Monday, August 22, 2016


Ben-Hur has hit the theaters again! The bestselling, academy award winning film adaptations of Ben-Hur were inspired by a novel written by General Lew Wallace in 1880. Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ was known as “the most influential Christian book of the nineteenth century.” Lew was from Indiana and Crawfordsville was his home.

Mr. Wallace started his career as a lawyer, wrote books in his spare time, and then became a General and served in the Civil War. Lew and his wife Susan had one son, Henry Lane Wallace.

Lew Wallace’s great-great granddaughter Carol Wallace is also a writer and will be presenting her new book, an updated version of Ben-Hur, at the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum on September 8th, 2016. 

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

The Good Old Summertime!

“In the good old the good old summertime…” Ahhh, out in the fresh air, a canoe to paddle around, and a pretty girl by his side. A perfect summer day in Indiana. An especially prized place for just hanging around and being with friends in Montgomery County has always been Shades State Park. Originally called “The Shades of Death” because of early murders in the area, and its deep ravines and forests, Shades State Park has been a “stomping ground” for nature lovers since early settlement in the area. As early as 1867, it was suggested by some Wabash students that this beautiful wooded area near Sugar Creek become a resort. In 1909, three local men got together and bought the park land, and eventually Mr. Joseph Frisz singly owned the property.  His family ran a hotel there and Mr. Frisz became well known as a naturalist.  Even during the 1930’s depression, he would not sell any trees to help out financially--”You are asking me to cut off my right arm!”  At his death in 1939,  the Kiwanis, along with the community’s help, purchased the property and gave it to the state.  

Friday, May 27, 2016

Dr. Edward Cowan

Dr. Cowan, front row, second from right, holding a cane
For Memorial Day, we are celebrating the life of Dr. Edward H. Cowan, who was the oldest surviving veteran of the Civil War from Montgomery County, at his death in 1942.  He was born in Frankfort on Dec. 21, 1846 to John and Harriet Janney Cowan.

John Cowan was reported to be the first male child born in the Indianapolis settlement in 1821, and attended Wabash College, graduating in 1842.  Edward also attended Wabash College, and in 1864, was one of a group of young scholars who left the school to join the Union forces. Edward was a member of the 135th Indiana Infantry, Co. H. Incidentally, this was also the unit my great, great grandfather, James W. Thompson of Ladoga, served with, so they must have been friends.  These young men spent time on the "Cracker Line," which opened up the area through Tennessee for the later famous, "March to the Sea," led by Sherman.

A young Dr. Edward Cowan
Edward Cowan mustered out in 1865 and returned to Wabash College, finishing in 1867.  He later studied medicine and became  a physician serving the people of Crawfordsville in 1878.  He was the first city health officer, and served on the city school board.   He married Lucy Ayors in 1877.   Her great-aunt was married to Major Ambrose Whitlock, who ran the land office in Crawfordsville for many years.

Dr. Cowan was well-known for his work with the Grand Army of the Republic, a national reunion group for Civil War soldiers, for over 50 years. In our "images" database, there are several more photos of Dr. Cowan attending different GAR events. He was admired and loved by all who knew him for his wit and humor, his breadth of knowledge, his friendliness to all, and his personal philosophy that kept him so young.  Dr. Cowan lived to be 95 years old.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Byrd - Houlehan Story

Ruby Byrd on her way to Indiana University in 1906
     In honor of the end of another school year, let’s go back in time for a moment and take a glimpse of Ruby Ethyl Byrd, a former Willson School teacher and resident of Crawfordsville, and her husband Arthur Earl Houlehan, also a former local resident as well as a chemist and inventor.  

Their story starts so very sweet, but sadly ends too soon. Ruby and Arthur both graduated together in the class of 1904 from Crawfordsville High School. Miss Byrd went on to Indiana University, and then became a teacher at Willson School in Crawfordsville. She taught there from 1909 until 1912, the year she married Dr. Arthur Houlehan. 
"Willson School class of mine" (Ruby Byrd)
Arthur attended and graduated from Wabash College and went on to Cornell University in New York to get his PhD in Chemistry. After securing his job as a chemist with a corporation called DuPont in Wilmington, Delaware, Houlehan came back to Montgomery County to marry Ruby and whisk her away. 

Their intimate family ceremony took place on August 28, 1912 at the bride's parent's house. 
The couple, then, immediately traveled to and took residence in Wilmington, Delaware.  
In 1917 Arthur and Ruby had a baby girl, Louise Elizabeth Houlehan. This particular collection includes many photos, most of them of Miss Louise. We are able to know that she was their pride and joy if only because we can almost watch her grow through the pages of pictures of their beautiful little girl. 

