KOSCIUSKO COUNTY —In January of 1966 the Kosciusko County Historical Society was formed. One hundred sixty-five persons attended the first meeting held at the courthouse. From that beginning fifty years ago, the society has grown to nearly 500 members and has become the caretaker of the Old County Jail (now a museum), the Chinworth Bridge (Greenway Trailhead), and the Pound Store in Oswego (oldest commercial building in county). But the society does not only preserve historical sites, they also are the caretakers of the official county records, and business, family and personal histories.
In 1871 the corner of Jefferson and Market Streets, where the Big Four passenger station stood, was occupied by a large bridge-like structure upon which locomotives were turned, a turn-table. The road was then called the Warsaw, Goshen & White Pigeon railroad and Warsaw was the southern terminus.
A couple blocks north, on the southwest corner of Center and Hickory streets in a frame house was the passenger station. The house was then owned by Mrs. Levana Ludy, who resided in the west part of the building, the railroad company using the east side. An addition on the south side housed a small lunch room where Mrs. Ludy dispensed coffee, sandwiches, pies and cakes to waiting passengers and tired trainmen.
Every week day a train consisting of an engine, four or five freight cars, a combination mail and baggage car and a passenger coach would depart about 8 a.m. for Goshen, arriving on the return trip about 4 p.m.
In 1872 the Cincinnati, Wabash & Michigan Railroad Company was organized to extend the road southward. The intention was to build to Peru to form a connection with a line already in operation from Peru to Indianapolis. Petitions were circulated in the townships through which the line was projected and elections held to determine the question of a subsidy. The proposition carried in the townships, and thus the extension was assured.
The line was built to Claypool, Silver Lake, North Manchester and Wabash. Later it was extended to Marion; then to Anderson. The first train ran from Anderson to Goshen on May 21, 1876.
In the meantime work was underway in preparation for the installation of the crossing mechanism over the track of the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne & Chicago railroad which at that time was a single-track line. When the “frogs” had been spiked down and the rails connected, Engine No. 2 (the “Warsaw”), with John Henry Porter at the throttle, crept cautiously over the crossing, back and forth several times, until O.K.’d by the inspectors.
Upon completion of the railroad crossing, the Warsaw, Goshen & White Pigeon and the Grand Rapids, Warsaw & Cincinnati companies were consolidated under the name of the Cincinnati, Wabash and Michigan, by which name the road continued to be known until its absorption into the Big Four system in the 1890s.
Prior to the inauguration of the double-track system by the Pennsylvania in 1900, the railroad crossing was guarded by large gates painted a brilliant red, called targets, which were swung across the tracks of both roads, and opened by the watchman only when a train wished to cross. All trains were required to come to a dead stop until the gates were opened.
Back in the 1880s and early ’90s the passenger station and the freight house were the busiest places in Warsaw, at least for two or three hours in the morning and in the afternoon. The north and south bound passenger trains met here twice daily. And the Fort Wayne accommodation train on the Pennsylvania line came by daily. The consequent activity resulting from transfer of passengers and baggage created an atmosphere of activity not unlike that experienced in the union stations of the larger cities.
The Kosciusko County Historical Society is celebrating its 50th year in preserving county history. Help support the Society’s efforts by becoming a member. Send name and address along with $25 for a family membership to KCHS, PO Box 1071, Warsaw, 46581. With your membership comes our quarterly publication, The Thaddeus Magazine, which contains fascinating stories of our county’s history.