Lake Maxinkuckee Its Intrigue History & Genealogy Culver, Marshall, Indiana

Assemby Account  

An account of the Assemby is found in One Towships Yesterday's as follows:

The groves were God's first temples...
...Grandeur, strength, and grace
Are here to speak of Thee..."
- William Cullen Bryant

LAKE MAXINKUCKEE CHAUTAUQUA ASSEMBLY was established in the year 1899. It occupied a tract of elevated ground, then adjoining the town of Culver on its southern boundary, but now well within the limits of the community. Covering an area of twenty-six acres, it was admirably situated for an assembly ground. It possessed the natural advantages of a beautiful oak grove, high and undulating surface, and freedom from stagnant pools and marsh­land, which at the time was effectively used as publicity because such conditions "insured against malaria and mosquito pests."

The Assembly had its own steamer pier, bathing beach and railroad station at the very gates of the grounds. The railroad company advertised transportation right to "Maxinkuckee Park. ­ The excursion rates were inviting, and many were the passengers alighting from the trains that "'stopped at the Assembly." A post office was maintained on the grounds in 1905, also long distance telephone service. These accommodations were up-to-date for that period.

There were a number of cottages, a good hotel for over one hundred guests, a large tabernacle, croquet and tennis grounds and other forms of convenience and pleasure.

The institution was under the control of lay members of the Christian church, but was in every way broad and non-sectarian in its program, privileges and public exercises. It was known as the "Maxinkuckee Assembly of the Christian Church." This Assembly, according to C. I. Ferrier, was started similar to the 'Bethany Chautauqua at Bethany, southwest of Indianapolis.’

The tabernacle was a commodious structure of frame, open at the sides, situated in the midst of the oak grove. In the area beneath the trees, tents were pitched, and many campers enjoyed the freedom of "life in the open" during the Chautauqua season. When the Vandalia trains, in July, 1905, began to make regular stops at the Park gate, every train brought a crowd of visitors. All the cottages were rented. There were tents for those who camped, enough of them on the grounds, all occupied, to make a miniature white city. Large delegations from Terre Haute tented on the grounds. There were parties of campers from Crawfordsville, Franklin, Elwood, Logansport and other places. Family reunions were a common occurrence at the Assembly grounds, and many picnics, the joys of which will remain long in memory, were held there.

The Assembly was known as a refined summer resort, which combined educational features with elevating entertainment and clean amusement. A summer school was established with classes in such subjects as theology, history, literature, public speaking and physical culture. The best platform talent was engaged. Lecturers, readers, singers and musical organizations. with occasional novelties usual to such assemblies were daily features. The annual program drew patrons from afar and the fame of the Assembly spread over a wide territory.

"Passion Week in Jerusalem," an oratorio, figured in the Assembly program in 1905. To quote, "it was given complete and with all the circumstances that fully developed this great construction, such as fine scenery, brilliant costumes, calcium light in various colors, and with the best histrionic and musical talent."

The oratorio was given in three parts: First, "The Crucifixion," in which "the person of Christ, from the time of the institution of the 'Lord's Supper' to the en­tombment, is represented by stereopticon views of the great Christological paintings of the world." Second, "The Sepulcher, "in which part appeared living characters, representing the three Marys, Procla (Pilate's wife), Joseph, Nicodemus two Jewish priests, Caiphas, Pontius Pilate, Centurion and Roman soldiers, three angels and a transparency representing the tomb of Christ. Third, "The First Easter Dawn;" was made especially joyous, beau­tiful and impressive by the ap­pearance of the Marys, with the angels, at the illuminated tomb, and the penaence of the entire body of singers in the grand chorus.

A description of the oratorio, written for the "art annual" of 1905 by Rev. George R. Streeter, pastor of the Culver M. E. Church, gives a comprehensive idea of the talents and performance of those who took part:

"Happily for the better rendition of the piece, the character representatives were among the ablest the town afforded. Miss Ethel C. Streeter presented the character of Procla in a manner that showed the character of this woman, of whom but little is said in history, but of whom much that is truly great might be left in justice upon the historic page. Procla was, undoubtedly, a true friend of Christ.

