The news that the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus would be shutting down after 146 years, reminded me of this story.
One year while visiting my grandparents in Hammond, Lake County, Indiana, my brother and I went with our grandfather, Roland Tapper, to run some errands. We must have driven near where the family home used to stand on Ann Street, as it triggered a memory for Grandpa, and he told us that his father used to house the circus elephants in their garage. Sadly, that is where my memory of this conversation ends, but the story stuck with me.
Anton H. Tapper Sr. moved into his new home on Ann Street, in August 1908.1Anton had chosen property directly across the street from the new Masonic Temple, whose cornerstone was laid May 1, 1907. The three story red brick building was built in the Gothic style, and boasted 65,000 square feet of space, which included an auditorium large enough to host a circus. Sadly the temple was torn down in 2009, having been abandoned by the Masons in 1999. Time and a leaking roof had taken its toll. Pictures of the temple at the time it was torn down are available online here:http://www.flickriver.com/photos/jordannicolette/sets/72157620768953484/
In November 1922, when my grandfather was 13 years old, the Shrine Circus came to town, and set up in the Masonic Temple. The circus was held Wednesday, November 8th through Saturday, November 18th. Two performances were held daily, one at 1:30, and the second at 7:00 p.m. Amazingly this full circus was held inside in the temple’s auditorium! The “regular thirty foot circus ring, with dirt foundation and sawdust, [was set up] just like it’s under the big canvas top.” “The ring was laid out on the floor in front of the auditorium stage. [Pictures of the auditorium are included in the link above]. The seats which used to be there have been removed and circus seats put on the stage. First a heavy plank flooring was laid. It was covered with tar paper. Then tons of clay were packed on this foundation until a firm surface had been provided on which the elephants will perform and the galloping horses cavort.”2
The elephants arrived Monday, and after a quick tour through downtown, were enlisted to help pack down the clay that had been laid in the circus ring. That evening, they moved to their evening quarters in “Tony Tapper’s garage.”3
As if the circus being in town was not exciting enough for the children of Hammond, Tilly the elephant celebrated her 107th birthday on November 11th, and they were invited to her birthday party. In 1922, 11-year-old Margaret Hagedorn was in sixth grade. She was living in her grandmother’s household with her mother, and 10 year old sister ,at 11 Rimbach Street. As girls of that age often do, she wrote about Tilly’s birthday party, and her account was published in The Times on November 20, 1922.4
So while I don’t have a first hand account of this time from my grandfather, I do have Margarets memories. She states that “Such a party I never expect to witness again and I am writing this out so that I can always remember it as I believe I will never go to a party quite like it again.”
“The elephants were quartered in Mr. Tapper’s barn, which is just across from the Masonic Temple, and as we live less than a block from there we became very well acquainted with theelephants and their keepers and we used to visit them several times a day. The keepers were kindly men and told us many interesting things about these wonderful beasts.”5
If Margaret was visiting the elephants several times a day, and was tolerated by the keepers who were “kindly men,” I can only imagine that my grandfather was also spending time in his father’s garage with the elephants. After running our errands, and returning to the apartment that day many years ago, Grandpa continued reminiscing about the circus, and told the story that he and his brothers had fun taking the elephant, umm droppings, and throwing them around the yard. Which brings to mind what a mess four elephants must have left behind.
The highlight of the circus was celebrating Tilly’s birthday, and thankfully Margaret wrote about the party in detail. She described the table that was placed in the center of the ring and covered with a white cloth, and where “good crisp cabbages cut in halves and loaves of bread” were placed. On a separate table was placed the cake. “Such a cake!!!. It was five feet across and made in tiers thickly frosted in white with festoons of chocolate and pink frosting.” She was amazed at how the elephants, Tilly, Clara, Tony and Pitt, sat “down on tubs in front of the tablejust like human beings at a feast,” and waited for a signal from the keepers before beginning to eat. When they had finished the first coarse, the cake was cut into large pieces. Margaret’s favorite memory was how the elephants ate their piece of cake. She writes: “Each elephant was given large share [of cake]. Tilly, Clara and Tony behaved very nicely and lifted their piece of cake with their trunks to their mouths, but old Pitt opened his mouth wide and acted as though he expected to have the whole cake shoved in.”6
What a party this must have been! What an exciting ten days it must have been for the children of Hammond! And what a smell must have been left behind in the Tapper garage when the elephants got back on the train, and headed to the next city. I am grateful that Margaret wrote about the event “so that she would remember this occasion always.”
