Sunday, January 30, 2022
Have Gun Will Travel - or - Lefty Goes Home to His Maker
Shelbyville native Richard Wetnight is a gunsmith who has been making fine muzzle loading guns for many years. Rich, as he is known to his friends, grew up in Shelbyville in what now seems like primitive times. With no imaginary Pokémon characters to capture on his iPhone or YouTube videos to watch, he spent his spare time hanging around the old-timers of the day. One of those old-timers was my grandfather, Brady Meltzer.
Brady was born in 1886 in a small frame house still located behind the large brick house on the north end of Meltzer woods. Brady was a muzzle loading gun enthusiast. The hobby of shooting muzzle loading guns was very popular in Shelby County at the time. The National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association headquarters was in Shelbyville until 1966. Muzzle Blasts is the official magazine published monthly by the association.
Rich, who now lives in Arizona, contacted me several months ago. He had a copy of an issue of Muzzle Blasts from the 1960s with Brady on the cover. The issue featured a story about my grandfather written by Bob Tingle. Tingle was a well-known local gunsmith who had a machine shop on East 44 in the current location of the American Legion. Rich offered to give me his copy of the magazine. I told Rich that Steve McDaniel had given me a copy several years ago, but I appreciated his offer.
Jeff Linder stopped by for a visit last week. Most of you probably know Jeff. He is a local lawyer and our former prosecutor and state representative. Jeff and his wife, Pam, a former teacher at Waldron, have retired to Florida. He said they have decided to live in Florida full time.
Jeff brought me several things that he decided not to take to Florida. One of the items he knew I would appreciate is a left-handed flintlock muzzle loading rifle that had been given to him by Judge George Tolen. Judge Tolen passed away years ago.
Judge Tolen was known for being opinionated, stubborn, bull-headed, and sometimes unreasonable. At least that was his reputation among his friends. Tolen once banned defense attorney Vance McQueen from practicing in his court for 90 days. An order that was later reversed by the Indiana Supreme Court. Tolen played no favorites. He wasn’t just tough on defense lawyers. He once gave prosecutor Jerry Lux the choice of taking part in picking a special judge or going to jail. Tolen once famously ordered the county commissioners to give his court staff a raise.
Judge Tolen was also a great storyteller and a friend of mine. It felt like Christmas morning as I examined George’s flintlock. It brought back great memories of times spent with Tolen. And then, I saw the lettering on the barrel, R. Wetnight. I realized I knew the gun’s maker.
Rich remembers making the gun for Judge Tolen. It was in the late 60s or early 70s. Rich was working for Morris Van Way at the time.
Van Way was also a muzzle loading gun enthusiast. Tolen, Van Way, and Rich all were members of the gun club formed by my grandfather, Brady, and known as Meltzer’s Muzzleers. Shoots were held regularly at Brady’s farm. George saw a rifle Rich had made for Van Way and commissioned one for himself. The fact that Van Way owned a Wetnight flintlock no doubt added to the attraction for Tolen.
Morris Van Way was a living legend. He was a genius inventor. His shop was in the tri-cornered brick building on the corner of Harrison and 1st streets. The building still exists and is the current site of Buck’s Plumbing. Several years ago, Van Way was featured in an exhibit at the Indiana State Museum.
Rich remembers working most of the summer on the gun. He remembers presenting the gun to Tolen along with the invoice for $350. Tolen said, “What? I thought it would be a lot less.” Of course, Tolen realized he was getting a good deal. Rich’s price went up to $450 on the next gun he made.
Rich said the flintlock he made for Tolen all those years ago ended up being the only left-handed rifle he ever made. He still has a photo of the gun (see below). He keeps a photo of every gun he makes.
Soon Rich will have more than just a photo. I have arranged to ship the gun to Arizona. Like my grandpa Brady, all the old-timers who were in Meltzer’s Muzzleers are long gone. Rich, now an old-timer himself, has fond memories from that summer long ago when he made the gun for Tolen.
As Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”
Editor's Note: Meltzer mentions the time Judge Tolen ordered a pay raise for his court staff. Below is Dee Bonner's cartoon from that incident.
