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Title: Pence real town, believe it or not
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Pence - If you find yourself someday wandering through the featureless prairie in this part of the state, you'll probably stumble onto this Warren County community. And you might chuckel and say something like: "Do you call this a town?"
But don't laugh. Pence can make a claim that perhaps no city and town in Indiana can match. It once appeared in the late Robert Ripley's famous "Believe It or Not" newspaper feature.
It was back in the 1930s that Ripley told the world that Pence, Ind., was the smallest community in the United States with its own central water system.
And the Pence waterworks is still in fine shape, thank you, giving uninterrupted service to some 30 homes and businesses.

Besides its water system, Pence is remarkable because it is one of the newest towns in Indiana. Citizens here will have to wait around to the year 2002 before they can observe their centennial.
For the first year of its existence, residents hauled water by hand from a well near the grain elevator. But in 1903 the water system was in operation, with the precious fluid flowing from taps everywhere.
The system first operated with a 1,000-gallon, wooden gravity tank but it burned in 1912.
"That must have been a sight when the tank burned and the water let go," said Merle Hensley. Hensley farms about four miles southest of here, and he has been around the Pence community for more than 40 years.
Hensley commented while he sat in the office of Matt Martin, who operates the Indiana Certified Seed Co., plant here. Martin also serves as manager of the waterworks.
About three years ago, Martin said, the steel watertowner that replaced the original wood one was desmantled and the system now uses a 2,000-gallon ground level tank in a nearby building. Tank pressure is generated by an air compressor.
"It works just like the storage tank in your home," Martin said. The original well, 240 feet deep, still serves the community.

Customers get their money's worth. Martin, Jane Foxworthy and Calman Sloan operate the waterworks without salary. Miss Foxworthy is the manager of the Pence Implement Co., and collects waterworks payments for the 34 customers.
"I don't send out bills unless somebody gets several months behind,"she sai. Folks usually drop by once a month and pay the $5 charge.
Profits from the waterworks also pay for a couple of street lights that burn in the downtown area.
Like most small town, Pence has changed considerably over the years.
"Forty years ago this town was pretty self-sufficient, and it served an area 8 or 10 miles around." Hensley said. In past years it had grocery stores, a hardware store, a newspaper, restaurant, lumberyard, hotel and jewelry store among several businesses. The old hotel is now part of the seed company comples.

All those businesses have gone, but Pence is long way from being economically dead. Only the nature of the commerce has changed, now being oriented to agriculture. A lot of cash rolls through the community each year as a result of the implement firm, the seed company and a fertilizer business.
The Pence Implement Co., owned by James Mann of Rossville, Ill., has new farm implements parked in about every nook and cranny around the downtown area. Much of its business comes from Illinois, only a mile away. Illinois farmers buy in Indiana because the state does not charge sales tax on farm machinery.
As she chatted, Miss Foxworthy was approached by an employe of the firm who said two other employees had asked if they could go along to deliver a tractor.
"You tell them we'll just close up and all go. I'll ride up front with you and they can right in the back." she declared.
It was a polite way of saying no.

The employe grinned and walked away.
Miss Foxworthy runs an operation housed in a two-story brick building about a half-block long. Years ago the bottom floor served as a bank and the upper floor held rooms for several lodges. The bank failed in the 1920s.
Miss Foxworthy is a lifetime resident of the community. "I was born a mile south of here and I live a mile north of town now." She has worked for the implement firm since 1944. "My father came up from Kentucky and married a local girl and I'lve been here ever since," she said.
Another thriving business is Dean Perrin's household applicance sales and service. His wife, Mary Lynn, is the Pence postmaster.
The town's oldest resident is 94-year-old Dr. H.B. Ford, currently recuperating from an illness at Williamsport Community Hospital. He opened a veterinary office in 1912, retiring only a few years ago.
The elevator closed in the early 1970's, and a year or so later the Chicago and Easter Illinois Railroad came along and pulled up its tracks. The action pretty well blocked any hopes of reopening the elevator.
The town, on the western edge of Warren County is named after Frank R. Pence, who bought 40 acres around the turn of the century and platted 25 acres into streets and lots.

This community once was nuts about sports, fielding its own baseball team from 1910 to 1955. For several years the community supported a basketball teams, the Pence Aces, that played all its games away from home. The team once went up against the Harlem Globetrotters and nearly won.
But before Pence came along to start a town, there was civilization here - the Methodist Church. The Pence United Methodist Church here observed it's centennial in 1971 and, appropriately, the principal speaker was Al Stewart, former director of Purdue Universtiy Musical Organizations. Stewart's father once was pastor of the church. The Church of Christ, established in 1914, occupied a big, graceful stucco building near downtown.
Pence may be small, but it's doing fine.

Date: 4/24/1977
Origin: Journal and Courier
Author: Jack Alkire
Record ID: 00002144
Type: Periodical
Source Archive: Warren County Historical Society
Date Entered: 8/10/2001
Collection: Pence
Entered By: Margaret J. Fink

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