“Change Residence,” The Lake County Times, 7 Aug 1908, Friday, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 21 Feb 2016).
“Circus is Loading for Hammond,” The Times, 4 Nov 1922, front page, col. 4; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 29 Jan 2017).
“Orphans of Region to be Greeted,” The Gary Evening Times, 6 Nov 1922, front page, col. 5; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 29 Jan 2017).
“The Shrine Circus At Hammond,” The Times, 20 Nov 1922, page 6, col. 6; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 29 Jan 2017).
I continue to work at the documenting of my family “treasures,” both as a longer story, via this blog, and just small pictures with notes included on this website. Today, it is a story.
My beautiful grandma would have celebrated her 105 birthday last week. Verna Amelia Gray Tapper was born in Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois, February 24, 1911, to Julius Dallas Gray, and Emma Zora Francisco.
She grew up in Hammond, Lake Co., Indiana, and it is here in Hammond, that she met her future husband, and my grandfather, Roland John Tapper. They met at a party when she was just 15 years old, grandpa, two years older. Four years later they were married on August 6, 1930. But that is another blog post.
When I was fifteen (I THINK I was fifteen), Grandma gave me a ring that she had received as a young girl from her parents. It is a very pale amethyst, set in white gold. While I am no longer able to wear it due to fat fingers, I treasure it, knowing that it had belonged to her, and that she chose to give it to me.
As an avid newspaper hound, I was thrilled to come across this article from the Lake County Times, published on February 28, 1927. When Verna turned sixteen, her parents held a surprise birthday party for her. “Refreshments were served to the guests at one large table, prettily decorated with a lovely and delicious birthday cake lighted with small candles in rosebud holders. Miss Gray was presented with many attractive gifts, among which was a ring given to her by her parents…”
I have to blame it on my mother. Yesterday she was snooping around in the online newspapers, and came across what I call a “Newspaper Mention” for her grandfather. A newspaper mention is a small item about a person, usually one sentence, and included in the paper’s social news section. In this instance, she learned that her grandparents, Anton and Louisa/Louise (Normann) Tapper, were about to move into their just completed home on Ann Street, in Hammond, Lake Co., Indiana. 
Looking at the clipping she sent me, I realized that this was a recent addition to the newspaper collection for Hammond. There was a different quality to the scan, and a huge difference in how large the pdf file was. So this morning, I too, took a look.
In my search I found this article titled: “Like The Lights.” The article states that “Tony” and two other men, traveled to Green Bay to “inspect the Illuminous Lights that are in use there.” Upon their return to Hammond, they contracted with Try City Electric Service Company (that HAS to be a typo! “Try City?”) to install the lights, so as to “turn midnight into noon.” 
Not having a 1913 postcard for Green Bay, I dug a bit further to see what I could learn about this new lighting. In a book titled The Municipality, I found this entry: “Green Bay has four blocks of ornamental lights installed by private contract. These are single light standards and cost approximately $100 apiece. They are spaced sixty feet apart, the total cost of the system being $2,400. This cost was borne by the private parties making the contract.” This information was obtained via a response to a survey regarding ornamental lighting. The Municipal Reference Bureau in 1915 sent a questionnaire to the thirty-four cities in the state of Wisconsin with a population of 5,000 or greater. At the time of the publication of the report, twenty-six had responded. Eighteen cities reported that they had no ornamental lights, three were thinking about it, (Appleton was “contemplating installing some”), and eight cities reported that they had already installed the lighting, Green Bay being one of the eight. 
