Friday, March 18, 2011

Research Trip : Howard and Wabash Counties, Indiana


Spent yesterday doing a bit of research and ended up having an enjoyable day and some success.  It was a beautiful day, almost a shame to be inside at the library and courthouse.


My first stop was Kokomo to see what I could find out about Harry Pierpont and the 1925 bank robbery there.  I wanted to see what records the circuit court might have.  I could not find a parking spot at the courthouse, so ended up parking at the Kokomo-Howard County Public Library, just a few blocks away.  It was a good thing that I did.


My research wasn't totally focused on PIERPONT, I did manage to find my maternal 2nd-great grandfather, Charles LAMBERTSON, listed in the 1939 Farmer's Directory of Howard County as well - a source that I'd not previously located.


The library has a very extensive local history and genealogy section, including a large amount of vertical files.  Included in these vertical files was one for Harry Pierpont, as well as one for Pearl Elliott.  I quickly made photocopies of the articles and letters that had been included in the files.  It was interesting to note other researchers had written to the library in the past, including author Ellen Poulsen, author of Don't Call Us Molls:Women of the John Dillinger Gang.


The articles I copied from the vertical files were from the Kokomo Dispatch, a  local paper not found on Ancestry.com.  Armed with this information, I headed over to the courthouse, where I assumed that I would find much more information.


Every courthouse is different, but I've been used to being able to walk into the clerk's office, ask a where certain 'big books' are located, and be left alone to wander through them.  Maybe that has spoiled me.  Not so in Howard County.  However, the clerk there was very helpful, and we struck up a conversation about the wild nature of the city in the 1920s and 1930s, once she found out what I was looking for.  She found the criminal books and came back to tell me that she couldn't find anything on Harry, which seemed strange.


Then, looking at the article in the Dispatch, it noted that he was in city court.  Now why he would have been in city court, which is normally for misdemeanors instead of a circuit court, neither of us could figure out. She told me that Harry's name was familiar, as if she had been looking for him before for someone else.  When I mentioned John Dillinger her eyes lit up. The strange thing was, the criminal book she had included records from multiple judges during that time period, almost as if there might be a missing book.  Intrigued, she offered to do some more searching for me, and I left the details of the case along with my business card.  So glad that I carry them from work - they make a good contact point.


The county clerk suggested that if records from the city court existed, they may be located with the city building.  After a false start at the Kokomo Police Department, I was directed over to the Kokomo city clerk, who was able to find where the records were located.  Problem was, they were microfilmed on 8mm, and they didn't have a reader in that office.  After checking with the city attorney - to see if it was o.k. if I could see the records, she also took down information about the case and my contact information and offered to do some checking.


So, even though I know the disposition of the case, I remain curious to the particulars.  Not sure what records, if any, might be turned up by the court.  Had I not stopped by the library first, I would have probably gone away disappointed at the county clerk's office, thinking that the records were destroyed.  Hopefully, the clerk's will be able to find something.


My next stop was Greentown, where I hoped that their Historical Society was open.  Unfortunately, it was closed, so I headed to their small public library.  I had wanted to visit it for years, thinking that it might have some information on the LAMBERTSON and BEALS families who lived in the area.  Finally able to visit, I was disappointed to find out it was a bust.  The library is so small it is attached to Eastern Howard High School.  Their "local history" section was in a back room, which was being used for storage and I had to fight stacks of shipping boxes to get into the file cabinet that had some vertical files.  Finding nothing there of interest, I did manage to look through the yearbooks from the time period, but didn't find any mention of my grandmother's family.  


After a quick lunch, I headed up to Wabash, Indiana to do some research on Eileen's family, particularly the PEFLEY line.  Their research room allowed me to roam around, and I found several records of interest, including some estate and guardianship records.  Locating them on microfiche for me, I was able to print off an extensive file on Sarah May (PEEPLES) PEFLEY, as well as Albert Duffey PEFLEY. The files offered a fascinating glimpse into the family dynamics, as the husband was seeking guardianship over his wife, who had been declared to have been of "unsound mind".  My only disappointment was that at $1.00/page, I didn't have enough funds to copy all of the files I located for other family members.  Sometimes it's hard to pick and choose what records to focus on.  So, I will have to make a return trip to Wabash County in the future.


All in all, not a bad research trip, and now I have more fodder for future posts...
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