History of Lafayette, Indiana (Part 2)
From: Past and Present of Tippecanoe County, Indiana
General R. P. DeHart, Editor in Chief
B. F. Bowen & Company, Publishers
Indianapolis, Indiana 1909


Every city should have its numerous parks; some places have a greater need of them than others. Lafayette is situated within one vast park region, through which the Wabash valley courses. The old Indian trail, near the present Soldiers' Home, is accessible for one popular place of outing from this city; the Tippecanoe battle ground is another point of interest much visited. The city had, however, owned about fifteen acres of land to the east of the main platting, and about 1876 had converted it into a park. But little was accomplished in the way of improving it, save to keep the grass cut in the summer months and to provide some few rude swings and a temporary frame building that took the place of a better pavilion. It was considered such sacred(?) ground that signboards adorned its surface, "Keep off the grass," at almost every possible point one might chance to enter the grounds. When the water works were put in and a reservoir made, the overflow was allowed to form into a pool in the location of the present artificial lakes that adorn the spot. It was, in reality, of but little use to the populace of the city as a public park. But with later enactments a levy of three cents was made for the improvement of the place, to which was added about twenty five acres more, making about forty acres in all. The last tract and the commencement of improvements was in 1891, when Adams Earl was park commissioner, and at the suggestion of his daughter, Mrs. Charles B. Stuart, the park was named "Columbian," as it was being started during the year of the great Columbian exposition at Chicago. The first year or two the improvements were very slight, if indeed any, but as taxes were paid in, the spot began to grow in beauty as well as utility. The keep off the grass boards were taken down and people were admitted to roam at will and enjoy themselves unmolested. It has now come to be one of the most delightful parks in Indiana, and is annually being improved at an average of a three cent levy of taxes. Here one finds boating, many a shady nook, islands, suspension bridges, water lilies, and a sparkling pool teeming with tens of thousands of the fishes that are kept for the interest of the frequenters of the park, but not to be caught. The artificial lakes are fed from the city water works and cost the city about one thousand seven hundred dollars per annum. Winding paths and trails and neat, safe swings of all descriptions, including merry go rounds for small children are to be seen in many parts of the park. There is also a large boat house and spacious pavilion, where seats are provided; also booths for refreshments. The swimming pool was the first of the real improvements in this park, and has come to be a very well patronized place for both sexes. The most of the improvements have been made since 1906.

During the last year or two the zoo feature of Columbian Park has been greatly added to, and a great interest taken by the citizens of Lafayette and they have made numerous and very valuable donations of animals to this department, which bespeaks for one of the pleasant spots - a real interesting resort - in the near future. Already many excursions have come in from surrounding towns and cities to enjoy a delightful day in the shady nooks and beside the pure waters of the bathing pool and fish ponds of this already magnificent park.

Ladies' day in the free swimming pool is being generally observed by the ladies to the end that hundreds of girls and young women have become expert swimmers, thus being further able to protect life in case of an accident on larger water courses - lakes, rivers and ocean.


The first bridge over the Wabash at Lafayette was given its charter January 13, 1845. There had been one issued in 1836, but it was not utilized by the construction of a bridge. But in 1845 a stock company was formed with the following as its directors: John Purdue, Nathan H. Stockwell, John L. Reynolds, Robert Heath and David Ross. The company issued twenty thousand dollars stock and the bridge was soon erected. It became a toll bridge with fare as follows:

Four horse wagon teams, fifty cents; two horses, twenty five cents; one buggy, twenty cents; man and horse, a shilling; foot passengers, six and a quarter cents; cattle and horses, per head, six and a quarter cents; sheep and hogs, three cents per head.


The next bridge charter was issued in December, 1863, for a Main street bridge over the Wabash. A twenty five thousand dollar stock company was formed and divided into five hundred shares. This was also a toll bridge up to 1874-'75, when the county purchased the Brown street and Main street bridges in Lafayette, since which date all have been free. The 1863 structure served until 1889, when the present fine, modern steel bridge was constructed under the supervision of Civil Engineer Everett B. Vawter. It cost about forty thousand dollars, and has a wide roadway, floored with brick and cement; also has street car section and foot walk. It was constructed for the county by the Lafayette Bridge Company.

