There was a time when a rural church was considered a community gathering place. Especially in the days before automobiles, those who went to church typically attended the closest one. As one might imagine, travel was not as easy in pre-automobile days. Shown is the Oak Grove United Methodist Church on County Road 200 South in Richland Township, Whitley County. At a cost of about $2,000, according to “History of Whitley County and its Families,” work began in 1880 on erecting a brick church among a grove of large oak trees on land deeded by Mary and Walsingham Smith to the trustees of the church. By November 1880 the church was ready to be dedicated. It had one large room which would seat about 125 people. The church was heated with wood stoves and the first lights were kerosene lamps with several lamps on a chandelier which hung from the ceiling, as well as a hanging lamp above the pulpit. A furnace was not put in until 1946 and then a basement was made in 1950 under the entire church with an outside entrance. There is also a cemetery across 200 South which I will talk about later.
Oak Grove United Methodist Church in Whitley County.
The Winona Interurban Railway was an electric railway spanning from Goshen to Peru in Indiana. It began in the very early 1900s and its heyday was likely around 1910 or so, before World War I. Like most interurban lines, competition from the automobile, coupled with the Great Depression, was too much to overcome and the Winona stopped carrying passengers in 1934, though it did carry freight (on some of the line) until the 1950s. The railway passed through downtown Warsaw in Kosciusko County on Center Street. Shown is a remnant of what was a freight office for the Winona in the lower level of a building at the corner of Center and Indiana streets. This is across the parking lot from what is now the Old Jail Museum. Items could be shipped or received by using the Winona. I am told by Bill Darr, who has extensively researched the railway, there was a short spur on Indiana Avenue off the main track on Center Street for the interurban car to pull off to receive or drop off freight. I’m not sure, to be honest, what this building is used for now.
Winona Interurban remnant in Warsaw.
Here’s another photo from my summer of 2016 trip to see a cousin in Middletown, Ohio. We also visited a covered bridge in Germantown, Ohio. It was built in 1870 in a location different from its present location. Until it was moved in 1911, it was on the historic Dayton Pike. In 1963, 52 years after being moved, it was restored. The bridge now sits on East Center Street spanning Little Twin Creek. According to the Ohio Historical Marker near the bridge, it is reputed to be the only existing covered bridge of its kind in the world. Nothing more is on the marker to indicate why it is the only one of its kind still standing. Covered bridges are symbols of individual initiative in America’s pioneer days. They were often remarkably designed and a few of them have stood the test of time. It’s good to see they are still around, even if not in their original location. They are neat to look at.
Covered bridge in Germantown, Ohio.
Here’s another photo from my 2016 trip to visit a cousin in Middletown, Ohio. This is the former Big Four Railroad train depot built in 1909 on Charles Street near what is now State Road 122. The brick building had a bench for passengers to sit on inside. It looks like a typical train station from that era. A few of these buildings have survived and by looking inside them it can be determined they were very functional buildings. You might say a train station was the “social media” of its day. People gathered there to drop off or meet people and often heard some of the latest news. It was a social gathering place. But eventually trains stopped carrying passengers and the last train to leave this station left April 30, 1971, which was considerably later than many railroad companies which stopped carrying passengers as far back as the 1950s. Today this building is a gift shop I believe, unless it has changed from when I was there. Note the tracks in the photo. This is still an active railroad line owned by Norfolk Southern Railroad.
Former train station in Middletown, Ohio.
Particularly during the last couple of years I’ve put more emphasis on taking photos of old barns. I’ve often found there is a story worth telling with many of these barns. They were built as multi purpose barns and commonly housed cows, pigs and horses and sometimes chickens, turkeys or ducks. Farming has changed considerably and some of the older barns have been torn down to make way for a new, more functional pole barn. Some of the older ones have survived, though, such as this one along Beer Road just outside the town limits of Milford to the east. It sits right next to Turkey Creek. I’m not sure exactly when it was built, but I would guess early 1900s if not sooner. I do know it was part of the Slabaugh farm many years ago and ducks were raised there. There is an interesting story to tell about ducks being raised around Milford, but that would take more space than I have here. Several farms raised ducks and today Maple Leaf Farms has a strong presence in the area. If you know of another old barn worth taking a photo of contact me.
Old barn east of Milford in Kosciusko County.
