The Journal Gazette
Thursday, September 16, 2021 1:00 am

March 26, 1952: Statues adorn Harlan homestead

COREY MCMAKEN | The Journal Gazette

The Harlan-area home of Oliver Repp was surrounded – and filled – with statues, some of which can be seen in this photo dated March 26, 1952.

Then a century old, the house had been built by his great-great-grandfather, John Reichelderfer. Repp was an art lover that said he purchased statues when he saw any that he liked. Some of them were covered with clothing that changed with the fashions.

The original Journal Gazette story from 1952 appears below.

To suggest a date or subject for History Journal, email Corey McMaken at

“‘EYE APPEAL’ STATUES: They Give Life To Old Homestead,” by Wesley D. Bashore (March 30, 1952)

If you have ever driven down State Highway 37, you’ve noticed the Oliver Repp home about a mile east of Harlan. Those life-sized statues adorning his front yard are eye-catching, to say the least.

On bronzed wing-footed lad is leaping off a pedestal beside a pond. On the other side of the yard a gray stone strapped image of a lady stands in the open lawn.

But the most arresting view is the driveway. The century-old Repp home lies back from the highway, partially hidden by thick evergreens and hardwoods. The drive leads directly off the highway to the front porch.

A small red-coated boy serves as a hitching post at the entrance. About half-way back a bronze, almost-wholly draped woman stands on the left. Another red coat hitching post stands on the front stoop.

But the woman who stands on the right of the drive, in the midst of the pines, is a distracting wench, if Mr. Repp will forgive the description. She demurely presses a bright blue shawl, or whatever it’s called, to her bosom, but doesn’t quite succeed in her purpose. Her fingernails and toenails are bright red, in vivid contrast to her pale white skin.

The most distracting thing about her, however, is her intense stare as you approach the house. She stands facing the drive, but her head, on an exceptionally long neck, is twisted toward the road, as if she is straining to see who approaches.

It gives you a feeling of uneasiness, which, I imagine, is heightened at dark.

“The statues have been clothed at times, just for the sport of it,” Mr. Repp said. “The clothing changed with the fashions.” And sever Halloweens have seen the statues in the pool.

The two bronze figures and the white lady – all are made of zinc, incidentally – Mr. Repp acquired from the old Olds home, which now houses the Mizpah Shrine on West Berry Street. They are only part of the Repp statue collection.

“I started picking pieces of art years ago,” he said. “Whenever I saw a good piece of art I just bought it, regardless of the price.” He has an odd assortment of figurines and statues in the house, too, some 50 or more, all told.

But the thing Mr. Repp is most proud of is the home place on the 880-acre farm. It was built by his great-great-grandfather, John Reichelderfer, back in 1852 of heavy-dimension hewn timber off his own farm. Right now Mr. Repp is in the process of adding a west wing, with a huge picture window, to the home.

“It has been a landmark longer than anyone living around here,” he said. “My two grandchildren, Johnny and Geraldine James, in Harland, are the sixth generation from John Reichelderfer.

John, according to Mr. Repp, was born in Pique County, Ohio, in 1812 and settled on this same farm in 1840. “He built a log cabin on the back of the creek when there was more water than land around here,” he said.

“At the time State Road 37 was just an Indian trail through the heavy woods from Fort Wayne to Ft. Defiance.”

John’s brother, Lewis Reichelderfer, was one of the founders of Harlan, platted in 1860.

Although Mr. Repp said he had always been interested in farming, he has seldom devoted full time to it. He has usually been in some other business, such as hauling or contracting. And for several years he served as Springfield Township trustee.

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