State Rep. Sean Eberhart will not seek re-election, he confirmed to The Addison Times yesterday. Eberhart is in his 16th year in the State House of Representatives, District 57, following 8 years on the Shelby County Council. “Twenty-four straight years,” he said. “That’s a good run.” The new Indiana House map, completed October 2021 following the redistricting process, increased the number of counties that are wholly contained within one House district from 26 to 32, but Shelby County is not one of them. Although Eberhart’s current district includes all of Shelby County, as well as portions of Bartholomew County and southern Hancock County, redistricting has carved Shelby County into three districts. Population decreases to the east of Shelby County caused districts to creep westward. The new District 73 includes most of Shelbyville and townships to the south and west, including portions of neighboring counties. Bob Carmony, Jennifer Meltzer and Matt Miller have filed to run for the Republican nomination so far. District 54 includes Hanover Township in Shelby County. Local resident Melissa Meltzer is running in that contested Republican primary. And District 47 covers the City of Franklin in Johnson County and east and north townships in Shelby County, including Eberhart’s residence. Republican Rep. John Young, of Franklin, has filed for re-election in that contested race. The filing deadline for candidates is next week.
Local real estate broker Mona Spalding passed away yesterday morning, her husband, Dan Spalding, announced on social media. “After a long battle with cancer, she came home on December 14th with Hospice Care,” he wrote. “We were blessed to celebrate Christmas, time with family, and the marriage of our daughter and son-in-law. It was a short amount of time, and we thank God for every extra second. Thank you to everyone that has comforted us on this journey. We can’t thank you enough for the delicious food, shoulder to cry on and all of the kind words.” Mona Spalding opened In-Sight Realty, 46 E. Washington St., Shelbyville, in August 2011.
Caden Sheaffer and Kiara Heagy were named Waldron High School homecoming king and queen last night before the Waldron boys basketball team (10-6) defeated Rising Sun, 73-58. Lucas Mitchell scored 25, Bryce Yarling added 20 and Bryant Becker scored 19. It’s the Mohawks’ first 10-win season since 2014-15.
Shelbyville High School junior Cael Lux was runner-up in wrestling sectionals yesterday. He advances to regional action next week. The Triton Central Tigers advanced six wrestlers to regionals: Ayden Nufio, Dayne Bailey, Jaden Ferris, Tristan Gibbons, Lucas Kleeman and Hadyn Ball.
The SHS Golden Bear boys basketball team defeated South Ripley, 48-46, last night behind Oliver Sandman’s 24 points. Southwestern’s varsity boys defeated Herron, 73-40. Triton Central lost to South Decatur, 72-64.
Shelby County’s non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rate for December fell to 1.1%, down from 1.8% in November. The state non-seasonally adjusted average was 1.3%.
HOOSIER NEWS: Indiana’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell from 3% in November to 2.7% in December—a record low for the state dating back to 1976, according to the Indiana Department of Workforce Development (DWD).
MORE HOOSIER NEWS: The Ports of Indiana handled more than 11.2 million tons of cargo in 2021, by the ports in Burns Harbor and Jeffersonville achieving their highest shipment totals to date The state total represents a 33.6 percent increase from 2020; and the past five years’ shipments (2017-21), including the hard-hit pandemic year of 2020, have totaled more than 58.7 million tons, setting a new five-year high for all three ports, according to the Ports of Indiana. Major cargo increases in 2021 for the Ports of Indiana overall included a rebound in coal (213 percent), salt (141 percent), steel (40 percent), grain (39 percent), minerals (23 percent), oils (21 percent) and limestone (20 percent). Additional increases included coke and project cargo such as wind turbines. (LaPorte County Herald-Dispatch)
The Shelbyville Middle School 8th grade boys basketball team claimed the four-way tourney championship at Greensburg yesterday. Team members are (L to R, front row) Mylez Clark, Caden Claxton, Logan Reinhart, Aiden Smith and Brody Runnebohm; (L to R, back row) Nicholas Fischer, Carter Dunagan, Donavon Martin, Cole Schene, Jack West and Gavin Reed. The team’s coaches are Brady Claxton and Bryan Fischer. | submitted
This Week in Shelby County" works by George L. Stubbs Sr. are owned by the Shelby County Historical Society (Grover Center) and used with permission.
THIS DAY IN SHELBY COUNTY HISTORY
News around Shelbyville and the surrounding area as reported on or about this date in history. Selections are curated from the Shelby County Public Library Genealogy Department.