"In a very effective, but quite faultless, manner, Miss Streeter effected the living personality of Mary of Magdala, the queen among women of constancy. There is not a more beautiful character, the Virgin Mother excepted, in the Bible, than the woman, ‘last at the cross and first at the tomb.’

"On this occasion the Virgin Mother was personated by Mrs. C. D. Behmer. Mrs. Behmer is a Christian mother, is quite com­manding in appearance and has a fine contralto voice. This is a difficult and delicate role to fill, but on this occasion the character was fully and charmingly represented.

"Mary, of Cleopas, by Miss Minnie Shilling, as in the Bible, was strong and effectively characterized.

"The angels, Misses Mertie Medbourn, Jennie Keen and Clara Wiseman, appeared and acted as we suppose the angels did on that eventful ‘morn of the resurrec­tion,’ as nearly to the fact as it is possible for ordinary mortals.

"Mr. Chester Zechiel effected the character of Joseph of Arimathea. Mr. Zechiel is a fine tenor singer and has talent as a dramatist. His characterization would satisfy the most severe critic.

"The meeting of Pontius Pilate (Dr. B. W. S. Wiseman) and Caiphas (Mr. Henry Stahl) was intense and dramatic after the first order. Dr. Wiseman possesses rare talent as a speaker and is capable of a high order of dramatic action. He was at his best on this occasion. Mr. Stahl has ability to make a character speak in full development.

"In the drama of the piece Mr. Edwin Zechiel appeared ably and to the effective purpose as the Centurion in the great tragedy, as did also his command of the Roman guard-Messrs. Levi Osborn, Harry Medbourn, Clyde Wiseman and Harry Menser. In the costume of the Roman soldier these soldiers made a magnificent appearance.

"There was not a harder or more effective worker in the entire cast of characters than Mr. Frank C. Baker as a Jewish priest. He brought out the varied and conflicting emotions under which the Jewish priests were being pressed. . . . Mr. Baker had a very difficult part to perform. He did it well.

"Misses Susie Shilling, Allie Wiseman and Clara Shilling revealed the life and times of the Roman world in the time of Christ, as was manifested by the Romans in the distant provinces of the great empire.

"Mrs. S. E. Buswell and her daughter Elsie made themselves indispensable in the quartettes and choruses."

Miss Lueretia Rea was the pianist. Equally skillful on the piano and organ, her ability was taxed however to some degree to render the variety there was in the oratorio.

"Prof. Eli Miller, president of the Chautauqua assembly, was much in evidence, because of his skillful management of the choruses and the part he took in the rendition of the oratorio.

"There was no more indispensable operator than Capt. H. F. Noble, who gave the panoramic representation and managed the calcium light for the stage and tableaux."

"Maxinkuckee" was the title of a popular song of Assembly days. With the intention of popularizing the Maxinkuckee Assembly through the medium of song, Frank C. Huston put his composing skill to a test and soon turned out both words and music of "Maxinkuckee." Huston was secretary of the Assembly in 1905. He was versatile: business man, preacher, composer, singer and poet. He was known as a popular soloist and an evangelist singer of national reputation among the Church of Christ. He had been associated with the largest meet­ings held in the Brotherhood.

Perhaps we, today, can imagine that old Assembly ground, now so silent, coming to life. again. Perhaps we can hear voices out of the, past, as the lanterns swing gently in the breezes of night-fall and the canoes drift lazily on the bosom of the lake. Perhaps we may catch the words of the song:

        The poets sing of the Emerald Isle,
        With waters entrancingly fair:
        And Switzerland boasts of her Gem of the Alps,
        Resplendent with beauty so rare,
        Though over and over the world I go,
        There's beauty on every hand I know,
        And countless joys to be found, but, Oh!
        'Tis Fair Maxinkuckee for me.

