History of Peru, Indiana, part 2
From: History of Miami County, Indiana
Edited by: Mr. Arthur L. Bodurtha
The Lewis Publishing Company
Chicago and New York 1914


Mention has already been made of the "red ladders" ordered by the hoard of trustees on March 27, 1843, which was the first attempt to establish anything like a fire protection in the town of Peru. Although an ordinance was passed providing that the trustees should keep the ladders in the "most suitable place," they were usually left at the scene of the fire where they were last used, and when another fire occurred there was some difficulty in locating the fire department. Shortly after the incorporation of 1848 the marshal was instructed to ascertain the whereabouts of the hooks and ladders and provide for their safekeeping.

Early in the year 1860 a petition of citizens was presented to the council, asking that body to appoint F. S. Hackley as agent to visit several cities and investigate their fire departments with a view of establishing a department in Peru. In May, 1860, the council authorized the erection of a fire engine house, at a cost of $1,100 and purchased a hand fire engine, with the necessary hose, etc., which cost about $2,300. A volunteer force was organized to man the engine at fires and the annual cost of this department during the next twelve years was about sixty dollars.

In November, 1872, the council passed an ordinance for the reorganization of the fire department and a new engine was purchased. A more thorough organization was effected under the ordinance of July, 1888, which provided for a chief, two assistants, one hose company of sixteen men and a hook and ladder company of eight men. The same year the fire department building on North Miami street was erected at a cost of some $3,200. By the ordinance of October 23, 1888, a fire limit was established, extending from the south boundary line of the city along the west side of Wabash street to Eighth street, thence along the west side of Showana street to the north boundary line of the corporation, thence along the northern boundary to the northwest corner of Lot No. 64, Ewing's partition addition, thence southward to the east line of Miami street, and thence along the east line of Miami street to the southern boundary of the city. Within these limits it was ordained that all buildings should have walls of brick and stone, with roofs of tin. iron, slate, or some other fire proof material.

The first paid department was established in 1889 and on March 24, 1892, the council passed an ordinance providing that the department should "consist of one chief engineer and one regularly organized hose company, consisting of three men regular and three minute men, who shall be required to sleep at the engine house; and one hook and ladder company, consisting of eight men, who shall be received into actual service by the common council of said city, and whose pay shall be fixed annually by the common council."

Late in the year 1912 two automobiles were ordered from a firm in Elmira, New York, at a cost of $15,000. These machines combine a chemical engine, a pump with a capacity of five hundred gallons of water per minute, and a supply of hose sufficient to extinguish any ordinary fire. Prior to the installment of these machines a supply of hose was kept at the Indiana Manufacturing Company and another at the hospital, but with the advantages of quick transit of fires these sub stations have been discontinued and the entire department is quartered at the house on Miami street. At the close of the year 1913 the department consisted of ten men, under the chieftainship of William Murtha, but at the beginning of the year 1914 two more men were added. With twelve disciplined men and the improved fire fighting apparatus it can be said that Peru has as efficient a fire department as is usually found in cities of its size. It should also be stated that the introduction of the two automobiles did not displace the apparatus already in service. The horses, the hook and ladder truck and the hose wagon are still available whenever they are needed.


The proposition to establish a municipal water works system for the city of Peru first came before the council in 1871. At that time public sentiment was against the undertaking and no action was taken. On March 7, 1873, Governor Hendricks approved an act authorizing cities to issue bonds for the purpose of building water works and the question was agitated for a time in Peru, but again no definite action was taken on the matter. In 1875, Shirk, Dukes & Company came forward with a proposal to build and equip a water works system adequate to the demands of the city under a franchise, but the council declined to grant the franchise and once more the subject was dropped without any results having been obtained.

In July, 1877, a special election was held to ascertain the sentiment of the voters with regard to the construction of water works, those in favor to vote a ballot declaring ''For Water Works." and those opposed a ballot "Against Water Works." Upon canvassing the returns it was found that the proposition had carried by a vote of almost two to one and on April 10, 1878. the council passed an ordinance authorizing the issue and sale of water works bonds. For some reason that ordinance was repealed and on June 7, 1878, another was passed providing for an issue of bonds amounting to $110,000, due in twenty years, with interest at the rate of eight per cent per annum. The bonds were sold at a slight discount, but soon afterward went to par and later to a premium.

