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A twentieth century history of Marshall County, Indiana (Volume 2) online

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1833 00805 4188


Marshall County









H J^ CuBxT^^



Henry Harrison Culver, the youngest child of John Milton Culver and
Lydia E. Howard, was born near London, Madison county, Ohio, August
9, 1840. The other children of the family were Lutellus, killed in the civil
war; Wallace \V., Lucius L., Ruth, and Lucetta.

The father was evidently a whig in politics; and what was more
natural than that he should name his son after the whig candidate for the
presidency, William Henry Harrison, then in the heat of the wonderful
"Log Cabin and Hard Cider" campaign, which swept the country like wild-
fire, and at the November elections landed, by an overwhelming majority,
the famous old Indian fighter in the White House at Washington?

John Milton Culver was of Scotch descent and a native of Ohio. He
was a farmer and later became a railroad contractor in the rapidly devel-
oping new country in which he lived. But in the early '50s he met with
financial reverses, then so common in the west, and with his large family
to support he doubtless encouraged his sons to strike out early for them-
selves and begin their lives on their own responsibility. It is not surprising
therefore, that we find Henry, at the age of fifteen, with only a meager
common school education of less than twelve months, accompanied by his
older brother Wallace, in St. Louis, Alissouri.

After varied experiences of a few months in St. Louis and western
Illinois, working at anything that came to hand, they met in Springfield,
Illinois, John McCreary, who, with his brother Joseph, was engaged in a
general hardware business. The two Culvers were at once engaged by the
McCreary brothers, and were put to work at selling cast-iron stoves to the
farmers throughout the country.

In the course of his travels in northern Indiana Henry met at the home
of her father Miss Emily Jane, the daughter of William J. Hand, a well-
known and unusually intelligent farmer of Marshall county, and Sabrina
Chapman, his wife, and in September of 1864 they were married at her
home near Wolf creek, a hamlet some eight miles east of Lake Maxinkuckee.


This was a most important event in the life of H. H. Culver, for by the
marriage he gained a wife of remarkable judgment and sound sense, to
whom lie always turned for counsel in every important step he took in life,
and one who was ever ready to cooperate with him in all plans of philan-
thropy and benevolence ; and it was naturally through this connection with
Marshall county that the idea first originated of doing something to help
the county in which his wife had been reared and where her people were
still living. Of the children born to this marriage there are now living five
sons— Walter L., Henry Harrison, Jr., Edwin R., Bertram B., Knight K.,
and one daughter, Ida Lucille, now Mrs. Dr. George P. Wintermute, of
San Francisco.

Soon after his marriage Mr. H. H. Culver joined his two brothers,
VV. W. and L. L., in business, and from Shawneetown, Illinois, as their base,
they engaged extensively in the business of selling direct to the farmers at
their homes a line of cast-iron stoves, which they purchased from Ball &
Co.. of Cincinnati. This plan made it necessary to move frequently from
place to place, and during the five years in which they were thus engaged
their operations covered quite thoroughly some ten or twelve of the central
and southern states. But finding a large expense accruing, and much dis-
satisfaction from their customers on account of the frequent breakage of
the cast-iron stoves, the three brothers decided to give up their stove
business and get into another line. They therefore, in 1869, shipped all
their property to Kansas City, Missouri, then in the beginning of a great
boom, and disposing of their stock, they invested their total working capital
of about $100,000, and opened a general house furnishing store. This
venture, however, did not prove a success, and by it their capital was
considerably depleted.

Disposing of their goods in Kansas City, the brothers went south in
1870 and began arrangements to engage again in the stove business. But
the old question of the breakage of the cast-iron stoves and the consequent
dissatisfaction among their customers, together with the unsettled financial
condition of the country, culminating in the panic of 1873, compelled them
temporarily to drop business again. They returned to Kansas City, where
H. H. Culver owned a farm, and began as they had done in their early
days in Ohio, expecting doubtless simply to make a living at farming until
business should begin to improve. But a severe drought during the summer
and an invasion of grasshoppers from Kansas following it, practically
ruined the prospects of a crop in that section of the country, so that in
complete disgust at the condition they disposed of their property there and
shipped their household goods to St. Louis, January, 1874.