20 YEARS AGO: 2002
Linda Yeager won big prizes on the 30th anniversary show of “The Price is Right” in Las Vegas. Her husband, Byron, 68, was a “Price is Right” fanatic. Since his retirement six years prior, he watched every day, writing all the item prices down on yellow legal pads and comparing them with previous months’ figures. Linda won a 10-foot sailboat and a brand-new Wurlitzer jukebox. Linda planned to put the jukebox in her beauty salon and someday give it to her only grandson, Sean, who was just one year old. The sailboat was a bigger dilemma. “I don’t even swim,” she said. “I have no intention of getting on a boat.” Editor’s note: Byron has since passed away. Linda (Phares) is a friend of Addison Times staff member Anna Tungate. Below is a photo of mementos from that day on the game show.
30 YEARS AGO: 1992
Small, white crosses on the grounds of McKay Road Baptist Church to protest abortion were stolen and vandalized. About 100 of the crosses were found behind the church, 100 W. McKay Road, and others were found near a county road. Some of the crosses were run over with a vehicle.
40 YEARS AGO: 1982
The City purchased new Mack garbage trucks.
The Shelby County Bar Assocation expressed its approval of the Governor’s appointment of Shelbyville attorney Charles D. O’Connor as judge of Shelby Circuit Court. Jerry Lux was president of the bar association. O’Connor would fill the remaining one year of Circuit Court Judge Robert Ellison’s term, who announced his retirement for health reasons, effective March 5.
Atari games were stocked at Bill Becom’s store on Public Square.
50 YEARS AGO: 1972
Carl Robert Garrison, 59, a barber in St. Paul for the previous 12 years, died. He had moved his business to St. Paul from Indianapolis in 1959.
60 YEARS AGO: 1962
A gavel and block made from wood salvaged from the Walkerville Bridge were presented to Circuit Judge Harold G. Barger by a representative of the family which constructed the old covered bridge in 1892. Karl Kennedy, 13 N. Tompkins St., presented the gifts to the judge during a meeting of the Shelby County Bar Association in the circuit courtroom. Kennedy reported that both his father, who built the Walkerville bridge, and his grandfather were in the bridge construction business near the turn of the century. County Commissioners had approved the Burr Truss wooden bridge over Little Blue River to be built on Dec. 23, 1891. The bridge was 156 feet long with a roadway 18 feet in width. Walkways on either side were five feet wide. On Oct. 21, 1958, the board of works and county officials approved a contract for a new bridge. Some of the pine timbers from the old bridge had been saved by Kennedy and made into commemorative gavels. The Kennedy firm had built about 55 bridges in southern Indiana, with the last built in Wayne County in 1918.
Fred Brantford, well-known local chef, reopened his short order restaurant, “Freddie’s Place,” at 810 Alpine St. The restaurant featured baked ham, barbecued ham, chicken and hamburgers.
70 YEARS AGO: 1952
Shelbyville superintendent of schools W.F. Loper asked parents to send children to school no more than 20 minutes early. Loper said many children were arriving too early and standing outside.
80 YEARS AGO: 1942
Mayor Ed Shook and Sheriff Len Worland announced local defense measures were in place in the event of attack during the war. Worland said security measures were set to protect all county elevators, which contained “vast stores of corn and wheat.” Air-raid wardens were also selected and sworn in. Red Cross workers had been trained to respond and Boy Scouts would report to City Hall to act as messengers in the event of emergency.
90 YEARS AGO: 1932
The Floyd and Griffey Electrical Goods store opened a complete radio servicing department. David Robins, a former Crosley Radio Corp. employee and graduate of the R.C.A. Institute, was named manager of the department.
Carney Hatcheries announced that of the 5,000 chicks they had recently shipped to Long Island, N.Y., only 12 died on the journey. It was said to be the largest shipment of the kind ever sent through the local and Indianapolis post offices.
100 YEARS AGO: 1922
A large crowd attended an ice skating party at Freeport on the mill pond.
Two Rush County men were arrested by Sheriff Ray Sexton for attempting to hold up and rob Hayes Marshall, owner of a general store in Blue Ridge. Marshall had fired five shots at the two men and wounded them both. The men fired one shot at Marshall, which struck a flashlight he was carrying. The men blamed the incident on their intoxicated state, the Sheriff said.