A specific area on the eastern shore of Webster Lake near North Webster in Kosciusko County is known as Miller’s Landing. It includes summer cottages, a boat landing and a long pier reaching out into the shallow water. It was named after the Miller family who settled there in approximately 1856. David and Sophia Miller came to the area from Mercer County, Ohio. They had a son named Joseph David Miller who eventually owned and operated Miller’s Landing. Residents built their cottages and Joseph collected annual rent from them for the use of his property. Miller’s Landing was also operating as a campground as early as 1898. Those who came to Miller’s Landing would sometimes come by horse and buggy and parked their rig in a barn on the Miller farm. The farm stretched east from Webster Lake to the Oak Grove area. The photo shows an old barn built by Joseph in 1907, so it was likely not the original barn on the property. It is located just off County Road 950 East. Until the 1980s Miller’s Landing was also a frequent flag stop for the Dixie tourist boat. There is still a sign along CR 950E identifying the area as Miller’s Landing.
Old barn near Webster Lake.
While visiting a cousin in Ohio during the summer of 2016, I was able to visit a few historical sites. She was nice enough to take me to see a few covered bridges in southwestern Ohio. The one shown in the photo is known as Pugh’s Mill Covered Bridge in Butler County. It was built in 1868-1869 to give access to a saw and grist mill owned by James B. Pugh on Tallawanda, or Four Mile, Creek. Gradually through the years the name of the bridge changed to Black Bridge because there was another bridge upstream not far away that was white in color. The beautiful bridge was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It was restored and rededicated in 2000. The Oxford Museum Association has stewardship of the bridge. There is a marker near the bridge with these details on it. There are very few covered bridges remaining in Indiana or Ohio or anywhere else for that matter. Most of them no longer carry vehicle traffic, though there are a few exceptions. I’m glad at least a few are still standing. They give us a very good picture of our history.
Covered bridge in Butler County, Ohio.
This may look like an abandoned, or at least little used, driveway, but there is some local history associated with it. The photo was taken from County Road 30, or Bashor Road, west of Old County Road 17 in Harrison Township, Elkhart County. This particular driveway led to what used to be a working farm. Although not shown in the photo, there is also a remnant of a grain silo still standing and which can be seen from Bashor Road when the leaves are off the trees. I was told Dallas Ganger and his family lived on the farm for a while. I’m sure others did at various times through the years. This particular Ganger family has deep roots in Elkhart County, but that’s another subject to deal with later. This property is part of the Bashor Children’s Home. They may have leased or rented the farm at one time, though I’m not sure to be honest. Usually there is a story to be told when remnants of farming are visible.
Driveway off Bashor Road in Elkhart County.
Yes, I get curious when I see an old farmhouse while driving in the countryside. There is a story to go with every building. I did a little research and found out the photo shows the old Lower farmhouse on County Road 40, east of County Road 19 in Elkhart Township, south of Goshen in Elkhart County. CR 40 was once known as the Waterford-Wakarusa Road. Daniel Lower arrived in Elkhart County in 1854 and purchased land in 1855. According to the historic structures inventory done by Indiana Landmarks for Elkhart County, this house was built in about 1870. I didn’t look close enough to see if there are any other farm related buildings on the property. I did find a newspaper article from 1897 showing a barn was destroyed by fire on this property. I’m assuming another barn was built, but I can’t say for sure. At one time when Daniel Lower owned the farm it was on both sides of CR 40 and exceeded 150 acres. Daniel died in 1904 and is buried in Violett Cemetery in Goshen. This farm remained in the family under the name of Miller, a son-in-law. I’m not sure who lives there and whether or not the land is still in the same family.
Former Lower farmhouse in Elkhart Township.
This cemetery, the County Line Lutheran Cemetery, has the look and feel of a very old and historic cemetery. It sits at the Whitley-Huntington County line near the intersection of state roads 114 and 5. It is about 6 miles south of South Whitley in Cleveland Township, Whitley County. I stopped to take photos and walk around the cemetery for a little while. There are some very old tombstones dating to the 1840s or 1850s, some of them laying down on the ground. I’ve said it before, but it’s remarkable a tombstone would survive for that long but there are several of them still standing. The cemetery gets its name from a Lutheran church that once stood by it. The church was organized in 1840 with a membership of 10, though I’m not sure if the original church was at the cemetery. I’m guessing it would have been. In later years it was removed and all that remains is part of the foundation. I was able to see the remnants of the foundation. Nearby the cemetery was a small community of Luther, originally known as Sawdust Hill. Perhaps Luther would be known as a “ghost” town today.
County Line Lutheran Cemetery in Whitley County.