Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Pete Statue - Dave's Midwestern Ohio Memories

Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

Pete Statue

This article is about the Indian statue nicknamed Pete that stood in front of the old Ft. Loramie school on Elm St. back when I attended between 1954-66. The article appeared in the most recent edition of the Ft. Loramie Historical Society newsletter, The Wilderness Crier and is reprinted here along with my recollections and pertinent photos inserted where appropriate.

The Wilderness Crier, April 14, 2022

The statue of an Eastern Woodlands Native American that stands in the main hall at Fort Loramie High School has a long history. The original statue was a carving done by wood carver Samuel Anderson Robb around 1860 for William Demuth who specialized in selling cigar store Indians. The statue appeared in Demuth’s catalog where it is listed as “Indian Chief No. 53”. Demuth exhibited the statue at both the Philadelphia Centennial Expo and the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.

Note: Cigar store Indians were prevalent well before my time, and actually commemorated the fact that the American Indian introduced tobacco to the European settlers; recall peace pipes.

In 1873, J. L. Mott Iron Works Company of New York purchased the design from Demuth, and from 1887 to 1912 used the design to produce statues cast in zinc. After 1900 the statues began to appear in public parks and town squares. There were 25 known statues, some of which are still in existence; they can be found in parks in Cincinnati; Barberton, Ohio; Schenectady, New York; Tilton, New Hampshire; Cusco, Peru; and many other small towns.

The statue has different names and tribal lineages associated with it, depending on the location. In Schenectady he is named Lawrence after the Christian Mohawk who was a great friend of the early settlers. In Barberton he represents Chief Hopocan, a Delaware tribal chief and member of the Wolf Clan. In Tilton, New Hampshire, he is called Squantum after a Pawtuxet Indian; and in Chattanooga, Georgia, he is Sequoah, a Cherokee Indian. In Cincinnati, the statue, which is a Cincinnati Historic Landmark, is located in Thornton Triangle Park, and is called Tecumseh after the Shawnee leader who led the resistance against white expansion into Ohio.

Tecumseh statue in Cincinnati

At some point our Fort Loramie statue affectionally came to be called Peter Loramie (or just “Pete”), after the namesake of the village. Interestingly enough, the mother of the real Peter Loramie was a member of a Canadian Tribe, likely a Mohawk. When he lived in this area, Peter Loramie was a great friend to the local Shawnees, many of whom followed him to Missouri when he left. Note: Check out this previous blogpost about Peter Loramie.

In 1914, the Village Beautiful Club of Fort Loramie purchased an “Indian Chief No. 53” statue for $100 from the estate of Julius Boesel, where it had stood in the yard of his Queen Anne mansion north of New Bremen. The 7-foot hollow cast-zinc statue was moved via canal boat to the bank of the Miami-Erie Canal in Fort Loramie. It stood there until around 1946 when the canal there was filled. It was moved to the elementary/high school on Elm Street.(as shown in the introductory photo to this blog). In the years that followed, the statue repeatedly became the target of vandals. In 1964 a group of young men from out of town attacked the statue with a street sign. Already missing both hands and other pieces, this attack cost the Indian part of his left arm and hair braid, and it left several gaping holes.

In 1966, the Fort Loramie High School Student Council decided that it was time for a restoration of the statue. Students gathered the pieces, some of which had been rescued and stored by elementary school teachers, Miss Quinlin and Miss Fleckenstein, and took them to Esther Henke of Henke’s Religious Gift Shop in Newport. Mrs. Henke, along with her husband Chris and son Tom, set about replacing and welding the missing pieces and repainting the statue in full color. Chris Henke’s brother, William Henke, straightened the Indian’s 6-foot-long iron bow. 

The restored statue was returned to the school and placed on a concrete base paid for by the Student Council and installed by the FFA. The class of 1966 donated a wrought iron fence to surround the statue.

But that didn’t keep several RooShee girls who will remain unnamed from desecrating the statue by peeing on it under the moonlight. They called themselves the Squat Squad!

Only two years later, the statue was ‘kidnapped’ from the school by a group of young men from Piqua. Eventually it was found in The Hollow, a public swimming pool in Piqua; the young men were charged with grand larceny. The statue had been torn from its base, the face was destroyed, and the left arm was missing. In November 1972, Fort Loramie students held a marathon dance to raise money to restore the statue. Held in the gym, the dance lasted for 17 hours and 15 minutes, with students collecting pledged money for their time on the dance floor.

It is unclear as to the exact whereabouts of the damaged statue in the years that followed, but Jack Hoying shared this comment:
"The 1970 school yearbook has photos of the statue looking good. The 1972 edition shows the aftermath of being thrown in the pool in Piqua. I do remember it in the industrial arts room in 1973-74, with it's face missing. Lots of teacher Andy Olsen's files about the statue and such made their way into the body for posterity, but were dumped out at the end of the year, much to everyone's surprise!. I do remember a botched fiberglass face repair that was done to it about that time that included a huge nose and distorted features.”

Harry Boerger next to restored statue

It is unclear as to the exact whereabouts of the damaged statue in the years that followed, but at some point it was donated to the Fort Loramie Historical Association. In 1986 George Martin of that organization informed Harry Boerger that the statue was in storage in the barn behind the museum. (note Harry is my second cousin and also wrote a blog for Fish Report. See his entries at this link). Harry retrieved the statue and began another restoration. He made a new base and partially filled the cavity with concrete. He tried to reattach the arm, which originally held a 6-foot-long bow, but the arm was too heavy. So he replaced the bow with a spear that was attached to the arm to hold it up. He fashioned the spear from a broom- stick and attached his best arrowhead to the top. He tried to reconstruct the face from pictures and even face-masks of Native Americans but couldn’t get the look he wanted. He happened to run into Jerry and Jack Robbins of Fort Loramie, and felt they had the high-cheekbone facial appearance he was looking for. He took profile pictures of both and used them as models for reconstructing the face.

