Chesterton Tribune

Museum exhibit showcases 2008-2011 acquisitions with pickles in tow

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While many people store their belongings away in their attics never to be seen again, the Westchester Township History Museum realizes that some of these items have a strong connection to time and place.

That’s why it is bringing into new light 48 artifacts that have been acquired since January 2008 for its latest display: People, Pictures and Pickles -- Museum Acquisitions 2008-2011.

“Every history museum is unique because of the area it honors. It is defined by the artifact and archival material it collects,” said Museum curator Jane Walsh-Brown.

Exhibit visitors can appreciate the collections of photographs, paintings, posters, embroideries and clothing unique to the Duneland area.

Walsh-Brown said this is the third version she has presented of this display since the museum opened in 1998. The museum has since collected material and financial donations from 307 individuals and organizations with a complete listing included in the exhibit.

On grand display is a 5-foot wide signature coverlet adorned with 293 names of residents and local business from the time it was made in 1919 by the Ladies Auxiliary of St. John Evangelical Church located at 225 Lincoln Ave. where the current St. John’s United Church now stands.

Local residents can look the coverlet over to spot their ancestors who may have had their signature on the coverlet and perhaps share more about the history of the coverlet or the ladies who created it.

“We would love to have more information about it,” said Walsh-Brown.

Also on display is an autograph collection belonging to Hammond native Ron Trigg. Trigg was in junior high when he began sending requests to high-ranking dignitaries for their autographs with a self-addressed stamped envelope.

Trigg’s scrapbook contains as many as 92 autographs from major political figures, thirteen of which had been president, vice-president or both. Signatures from John F. Kennedy, Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson, Gerald Ford, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan highlight the collection.

What’s With the Pickle?

Many local farmers contracted with the local Reid Murdock Co. pickle factory that existed in Chesterton from 1904 to 1914.

One such contract on display belonged to that of Furnessville pickle farmer John Wieland which he signed in 1908. Wieland and his peers received 25 cents per 50 lb. bushel according to the contracts, Walsh-Brown said.

Contractors were also to abide by a few provisions. Large pickles had to be well-formed and free from nubs and crooks.

“Large seedy cucumbers and large nubs will not be received,” states the contract.

Close by Wieland’s pickle contract sits a piece of the teak main deck of the USS Indiana, a “gallant” WWII battleship that had been decommissioned and dismantled by 1964. The piece was then presented in 1964 and given to the museum years later by Chesterton Town Council member Jim Ton.

Pictures of the WWII battleship can also be seen. Included in this display of artifacts is a surrey street light that had belonged to Joseph Bailly’s granddaughter, Frances Howe, and donated by Clarence “Guy” Hokanson.

The Not-So-Latest Fashions

Diminutive or “toy” hats made of straw may not be seen in today’s fads, but you could strike a pose by wearing one in 1937 as did Hazel Dirks Reiter. Her hat was made by Semco Sisters whose business was part of the thriving garment industry of Chicago in 1937.

Exhibit visitors can admire local resident Eleanor Lorenz’s 1944 nurse’s uniform from when she started working as a Porter County nurse upon graduating from St. Mary Mercy Hospital School of Nursing in Gary. While today’s nurses dress in scrubs, Lorenz donned a white cotton dress and blue wool cape with gold buttons featuring the Indiana State Seal.

For those more partial to darker shades, Dolores Slater donated her grandmother’s three-piece engagement dress made of black silk taffeta. The fabric was also worn at funerals or any serious occasion, Walsh-Brown said.

A garment with a little more mystery can also be found. Members of the Chesterton lodge of the Knights of Pythias wore silky, dark robes for special events and ceremonies. They also wore pins over their hearts engraved with “FCB” which stood for Friendship, Charity and Benevolence.

The robe was donated to the museum by Dorothy Weidman Meyers and the FCB pin belonged to local Knights of Pythias member Lester Weidman.

