Monday, February 19, 2007

Henry A. Phend - Part 2 of 3

Part 1 can be found here.
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Jackson Park, the site chosen for the Columbian Exposition, was originally a desolate, murky swamp of 586 acres, stretching for a mile and a half along the shore of Lake Michigan about eight miles south of the business center of Chicago. In a little over two years the area was transformed; more than one million square yards of earth were removed or relocated in the landscaping process. More than 300 buildings were erected utilizing the newly developed techniques of iron and steel manufacture. The exteriors were coated with a new plasterlike substance called "staff". They were intended to be only temporary structures, to be demolished at the fair's end.

The main period of construction was between March 1891 and May 1893; at times there were more than seven thousand workers at the site. "The Great American Fair" by Reid Badger has this to say about the working conditions and the workers themselves: "The subordinate artists and construction workers must have been inspired to have accomplished what they did in so short a time, as the conditions in Jackson Park were at times abysmal. Working in the bogs and swampy quicksands, men and horses sunk leg-deep, wagons tipped over and nearly disappeared, and plank-roads had to be laid out before any vehicle could safely proceed with its load of lumber, soil, or shrubbery."

He continues, "The winters of 1892 and 1893 were unusually severe, with temperatures sometimes falling to twenty below zero, with heavy snow storms that crushed the unfinished buildings and thaws that flooded areas recently prepared. Storms, cold spells, wet spells, deluge from the skies, hell underfoot, challenged the gritty men who had sworn to put it over; and still the work went on. Accidents were numerous; seven hundred injuries and eighteen deaths were recorded in one year alone. Pay for the workers was low and often delayed in coming."

It was under these conditions that Henry did his work. What exactly his job was we have no way of knowing. At some point, Henry contracted "the fever" and the family returned to Nappanee. Two more children were born while they were living in Nappanee: Cecil in 1894 and Gladys in 1896.They lived there until 1898 when they moved to Columbia City, in Whitley County, Indiana.

Continued in Part 3...

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