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Krueger Neighborhood Association

Martin T. Krueger

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Namesake of our neighborhood 

PEOPLE FROM OUR PAST was written by Bob Kaser, with the exception of a narrative published by Harriet Martineau in 1837, an article about Daniel Webster written by Jaznes Landing, and the story of Diana of the Dunes, written by Al Spiers. Reference sources for the other articles included Great Lakes Indians, by William J. Kubiak, The Pottawattomie Indians of Southwestern Michigan, by Everett Claspy; Michigan City's First Hundred Years, by Elizabeth M. Munger and a compilation of local historical material by Edna Kitchell, Michigan City Historian.

Martin Krueger

An Indelible Imprint on the Community

Martin T. Krueger loved Michigan City. He showed it in words and in deeds. More than any public official in the first 140 years of the city's history, he left an indelible imprint on the community. A German immigrant who came here as a young boy in 1864, Krueger served his city with distinction in many capacities. Six times he was elected mayor. Three times he was elected city clerk. He served as LaPorte County's state representative, as a Michigan City school board member for 12 years, and as a city councilman. Virtually self-educated , he had one of the city's largest and most successful law practices up to the time of his retirement at age 88 in 1941.

Krueger, above all, was a man of foresight with the ability to get what he wanted and what he felt the city needed. Politics was a major part of his life, but he did not hesitate to pursue an unpopular course if he felt it was right. That trait cost him at least one election - but fellow citizens gained a belated appreciation for his position and restored him to office four years later. The News-Dispatch story of his death, at age 92 on May 9, 1945, noted: "Michigan City owes much of its beauty and reputation to him ... It is hard to point to a single public work or institution that he did not create or was not a factor in its creation."

Existence of Washington Park is due to Krueger's vision, craftiness and persistence. During the Krueger years, electricity replaced gas and kerosene lighting in Michigan City. The first extensive street-paving program was initiated (against much opposition from taxpayers). The Franklin Street bridge, the establishment of an excellent water department - these and more milestones in community progress were Krueger accomplishments. The land on which the Memorial Park forest preserve is situated was given to the city by Krueger in memory of American soldiers who died in World War I. Krueger also had a reputation for wit and public speaking ability.

His parents brought 10-year-old Martin Krueger and their other eight children to America from Macklenberg-Schwerein, Germany, in 1864. They settled in Michigan City, where Martin's grandparents had emigrated eight years earlier.

Young Martin served an apprenticeship that ideally prepared him for the political plunge. He began doing chores for pay almost immediately on his arrival in America. He recalled often in speeches years later that he and five buddies were on their way, walking, to plant potatoes for a Waterford farmer when they heard a cannon shot from the top of Hoosier Slide, signaling the arrival of the Lincoln Funeral Train in Michigan City the morning of May 1, 1865. (See account of young Krueger's experience with the funeral train in another publication in this series "Moments to Remember.")

His first regular job - one which ended his formal school career - came when David Marsh (who, with his brother, George, owned all the land south of 11th Street to Greenwood Cemetery and who pastured cows on it) offered Krueger's mother a dollar a week for Martin to be a cowherd. He worked at other jobs - as a factory employee at the Haskell and Barker car shops, in a planing mill, and as a cleaner of locomotive grates for the Michigan Central Railroad  in Michigan City before he got some experience in the world of agriculture.

At age 13, he had worked on a farm during the summer months for $1.50 a week. After his ventures into industrial employment, he went to Mendota, Ill., and secured a farm job at double his former wages - $3 a week. He worked on Illinois farms for five years before his return to Michigan City in 1877. (It was in Bureau County, Ill., in 1876, that he cast his first ballot. His vote for President Tilden was described as the only Democratic vote cast in the precinct.)

Krueger began the study of law in 1877 in the office of Michigan City attorney Fred Johnson. When Johnson died the next year, Krueger opened a real estate and insurance office. He also was actively engaged in assistance to immigrants - helping to bring many families from Germany to Michigan City.

He continued his study of the law and, in spring of 1879, he and Harry Francis opened a law office at 205 1/2 Franklin St. Francis left in the autumn to become publisher of the Michigan City Dispatch. Krueger's office later - and up to the time of his retirement - was in the First National Bank building. His clients included his two former employers - the Michigan Central Railroad and the Haskell & Barker Car Co. - as well as the Pere Marquette Railroad, the First National Bank, and others.

