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From the archives: Headstone, service memorialize orphans

Girl Scout Cadets Megan Oetting, left, and Lauren Akey of Troop 199 arrange flowers on
the Lindenwood Cemetery graves of two orphans who drowned during the 1913 flood.
(Photo by C. Somodevilla of The News-Sentinel)

The girls died in the flood of 1913.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013 - 12:01 am

This story was originally published July 12, 1999.

The lives and deaths of two orphan girls researched on paper now is forever etched in stone.

Ending 86 years of obscurity, Girl Scout Cadet Troop 199 on Sunday conducted a memorial service and dedicated a headstone at the graves of Alice Mannen and Kittie Wise. The two girls died trying to flee the Allen County Orphan's Home during Fort Wayne's flood of 1913.

At Lindenwood Cemetery, 2324 W. Main St., the eight Cadets marched, presented the flags of their country and their Limberlost Council, and played "Taps" on the trumpet.

They read the orphans' history, researched by The News-Sentinel, and read a poem.

"Remembering those girls as they watch from above, now they know they are truly loved," said Cadet Marci Mickelini.

The troop was inspired by a March News-Sentinel story that recalled the flood and how it killed seven people. The devastation left 15,000 people homeless and caused $4.8 million in damage.

The first floor of the Allen County Orphan's Home, located where the Sears Pavilion in Foster Park now stands, was flooded when rowboat rescuers gathered up many of the boys and girls.

But during the rescue, the swift current turned the boat and it struck a pole and capsized. Kittie, described as feebleminded, had gulped great quantities of water and was let go after appearing dead to rescuers. The 8-year-old was carried away by the muddy currents.

Residents found the body of 14-year-old Alice in a cornfield west of the bridge and north of the tracks. She was described as the most loved and helpful of the children at the institution.

Both were buried in Lindenwood Cemetery, without a funeral or headstone.

"The thing that struck the most to the (Cadets) was that there was no funeral service," said troop leader Teresa Akey.

When Akey read The News-Sentinel story about the orphans and a collection to place a headstone at their graves, she offered to have the Scouts design one.

Thirteen-year-olds Cailia Meadows, Ashlee Hibbert, Tiffany Johnson, Marci Mickelini, Lauren Akey, Megan Christlieb and Erin Hobson, and 12-year-old Megan Oetting spent the next three months touring the cemetery, studying the headstones to match the orphans' tombstone style to those created in the early part of the century.

They selected a rose-colored stone shaped in a wedge. The inscription: "In Loving Memory Of Two Orphans Who Perished In The Flood Of 1913. Alice Mannen 1899-1913 Kittie Wise 1905-1913."

Beneath the inscription is the Girl Scout symbol and credit to Troop 199 for the design and dedication, with July 1999.

On both sides of the double headstone are engravings of orchids, which are rare and special, said the girls. In the center is an image of a dogwood, symbolizing Christianity, sacrifice and purity.

Carolyn Long, a personal donor, was among the 30 spectators to Sunday's memorial service."Everybody should have a headstone," Long said. "So somebody can find them when they want to. They are more than what's under the grass."