The last day of 2021. Planned this day as a time to wander. I had two choices in mind. First, the angling treaty-line roads of Jay County. Or, second, the covered bridges of Putnam County. There’s only a few miles difference in distance and I chose the eastern route to Jay County.
Hit the road about 10am. Temperatures were in the mid-40ºs rising to the mid-50ºs before day’s end. Cloudy nearly all day. Headed north on US31 until I chose a road and turned east. I only went a mile before ending at a T-intersection so I headed south, then east again at the first opportunity. Saw Sharpsville off to the north. I was coming up on a town and was right in guessing Windfall. Stopped for a couple of pictures then continued east through flat, fertile farmland. That road eventually crossed SR 13 at Leisure which included a church and 4-5 houses. Ahead, I stopped for a picture of an old woven wire corn crib with a big tree growing inside it with its branches protruding between the lacing. A little farther I came across concrete posts marking the entrance to a long lane which went back to a houseless farmstead. There were all the outdated elements - concrete silo, two woven wire corncribs, and a tumble-down barn. Tried my best to get pictures from a distance. Ahead I passed and then backed up for a picture of poured cement block barn in excellent condition. There was an etched plate above the door with indistinguishable writing but the date looked like 1913 or 1943.
Crossed into Grant County and was surrounded by towns, some I could see in the distance, but none on my route. Passed over I-69 and then across an abandoned railroad bed identified as Janney in my red atlas, but the railbed has been reclaimed by farmers, otherwise this would be the Cardinal Greenway. Passed south of Matthews about a mile and continued until I hit Wheeling Pike. On the corner was Arrowhead Farms which looked like a big operation.
Wheeling Pike/Jonesboro Road (depends on which direction you’re traveling) was one of my targeted ‘angling roads.’ Turned southeast on the road which traces the route of the Mississinewa River. This road is also the former route of US35 which has been reconfigured to run jointly with SR22 from Kokomo to I-69 to SR28 to Muncie and along SR3 until it starts up again solo heading southeast to Richmond. That route turned south at Wheeling, but I continued onto Eaton as the road changed to Eaton-Wheeling Pike. Stopped on the Mississinewa River bridge to get a picture of the swollen stream. Around another curve there stood an old brick church with a adjacent cemetery. Behind the wrought iron fence was an arch over the cemetery’s entrance with the church's name.
I have been through Eaton on SR 3 but never into its 'downtown.' There I found many structures to capture. There was a Craftsman-style house that caught my eye, across the street was the 1836 Community Building, on the corner the former Eaton State Bank building now housing an HVAC business. Down the block was the brick lodge for local Masonic and Eastern Star orders. Back on Main Street stood the all-brick Town Hall with a puzzling wooden cupola on top. Two churches stood out on the skyline - Eaton UMC and First Christian Church. I got back on the road I entered upon but it was now the Eaton-Albany Road. Ahead, on the edge of Albany was the Bethel ME Church in traditional white clapboard church architecture. I missed much of Albany by not driving SR28, the main highway.
Turning northeast on SR167, I headed to Dunkirk just a few miles away. Beth and I were here years ago but I could recall only one memory and I was searching for it. I took many pictures - Plymouth United Church of Christ, ‘Glass Capital of Indiana’ Mural, restored Train Depot, freight depot, Ardagh Glass Plant, Glassworkers Union Monument, and the Community Park shelter house. It was in Dunkirk in the late 1990s that Beth and I ate our picnic lunch on the way to a bed and breakfast in Bluffton. I remembered the view and kept trying to find the right angle and when I pulled into the park, there it was. I reminisced about sitting in the shelter on a cool, windy day with the glass factory looming large on the horizon and it still does today. Was hoping for lunch at the Glass Capital Grill but it was closed for the holidays.
Continued on to Portland in search of the Greazy Pickle restaurant, which got good ratings online, just off the courthouse square. The restaurant was a classic bar with red Budweiser signs and floor lighting. The dining room was not crowded but the bar was full. I took a spot in the back and brought my atlas to plan my afternoon. A guy entered and sat at the table next to mine. The waitress asked, “John, glass of water like always?” Now I knew this was the guy to talk to. So I asked about him his work, his relationship to Jay County and to the restaurant staff - machinist at a plant in Bluffton, raised on a farm near Pennville, waitress is his niece and a third brother is co-owner. One owner is a heavy equipment mechanic and his nickname is Greazy while the other is this guy’s brother named Jeff Pickle, thus Greazy Pickle. The younger staffer asked me where I was headed and that began a conversation between four of us about wandering. I ordered the featured Breaded Tenderloin and it was excellent. The homestyle breading was different, a little lighter and very crisp.
