Alfred A. Sphung, "the Frog Man,"


Starke County had a unique distinction among all the counties across the United States in the early 20th century. Located in North Judson, Alfred A. Sphung, "the frog man," was a distributor and general merchant in frogs especially, but also turtles, clams, crawfish and other species of water animals.

In 1879 Mr. Sphung first came to Starke County. For several years he was a fisher and trapper along the Kankakee River and lakes of Northern Indiana. In 1883 he supplied a considerable quantity of frogs for the market, which was the beginning of his unique industry. Though it was often referred to as the frog farm, Sphung’s place at North Judson was only 17 ½ acres of land, situated within the town limits, which housed his home and a large ice house.  The Sphung place provided facilities for the handling of his merchandise.          

No frogs were actually raised at Sphung’s place, as he was more a merchant than a frog raiser. From early spring until late in autumn and through the winter his ponds and sheds were full of the animals. The Indiana farm was not at all pretentious. One-fourth acre of ground was enclosed. Water was turned into it from the pond near Sphung 's ice house. Here the turtles were placed when shipped in from Wisconsin. There were long low sheds built over the ditches in places, which served as protection for the frogs in cold weather. He handled water products by the thousands and by the tons; his place at North Judson had as many as thirty-five tons of frogs at the same time.  Three cities at the top of Mr. Sphung’s list for meat were Dayton, OH, Philadelphia and Pittsburg, PA. As a rule he would ship 2,700 pounds of turtles at a time to Philadelphia.   While he furnished frogs and turtles to hotels as edible commodities, his most valuable customers were the scientific laboratories of hundreds of colleges and universities. Sphung shipped thirty dozen turtles at one time to Harvard University, and nearly every large college in the country at different times applied to him for specimens. Some of the largest regular shipments of turtles, frogs, clams and crawfish were sent to Yale, Columbia, Harvard, University of Chicago, University of Texas, Leland Stanford University, University of California, Northwestern University, University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, University of Mississippi, University of North Carolina and the Ohio Northern University. Even the United States Government at different times placed large orders with him.   

Mr. Sphung died December, 1935, and is buried in Highland Cemetery in North Judson.