COLUMBIA CITY — Who are the men in this historic picture? How many of them served in Cuba during the Spanish-American War? Is that former Columbia City mayor, “Dapper Joe” Harrison, on the far left?
The Indiana National Guard was formed in 1801 to protect settlers from Indian attack. The Indiana Guard fought in the Battle of Tippecanoe (1811), the Mexican War (1846) and the Civil War (1861-1865).
In 1897, the citizens of Columbia City dedicated an impressive Civil War Memorial with the engraved names of Whitley County veterans. It still stands in front of the courthouse and the money was raised by donations.
Company G, Fourth Regiment of the Indiana National Guard, was organized in 1895 with headquarters in Columbia City. The outfit served in the Spanish-American War with the 160th Indiana Volunteers, not to be confused with the 157th Indiana from South Bend under command of George M. Studebaker, better known as “Studebaker’s Tigers.” The Tigers never left the United States, but the 160th was deployed in Cuba from Jan. 27, 1899 to March 27, 1899.
Company G’s first commanding officer was Captain Joseph R. Harrison, future, two-term mayor of Columbia City (1902-1910). His father, James, preceded him as Columbia City mayor from 1893-1898. Harrison was commissioned a major on July 22, 1900 and, over the following years, kept track of fellow members of his beloved 160th Indiana.
Through the efforts of Lt. Lloyd Clapham, Company G, Third Battalion was reorganized in 1900 as part of the Third Regiment in Columbia City. Clapham and and John L. Washburn were commissioned as Battalion Adjutants on Aug. 15, 1900, and Feb. 18, 1901, respectively.
Clapham had two older brothers under his command in Cuba: Simon, a sergeant, and John, who quickly rose from private to first sergeant. In December 1899, John Clapham was a member of Col. Luther Hare’s rescue party that heroically saved Navy Lt. James Gilmore and nine sailors taken prisoner by Filipinos in April during The Siege of Baler in the brutal Philippine-American War.
Later, the Columbia City Spanish-American War Camp Post #58 was named in honor of Lloyd Clapham who died of tuberculous at age 40 in 1915. Spanish-American War veterans were honored every year into the 1950s in Columbia City.
Several familiar Columbia City surnames, such as Briggs, Egolf, Hossler, Mossman, Pressler, Stickler, Welsheimer and Whiteleather were among those assigned to Company G.
The Whitley County Historical Society maintains a detailed list of early county residents with military service.
Those interested in military history would be fascinated with “A History of the National Guard of Indiana: War with Spain,” published in 1901. It contains thousands of names and, as usual, the officers receive most of the attention.