They had hardly reached St. Louis before they were approached by
many of their old stove employes, asking for employment with them in
some sort of business.

Finding a field for a new line of business, they organized, with head-
quarters at St. Louis, in 1875, "The Southern Calendar Clock Company."
The country was recovering, and the business prospered. During the year

^^^^yi^ r^ 0ttJiA</^


1875 each of the brothers built homes in St. Louis and became permanently
located there.

But the longing for their old business was strong, and their men were
all insistent in urging them to handle stoves again. Their past experience
had demonstrated to them the disadvantage of trying to sell the old style
cast-iron stoves. So in 1881 they organized a company for the manufacture
of a family range, to be built of ivrought, not of cast iron, the first of its
kind ever made, and named the new organization the "Wrought Iron Range
Company." The range became at once very popular, and the business was
on a paying basis from the start. But the new range was not yet entirely
satisfactory, and there came in numerous letters from customers still com-
plaining of breakage in the cast-iron parts. After many tedious and costly
experiments the company adopted in 1883 malleable iron for the parts
exposed to rough usage.*

The range thus perfected found a ready sale, and the business increased
to such proportions that greater manufacturing space was required. The
capital was increased, and a new factory, four stories high and covering
an entire block, was erected.

Mr. H. H. Culver had been for many years an active officer and a tire-
less worker. But he had worked too hard, and in 1881 there were indica-
tions of heart trouble, followed by a slight stroke of paralysis. He retired
from active business, and with Mrs. Culver he traveled for two years,
visiting California and Mexico. His health, however, had not materially
improved, and in 1883, induced doubtless by the advice of his wife, his
steps were led to her old home near the shores of Maxinkuckee. "I spent
the whole summer," to use Mr. Culver's own language in an interview held
ten years later, "by the side of the lake. I fished nearly all the day, and
lived in a tent. When fall came I was a different man. It had such a
glorious effect on my health that I determined to acquire property here.
I bought ninety-eight acres on the northeast corner of the lake. The fol-
lowing year I bought 208 acres at the north end of the lake. A good deal
of this land was low and damp. I employed a number of men to ditch and
drain it, and before I was done I had put twenty-two miles of drain pipe
in the 300 acres. It reclaimed the land and I started to have it farmed.
On a part I raised corn, and part of it I devoted to meadow for hay. In
1889 I built a tabernacle, a hotel, and some cottages, and arranged for a
big series of religious meetings. I secured T. DeWitt Talmage, of New
York ; Rev. Sam Jones, of Georgia, and Dr. John Matthews, of St. Louis,
and had great crowds to hear them. I had revival meetings and lectures for

* Mnlleable iron is internicdi;ite between i-ast and wrought iron in those qnalitie.s
and properties most generally useful. It is .soft, elastii- and ductile; is most difficult to
melt, and, compared with cast iron, is very slow to enter into chemical combinations.
Its tenacity is enormous.

Cast iron is hard, brittle, melt.s with comparative ease, and combines with oxygen,
sulphur, etc., with much more ease than does malleable iron.


the whole of that summer, but since that time there have been no pubHc
meetings of any consequence."

In the fall of 1896, after he had entered upon the work of building
up the military academy, he added this reminiscence, as indicating a single
incident which had attached him to the lake :

"While fishing one day near the Indiana boathouse, I caught a fine
seven-pound bass, and, sir, that bass has cost me $250,000!"

