Maybe mom should just stop thinking, every time she does it means less time with me and more time on the computer! Nasty, nasty computer. Anyway, she was reading an email she got from Starke County Historical President Jim Shilling and thought it should be shared with the rest of the world. (You can access the first 46 tidbits at their website, mom's not sure where to find the other 3.) Along with interesting historical Starke County info, this section will also offer any tidbits mom finds from all over the state of Indiana.
So I hope you appreciate the sacrifice I'm making by letting mom search the internet instead of feeding me doggie delicacies and scratching my belly after she finishes. - From an Annoyed Anubis.
Sometimes in looking up history of Starke County, I find information about my own family.
Knox - 1927 -------------------------------
Rum crazed Convict Shoots Knox Farmer—---Elmer Shilling, 39, a Knox farmer, lies seriously wounded in the Holy Family Hospital at LaPorte, a victim of a drunken prisoner‘s wrath. He is fighting for his life with a shotgun wound the size of a man‘s fist in his right side, just above the hip, and four inches of muscle torn from his right arm.
Meade Barr, age 42, drink crazed, paroled convict was found sleeping in a drunken stupor on the bank of the Yellow River. He was placed under guard and returned to the State Prison. An exchange of words lead to the shooting when Shilling warned Barr to stop drinking, as this violated the terms of his parole and he would have to go back to prison. The argument started as Barr was lying in bed. Shilling, it is said, threatened to call John Moorman, a State Prison Trustee, who lives in Knox.
Yes, Elmer Shilling was my uncle who farmed by the Yellow River on 500 east. (Photo attached) More details about the shooting were told to me by Gordon Byer when we interviewed him a few years ago. He said that quite often parolees were allowed to be farm hands and live with the farm family in a spare bedroom, but with tight restrictions on how to behave. Example - no alcohol.
This was the time of the Horse Thief Detective Association, a national organization that had a local organization in Starke County. It was a Sheriff-sanctioned vigilante group that helped the Sheriff to keep law and order in the county.
According to Gordon, after shooting my uncle, Barr must have regretted his actions. He told Elmer that he would call the doctor, if Elmer would promise to tell the doctor that it was an accident. Elmer agreed. However, when the doctor came and took Elmer to his office, Elmer related the true story. The Sheriff was called and the Horse Thief Detective Association members went to work. They found Barr hiding along the Yellow River bank. Before the Sheriff arrived to take Meade Barr into custody, the Association members had "worked on" him considerably, so the doctor had another patient.
Starke County Historical Society
Elmer & Oakie Shilling
Attached are photos from a program book for the 1944 Muck Crop Show in North Judson. (The whole book is on our website.) The one photo shows the school gymnasium with tables full of produce from the farms in the area. The photo with the "after harvest" arch is of the 1914 Jubilee in North Judson. The folks in North Judson enjoy celebrating.
I bring this up now, because the Muck Crop Show was a precursor to today's Mint Festival in North Judson. Starke County has a lot of Muck soils, and they are more prevalent in the southwestern part of the county. Mint grows well in muck soils, and the Mint Festival offers a tour of mint farms on Saturday, June 15, at 2:00 p.m. during the Festival. You will see how they cook the mint and extract the oil from the plant.
Over the years, we have farmed some Muck fields, and following are some of the things that I have learned about Muck:
1. Muck is highly organic. It has been formed from lake beds or other depressions and has taken hundreds of years to form - as much as 500 years to form 12 inches of Muck. Normal mineral soils may have 1 to 4 % of organic matter, but Muck soils will have from 20 to 80 % of organic matter. Muck will hold one inch of water per foot of soil, almost double the amount that mineral soils can hold. This allows the crop to go without rain a lot longer. Muck soils can be shallow (less than one foot deep) or deep (maybe five or six feet deep in Starke County).
2. Muck can be warm or cold. When the sun comes out on the black Muck soil, the seeds that have just been planted will germinate quickly. However, the Kankakee Valley area (from South Bend to Momence, IL) is the coldest area in the State. Starke County farm crops will freeze sooner in the spring or fall than the crops South of us or North of us. Obviously, as one gets closer to the south part of the state, the temperatures will be warmer. But the lands North of us are warmer than the Kankakee Valley because of the Lake Michigan effect. Plus, Muck soils are usually in the lower elevations of our area than the mineral soils (cold air settles). So it is not uncommon for corn growing on Muck soils to have a late spring frost in May.
