Small Towns Series: Cambridge City

Continuing Coverage of Wayne County’s 200 Year Celebration

by Karole Passmore

cambridge city indianaAccording to an historian who can repeat Cambridge City’s history almost by heart, this little town is known by many as being the town with the most historical significance in Indiana.  Read on to see if you agree.  And remember…this is just the highlights, a synopsis, if you will, of their rich and long history in Wayne County.

In 1836 Cambridge City was founded by five men including the names Tyner and Hawkins.  The city moved from its original spot, and name of “Vandalia,” to where it is now located and renamed.  There is a Vandalia Street in Cambridge to commemorate its old location.

Before we get to the more renowned historical facts, I have to share my favorite story that historian Patty Hersberger, who is a volunteer in the history room in Cambridge City, shared.  She told me the story of Pauline Truly, who still lives today and is 100 years old.  Pauline has belonged to a 120 year old women’s club in Cambridge for most of her life.  The club, that meets on Mondays, was originally named the 2:00 club and Pauline says it was so named because they wanted women to know they didn’t have to stay home to do laundry, but could be active in their community.  It was later named the Helen Hunt club after the author.

Pauline herself, as a young woman, rode the “Dinky” or streetcar that ran from Milton to Cambridge City in order to graduate from Lincoln High School, 82 years ago.  Historian, Patty Hersberger, shared that Pauline is still a vibrant member of the community with a rich history of her own to share with others.

Cambridge City is also known for the Whitewater Canal which was built around 1846 and only ran until 1849 due to flooding.  They later hooked up with the railroad system, but still use the canal connection for their well-known “Canal Days” celebration each year.

general solomon meredith

General Solomon Meredith

They are also known for resident General Solomon Meredith (nicknamed “Long Sol”) a Quaker from North Carolina who later moved to Cambridge City.  In 1834 Meredith was Sheriff of Wayne County.  He was elected to the Indiana House of Representatives and served four terms.  He became a renowned General serving in the Civil War, over the 19th Indiana Unit from 1861 to 1865.  Leading the Iron Brigade, General Meredith was commissioned by Abraham Lincoln and the signed document is in the library in Cambridge City.  .  It is covered to prevent aging but school children are able to visit the library and witness for themselves a significant piece of their local history.

The only survivor of the Meredith family after the war was a daughter in law Virginia Meredith.  She went on to become the first woman to be elected and serve on the Purdue University Board of Trustees.  She was also a charter member of the 2:00 Club mentioned above.  She later adopted a child of a friend and that child later became the head of the Home Economics Department at Purdue University.  This all took place prior to the 1900’s, very significant achievements for women in this time period.

Cambridge City was also home to the race horse “Single G”, who got his name from a marking on his forehead.  He was a standard breed and pulled a “Sulky” or small cart.  Single G achieved a world record of one minute and fifty-eight ½  seconds.  His racing career spanned almost 13 years, from 1913 – 1926, which is still considered a long career for a race horse.

Another famous resident, or family of residents in Cambridge City, were members of the Wild West Show: “Buckskin Ben” Stalker.  Buckskin Ben was orphaned at the age of five and then raised by cowboys later marrying and moving to Cambridge City.  The Stalker family maintained their residence in the town, but traveled extensively for the show including to Coney Island in New York City.  Buckskin’s children and wife were all part of the performances playing musical instruments.  His wife also stood patiently while he threw knives at her, as part of their act.  She repaid him by shooting objects from his hand.  A very colorful family, they are another addition to the seemingly endless history of this town.

The library, which will soon be moved to its new location, also houses the pottery and paintings of the well-known Overbeck Sisters of Cambridge City.  Their art is currently in the museum of the library basement but will soon be moved in July to the new library.  Their art is on display and can also be purchased.

Another well-known town marker was Lake Wehi which was open from 1920 -1950’s.  Many people thought the name was of Indian origin.  However the name actually came from the four men who formed this resort: Wilber Dryer, Edwin Wickes, Hilbert Jones and Ivan Harmeir.  Historian Patty Hersberger has fond memories of the boat races she attended while in high school which were very popular.  The resort also offered swimming, a dance hall and lavish family reunions were held at the resort.  One of the lifeguards, in the early years of the resort, later became founder of the well-known Rhyms Grocery stores in Cambridge City.  The resort is now a private home area.

You can find out more about Cambridge City and other small towns in Wayne County by visiting their information and history tables in the Raper Center.  Patty will be there with others from the History Room on June 23rd from 3-8 p.m.

Truly a fascinating heritage and significant part of Wayne County’s 200 year history.

About Jack Humphrey

Editor of GoWayneCounty.com, CEO of BrickRoadMedia.com. Born and raised in Richmond, Indiana. Defected to Washington DC, Chicago, and Albuquerque for 13 years before coming home to start my internet marketing consulting companies in 2002. Personal blog: JackHumphrey.com. Radio podcast: FridayTrafficReport.com. Twitter: @jackhumphrey

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