The subject of lighting the streets of Hammond was a major agenda item for the 1913 Chamber of Commerce. Much of the discussion revolved around what type of lighting should be put in place. In June the General Electric Co., of Schenectady, New York visited Hammond to promote the use of their “one-globe lamp” which they stated “produced a pearl white light, giving twice as much illumination as the proposed five cluster lamps proposed for [East] State street.” They told the Chamber that a playground in Chicago had installed the lights, and the nearest city to also have them was Dubuque, Iowa. A committee composed of William Kleihege, Frank Hammond, William Gostlin, Sr., Otto Knoezer and Anton Tapper made plans to visit the playground to see the lighting. 
The Tri-City Electric Service Company was awarded the contract and began the work to illuminate downtown Hammond. By August 25th, the lights on East State Street had been turned on, and the result made the merchants of Hohman and West State Street eager for their turn. On the first Saturday that the lights were lit, the merchants of East State Street made a total of $1,200 more than they had without lighting, causing the merchants to “unanimously [decide] that the ornamental light is the best of investments.” 
On October 25, 1913 the lights were finally switched on along Hohman and West State Street. A band was hired to play up and down Hohman Street on opening night.  The streets of Hammond were now lit each night, making “midnight noon.”
The building on the corner, right-hand side of the postcard shows my great-grandfather’s building, the Tapper Building, or aka the German National Bank. Some day I will write a blog post about my mother’s and my obsession with collecting images of this building. We have quite an impressive collection to share!
“Change Residence,” The Lake County Times, 7 Aug 1908, Friday, p. 2, col. 2; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 21 Feb 2016).
“Like the Lights,” The Lake County Times, 19 Jul 1913, p. 5, col. 8; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 21 Feb 2016).
The League. (1915) The Municipality, [Google Books version]. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?id=yjU2AQAAMAAJ&dq=street+lights+1913,+Green+Bay,+WI&source=gbs_navlinks 15-16 (Madison, Wisconsin: The League, 1915), 216: digitized 6 Nov 2012. Cit. Date: 21 Feb 2016.
“Chamber Commerce Meeting,” The Lake County Times, 24 Jun 1913, front page, col. 3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 21 Feb 2016).
“Lights Reap Reward for State Street,” The Lake County Times, 25 Aug 1913, front page, col. 3; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 21 Feb 2016).
“Saturday Week For Street Lighting,” The Lake County Times, 17 Oct 1913, front page, col. 2; digital images, NewspaperARCHIVE (www.newspaperarchive.com : accessed 21 Feb 2016).
At the turn of the century, (yikes!) I spent a lot of time in the Kaukauna Public Library snooping on the lives of the Fassbenders living a century ago. As I moved through the years scanning the Kaukauna Times, a weekly newspaper, I not only followed the lives of my Hollandtown ancestors, but would often print items that were about Outagamie County that interested me. It’s always about the background information to flesh out the two dimensional look at the people I am researching.
This past weekend I spent some time filing. Paper filing, electronic filing, it all needs to be done. While going through a file of paper, I found this item. The paper was dated April 20, 1917. What caught my eye, then, and now, was the headline: “No More Mail to Germany. Letters From United States to Germany Have Been Stopped.” No letters would be received or delivered until this “unpleasantness is over.” I can only imagine the fear, sadness, even heartbreak over this news. Although my Germany ancestors had been in this country for many decades by this time, they still had family and friends back in their homeland. Letters brought news of births, deaths, moves, and even the occasional plea for financial help. The sense of loss, and being cut off had to be acute. There was no longer any way to learn how family was faring during this awful war. How long would it be before the “president and the kaiser are again in a mood to shake hands?”
Germany formally surrendered on November 11, 1918, and the Treaty of Versailles, which formally ended the war, was not signed until June 28, 1919. Over two years would go by with no news from home, or any way to get news to family. I wonder if the letters put into the “dead letter office” were ever delivered.