As soon as the proceeds of the bond sale were available the council took the necessary steps for the construction of the plant. Contracts for different portions of the work were let in October, 1878, and in May, 1879, they were completed. A substantial brick pump house was erected at the corner of Wayne and Canal streets, in the eastern part of the city, where two pumping engines run by steam were installed, the daily capacity of the pumps being about 2,500,000 gallons. The reservoir was built on the south side of the Wabash river, on an elevation of sufficient height to supply a gravity pressure capable of forcing six streams of water to a height of from fifty to seventy five feet. The cost of the original plant was $109,549.93.

At first the water works were under the control of a committee of three members of the city council, but in 1881 the state legislature passed an act providing that water works owned by a municipality should be controlled by a board of three trustees or directors elected by the people. This system prevailed until 1895, when another state law placed such works under the control of the city council. The actual management of the works is vested in a superintendent and an engineer.

For twenty years the water supply was taken from the Wabash river. On April 13, 1900, the council entered into a contract with the Shaw-Kendall Engineering Company, of Toledo, Ohio, to drill thirteen wells and install an air lift pumping plant, with a capacity of not less than 2,200,000 gallons for each twenty four hours. The contract price of the new equipment was $35,300 and on July 10, 1900, the council authorized a loan of $15,000 to complete the payment for the new works, which were placed in service early in 1902. Under the new system the quality of the water was greatly improved and the result is seen in the increased consumption. The city now has over twenty miles of mains and a majority of the people living along these mains use the city water. The revenue derived from the water works more than pays the expense of operation and repairs, as may be seen from the statement of the city finances near the close of this chapter.


In June, 1874, H. E. and C. F. Sterne & Company began the construction of a gas plant to be operated in connection with the woolen mills, of which they were the proprietors. Some three and a half miles of mains were laid during the summer and on November 15, 1874, the company announced that it was ready to supply illuminating gas. A contract was made with the city to light the streets for a period of twenty five years. This was a comparatively small plant, the gasometer having a capacity of only about 20,000 cubic feet. The annual consumption of gas gradually increased and in 1885 amounted to about 6,000,000 feet.

The Peru-American Gas Company was incorporated in the spring of 1886 and on July 27th of that year bought the plant from the original proprietors and greatly enlarged it. More mains were laid and every inducement was offered to the people to use gas. About that time, or a little later, natural gas was discovered south of Peru in Grant and Howard counties and was piped to the city, where it was used both for heating and lighting, although for the latter purpose it was greatly inferior to the manufactured gas. In May, 1895, the natural gas pipe lines passed into the hands of the Dietrich syndicate, which continued to supply gas until the pressure became too low to force it to the city. The natural gas mains then lay idle for a time, when the Dietrich interests secured a franchise, constructed an artificial gas plant in the western part of the city and began the manufacture of gas. About 1911 the works of the Dietrich syndicate were merged with those of the Peru-American Gas Company, under the latter name.


The first electric lights in Peru made their appearance in the fall of 1885, when the Thomson-Houston Electric Company installed a dynamo with a capacity of twenty five arc lights as an experiment, taking power from Miller's mill. The following July Volney Q. Irwin, of Crawfordsville, purchased the plant, with the ground and building where it was located on the old canal, near the canal mill. Mr. Irwin put in a boiler with a capacity of 212 horsepower, an 85 horsepower engine, and two dynamos each capable of supplying current to twenty five lights. Contracts for lighting stores and other buildings were then made and in a few years electric lights had largely taken the place of gas lights.

In November, 1894, the Peru Light and Power Company was incorporated with V. Q. Irwin, president; P. F. Covington, vice president; Nathaniel Covington, secretary and treasurer. This company then took over the plant, added another arc light machine and an alternating incandescent machine, increasing the capacity to 165 arc lights, and 2,000 incandescent lights. With these additions and some other changes electrical engineers pronounced the Peru plant to be the equal of that of any other city in the country of similar size.

