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 9.


Myron Powell Built a Mansion In the Style of Old Virginia


In nothing was the temerity of the early gentry in Porter county more evident than in the size of the houses they built. The Virginians, coming from a solid climate where slave were found on every plantation, have left these many-roomed homes in every section of Indiana.

Myron Powell built such a home at the head of Washington street, which extended in his time to the north boundary of Mandel Lowenstines lot. Later the house was divided and the two parts moved to the west side of the street, where they stood side by side for many years. At present one-half is the home of Mrs. Harry Pagin on the east side of Lafayette street, and the other half is owned by Bert Smith. This stands on the west side of Lafayette two blocks farther north. The house originally contained twenty-one rooms, many of them of noble proportions, lovely, restful rooms in summer, damp chilly tombs in winter. Fireplaces in the living rooms were cheerful to look at but banished the frost from only those few feet directly in front of the fire. The faces of those who backed before its blaze were burned, while their spines shivered. In an ordinary house one man could scarcely keep the fires fed during the coldest weather.

Both houses as they stood with only a narrow lane of grass between, on Washington street, were the scenes of social activity. Firman Church, who lived in the one to the north, entertained in his home many distinguished people. Oliver P. Morton was his guest on the two occasions when he spoke in Valparaiso. The second time he was honored by a reception at the Church house. Later David McKehan bought the place, and his three children, Charles, Mary and Maud, who later became Mrs. William Johnston, were leaders in church and social affairs.

Lorenzo Childs bought the property to the south of the Church property. He was a brother-in-law of the Blairs, whose descendants are still eminent in banking circles in Chicago. His wife, Sarah DeGroff, brought to Valparaiso some of the finest furniture (heirlooms) ever seen in the town. On either side of the fireplace in her living room, which had been the drawing room of the Powell home, stood mahogany davenports, each capable of accommodating six adults. Easy and occasional chairs of the same wood and a tilt top table were among its furnishings. The carpet, a flowered brussels, was the last thing of elegance; nor should the grand piano be forgotten. In a large room nothing added more dignity than the great rosewood pianos of seventy-five years ago.

Then there was a gilded mirror reaching from the ceiling almost to the floor with a little marble shelf at the base. Grandma DeGroff in black silk and cap of fine white lace gave the finishing touch to the picture. Always exquisitely attired, she queened it over the company whether a mite society, missionary meeting or wedding reception.

Her daughter, Mrs. Childs, merited the title of gentle woman, no less than her mother. She had the same friendly dignity and serenity, but she was also a notable cook and housekeeper. Strangers and neighbors as well as her many kin found her a sympathetic friend, a wise counselor, and an efficient aid in times of distress. Her assistance could be counted on in every civic project. Fee women today could maintain with grace and honor the place she held in the community.

It might be interesting to note that the brick house south of the Pennsylvania tracks between Franklin and Washington, now occupied by Joseph Siemiontkowske, and the brick house just south of the new high school, now the propery of Miss Zada Carr, were owned by Myron Powell's two sons, William and George Powell.

Article transcribed by Steven R. Shook


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