D. O. Skillen & Earl S. Goodin

 


These two men, whose names are entwined in the history of glass of East Central Indiana, were more than just business partners.And they were involved in another industry in Muncie that continues to this day. Letís take a look at their lives.

Born in Sidney, Ohio, on February 12, 1866, Dee O. Skillen was the son of Captain and Mrs. William Skillen.He completed his education in Sidney, and worked as a salesman after graduating from high school.Some time before the turn of the century, Skillen moved to Loogootee, Indiana.It is not known if he moved alone, or with his family.Either way, he married Effie W. Goodin after moving there.

It might be supposed that Skillen was involved in one of the known glass operations of the Loogootee area, but there is no record of a glass plant being in existence while he was there.Natural gas was not discovered until 1899, at least two years after Skillen left the community.

After an outbreak of typhoid fever in the area caused the death of Effieís father and six of her siblings, she and her husband took on the task of raising one of her surviving younger brothers.Earl Sentney Goodin had been born in Loogootee on January 18, 1876 and thus was ten years younger than his brother-in-law.This situation made him more of a son than an in-law to D. O.Before the family left the Loogootee area, Goodin would marry a local girl, Maude Craig Roby.

In 1897, D. O. Skillen purchased, for $10,000, the Leader Glass Works in Yorktown, Indiana.This operation had been founded in 1892 by Robert I. Patterson and other investors, but had gone into receivership by September of 1893.George L. Lenon purchased the plant for $11,000 in February of 1894, and incorporated the Leader Glass Works on March 29, 1894.The plant continued to operate under Lenonís direction until the fall of 1896.The site of the factory was just east of Broadway Street in Yorktown, along the north side of the C. C. C. & St. Louis railroad tracks.

Goodin family tradition says the Skillen and Goodin families moved from Loogootee to Yorktown after purchasing the burnt-out National Fruit Jar plant.No such company is known to exist, but the Leader Glass Works did burn in the fall of 1896, and was indeed the plant bought by Skillen.However, a letterhead dated October 7, 1896 lists Lenon serving as president with D. O. Skillen as the secretary.This would indicate that Skillen already was associated with the factory before the fire.Also, the local newspaper reported in November 1896 that the glass factory was being rebuilt from a fire several weeks previously.This was several months before Skillen purchased the operation.

Regardless of the exact sequence of events, the Skillen-Goodin Glass Company was incorporated on January 18, 1897 with Dee O. Skillen, president, Earl S. Goodin, vice-president, and Effie W. Skillen, secretary-treasurer.

While Skillen was the president of the company, his brother-in-law Earl Goodin actually ran the factory, as Skillen was busy with another partner.He and H. L. Warner formed a company to make automobile parts, which later became the T. W. Warner Company, a forerunner of Warner Gear of transmission fame.

The glass factory continued to make the Leader Fruit Jar that Patterson had patented in 1892, as the patent rights were part of the purchase.It also made flint, green and amber bottles, vials, flasks, panels, inks, pickles and ointments.The plant continued to operate successfully for over two decades, any unusually long lifetime for this era of glass factories.Eight gas wells supplied the energy in the beginning, but the factory had to covert to producer gas after the natural gas ran out.There is no indication that the factory ever converted from hand-blown to machine glassmaking, but it may have.

Far outlasting the brief enterprises of Patterson and Lenon, the Skillen-Goodin Glass Company successfully produced glass until 1918.On Friday, April 26 of that year, about 5:20 am in the morning, the packing room was discovered to be ablaze.The night force had gone home around 2:40 am, leaving only five or six men on the site, working in the engine room.

When fire was finally discovered, the entire packing room had become involved in the conflagration.Despite the efforts of bucket brigades and the local fire departmentís hose wagon and engine, most of the factory was destroyed, at an estimated cost at $35,000.Insurance would cover only 30 to 40 percent of the loss.

The damaged operation was never rebuilt, primarily because of unfortunate bad timing.The United States had just become engaged in World War I, and structural steel was restricted to the war effort.By the time the war was over, it was too late to rebuild.Over two hundred men, women and children who were employed by the company at the time lost their jobs.

Meanwhile, the Skillen and Warnerís auto parts business was going strong, so well that it was bought out in 1919 by General Motors of Detroit.As a result, D. O. Skillen became general manager of the new GM subsidiary called Muncie Products.He became a vice-president of the organization, when it was called Muncie Gear Works.

Earl Goodin, with his glass background, went to work for Turner Glass Corporation at Winchester, the former Woodbury plant, but left after a year to become general manager of the Sheridan Motor Car factory.Most of these automobiles were sold to Eddie Rickenbacker who used them to supply the Hollywood movie mogulsí demands.By 1924, Goodin was again working for his brother-in-law at Muncie Products.Before long he was named the Northwest Sales Representative for the company, and moved to Portland, Oregon.

It was there that Earl Goodin died, on September 14, 1934.His wife Maude survived him for 32 years, but is buried beside her husband in Rose City Cemetery in Portland.They were the parents of five children.

In addition to his other businesses, D. O. Skillen was a member of the real estate firm of Skillen, Moore, Sample and founded Elm Ridge Memorial Association that developed Elm Ridge Cemetery in Muncie.He built a home immediately west of the cemetery on State Road 32 and lived there until his retirement.

He belonged to the Methodist Episcopal Church of Yorktown, serving as elder, secretary and conducting several orchestras. He was a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, a 32nd degree Mason, vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce and a member of Rotary International.

After retiring, D. O. Skillen and his wife moved to the Muncie Colony at Tri-Lakes, a resort area near Columbia City, Indiana.This was their permanent residence, but they wintered in Florida.After an extended illness, Skillen died in Lutheran Hospital in Fort Wayne on October 15, 1937.He was interred in the mausoleum at Elm Ridge Cemetery that he helped establish.His wife followed him in eternal rest in 1950.

The glass company was never resurrected, and the only physical remnants remaining today are three worker cottages along Mill Street in Yorktown.But Skillen and Goodin managed to make a success where two previous attempts had been failures.And Warner Gear, for whom they both later worked, continues to this day in Muncie as Borg-Warner, the company the gives the trophy to the winner of the b Indianapolis 500 every May.

 

Richard H. Cole, Jr.

© 2003 Minnetrista