A few years later the subject of a municipal lighting plant began to be discussed and a large number of Peruvians expressed themselves in favor of its establishment. On March 13, 1900, the city council granted to Ulen & Perrott. of Indianapolis, a franchise to build and equip an electric lighting works, with the understanding that the city would purchase the same under certain conditions. Instead of building a new plant, Ulen & Perrott purchased the old one, installed some new machinery, and on November 1, 1900, it was turned over to the city. There was some criticism of the manner in which this deal was carried through. The franchise of the Peru Light and Power Company was about to expire and that company, after a franchise had been granted to the Indianapolis parties, realized that it would be a difficult matter to secure a renewal. It is said the old company sold out to Ulen & Perrott at a sacrifice and that the purchasers resold to the city at a figure that left them a handsome profit. The criticism of the city authorities was on account of their having granted a franchise to outsiders, when the old plant might have been purchased direct from the old company. During the year 1913 the expense of operation and upkeep was $60,428.77 and the receipts amounted to $56,389.28. Although these figures indicate that the plant was operated at a loss, the repairs made during the year have placed it in good condition and the probabilities are that for the coming years the electric lighting works will show a balance on the right side of the ledger.


Within recent years it has become almost a universal custom for the business men of a city to organize some sort of an association of business men for the purpose of promoting their common interests and adding to the material prosperity of the city. At a meeting in February, 1901, when the question of raising a bonus for Josiah Turner as an inducement to lease and reopen the old woolen mills was under consideration, some one proposed the organization of a permanent business men's association. A committee, consisting of Frank M. Stutesman, chairman, Hugh McCaffrey, Julius Falk, R. H. Bouslog, R. A. Edwards, A. N. Dukes, A. L. Bodurtha, C. H. Brownell and J. D. Oates, was appointed to formulate and present plans for such an organization. Nothing definite was accomplished until nearly a year later, but on January 17, 1902, a meeting was held which resulted in the organization of the Peru Commercial Club. A nominating committee was appointed, which presented the following names as the first officers of the club: F. M. Stutesman, president; R. A. Edwards, vice president; Nelson W. Miller, treasurer. The report of the committee was concurred in and the officers were elected. At a subsequent meeting a little later J. G. Brackinridge was elected secretary. The first executive board was composed of Hugh McCaffrey, Henry Meinhardt, G. C. Miller, G. A. Swartwout and A. N. Dukes. Eight standing committees were appointed, each of which was to take charge of some particular phase of the club's work. These committees, with their respective chairmen, were as follows: Ways and means, L. B. Fulwiler; manufacturing, R. H. Bouslog; railroads, C. H. Brownell and C. A. Cole; commerce, A. L. Bodurtha; city interests, James F. Stutesman; press and printing, E. L. Miller; membership, C. N. Hall; arrangements and entertainments, Frank Carter.

Since the organization of this club it has been an active factor in its efforts to promote the interests of the city of Peru and its people. Its work in bringing new manufacturing enterprises to the Oakdale addition is described in another chapter; the arrangements for the laying of the cornerstone of the new courthouse were made through the club; it has been energetic in campaigns to secure bonuses for new factories, particularly the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad shops; has offered valuable suggestions and assisted in the matter of granting franchises to corporations, and while it has sometimes taken the initiative in these matters it has always worked in harmony with but subservient to the city administration.

Following is a list of the club's presidents since the organization, the figures in parentheses after the name indicating the number of years each served: Frank M Statesman (2), Hugh McCaffrey (3), A. L. Bodurtha (2), Claude Y. Andrews (2), J. W. Parkhurst (2), J. T. Kaufman (1).

The secretaries, in the order in which they have served. were J. G. Brackinridge, Giles W. Smith and Pliny M. Crume The officers for 1914 are Hugh McCaffrey, president; J. W. Parkhurst, vice president; Guy York, secretary; Henry Kittner, treasurer.

The club now has an active membership of about 150, though at times in the past, when some campaign of more than ordinary interest was on, the membership has run as high as three hundred or more. This was especially true in the movement to secure a subsidy for the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad shops, when the club worked in unison with the city administration and the Improvement and Park Association.


This park was established through the efforts of the Improvement and Park Association in connection with the securing of the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad shops in Peru. A full account of the manner in which the land was purchased by the association and leased to the city for park purposes may be found in the chapter on internal improvements. The park was formally opened on the evening of August 20, 1908. The arrangements for the opening were conceived by Henry Meinhardt, who enlisted the cooperation of Frank M Stutesman and these gentlemen aroused enough enthusiasm in the matter of obtaining supplies, such as seats, wiring for the electric lights, a band stand, etc., that the people responded liberally with donations, so that the park was equipped without expense to the city. Mayor Odum issued a proclamation relating to the opening and on the evening of the 20th "everybody and his wife" went to the park. The Third Regiment and the Red Men's bands furnished music, the members donating their services for the occasion, and the Peru Maennerchor rendered a number of vocal selections. Altogether it was an enjoyable evening. The park was subsequently purchased by the city and is now one of Peru's permanent institutions.