The year he began his law practice, Krueger also entered politics. He was elected city clerk. He was re-elected to that post in 1881 and 1883. In 1884, he was elected to the state legislature. He was chairman of the committee on cities and towns and a member of other important committees. During that and later service in the General Assembly, he was responsible for enactment of much major legislation. He also won the respect and friendship of many fellow legislators which was to prove extremely valuable for Michigan City in years to come. In 1886, he was on the state Democratic ticket as candidate for clerk of the Indiana Supreme Court, but it was a Republican year in the state.

When he returned to Michigan City, he declined a request that he run again for city clerk. But he agreed to be a candidate for 2nd Ward councilman. Though that was a traditional Republican stronghold, Krueger was elected - as the nominee of both parties.

In 1889, he was elected mayor of Michigan City. In 1891, he won re-election with no opposition. An unprecedented program of public improvements was initiated under his leadership. Streets were paved, sewers built, and other projects implemented.

His activist leadership was not without opposition in the community. That, plus a division in the Democratic ranks here, saw him lose his bid for a third term by a narrow margin in 1893. But in 1898, Krueger was once more elected mayor this time to a four-year term. And in 1902, he won another one.

In 1913, running on a "citizen's ticket," he was elected to a fifth term as mayor. And in 1927, he became mayor under the commission-manager form of government that was temporarily in effect in Michigan City.

Krueger also had been a candidate (in 1896) for Congress. He was the 10th District chairman at the Democratic Congressional Convention, and when no candidate could be agreed on after several ballots, he agreed to run. The district was overwhelmingly Republican and Krueger lost in November - but he managed to reduce the normal plurality considerably, and to carry two counties (including LaPorte) which had previously gone to the GOP.

Krueger, whose own public school education had been abbreviated, served for 12 years on the local school board as member and secretary. The News-Dispatch obituary in 1945 observed that he had "worked tirelessly for better school facilities."

Many older citizens remember Krueger, his moustache, his distinctive and booming voice, his habit of tracing a circle with his downward pointed finger while talking.

One contemporary recalls that Krueger "never was given to social life. He liked his association with friends either gathered at his home or at his favorite bar near city hall downtown. At both places, he would spin yarns to the delight of all his listeners. He was the town's best story teller - generally telling them on himself or ones which illustrated a particular point he was trying to make at the time. He was not a heavy drinker, but liked beer. He had a sarcastic tongue - perhaps caustic is a better word - that he used mercilessly to flail those whom he felt earned his displeasure. His gruffness, with a guttural German tone, combined with the fact that on his own admission he was the homeliest man in the state, made him a most impressive figure.

Some of his pointed stories were widely repeated, though not printable. Above all, those who remember the way he got things done - the acquisition of Washington Park land the most frequently-cited illustration.

The lakefront acreage was the scene of a squalid skid row when Mayor Krueger first envisioned a park there.

"I do not remember now when the thought of a park on the shore of Lake Michigan first came," Krueger said in a speech to Rotary Club in 1922. "I do remember about the year 1893 upon a visit to Lincoln Park in Chicago ... the hope was born in me that someday Michigan City might possess and improve a portion of our lake shore as a park. I was only city clerk at that time and mentioned this thought to Mayor Harvey Harris, who answered me that such a thing might be a possibility at some future time, but that both of us would probably be dead when that time arrived. I was elected mayor in 1889 and my dream of a park by the lake again haunted me. The more I thought of it the more the conviction grew in me that the thing might be done."

Michigan City's shoreline was a disgrace at the time. Waste material from booming lumber days had been used to build shacks by "ex-convicts, dissolute men and women and every kind of human scum that ever hung on the outskirts of a civilized community." (The quotes are Krueger's.)

After a long and uphill battle, Krueger obtained approval for the erection of a $10,000 bridge that extended Franklin Street to the lakefront.

Community skepticism about the proposed bridge was reflected in a remark made to Krueger by his friend, former mayor H.W. Walker: "You are building a bridge from somewhere to nowhere.

The site of future Washington Park was owned by Easterners who had bought the lots sight unseen when Maj. Isaac C. Elston pushed his real estate promotion of "Indiana's only lakeport." The land purchasers, belatedly learning of the nature of their holdings, never came west to claim the land or settle on it.