Charlie Wendeln painting the statue

The restored statue was taken to Cast Stone Products in Fort Loramie, where Charlie Wendeln painted it. In February of 1987, it was transported with a forklift to the high school. Harry had contacted Mel Bensman about having his industrial arts class build a case for the restored Indian. That task fell to seniors Todd Gaier and Jerry Meyer. The Indian was placed in the completed case and stands there safe and sound to this day.

This article was researched by Ann Stidd (nee Ernst), who was a class behind me in high school (her yearbook photo is shown above). While every attempt was made to gather the complete story, Ann believes there may be more to the story. If you have any additional information or corrections, especially concerning what happened to the statue between 1968 and 1986, please post your information in Comments at this Facebook link. We would like to preserve the complete and correct history of this statue for future generations.

Sources for this article include: Tom Henke, Harry Boerger, The Community Post, and Blog Post No. 53 on Main Street.


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Tuesday, May 3, 2022

75th Wedding Anniversary - Dave's Midwestern Ohio Memories

Series of Guest Blogs by an out-of-state Fish Report reader originally from this area about fond memories of growing up in Midwestern Ohio during the 50’s & 60’s

75th Wedding Anniversary

Today marks the 75th anniversary of my parents' wedding on May 3rd, 1947. The following blog commemorating their 70th anniversary five years ago is repeated in their memory. One story I told at their golden anniversary party that I forgot to include in the past blog is provided here:

The golden anniversary party was celebrated at Walkup Country Club on May 3rd, 1997 after a mass at St. Michael’s church. Before the dinner, as the oldest sibling, I was appointed the toastmaster and have forgotten what I said, but do recall prefacing the toast by sharing this tidbit that my birthday was exactly 9 months and 3 days after their wedding day. So I asked Dad, “What the heck were you doing for 3 days?

Above is the most recent photo of our family get-together this past Easter. Without our parents, the photo would show an empty room!

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad


70th Wedding Anniversary

Tomorrow would have been my parents 70th wedding anniversary. The above wedding photo was take in front of St. Patrick’s Church on May 3rd,1947. Mom & Dad had five children and I was the oldest, pictured at the far left on the photo below taken at my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary at the Minster KofC hall in 1962. I was 14.

Our family really enjoyed sports of all kinds, especially playing ball. There was hardly a summer day would go by without having a game. Mom liked to pitch while Dad and the rest of us would be in the field. Instead of a catcher, we used the wall of the corn crib for a backstop. We took turns batting, and whether getting a hit or an out, the batter would grab a glove and go to the field taking the place of someone who would be the next batter. We would then use phantom baserunners and keep track of the runs scored for each batter as they took their turn. Technically, we were counting RBI’s rather than runs scored, but who cared. There were no strikeouts, so everybody stay in the batters box until they hit the ball, which helped all of our batting skills improve. Since I was the oldest, to keep things fair, I would bat left handed and over time got quite good at it. But it never paid off in Little League, as our coach didn’t believe in switch hitting.

Sometimes, when our cousins would visit, we’d make up teams and create makeshift diamonds in whatever nearby field had been cleared as shown in the photo below next to the wheat field with the barn in the background. Since Dad had 13 brothers and sisters, while Mom had 10, we either had visitors every summer weekend or we visited one of their families when the ball games would always commence.

During the winter months, we would turn to basketball, playing all kinds of games, like “horse” or ‘pig” in our barn that looked a lot like the photo on the right. I’d sometimes go one on two against my sisters. If we had visitors, we’d make up teams and play a game of 21, win by two.

The gym set was always another fun place to play. We would have competitive games there as well, trying to see who could swing the highest, jump the farthest out of the swing, or hang upside down the longest. Dad was forever fixing things like the torn chains, worn out bolts and anchors. We beat the heck out of that set. The photo below must have been when it was new, since the grass below each swing soon disappeared, never to return.

During our recent visit over Easter, we had a chance to pay our respects to Mom & Dad interred in the family compound of grave-sites at the rear of St. Michael's cemetery overlooking the Loramie Creek. The wind was just right so the smell of freshly spread manure was prevalent in the air; or black gold as Dad used to call it. The burial compound was formed when Dad's younger brother Frank died suddenly on the 4th of July, 1979, after which all the family members residing in Ft. Loramie bought burial plots together next to Frank in the area of the cemetery circled in red below. The family farm was situated along the same creek further north, so being buried there together in the back next to the creek was considered by the close-knit family as the perfect spot to spend eternity!

Without that eventful day 70 years ago tomorrow, our family would not exist and we wouldn’t have been able to enjoy all the wonderful times together. For that I’m eternally grateful. A memorial mass in Mom & Dad's honor and also for my uncle Bob and Aunt Carolyn will be held tonight (May 2nd) at 6:30pm in St. Michael’s church. Unfortunately we cannot attend being here in Michigan, but no doubt the family will be well represented for the service and will undoubtedly reminisce about those awesome days.

Happy Anniversary, Mom & Dad. Thanks for all the wonderful times and special memories.


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