Of the Brown street bridge it may be stated that on the site of the present fine structure that spans the waters of the Wabash. there stood the old covered wooden bridge which was erected in 1847 as a toll bridge and was in service fifty five years. Hiram L. Kilborn was its builder. It was put in when Lafayette was yet "at the head of navigation" on the Wabash and had a wonderfully long and interesting history, could it all be told in history. The tramping of soldiers of three American wars were heard treading its plank floor. By reason of river boating a draw section had to be placed in the center of this bridge and through its portals came many a Mississippi steamer in the early days. It was owned by a company that also owned the Main street bridge, and toll was charged up to the time the county bought both bridges in 1874-'75. The county paid fifty thousand dollars and opened up the two as free bridges. In all of those eventful years many a thousand by multiplied thousands of men, women and children, as well as countless numbers of horses, cattle and other animals had passed over it and paid tribute to its owners. However. when old and thoroughly dry and seasoned by age and weather exposure, Sunday morning, October 6, 1901, it was seen burning midway between the two shores of the stream. It was first discovered on fire at 1:30 a. m. and could not be saved by any means available. There was but five thousand dollars of insurance on the property. To its frame was attached many telephone and electric light wires and for some time these systems were badly demoralized. The sight of this fire is said to have been at once awful and grand, reflecting back as it did upon a dark sky background. It was seen for many miles around the city. It was either set on fire by an incendiary or by the electric light lines no one will ever know which.

The county set about planning for the present bridge at that point, and in November specifications were at hand and only awaited the county's approval. Wallace Marshall and Melville W. Miller drew the plans which called for an asphalt driveway - an innovation in bridge building at that date. On account of the filling up of the old canal, at the eastern extremity of this bridge, the new structure only had to be five hundred and eighty feet long. The new bridge was constructed in 1902, at a cost of about thirty thousand five hundred dollars. Melville W. Miller was the superintendent for the county, and received for his services the sum of three hundred dollars.


(Compiled by A. E. Shearman, Assistant Postmaster.)
Lafayette's first postmaster was Samuel Sargent, commissioned April 24, 1826. The office was located in the cabin with the county clerk. Mr. Sargent was postmaster but a short time. He was also the first county clerk and held both offices at the same time and died in office.

Mr. Sargent's successor as postmaster was William M. Smith, who was commissioned September 15, 1826. Mr. Smith was also storekeeper and kept the postoffice in his store room which was located in a cabin on the river front.

Mr. Smith was succeeded by Samuel Hoover, who was commissioned on October 2, 1828. Mr. Hoover was also the county clerk and kept both offices in a small house where now stands the First National Bank building in the center of the block on the north side of the square, but later both offices were moved into the court house.

James Wylie followed Samuel Hoover as postmaster and was commissioned on March 26, 1833. He moved the office to the corner of Second and Columbia streets and afterwards to the south side of Columbia street between Second and Third streets.

The fifth postmaster was Rudolph S. Ford, commissioned December 26, 1839. His office was located on west side of Fourth street, near the alley between Main and Ferry streets, just south of where the present government building stands.

Mr. Ford was followed by William L. Embree, who was commissioned July 14, 1845, and who kept the office in the same location as when Mr. Ford was postmaster.

Gen. Jacob Walker was the seventh postmaster, commissioned June 14, 1847, who located the office at the corner of Third and South streets, opposite the old Lafayette Hotel, and later moved to the south side of Main street, between Second and Third streets, near the present St. Nicholas Hotel.

Daniel Brawley, who followed General Walker, was commissioned postmaster April 5, 1849. He moved the office into Dr. Jewett's new block on the east side of Third street, between Columbia and South streets.

Robert W. Sample, now president of the First National Bank, was one of Daniel Brawley's assistants and, in fact, did almost all of the work in the postoffice during part of Mr. Brawley's term on account of illness in the postmaster's family.