We live in such an age of instant news through 24 hour television, the internet, and telephones, both land line and cell, that allow us to keep in touch, with each other, and with what is going on in the world. Imagine waiting over two years for news from home.
My great-great grandmother must have had to muster tremendous strength each year at Christmas time. Her name was Gretje Folkerts Mùller, and she was born October 15, 1835, in Bangstede, Hannover, Germany.  She moved from this small community to the “big city” of Emden, Hannover, Germany in her early teens, to work for her eldest uncle as a maid.  It was while living in the seaport of Emden, that she met and married, Albert Heinrich Klöfkorn, born June 4, 1833,  a ships captain. Albert came from a long line of seagoing men, and he owned and captained a ship he had named Drei Schwestern, or Three Sisters. The couple married in Emden, on March 5, 1865, he was 31, Gretje was 29.  Albert and Gretje would have four boys, all born in Emden. Johannes Warnerus, born May 18, 1865,  Folkert, born July 22, 1866,  Anton Herman, born February 14, 1868,  and Heinrich Albertus, born March 11, 1870.  I would like to think that they had a good marriage and a happy family life, although family legend, and some knowledge of the times, there was friction from the Klöfkorn family as this Lutheran woman married into their Catholic family.
December 1870, and Christmas was just around the corner. Albert was out at sea with load of grain. On December 20th, his ship went missing when it reached the point where the river Weser flows into the North Sea.  Five days before Christmas, Gretje and her four boys, ages five to just six months old, were preparing their home for the birth of Christ, when word came that her husband’s ship was lost at sea. He was 37 years old. I can only imagine what that Christmas must have been like. The devastation. The despair.
I have no idea what Gretje did to survive the next years, how did she support her family? But I do know she was still in Emden in January 1872, when her eldest son Johannes tragically died a the age of six.  She stayed in Emden for another year, before packing up her three sons and making the trip to the United States. Her younger brother, Johann (John) Folkert Müller was already residing in Lake County, Indiana, USA at this point in time, and letters had been going back and forth between them. It was on April 20, 1873 that she, along with her three sons boarded the S.S. America in Bremen, with a stop in Southhampton on May 3rd, before finally entering the New York harbor on May 16th. It was not an easy journey, as they had “experienced westerly winds with high seas the entire passage.” They traveled steerage, and numbered four of the 737 other passengers. It must have been a miserable trip.  Reaching Castle Garden, they were noted on the manifest, dated May 16th, that entering the country were Aug H. Klöfkorn, age 38, Volkert Klöfkorn, age 7, Anton Klöfkorn, age 5, and Hinrich Klöfkorn, age 1. 
There is not only the question as to why did she travel using her husband’s name, but she gave the ages for herself, and two of her children incorrectly. At the time that she sailed for America, Gretje was 37 years old, her son Folkert was 6, Anton 5, (correctly stated for the manifest), and Heinrich was 3. Family legend states that Heinrich died at sea. He is not noted on the manifest taken at Castle Garden as having died at sea, but if Gretje could pass him off as a one year old, he must have been a small, possibly sickly little boy. We lose all sight of him after his arrival in the United States.
Gretje and her sons headed across the country, most likely first stopping to rest at the home of her brother John in Indiana, before moving to Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. It was here on January 4, 1875, that she married Edzard Heinrich Tapper.  Edzard was also from Ostriesland, Germany. Born about 1841, his roots, and actual age are a bit of a mystery. Edzard had emigrated in 1869, and was a general merchant. The couple first resided in Lansing, Cook Co., Illinois, before moving the family to Hammond, Lake Co., Indiana in 1879, where they set up a general merchandise store on two acres of land, at the corner of Hohman and Sibley Street. 
Fast forward to Christmas 1881. On December 20th, 40 year old Edzard headed into Chicago to attend to some “law business.”  While he was in the city, he decided to stop in to see a dentist, the Sovereign Brothers, who were located at 107 Clark Street, and have his teeth extracted. (??!!) It was noted by the dentist that he appeared to be “under the influence of liquor,” so he at first declined to administer chloroform. Edzard insisted, a doctor was called to administer the drug and to monitor the patient during the extractions.  Soon after the dentist began extracting the teeth, Edzard did not look “right,” and so he stopped. But unfortunately, it was too late, Edzard passed away from the effects of the chloroform. 
