Story by Fred Gahimer, 11 Oct 2001. Cover photo is Conrad Gahimer and Sallie Gruell on their wedding day, August 21, 1907.
￼Conrad, son of William and Salome (Hirtzel) Gahimer, lived on a farm west of Manilla on the old Rushville Road in Union Township, Shelby County. It was originally owned by his grandfather Christian Hirtzel, and he purchased it after the death of his father.
He was 5′ 6″ tall (average for that time period) with brown eyes and nearly black hair. In later life, his eyes turned grey.
He also purchased a farm on State Road 44 on the west side of the Shelby-Rush Co. line and south of the railroad. His son Carl rented it and later inherited it upon Conrad’s death. The Christian Hirtzel homestead was adjacent to it on the east, with the Shelby-Rush County line at the junction of the two.
Conrad married Sallie Gruell, daughter of William H. and Emma Irene (Boyd) Gruell in Rush County on August 21, 1907. When they were courting, Conrad used to dress up in his finest, and sit in the back of the church where Sallie sang in the choir. They would make eyes at each other, and Sallie would look at Conrad and giggle. Conrad was called by the nickname of “Coonie”. They had two children; Carl Fredrick, born July 8, 1908; and Edna Irene, born March 31, 1912.
Carl went to a one room schoolhouse down the road. He had to go to school early each morning to light the fire.
Sallie died on September 10, 1916 at the young age of 29 due to peritonitis, rumored to be a result of her attempt to abort a fetus because she did not want a third child. Carl was 8 years old at the time, and Edna only 4. After Sallie’s death, Conrad obtained the help of a housekeeper, Mary Charity Mahin, known as Aunt Charity; a wonderful old widow lady who helped raise the children like a substitute mother. Aunt Charity lived in Conrad’s house, raising the children until her death 14 years later (April 8, 1931). She was a member for the Manilla Christian Church, where Conrad was also a member. At the time of her death she had two sons, 13 grandchildren, 28 great-grandchildren, and 2 great-great-grandchildren.
Carl and his cousin Chester Gahimer were close friends their entire lives.
Conrad farmed, first with horses, then with tractors. In the early years, Conrad had a lot of equipment which other farmers did not, and he used to harvest their crops for them for a fee. However, he had no interest in expanding his land holdings, so the more aggressive neighbors passed him by. For some years, until about the 1940s, Conrad and his brother Edward operated two threshing rigs, one of which had a huge steam engine which was so heavy that when it went down the gravel roads, the steel wheels would crush the gravel almost to dust.
Memories by Fred Gahimer
Grandad and his brother Ed were partners in a threshing business. They had a giant engine and a smaller one and two threshers. They threshed over a three county area. I will never forget the first time I saw the monster engine pulling its thresher followed by a long train of horse-drawn wagons coming down the country road toward our farm. The huffing, puffing, smoking, hissing, clanging, giant engine was a marvel to my eyes. It was so heavy it would crush the stone on the road.
In the last year of threshing [about 1946] before we changed over to a tractor-pulled combine, Grandad let me drive the engine down the road toward his house for a while. The steering consisted of a big chain to each of the front wheels on the center pivot axle. The slack in the chains was such that I had about a one-turn play in the steering wheel, and I quickly wore myself out spinning the wheel back and forth while weaving back and forth down the road. I was about 12-13 years of age and was very happy to turn the job back to Grandad.
On August 24, 1929, Carl married Mabel Wagoner. For more on their life, see this story.
In 1932, Conrad was elected as director of the Citizen’s Bank of Manilla.
In October 1934, several gallons of lard were stolen from Conrad Gahimer’s cellar. Conrad and his family were in Chicago at the time.
In July 1935, Edna and Conrad were injured in a car wreck. It was dark at night and Edna was driving and ran into a horse-drawn wagon. The wagon driver was not injured but Edna and Conrad sustained cuts from the shattered glass.
In September 1935, Conrad’s daughter Edna was married to Leonard Evans.
In October 1935, SR44 was built cutting through Conrad’s farm (then being rented by his son, Carl, who later inherited it upon Conrad’s death).
In August 1941, Conrad accompanied his daughter, Edna, and her husband Leonard, and their son, Dick on a 10 day vacation to the Smoky Mountains and Florida.
In May 1947, at the age of 64 Conrad was doing feeding chores in his hay mow and missed the step on the ladder going down and fell 14 feet to the floor. He injured his back and hip and became unable to help with farm chores.
Conrad was the guardian of a mentally impaired cousin farm hand named Ross, who, although slow, was a willing worker and a very nice person. Conrad treated him very well, and put half of his earnings into a savings account for his retirement, and gave him the other half to live on. The man’s sister was always nagging Conrad to get her hands on all of his money, but Conrad resisted even to the day of his death; as Conrad’s grandson Fred saw her leaving Conrad’s house the day Conrad shot himself.
On Wednesday, May 21, 1946 Fred had stopped by on his bicycle to get Richard Evans, Edna’s son, to go to church to practice for a play. Conrad was sitting on the sofa of the living room with his head resting on his cane. He apparently shot himself in the temple a few hours after that. Edna found his body in the milk house when she returned home and searched for him.
His body was displayed in the casket in a front room of his house, and had to be taken through a window because the door was not wide enough. He was taken up to the Manilla Christian Church for the funeral, and was buried in East Hill Cemetery in Rushville.
Conrad never married after Sallie’s death, and he lamed himself falling out of the haw mow. These misfortunes probably contributed to his despondency later in life, leading to his suicide.