Gen. Jacob Walker was again commissioned postmaster on May 4, 1853. He moved the office to the corner of Third and South streets, opposite to the Bramble House, same location he had occupied in 1847.

Thomas Wood was the tenth postmaster, commissioned May 19, 1857. While he was in charge, the office was located in Taylor's block on the south side of Main street, between Second and Third streets, west of public square.

George E. Jenks, proprietor of the paper box manufactory and the "Shears" and one of our prominent citizens, and Gen. George B. Williams, of Washington, District of Columbia, were among Mr. Wood's employees.

James P. Luce was commissioned postmaster on May 24, 1861. by President Lincoln. He first located the office in the Orth block on the east side of Fourth street, between Main and Ferry streets.

This block was burned and the office was then removed to the Lahr block, corner Main and Fifth street, in a room on alley now occupied by the Bohemia cafe, and from there to the then Opera House block on the north east corner of Fourth and Ferry streets. Mr. Luce held the office until July 22, 1866.

Major Daniel Mace was commissioned postmaster on June 26, 1866, took charge of the office July 23. 1866. Location of the office was not changed during the time he served. Mr. Mace committed suicide on July 25, 1867, and William Heheman, the assistant postmaster, was acting postmaster from the date of Mr. Mace's death to November 23, 1867.

Col. William C. Wilson was commissioned postmaster August 8, 1867, to serve out the unexpired term of Mayor Mace, but did not take the office until November 24, 1867, and served to May 7, 1869, in the same location as Major Mace in the old Opera House block, northeast corner of Ferry and Fourth streets.

John L. Miller was commissioned on April 9, 1869. Took charge of the office on May 8, 1869, and continued in office until April 25, 1877, nearly eight years. While he was postmaster in the opera house building, northeast corner of Ferry and Fourth streets, the building was burned down, and the postoffice was removed to the Hanley block on the east side of Fourth street, between Columbia and South streets, near where the present Victoria theatre building stands. It remained there but a short time and was then moved back to the northeast corner of Fourth and Ferry streets.

During Mr. Miller's term, in the fall of 1873, free delivery by carriers was inaugurated with four carriers. Carrier number one was Benny Hirsch, who had been general delivery clerk for some time. He was appointed by Hon. Godlove S. Orth. Carrier number two was Sam Sims. a one armed Civil war veteran. Number three was James Godman and number four was Fletcher Ingram, a son of Judge Ingram. All of these men are dead now except Ben Hirsch, proprietor of the Hub clothing store on the west side of the square. Frank Terry and the Hon. Mel W. Miller were employees of the office during John L. Miller's term.

The first street letter boxes were placed in position by John C. Taylor and son, Arthur, in November, 1873. Mr. Taylor is now running the peanut wagon that stands in Fourth street. just north of Main, and his son. Arthur, is in Alaska.

William S. Lingle succeeded John L. Miller as postmaster. was commissioned April 9, 1877, took charge on April 26, 1877. and served until September 1, 1884. He died in office on that date at Waukesha. Wisconsin.

Upon the death of William S. Lingle, John G. Sample was appointed acting postmaster and served as such from September 2, 1884. until September 30, 1884. He was commissioned postmaster September 17, 1884, and served as postmaster from October 1, 1884, to November 30, 1885.

John B. Ruger succeeded Mr. Sample as postmaster, was commissioned November 9, 1885, and took charge of the office December 1, 1885. serving until February 2, 1890. The office was removed by him from the northeast corner of Ferry and Fourth streets to the Dell block on the south side of Columbia street, east side of the alley between Fourth and Fifth streets.

The postal receipts of the office for the year 1889, Mr. Ruger's last year, were twenty eight thousand six hundred and thirty two dollars and ninety two cents.

Hon. B. Wilson Smith succeeded Mr. Ruger; was commissioned postmaster January 9, 1890, and took charge of the office on February 3, 1890, serving until October 31, 1893. During his term of office the clerks and carriers were placed under civil service rules and the government building was erected at southwest corner of Fourth and Ferry steets.

