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21Country: Keeping the legend of “The Lion King” alive

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WABASH, Ind. (WPTA21) - “I would call Terrell Jacobs a legend,” Modoc’s Market owner Michael Beauchamp told us.

Jacobs grew up, and is now buried in Wabash.

He’s recognized as one of the most talented circus performers.

Beauchamp began studying his life, after his family was searching to name their coffee shop after a local connection in 2003.

“Everything started here, with the name ‘Modoc’s’,” he told us.

In 1942, The Great American Circus prepared for a show at Wabash High School.

Modoc was among two other elephants spooked, but she was the only one that went on a rampage across Wabash and Huntington Counties for the next several days.

“I don’t know if she’s famous, or infamous!” Beauchamp said.

His attention then shifted to Jacobs, and Beauchamp became fascinated with his life.

He would soon begin to impersonate Jacobs for educational events at museums and schools.

“I saw uniforms that he wore, and I found a uniform very similar to the one in the picture,” he described, “I put on that uniform and I turned into Terrell Jacobs: The Lion King, the Man of a Thousand Scars!”

Jacobs may have grown up in 21Country, but he would move a few miles away where his love for animals developed.

“He had family over in Peru, and his dad determined it would be best if they moved close to family. When they were over there, he found something that would lead him the rest of his life: the circuses in Peru.”

Beauchamp said Jacobs would begin to travel the country, honing his skills as a lion tamer.

He quickly found stardom.

“In 1937 he was in the center ring of Madison Square Garden with 52 lions tigers and leopards, by himself!” Beauchamp told us, “and that had never been done before, and its not been done since.”

The businessman’s passion for Terrell Jacobs was more than just who he was.

Beauchamp began collecting items and photos owned by, or had a connection to The Lion King.

Inside Modoc’s Market, you’ll find a traveling crate, part of a lion’s cage, and dozens of photos of the runaway elephant.

He’s also loaned several unique items, like a whip and elephant’s headdress to the Wabash County Historical Museum to display.

Stories of Jacobs are more timely now, than ever, as the circus community plans to say goodbye, to some properties he used for several years in Peru.

“We’re saying goodbye to some history with these barns being demolished, but I hope with what you’re doing, and the International Circus Hall of Fame in Peru, and the Miami County Museum, and even the Peru Amateur Circus,” he said, “through these different things - and even Modoc’s piece - we’re trying to save that history, because its a fun part of the 20th century.”

Terrell Jacobs’ Circus Winter Quarters are near U.S. 31 and S.R. 218.

INDOT purchased the land and the buildings on it, for $150,000 in 2018.

They announced then, plans to demolish the cat and elephant barns, which had partially collapsed due to decay and neglect.

Three years later, and INDOT says they will definitely be destroyed and removed in the coming weeks.

Officials are working with the International Circus Hall of Fame to save what can be salvaged.

ABC21 will have continuing coverage of this story.

We’ll tell you how the Miami County Historian worked years to try to preserve the former Terrell Jacobs property and why a deal couldn’t be struck to save them, in Thursday’s (4/1) 21Country segment at 5:30 p.m.

You can find more information, and resources Michael Beauchamp has compiled on the Modoc's Market website, or by visiting the Wabash County Historical Museum.

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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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