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A County Historian's Love for History

Tom Castaldi has served as Allen County historian for 15 years. IHS and the Indiana Historical Bureau established the county historian program in 1981 to promote local history. The Allen County-Fort Wayne Historical Society recommended Tom for the position.

Though his career was in the business and marketing communications field, Tom’s love for history goes back to the days he spent as a child in his father’s grocery store in Logansport. “In the 1940s and ’50s, those grocery stores served as the community center for news and stories,” he says. “All sorts of tales told by old timers fell on young ears – how ‘things used to be,’ why this or that got its name, where the best fishing holes could be found or when some famous person passed through town.”

One day, Tom’s father pointed out what remained of the Wabash Erie Canal along U.S. 24. This tidbit of local history became a fascination. Located at the Maumee portage, Allen County has plenty to offer to keep Tom’s interest going. He thinks all Hoosiers should know the importance of transportation and the role Allen County has served. “Miami War Chief Little Turtle, in 1795 speaking with Anthony Wayne, said that this place was that Glorious Gate through which the words of their fathers passed in all directions,” he says. The portage in the area connects the Great Lakes to the Mississippi River Valley.

As the county historian, Tom is the primary contact for questions related to Allen County’s past. It isn’t unusual for him to receive four or five emails, letters or phone calls a week concerning genealogy, local history, local myths and more. He also produces two radio shows. “On the Heritage Trail,” a walk through Northeast Indiana history, has aired weekly on WBOI-FM for 20 years, and Redeemer Radio airs “Historia Nostra,” featuring short histories of the Fort Wayne-South Bend Diocese during station breaks. He’s also been contributing articles to the Fort Wayne Monthly magazine for the past 14 years.

For fun, Tom writes about history that he finds has an “aha” factor. “If it strikes me as unusual or makes a connection with some other ongoing activity in our culture, it probably is of interest to other folks,” he says.

The county historian program is managed by the IHS Local History Services department. For more information contact localhistoryservices@indianahistory.org.

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