the collection of the Historical Society of Ogden Dunes are sixty-two, 3”*4”
glass slides of photographs of the dunes.
William F. Gingrich is the photographer.
His name or initials appear on almost all the slides. These slides were taken in the 1920s,
perhaps the early 1930s; some may be
images of the Marquette Park lagoon; others of the Prairie Club cottages and/or
the cottages in Porter Beach. They may date
from the time when the Prairie Club was active in the dunes, approximately 1915
to 1925. However, a search of the
Prairie Club’s Archives at the Westchester Township History Museum has not
discovered any relationship between Gingrich and the Prairie Club. In addition, the Society has an antique slide
projector (unworkable) that once was used to show these slides.
the efforts of Eva Hopkins of the Westchester Museum and my search on
Ancestry.com, we now know something about William F. Gingrich. He was born in 1874 to a German immigrant
family in Bentonville, Posey Township, Fayette County, Indiana. Bentonville is located east of Indianapolis,
about twenty miles west of the Ohio line and ten miles northwest of Connersville. His parents, Frederick Gingrich, born in
1828, and Eliza Schmidt (1831), emigrated from Hesse-Darmstadt in Germany about
1849 and settled in Franklin, Warren County, Ohio. He was a wagon maker. By 1860, they had two children, Anna and
Louis. The family’s real estate was
valued at $1,800. Ten years later, they
had moved west to Bentonville, Indiana.
The value of their property had decreased to $700. Three more children were born: Emma (1865),
Amy (1867), and Minnie (1870). William
was born in 1874; his father was 46 and his mother 43.
1900, William was a school teacher, living in Bentonville with his father and
siblings, Anna, Louis, and Emma. Anna
kept house; Louis was a house painter; and Emma was also a teacher. We have been unable to track two of the
sisters, Amy and Minnie. Louis and
Annie appear not to have married. Louis
is listed in the 1920 and 1930 censuses in Bentonville, living alone with an
occupation of house painter.
1910 William had left Fayette County and was employed as a teacher in the
Chicago Public School System. He was a
boarder, along with four others, in a home at 1245 W. Jackson. In his passport application in 1914 he is described
as 5’9” with black hair, a receding hairline, and brown eyes. At some point between 1914 and 1920 he married
Betty (Betsy, Bessie), also a school teacher.
It is likely that during this time he began to photograph the natural
beauty of the Midwest, especially the Indiana dunes.
1920 census lists Betty and William as renting an apartment in a two-flat apartment
building at 3248 Wilson in Chicago. He
is a principal of a Chicago elementary school and Betsy is a teacher. In the summer of 1923, William and his wife
spent time in Europe. They returned
from Liverpool via Quebec in August of that year. During the summer of 1928 William and his
brother Louis spent time in Europe, returning from Cherbourg to New York on the
S.S. Dresden on August 17. The manifest
lists William’s home as 4545 N. Campbell.
The 1930 Census also shows Betsy and William as living at this address
in a three-flat. They pay $72.50 a month
rent, a goodly sum at that time. He is
still a principal and she a teacher.
Their neighbors include a surgeon and his family and the chief clerk of
a farm machinery company.
Hopkins discovered an obituary in the Palo
Alto Times for William F. Gingrich. He
died on January 31, 1959 in the San Jose Hospital following a short period of
failing health. Funeral services were
held on February 3 at the Roller and Hapgood Chapel in Palo Alto with burial in
Alta Mesa Memorial Park. William was survived by his wife, Betty D.,
and a nephew, Fred Lamberson, and a niece, Mrs. Oakley Haskett, both of
Indiana. Betty and William had lived
since 1950 at 642 Greer Road in Palo Alto.
According to the Times they retired
in 1940 and moved to California shortly thereafter. With his retirement William began to paint
the wonders of nature. He had a number
of one-man shows in and around Palo Alto and was a member of the Palo Alto Art
Club. William Gingrich is also listed in
Edan Hughes’ Artists in California,
1786-1940. This reference indicates
that he made many trips to scenic spots in northern California.
wife Betty or Betsy was born in Chicago on August 31, 1890. Her father was born in Massachusetts and her
mother in British Canada. Betty died on
June 6, 1977 in Palo Alto at 86. We
know little about his nephew and niece.
One of William’s sisters most likely married into the large Lamberson
family in Posey Township, Indiana. And an
Ethel Haskett is listed as the wife of Oakley Haskett in a New Castle, Indiana
city directory in the 1930s.
is a wonderful collection. And we are
beginning to know something about William Gingrich, man who had a great love
and respect for the Indiana dunes. However,
we do not know how these slides came into the possession of the Historical
Society. We have one reference that the
late George Svihla donated or facilitated the donation of the antique slide
projector. Can anyone shed light on the
donor of these slides, as well as any possible relationship between Gingrich
and Ogden Dunes?
Calumet Archives of Indiana University Northwest has digitized the slides. We plan to preserve these rare images of the
dunes in the early 20th century for future generations.