Barbara J. McIntire Weston, 64, of Greensburg, passed away Friday, January 28, 2022 at OUR Hospice Inpatient Facility. Born May 7, 1957 in Shelbyville, she was the daughter of Allen L. McIntire and Janice (Davis) McIntire. She married Paul Weston on October 7, 2017, and he survives. Other survivors include her father of Waldron; three sons, Aaron Boggs (wife Amber) of Knightstown, Jonathon Boggs (wife Amy) of Shelbyville, and Benjamin Boggs of Shelbyville; step-son Mike Weston (wife Kristina) of Greensburg; four brothers, Jerry McIntire (wife Beverly) of Shelbyville, Roger McIntire (wife Brenda) of Waldron, Darin McIntire (wife Roxanne) of Shelbyville, Rodney McIntire (wife Rachel) of Waldron; six grandchildren, Adeline, Annalee, Amelia, Kaitlyn, Jared, and Emily; one great-grandchild, Gray; and two step-grandchildren, Shelby and Shaylee. She was preceded in death by her mother, Janice.
Barbara was a lifelong resident of this area and graduated from Waldron High School in 1975. She was a member of Lifeline Wesleyan Church in Greensburg, Greensburg Lion's Club, NBBA Beep Baseball of Indianapolis, and the Shelbyville Community Choir. She was office manager for Indiana American Water Co. for eight years and had previously worked at Roll Coater Inc. in Greenfield for 20 years.
Barbara enjoyed vacationing at the beach, singing in the choir, keeping score for Beep Ball Baseball, and attending church functions and activities.
Funeral services will be 10 a.m. on Thursday, February 3, 2022 at Lifeline Wesleyan Church, 2002 Moscow Road, Greensburg, Indiana with Pastor Nathan Muncie officiating. Burial will be in Second Mount Pleasant Cemetery in Johnson County. Friends may call on Wednesday evening, February 2, 2022, at Glenn E. George and Son Funeral Home, 437 Amos Road, Shelbyville, from 4 p.m. until 8 p.m. Memorial contributions can be made to Lifeline Wesleyan Church, 2002 Moscow Rd., Greensburg, IN 47240. Online condolences may be shared at glennegeorgeandson.com.
Kenneth Stephen Mohr, 77, of Indianapolis, formerly of Shelbyville, passed away Saturday, January 29, 2022, at his daughter’s home. He was born April 11, 1944, in Shelbyville, the son of Kenneth L. Mohr and Lois Mae (Shadley) Grimes. Kenneth is survived by his daughters, Sonja Clark and Nicole Eslinger, both of Indianapolis; sister, Milly Debaun and husband, Tom, of Waldron; brother, Joe Mohr and wife, Katie, of Wilmette, Illinois; grandchildren, Jacob Eslinger, Lucas Eslinger, Thomas Clark, Benjamin Clark and Vivian Clark; nephew, Scott Debaun; and niece, Sarah Dagley. He also leaves behind his dog, Abby. He was preceded in death by his parents.
Kenneth graduated in 1962 from Shelbyville High School, and received his master’s degree from Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. He enjoyed reading and going hunting and fishing. Kenneth loved to spend time with his girls and grandchildren.
A Celebration of Kenneth’s life will be held at a later date on Lake Michigan. Services have been entrusted to Freeman Family Funeral Homes and Crematory, 819 S. Harrison St. in Shelbyville. Memorial contributions may be made to Christian Theological Seminary, 1000 w. 42nd St., Indianapolis, Indiana 46208. Online condolences may be shared with Kenneth’s family at www.freemanfamilyfuneralhomes.com.
Crystal M. Whyde, 33, of Shelbyville passed away Sunday, January 23, 2022 at her residence. She was born March 4, 1988 in Indianapolis to Augusta Cox.
Crystal loved to do landscaping.
She is survived by her daughter, Sophia Rubio, her brothers, Daniel Cox and Larry Whyde, her aunt, Linda Moody, and several nieces and nephews. She was preceded in death by her mother.
Funeral services will be held at Murphy-Parks Funeral Services next week, (Date and time to be posted soon.) Burial will be in Whispering Hope Memorial Gardens and Crematory. Funeral Directors Greg Parks, Sheila Parks, and Stuart Parks are honored to serve Crystal's family. Online condolences may be shared at www.murphyparks.com. Memorial contributions to help the family with funeral expenses may be made by clicking the donation tab above or calling Murphy-Parks Funeral Service at 317-398-6697.