MARC CHASE: A region epic of loneliness, war and remembrance

2014-06-01T00:00:00Z 2014-06-03T10:16:10Z MARC CHASE: A region epic of loneliness, war and remembranceMarc Chase marc.chase@nwi.com, (219) 662-5330 nwitimes.com
June 01, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Highland's Adolph Hufenhauser spent some of his last days alone and starving on a straw-covered bench inside a shack on Ridge Road.

It became clear to neighbors and police who discovered Hufenhauser that his isolation and life-draining hunger were self-inflicted, likely prompted by loneliness induced by a long-lost love.

The story of Hufenhauser's demise — and the loneliness following him to an unmarked Hammond grave — reminds us how poverty of the spirit can be just as debilitating as a void of material resources. More than a century after his death, some region folks are taking steps to remember Hufenhauser. They believe even the loneliest of lives is worth remembering.

On the mid-July 1912 day when he was discovered in his shack, Hufenhauser, then 77, was taken to St. Margret's Hospital in Hammond where he would die in the coming days. A search of his living quarters left many wondering why he had been starving.

You see, they found throughout Hufenhauser's home — in jars and other hiding places — stashes of hundreds of dollars that could have been used for food.

Newspaper accounts of the incident also speak of a broken heart he suffered when a woman he planned to marry never traveled from their native Prussia — a German kingdom of that era — to Northwest Indiana to tie the knot.

Front pages of several newspapers across the state — from Hammond to Goshen — carried the narrative of Hufenhauser's story, including the July 19, 1912, edition of The Times.

Immigration and Army muster records show Hufenhauser arrived in the United States in 1861, just in time to enlist in the Union Army and fight in America's Civil War. His regiment, the 43rd Illinois Infantry, saw action in some of the most defining engagements of the four-year war, including the famed Battle of Shiloh (Tennessee) and Siege of Vicksburg (Mississippi).

He moved to Highland after the war, bought a farm and began building the shack in which he would be found nearly 50 years after war's end.

It's a wonder he was found at all, if you consider the news reports.

Neighbors noted old Hufenhauser rarely strayed from his cabin. He was found on that July 1912 day clutching his Civil War rifle, something he reportedly intended to use in warding off unwanted visitors.

And after his death, he was all-but forgotten again for another 100 years — that is, until the Highland Historical Society's Sue Douthett began unearthing his story and sought out his Hammond grave site.

What she and local volunteer grave preservationists found — some might say fittingly — was a lonely, unmarked burial plot at Hammond's Oak Hill Cemetery.

Now those volunteers are preparing to seek a Civil War veteran headstone from the federal government to mark Hufenhauser's grave. Hufenhauser will also soon be listed on the website of the South Shore Civil War Memorial Trail, which chronicles the stories and grave locations of region veterans of the war.

In a way, it seems a chain of isolation beginning 150 years ago with the apparent broken heart of a Prussian immigrant may soon be broken.

Investigative Editor Marc Chase can be reached at (219) 662-5330 or marc.chase@nwi.com. The opinions are the writer's.

Copyright 2014 nwitimes.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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