        Oh! Let us go boating,
        Go merrily floating,
        Over the crystal wave we'll glide and from care be free.
        Oh! Here is a treasure,
        Here's joy without measure,
        I am so lucky, and Fair Maxinkuc­kee's the place for me.
        The miser may joy in the glitter of gold,
        The golfer may dote on his tee,
        The chauffeur may boast of the speed of the wind,
        ­All these have their pleasure, I see.
        But, give me a boat in the flowing breeze,
        Or grant me the shade of the spreading trees,
        Or, catching fish with de­lightful ease
        On Fair Maxinkuckee for me.
        All Cleveland may boast of her big millionaires,
        And Boston her culture and beans,
        And Washington talk of her beau­tiful streets,
        New York her society queens,
        But, aye, 'tis the beauty so grandly rare,
        And beautiful lillies beyond compare,
        Of Fair Maxinkuckee for me.
"Queen Esther" was doubtless the outstanding feature of the Assembly program for the especially successful ninth session of the Chautauqua that of 1905. This cantata had also been given during the latter part of the 1904 season, in mid-September, and had been repeated before the closing of the Assembly for that year.

"This beautiful and wonderful oratorio, unequalled and never to be surpassed musical production," ran the advance announcement of the 1904 rendition, "will be given in Culver, Sept. 15th, in the Assembly Auditorium under the direction of Prof. Miller, of South Bend, assisted by sixty or more of the best musicians of the town and country. The entire cast of the oratorio will be without reduction. The entire company will be in costume finely and beautifully representing the magnificent court of King Ahasnerus of the Medo-Persian empire."

Considerable interest was aroused. People were urged to read the book of Esther, or to reread it. A lecture on Queen Esther and King Ahasnerus was given at the Methodist Church on a Sunday evening preceding the Assembly performance. Professor Miller, who was then busy preparing the oratorio for the public hearing, with a large portion of the company of singers, rendered a number of selections from the oratorio.

"A Chautauqua assembly without Queen Esther would be Richard the Third with Richard left out," read a contemporary description of the 1905 production. Prof. Eli Miller had again been summoned to conduct the cantata, a popular musical production of the day. Besides conducting, he, took the part of the king.

Miss Mertie Medbourn, pianist, played four times for the cantata. Miss Ethel Caroline Streeter sang the part of Queen Esther during each of the four renditions. Chester Zechiel, tenor, took the role of "Mordecai, the Jew." "Zerish" was well sung, nobly acted and faithfully represented by Mrs. C. D. Behmer, who did not sing, however, the last time the cantata was given. A lady from Flora, Indiana, took the part. Henry Stahl, as "Hamon," did justice to the character. Sixty or more performers, actors and musicians contributed to the success of "Queen Esther," which, to this day, is the most frequently mentioned and often recalled of all Assembly events.

In early June, '05, the directors of the reorganized Maxinkuckee Assembly met at the office of the secretary, Mr. Huston, in Indianapolis. Plans were outlined. Surveyors were to plat additional lots for cottages on the association's grounds, and there were, to be some winding walks and touches added by a skilled landscape gardener.

It was announced that six Philippino youths, who were being educated in the Manual Training High School of Indianapolis, were likely to come to Lake Maxinkuckee for their outing, and "probably our citizens will have an opportunity to get acquainted with these bright-eyed, intelligent little men, who are already loyal sons of Uncle Sam." Their presence at the Assembly would be quite a novelty.

There was "one continued round of attractions" at the Assembly during the summer of 1905, the sixth annual session. H. G. Hill was general manager. The program included Prof. Reno B. Welbourn, "Wizard of Electricity"; Hon. Frank Regan, chalk talker and cartoonist; the Barnard and Harrington orchestras, which were to be on the grounds almost the whole season; a company of seven colored jubilee singers; the Gibsou-Trotter-Wagner trio of young woman artists; and Dr. Samuel Sellers with his moving pictures, who was "said to have one of the best outfits and to be one of the best operators in his line."

On patriotic day, Hon. James Watson was the orator. He was "reputed and acknowledged the most, eloquent member of congress."

There were others: readers, singers, musicians, lecturers, entertainers and artists.

Said Mr. Hill, declaring the Assembly grounds the best natural location he has ever seen: "God had already done a great deal for this place; if we do ours it will be equal to any Assembly in the United States."

Later the manager secured the Indianapolis Lyric Orchestra of fourteen pieces for a lengthy engagement. A third orchestra was to be contracted.

There was a galaxy of talent: The Trio concert company; Prof. S. I. Conner, reader; Rev. S. W. Summer, lecturer; E. J. Sias, monologist.

