eventually donating it to the Historical Society.

Members of the Dwiggins family lost a lot from the 1893 failure of the Columbia National Bank and its allied banks. Four years later Jay and Elmer Dwiggins finished paying depositors of the failed Hebron bank:



Robert Starbuck Dwiggins, father of Elmer and Jay Dwiggins and brother of Zimri Dwiggins, was a lawyer. In one of his adventures he was a candidate for the Indiana governorship, running on the Prohibition Party ticket in 1884. He did not win, as the vote totals show.


The low vote for Dwiggins was expected because the prohibitionists had split on the desirability of running on a separate ticket. Many and perhaps most wanted to work in the existing parties, trying to bring them around to prohibitionist views and thought that running a separate ticket would weaken their ability to influence policy. There were two prohibitionist conventions held at the same time in July, 1884, one forming the ticket and the other condemning the other for forming the ticket.

What is especially odd in R.S. Dwiggins' run for governor is that only a few weeks before he accepted the nomination to run on the Prohibitionist Party he had taken an active role in the Republican state convention that had nominated Calkins.

When reading about the financial exploits of the Dwiggins, one repeatedly sees mention of partners by the name of Starbuck. I have not seen anything in any of the articles explaining family ties between these Starbucks and the Dwiggins, but almost certainly there were some. Zimri's mother's maiden name was Mary Ann Starbuck and, tying the families even closer, Mary Ann Starbuck's mother was Sarah Dwiggins.

The Starbucks connected back to a Starbuck who bought Nantucket Island, which became a whaling center. It is plausible that Herman Melville got the name for the first mate of the Pequod from the Starbucks of Nantucket. As for Starbucks Coffee, the founders took the name from Melville.

Finally, the Handbook of Chicago Biography published in 1893 after the collapse of the Commercial National Bank has a very favorable biography of Zimri Dwiggins along with a picture. Both are reproduced below.



One of the Dwiggins is scheduled to be portrayed for the event, Memories Alive at Weston Cemetery, to be held on September 22.

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