Mr. Smith was also appointed by the treasury department as custodian of the building and grounds. The government invested about eighty thousand dollars in the original building and grounds.

Bosicher & Moerlling, of Fort Wayne, Indiana. were the contractors and George S. Brown, of Lafayette, the superintendent.

When Mr. Smith took charge of the postoffice there was no night service. The building was closed at nine p. m. and no mails were dispatched until the next morning. Within a year Mr. Smith had arranged for additional help, made a collection at ten o'clock at night from the hotels and street letter boxes in the business section and dispatched mail on all night trains, an improvement which was appreciated by the city business men and commercial travelers. Particular attention was given to the special delivery branch of the service and this business doubled in a very short time. He also early made a personal inspection of all street letter boxes. and all in bad or leaky condition were promptly replaced by new boxes. also established agencies for the sale of stamps in different parts of the city.

Mr. Smith was quite a favorite of Mr. Wanamaker, the postmaster general; by Mr. Wanamaker's request Mr. Smith visited every postoffice in the county and made an inspection of the offices and advised with the postmasters as to how their business methods could be improved.

On one or more occasions Mr. Wanamaker invited some fifty postmasters from offices of the first class to visit Washington to consult as to the management of the large offices. He thought so much of Mr. Smith's judgment and ability that he invited him to meet and consult with them, which was quite a compliment, as this office at that time was second class.

The postal receipts of the office during Mr. Smith's four years were for 1890, twenty nine thousand three hundred and four dollars and thirty one cents; 1891, thirty one thousand one hundred and twenty three dollars and thirteen cents; 1892, thirty five thousand six hundred and fifty four dollars and ninety one cents; 1893, thirty six thousand eight hundred and sixty four dollars and fifty five cents.

The postal receipts for the year 1893 had increased eight thousand two hundred and thirty one dollars and sixty three cents over the year of 1889. By these increases in the receipts, the salary of the postmaster had been advanced twice from two thousand seven hundred dollars to two thousand nine hundred dollars per annum. That Mr. Smith made a good selection of clerks and carriers is attested by the fact that nine of his old employees are still in the postoffice force, and one of them, Thomas W. Burt, is the present postmaster. None of the men he selected were ever guilty of any bad action and all that have left the service left when in good standing.

M. H. Kennedy followed Mr. Smith as postmaster, was commissioned on September 28, 1893, and took charge of the office on November 1, 1893, serving until October 11, 1897. The new government building was completed early in the spring of 1894 and the postoffice was removed to it on March 17, 1894. The office went into the list of first class in 1895.

The postal receipts during Mr. Kennedy's term were as follows: Year 1894, thirty nine thousand one hundred and eighty two dollars and thirteen cents; 1895, forty thousand nine hundred and eighty four dollars and fifty four cents; 1896, forty one thousand four hundred and forty five dollars and twenty one cents; 1897, forty two thousand seven hundred and seventeen dollars and fifty eight cents.

James Lindsey Caldwell was commissioned postmaster on September 14, 1897, took charge of the office on October 12, 1897, and served until February 28, 1906.

The postoffice service was carried on during this period in a businesslike way and with but little, if any, friction among employees or the public.

The force of employees were well organized and made up of competent and trustworthy men, who took a pride in their work and honestly and faithfully tried to please the public.

Advantage was taken of every opportunity offered by the department to improve the service. During Mr. Caldwell's administration there was installed the West Lafayette station with two letter carriers, which was subsequently increased to three, making the same number of deliveries and upon the same schedule as in the city. thus affording West Lafayette and Purdue University splendid mail service. The mail was dispatched via the street railway.

The Soldiers' Home station was also installed with two daily dispatches via the traction line.

Four other sub-stations were located in different parts of the city for the sale of postal supplies and the issuing of money orders and the registry of letters.

The railway mail service was increased until every passenger train entering and leaving the city carried mail and mail was dispatched on a freight train to Romney, Indiana.

