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21Country: Mike Pence isn’t the first Hoosier VP to refuse ‘acting president role’

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COLUMBIA CITY, Ind. (WPTA21) - The Whitley County Historical Museum preserves and maintains the property off of West Jefferson St. in Columbia City.

Long before that, it was the home of former Indiana governor and Vice President Thomas Marshall.

He lived in the home as a teenager, and later as an adult with his wife, selling it after winning his seat in Washington under President Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

Pam Koch, of The Whitley County Historical Museum, tells us he was an interesting man.

“Number one: he was a gentleman,” she said, “number two: he had a very quick sense of humor.”

And that wit is displayed throughout the house, for those to remember some of his most famous quotes:

“What this country needs, is a good five cent cigar!”

“There were two brothers. One ran away to sea. The other was elected vice president, and neither was ever heard from again.”

And one remark in particular, references a similar situation under very different circumstances, another Hoosier Vice President found themselves in, a century apart.

“I was the Wilson administration’s spare tire - to be used only in case of emergency.”

In recent headlines, Vice President Mike Pence declined to evoke the 25th amendment to remove President Donald Trump despite support from the House.

In Thomas Marshall’s case however, a medical emergency threatened Wilson’s health.

“Thomas had the opportunity to take over the government as president at that time because Wilson had been incapacitated, but no one knew the extent,” Koch explained, “He felt it was improper for him to take over the reigns of the government while Wilson was still alive.”

Inside the home, the first floor is decorated with many of Marshall’s personal belongings, including a complete dining room set.

“It was going to auction the next morning - the museum had to scramble to follow the paper trail to make sure it was the correct dinging room set. And then had to raise the money. They sent a representative to the auction the next morning,” Koch told us, “he was afraid that if the bidding got started he’d be outbid, so he jumped on the first bid and bid everything he had, shutting everyone else down, and we got it!”

Other items are from displayed, from that era, like irons in the laundry room, and an icebox and woodturning stove in the kitchen.

Upstairs, the rooms are adorned with homages to other historical figures of Whitley County, including: Shinzo Ohki, Chief Little Turtle, Dean Jagger, and Janie Fricke.

Congressman Jim Banks, also of Columbia City, donated his military uniform to be on display.

Much of the home has been preserved, despite being remodeled into apartments after Marshall left.

“When they went to Washington DC, then the house was put up for sale,” Koch said, “It ended up being subdivided into four or five apartments. The historical society was able to buy it in the 1960’s. It took them almost 5 years to restore the house, but the parquet floors and the woodwork were essentially in tact at the time.”

Now, the home is recognized on the National Register of Historic Places, housing other history of Columbia City and Whitley County, serving as a reminder of the impact Indiana can have during presidential elections.

“Indiana’s considered a swing state, and that’s why we’ve had so many Vice Presidents,” Koch said, “because that means people would vote for the local man, whichever party.”

The museum is closed in January but staff say you can arrange to visit Thomas Marshall’s home privately, by request.

Editor's Note: Though the 25th Amendment was not yet in effect, a mechanism did exist during Marshall's term for a Vice President to assume presidential powers. He declined to proceed on the uncertainty of Wilson's health.

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Daniel Beals

Daniel Beals is the producer of the ABC21 feature franchise “21Country”. He is constantly on the lookout for ideas that capture the “people, places, things, and history” that makes Northeast Indiana unique. Feel free to reach out: dbeals@wpta21.com.

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