Shortly after the completion of the waterworks the question of sewers came up for consideration by the people and the city council. The first sewer in the city was built on Cass street, and the second on Tippecanoe. It is said that these two sewers were constructed through the influence of two members of the council who lived on the two streets, and that they were put in without regard to a general sewer system. A little later a system was planned by Michael Horan, the city civil engineer, and the work of building sewers was commenced according to that plan. At the close of the year 1913 the city had eleven main sewers and thirty five laterals, and several new lines were under contemplation. The sewer on Broadway is a double sewer, i. e., there is a conduit on each side of the street, so that easy access is afforded to the buildings on either side. The work has proceeded gradually, in order that the burden of expense might be distributed over a number of years. When the system is completed Peru will be as well supplied with sewers as any city of its size in the country.

On July 2, 1901, the city authorities entered into a contract with C. Moellering & Company, of Fort Wayne, Indiana, to pave Broadway with brick from the Wabash river north to the railroad tracks, the cost of the improvement being nearly $50,000. This was the first paved roadway of any kind, except gravel, in the city. The next improvement of this character was the paving of Main street from Wabash street west to Miami with brick, which was made a few years after Broadway was improved. A few years later a bitulithic roadway was laid in the east end of Main street, extending to the city limits, and in 1913 this portion of the street was connected with the brick pavement at Wabash street by a bitulithic pavement West Third street is paved with brick from Broadway to Miami street, and in the winter of 1913-14 an order was issued for the pavement of Main street from Miami west to the city limits, the work to be done during the spring and summer of 1914. Other improvements are also in contemplation. Most of the sewers and paved roadways have been built under what is known as the "Barrett Law," which levies the cost of the improvement against the abutting property, but gives the property holders ten years in which to pay their assessments, improvement bonds being issued at the time the work is done and made payable in ten annual installments.

in a few places in the older part of the city there is room for improvement in the sidewalks, but in the main the walks are in good condition. In a number of the new additions concrete sidewalks have been laid and this material is rapidly growing in favor in the construction of new walks wherever ordered.


When the postoffice was first established at Peru it was called "McGregor's" and John McGregor was appointed the first postmaster. For about three quarters of a century the postoffice occupied rented quarters wherever suitable rooms could be obtained, moving from place to place as leases expired and property holders required their buildings for other uses. In 1909 congress appropriated $75,000 for the purchase of a site and erection of a postoffice building. The lot on the northeast corner of Sixth street and Broadway was selected and in March, 1910, the contract for the erection of the building was awarded to P. H. McCormack & Company, the firm that built the Miami county courthouse. On October 17, 1910, the cornerstone was laid. In the stone were deposited, among other things, a little book of Peru views and a list of the postmasters from the time the office was established. An effort was made by the writer to obtain a copy of that list, but one could not be found. Just before the stone was placed in position Mr. McCormack, the contractor, wrote a few lines on a bill of fare of the Bearss hotel and deposited it in the cavity. What he wrote no one knows and it will probably not be ascertained until the cornerstone is removed. Postmaster Loveland says the cost of the site was $15,000 and that of the building about $78,000. The interior woodwork in the postoffice was furnished by the C. H. Brownell Company, of Peru. From the little log cabin of 1835, when only a few letters were sent and received during an entire year, the receipts of the Peru postoffice are now approximately $35,000 per annum. The office employs twenty seven people, exclusive of the twelve rural delivery carriers. During the fiscal year ending on June 30, 1913, the office issued 18,655 domestic and 194 international money orders and during the same period paid 10,228 domestic and 17 foreign orders. With the extension of the parcels post the number of money orders is constantly increasing and the year ending on June 30, 1914, will show a much larger volume of business in this respect than the year preceding.


On December 31, 1913, the following report was sent to the state statistician as an abstract of the indebtedness, receipts and disbursements of the city for the year ending on that date:

City bonds outstanding, Dec. 31, 1913.....


