Posts tagged ‘Wakefield (IN)’

September 13, 2009

Wakefield, Indiana – A Quiet Village on the Deputy Pike

This article originally appeared June 14, 1975 in the Madison, Indiana newspaper by Angela Stockton.

One of the most noticeable features about Wakefield is the stillness of its atmosphere and the absence of noise.

A farming area since it was settled early in the nineteenth century, its residents – who have names like Phillips, Cline, Rea, and Tingle – continue to farm its acres.

Automobile traffic is not heavy through its woods, which are thick enough to filter out a lot of noise. No booming sounds from the Jefferson Proving Ground reach Wakefield, which is about twelve miles west of State Road 7 on the Deputy Pike.

Gravel roads and old iron one-lane bridges still serve much of the area that cars and farm machines must travel. For the stranger, there are numerous barking dogs and “No Trespassing” signs to curtail his movement.

Wakefield’s quiet was what appealed to James Reynolds when he moved there from Nabb 10 months ago. In his business, a woodworking shop, he must often work late into the night. He needed a place that would be isolated and not a disturbance to its neighbors.

He found a good location, with only open fields and woods on three sides of his property and a house and mobile home used as their owners’ weekend quarters across the street.

Reynolds employs three men: Noah Ross, Roger McIntosh, and foreman Ray Edwards. The shop produces sod stakes and shipping skids. The latter are frames that hold automobile bumper guards during shipment.

Reynolds makes the skids for an automobile parts manufacturer in London, Ohio. From there, the bumper guards are shipped to an automobile assembly plant.

The whine of saws isn’t the only sound to be heard at the Reynolds homesite. He has a family that includes his wife, three children, and his mother; and they have a collection of animals that includes dogs, rabbits, calves, chickens, ducks, a cat, a pig, and a pony.

The cat appears oddly hairless on the rear half of its body, but the children explain that she was singed by a heat lamp while taking care of a litter that jammed her against the lamp.

Reynolds’ mother has her own mobile home on the property, but the rest of the family occupies a rented house that is owned by Cecil Meier. It was formerly the Wakefield schoolhouse, but it was called Fort Donelson (or Donaldson) School rather than the Wakefield School.

The school served the area for part of two centuries, until it was closed in the mid-1950s. The children were reassigned Deputy schools at first, but the area is now part of the Southwestern district.

Elizabeth Wallace, who was a student and later a teacher there, believes that the school was named, possibly by returning Civil War veterans, for the battle of Fort Donelson, Tenn.

The first great success for the Union Army, the battle took place in February 1862. It gave then Brigadier General Ulysses S. Grant his nickname of “Unconditional Surrender” Grant, since those were the terms upon which he insisted the fort being surrendered.

Lew Wallace, the Indiana native who became famous as a Civil War general and later as the author of “Ben-Hur,” also fought at Fort Donelson.

The schoolhouse formerly stood in a beech grove east of its present location. After it was closed, the school and all its furnishings were sold at auction. The one-room building was converted to a home with four rooms and bath, and was moved across the street. The beech grove was cut down.

Rita Heimbach, who was in the school’s last fifth grade class, said there were 24 students then. Blanche Cline, who formerly taught at the school, said she has about 30 students at a time.

Mrs. Wallace remembers when the building was used for Sunday School classes. People would go down the road to Lick Branch Baptist Church on Sunday morning for worship services and Sunday School, then go to Union Sunday School at the Fort Donelson School in the afternoon.

Wakefield got its name from the Wakefield family that moved into the area and sold property to John R Toole for a general store and post office.

The log cabin of Robert and Nancy Wakefield, grandparents of Mrs. Cecil Meier, is still standing. Mrs. Meier said she hopes to restore it someday.

Mrs. Wallace, who was born in 1892, does not believe the post office was in operation before her birth. She has kept diaries throughout her life and recorded on April 1, 1903, the beginning of postal service from Deputy, and thus the end of Wakefield’s short-lived post office.

Toole, she recalled, was a “huckster” – in his time, the term meant simply a traveling salesman and not a shady character. If his customers could not come to him, he took his wagon and goods to them.

Later, according to Mrs. Wallace, Toole sold his store to John Burnside. Wesley Sparks started another general store across from the schoolhouse, and Irene Phillips, mother of Heimbach, later rented it from him.

Mrs. Phillips’ husband, Raymond A Phillips, built her a store and home. It still stands although Phillips, a sawmill operator, dies in 1961, and Mrs. Phillips last April. The store adjoins the home of her son, Raymond, who is Mrs. Heimbach’s twin.

Mrs. Heimbach and her husband, James, are the parents of twins themselves. Dennis and Darrel were born April 1, 1973

The Heimbachs’ farm is not far down the road from “the stink factory,” as Wakefield residents refer to a onetime fertilizer factory. It is now being torn down, but Mrs. Heinrich recalled that when she was a child and the factory was in operation, her mother would not allow her to go swimming in Big Creek because of refuse in it from the factory.

Mrs. Wallace believes that her home, which she shares with her sister Zoe Cosby, may be the original one built by Bennett Nay, her great-grandfather, who homesteaded the property in 1820.

It has always been occupied by his descendents.

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She switched to Fort Donelson in the 1913-1914 school year. She also taught there in 1918-19, when she had to close the school twice for weeks at a time because of high absenteeism caused by worldwide influenza epidemic.

By 1930, the family owned a Model T and Mrs. Wallace no longer had to walk to school. She taught there in the years 1930-21, 1937-38, and from 1945-1949.

Mrs. Wallace’s diaries record that in 1906 telephone service began in Wakefield, but that it was another 40 years before area residents got electricity.

Today the comforts of home, plus boating, swimming, hunting, and fishing are available to residents of Camp Riehl-Cranford, owned by the Jefferson County Goodwill Conservation Club.

Fifteen permanent homes are located on the shores of the club’s two lakes north of Wakefield. The club has 388 members, who take part in its recreational activities and have the option of leasing a site for a house or mobile home. Development of the club’s approximately 130 acres began in 1938.

At one point early in the history of Madison, a community called Wakefield existed on Crooked Creek. It has now been absorbed in the city of Madison. John Paul, who laid out the city, had to evict residents of Wakefield who were accused of being squatters.