Along Old Route 27 and the St. Mary's River
Rich History from Tecumseh, the Underground Railroad, the speakeasy prohibition days, and bowling alley, teen dance hall to the Home Improvement Showroom we are today.
History of Decatur IN
Everybody has a story, and our is shaped by those who were before us. Here is a glimpse of the history of Decatur IN and how the actions of others can impact us today.
As you walk into MR Planners, you might notice "The Ark That John Built!" John has studied evidences of the Global Flood of Noah's day for over 30 years. We have found that the flood left marine fossils on mountain ranges. See our global collection in the store. We also have a map of the sixteen grandsons of Noah spread throughout the world. It shows where each of Noah's grandsons settled and the indication of their names on historic landmarks. For instance Meshech or Mosoch is named as a son of Japheth in Genesis 10:2 which you can find on today's map as Moscow which lies near the Mecherea Valley.
Native Americans 1818+
Adam County Indiana has a rich history of native Americans. The area was once grounds to the French fur trade, the surrender to the British. Many do not know that Tecumseh used this area as his gathering place of his comrades from various tribes to come down from Fort Wayne along Old Route 27 camping on the soft shells along the Hoagland road. As they gathered supplies, they put them in canoes in Decatur IN and heading up the St Mary's River to his final stand against French commander. Evan Eisenmann wrote a Choose Your Own Adventure Novel following the history of 3 indian tribal leaders in Indiana. Available soon.
Underground Railroad 1855
along Old Route 27
2nd Street and into Monmouth
Schsimrin & Mutchler Livery Barn N 2nd Street
Decatur IN continues to grow
North Second Street of Decatur IN 1883
MR PLanners, Inc 1975
Anna, a slave girl went thru Decatur's Underground Railroad
Excerpts taken from the diary of M.B. Butler, “In the Ranks with Company A” of service in the Union army and the underground station his mother owned in Salem, Indiana.
A pretty girl named Anna, with brown eyes and hair, had some of the best blood in Virginia, but she was a slave on a plantation in Virginia. Mr. Brandon, who had inherited a large plantation, was reckless. He was stocked up on slaves and fast horses, had too many bad gambling bets. In 1950-1852, MR Brandon ended up selling five field hands and Anna to the Art Schrempf & Co stockyards in Mobile Alabama. The slaves were chained and shipped like mules where Anna ended up in a slave pen in the heat of Alabama. She thought of her home, and her lost friend, Irma, who had died in her arms just a month ago. She had become good friends of the Van Camp family who were Puritans, but Irma had been taken by a fever.
Providentially, the Van Camp family had moved to Mobile, Alabama. After a month and a half, Mr. Van Camp was walking by the slave pens of Schrempf & Co. when he heard a familiar voice of a young girl. Looking into the dark corner, he saw Anna crying and wringing her hand as if in utter despair. “Why, Anna is it possible?” asked the judge. “Are you here?”
“Oh, Mr. Van Camp, God has surely sent you to me. I was sold to pay my master’s gambling debts. Oh, Will you save me? Can you buy me? I will serve you faithfully and pay you back many times,” and a torrent of entreaties followed which he could only reply, “You know I would never own a slave, I can’t, it’s all wrong”. “Oh, you need not call me a slave and I’ll serve you just the same as long as I live. I can never survive what I am enduring now. I have been sent to the whipping post twice, stripped and given 30 lashes each time by a brute, because I could not eat, sing, dance, and laugh like the others. The trader says he will stop my crying or kill me. I can’t stop.”
Mr. Van Camp called on the office in a friendly manner, “Art, what you are doing with Brandon’s Anna? I passed through your cattle pen and found her off by herself crying herself to death.”
Art: “I bought her, thinking she was a choice piece of goods, but ‘twas a mistake. She cannot eat; cries all the time. I have had her whipped twice severely but it did no good. I hardly know what to do with her, Buy her, Judge. I’ll give you a good bargain, she’s a fine cook.”
“I buy and own a slave, Art, and shut myself out of heaven.”
“I don’t know much about heaven but I’d like to sell her before she gets there.”
“You’ll sell her pretty soon, then, for she’ll not live 48 hours in her present condition. She is burning with fever now and so weak she can hardly stand on her feet. What is your price?”
“$1200.” “No, Art,” “She may not live a week with the best of care then I’ll have the burial expenses. I’ll give 800 out of pity for her.”
“Call it nine, Judge,”
“No, eight is enough for a girl standing on the edge of the grave. Had she been a horse or even a dog, as sick as she is, you would have had all the doctors in the country to see her. I tell you, Art, she has cried and is in such despair that her brain is burning up and all you have done for her is to give her 60 lashes and threaten to kill her if she does not stop crying. If you say eight, I will take her home, put her to bed, and send for a doctor at once. There’s not a minute to lose.”
‘Well, take her then and good luck to you, Judge.”
The bill of sale was made out, Anna was taken to the Van Camp home, and a physician was called to her bedside. He called it a critical case of brain fever and prescribed absolute quite. With eight days and nights of dreaming and crying out, reliving her experiences, she finally slept soundly and awoke to find Mr. Van Kamp beside her.
