Arriving in Huntington County in 1853, the Bippus family was quick to make a lasting impact. The family patriarch, Jacob, helped to lay out the town of West Point, later renamed Bippus for his dedication and hard work. Jacob’s son, George Jacob Bippus, used his skills as a tinsmith to get his foot in the door of downtown Huntington businesses. He would later help advance Huntington by improving the canal system, bringing the railroad, and adding natural gas, oil, and electricity to the growing city. The family success continued to George Jacob’s son, James Frederick Bippus, who would build the grand LaFontaine Hotel and extending services to businesses, residences, and the general public.
Elizebeth Smith Friedman was a pioneer of cryptanalysis who made national strides in breaking codes and protecting American lives with her work. The youngest of nine children, she was born in Huntington with a “God-given talent” to figure out things. She attended Hillsdale College in Michigan and graduated with a degree in English Literature while also studying numerous languages. She loved Shakespeare and spent much of her early post college years trying to decipher the Bard’s work. In 1917, Elizebeth married William F. Friedman, and the two worked together for the War Department in Washington D.C. Mrs. Friedman worked during the Prohibition Era to stop rum-runners and drug smugglers by deciphering their encoded messages and testifying against them in court. During WWII, she worked for the Navy solving German Naval Intelligence using Enigma machine codes. Her work is still being used today to combat organized crime and terrorism.
At the start of the 20th century, dentistry had yet to enter the modern age. Methods and tools were primitive, and there was little in the way of national organization for dentists to communicate or collaborate. Otto King was born in Huntington, and following his graduation from dental school, he returned to his hometown to begin his practice. Dr. King quickly became involved with dental organizations on a state and national level, rising to president of the Indiana State Dental Association. More importantly, as first General Secretary of the National Dental Association (now executive director of the American Dental Association), he founded the Official Bulletin of the National Dental Association. His publication, printed by Huntington’s Whitelock Press, united fellow dentists with a journal free of bias or special interests. Dr. King’s work was instrumental in ushering in the era of modern dentistry. Professional collaboration, innovation in the industry, and the implementation of dental ethics all advanced during his era.
John Kissinger was looking for a life in the military when he marched into the annals of history. He was serving with the Army in Cuba following the Spanish-American War when he volunteered for an experiment into the cause of the deadly yellow fever. Kissinger allowed himself to be bitten by mosquitoes carrying the disease, and he contracted yellow fever. Kissinger survived, and experiments allowed doctors to develop a serum, saving millions of lives. After his service, Kissinger returned to the United States, suffering several health problems, including the loss of the use of his legs. Kissinger and his wife moved to Huntington, but he was denied a pension and they became nearly destitute. Kissinger eventually regained the use of his legs, and funds were raised to build the couple a house in Huntington. Hailed as a hero when his story became known nationally, Kissinger was awarded a special gold medal by Congress in 1929.
Also known as Topeah, or “frost on leaves”, Francis LaFontaine was the last principal chief of the unified Miami tribe. He became chief of his Miami village in 1828 at the age of 18. He worked with his father-in-law, Chief Jean Baptiste de Richardville, on a treaty in 1840 that would eventually move half the Miami nation west of the Mississippi. LaFontaine became chief in 1841 after the death of Richardville and moved into Richardville’s tribal headquarters house at the Forks of the Wabash.
While being held in a Japanese prison camp in the Philippines in 1945, Roxy Lefforge was just moments away from being killed by her captors when American forces stormed the camp, rescuing her and 2,000 other prisoners. A Methodist minister, Lefforge had been a missionary in China and the Philippines since 1918. Despite her harrowing experience, she was determined to remain in the Far East to continue her work after the war. She helped create the Philippine Wesleyan University and served as president and executive dean of the Philippine Christian Colleges. Lefforge returned to the United States in 1954 and settled in Huntington, where she was a professor at Huntington College from 1954-64. She was also a member of Trinity United Methodist Church until her death in 1977. Her presence remains in the Philippines with the Roxy Lefforge Methodist Church and the Roxy Lefforge Foundation Colleges.
A Huntington lawyer, Milligan opposed President Abraham Lincoln’s conduct of the Civil War, and he was arrested, tried and sentenced by a military tribunal. Milligan challenged the case, claiming his prosecution by a military court was unconstitutional while civilian courts were still operating. The case eventually reached the Supreme Court, which ruled in Milligan’s favor and he was released after two years in prison. The case, Ex Parte Milligan, became a landmark case in U.S. history.
Helen Purviance, was the original Salvation Army “Doughnut Girl.” She figured out how to make the deep-fried treats from the scant supplies available in the front-line trenches of France during World War I. Born in 1889, Helen was enrolled as a soldier at the Huntington Corps in 1906. A year later she entered the Salvation Army’s officer training college in New York, N.Y. In 1908, she was sent to the front in France during World War I where she came up with the idea of making doughnuts to help comfort the soldiers. Working in the trenches at a short pot-bellied stove fueled by a wood fire, Lt. Colonel Helen said, “I was literally on my knees when those first doughnuts were fried, seven at a time, in a small pan. There was a prayer in my heart that somehow this home touch would do more for those who ate the doughnuts than satisfy a physical hunger.”
In the summer of 1988, Huntington became the center of the political universe, as Indiana Senator Dan Quayle was the surprise choice of vice-presidential running mate by Republican presidential nominee George H. W. Bush. The full-ticket campaign kicked off in Huntington, and Bush and Quayle were victorious in the November general election. Following his tenure as vice president, Quayle ran for president in 2000. He has since been a best-selling author, political consultant and global investment banker.
Despite a lineage of tribal leadership, Jean Baptiste de Richardville still had to prove himself worthy of leading the Miami Indian nation. He was half-white, half-Miami, his mother Tah-kum-wah the sister of the great Miami Chief Little Turtle. Richardville’s bravery on behalf of the tribe earned him the respect that eventually elevated him to Chief on Little Turtle’s death. Richardville oversaw and protected the affairs of the Miami, securing land and building a trading post at the Forks of the Wabash.
One of Huntington’s most dedicated public servants, Ed Roush served the Huntington community as a member of the military, as a local attorney and prosecutor, and as a legislator at the state level then as a member of the U.S House of Representatives. He is known as the father of the 911 emergency telephone system, and for his environmental work that culminated with the Huntington dam and lake being renamed for him in 1997. Following his political career, Roush later served as interim president of Huntington College.
In looking for an All-American hero to represent Huntington, or any other community for that matter, the search needs only reach the name of Harold Dean Shultz. A top student, star athlete, war hero, dedicated teacher and devoted husband and father, Hal Shultz filled every one of those roles throughout his remarkable life with uncommon humility and dignity. A standout athlete and valedictorian at Huntington High School, Shultz earned an appointment to West Point. He was a standout football player and earned the Army Athletic Association trophy as the school’s top student athlete, graduating 11th in his class. Shultz became a fighter pilot in the Air Force, serving in Korea and Vietnam. Among his many honors were a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Distinguished Flying Cross awards for his actions and service. He also served as an instructor, and earned three master’s degrees. Upon retirement from the military, he began a teaching career. He died in 1978 at the age of 48.