Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

September 11, 2013

Sept. 11, 2013: Letters to the editor

Kokomo Tribune

---- — Off’s influence seen in Tipton to this day

In the summer of 1894, as Tipton County Commissioners Jacob G. Off, John R. Harlow and Granville H. Hobbs were overseeing completion of their new courthouse building, they were told by the State Board of Health that the county jail had been condemned. So on June 13, 1894, they voted to put into motion plans for a new building.

Commissioner Off, who was a friend of Indianapolis architect Adolph Scherrer, whom Off had engaged to design the courthouse, once again called upon Scherrer to design a new jail and sheriff’s quarters. Scherrer’s plan for a cherry red brick building with Berea stone trim was accepted, and the building was erected on the southeast corner of Madison and South West streets in downtown Tipton by Pierce and Morgan, which also built the courthouse. The new jail cost $30,600.

Off had first been elected a Tipton County commissioner in 1878, becoming a candidate at the insistence of the people who valued his wisdom, sound judgment and advice. One of his first main projects was to put into place an efficient road grid for the county. Eventually more than 200 miles of modern-for-the-time gravel roads came about through his efforts.

But when he proposed a main roadway that would run from Tipton to the Howard County line (along the west side of Off’s farm, which would have made him one of the largest taxpayers on it), Off ran into opposition.

Remonstrators declared sufficient gravel could not be obtained for such a project. Then there was the problem of an obstacle called the Crane Pond; it was believed this area couldn’t be crossed successfully.

And the taxes — there’s always the taxes to be considered. It was no different then than it is now. New taxes for this bold new road would bankrupt everybody! Petitions were circulated, and public meetings were held in Tipton and at many of the small schools along the roads. Sharpsville residents in particular were opposed to the new road because its route would not bring it through their town.

Overall considerable bad blood was engendered, but Off remained politely firm and determined in his vision for the road, and relied on that sound judgment for which he was known. The road was indeed built, and there was plenty of gravel to build it. The Crane Pond proved not to be the obstacle that was first thought, and no one was broke when the road was finished.

At the time Off was up for re-election, and many feared that the commotion would result in his defeat. But the people did indeed re-elect him.

At the completion of the courthouse and jail projects, and his 18th year as a county commissioner, Off decided it was time to step down. He thought he had served long enough, but the people thought otherwise and they were greatly disappointed when he refused to be a candidate again.

As commissioner, he left his county with a beautiful and efficient courthouse and jail that — at least up to this present time — have served the people well for over 100 years. Much of the road system that efficiently carries the county’s traffic exists largely because of a polite German immigrant named Jacob G. Off.

Jeff Hatton