Goshen News, Goshen, IN

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April 4, 2013

Man who put Goshen on map gets ‘Way’

GOSHEN — Tom Riggs has a sense of accomplishment when he looks at the new street sign near the Goshen Post Office marked, “Bissell Way.”

“It makes me feel worthwhile and it ties in to the post office,” Riggs said, of the honorary street north of the Goshen Post Office, intersecting with West Wilkinson Street, between First and New streets.

What’s the connection between the post office and the sign?

“William Bissell was the first postmaster to put the city of Goshen on a map of the United States in 1832,” Riggs said. “Up until that time, Goshen was a village and not a city.”

While doing historical research, Riggs learned the post office was established in Bissell’s home on Lot 85 at the corner of Sixth and Washington streets where he lived with his wife.

The street sign was dedicated during a small ceremony with an historical significance attached to the date.

“We picked Jan. 12, 2013 (for the dedication) because it was exactly 181 years ago to the date when Goshen’s first post office was established,” Riggs said. “I’ve had quite a few comments on it (the sign).”

The first postmaster was a log cabin builder by trade and his home was a log cabin, Riggs said.

Dale Garber, curator of the Goshen Historical Museum, added that Bissell served as the first postmaster for just eight months, and “meeting his death by falling from a horse while riding on the Elkhart prairie in 1832. His body was buried on his own land, just south of where the main building of the Goshen Churn and Ladder Company plant was located for many years,” Garber said.

After her husband’s death, Bissell’s wife planted a tree to mark the grave and historical accounts differ as to what caused the postmaster to fall from his horse, Riggs added.

“They don’t know what happened,” he said.

The postmaster’s gravesite was moved in 1905 to Oakridge Cemetery due to the expansion of Goshen Churn and Ladder Company.

Riggs said he’s a “transplant” to Goshen after moving from eastern Tennessee in 1959.

He’s a history buff and has learned many interesting facts while doing research on the first postmaster.

“Bissell moved to Goshen,” he said “It’s kind of fitting, he was a transplant himself.”

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