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Elias Olive Wildermuth
The oldest of Henry and Barbara (Burns) Wildermuth's nine children, Elias Wildermuth was born March 2, 1850, in Pulaski County, Indiana. Included in the household were Henry's two children of his first marriage. Pioneering was part of Elias' heritage. His ancestors had come to Pennsylvania from Germany in the mid-eighteenth century. They moved on to Ohio just as it was achieving statehood and then on to Indiana in time to be original purchasers of land in Pulaski County, Indiana, Elias' Mother, born in Germany, came to this country when she was eleven and married Henry on her eighteenth birthday.
Although her grandchildren remember her singing German lullabies, she was not allowed to speak German in the house while Henry was around. In 1875, Elias married Olive Herrick, the daughter of Joseph and Sarah Elizabeth (Hickman) Herrick. Joseph had come to America from England when he was eighteen, served in the Union Army during the Civil War, and, eventually, became a farmer in Pulaski County. Elias and Olive had four sons: Harry, Ora, George and Joe. Their only daughter died at birth. As a young man, Elias taught school in a walnut log schoolhouse near his farm in Van Buren Township, Pulaski County. Farming, however, was his chief occupation until 1904 when he retired to Star City. Perhaps partially motivated by the pioneer spirit of his ancestors, Elias, at age 56, chose to participate in the founding of a new city on the shore of Lake Michigan. This decision to move to Gary was encouraged by his two older sons. Harry, who was a locomotive engineer for the Pennsylvania Railroad, passed through Lake County on his regular run from his hometown of Logansport to Chicago and caught the excitement generated by all the activity in northern Lake County. Even before Elias moved to Gary, both he and Harry had purchased land there. Elias' son, Ora, a new graduate of Indiana University, had moved to Gary in 1906. In the spring of 1907 Elias packed the family's possessions in a wagon, hitched up the team and, with his ten-year old son, Joe, made the three day trip from Star City to Gary-a distance of 75 miles. Olive followed on the train.
Shortly after arriving, Elias opened Gary's first feed store. With a whole city to carve out of the sand dunes, hundreds of horses were needed to pull the grading equipment. The business of selling hay, oats, corn and straw flourished. There was a spur of the railroad in front of the shack store and, although he always kept some feed on hand in the store, most of it was sold from the railroad car. At first the family lived above the store, but soon built a home at 425 Jefferson St. Elias became an active citizen of Gary. When the first iron ore shipment was to arrive in Gary, the US Steel Corporation invited the leading citizens of the town to ride the boat from the South Chicago Harbor to the new Gary Harbor. Elias was among those invited. For the next several years Elias ran the store, invested in the construction of a couple of buildings, and found time, in 1910, to be an enumerator for the US Census. After a short illness, Elias died on January 2, 1915, and was buried at Oak Hill Cemetery. Two of his sons preceded him in death. In December 1907, George was found decapitated along side a railroad track. The murderer was never found. Harry died in a railroad accident in 1910. Joe continued to live at home with his mother. She took in boarders-some of whom became Joe's life-long friends. After Joe was married, he lived at 660 West 8th Ave. From time to time his mother lived with them. Joe's wife always spoke of her Mother-in-law with great affection. Olive's granddaughter, Maxine (Ora's daughter), was devoted to her grandmother. Olive Wildermuth died in 1925 and was buried along side her husband. Representing a generation older than many who were part of the formative years of Gary, Elias and Olive Wildermuth lent their spirit and experience to this burgeoning new city full of 20th century pioneers and became forever a part of its history.

Source: Submitted by: Dorothy Wildermuth Vekasi - dvekasi@aol.com