Sunday, August 14, 2016

Our Hometown Indianapolis, Rediscovering German Street News of 1918 forwarded to 1991

     It’s like hitting the history jackpot. Taking a fresh look at research papers gathered over the past 15 years is reminding me of their value. You know, all that ‘special stuff’ that’s been patiently waiting for me to pull them out of the file drawers.  Well, recently I decided to either use them or lose them.  I’ve begun a sorting and scanning escapade.  There are manila folders filled with articles clipped from magazines, copied from books and downloaded from the internet.  Stashed in those files are maps and photos of people, places and things.  Those that I have rechosen after a quick review, will be  searchable on my  computer now.  Much more usable and beneficial than in those drawers.  
      I’m scanning and uploading the files to both Evernote and Google Drive so I have a choice of how I look at them. And besides, it’s so easy to do with my Scansnap.  I’ve tried not to become too involved as I see all these interesting materials reappear. But now that I’m well into the scanning, I’m letting myself select a few to share here on Indiana Ties.
     The selectionStreet Scene from Indianapolis, Indiana.  Postcard owned by Nancy Hurley. today is a newspaper clipping that I found in the history section of the Indianapolis Public Library in about 2002. I remember I was looking for information on how the street addresses in my ancestors’ neighborhoods were renumbered over the years when I came across this interesting piece that begged to be copied.  It sidetracked me briefly, but the information was worth it.  I think anyone would agree that this news item makes you speculate about the people in your own family living in this city at this time.  
       In 1991 an Indianapolis Star staff writer, Robert N. Bell, reported on the City County Council’s action to put in place historical markers where German street names were changed during the anti-Germany sentiments that occurred during and after World War I. Of course, this circumstance occurred in many cities of the U. S.   But this proximity in Indianapolis made me stop to think of my German family and what they might have encountered during those years.
     Specifically, these events bring to mind Joseph Niehaus, my immigrant great grandfather, living on South West Street from 1888 to 1921, just a few blocks from those streets that were stripped of their German names. Was his rug weaving business affected by the anti-German feelings? Did his children, some of them born in Germany, who were beginning their own families, have concerns about their children at school?
     And what about the Harry Adam Weber family’s interactions? Most of the large family still lived with their parents at 533 South Alabama Street. Harry worked at this time for the mayor, in the city engineer’s office. Seven of the adult children were employed in various jobs around the city, such as clerical staff at the railroad and the coal company, in an upholstering shop, a machine shop and as an electrician.   Was there backlash within these businesses? How would they feel as news came of Germany’s wartime activities?    It had been only a few years since Amelia Weber, a German immigrant, was living with her son, Harry’s family.  Were her grandchildren relieved she wasn’t around to see the circumstances of the war?
     I wonder if overall these issues might have drawn the German immigrants in the city into tighter groups? Oh, wouldn’t it be fascinating if we could know what they discussed in their family get-togethers.
     This historical accounting in the newspaper, 73 years after the war, reports that placing the markers indicating the former names of the streets is the  “appropriate thing to do.”  Here’s the story printed in the Indianapolis Star on October 20, 1991.    
German Streets Newspaper Article, 1991
          I hope you enjoyed this tiny slice of Indianapolis Hometown history.  There will be more to share as I scan and refile lots of research.  Come back to see what pops up!
Thanks for visiting Indiana Ties,

Copyright © 2016, Nancy Niehaus Hurley

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