In 1924 Mr. Houlehan came down with pneumonia and, unfortunately, did not survive. Shortly thereafter, Ruby packed up with her daughter and moved back to Montgomery County to be around family. She became very active socially in the community, as well as volunteering for the Red Cross and several benefit drives. Mrs. Houlehan passed away at age 83 in Warren, Indiana, in 1968. 

Thursday, April 28, 2016

A Glimpse Inside the Walter Terry Scrapbook

Looking through a family scrapbook, in this case the Walter Terry family scrapbook, and seeing the very differences and similarities between the years can be so enriching. Activities that are captured and forever immortalized within these family photographs are most interesting, because it requires us to picture this time period and imagine life in a new way. Around this time 102 years ago, we see that playgrounds in the backyards of Montgomery County looked a little different than today. 

 Four girls, Jessie Foster, Edith Douglas, Cora Terry, and Ruth Remley, play ‘teeter-totter’ in the yard.

Vora Terry handwashes his buggy in August 1914, 

and two men and a little girl wash a large pile of potatoes in 1915.

Young Clayton Terry helps Aunt Gin (Virginia Terry) with the churning in 1917.

Everyday simple chores and playtime routines for these Montgomery County families living here around 100 years ago are peculiar to our modern life, but still somewhat relatable. We continue to do tasks wash our vehicles, scrub our vegetables, and play outside. These photos are from a family scrapbook loaned by Walter Terry; the pages were scanned by the library in 2011. The scrapbook contains more than 600 photographs, most of which are from Montgomery County, near Whitesville.  A photocopy of the scrapbook is available in the CDPL Local History Department.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Bard of Alamo, James B. Elmore

With Spring soon approaching, it would be appropriate to mention a local writer and poet who passed on some 74 years ago as of March 12. His name was James Buchanan Elmore. Much of the following information comes from an article Connie Riggs wrote for the bicentennial series from the Journal-Review of October 9, 1975.

In the preface of his writing of “Auburn Roses” (1907), Elmore described himself as “a poet-novelist and farmer, a common man who toiled in the fields in the summer and went to the fields in the winter.” At 23 he captured the heart of Mary Ann Murray of Nevada City, Missouri, and they married in 1880.

Mr Elmore’s first privately published book was “Love Among the Mistletoe” in 1889. He said of his works that he “didn’t get a publisher because the best he would get was 10 per cent, and you bet I’m not giving the children of my phenomenal fancy to the world just for the fun of it.”

Here are a couple of stanzas from one of his most famous poems, “Pearl Bryan’s Fate.”

Pretty Pearl Bryan had an elegant home,
With flowers and green pastures wither she roamed;
Her face like a rosebud, and teeth snowy white;
A gem of pure beauty- a star of the night.

There came to this cottage, in care of Will wood,
A wooer, Scott Jackson, an imp of the lewd,
And betrayed this kind maiden, her heart he did break,
Who laid down her life for a villain’s sake.

Elmore always claimed that his writing came to him quickly. “Poetry writing comes natural to me, and all I have to do is sit down and grind it out.” While the critics often panned his works, today James Buchanan Elmore’s books are being sought by many collectors. What do you think? Read Twenty-five Years in Jackville at the Indiana University Indiana Authors and Their Books project:

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Sgt. Tilney's WWII Heroism

Tilney mysteriously disappears from the store’s employment registry in 1941 due to his enlistment into the US Army on August 1 of that year.  The fact that Tilney enlisted into the military months before the Pearl Harbor attack is an interesting and noble aspect of his story’s timing.  As Tilney was serving his nation as a paratrooper, he kept a strong friendship with the Garners and consistently corresponded with the family.  The Garners received many letters from Tilney during the war, many in the form of V-Mail, or miniature letters for easier military organization and logistics.  One such letter to the high school age Robert Garner was emblazoned with personal artwork of the North African landscape Tilney was fighting in.
Tilney was deployed to North Africa in 1942 where he participated in the United States first combat parachute jump of World War II.  After initial military combat success in North Africa, Tilney was promoted to sergeant of his platoon.  However, Sgt. Tilney was tragically shot and killed in Nice, France after he intentionally drew enemy sniper fire in order to locate German and Italian strongholds on August 25, 1944.  Sgt. Tilney’s heroism would ultimately not be in vein, and due to his efforts these enemy positions were quickly eliminated by his platoon.  Nice was completely liberated from Axis occupation shortly after Tilney’s death.  Sgt. Tilney’s courage in combat and military service was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in action, the French Croix de Guerre, the Expert Infantry Badge with Oak Leaf Cluster, Distinguished Service Bar, the Good Conduct Medal, Paratrooper Wings, and the before Pearl Harbor ribbon bar.