Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Early Recollections of Crawfordsville

    I recently came across a delightful little historical book located in our reference department about the settlement of Montgomery and several other counties in the area written by Sandford C. Cox --”Recollections of the Early Settlement of the Wabash Valley.” As a young man, soon after he moved to Montgomery County, Cox was hit by a falling tree, and lost a leg. Because of his lost leg, he was unable to do most physical labor so he worked ambitiously to educate himself and become a respected worker. He quietly learned the law and later practiced in Lafayette. He was a conductor on the Underground Railroad. In 1859, Cox began publishing “extracts” of local history in the Lafayette Daily Courier.  
   One of the first recollections concerns land sales in Crawfordsville, on December 24, 1824. At the time, Crawfordsville was the epicenter for business and government for about one hundred miles around. He reports that the town was full of strangers, but that he had also entertained old “White Water” neighbors. He had three old buddies show up for the sale, and in his twelve foot by sixteen-foot cabin slept his family of seven, plus the three friends. This was not an uncommon occurrence in pioneer times. They just spread beds on the floor and made room for everyone.
image of the Speed cabin, from CDPL database

    His description of Crawfordsville at the time is this--”It is the only town between Terre-Haute and Fort Wayne….Major Ristine keeps a tavern in a two story log house, and Jonathan Powers has a little grocery. There are two stores--Smith’s, near the land office, and Isaac C. Elston’s, near the tavern. Thos. M. Curry and Magnus Holmes are the only physicians, and Providence M. Curry the only lawyer in town. John Wilson is clerk of the court, and David Vance is sheriff. William Nicholson carries on a tannery and shoemaker shop. Scott and Mack have cabinet shops, and George Key blows and strikes at the blacksmithing business”       

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Facebook,,,,1901 Style!!!

     As 21st century people, we love to think that we are connected to everyone and know all the gossip. But one glimpse at the Crawfordsville Daily Journal of April 1901, and we are transported back to a time when everyone actually did know everything about everyone. Here are some excerpts from the Journal from April, 1901. 
GRAVELLY RUN (Franklin Township)--Miss L. Johnson is taking treatment for her eyes. Otis Hall is gradually regaining his health, but won't be taking up his teaching duties at the college.
Gravelly Run Church--photo from our database

CHERRY GROVE(Madison Township) Thomas Carrol and his hand, Jas. Lyons, put in oats last week.  Mike Carroll sold a fine bunch of hogs and delivered them at the pens in Crawfordsville this week. G. Murdock is going to trade his fancy driving horse for a trotter. 
LONGSTREET (NW of Shannondale) Mrs. Shaver returned from Indianapolis. Mrs. J. Crawford and Mrs. C. Hill are both successfully running incubators ( I assume for chicks!)
FIDDLER's POINT(area near Young's Chapel) Mrs. King is working for Mrs. Sallie Paxton. George King spent Sunday at Frank Smith's house in Cherry Grove. Several ladies met at Young's Chapel and gave the church a good cleaning!
CALIFORNIA(between Elmdale and Pleasant Hill School)Hal Utterback is working for Wm. Walker. Miss Pearl Cowan is staying with relatives at Wesley this week. A small house with all contents at George Marshtetter's farm near Round Hill was destoyed by fire last Sunday morning. 
Several of these community names I was not able to find on a county map.  However, there is a list of over 400, yes, 400 county communities located at the bottom of the Local History page, with a link to the Montgomery County GenWeb page, kept by Karen Zach. Thanks, Karen!

The Indiana (INGenWeb Project), Copyright ©1996-2017 (and beyond), Montgomery County GenWeb site    

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Charles E. Townsley, Civil War Drummer Boy and Local Postman

       Charles E. Townsley, was born in 1845 in Montgomery County, Ohio, to Jerry and Harriet Townsley, and came to this Montgomery County at an early age. When he was sixteen, he enlisted in the Seventy-Second Regiment Infantry as a drummer boy.
from Report of the Adjutant General of the State of Indiana--1861-1865, vol. 6,

     While stationed at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, in 1863, he contracted typhoid, and had to return to Indiana. Zack Mahorney traveled to Tennessee and fetched him home. As soon as he recovered, he went to Port Jefferson, Ohio, and reenlisted on July 14, 1863. He traveled to Nashville, joined a Union regiment, and continued to serve as a drummer boy until the end of the war. He was discharged in Nashville on August 23, 1865.
     On May 9, 1869, he married Miss Fannie Mack of this county in Kankakee, Illinois. She was the daughter of James T. Mack, early Crawfordsville settler, and subject of an earlier blog post. Mr. Townsley went on to build the Junction Hotel, which was located at the railroad junction on the east end of Franklin Street, in Crawfordsville. He was also the proprietor of the Robbins House. He worked for the local post office for the last six years of his life. He was well known throughout the county as he was the special delivery letter carrier. He was purported to have a jovial, kind disposition, and made friends with all he met. 
     He died January 14, 1908.  Four children survived Charles: Hattie Tyler, Mrs. John Teasdale, Mrs. Maud Cook, and Frederick Townsley.  His service was held at his friend, Newton Wasson, on the corner of Grant and Market Streets.
     (check the post on 3/23/2017 for information about James T. Mack, father-in-law)

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

CDPL Acquires Back Issues of County Papers from Ladoga Library and the Boone Family!

     The Ladoga Library and the CDPL board have recently come to an agreement on the permanent loan of three county newspaper back issues from Ladoga Library to CDPL. Crawfordsville Library would like to thank the Ladoga Library for their very generous loan of valuable local history!
            The Ladoga Leader is available on microfilm from 1890 to 1950.
The Jamestown Press is available from 1898 to 1974.