Rural free delivery was taken up early in its history, and aided by enthusiastic farmers' routes, were established among the first in Indiana. No. 1, on April 3, 1899; No. 2, on April 3, 1899; No. 3, on December 4, 1899; No. 4, on September 15, 1900; No. 5, on January 2. 1901. On October 15, 1902, complete county service was installed with thirty nine carriers. Tippecanoe county being the sixth county in the state to receive this service.

It was installed by E. F. Hutches, rural route special agent, who, in company with Mr. Caldwell during the months of July and August, 1902, rode over every mile of road in Tippecanoe county.

The postal receipts increased from forty two thousand, seven hundred seventeen dollars and fifty eight cents to sixty five thousand, ninety seven dollars and seventy seven cents during his term of office.

Thomas W. Burt was commissioned the twenty first postmaster on February 19, 1906, took charge of the office on March 1, 1906. During the years of 1907 and 1908, the government building was remodeled and an addition of fifty by seventy feet was built on the west side, two stories and basement, for which the government appropriated sixty thousand dollars. New furniture and lighting fixtures were installed throughout, and the building and office now is one of the most convenient in the United States. Ed Henry, of Tipton, Indiana, was the contractor, with L. W. Baker (colored), a government employee, as superintendent.

The postal receipts of the office for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1909, were over eighty thousand dollars, an increase of fifteen thousand dollars during Mr. Burt's term, requiring seventeen city carriers and twelve rural carriers, besides several substitute carriers and clerks. There is distributed among the postoffice employees in salaries fifteen thousand dollars per quarter.

The value of the civil service to the postoffice department can not be overestimated. Politics no longer is a factor, efficiency and good conduct being sure of reward by increase in salary and permanency of employment. Mr. Burt has proved an earnest advocate of the eight hour day for all employees, and under his administration the hours of employment of every attache of the office have been reduced to the minimum. The personnel of the Lafayette office is not excelled by that of any other in the country in its class. With an office force of fifty six attaches, the fact that no fines, suspensions or dismissals have been necessary speaks highly for the moral character of the force. In volume of business transacted it is a cause for just pride that Lafayette ranks sixth in the state, preceded only by cities of many times its population, viz.: Evansville, Terre Haute, Fort Wayne, South Bend and Indianapolis.


Year On $100
1853 .40
1854 .40
1855 .55
1856 .50
1857 .50
1858 .30
1859 .50
1860 .70
1861 .70
1862 .75
1863 .80
1864 .80
1865 1.00
1866 1.00
1867 1.00
1868 .90
1869 .90
1870 .90
1871 1.00
1872 1.00
1873 .90
1874 1.00
1875 1.00
1876 1.00
1877 1.00
1878 .80

Year On $100
1879 .80
1880 .80
1881 .50
1882 .75
1883 .75
1884 1.00
1885 1.00
1886 1.00
1887 1.00
1888 1.00
1889 1.00
1890 1.00
1891 .75
1892 .75
1893 .76
1894 .90
1895 .81
1896 1.00
1897 1.00
1898 1.00
1899 1.00
1900 1.00
1901 1.00
1902 1.00
1903 1.00
1904 1.00

Lafayette had an indebtedness of three hundred thousand dollars in way of out-standing bonds in 1907, according to the state's report.

The taxable property in the city of Lafayett in 1908 was: Lands, three hundred ninety eight thousand, four hundred and thirty five dollars; improvements, five hundred sixty two thousand, seven hundred dollars; value of lots, three million, twenty four thousand dollars; value of improvements, four million, three hundred and thirty thousand dollars; personal property, three million, seven hundred and seventy five thousand dollars; railroad property, four hundred and forty seven thousand dollars; telephones, telegraph and express companies, ninety seven thousand dollars. And after deducting the mortgages against this property, it leaves the large sum of twelve million, three hundred and sixty nine thousand dollars for a grand total of valuation.

The library fund, a special levy of six mills on a dollar of property valuation, in 1908 produced the amount of seven thousand, three hundred and seventy two dollars. Of this amount, about four thousand dollars was transferred to the school board, leaving a balance in the treasury of the library of three thousand, three hundred and thirty six dollars. This is used to maintain and operate the public library.

Lafayette History

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

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