"Why those tears, Anna? You are certainly gaining very rapidly. Dont be discouraged. You will soon be well."
"Oh yes, I know it Aunty, but I was just thinking as you came in, how good you had been to me, in taking me out of that slave pen where I heard nothing but whipping, screaming, swearing, fiddling, and dancing, and how I thought then that God had forgotten me and forsaken me and all hope was dying and despair was seizing my brain when Mr VanCamp came up to me so unexpectedly and spoke so kindly to me , just when I was sinking down lower and lower, he said, "Come Anna, come with me, you are our girl now," and that is the last I knew until I came until I came to myself in this room, while my brain seemed to be a big ball of fire, burning me up."
The family took Anna in as their own, and surrounded her with anything she needed. She was very happy and it was decided that she was to call them Father and Mother.
The family was comforted over the loss of their daughter Irma and Mr. Van Kamp introduced Anna to his frequent business visitors, Mr. Mason and his wife, John Fairfield who owned the machine shop nearby, and Mr. Fairchild, who grew up with Mr. Van Kamp in Virginia. They had happy meals together, and Mr. Van Camp gave Anna a locket with his and Mrs. Van Kamp’s photograph in it, with the words “Anna Elnora Van Camp” inscribed declaring Anna as their own daughter.
Four years had passed and Anna sat in her room thinking of her past life and comparing to her new, when she suddenly cried out, "Oh, if they should die, God pity me." She cried to her mother, "A hundred years of service would not repay you for the service you had done for me. I was an orphan, a beggar, yea, poorest than the poorest beggar, a slave possessing no right to my body or soul. Hopeless and helpless, when you snatched me out of the grave, and took me to your hearts, made me feel that I was your child, gave me your home and more, you gave me love."
"Yes, Anna, all this is true, but we know you have already earned your freedom, in relieving us of every care." Mr Van Camp has Free papers drawn up and provision has been made for her in the event of their deaths. These were given to their friend Squire Mason.
Just a month later, Mrs. Van Camp died of malarial fever and less than two weeks Mr. Van Camp followed her.
The next day after the burial, the papers left by Mr. Van Camp were taken from the safe by Mr Mason and opened in the presence of John Fairfield and Anna Elnora Van Camp as directed.
There was a tender for Anna with instructions to call on John Fairchild in case of trouble, letters to Squire Mason and John Ward, warning them of a relative in Virginia who might make trouble in regard to Anna's freedom, and would "sell his Lord for less than thirty pieces of silver." Enclosed was a check for $1,500 in case it was needed for attorney’s fees. A fourth paper deeded the home property and other-real estate to Anna, held in trust by Mason J. Ward for twenty years or less at their option, and receipts above Anna’s expenses to be placed in a safe bank in a free state or in Canada. The envelope “Free papers for Anna E. Van Camp” was opened and despair settled again over the girl, everything was complete except- no signature.
No lawyer in Mobile was to be entrusted with such a secret and John Fairchild was sent for. Upon his arrival, he expressed himself as follows: “This property can be held by your trustees and if we can succeed in keeping Anna beyond the reach of the other heirs, a few years, all will be well, for I tell you now that as sure as there is a just God in heaven, in less than ten years every slave will be free.”
To this question “Shall we fight it out or shall we take Anna to Canada immediately before she is attacked?” Anna burst forth in a torrent of words, which wound up as follows:
“Must I, the daughter of one who was once a member of Congress and later the U.S. senate, and my mother, the child of one who was the Governor of the Great state of Virginia, be spirited away in the night like a thief from my house and the few friends I love as my life, because of my blood? People here in Virginia talk of blood, why Sirs, my mother’s mother was the daughter of one who signed the Declaration of Independence declaring all men free and Equal before God, and afterwards gave his life to make this county free. I feel as though I would rather fight than run. I know what it are like to be a slave and I know what precious freedom is.”
After dinner, disguised in his Texas planter suit and hat and with Texas drawl, John Fairfield called at the probate office pretending to have a claim against the estate Marshall C. Van Camp. The lawyer there said he had no knowledge of the estate but knew there was a beautiful girl there worth two thousand dollars. "Whew, she must be nice to be with that, well, I might buy her if for sale." "She will be for sale. I shall get out an attachment as soon as I find out where she is. Probably tomorrow. So Fairfield found out in the conversation, that Anna would be sought out for and as soon as the clerk discovered were she was, paperwork for her sale would be drawn up.
Returning by a round-a-bout way to Squire Mason’s, Fairfield called them together and in the presence of his own servant, Jack, told them of the search warrant and attachment to be gotten out in the following day and outlined the following plan. His servant, Jack, was really a white slave girl like Anna, browned by coloring matter and disguised further by boy’s clothing. Anna was to be disguised the same way and go with Mr. Fairfield as his former “Jack” and discover all proceedings possible. Polk Graham, was the relative referred to by Mr. Van Camp, and was at the Planter's Hotel and Mr Fairfield, in disguise, called upon him in regard to the “claim." They found out Graham's plans to visit the slave pens where they were expecting Anna back. Not finding Anna, Graham went to Squire Mason’s after the Van Camp premises had been searched. Mr. Mason then told the officers about the free papers saying that he had given them to Anna and she had left.
