Willennar Genealogy Center’s collection is full of Throwback Thursday potential, so let’s get our #TBT on!
Willennar Genealogy Center’s “Extraordinary Hoosiers” Project focuses on four individuals from DeKalb County History: Olympian Don Lash, medical pioneer Bonnell Souder, Egbert Mott, DeKalb County’s first practicing lawyer, and M. K. Houlton, the focus of today’s #TBT.
Matthew Kilgore Houlton was born in Franklin Township on October 4, 1851, in the cabin his father, John Houlton, had built in 1833. Although it’s disputed, John was alleged to be the very first settler of DeKalb County.
M. K. grew up and was educated in Franklin Township, and he later acquired land there in “Section 12,” which would have been in the northestern part of the township. In 1880, his youngest brother, Roger Rinaldo Houlton, lived just down the street. While living there, M. K. began raising cattle and hogs.
On October 1, 1874, he married Marietta Case of Steuben County. They had two sons, Jink and Rinaldo. Jink was named after the song “Captain Jinks of the Horse Marines,” and Rinaldo was likely named after his uncle Roger Rinaldo.
In the 1880s he started a circus in DeKalb County. Marietta, Jink, and Rinaldo traveled with M. K. and the rest of the troupe by wagon, and presented their various stunts and performances in a large tent. Although they don’t seem to have had any “circus animals,” the troupe featured many acrobatic acts, an orchestra, and a challenge band.
Jink and Rinaldo were acrobats in their father’s circus, as well as musicians. M. K.’s brother, Roger Rinaldo Houlton directed the orchestra and composed music for the troupe, like this violin music shown below.
The circus did well until 1893, when a fire destroyed the building where the circus’ equipment was being stored.
M. K. continued his pursuit of agriculture long after his circus days were over, and even opened a broom factory on his property. He died on May 13, 1921, in Franklin Township.
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