The only way the city could obtain title to the land, Krueger knew, was through court action. Quiet title proceedings could be filed - but it would be necessary to put up several thousand dollars in escrow in case any owners should show up. The city had no such money.

Krueger had the answer: Sell part of the courthouse square! At the time the courthouse was at the location of the present Superior Court building, but was the only building on the square block bounded by Franklin, Fourth, Washington and Michigan streets. It was illegal, Krueger knew, for a city to sell municipally owned real estate. Again he had the answer: A trip to Indianapolis, where the legislature was in session. There he got a former colleague to introduce a bill providing that a fifth class city located on the shore of Lake Michigan (i.e., Michigan City) could sell part of its municipally owned real estate if it in turn acquired real estate of equal dollar value.

Conceding that the special (and short-lived) legislation bordered closely on confiscation was Aa little too rank even for an Indiana Legislature, Krueger nonetheless made no apologies for the action. He explained: "Necessity knows no law, neither did I.

In addition to securing special state legislation, the Washington Park plan required approval of the city council. Seven affirmative votes were necessary. When the roll was called at a special meeting Aug. 18, 1891, presided over by Mayor Krueger, the vote was 6-1. Krueger tells what happened then:

"Immediately there was great confusion among the spectators. I did not announce the result of the vote officially, but instead declared a recess of 20 minutes or until order was restored. Then I asked the one councilman who had voted no to come with me into the clerk's office adjoining the council chamber and he came. I was excited, nervous and sore and what I said to this man in that little room had best be forgotten. He and I had been good friends and I had at one time been of great service to him and saved him a large sum of money, all without charging him a cent. I reminded him of that. Then I showed him that his three objecting friends (three anti-park councilmen who had not come to the meeting) had not the courage to come and vote with him but had tried to make and were making him the goat by voting no alone and shifting all the responsibility on him and finally I said, 'As long as you live people will blame you and, you alone for having been the instrument by which the city had been robbed of its lakefront park.

"Suddenly he said, 'What do you want me to do?'

"I told him I would have the roll called again because of the confusion in the council chamber and I wanted him to vote aye when his name was called.

"He said, 'Mr. Mayor, you are the only man in this town who could get me to do that, but I owe it to you personally and I'll do it.'

"I called the council to order again, ordered the roll called again and seven men voted aye. The resolution had passed.

"I have been in many a hard fought political battle; I have won some and lost others, but in all my life I never felt so bitterly disappointed as when that vote stood 6 to 1, and never have I so glorified over a victory as when it finally stood 7 to 0.

"One great shout of victory went up from the assembled audience. The fight was over; the park was an accomplished fact."

Krueger named the first park board, had the lakefront area graded, and solicited help of common citizens and influential industrialists in the establishment of the park. While citizens were planting saplings, industrialists were paying for erection of a monument, peristyle and bandstand.

Krueger's song

It's clear that Martin T. Krueger was a better politician and attorney than he was a poet, but the song he wrote for Michigan City reflects the deep feeling he had for his community. It was entitled The City by the Lake. Its words:

There's a city by the lake

That is bright and wide awake!

Michigan City, Indiana!

You can travel up and down

And not find a better town

Than Michigan City, Indiana!

Michigan City

Hurrah, folks, hurray!

Strong in December

And full of pep in May

And the water's always fine

In the good old summertime

In Michigan City, Indiana!

Krueger's resourcefulness came to the fore again when money was not available for the establishment of an adequate water department here. In 1899, he organized a stock company of wealthy citizens who built the water plant and turned it over to the city on terms it could easily meet.

The immigrant mayor was passionately patriotic and dedicated to his adopted land.

On Feb. 3, 1917 - the day on which President Woodrow Wilson severed diplomatic relations with Germany - Krueger was a speaker at the annual Elks banquet in Chicago.

His stirring speech brought the audience to its feet, drew editorial praise in the Chicago Herald and other publications, and was reprinted in many newspapers all over the country. An excerpt from that address:

"...In this great republic where men are judged largely by what they know and what they can do, he (the immigrant) is welcome only if he will sincerely seek to make the most and the best of established conditions which he finds here, and will prepare himself honestly and diligently for the great responsibility of American citizenship.

"He is welcome to every blessing that flows from the fountain of free and popular government, but he must not muddy the water for others after he has drunk his fill. That is the price. If he cannot pay it, let him go back and tell those he left behind that although this country may be a melting pot, it is by no means a garbage can."

