From W. Carr Lentz's Autobiography, Age 88, 1988

In my last article, I shared a little about the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic as written about by W. Carr Lentz at the age of 88 in 1988, Tom Lentz's dad. The article also included information about the powder plant built in Clark County in support of World War II which resulted in the Lentz family moving to Bartholomew County.

Afterward, I was thinking it is not very often you are given such great material as a writer, that I should share a few more of Carr's thoughts within the 61 handwritten pages of his book with our readers. I also know Carr would be very proud of his only child, Tom, for preserving this wonderful treasure and passing it on to his three children, Bill, Dan, and Lea Ann, as well as others. Some earlier farming equipment from the Lentz and Marr family, Tom married Marilyn Marr, is now on the local Henry Breeding Farm which has given many the opportunity to go back in time. Following, you will find some highlights from Carr's autobiography:

Birthday

“The fact that I was born on February 22, George Washington's birthday, has been a passing joke in my life. I have always contended that he was born on my birthday and not me on his.”

Our Home

“Our home in Clark County had been built by my father, Samuel Lentz, in 1896 and was an outstanding showplace at that time in the community. It was a home built to last many years; alas, in less than 50 years, our home was torn down by unfriendly and unappreciative hands. It was bought by someone who likely knew my father, since he was quite well known, from the U.S. Defense Department who had purchased it and our 343 acres for the powder plant around 1940.”

Babyhood

“My beginning babyhood days were rather uncertain. My mother, Josephine Snider Lentz, could not nurse me, and I was fed with cow's milk, from one cow, by a dear lady from Utica. I assume she was sort of a practical nurse and was helping my mother getting one off to a livable future.”

Other Information About Our Home

“We had no electricity, no running water except by a kitchen hand pump that brought water from an outside cistern, and no bathrooms as we know them. We did have a very nice bathtub upstairs. Water was heated in a tea kettle on the kitchen range and in a reservoir tank and carried upstairs. In the summer, we had running cold water from a windmill and high tank combination. We had no central heating system. The living room was heated with a beautiful Aristocrat hard coal stove which also heated, to some extent, the bedroom overhead. The kitchen of course was kept warm by the wood burning range, and it heated the bathroom overhead. The rest of the house was cold, very cold.”

Christmas

“Christmas was always a special occasion. Father and I would go, after school, usually over near the river and cut a cedar tree on a farm owned by the Guthries. My father would bring it into the dining room and erect it in a special block we had. Mother and Katie, a devoted, loving, and faithful family member, would decorate it. I still have some of the ornaments 80 years later. I usually put out a piece of pie on Christmas Eve for Santa to eat. I probably was overindulged at Christmas time by my parents, grandparents, and neighbors, but being an only child, I guess that was to be expected.”

School

“I started school at Jenny Lind School about 1 and 1/4 miles east. I did not want to go at all. But on my coming home after the first day, I said to my mother, 'I am going back tomorrow, and I wouldn't miss for anything in the world.' So, I got off to a good start, thanks to a good teacher, Miss Pearl Olmstead. She had gone to college 12 weeks and was very young. I graduated from high school in 1917. Commencement exercises were held in the Presbyterian Church in Charlestown. There were seven in my class. After graduating, I of course went to full time on the farm. My father was absolutely opposed to me going to college for reasons sufficient and final to him. I too was not interested.”

Spiritual Training

“I was enrolled in the Cradle Roll at the Union Methodist Episcopal Church when I was four weeks old and still have the certificate. A neighbor, Mr. W. P. Bottorff, would often pick me up on Sunday with a buggy, sometimes pulled by a mule. Miss Lida, Eliza Spangler, was my Sunday School Teacher, and her influence on me was educational, spiritual, and lasting, even to this day. There was a sermon I heard from Brother Davies that was a great factor in developing a belief that 'There is a hand that guides the destiny of man and nations.' I remember a very capable minister from Georgetown, Indiana who cane to preach for us at Bethany once a month for the offering, sometimes for less than $5.00.”

