Thursday, July 3, 2014

All in a Day’s Work

When you can’t find what you’re looking for, go look for something else.

I hadn’t been making any further headway on researching the descendants of our family’s Kelly line from 1850s Lafayette, Indiana. At this point, I was having trouble finding anything more on one particular descendant: Charles A. Creahan.

Since Charles served, ultimately, as president of the Calumet Foundry and Machine Company of East Chicago, I took a different approach: I searched for the name of his company as well. Though by the 1950s, he was apparently retired and enjoying life in his sixties—as we saw in the few details I had discovered yesterday—as Charles aged, he seemed to leave behind less and less of his whereabouts or life story for people like me to find. Even the typical accoutrements of genealogical pursuit—the obituary and burial records—have eluded me.

However, there was this one newspaper entry in The Hammond Times near his Indiana residence that gave me a glimpse of yet another business responsibility that Charles Creahan had taken on. In addition to his role as president of his own business, Charles Creahan had also served—albeit for an undisclosed period of time—on the board of the First National Bank. The newspaper reported on January 12, 1958:
            Four new directors have been elected to the boards of the First National Bank and the Union National Bank in East Chicago
            The new directors replace Charles A. Creahan, retired former president of the Calumet Foundry and Machine Co. of East Chicago

Curious to see what could be found about the man via this new detail about his professional pursuits, I Googled “First National Bank.” Unfortunately, that name turns out to be a rather generic term for many banks across the land—even internationally. But not for any bank in East Chicago—at least, not any that I could find.

However, there was one small detail I uncovered that provided confirmation that there was a bank known as the First National Bank of East Chicago. That bank, it just so happened, was the site of the January 15, 1934, robbery staged by none other than John Herbert Dillinger.

Of course, I can’t help but wonder whether our Charles Creahan was on the bank’s board at the time of the robbery—and what the conversations might have been like in his office and around town after that episode. When our genealogical research leads us (digitally, at least) through the dusty archives and decaying documents droning on with statistics concerning our ancestors, that dry sort of ambience has a way of rubbing off on our spirits. We begin to think our ancestors’ lives—just like the time-blanched papers we lift them from—must have been routine, uneventful, boring. They were born. They went to school. They worked hard to get their start in life. And maybe they were successful and got to enjoy life a bit before it was—too soon—all over.

But then, out of the fringes of the narrative, a wild story—like the Dillinger gang blazing into town—wakes us up to the possibility that life could have been startling and unpredictable for our ancestors, just as it sometimes is for us.

Above: "Wanted" poster issued by the United States' Bureau of Investigation in 1934 for John Dillinger; courtesy Wikipedia; in the public domain.


  1. A brush with the vicious Dillinger? I must say it -- COOL!

    1. Pretty amazing to think of it! Even if Charles wasn't on the board then, he certainly was doing business in town. I imagine that was a big deal when Dillinger's gang arrived in town that day--something with local repercussions long afterward.

  2. According to this:

    He was on the board at least as early as July 12, 1945.

    1. There were several of those "Statement of Condition" ads run in the local newspapers over the years. Now that you posted this, Iggy, I'll have to go back and see if I can find the earliest such publication that included Charles' name. Thanks for the link, Iggy!

  3. Photos of the bank - which was torn down for a Walgrens drugstore.

    1. What a great website! Thanks for posting that link, Iggy. What a different era that architecture and interior design represented. Now, juxtapose that solid mass of establishment design with a hold-up by the Dillinger gang--paints an entirely different picture than the one I had in mind...

  4. Replies
    1. Yeah. Never dreamed my family history research would bring me to the point of crossing this path!


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