Krueger's wit was demonstrated in a full speech which he delivered to Rotary Club in 1928 on the subject of the groundhog. He was an ecologist - a fact demonstrated by his act to preserve the lakefront, by his gift of the unspoiled Memorial Park forest preserve to the city, and by a speech he made in 1926 on the topic of trees and conservation. And he was a proud community booster - as evidenced by these concluding words of a speech to the Michigan City Rotary and Lions clubs at the Spaulding Hotel in 1929, on the subject of his 65 years in Michigan City:

"Such are some of my impressions of old Michigan City, as I knew it more than half a century ago. What it is today you know as well as I do. With great wisdom and foresight she was the first Indiana city to beckon to herself the great commerce of the inland seas and provide for it harbor of trade and refuge.

She was the first Indiana city to seek and obtain legislative authority to acquire and improve land for public park purposes and to use that authority to possess for her people nearly a mile of lakefront and the most picturesque and lofty mountain of sand on the lakeshore; a worthy monument to her foresight and a priceless heritage for the present and future generations.

Such is Michigan City: There she stands, behold her. What opportunities are ours to make her indeed a model and master city. Not alone to excel in commerce, industry and good citizenship, but to dominate by a lofty and aspiring soul and place herself by the side of the best and fairest cities of our state."

That was Martin T. Krueger - a self-made man who said what he thought in plain terms.

MOMENTS TO REMEMBER was written by Bob Kaser. Information used in the articles came from files of The News-Dispatch and from historical material compiled by Edna Kitchell, Michigan City historian.

A Boy's Encounter With History 

'In Utter Awe, He Stood and Stared'

It was raining in Michigan City on May 1, 1865. But boys, like flowers, thrive on rain. And 10-year-old Martin was no exception. He and his buddies all had been born in Germany and, with their parents, emigrated to the United States. Although in this country only a half-year, the boys had found summer jobs helping farmers plant potatoes.

This first day of May, they were puddle-jumping their way to one of the farms and were about a mile outside Michigan City when they were stopped short by the sound of cannons booming.

Boys don't always keep too well-posted on current events, least of all boys who are in a new country where they neither speak nor read the language. So, to Martin, there was only one likely explanation for the booms:

"The Confederates are attacking Michigan City!"

Like Martin, his friends were not aware the Civil War had ended. They accepted his explanation and joined him in typical boyish reaction to the "danger." They ran right for it.

To their probable chagrin, there were no grey-coated soldiers advancing along Franklin Street. Instead, there were hundreds of somber, but obviously excited, local citizens dressed in their Sunday finest. Martin and his pals followed the crowd - and found themselves at the Michigan Central railroad station.

There, to the boys puzzlement, people were patiently waiting in a long line to board a Monon train halted beneath successions of evergreen-decorated arches which had not been there the last time the boys came to the north end of town.

A curious boy is as restless as a chainsmoker at a double-feature. The only solution, obviously, was to board the train and seek out the cause of the excitement. So Martin got in line. When he reached the steps of the railroad car and started to ascend them, he was rebuffed by a uniformed guard. "No kids allowed without parents," he was told.

Now, telling a 10-year-old boy to stay out of somewhere is about as effective as asking a Soviet politician to cross his heart. A few moments later an elderly couple boarded the train. The woman wore a huge hoop skirt which, unknown to her, concealed a little boy. Once on the train, Martin emerged from his hiding place and trailed closely behind the couple. To the officials they passed, he was evidently their son. Finally, after moments of suspenseful expectation, Martin came upon the source of the excitement.

He was just 10 years old and only six months in America, but Martin was immediately aware of the significant sight before him. In utter awe, he stood and stared - and held up the long line of people. Then the spell was broken effectively--Martin was grabbed by the seat of the pants and the collar, marched forcefully to the end of the train, and dumped into a sandburr patch. As the little German immigrant glared back at the soldier on the train platform, he could little guess the events his future held in store.

But years later, when Martin Theodore Krueger grew up and served six terms as mayor of Michigan City and four terms as a state legislator, it's highly likely that his thoughts often returned to that day - May 1, 1865 - when the train carrying the body of President Abraham Lincoln paused here on its 1,662 mile journey from Washington to Springfield, Illinois.