Girlfriends & Corrilla

"I had several girl friends during high school days which I wrote notes to but never dated, well sorta from about 1914 until I started going with Corrilla in 1921. I never was even friendly with any young lady who I would have been embarrassed to introduce to my mother. In the summer of 1921, I met Corrilla at a party at her Uncle John and Aunt Mary Guthrie's home near the Ohio River. I must confess I was attracted to her. Our first date was to a concert at the National Theater in Louisville given by Harry Lauder, a world famous singer from Scotland. I really don't remember how our romance started. I was too young to get married while being busy on the farm with no place to live and no money. My Grandmother Snider had given me an automobile in 1922, a Studebaker Light, least said the better. Father bought the neighboring Bottorff property of 53 acres and soon started to fix up the house. We had no conversation about my expected marriage to Corrilla. I guess it was evident to him and mother that it was time. I had gone with her for four years quite regularly and had given her a diamond ring and several other nice things. So, Corrilla and I were married September 7th, 1926 at 3:00 p.m. at Brother and Mrs. Davies's home in Charlestown. For some reason, I did not want my mother and father there, 'forgive me mother and father.' We spent a week or so in Washington D.C. I thought I would like to call Corrilla a little something special. So, I came up with Sweetheart, and she remained my Sweetheart all our lives together for 55 years.”

1918 Flu Epidemic

“I would not be too far amiss to tell about the terrible flu epidemic. We at our house never had the flu, but Corilla's family did except her father. My dear friend, J. Edward Robinson, died from it after being drafted. I remember his funeral so well, touched by deep grief and touched by the realization that the war and the flu epidemic had come to each of us that day. And even to this day, 70 years later when I visit that cemetery, I pause at his graveside in loving respect to a friend and a memory to one who died in the service of our country.

1935 Corn King

“After breakfast, I got the corn out in the light on a little green table. I remember it so clearly. I placed each ear as I thought they should be wrapped in newspaper, numbered each one 1-10, and packed them in a box for shipping to the Chicago National Hay & Grain Show. I never thought or even dreamed of what was going to happen. I caught a Pennsylvania train out of the Broadway Station in Louisville at 11:45 p.m. and arrived in Chicago the next morning. There were four judges. All 8 Region Winners were brought together. The judges agreed the best samples were in Regions 7 and 8. I was getting a little uneasy for the judges again voted 2 to 2. Then, Mr. Hackelman of Illinois changed his vote to my sample, Region 8. Pictures followed by the Associated Press and other newspapers, interviews, and many congratulations. I don't remember how I felt to tell the truth. What happened in those few minutes is told in the pictures from all over the U.S. in one of my scrapbooks. I came home on Saturday afternoon to 'An About Town Parade' in Jeffersonville, 'Welcome Home Corn King 1935!' It all started 17 years before with a goal accomplished unexpectedly but nevertheless achieved.”

1937 Ohio River Flood

“Another interesting occurrence in my lifetime was the 1937 flood in the Ohio Valley. The Ohio was 40 feet higher than normal. It sleeted on Saturday, and the whole valley was iced over. And, then it rained Saturday night and Sunday. All the rain water ran into the river raising it faster than ever. It was referred to as 'Black Sunday.' Our farm was not in the flooded area, but we helped out others who were in it. I remember going to town to get Father's bank box for him, and they dried things in it with a hot iron. Father's box had more water in it than mine. I suspect the water was 20 feet deep in the bank. As Chairman of ASCS, Agriculture Stabilization and Conservation Service, at that time, I received a pass to go into Jeffersonville due to the area being under Martial Law. I was shocked! I knew things were bad, but they were worse than one could think. When entering the Auditor's Office in the Courthouse, there was lots of mud still. It was a horrible experience for those in the flooded area.”

A Day Always Remembered

“It was the first week of December 1940 on a Thursday, about 5:00 p.m., when our County Agent, Mr. Earl Miles, a dear and loyal friend, came out to see me. His message was, 'Carr, the War Department is going to take your farm.' I remember we were all standing. 'Impossible, unbelievable' was my reaction. I will say here, for the record, I never, never had any thought of staying in Clark County. I made my mine irrevocably that if Clark County was going to have the powder plant and bag loading plant, I didn't want to be near it or in sight of it.”

Bartholomew County

“We were blessed with so many people willing to help. Ever once in a while, Corrilla would say, 'What about the Marr farm at St. Louis Crossing.' I just shrugged her off. Her judgment was better than mine. It never was a question of money since we anticipated receiving our payment from the U. S. government someday. Land was priced low, hadn't gone up yet after the Depression. The Julians urged us to come back to take another look at the Marr farm. We were getting desperate, had looked at so many farms, were confused, and time was running out on us. I met Mr. Julian and finally found the Marrs on the front porch of the Elks Club House on 3rd and Franklin. We closed the deal for the 177 acres farm. Mr. and Mrs. Marr, Dave and Ella, were most cooperative. They had lived here since 1917. I was asked by Mr. Marr one day, 'Carr do you ever cry?' I said 'yes.' He said, 'I do too.' How pathetic. We both were leaving our homes for different reasons but nevertheless each under stress with broken hearts. Our move was February 21st, 1941 as planned.”