Two Christmases, eleven years apart. December 20th. Two husbands. Two tragic, unexplained deaths.
I cannot imagine what she must have been thinking, feeling, that December 20, 1881, when news came from Chicago that her husband was dead. She must have had vivid flashbacks of another December 20th, when news came that her husband was lost at sea.
But she carried on (well what else could she do?), creating a sort of empire with her son Anton (Tony), my great-grandfather, out of the business she had started with Edzard, and later through real estate dealings.She passed away February 24, 1900, at the age of 64, and we believe that she is buried in Oak Hill Cemetery, Hammond, at the Tapper monument.
Ludwig Janssen Hans-Rudolf Manger and Harm Harms, editors, Die Familien der Kirchengemeinde Bangstede (1724-1900) (Aurich, Germany: n.p., 1987, 2nd edition 1994),number 1353. Cit. Date: 20 Jul 2001.
Compiled by the Miller Family, The Miller Family (Canada: Self Published, ca. 1970s),froma “Copy of paper written by John F. Miller in German.” Cit. Date: 20 Jul 2001.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 Apr 2009), entry for Johannes Warnerus Kloefkorn (PIN 3642478, Disk 126); submitted by Reiner Gerda Schuchardt, Emden, Germany. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2009.
Database and images (www.vorfahrensuche.de : accessed 24 Jul 2001); 5 Sep 2008: no longer online. Cit. Date: 5 Sep 2008.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 Apr 2009),entry for Antonius Hermannus Kloefkorn (PIN 444161, Disk 90); submitted by Reiner Gerda Schuchardt, Emden, Germany. Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2009.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch (http://www.familysearch.org : accessed 5 Apr 2009), entry for Hinrich Albertus Kloefkorn (PIN 3642585, Disk 126); submitted by Reiner Gerda Schuchardt, Emden, Germany.
Karl-Heinz Wiechers, Und fuhren weit übers Meer. Volume 2: Die Häfen der Ems [And Drove Over the Sea. Vol. 2: Harbours of the river Ems] (ISBN: 3922365434), transcribed copy, received fromGerriet Backer.Cit. Date: 28 Feb 2000.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Pedigree Resource File,” database, FamilySearch, entry for Johannes Warnerus Kloefkorn (PIN 3642478, Disk 126). Cit. Date: 5 Apr 2009.
“Marine Intelligence. New York…Friday, May 16. Arrived.,” The New York Times, 17 May 1873, p. 12, col. 5-6; digital images, ProQuest Historical Newspapers (www.proquest.com : accessed 17 Feb 2006).
Records of the U.S. Customs Service, Record Group 36; National Archives, Washington, D.C., “New York Passenger Lists, 1820-1957,” database, Ancestry.com (www.ancestry.com : accessed 22 Oct 2004), Anton Klöfkorn; manifest for S.S. America, dated 16 May 1873.
Illinois. Cook County, Vital Record: Illinois Certificate of Marriage, Volume 91, license number 19890.Cit. Date: 11 Oct 1999.
The Hammond Daily News, editor, Hammond Indiana, Industrial Edition of The Hammond Daily News (Hammond, Indiana: The Hammond Daily News, December 1904),21. Cit. Date: 27 Feb 2002.
“THE CITY ~ The Chloroform Victim,” (Chicago)The Chicago Tribune, 24 Dec 1881, Saturday, p. 8. Cit. Date: 30 Nov 2004.
F. J. S. Gorgas M.D., D.D.S. and James B. Hodgkins D.D.S., editors, The American Journal of Dental Science (Baltimore, Maryland: Snowden & Cowman, 1882), Vol. 15, Third Series: 409-416. Cit. Date: 2 Sep 2009.