The group existed from 1896 to 1974. A chapter of Pythian Sisters also formed and started meeting above the Chesterton Tribune office in 1904 and moved to the Smith Building years later.

A list of Chesterton “Knights” can be viewed in the exhibit.

Pictures, Paintings and

Mastodon Bones

On long-term loan from the Porter County Museum of History is an unearthed mastodon tibia bone that was found in Porter County. In fact, multiple mastodon bones have been found in each corner of the county and were likely left behind by a great ice mass, the same that probably formed the Valparaiso Moraine.

Also on loan from Lorie Krysa is a headdress belonging to a real-life medicine man named Charles Clayton (later known as Robert A. Bercier) who roamed the Tremont area in 1923 selling his own popular brand of herbal medicine.

Clayton did build his own shop made out of concrete block in 1942 located at the northwest corner of Tremont Rd. and U.S. 12.

Being of Native American descent, Clayton wore the headdress for special occasions and demonstrations on the “customs and ways of the Indian” to area students.

If that isn’t worth a thousand words, the exhibit is filled with paintings, maps and portraits with histories behind them.

A circa 1925 Rand McNally map of the Indiana Dunes donated by Jim Ton is on display before the area became a national park. Chesterton resident and local environmentalist Herb Read was asked to help the museum develop a map key to identify specific locations on the map.

One such place on the map is Lake Walker, also known by Goose Lake and Mud Lake, the site where a Lakeshore and Michigan Southern Railroad work engine fell over into the lake and was never recovered. The lake was later filled in 1962 by Bethlehem Steel for its plant construction.

Map peekers can also trace the route of the South Shore Railroad built in 1908 and plenty of other trails both remaining and long forgotten.

The exhibit also honors two individuals through portraits by local artists. Jan Sullivan, best known for establishing the Art Barn in rural Jackson Twp., painted a watercolor of Janet H. Burton who was twice President of the Altursa Club of the Indiana Dunes as well as food editor for the Post-Tribune.

A highly respected and influential Chesterton teacher is also getting the big star treatment. Chicago artist Rosa Lee’s portrait of F.M. Goldsborough can be seen by exhibit visitors. The portrait, donated by Jim Ton, was a gift of the Chesterton High School Class of 1932 and was given to Westchester Twp. schools at the dedication of the Goldsborough Gymnasium in 1960.

Goldsborough taught science and mathematics in the schools for close to 50 years.

Meet the Browns

Four new photographs of the Brown Family were recently acquired by the museum from Russ Stephens’ collection of antiques. George Brown’s photograph hangs in the entryway, welcoming museum visitors.

An older photograph of George Brown has been hung in the museum’s dining room.

Hanging in what used to be the mansion’s front parlor is a framed photograph of Brown’s wife Charity.

Visitors can also see an elaborate marriage certificate written in German recording the marriage of the Brown son John and his spouse Frederika Warnhoff.

The People, Pictures and Pickles exhibit will remain on display until May 15 or perhaps a few weeks longer. The museum, located at 700 W. Porter Ave., is open from 1-5 p.m. on Wednesdays through Sundays. The Brown Family photographs will remain at the museum.

Voices of the Past

For those with an appetite for Brown Family history, the museum will put on a program to give residents a glimpse into what life was like in the Brown Mansion after it was built in 1885.

Museum staff will present “Voices of the Brown Mansion” on May 1 as its annual fundraiser. Tickets for the event are on sale for $15 and must be purchased at the museum prior to the event. The museum will use the proceeds to fund restoration on the four newly acquired photographs.

Local residents will portray the real-life characters of George Brown, Charity Charter, and Arthur Bowser, the founding owner/editor of the Chesterton Tribune. The performers will interact with guests and enlighten them on the mansion’s more notable artifacts.

Refreshments of the period will also be provided by Tonya’s Patisserie and Molly Bea’s Ingredients.

Two performances will be given at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. with a limited audience capacity of 24. Those interested in attending are encouraged to contact the museum at (219)983-9715.


Posted 4/8/2011