     Also, the New Richmond Record back issues have been given to CDPL by the family of Phyllis Waye Boone for public use, and in hopes of getting them microfilmed. These papers are not available for viewing at this time.

However, some issues of this paper are available on “Hoosier Chronicles.”  On the CDPL home page, click on SERVICES, then scroll down to Reference and  Local History.  Open the page, and halfway down is a link to Early Montgomery County Newspapers. This will take you to a page that lists our local papers that are readable on their site. 
     The following newspapers are also available online.  At, go to Databases tab, then scroll down to Vital Statistics. Click on this link, their links appear at the bottom of the Vital Statistics page.    

May 1890 - Feb 1900
Jan 1907, Jan 1908 - Dec 1910
July 1900 - Jan 1903
Jan 1911 - Feb 1920, Jan 1923 - Jan 1928
Feb 1872 - Feb 1889, Jan 1892 - Feb 1898
Feb 1898 - Jan 1899, Jan 1901 - Feb 1903

Monday, July 10, 2017

Young Man Meets His End in the Trenches--This Week in World War I

     Upstairs in the Local History/Reference Department is a large display on World War I. Part of the work in putting together this project was finding all the obituaries printed in the Crawfordsville Daily Journal of Montgomery County soldiers who died during this war. The young man who lost his life one hundred years ago on June 30 was Alexander Colman.  His death was reported in the July 13 edition of the "Crawfordsville Daily Journal."
    Alexander Colman was an English-born Canadian lad when he came to live here in 1912-13 with the James Thomas family to attend high school.  He was well-liked and had many friends in our area. The Thomases learned of his death from a letter they had received from his broken-hearted mother, Annie Coman Griffie, in Toronto, Canada. She reported that her son had died at the sixth clearing station in France on June 30,  two days after he had been wounded. She received a letter written by her son two days after learning of his death. It was a cheerful letter, full of his thanks for a parcel received from home full of gifts.
   Colman had been in the trenches for over a year and a half. He had served as a Lewis machine gunner for the last six months, and had earned the rank of corporal. He had recently celebrated his twentieth birthday.

   This entry for Colman in the Gold Star Honor Roll Book, that lists the dead from Indiana in World War I, states that he died in the battle of Lens, but I found that that battle happened in August, so we are not sure exactly what battle he was in. 

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Hunting the Wild Panther!

    This week’s local history post digs way, way back into the newspaper database we have available online at  We now have access to “Hoosier Chronicles,” an online database for scanned newspapers from around the country, and several from our county.  As I was proofreading the January 2, 1836, issue of “The Crawfordsville Record,” I found an article about wildlife in northern Montgomery County.
     It seems that in Coal Creek Township, back in the 1830’s, a six-foot panther made several appearances.  Now, this being a time without television, or computers, young men needed something to occupy their time. A few intrepid young men, including the sons of Rev. Benjamin Brooks, decided to go out night hunting for this panther. Upon sighting the big cat, the boys sent in their hunting dogs to do their jobs.
One of the smaller boys involved asked for the ax to kill the panther, but the biggest boy, having half his wits about him, decided it was time to hightail it home to Pa, and get some help.  Once home, they could hear the panther screaming in the distance. They also found one of their dogs later, ripped to shreds by this beast. It was decided by the neighborhood dwellers that finding the cat and dispatching him from his earthly life would happen on the next snowy day when he would be easy to track.  

       Rev. Benjamin Brooks (1779-1855), the father of some of these brave young lads, was an original purchaser of land in Township 20-N and Range 5-W, section 36, land now occupied by Pleasant Hill Elementary School.  He is buried nearby, next to his son, William (1821-1834). He and his wife (her name is lost) together had a family of eight children: Rev. Stephen, Nancy B. Kirkpatrick, John, Sarah B. Springate, William, James, Benjamin, and Samuel. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Huntington Family--Builders of Beauty

Try to take a fast drive through Ladoga, and I guarantee that you will slow down to gaze at some of the beautiful late 19th century homes that grace its streets. Maybe you’ll wonder about who must have built all that beauty.  A local man, Hiram Huntington, and several partners, including his son, George, were responsible for bringing about the peaks, the porches, the gingerbread, and the fish scale siding on many of these homes. Hiram Huntington was the best builder in the county beginning in 1866 and continuing on for fifty years!  He started out as a trainman in 1859 in New Albany, Indiana, on the Monon Railroad, then during the Civil War he worked as a pattern maker in Nashville, Tennessee, making armament for the Union forces. After the war, he moved his family to Ladoga, and began making his mark on Montgomery County.
from CDPL image database 
   Probably the most visible and well-known building he and his son, George, completed was the Ladoga East Graded School (1897). What a grand looking school with its ornate brickwork, half-round windows, and lofty turrets mounted on each corner!  This school was used for seventy-five years!
J. C. Knox home, Ladoga, 1895
    One home that he built, the Ashby home, south of Ladoga, is on the National Register of Historic Places.  The J. C. Knox home, in Ladoga,  is a quintessential example of Victorian architecture. Hiram, despite his poor eyesight, was responsible for making much of the elaborate woodwork found inside and outside many of the houses he built.
    A funny note about the family--Hiram and Sarah Gregg married on February 14, 1858. Their two sons were also born on Valentine’s Day--George in 1867, and Harry in 1869!
George (2nd row, with moustache) in his Ladoga High School picture (ca. 1885)
      So, the next time you take a slow drive through Ladoga, think about this influential and talented family, the Huntingtons.  
(Information from "Family Histories, Montgomery County, 1823-1988." Compiled by the Genealogy Sect. of the Montgomery County Historical Society, 1989)