Soon after he acquired this property, Mr. Culver offered to the citi-
zens of Marshall county, now become his neighbors and many of them his
personal friends, an indefinite leasehold on thirty or forty acres of land to
be used for the purpose of holding an annual fair. He graded and laid off
a^ half-mile track, planted trees, and largely assisted in erecting a grand
stand and necessary buildings, and for several years a fair was successfully
held on the grounds ; but, doubtless because of the location so far from the
center of the county, this enterprise was gradually abandoned, and finally
the land reverted to the estate, after the failure to hold a meeting for three
years. In October, 1895, the citizens of Marmont, by a unanimous vote,
approved the proposition to change the name of the town to Culver City, in
recognition of what had been accomplished for them by Mr. Culver, and to
signify thereby their appreciation of that fact. After some difficulties and
delays, on April i, 1897, the postmaster general at Washington changed the
name of the postoffice to Culver, dropping the "City," as the double name
had been forbidden by the department. And later still the Vandalia railroad
changed the name of its station to Culver on all its official maps and pub-
lications, and thus it will doubtless remain for all time, a tribute to Mr.
Culver's memory.

In 1886 Mr. Culver built upon a beautiful location on the east side of
the lake, what was at that time by far the handsomest and most finished
summer home in this part of the state. Indeed, it is still the largest and
most beautiful of the many fine cottages that have since been built upon
the shores of Maxinkuckee, and with its extensive and tastefully laid off
grounds, shaded by handsome trees, it is an ideal summer home for Mrs.
Culver, and there she spends the time from early spring till late in the
autumn. It commands a beautiful view of the academy buildings and
grounds, and it was of this view across the sunlit waters of the lake that
Mr. Culver said further:

"In all these thirty years since I have known the lake a hobby of mine
has been to start a school. It has been one of my 'castles in the air.' The
hobby first took definite shape in 1888. I saw in my mind's eye where the
school would have to be, and I began to prepare ground for its location.
For a number of years I was in correspondence with teachers everywhere,
trying to get a suitable person to take charge of the school. I could find
no one who saw promise in my plan. I then went to California, and upon
my return, in March, 1894, I found a letter awaiting me from an Indianapolis
friend, who suggested that a summer school be located on my grourids, and
that Dr. J. H. McKenzie, of the Ohio military academv, near Cincinnati,


be selected as the head of the school. I agreed to this, and in April, 1894,
set aside the forty acres on the north shore of the lake for school purposes,
and put up some additional buildings. The success of the summer school
I consider assured, and I propose now to have the academy a permanent
institution. The buildings are of a temporary character. I propose to have
buildings of brick and stone, that will be as fine as the buildings belonging
to any educational institution in the state."

And thus was opened, with sixteen boys under Dr. McKenzie, in July,

1894, the first summer session of the Culver academy, Mr. Culver's prophetic
eye seeing at that early date the advantages afforded by Maxinkuckee for a
successful summer school eventually to exceed in numbers and popularity
the great winter school which it had taken ten years to build up.

The regular nine months' session opened on September 25th, under
Dr. McKenzie and two assistants, with thirty-two boys, Mr. Culver and Dr.
McKenzie acting as the regents or governing body.

All went quietly until February 24, 1895, when at noon the frame hotel
which had been used as temporary barracks, suddenly took fire and was
burned to the ground.

Mr. Culver was a man of dauntless courage, and often said that he
had never failed in anything he had undertaken, and even before the
embers from this building had ceased to glow, he was on the spot with archi-
tects, measuring the ground and planning for an elaborate fireproof bar-
racks. The material to be used was to be brick, steel, stone, and iron, with
no wood work except the floors, window frames and doors, and the floors
were to be laid on a bed of concrete nine inches thick, so that it would be
impossible for the building to be injured by fire.

The cornerstone of the new building was laid on the sixteenth of May,

1895, and it was completed and ready for the fall term. Dr. Mclvenzie
had resigned during the summer and was succeeded by Maj. C. H. Tebbetts,
who opened the academy September 24, 1895, with thirty-two cadets, and
continued till June 11, 1896, without special note.

The school re-opened September 16, 1896, with twenty-nine boys,
under Maj. Tebbetts and three assistants, and was progressing quietly
when an event occurred which at once changed the current of affairs at the
academy, and caused them to flow in a channel quite different from the
course of the two previous years.

