Thursday, September 30, 2010

Have you ever seen the heating plant?

Did you know that there was once a central heating system built in Crawfordsville's downtown area to provide heat for homes and stores? In the early years of the 20th century, local citizens organized to create the Crawfordsville Heating Company and undertake this service. The central heating plant, shown in this newly acquired postcard, was built in 1909 -- and the building still exists. If you have driven around Crawfordsville, you have surely passed it numerous times: it is now the Enterprise building, located on Market Street. When the plant was active, its coal-fired boilers heated the water that was pumped through insulated underground pipes throughout the downtown area; the cold water then returned via another pipe to be reheated. The heating plant provided free heat to nearby Culver Hospital.

Monday, September 27, 2010

A Speed Connection?

Dian Moore, Reference/Local History staff member, recently wrote about a genealogy project she completed:

"You just never know where you will end when you start genealogy research. Tamara Hemmerlein of the Montgomery County Historical Society and the Lane Place asked me to see if there was any connection between John A. Speed, who was a conductor and station master on the Underground Railroad, and Joshua Speed, considered to be Lincoln's best friend (Joshua Speed was from Louisville, Kentucky, and had a store near Springfield, Illinois). The possibility of a connection between John A. Speed and Lincoln through Joshua Speed seemed slight.

I found three apparently unrelated Speed families in Montgomery County but had no luck until I looked at the obituary for Thomas S. Speed. Thomas Speed was from Kentucky, but his wife, Margaret Hawkins, was an Indianapolis native who lived some time in Crawfordsville. Margaret's sister, Miriam, married Thomas's brother, John J. Speed, in Crawfordsville, on April 17, 1839. Thomas was also a "near relative" (as stated in his Crawfordsville Weekly Journal obituary of April 9, 1892) of James B. Speed, who was Attorney General under Abraham Lincoln. Joshua Speed – Lincoln’s friend – was the brother of James B. Speed.

It appears that John A. Speed had no connection whatsoever with Lincoln – but I did find a tenuous local connection to Lincoln through Thomas S. Speed’s brother who may never have come to Montgomery County but who married a woman who lived in Crawfordsville.

More research showed that another sister of Margaret Hawkins, Louisa, married Edward Canby, one of Crawfordsville's five Civil War Generals. To top it off, John P. Hawkins – brother to Margaret, Miriam, and Louisa – was also one of Crawfordsville’s five Civil War generals."

Monday, September 20, 2010

Susan Elston Wallace letter

Dated July 27, 1890, this original letter was written by Susan Wallace. Born in Crawfordsville, Susan Elston Wallace (1830-1907) penned six books of poetry in addition to publishing poems in numerous magazines and newspapers.

She married General Lew Wallace, noted Crawfordsville citizen and famed author of the novel Ben Hur (1880), in 1852. In reference to her husband's novel, Wallace ends the letter with "As all Ben-Hur's friends are our friends, I am yours."

In honor of her accomplishments as a writer, Susan Wallace's name is engraved on the front exterior of the Crawfordsville District Public Library.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Are You Ready for Some Football?

Football season is again on us . . . and it is interesting to look back because Montgomery County has had a long tradition of supporting this sport. The young men in this photograph were members of the Crawfordsville High School football team during the 1901-1902 school year. They are (from left to right) front row: John Sidener and Ward Williams; middle row: Harry Richard, John Shepherd, Glenn Henry, Rome Williams, and Carl Alfrey; back row: Ralph Wicks, Robert Irone, Will Sprow, Niles Haton, Frank Symmes, and Frank Glover. This photograph was printed in the 1902 Crawfordsville High School yearbook, The Utopian. You can see a century of CHS Yearbooks in the Reference Department -- as well as yearbooks for many other schools. See our Yearbook database for details.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Meredith Nicholson Letter

The library has recently acquired a letter from a famous Hoosier author! This letter was written by Crawfordsville native Meredith Nicholson. It was sent to "W. D. H." at 333 N. Delaware Street in Indianapolis, Indiana. The letter is dated November 3, 1946 -- just a year before the author's death. In the letter, Nicholson talks frankly about his writing: "The fiction, long and short, that I did, doesn't matter. I was an essayist."

You can find such documents -- and more -- on our ever-expanding image and document database

Wikipedia article on Meredith Nicholson