Fairfield, in disguise, called upon Polk Graham at the hotel, and asked if the girl was found yet. "No, we've not found her and that's not the worse of it. We learned from Mason, that my uncle had made out free papers, and after the burial, handed them to her with a lot of money and she skipped out. A clean two thousand gone. I question whether I get enough put of this estate to pay my expenses. "Well, well, said the Texan, Fairfield, "I'm awfully sorry about that gal. She may be hid somewhere in the city, and if you find her, see that you get a hold of the papers."
Anna packed some belongings and at 10:40 p.m., they were leaving Mobile for Lexington, KY with John Fairfield and Jack. Jack's real name was Lizzie, a slave girl whom he had found beaten raw, kicked, and left for dead. Fairfield had gotten her away, and had kept her with him 3 months. He intended to stop with the girls at a Plantation to get Lizzie's mother whom she called Aunt Polly. The "old mother” that nursed Lizzie would be the next one conducted to Canada. When they reached the plantation, Lizzie approached the older woman. As soon as they were safely in the carriage, Lizzie spoke in her natural voice and revealed her identity the two were fairly beside themselves with joy and thanksgiving.
Reaching Lexington, KY and getting their rooms at 10:00 a.m., Aunt Polly was blackened and a wig was fit on her shorn head. Resting during the day, at 1:30 a.m. they left on the train for Covington to come across the border to Cincinnati. They rested the next day at a Quaker home, Mrs. Layman's house, and started out on the midnight express for Richmond, staying there with Mrs. Layman’s brother. When Mr. Martin received them, he found both girls were sick and worn out by loss of sleep and constant anxiety. For a week, Aunt Polly, a well known nurse, doctored the girls with warm beds, catnip, mints, and many bitter herbs. From Richmond, they were compelled to travel on the underground road on a wagon, a slow and tedious travel, especially in a month of November, for people who were used to the climate of the south. Fairfield secured a good supply of blankets and wraps and they pass through to Indiana, Winchester Portland, Decatur, Fort Wayne, and Kendallville and reached the station and Salem Township in a blinding storm of sleet and snow at 4:00 a.m. November 28, 1855, cold, tired and hungry. After a being breathless for an hour, Mr. Fairfield gave me a description of the trip. He had expected to go to Fort Wayne or Battle Creek by train from Richmond but when my girls became sick said he knew they should not do this. The next morning after reaching Richmond, he went to the railroad station and found a detective handing out bills offering $350 for the apprehension of Aunt Polly. Fairfield could describe her and said he saw such a woman board a train at Cincinnati which was the 1st that the detective had heard concerning her. He said, "She just dropped out a sight on the evening about 8:30."
"Have you any trace or track of this woman, Polly?" "Not a single track, replied the detective. "She's a goner and I shall quit when I watch a few more trains, and go back to Cincinnati."
Staying out of sight, the party slept that day while a storm raged and filled all the roads. Not until the 3rd night were we able to move them to the next station. Mr. Fairfield got nervous and anxious to be going but the girls and Aunt Polly and enjoyed the delay. The group gave us a full a complete history of her life as time permitted, often being prompted by Mr. Fairfield who also gave me part of the drama. In the end, the judge's decision in the case of Graham vs Mason & Ward, the court ruled that as Anna held a free papers of Mr. Van Kamp, the deed to her was good based on the testimony of the two trusties. Mr. Mason also testified that he handed the papers to Anna and that she had left the country and swore to the execution of the free papers by Mr. Van Camp. The question of their not being signed was not brought out at the trial.
Local Resident, Brad Hamrick, on June 2023, confirmed that when his friend Dave Hearre owned the brick building of 258 to 266 N Second Street, there was a horse ramp going down to the basement, along with an underground tunnel that led out to the river to water the horses. On the 3rd level a veterinarian would hoist the horses with a belt and pulley to board and work on the horses on the third floor.
In the Book of Adams County, Samuel L. Rugg, a late arrival, became interested with Mr. Reynolds in the promotion of a town which was to be a possible county seat. In the following year he also started the movement to organize a new township "up the St. Mary's River." The site shares more on Decatur's development, bear stories and other interesting knowledge.
COLCHIN, HERMAN A.
Herman A. Colchin has been a factor in Decatur business affairs for a number of years as a cigar manufacturer. His factory is No. 127 in the sixth internal revenue district of Indiana. It is located at 250 North Second Street, where he engaged in business on a modest scale thirteen years ago. At present his factory is conducted in a brick building of his own.
When Roger Eisenmann started MR Planners, the business started out with interior design, construction design, also featuring wall covering and flooring along with the cabinetry store, In 2014, John Eisenmann purchased the business from Roger as he retired; they worked together since 1975. Roger continued consulting until his death in November 2023. MR Planners Inc, is managed by John and his wife Trudy. Their son Andrew, also as highly detailed as Roger, continues the tradition of kitchen remodeling. Completing over 5000 projects, they hope to continue to build up homes and families in Adams County and surrounding area,