Goshen News, Goshen, IN

September 29, 2013

HIDDEN PLACES: Small building in small town still holds its history


— FORAKER — In this tiny crossroads community between Goshen and Nappanee sits an old building that still proudly describes its past with one word on its facade — “BANK.”

Empty for decades now, the small, one-story structure still contains the remnants of yesteryear inside. In the far northwest back corner is heavy vault door that still requires some muscle to open.

“It is a wee bit heavy, you know,” Ruth Schmucker said laughing.

Schmucker and her husband, Marvin Schmucker, are the current owners of the bank building. She said they bought the building in 2000 and her husband uses the area to park vehicles and equipment for his business, Marv’s Electric Inc.

“We started putting in electrical and heating (inside the building),” Schmucker said. “I want to make it into a little store, sort of garden-inspired.”

The name of the old bank is written near the top of the vault door, “Farmers and Merchants Bank.” The safe was made by Halls Safe Co. in Cincinnati, Ohio.

A wrought-iron gate stops anyone from stepping into the vault after opening the door. Cobwebs still cover some old files and a few safe deposit boxes.

“I don’t think there is anything in the lock boxes,” Mrs. Schmucker said.

She pointed to a brown wooden cabinet with cubbyholes that was placed on the floor in the middle of the room.

“I think this hung on the wall just inside the vault where they filed their receipts,” she said.

The roof has leaked through the years and caused water damage inside, Schmucker said. Therefore the couple doesn’t know what the original flooring, ceiling or light fixtures looked like before they purchased the building.

“The wood floor was gone, it wasn’t taken care of,” she said. “The front window was one huge window. It was so rotten it was wobbly.”

The couple put in a new window with decorative panes.

Mrs. Schmucker looked up above the door where plaster has fallen off at some point in time.

“It looks like somebody slammed the door on the way out and the old plaster fell out,” she said, chuckling. “The squirrels took up residence in here. It’s a long way from being fixed.”

The building does have some notorious history during its days as a financial institution.

Schmucker mentioned about the story she’s heard circulating about some guy who took off with the money from the bank.

“I never heard if the money was recovered,” she said.

And there was embezzlement. The following is an excerpt from the Feb. 22, 1929, edition of The Goshen Daily News-Times:

“An amazing story of check manipulation which resulted in a loss of almost $49,000 to a small country bank was revealed today when it was made public that Walter A. Huffman, 36, former state representative from Elkhart County and a prominent resident of Elkhart, and Paul E. Metzler, former cashier of the Farmers and Merchants Bank at Foraker, had been indicted by the circuit court grand jury. It had been common gossip for several weeks that Huffman was under investigation by the grand jury, but publication of the fact was forbidden by the rules of secrecy which cover grand jury activities.

Today Sheriff Glenn Banks said that the two men had agreed to surrender themselves.”