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JOHN BREWER DeMOTTE
Source: Weik's History Of Putnam County, Indiana Illustrated 1910: B. F. Bowen & Company, Publishers Indianapolis, Indiana Author: Jesse W. Weik
JOHN BREWER DeMOTTE, A.M., PhD., M.D. John Brewer DeMotte was born in the village of Waveland, Indiana, August 21, 1848, and died in Greencastle, Indiana, September 1, 1907. His father, who bore the same name, was an itinerant Methodist preacher and he in turn was the son of Rev. Daniel DeMotte, one of the early pillars of Indiana Methodism. His mother was Emily Franklin Payne, whose marriage to John B. DeMotte, the elder, took place September 2-. 1842. The mother died in July, 1851; the father, November 30, 1901. John D. DeMotte II, the subject of this sketch, attended the common schools of the day and in whatever village or town he happened to live, for the circuit rider of that period hardly ever spent a second season in the same place. Moving thus from place to place. the boy had the benefit of many changes in instructors. Being a ever- absorbent as well as observant lad, these transitions from one field to another were not without their good effect. As a pupil in school, he was equally apt and ambitious. He learned readily and readily made use of what he had learned. Therein lay the success of his training. In 18(.o his father was principal of the Asbury Female Institute, a girls' school in Greencastle, Indiana, and here the son came into contact with the atmosphere of University life. Meanwhile the war came along and. though he was scarcely over fifteen years old, lie volunteered and was mustered in as private in Company E. One Hundred and Eighteenth Regiment. Indiana volunteers. Returning after the expiration of his army service, he soon entered Asbury University, in college he was noted for his clearness of perception, his analytical mind and industrious habits. Along with his studies, he found time to teach certain branches in the preparatory classes. His capacity for work was prodigious. In 1874 he was graduated from the University with honors and the degree of Bachelor of Arts. The next year he joined the faculty of his alma mater with a view to organizing the preparatory school. After remaining in charge of the latter department for several years he was promoted to the chair of physics in the College of Liberal Arts. He had the enthusiasm for investigation and research, which all the great savants have had, who have achieved anything of value in the world of science. In 1887 Asbury University, his alma mater, conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy and six years later the Iowa Central College of Physicians and Surgeons, the degree of Doctor of Medicine. An earnest and profound student of electricity, he was made a life member of the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia. He carried on a large amount of research work in Cornell, Columbia, University of Pennsylvania, Bonn and Heidelberg-Universities in Germany. While abroad for study he was a co-worker with Henry Hertz at Bonn University, the discoverer of the Herzeman wave which made possible the discovery of the X-ray. In the midst of his busy career he found time to devote to music, and at one time organized the Mozart Club of Greencastle, an amateur orchestra of fort}' pieces and a chorus of one hundred voices. He composed the music of Shelley's "The Cloud." He found diversion in chess playing, this being his only game, although he skated and swam with skill; the year of his death he won a game of chess from the state champion. In January, 1878, Professor DeMotte married Lelia Laura Washburn, the ceremony being performed in Boston, Massachusetts, by the Rev. T. W. Walker, formerly district superintendent of the Greencastle district of the Methodist Episcopal church, who was studying for the ministry at that time. Miss Washburn was a woman of rare talent, culture and refinement, and the daughter of Gen. H. D. Washburn, who was a noted brigadier-general in the Union army during the Civil war and later was elected to Congress from the fifth congressional district of Indiana, serving two terms under Grant's administration, and still later appointed to the position of surveyor-general of the state of Montana. It was he who commanded the expedition in 1870 and 1871 which discovered and opened Yellowstone Park, Mount Washburn and the Washburn range having been named for him. Mrs. DeMotte was born in Newport, September 13, 1855, Death occurred in Indianapolis, February 25, 1910. At the time of her death she was President of the Kappa Alpha Theta Alumnae Club, regent of the local chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, a member of the Woman's Club, the Tuesday Reading Club, the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society of the College Avenue (Greencastle) Methodist Episcopal church and other religious organizations. She was fifty-five years old at the time of her death and she was one of the leaders of the club and social life of Putnam County. Mrs. DeMotte, like her husband, was highly educated and she was always of great assistance to him in his work. She was graduated from DePauw University in the class of 1877, and it was while in school here that she formed an acquaintance with Air. DeMotte, whom she later married while an art student in Boston. She continued her studies and received the degree of Master of Arts in 18S0. She accompanied Professor DeMotte on his travels through Europe in after years and gathered a large collection of rare pieces of foreign furniture, tapestry and art, which were destroyed in a fire which burned Elmwood, their beautiful homestead, several years ago. Mrs. DeMotte's mother. Mrs. Lorena (Johnson) Washburn, lives in Greencastle, and the former's brother, Dr. Aquilla Washburn, lives in Clinton. To Professor DeMotte and wife two sons were born, both of whom are living. They are: Lawrence Washburn DeMotte. head master in the Army and Navy Preparatory School at Washington, D. C. and John Brewer DeMotte. who is engaged in the real estate business at Tacoma, Washington. The last eighteen years of Professor DeMotte's life were spent on the lecture platform, where his life work was accomplished. He lectured in nearly all the lecture courses east of the Rocky Mountains, some times returning to the same course eight or nine years in succession. He was regarded by all who were fortunate enough to hear him as a very able lecturer, entertaining. forceful, always interesting and at times truly eloquent. Of his abilities in this line, an able fellow lecturer makes the following comment: "For more than a dozen years John B. DeMotte was easily the most popular lyceum lecturer on the American platform. He was, at the same time one of the most useful and helpful of all platform speakers. I have weighed these words, and utter them with deliberation, and I repeat with emphasis the statement I have made that the most popular American platform speaker of this opening decide of the twentieth century was John B. DeMotte. He manifested such an intense interest in his work, combined with an untiring energy and strong will power that he could almost bring success from failure." Doctor Hedley writes : "The key to the man lies largely herein : To encourage others; to teach and guide and serve and bless others, was his highest creed and his chiefest purpose. It was his mission. Dr. DeMotte's life was a life of service." Following is a list of his lectures: "The Harp of the Senses: or the Secret of Character Building," "Python Eggs and the American Boy," "A Plea of Posterity: or the Problem of Heredity." "The Fever of Life." Some of his addresses were: "Success Means Sacrifice," "Potential Energy," "Youth," "Habit," "Tapping on the Window Pane." "Point of View," "Recipe for Happiness." He was the author of "The Secret of Character Building," published by S. C. Griggs & Company. He was a member of the Gentleman's Club of Greencastle. Indiana, the Grand Army of the Republic, Franklin Institute and the Indiana Horticultural Society. Professor DeMotte was regarded as an excellent instructor and was popular with his pupils. Unlike many of his calling who become pedantic, he was essentially a man of the times, broad and liberal in his views and had the courage of his convictions on all the leading public questions and issues upon which men and parties divide. He kept in touch with the trend of modem thought along its various lines and, having been a man of scholarly attainments and refined tastes, his acquaintance with the literature of the world was both general and profound ; while his familiarity with the more practical affairs of his day made him feel at ease with all classes and conditions of people with whom he came in contact.
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