The Jennie Dugan story created a few curiosities, such as Rebecca Ball’s interest in the story, and the dedication to Mrs. James Spears. What were the women’s connections to young Jennie Dugan?
A little sleuthing produced probable answers. Mrs. James Spears was the former Julia Crooks, a sister to Miranda Crooks Dugan, Jennie’s mother, and likely ran in the same upper crust social circles with Rebecca Ball, wife of Judge Cyrus Ball.
Mr. James Spears had much to do with the early progress of Lafayette. He built a grand home at the corner of Fifth and Souths Streets that was later used as a public library. He also built the Milwaukee block at Fifth and Columbia Streets.
Spears came to Tippecanoe County in 1833 and operated a mill on Burnett’s Creek near Battle Ground. He was later engaged in the contracting business and built the locks and dam for the Wabash and Erie Canal in Carroll County.
He came to Lafayette in 1844 and was associated with John Purdue, O. W. Pierce, W. F. Reynolds, Henry Sample, and other prominent Lafayette citizens. John Purdue’s funeral was held in the Spear’s home.
Spears was also associated with James Dugan, Jennie’s father, through business and family. Captain James P. Dugan was the president of the Citizens Bank in Delphi and prominently connected with Delphi’s early business interests. Upon his death in 1890, he was the sole surviving member of the firm Spears, Case, & Dugan, one of the wealthiest mercantile and banking firms in Indiana during its early days.
Sources: Journal & Courier (various clippings), Robert Kriebel Column, Old Lafayette, Journal and Courier, The Indiana Album: Shirley and Mike Benham Collection