The Missouri military academy at Mexico, Missouri, had been founded
in 1890 by Col. A. F. Fleet, who had resigned from the chair of Greek,
which he had held in the University of Missouri for eleven years, and it at
once sprung to the front as the leading secondary school in the state. For
six years it had moved forward with unparalleled success, when on the night
of September 24, 1896, the splendid building which had held over 100 boys
was burned to the ground. It was Mrs. Culver who first heard of the
calamity and suggested to her husband to telegraph the superintendent to
visit him in St. Louis and discuss the plan of uniting the two schools at


Mr. Culver's proposition was generous and was promptly accepted, and
on October 5, 1896, seventy-two Missouri military academy boys, with their
teachers, were collected from Denver to Pittsburg, and were brought to
Culver, where they were warmly welcomed, and in a short time the two
schools, with their respective faculties, were perfectly united. Maj. Tebbetts
resigned, and Col. Fleet was put in command, at the head of 100 cadets.

And now Mr. Culver began to realize the dream of thirty years before,
and really saw the beginning of a great school, the fame of which was to
extend from ocean to ocean, and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of

The new cadets filled the fireproof barracks and overflowed into a frame
building near by, and Mr. Culver without delay began an additional barracks
to hold forty more cadets.

The catalogue of 1896-97, published in June, 1897, the first catalogue
with roster of cadets theretofore published, showed 122 cadets, and a
graduating class of seven.

But we must go back again for a few years before continuing our
history of the school.

In 1888 Mr. Culver again took up the reins in the Wrought Iron Range
Company, and upon the retirement of his brother, L. L., there were thrust
upon him greater responsibilities and duties. His reappearance at the office
with health much improved and full of energy, gave a great impetus to the
business, and a few years later, in 1894, the capital invested in the manu-
facture of ranges was over $1,000,000.

It was about this period of prosperity that the republican party of his
district offered to Mr. Culver the nomination to congress, and for a short
time he considered the matter rather favorably, but later concluded that he
could not accept the nomination without seriously neglecting his engrossing
business engagements, and he declined the honor. It was in keeping with
Mr. Culver's character that he made no mention of this incident except to his
closest friends.

His sons were now engaged with him in business, and, entrusting
many of the details to them, it was possible for Mr. Culver to spend nnich
of his time at Maxinkuckee in the years 1895 and 1896.

But in the latter part of 1896 his health began again to fail, and with
some fluctuations it soon became apparent that it was steadily growing
worse, until during the summer of 1897 his condition caused his friends the
gravest anxiety.

Mr. Culver had lived at such a high pressure and with such extraordi-
nary calls on his mental and physical activity that he seemed at the age of
fifty-seven to have drained the powers of an exceptionally vigorous consti-
tution, and, despite the efforts of physicians, to have possessed no capacitv
for recuperation. But his life, though by comparison not a long one, had
in virtue of its achievements, a rounded completeness such as the lives of
few men present.

^lost of this summer was spent in his cottage on the lake, and when-


ever he was well enough, he would pass many hours each day on the porch,
looking across at the beautiful buildings and grounds of the academy, and
was always delighted to hear reports of the progress of the work in filling
the now enlarged barracks with new and enthusiastic cadets. He lived to
see the school opened in September with every room filled and with ample
promise of the rapid and substantial growth which has since been attained.

About the middle of September he was removed to his home in St.
Louis, where he died Sunday, September 26, 1897.

It is difficult to give an adequate picture of so many-sided a man as
H. H. Culver. It has been said of him that with his wide range of mental
powers it would be hard to name a sphere of action in which he could not
have attained success. He was first of all a wonderfully acute and suc-
cessful man of affairs. He left property which placed him high in the
millionaire class of his city, and all accumulated by his own efforts ; but he
was much more than a mere business man ; he was an idealist and a philan-
thropist. This is illustrated most strikingly in his relations with his
employes. At the time of Mr. Culver's death the Wrought Iron Range
Company had in its employment about 400 salesmen, and the same number
of workmen in its factories, and at the malleable and grey iron foundries,
engaged in preparing material for their ranges, about 300 more, or 1,100
men employed in their various industries in St. Louis, Denver and Toronto,
Canada. Mr. Culver was not content with merely winning success for him-
self ; he aimed at encouraging and assisting others to do the same. Few
heads of large business enterprises have done as much for their employes
in the way of pushing them forward and urging them to win success for
themselves by strenuous efifort. His relation with his employes was marked
by the greatest kindliness on his part, and by hearty respect and genuine
affection on theirs, and when he gave his confidence he gave it without
reserve. One instance of his dealings with his men will suffice to show the
spirit which always animated him :

