By Jay Boggs, Winona Lake

Last December, I wrote a letter to the Times-Union about my efforts to preserve the historic 1842 Beatty-Boggs farmhouse, located at 1802 E. Armstrong Road in Plain Township. I lost the first round of that fight, and earlier this year, the house and barns were bulldozed down. Since then, many friends have asked me about why the buildings couldn’t be saved. Why, they ask, didn’t the county intervene to preserve them? Why couldn’t some reasonable arrangement be found  to preserve a few acres?

The short answer is: I tried and filed in the Kosciusko Circuit Court a complaint for preliminary and permanent injunction. The court denied my complaint for injunctive relieve. I?have since appealed the court decision to the Indiana Court of Appeals; however, before my case had been finally adjudicated the aforesaid defendants destroyed the existance of the farm belonging to my parents, Donald James Boggs, and Juanity Faye Boggs, who resided there for 45 years. The aforesaid appeal is still pending and the cause is ongoing.

In the event the trial court’s decision is overturned and damages are awarded, I will purchase and create another memorial park in the town of Leesburg to commemorate my folks involvement in Plain Township government and the town of Leesburg and to remember the farm, their home, which was destroyed. Beforehand, the property belonged to the Beatty family since 1842. My friend, John Beatty, of Fort Wayne, a descendant of Ross Beatty, the house’s builder and first owner, elicited the help of the Indiana Historic Landmarks Foundation to review our case. A member viewed the house over the winter, only to find the doors wide open, the electricity shut off, and all the historic kitchen cabinetry already removed. We were in the process of preparing the necessary papers only to have the house torn down without my consent. Historic preservation work takes time, and I am confident we would have won that designation. While such preservation is not specifically the county’s responsibility, it would have helped my cause if county officials had stood with me in this fight. My vision had been to enroll the house as a historic site both with the state and the federal National Historic Register. Neither move would have protected the house entirely from demolition, but it would have helped.

My goal had been to turn the house and barns into a museum - a classroom for showing how the pioneer generation in Ksciusko County lived before the Civil War. Houses from the 1840s are quite rare in northern Indiana. The house was located near the lakes and could have attracted summer traffic. Several people in Fort Wayne were interested in the project. But alas, it was not to be. Why couldn’t I have moved the house? We investigated that possibility. It would have cost $25,000 to move, and I?had no viable place to go. The bridge going into Oswego prevented me from moving it there, while the railroad at Leesburg made it nearly impossible to cross. Moreover, moving the house from its original setting would have diminished its historic character, and I would have lost the English-style barn with its hand-hewn beams with “1862” carved into them.

The loss of this historic farmhouse begs a larger question of what we want our future county to look like. What sort of legacy do we want to leave our children? Do we want only acres and county that still retains some this history? Obviously, I stand for the latter view. Our kids are growing up in a digital world of cellphones with no visible connections to their roots. We have the option of tearing down everything from the past in the name of agribusiness or saving some of our historic houses and barns to teach our children how the pioneers of this county, their ancestors, lived.

I am not opposed o all “progress.” Certainly some structures, due to their condition, cannot be saved. But the Beatty-Boggs house had a strong historical provenance and a rich photographic record over time, making it one of the best-documented historic farms in the county. My father loved the house, saw himself as its caretaker, and was eager to tell its story to anyone who would listen. My mother lived there until her death in 2017. The house needed a few improvement, but far from being a “junk house,” its narrow staircase, low ceilings, and formal parlors offered an insightful view of how farming families once lived.

What will happen in this county when everything historic is gone except the courthouse, old jail and Pound Store? Is that the legacy we wish to leave? Some communities make more of a unified effort to preserve their past. Metal plaques are affixed to historic structures with the dates of their construction. Historic house tours are organized, books are published, and historic brouchers are written. Civic and family history is celebrated. We have the option of either taking charge of our past or relinquishing that control to the strong alliance of courts, banks and agribusiness that threaten that control to undo it by demolishing everything that stands in the way. Do we really need more bean fields? Let’s let the legacy of the destruction of the Beatty-Boggs farm be the beginning of a new appreciation for historic preservation.