Walter Ailes, BiographyPorter County biographical sketches . . . .

Transcribed biography of Walter Ailes


(as told by Harold Ailes)

None of us knows for sure just where the Ailes family started -- that was something that Walter Ailes, my dad seldom talked about. He seldom told us about anything that happened or that he remembered before he started farming in the south part of Porter County. I think that he must have considered those things the important part of his life. They go back to when he was seventeen years old, 1908.

That was the year he made a decision that started him toward becoming one of the most successful farmers in the area. Back then a man was a man by the time he was seventeen or eighteen, ready to start on his life's work. There were 90 acres of marsh land in the extreme southwest part of Morgan Township that were offered for sale to him. The asking price was $2.00 per acre. But he did not have the cash and chose not to borrow it. Instead he accepted an offer to clear and drain it. He made a partnership with his brother Bill to split their three-fifths share for those years.

They used their team of horses and planned to live in a tent on the high ground in the marsh while they farmed the high ground and tiled the low ground to drain it to the ditch. But that idea was abandoned after they found a rattlesnake under a bedroll one morning. From then on, they made the hour long trip each morning and night on the draft horses. They spent their nights in a house near Five Points.

The seasons and the weather determined each day's work. Tilling and farming the high ground was their first priority, because that's how they made their income. The rest of the time, they were digging trenches and laying tile to the ditch. They dug them as the water flowed; that is, they tested to see if the trenches were deep enough by observing the water trickling in the bottom. They dug by hand with shovels and spades. They often left their trenches open over night to get rid of some of the snakes. During the night they would fall in with the tiles. As the tiles were covered and the trenches filled in, they would be smothered and thereby disposed of. They often filled in the trenches by using their team and a scoop bucket pulled behind, working the horses on one side of the trench and the men on the other. You had to have a good team to do this.

When Walter married Elsie M. Herren, they set up housekeeping on that land.

By 1915 or 1916 he was farming 200 acres there. Then after the Jones Ditch went through, the land could drain east or west, and it became all tillable. The four sons he sired were all born while they lived in a house on what is now the corner of Smoke Road and Road 450 South. Those four boys provided the necessary work force to expand and improve the farming operation. There was always more than enough work to do.

We got our first rubber tired tractor in 1938. It was an Oliver Hart-Parr 70. It was rated a 2-14" plow tractor. But we still did the planting with a two row horse drawn corn planter. We used horses and tractors well into the 1940s.

We dairied by hand, and milked for morning and evening chores for years.

From 1928 through 1942, Walter ran a threshing machine. The ring he served went all up and down the roads from where he lived. In the early 1940's several farmers started buying their own little combines. There are still a few around, mostly parked back in old wood lots -- they were the ones made by Allis Chalmers with side opening for refuse. Finally they even were used for oat harvest, and threshing was finished in this part of the country.

Since then the machines have just kept getting bigger and better. In fact, the last day Dad worked was driving his big red Massey Ferguson combine. He was walking south along that same ditchbank that he and his brother dug through with hand shovels more than a half century earlier, on his way to his house, when he suffered a stroke. He was hospitalized and apparently recovering when his time ran out. He died August 9, 1961, as successful in his seventy years as he could ever have hoped to be when he started working dawn to dusk to turn marshland into a productive farm. His mark on Porter County is part of its soil, still productive, south of Valparaiso, east of Smoke Road.

Source: American Revolution Bicentennial Committee of Porter County. 1976. A Biographical History of Porter County, Indiana. Valparaiso, Indiana: American Revolution Bicentennial Committee of Porter County, Inc. 180 p.
Page(s) in Source: 72-73

This biography has been transcribed exactly as it was originally published in the source. Please note that we do not provide photocopies or digital scans of biographies appearing on this website.

Biography transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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