One local woman is hanging on to an essential part of her family history that just also happens to be a significant piece of Waynedale’s story, as well.
Sharon Herrbert steadfastly hangs on to some photocopied paper ledgers of her great grandfather’s funeral business, as well as at least one contract, several pieces of furniture that once sat in his funeral parlor, and a time-worn casket from that era – the late 1800s.
Her great grandfather, William Brindle, once operated the William Brindle Undertaker and Embalmer business in Sheldon, Indiana, what is now known as Yoder.
But, in 1900, Brindle sold his business to Abner Elzey for $2,500, to be paid in $200 monthly installments until 1910. The contract also stipulates that Brindle was to wash the company car, and, had to pay $3.50 for each trip he used Elzey’s team of horses to pull the business’ hearse.
Brindle’s business card from that era proudly proclaims, “Calls Promptly Answered Day or Night” and “Prices Reasonable.”
According to the definitive history of our area, Brindle’s partner, Elzey, is essentially considered the “Father of Waynedale”.
Elzey was a simple preacher from Ossian who wanted to live in an area close to Fort Wayne, but retained its own separate identity, according to “The History of Fort Wayne & Allen County, Indiana from 1700 to 2005.”
In Elzey’s time – the mid-1920s — the only building on the original plat of Waynedale was the Cunnison farm house, which is now the site of Umber’s Ace Hardware, located at 2413 Lower Huntington Road. But, the original plat for the land dates all the back to December 4, 1921, when a woman named Sophia Henderson deposited a registration certificate for the property at the Allen County Recorder’s Office.
The founder, Abner Elzey, on a cold December day in 1920 while standing on the southeast corner of the Lower Huntington Road and the present Old Trail Road, pointed to the southwest toward the James Cunnison farmland and proclaimed it an ideal location for a community.
This unincorporated town of approximately 3,000 residents was founded on February 15, 1921 by Abner Elzey.
Plans show the original boundaries of Waynedale were: McArthur Drive on the south; Lower Huntington Road on the north; Old Trail Road on the east; and Beaty Avenue on the west.
Choosing a name for his new community didn’t come easy for Elzey, though. At first, he wanted to name it after his only daughter, Ilo, but decided instead to combine the local custom of everyone simply calling Fort Wayne “Wayne” with his son’s name, Dale. And thus, “Waynedale” was born.
Waynedale was officially annexed into the city of Fort Wayne in 1957.
Although Elzey’s dream was to see Waynedale incorporated into the city of Fort Wayne, he passed away in 1949, never living to see this goal. He is buried in Oak Lawn Cemetery in Ossian.
As for Herrbert, she steadfastly hangs on to the pieces of history that still connect her and her family to Waynedale’s past.
She keeps a straight-back chair and a hand-carved rocking chair that once occupied his funeral parlor, as well as a black onyx lamp used in the business. And more significantly, she still has an old, wooden, time-worn casket once built by her great grandfather and lined with velvet by her great grandmother. The casket now sits in Myers Funeral Home in Huntington, she said.
Her cousin also still has a love set from the funeral home’s parlor, and Herrbert says she still has some pillows her great grandmother made from the leftover velvet once used to line the caskets.
Herrbert retired as an office manager at Fort Wayne International Airport about 1994, and now lives on Brindle Road, just about a half mile from where her great grandfather’s business used to be. She said keeping the records and items from her relative’s funeral business helps her and her family stay connected to their past.
“It’s for my kids and grandkids mostly,” Herrbert, age 72, said, “my grandparents had it, my parents had it, and now I have it.”