By Arnold Bass
The Michigan City News-Dispatch
There are numerous stories that tout the virtues and sometimes non virtuous events that marked the county’s history. In my researching the history of La Porte County (Ind.) I came across articles of people, places, and events that defined the county’s history. Some of the articles referenced the first person to do this or that. Others announced the first time an event or opening occurred. This is the latest in a series of articles that may bring a smile or frown to our face, or cause you to say “Oh my gosh,” or “I didn’t know that.”
Twenty-nine acts of heroism were announced and recognized by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission at the end of January 1926 with the awarding of bronze medals. The medals were awarded three times a year following reports of acts of bravery that had been investigated and approved by the Commission.
The Hanna Pennsylvania Railroad agent organized the movement to obtain the recognition for an area man’s heroic act of bravery. Fourteen of the heroes lost their lives and to the families of these, pensions totaling $10,140 were granted. In addition to those grants, awards totaling $9,600 were appropriated for educational purposes, and in seven cases, awards aggregating $5,000 were made for other worthy purposes.
Among the recipients of bronze medals was Kennard N. Dudgeon of Hanna, Ind. He was the first La Porte County person to win the coveted recognition for bravery.
He was described by the newspaper as a “modest, red-headed, freckledfaced youth.” Dudgeon, a 15-year-old farm hand at the time, saved 40-year-old William H. J. Jahns, a farmer, from burning to death in Hanna. Four days later, the same newspaper listed his name as Kenneth Neal Dudgeon, an 18-year-old.
On the last day of August 1924, Jahns was in a barn when it was struck by lightning and began to burn. He was rendered unconscious by the shock. Dudgeon ran to the hay loft of the barn and waded through the burning hay in an effort to find Jahns. By the time he had finished his search, the flames had cut off his retreat to a ladder, which he had climbed. He then ran to a door in the side of the barn and jumped 8 feet to the ground.
He went to another door, found Jahns lying on a pile of straw just beginning to burn as were his coveralls. Dudgeon dragged him 25 feet through the flames. Outside, he “rolled him in some puddles of water and put the fire out.” Both escaped death.
“Hanna’s hero was only a slight fellow, standing about 5 feet, 3.5 inches in his stocking feet and tipping the scales at 130 pounds.”
(Evening Dispatch, January 28, Feb. 1, 1926.)
This article was reprinted with permission. It was originally posted Sept. 15, 2017 on The Michigan City News-Dispatch website, thenewsdispatch.com. Arnold Bass is a past president of the La Porte County Historical Society
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