John V. Dittemore, Ex-Indianapolitan, Prominent as a Christian Scientist
By Janet P. Shaw.
(Contributed by Albert Scarborough)
Probably most people have become familiar with the name of John V. Dittemore during the last few years because of his prominence in the councils of the Christian Science church. But perhaps few Indianapolis people realize that he is a Hoosier of Hoosiers, a member of a pioneer family well known in Indianapolis, a man educated mainly in the Indianapolis public schools and still bound to Indianapolis by many ties of business and friendship.
A visit with Mr. Dittemore's mother, Mrs. Mary E. Dittemore; in her pleasant home on Ashland avenue, is like turning back the pages of Indianapolis history for almost three-quarters of a century. More than seventy years ago, as a child of two years, she was brought by her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Valentine Cress, to live on a farm, situated at that time, south of the city where Fountain square is now located. They were members of good Kentucky and Virginia families who had settled in Indiana not long after the territory was opened to white settlers.
When Mrs. Dittemore was a young girl, almost sixty years ago, her father sold the farm and the family moved to the northern part of the city. She attended the old McClean seminary which once occupied the square now called University park, and today she numbers among her friends many of the prominent women of the city who were once her school friends.
During John Dittemore's boyhood, his parents lived on North Illinois street and he attended the public school called old No. 11 and later he entered high school. But young Dittemore was restless in school, and brass buttons and gay uniforms attracted him, and so he spent some time at Culver Military academy.
He finished his preparatory schooling at the Phillips academy at Andover, Mass.
Finds Job for Himself
He expected to enter college in the East the following fall, but during the summer he decided that he was more interested in business than books and found a job for himself. He received only $2 a week, but when his father urged him to give up the place, he explained that he was not working for the sake of the money, but the training, and he stuck to the job until he thought he had learned all that there was to know, about that work.
However, he soon found a larger opportunity with the I. N. Richie, Real Estate Company and became a trusted member of the sales force. Mr. Richie almost immediately discovered that young Dittemore had unusual business ability and predicted a brilliant future for him. In spite of the difference' in their ages, the two became most congenial companions as well as business associates.
Before he was 21 Mr. Dittemore was married and thus gave himself a compelling incentive to gain success in business life. His bride was Miss Edith Bingham, the daughter of W. P. Bingham, one of the founders of the firm of Bingham & Walk; and a man well known to the older business men of the city.
Mr. Dittemore became Interested in the manufacture of evaported (sic) and condensed milk when the business was in its infancy. He was one of the first business men to recognize the possibility of the industry, and in 1900 established a small, factory in Sheridan. Ind. The business developed very rapidly and Frank VanCamp became connected with the enterprise. It was merged with the VanCamp Packing Company of Indianapolis and Mr.Dittemore became vice president of the company. Later he was made president of the Federal Packing Company Mr. Dittemore New York.
Greatest Success In Church
Mr. Dittemore's greatest success in life, has been accomplished through his connection with the Christian Science church, for the leaders recognized his unusual executive ability soon after he joined the church and placed him in positions of great responsibility. His connection with Christian Science dates back to a chance remark of a business friend with whom he had gone to lunch. Mr. Dittemore was extremely ill at the time and was confined to an invalids diet. His friend ordered a meal which practically included the entire menu of the club at which the two were dining.
"Frank," said Mr. Dittemore enviously said "I'd give $1,000 if I could eat a meal like that."
"You can," answered his friend, "if you go to my doctor [a Christian Scientist]."
Mr. Dittemore took the advice and soon became a member of the Second Church of Christ, which was at that time meeting at Shortridge high school. He was elected a trustee and first reader not long after, and, in 1908, was appointed chairman of the committee of publication for the Christian Science churches of New York state. The following year, he was elected: with the approval of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy, a director of the Mother Church In Boston.
Friendly With Mrs. Eddy
Of course, one of the greatest experiences in his life has been his friendship for Mrs. Eddy. One day she sent for him to call on her. He thought that it was only a friendly visit, but before he left, she asked him to become one of the trustees of her estate. This was a mark of great confidence, as the estate is valued at more than $3,000.000, and is devoted to the work of extending the religion of Christian Science throughout the world. The board of trustees own and control all of Mrs Eddy's published and unpublished books, which are the basis of Christian Science teaching.
Mr. Dittemore has two homes in the East, one is at 68 Commonwealth avenue, Boston, where he lives during his working months. But far dearer to him is his summer home in Vermont called "Upper Cross."
It is a small farm of perhaps thirty acres in the foothills of the White mountains near Brldgewater. The old farmhouse, which is said to be 150 years old, has been restored and modernized, and there Mr. Dittemore spends his summers with his family and many friends. Although it is more than 100 miles north of Boston when he is free from the long hours of office work demanded by his various interests he often makes the trip in his car for the sake of a few hours of rest and quiet.
Grandson Lives at Home
One of the most honored guests at "Upper Cross" is a small grandson, "Pete," the son of Mrs. A. L. Alfau, who formerly was Louise Dittemore. As Mrs, Alfau's husband is a fruit importer located in Cuba, she sent her small son to spend the hottest season with her parents last year, and "Pete" and his grandfather became inseparable.
At present Mr. Dittemore is in England for a few weeks on a business trip connected with the Longyear Foundation, of whose directors he is chairman. This is a heavily endowed public trust fund, founded by the late John M. Longyear of Boston and Michigan for the extension of world-wide religious historical research.
It will be seen that Mr. Dittemore's interests are far from limited or sectarian. Through the various organizations which he represents, he wields a great power for good and he is working for the general uplift of mankind with sincerity and ability. He still retains his membership in the University and Columbia clubs; is a member of the new Athletic Club in Indianapolis. He is a frequent visitor in the city.
The Indianapolis Daily Star. July 8, 1923. Pg. 6.