Biography of a Town

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NORTH MANCHESTER, IND. (WPTA21)-North Manchester, Indiana is a picturesque and prosperous town and those are not new developments. It’s always been that way.

They had Chautauqua’s,” says historian Joyce Joy, “Manchester College, our covered bridge.”

To hear the complete North Manchester story come here, to the Historical Society’s ‘Center for History’ on East Main Street, for fifty years a 3-d biography of the little town that grew up along the Eel River. It’s a story told with marvelous murals, displays and artifacts beginning at the beginning with the glaciers that carved out the Eel River, groomed the farmland and made a home for prehistoric behemoths. And the Native Americans who lived here for ten thousand years before white settlers showed up. The river was always key to life here, grist mills like Harter’s mill tapped its waters for power nurturing agriculture. The shops and factories that provided goods and jobs to a growing population. And the classic American small town life that many still long for. Joyce Joy is curator of the museum, she’s lived here all her life and seen a lot of change.

When I was a kid there was a grocery store about on every corner every couple of blocks,” she says. “There were a lot of factories. It was just a nice place to grow up.”

In its heyday North Manchester serviced local farm families and exhibits provide a real sense of life on the farm then. But North Manchester was also a place for entrepreneurs like the Dewitt Auto Company, producing handsome horseless carriages at this factory. And the Peabody School Furniture Company, a mainstay of the local economy and a business with heart.

In fact they stayed open during the Depression and stockpiled desks so that the employees could have a job,” says Joy.

And that is the lesson one learns here; a story of working men and women who carved an existence out of wilderness, built a community for those who would come after and set a standard of hard work and wholesome living. North Manchester is still all that and if you’re searching for a blueprint for a Midwest American success story this is where you will find it. Eric Olson reporting out in 21 Country.



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