3. Muck oxidizes. As Muck is drained, the combination of air and sunlight oxidizes the Muck and the soil will settle. An engineer friend of mine, fresh out of Purdue, started to work for William Gehring (advertized on the attachment). The first thing he did was to establish bench marks around one of the Muck farms. Over the years, he kept track of these elevations. When he retired 45 years later, he again checked the elevations. In those 45 years, the Muck had settled 45 inches because of the drainage and tillage of the soil.
4. Muck burns. The soil is so organic that it can catch on fire. Lightning, a farmer burning a brush pile near or on Muck, or a cigarette thrown from a car near a dry ditch bank, all can cause a fire in Muck. Once Muck starts to burn, it is very difficult to stop it. Usually, a fire department can't supply enough water to extinguish the fire. It may burn for weeks. Sometimes the only way to stop a Muck fire is to flood the field or at least raise the water table.
Jim Shilling, President
Starke County Historical Society
Allen County just added its naturalization records to the Indiana Digital Archives along with 40 other counties! Interested in Hoosier Immigration? Check it out at Indiana Digital Archives.
Spring is here. Winter has left us, but summer is right around the corner. It is time to get the summer kitchen ready for cookouts. The summer kitchen I am thinking about is not the modern wonder of today --- a stainless steel cooking area costing $5,000 on one wall and a four-foot stone fireplace on the opposite wall, with a six-foot round glass-top table in the middle, all of this overlooking a beautiful swimming pool.
No, no, no. I’m thinking about the summer kitchen of yesteryear. During the winter, the summer kitchen would hold fire wood for the room stoves in our house. It kept the wood dry from the snow and rain. The summer kitchen was a small building, just a step or two from the back door, and was actually attached to the house by one wall. When needing sticks of wood for the stoves, we had to brave the cold for only a few feet. (That was better than the 50 or 60 feet to the outhouse, especially in the snow.)
When butchering time came around (usually in the fall) we butchered a beef, a hog or two and a few chickens. Mom and Dad would get the butcher knives out and heat the water on the stove in the summer kitchen. For the larger animals, a big bon-fire was made north of the building and a large 30-gallon kettle was used to boil the water. A white-topped porcelain table was used on which to cut up the meat. The meat was usually salted and stored for later use. Some people would put the meat in a smoke house. In later years, we would rent a locker or two from the locker plant in town. (That’s the building just south of the community center in Knox which is being demolished for more parking.)
Now, why was a building called a summer kitchen? Ah --- the summer time was when it was used more extensively. Cooking in the summer kitchen helped to keep the main house cooler in summer. (There was no air conditioning.) Spring/Summer was the time for the corn-shelling crew to come around. Corn was stored in the ear, in corn cribs. The cribs were ventilated so the corn could dry out over winter. The shelling crew consisted of one or two of the owners of the stationary sheller and 8 or 10 other farmers who arranged for the sheller to shell their corn. We would all work together, dragging the corn out of the cribs into the long 50-foot conveyers that carried the corn into the sheller. This was often a long, hot and dusty day. By noon, the wives of the crew had prepared a wonderful “dinner” fit for a King, or in this case, a hard working crew. The next day we all would go to the farmer who was next on the list, and start again.
Threshing time was the next event for the summer kitchen, but usually a lot hotter time of the year – July or August. Small grains, like oats and wheat, were cut and bundled in the field. These bundles were then stacked into shocks to let the grain dry for a few days. When the threshing crew came – again with all the neighbors, the thresher would be set up and the men would take the horses and wagons to the field to pick up the shocks. They would then pull the wagon beside the thresher and toss the bundles into the feeder housing which separated the grain from the straw, creating the “straw stack”, which children found to be so much fun. (Now, everything is done with combines.) The wives of the crew would again prepare a wonderful meal for the men. At noon the crew would come to the little breezeway between the summer kitchen and the back porch to “wash up”. There was a hand pitcher pump and a wooden v – trough (sink) there which would carry the waste water outside. Mom provided a bar of soap and several towels hanging on hooks (no paper towels in those years). Probably not all of the dirt and grime was washed away, but the cold water was always refreshing.
Summer kitchens rarely survived as a useful building, with the introduction of air conditioning for homes, gas furnaces, and combines to harvest the crops.
(Attached is a photo of our summer kitchen, which is preserved as a part of the history of our family farm.)
Jim Shilling, President
Starke County Historical Society