Improvement bonds


Floating debt


Warrants outstanding




Total debt


In the item of improvement bonds the amount given in merely the city's share of such bonds. The large floating debt is due to a large extent to the ravages of the great flood of March, 1913, did immense damage to the water works pumping station, the light plant and other public utilities. To place these utilities in which electric working condition temporary loans were necessary The receipts for the year were as follows:

Cash on hand, Jan. 1, 1913


Receipts from city taxes


Receipts from water works


Receipts from electric light plant


Receipts from liquor licenses


Receipts from licenses and franchises.....


Receipts from all other sources




Total receipts


In the matter of expenditures the year 1913 was one of the heaviest in the city's history. Two new automobile fire engines were purchased late in the preceding year, but were paid for in 1913; an addition was made to the fire engine house on Miami street to provide a place for the new apparatus, which made the cost of the fire department far above that in normal years; the repairs made necessary by the flood and the natural expenses caused the disbursements to outstrip the receipts, as shown by the following table:

Salaries of city officers


Health department


Fire department


Police department


Water works (operation and repairs)


Electric light plant (operation and repairs).....


Paid on bonds


All other expenditures in 1913




Total disbursements


In the health, fire and police departments the amounts above given include the salaries of all persons connected with those departments. While the figures taken from this report show a deficit at the end of the year of $9,433.20, it must be remembered that 1913 was an extraordinary year in the destruction of property, which necessitated large expenditures in the way of repairs.


Since the establishment of the city government in 1867, a period of fifty seven years, Peru had but ten mayors. Orris Blake was elected at the special election hi March. 1867, and served until the regular election in May. when he was succeeded by Josiah Farrar. William A McGregor was elected in 1869 and served until 1875, when William B. Reyburn was elected. Mr. Reyburn died on March 30, 1882, and John A. Graham was appointed to fill out the unexpired term, at the close of which he was elected. Mr. Graham served by reelections until the election of Jesse S. Zern in 1889. Mayor Zern continued in office until his death. which occurred in May, 1896. At the election a few days prior to his death, he was reelected for another term, but died before taking the oath of office. The council met on the evening of May 9, 1896, passed resolutions of sympathy and respect, and elected Orson Durand mayor for the ensuing term. A few days later a new council came into office and elected Charles A. Parsons mayor, claiming that the old council had no authority to elect a mayor except for the few days remaining of the old term. Mr. Durand refused to vacate, however, and the case was taken to the courts. The supreme court of the state finally upheld the old council and Mr. Durand continued to serve as mayor until he was succeeded by William A. Odum in 1902. In 1909 John J. Kreutzer was elected mayor to succeed Mr. Odum and served for four years, being succeeded in 1913 by William A. Hammond, the present mayor.


The population of Peru in 1840 - the first United States census after the town was laid out - cannot be obtained. In 1850 it was 1,266; in 1860 it had increased to 2.596; in 1870 it was 3,617; in 1880 it was 5,280; in 1890 it was 7,958; in 1900 it had increased to 10,465, and in 1910 to 12,365. The census reports of 1890, 1900 and 1910 include the population of Ridgeview in the city of Peru. In 1910 the population of the city, exclusive of Ridgeview, was 10,910.

Peru had a police force of eleven men, under the superintendency of J. B. Sollitt, at the beginning of the year 1914. This is one policeman for about each 1,100 of the population, but as the people of the city are generally peaceful, law abiding citizens, this force is sufficient to maintain order and protect life and property.

The five public school buildings in the city are valued at more than $200,000; all the leading religious denominations are represented by comfortable and commodious houses of worship; there are a number of literary and social clubs; most of the fraternal societies are represented by lodges, and the monthly payroll of the various manufactories amounts to about $200,000 in normal times. Full accounts of the schools, societies and manufacturing interests will be found in other chapters of this work. Three steam railroads and three electric lines afford excellent shipping and transportation facilities; the city has three daily and two weekly newspapers; the mercantile establishments and hotels compare favorably with those to be found in cities of similar size elsewhere; the professions are ably represented, and these things, together with the efficient fire department, a bountiful supply of pure water for domestic use, a fine public library, the presence of an industrious, order loving population, all combine to make Peru "no mean city."

[Also see History of Peru, Indiana, Part 1.]

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