On the day designated as "Watson day" Congressman James E. Watson delivered the patriotic address. The same day there were aquatic sports, a naval demonstration and a sham battle by the cadets of the Culver Naval School. In the evening, Dr. D. B. Lucas, department commander of the Indiana G. A. R., spoke. A water carnival, with a boat and lantern parade and fireworks, followed.

The Sabbath was marked by a special program, such as: Plays by the Dramatic Company; Bible School, T. J. Legg, superintendent; Morning Worship and Sermon; Sacred Concert; entertainment; and a Cantata by the Assembly chorus, Prof. Miller, director.

The W. C. T. U. Day program included Temperance Pledge and Sunday Schools, Mrs. Jennie Sharpless; Non-Alcoholic Medication, Mrs. Dora Parker; House­hold Economics and Pure Food Law, Mrs. F. P. Nicely; Orchestra; W. C. T. U. Contest and Singing Contest.

Continuing the summer's program: Bible Conference, Dr. Jabez Hall; Prohibition address, Aaron Worth; Conner Dramatic Company; Sermon by Rev. Frank Powers; Prof. Lough and wife, singers and speakers.

The cantata, "Queen Esther," was given twice in one week. Prof. Eli Miller, of South Bend, was director. The professor had charge only of this production, but it was a mighty task, and he did a splendid piece of work.

Another outstanding event was the Passion Play Oratorio rendered by the Christian Endeavor and Epworth League of Culver at the Assembly Tabernacle. It was a production by home talent: Rev. Streeter, Prof. Miller, Capt. H. J. Noble and Miss Lucretia Rea, in parts, assisted by a number of the "strongest' impersonators we have."

At the close of the season, '05, it was said, with credit to the changed management, "There has been an absence of 'goody-goody-ness,' also narrowness of sectarian character."

The program lengthens: Mrs. Princess Long, soloist; Church History lecture by Charles Under­wood; lecture by Rev. L. H. Stine; the great Welbourn in "My Electrical Garden," "Wireless Telegraphy," and his masterpiece, "In the Year 2000;" Bible School, Frank Smith, of Flora, superintendent; Sermon and Lecture Sermon by Harry G. Hill; H. L. Herod, colored orator; Lecture by Rev. P. J. Rice.

The Assembly was not always an inactive place in the winter, either. We read that in September, 1904, stoves were placed in the Auditorium and the building put in shape for use that winter.

The Assembly ground extended south from the present Davis Street. It was bounded on the east by the lake and the west by Main Street, at Davis Street. "Gould had the property," we were informed by U. S. Burkett. "Before him, Foote had it. Foote bought the Hawk place where Duddleson lives." M. G. Gould owned the Assembly ground, and before him, his father-in-law, old Elder Foote, a Baptist preacher. Later, a large portion of the land was platted by J. O. Ferrier. Streets were cut through, and were given Cuban or Spanish names. The Tabernacle or Auditorium was wrecked, torn down, and sold out, the same year that the Assembly hotel burned down, it is said. That was the year Ferrier platted the ground in building lots and lake front sites, forming the "Ferrier Addition." "He was the proprietor of a town addition of 89 lots, known by his name," says McDonald, referring to Ferrier. This addition was quite rapidly settled. It was accepted by the town board. It was nicely laid out, and the lots sold readily.

Cottages were built on the Assembly grounds. In '04 there was mention of the "Oakridge" cottage, also the "Greenwood" and the Kearn cottage. In the summer of that year, E. W. Butterfield, of Brooklyn, Indiana, built a five-room cottage on the lake front at the Assembly grounds.

Good things never last forever. For a number of years the Assembly was popular and ap­parently in a flourishing condi­tion, but right in what seemed to be the biggest years the end was already approaching, stealthily creeping in upon the Assembly when the activity was at its height. The turn of the century had been reached and passed. The gas-buggy was stirring up the dust of country highways and at the same time writing in the dust the symbols that spelled the doom of many customs and institutions of the Nineteenth Century.

And so it is that we read in the news of the seventh of December, 1905, the following sentence: "James V. Combs has filed a suit for foreclosure of a mortgage on the Maxinkuckee Assembly grounds."

Today is