Tom Lentz recently submitted information from a book by his father, W. Carr Lentz. (1901-1994). His son, Bill, delivered it. While walking around the lake with Bill and another friend, I asked some questions related to the Lentz family history and found it quite interesting. Bill said, “You need to call my dad!”

I am sure glad I did. Tom, now 87 and still farming, provided many details about how their family ended up in this area which are paraphrased. Afterward, there are direct quotes from his dad, Carr.

The W. Carr Lentz family grew up in Clark County, in a two-story and four-bedroom home built by Carr's dad in 1896, where they owned 343 acres until the United States War Department wanted their land to build a powder plant, Indiana Army Ammunition Plant, around 1940 due to World War II. Their farmland, and the farmland of their neighbors, was deemed perfect for a powder plant due to the proximity of the Ohio River and the railroad for transporting their products. They were asked in Thanksgiving to sell their land for $155/acre and were expected to move by January. Carr and other farmers took issue with the amount. A jury awarded all of them more money after appearing in court for two days. By the time the Lentz family did move in February 1941, all types of construction was already happening. It took until early 1942 to receive their payment. Later, they heard the powder plant “helped save England.”

Carr with his wife, Corrilla, then purchased 172 acres in Bartholomew County when Carr was 40. Tom was 10, old enough to drive a tractor and do other chores on the farm. Carr was quite personable and willing to try different farming techniques. In fact, he won the Chicago National Corn Contest in 1935 with his white corn while still in Clark County. Carr continued his farming expertise in Bartholomew County too and got very involved in the community.

Tom attended Saint Louis Crossing and graduated from Clifford High School in 1950, the home of the Panthers. He remembered they had some interesting basketball battles with the Hope Red Devils with one game, when he was in seventh grade, featuring quite the fight which almost got both teams kicked out of the league. Tom, like his dad, had a high interest in farming and attended Purdue for eight weeks to study agriculture, evidently a program many local farmers attended as well as my dad. He then went on to serve our country in the army from 1953-1955 and was in the Korean War. After returning, he married Marilyn Marr. Besides Bill, their other children are Lea Ann and Dan. When signing my first teaching contract for Hope Elementary in 1974, Tom's signature was there too due to being on the Flat Rock-Hawcreek School Board which he served on for eight years. Bill later served 16 years. Their family farm acreage has grown considerably over the years.

Carr's autobiography, 58 pages, was completed at the age of 88 in his handwriting as suggested, and you can find a copy of it in the Bartholomew County Public Library. (I have had the honor of reading it.) Carr, as well as others, was also interviewed for a documentary about the powder plant, where 27,250 people worked at its peak. If traveling to that area in Clark County today, you would find an industrial area, River Ridge Commerce Center, and a large recreation area, Charlestown State Park, within the 15,000 acres. And, you might even find Lentz Avenue. They thought it important to name roads after the farmers who had to give up so much to help the United States during the war. As Carr states within his book, “We were put in a position never, never anticipated or even thought of with a time limit hanging over us to get out.”

Tom thought others would particularly be interested in what his dad wrote about the years 1917-1919. Tom said, “It is like today all over again.”

“The Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, closely linked to the war, touches here just as it affected the rest of the nation and world. Indiana suffered more than three thousand war dead, the majority dying as a result of disease, chiefly influenza and pneumonia, contracted at home or abroad during the conflict. I remember the flu having its first devastating wave in the winter and spring of that year, and then returned with a vengeance in the fall. October of 1918 had the highest death rate of the whole pandemic. We heard that those infected in the fall got sicker and died faster than during the months of the first wave. We would hear of infections and deaths until March of 1919.

“This pandemic was awful. Soldiers at Camp Taylor in Louisville died by the hundreds! Their bodies were shipped home accompanied by a soldier. Our hired man and family had it. We never went close to them. I recall my father taking groceries and water to the back door for them. I remember face coverings becoming an essential article of clothing as we feared meeting anyone face to face. Not only was there an ongoing threat to our physical bodies, we suffered economically as the flu progressed, with less production of needed grain and livestock, along with the closing of many stores and businesses. This was all a result of fear, isolating, infection and death.

“I had a very close friend, J. Edward Robinson. I had gotten acquainted with him in Charleston High School. He lived near the Ohio River on a farm. He turned 21 that year and had to register for the draft. He was soon sent to the Arsenal Tech High School in Indianapolis for training. He almost immediately took the flu. His father got there before he passed away. Eddie told his father that he wanted to be buried in the uniform of his country. Eddie's body was sent back to Jeffersonville. A funeral was conducted in a day or two at the Union Methodist Church. There were not many people there, and we all sat around several feet apart. We were actually afraid of each other.

“We lived each day during that time in fear and uncertainty; we just trusted the Good Lord and tried to remain vigilant in all we did.”

Tom ended with these thoughts, “They say history repeats itself. I read that after March of 1919 the Spanish Flu seemed to gradually go away; I hope this one will too!”

And, I know all of us have the same hope!