The Vidette-Messenger Centennial EditionThe 1936 special edition celebrating Porter County's centennial year . . . .

The following article has been transcribed from the August 18, 1936, issue of The Vidette-Messenger, published in Valparaiso, Indiana. This particular special edition focuses on Porter County's centennial celebration and contains a 94-page compendium of Porter County history up to that time.

Return to the index of articles from The Vidette-Messenger's Porter County Centennial special edition.

Source: The Vidette-Messenger, Valparaiso, Porter County, Indiana; August 18, 1936; Volume 10, Section 4, Page 17.


Gleaned from Hither and Yon -- and Now and Then -- and Way Back When

By A. J. Bowser

Joseph Marks in his day was one of the outstanding characters of Valparaiso when it was young. Where he came from or when he came I do not know. But it must have been in the forties or early fifties. I have heard my father tell the story I am going to tell you many times. It was when both Marks and father were young men. Both were friends. Joe was a worker of cast iron. He had a plant where all kinds of necessities for the farmer of those days were made. He even made cast iron wagon wheels for the kids' wagons of those days. He made a set for me. His was a place where kids could go to sell old iron, bottles, rags, and such stuff. It was about the only place a kid could get any money, outside of John Wark, who bought from them chicken dung for his tannery.

One day Joe met and wooed a young Bohemian girl. She came from her native land, and became a house servant for a Washington street family. The two were eventually married. Then one day came a little son to bless the union. Joe worshiped that kid. He radiated with happiness. The world was bright and rosy to him. But in that happy home a serpent was at work. The wife had left a lover in far off Bohemia, who had followed her to America, and tracked her down to Valparaiso. The two had loved and quarreled in the old country. One day this lover appeared at the Marks home. Joe was at his shop at work. The lover succeeded in winning the wife to go with him. They were last seen by Patrick Reddington, Nellie's father, astride a hose, going west on the old Joliet road. From that day to this they were never heard of.

When Joe returned home that evening, he found his child in its crib alone, and crying. Frantic, he called for the mother. There was no answer. She was gone. Reason almost left the unhappy father. When he came to from the blow, he was a changed man. All the love in his soul went out to the helpless baby. Wherever Joe went so went the baby. Perched astride his shoulders the baby could be seen, crunching a hunk of ginger cake or a stick of candy. Joe became reasonably happy, and then one day the final blow fell. The baby sickened, and during the days that followed Joe watched day and night. He did not sleep. He did not eat. He prayed to his God to spare his child. But the prayer was not answered. Tuberculosis was the dread disease. The child died in Joe's arms on Highway 49, somewhere between Valparaiso and Chesterton. Then the little body was lowered into the ground. Hope fled from the heart of Joseph Marks. In his rage, he cursed his God, and all womanhood. Then came the Joe Marks of after that. He became an infidel. He became slovenly in his dress, uncouth in his appearance.

He lived the life of a hermit. He surrounded himself with pigeons and chickens. They lived with him. For years he lived this life on a site now occupied by the Pioneer Flats. Then one day he met an Indian woman. She, too, was a derelict. But they had much in common. They were married, and they lived in the squalor that both had been used to. Joe loved children, and the kids who knew Joe Marks, will testify to a man to that. Every Christmas he distributed a barrel of candy to the kids. Maybe you who read this, got some. He was a well read man. He was a philosopher. His life ruined by a woman who did not have a heart. Both Joe and his Indian wife are now memories. Few now living knew the real story. Here you have it.

When Joe was getting old, and after his good wife passed away he made a bargain with John and Lizzie Kuehl to take care of him so long as he lived. They did this and were given the land on which the Pioneer Flats are built, some land on Franklin, and other lots near the Pennsylvania, and what personel effects were left. John is now dead, and Lizzie with her sister, is keeping a store on the corner of Franklin and Brown streets.

Joe was a great fiend of the later Father O'Reilly. Another one of his real friends was the late Preacher Beer. Presbyterians in the early days called their ministers "Preachers." There was the beloved and never to be forgotten Preacher Brown, the war her. Those men softened Joe's heart and he thawed out and to all of the churches. For several years before his death he was a constant attendant of the services in the Christian church. He had a very high regard for Prof. Brown and Edgar D. Crumpacker. Perhaps Joe forgave God and womankind before he went on his last journey down into the valley of the shadows. In every life there is a story. As a rule the world little knows. We are all victim of circumstances and creatures of our surroundings. Only the great good God knows the true story of us all.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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