The City of Fort Wayne has its full quota of men who have spent long and useful years in the development of industry, civic life and progress and who have stepped aside to let pass the younger generation, with its ambitions and desires. In this class is found James P. Karr, who until 1929, the year of his retirement, had been president of the American Steel Dredge Company. His career has been a useful and busy one and he well merits the rest that has come to him after many years of uninterrupted labor.

Mr. Karr was born in White County, Indiana, December 7, 1857, and is a son of John Calhoun and Rachael Marie (Moore) Karr. His paternal great-grandfather, Andrew Karr, was born in Scotland around 1744, whence he came to America in young manhood, and served as a Rifleman in the American Revolutionary War, 2nd Battalion, Lancaster County, PA Militia. He married a Miss Katherine Wilson, as did the maternal great-grandfather (Moses W. Karr) of James P. Karr, although it is not known if the Wilson ladies were related. Andrew Karr died at his Blue Ball, Ohio farm on 31 July, 1828. His wife Katherine preceded him on 1 September, 1814.

The maternal great-grandfather was the Rev. Thomas Moore (1761-1840), who also served in the American Revolutionary War, and as a young Presbyterian pastor came from Pennsylvania to Somerset, Ohio, and is said to have been the first ordained minister to cross the Alleghany Mountains. Another great-grandmother of James P. Karr was a Miss Powell, whose father founded the first college in Pennsylvania for the purpose or educating Presbyterian ministers.

Moses Wilson Karr, the grandfather of James P. Karr, was born in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 29 June 1781. He moved to Ohio and entered from the Government a part of the land, then Blue Ball, Ohio, upon which the City of Middletown now stands. He subsequently engaged in the mercantile business at Middletown, and in 1837 entered land in White County, Indiana, to which he removed with his family two years later. There he settled down to agricultural pursuits, in which he continued to be engaged successfully until his death on 20 January,1855. He was a man of high character, and had the esteem and respect of his fellow-citizens.

John Calhoun Karr, father of James P. Karr, was born at Middletown, Ohio, 25 September,1824, and was about fifteen years of age at the time he came with the family to White County. He was reared to an agricultural life, in which he was engaged all his career, and died on the 6th of August in 1899, at the age of seventy-five years. He married Rachael M. Moore, who was born at Somerset, Ohio, 18 October, 1828, and they became the parents of eleven children, of whom seven are living. Rachel passed on 29 April, 1890.

James P. Karr was reared on his father’s farm in White County, Indiana in the community of Buffalo for which John took a portion of his farmlands and created the  community. James in his younger years devoted himself to farming. Later he broadened the scope of his energies by entering the lumber business, and through this he developed into a contractor and builder, and later into dredging work, for which he made his own machines. On January 1, 1906, in partnership with John D. Rauch, Mr. Karr founded the American Steel Dredge Works, at Logansport, Indiana, where the business was operated under that style until January 1, 1910. It was then moved to Fort Wayne, where a new and commodious plant had been erected, and the name of the concern was changed to its present style, the American Steel Dredge Company, with offices at the corner of Taylor and McKinley streets. Mr. Karr was made the first president of the new concern, which, under his management, grew and prospered. He remained in the same capacity until his retirement from business affairs in 1929. He had fairly won a place of prominence among his adopted city’s business leaders, and still takes an interest in business life, but only as a spectator. He is a member of the Modern Woodmen of America and his religious faith makes him a Presbyterian.

On January 5, 1891, in Pulaski County, Indiana, Mr. Karr was united in marriage with Miss Otie Witham, who was born in that county, September 4,1868, a daughter of Albert Witham, granddaughter of Joseph Witham, and great-granddaughter of Milton Witham, a pioneer of White County, Indiana. Mrs. Karr died April 22, 1928, leaving four children. Raymond W. Karr, the eldest these, was educated in the public schools of White County, and graduated from the Central High School, Fort Wayne, and the International Business College. In May, 1918, he entered the United States army, and was first sent to Columbus, Ohio, later to Fort Snelling, Minnesota, then to Camp Devens, Massachusetts, and finally to Camp Zachary Taylor, Louisville, Kentucky, but was not called upon for overseas duty and received his honorable discharge December 7, 1918. In 1917 he had become associated with his father in the American Steel Dredge Company, as secretary and treasurer, and after his military service returned to the company. At the election of officers in 1929 he was made secretary of the company, which position he still retains. He belongs to all bodies of Masonry, including Mizpah Temple, A. A. O. N. M. S.; and is a member of the Fort Wayne Chamber of Commerce and the Orchard Ridge Country Club. While attending the International Business College he joined the Kappa Alpha Phi, which is now a national fraternity. On April 20, 1927, Mr. Karr married Miss Flora Roehm, of Fort Wayne, and they have one daughter, Joan, born March 31, 1928; Lurena, the second child of James P. Karr, graduated from the Fort Wayne High School and attended the International Business College, and then married Donald Short, by whom she had one child, Donald. She is now the wife of Floyd H. Ake, by whom she has two, children, Wendell H., and Delota H.; Leslie A. Karr, the third child of James P. Karr, is a graduate of the Fort Wayne High School and the International Business College, and is now manager of the shops and a member of the board .of directors of the American Steel Dredge Company. He is a Blue Lodge Mason. He married Hazel Wagner, and they are the parents of four children, Bruce, David, Paul and Geraldine. The youngest child of James P. Karr, Power Witham Karr, is a graduate of the Fort Wayne High School and is now attending Ohio State College, preparing himself for entering the plant of the American Steel Dredge Company. He is a member of the Kappa Delta Rho fraternity.


 Vol. 3 By Charles Roll, A.M. - The Lewis Publishing Company, 1931

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