During the panic of 1893 the employes of the Wrought Iron Range
Company agreed to a reduction of wages in order to enable the company to
run continuously through this period of depression without laying off any
of their men. After the crisis was passed, on the pay-day before Christmas,
there was placed in the envelope of each employe a note of friendly greeting
and an amount of gold equal to the entire reduction of their pay during the
panic through which they had passed. It was such generous acts as these
that bound to Mr. Culver as by hooks of steel the loyal employes of the

]\Ir. Culver's benevolences were varied and extensive. It was his
pleasure to forward every worthy object; but to help young men struggling
to rise under difficulties and to gain an education, always appealed to him
most strongly, and it will never be known how many of these received assist-
ance from him. It may easily be imagined that his first conception of a
school for the education of boys came to him when he realized how great
was the demand for such help by worthy 3-oung men.


Mr. Culver was a member of the Methodist Episcopal church of St.
Louis, and was always a liberal and generous contributor to its support.
He was also a Knight Templar and a Thirty-second Degree Scottish Rite

In coming in contact with Mr. Culver personally, one realized most
clearly what is meant by the often used phrase "personal magnetism" ; nor
in his case was it hard to discover the sources of that power of attracting
and holding the attention. There was in him a natural flow of eloquent
speech, a vivid imagination, and a generous heartiness of manner of which
everyone felt the fascination. No one who met him could forget the sin-
cerity and noble simplicity that characterized all his words and actions, the
quick response to every emotion, the spontaneous humor and ready wit.
Striking as were his powers of intellect, it was above all his large-hearted-
ness and sympathetic kindliness that one most admired and was attracted by.

He was a most impressive talker; brimful of eloquence, by turns fiery
and impassioned, again humorous or pathetic. He seemed unconsciously
to follow the poet's advice : "If you would move me, first be moved your-
self." His words came straight from his heart, and he talked to convince
and persuade. Nothing could be more picturesque and vivid than the
language he employed, entirely free from conventional or artificial phrases,
simple, direct, original.

Mr. Culver had at his command an inexhaustible stock of reminiscences,
which he would apply with admirable skill to the subject in hand. Nor less
admirable were those pithy sentences, full of practical wisdom, with which
he would "point a moral or adorn a tale." Among his favorite thoughts, to
which he would return again and again, were two which were most char-
acteristic of the man, and furnished the keynote of his success. These
were : growth as the test of health in business and character, and the heart
as being a more important factor of success in life than the intellect. "Keep
on growing, expanding," he would say, with that emphatic sweep of the
arms, "growth, no matter how little, that's the main thing." And again,
"I believe that though a man were as eloquent as Webster, and as great a
general as Grant, he will come to nothing if his heart is not right."

The Wrought Iron Range Company, after the retirement of Mr. W. W.
Culver passed entirely into the hands of Mr. H. H. Culver's family. It has
continued to grow and prosper under their management, as they have con-
tinued to build wisely upon the foundation laid for them in the past. The
five sons, W. L. Culver, H. H. Culver, Jr., E. R. Culver, B. B. Culver, and K.
K. Culver, with their mother, are also the trustees of the Culver Military
Academy, and most liberally and loyally have they followed their mother's
inspiration to build in the school which he loved, the greatest and most
enduring monument to his memory.

In twelve }ears, from a corps of thirty cadets, quartered in a frame

* Mr. Culver was also a charter member of the Masonic loilge at Culver, whose
name was changed to the Henry H. Culver Lodge after his death, in compliment to him.


Online LibraryDaniel McDonaldA twentieth century history of Marshall County, Indiana (Volume 2) → online text (page 1 of 41)