Afterwards, I walked half a block to the corner to get a picture of the Jay County Courthouse and the restaurant's facade on my way back to the truck.
Portland had lots of picture-worthy buildings and I took advantage to get pictures:
Portland First Presbyterian Church
Abandoned Church now used for Judo lessons
Beautiful Asbury United Methodist Church
Former Railyard tower (maybe for coal)
Portland Mural featuring Elwood Haynes (most commonly associated with Kokomo)
Weiler Department Store building
Fire Station No. 1
Citizens Bank Building now part of First Merchants
Hawkins Galleria building, formerly another department store
Historic Arches bridge over the Salamonie River
Headed south-southeast on the angling Boundary Pike, came upon a cemetery and the Little Salamonie Christian Church, a small white sided church with only a sanctuary and a bell tower. Next came the intersection with Antioch Cemetery on the corner and that’s all that remains of the Antioch settlement, but it’s on the map. A few miles farther I came to the intersection of angling Boundary Pike and angling Treaty Line Road which runs southwest to northeast on its way to Fort Recovery, Ohio. Boundary City has a church - St. Paul’s Reformed Church (1891), a former one-room schoolhouse, Boundary Cemetery, and 2-3 houses.
I headed northeast on Treaty Line Road on my way to Salamonia. I arrived there passing the old Salamonia Cemetery and spotting an old church on its other side. First went to get the picture I came for - the former Salamonia school building (1911), topped with a bell tower, which has been restored as a community center. Then I found the church - St. James Lutheran Church by the cemetery’s other entrance. Drove past the Salamonia Church of Christ as I headed north out of town.
I drove through miles eastern Jay County, its farmland dotted with livestock barns, especially poultry. While this land is relatively level and looks fertile, in comparison, it is not. While the soils back home are loam and loess based, these soils are clay based and that’s their shortcoming. I continued north passing large livestock farms and Amish farmsteads. Even passed a few fields of corn still standing, but barely. Passed another Mt. Zion Church and Cemetery. Drove through Bellfountain on SR26 and then on north to SR18. Just off to the northeast, the spire of Holy Trinity Catholic Church poked into a very gray sky. Then as I got closer, the sun came out for the only time of the day and shone on the church. I took a picture of the church’s school and then the towering church itself. Trinity, the ‘town’ included four houses and the church complex. I was literally at a crossroads. Did I want to head north to the Wabash River and Loblolly Marsh or back home. I chose the latter.
Drove on SR18 a few miles to Bryant. I turned briefly onto US27 and noticed a junkyard of old combines in all states of disrepair. There were hundreds and hundreds of combines parked to be salvaged for parts. I did a little research later and learned that the business, open since 1987, closed for good on December 1, 2021. It was a graveyard of farmers’ equipment and their stories never to be captured nor shared. Turned west again on a county road and had to jog around Gravel Hill Cemetery to enter West Liberty with only a church building, and it was turned into a learning center. Drove through Poling, at least it was on the map, but couldn’t tell otherwise. Came upon another cemetery and this one had a historic marker for the early Quaker settlement of West Grove, the house and building were razed in 1927. Just ahead near the intersection marked Balbec, I came upon Gilead Church and Cemetery (1864). Continued onto Balbec Road which angles northwest. It came out to SR 18 just before the highway crosses the Salamonie River at the village of Matamoras which blends into the town of Montpelier.
Called a friend of mine, Joe Pearson and agreed to drop by his family's farmstead as I headed west. Stopped for a picture of Chief Francis Godfroy’s statue (think tall muffler man dressed as an American Indian) in downtown Montpelier. Pearson's farm is right on SR 18 just past the town of Roll. I toured the farm buildings visited briefly with him and his grandson but glad I stopped.
Continued to SR5 and then turned south on it to avoid I-69 and Marion. Passed Eastbrook High School and the sun was battling with the clouds for a chance to break through. The next intersection on the map was marked Arcana, but there are only two random houses and no markings. Continued through Upland stopping for a picture of the restored Depot on one side of the former tracks and across the railroad bridge was the Upland Greenways trail station. Continued zigzagging south and entered Matthews from the north which I had not done before. Turned back west again on Wheeling Pike and then left onto an east-west road as the Pike angled NW. I was talking with a friend as I was driving and he asked where I was so I took a picture of a one-room schoolhouse and the clouds in the picture looked like a face. It was eerie. I was just south of Fairmount. I continued west and came upon some cement posts and sent that picture as well to explain what I see when I wander.
Finished my drive home wandering through Grant, Howard, Tipton, and Hamilton counties passing between towns and villages until I came to Atlanta and then home. Many miles, many hours, 70+ pictures, and a day of new memories.