THE MAKING OF A COMMUNITY was written by Elwin G. Greening, editor of The News-Dispatch. Information for the manuscript came basically from four historical volumes -- The History of Michigan City, by Rollo B. Oglesbee and Albert Hale; The History of LaPorte County, Indiana, by Jasper Packard; Michigan City's First Hundred Years, by Elizabeth M. Munger, and Indiana, Vol. I, by Charles Roll and from the files of The News-Dispatch.
...The present Elston Junior High School building was constructed in 1912 and the high school was transferred to it from Central upon its completion. Then, in 1925, when the high school building became too crowded, the present Elston Senior High School was built and it became the high school. The former high school building then became a junior high school. An athletic field named for long-time Coach Andy Gill, an auditorium-type gymnasium which replaced the old frame barn in the mid-30s, and an occupations building constructed in 1968 round out the Elston Senior-Junior High School complex. A second junior high school, Barker Junior High School, named for John H. Barker, opened in 1961 and a third, the Krueger Junior High School, named for Martin T. Krueger, opened in 1964. A second public high school - Rogers High School, named for Dr. J.B. Rogers, who had practiced medicine here for many years- was opened in 1971. Michigan City's public schools counted 2,000 pupils in 1880 and 3,000 in 1907. Today's enrollment is just under 12,000. The first parochial school on record was that of St. Mary's Catholic Church, in 1867. St. Paul opened its school in 1876, St. John's in 1882 and St. Stanislaus in 1891. St. John's school was closed in 1919.

Today, Michigan City has two public high schools--Elston and Rogers; three junior high schools - Elston, Barker and Krueger, and 11 elementary schools - Central, Eastport, Edgewood, Jefferson, Joy, Knapp, Marsh, Mullen, Niemann, Park and Riley...

...Willis Peck was the first mayor of Michigan City, having been elected on April 12, 1836. Samuel Miller was the second mayor. Mayors served one-year terms until 1859, when two-year terms were instituted. Four-year terms came into being in 1894. John Francis was elected mayor 10 times and served 9 years between the years 1844 and 1852. Charles Palmer served four one-year terms in the 1850s and H. H. Walker was elected to four consecutive two-year terms from 1865 to 1873. Martin T. Krueger was a six-term mayor, although not for consecutive terms. He served 17 years and seven months in all. John H. Barker served a two-year term as mayor in 1897 and 1880. The mayor-council form of government continued uninterrupted until 1921, when the electorate adopted the commission-manager form of government in the belief that it would help to prevent undue political influence and to reduce graft. Michigan City fared well under this form of government but in 1927 the Indiana Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional and required a return to the mayor-council arrangement. The mayor-council form of government remains today...

...Washington Park came about through the vision of Martin T. Krueger, and a dream he had cherished for years. During the first of his four terms as mayor, he argued in 1890 until he got the original Franklin Street Bridge built, talked friends in the legislature into passing an enabling act in 1891, and cajoled city council members into buying the land for a park later the same year. The 107 different lots and parcels within the park's boundaries cost the city less than $10,000...

...The second decade of the 1900s was principally one of war and industrial decline for the community. Organized on July 20, 1915, Michigan City's National Guard Co. "G" was just a few months old when Pancho Villa, the Mexican revolutionist, provoked an international crisis by killing 17 persons in a raid on Columbus, N.M., on March 9, 1916 in the furor that followed, President Woodrow Wilson sent federal troops after Villa and ordered National Guard units into the southwest to back them up. Co. "G" was among these back-up units and its members spent eight months in Texas. They arrived home on March 14, 1917. Meanwhile, World War I had begun in Europe and within 3 weeks, on April 6, 1917, the United States declared war on Germany. Co. "G," by reason of its service on the Mexican border, was one of the early National Guard units called. Its men were mobilized again on Aug. 5, 1917, and left for France on Sept. 17 of that year. More than 2,000 Michigan City men registered for World War I service before the fighting ended. Twenty-six young men of Polish descent, meanwhile, joined the Polish Army with the Allies in France. People back home subscribed more than $3 million in five Liberty Loan Drives and war stamp drives in addition to donating $48,000 for united war work for servicemen and their families. When the war ended, Martin T. Krueger donated a tract of woods on the east side to be known as Memorial Park in honor of the 19 Michigan City men who gave their lives during the conflict...