Our New Home And Farm

“So, here we were in our new home and farm with the milk cows, two mules, two sows, and chickens, homesick but hopeful. Several neighbors were so nice, especially Charles Williams across the road. He took us under his wing and helped us to get oriented to our new community. We raised tomatoes first year and too many years afterward. Our milk was sold to F.M.A., Farmers Market Association, in Columbus, and I served 18 years on their board. 1941 was a very dry year, and we had seven acres of corn that made zero bushels per acre. Tom went to school at St. Louis Crossing.”

Finding A Church

“Somewhere along this time, I met Brother Davies in Charlestown, and I related to him our church experiences up to that time. This probably was in the winter of 41-42. He urged us to become members of the Flat Rock Christian Church because it was a cooperating church. So on Maundy Thursday 1942, we all joined it. We soon became active and participating for 26 years before joining the North Christian Church for the rest of our lives.. We learned to like the unusual design of this church building.”

Activities

“My activities in the ensuing years in the community were many. I served as Precinct Committeeman for two years. Then, I ran for Commissioner in 1946 and was defeated by 1000 votes. This defeat was one of the good things that happened to me. I ran for Advisory Board in 1954 and was elected but was defeated for reelection by six votes. In 1960, I was democratic candidate for State Representative but beat by Ray Marr Jr. by 2,000 votes. It was time to quit politics. Afterward, I served on many committees and boards including the Hospital Board of Bartholomew County which I served two terms. I attended 96 regular monthly meetings and probably 50 or more extra or special meetings. This experience was interesting. My association with fellow board members and the administrators was very pleasant through the eight years. I made several nice friendships. It was very educational and hope I made some contribution to the hospital. A very important experience in my life was serving on the Soil and Water Conservation Committee for nine years. I consider all my time with this program as one of the highlights of my career as a farmer and conservationist.”

Farming

“I certainly have seen many, many changes. To begin with, when I was young, all farm operations were done by hand and horse power. My father bought our first tractor in 1920, a Wallis made by J.I. Plow Works of Racine, Wisconsin. Before that time, all land was plowed by horse-drawn 12 inch plows, and the plowman walked of course. Two acres per day was a big day's work. This was a way of life. Then, no one thought it was bad. Many times, we walked through the corn with hoes in our hands to chop out the weeds. How different farming is in 1988!”

Carr's Closing Remarks

“My father and mother raised one in an atmosphere of the highest integrity, very high moral standards, and to understand the necessity of being diligent in the opportunities before me. As I progressed through my life as a boy, a young man, and as an adult, I have tried to be true to the leadership and moral standards I was taught. I sometimes feel a little guilty for leaving Utica Township for new homes and farms 75 miles away since my father, Samuel, had passed away September 25th, 1939 before our move. I hope and trust that he would have agreed with my reasoning at that time. So, in spite of all our roots, friends, kinsfolk, and our heritage in Utica Township in Clark County, we left for better or worse. It has been for the better!”

Thanks to The Lentz Family for Sharing These Intriguing Stories

While reading this very special book, I thought about how life has changed in so many ways. However, there is one factor that remains, how certain people in our lives influence us greatly. I would encourage each of us to find those individuals and express our thankfulness to them before they leave this earth.

My dad, Roy Wilson Webster, lived to be 88, and my mom, Lida Marie Webster, is now 91. Dad left behind a CD full of stories. One is about working on a Kentucky farm when eight as a teamster, taking care of his mules, harnessing them while standing on a wooden box he made, hitching them to his wagon, and earning $0.50 a day. Mom has a book of stories. One is about how the six children in the family were expected to hoe rows of field corn from dawn to dusk when moving to Indiana from Kentucky. Even though neighbors tried suggesting there were other methods of weed control available in the 1940s, her dad felt all of the children must be kept busy.

Fighting dementia before his death, my dad could always recall the old stories. They were obviously important to him and rightly so. I suspect many families have a collection of stories some place, stories that need to be kept and passed down from one generation to the next. These stories are very much a part of each of us and our journeys,