Ida Hagen

Kundek Corner:
Ferdinand Distinguished Citizens

Ferdinand Historical Society's 6th Distinguished Citizen placed in Kundek Corner at Ferdinand Library.

Ida Hagen was born in Huntingburg on May 24, 1888, to Ben Jr, and Millie (Pinkston) Hagen. By the time Ida started school, the family had moved to a log cabin on the Emmanual Pinkston, Sr. home place. Emmanuel Sr. was Ida's great grandfather. He founded the Colored Freedom Settlement in 1840, and was the acknowledged patriarch until his death 1885. The home place farmed by Ben Jr. for corn, potatoes, vegetables and melons is now the site of the Huntingburg Conservation Club. This farm lies in Ferdinand township just across the Cass township.

Ida attended school at the Gehlhausen Country School, located at the intersection of country roads near the old Roman Begle farm. (This school, now demolished, was still standing about five years ago (1985). Ida was evidently an industrious student. She received county honors in 1901. She was the first black person to graduate from a common (grade) school in Dubois County. 

Ida finished one year at Hungtingburg High School in 1904. That same year, at age 16, Ida Hagen was sworn in as a clerk at the Ferdinand Post Office. Dr. Aloysius G. Wollenmann, doctor and surgeon, was also serving as Ferdinand Postmaster.

There were probably several reasons for Ida's appointment. The most obvious reason is political. Dr. Wollenmann was one of the few Replublicans in "the banner Democratic Township", and the Negroes of the Freedom Settlement generally followed the party of Abraham Lincoln, the Great Emancipator.

Another reason might be the nature of the relationship that existed between the Negroes of the Freedom Settlement and the surrounding farmers and the townspeople of Ferdinand. The historical record gives us only examples of cooperation and expressions of mutual respect.

In order to get at the last reason, it is necessary to review the history of Dr. Aloysuis Wollenmann. A.G. Wollenmann was born in Neuenkirch, Lucerne, Switzerland in 1864. He received most of his education in Europe. In 1889 he came to America, learned English at the seminary at St. Meinrad and in 1892 he set up his practice in Ferdinand as surgeon-doctor and pharmacist. Dr. Wollenmann called his establishment the Adler Apothek (Eagle Apothecary). It was located on the eastern side of Main between 11th and 12th streets. (The foundations of this building were recently rediscovered as some grading was done on the bank there). This building also became the US Post Office when Dr. Wollenmann took on the additional duties of Ferdinand Postmaster in 1897.

Dr. A.G. Wollenmann had married Fidelia Kempf, daughter of Dr. Matthew Kempf. Werner was born to them in 1894 and Max in 1898. (Each son in his own way followed his father's tradition. Werner becoming Ferdinand Postmaster and Max becoming a doctor for the Army and then the Veteran's Administration). In 1903 Fidelia delivered a girl, Mary Margaret, but tragically both mother and daughter were lost.

Now what was Dr. Wollenmann to do, with his many duties, with meals to prepare and cleaning to be done, and with two young boys to raise?

It was about ths time that Dr. Wollenmann first asked Ida Hagen and a Pinkston woman to help him out. They would stay the week in Ferdinand helping him and on weekends they returned to the Freedom Settlement. Then, as previously stated, Ida Hagen was given the job as clerk in 1904.

During Ida's leisure time after post office hours, she studied the German language (probably also picking up a great deal from her post office acquaintances), and took a home study course in pharmacy under the patient tutelage of Dr. Wollenmann. Ida also helped in the doctor's office, and even on house calls.

Ida graduated from the pharmacy course in June 1906 and passed the Indiana State Board of Pharmacy examination for full license.

Dr. Wollenmann decided to take an extended trip back to his native Switzerland, and Ida was sworn in as assistant postmaster in charge during his absense. Dr. Wollenmann died in 1912, and Ida was appointed acting postmaster. Altogether she worked eight years in the Ferdinand Post Office, she spoke fluent German and she was extremely well liked by the Ferdinand citizens.

Ida left Ferdinand in 1912. For a short time she practiced Pharmacy in Indianapolis, Indiana. She then accepted a position as manager/pharmacist of a pharmacy in Gary, Indiana. She was baptized into the Catholic Church on Christmas Eve, 1912.

Ida Hagen married Sidney J. Whitaker on Sept 29, 1926 in Indianapolis, Indiana. They were living in Detroit in 1955. Ida Whitaker was very active and well known in civic and religious groups. There is a photograph of Ida posing with the Michigan's governor's wife. We have no certain news of Ida since the 1950's. However, one friend of the family Sgt Richmond Price (Ret) told me that the thought Ida died 15 to 20 years ago.

Ida Hagen was a young woman of spirit and determination from Ferdinand Township who set high goals for herself and achieved much against great odds. 

Note: The Ferdinand Historical Society is indebted to Albert Sondermann for most of the acts about Ida Hagen and the Freedom Settlement.

Article copied from September 26, 1991 Ferdinand News. Story by Pat Backer, member of Ferdinand Historical Society.