Friday, December 28, 2012

"Pete" Vaughan, sports hero

This photograph of "Pete" Vaughan was found in the Louis Spilman Scrapbook, recently loaned to CDPL by the Spilman family.  Spilman served on the Mexican border circa 1915 with Robert Edward “Pete” Vaughan, who later became a sports legend in Montgomery County. Although born in Tippecanoe County, Vaughan spent the majority of his life in Crawfordsville. He was considered a pioneer of Indiana basketball, playing three seasons at Crawfordsville High School with Ward “Piggy” Lambert, later famous as a coach of Purdue basketball.  In fact, it is said that Vaughan helped Lambert land his job at Purdue. Vaughan was a football and basketball star at Notre Dame, where he was chosen to be a member of Walter Camp’s All-American team.  After two years at Notre Dame, he transferred to Princeton University, where he met Woodrow Wilson, at that time serving as president of Princeton.  After coaching at Purdue University, he served with Montgomery County’s Indiana National Guard unit on the Mexican border, although Vaughan's father tried to convince him to come home to help him run the Vaughan & Casey firm in Crawfordsville.  “Pete” served as captain in the Army overseas during World War I, and coached the football team of the Pennsylvania National Guard.  King Albert of Belgium attended one of Vaughan’s football games in Brussels, taking such interest that he walked to the field to be able to better see and understand the action. Vaughan served as Wabash College Athletic Director from 1919 to 1947 and again from 1961 to 1963. After his retirement from Wabash in 1947, he served as manager of the Coca-Cola Bottling plant in Crawfordsville.  Vaughan died in Crawfordsville in 1969. 

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Long-Lost Images Found!

Photographs of the first airplane landing at Crawfordsville have just been rediscovered in a newly-arrived scrapbook lent to CDPL by the son of pilot Louis Spilman. The pilot, a local native, was assigned to the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps when he was persuaded to make the Crawfordsville flight on May 25, 1918. Proposed as a way to promote the purchase of War Bonds to finance World War I, the flight involved dropping hundreds of informational leaflets over the city, and culminated with a landing witnessed by the thousands of Crawfordsville residents gathered to welcome him. 

In addition to images taken on the day of the flight, the scrapbook includes dozens of photographs relating to the Crawfordsville National Guard unit during the days leading up to World War I, local Boy Scout troops, Wabash College, and Crawfordsville High School during the 1911-1919 time frame, making this album an incredibly rare historical artifact.  Thank you to Bob Spilman for his generosity in sharing the scrapbook with our local history collection! Check back soon to see many of the scrapbook’s photographs, which will be added to the CDPL image database.

Read the article "Thousands saw Louis Spilman make city's first plane landing" (.pdf) from Montgomery County Remembers (1976).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Display Honors Aeronaut Malcolm Ross

The most recent CDPL Local History display honors the aeronautical achievements of Linden High School graduate Malcolm Ross. On May 4, 1961, the U.S. Navy Strato-Lab V balloon Ross piloted with Lt. Commander Victor Prather ascended to an altitude of 113,740 feet, becoming the highest manned balloon flight ever.  Following splashdown of the successful flight, co-pilot Victor Prather drowned when he slipped from the rope lowered from a helicopter to transport him to a nearby ship. The Strato-Lab V mission tested spacesuits to be used for NASA’s Project Mercury program, and as a result, the next morning NASA launched astronaut Alan Shepard into space, a milestone in space exploration made possible in part by Malcolm Ross.  The library exhibit features a photograph of President John F. Kennedy speaking at the presentation of the Harmon Trophy to Malcolm Ross and Virginia Merritt Prather in 1962, among other photographs provided by the Ross family.
On October 14, 2012, more than fifty years later, the altitude record set by Malcolm Ross and Victor Prather was finally broken by the Red Bull Stratos program when pilot and parachutist Felix Baumgartner ascended 128,000 feet higher in a balloon. The new record is pending verification.

The Crawfordsville District Public Library thanks Mrs. Marjorie Ross and the Ross family for their generosity in sharing their family’s photographs and artifacts that have made it possible to tell the story of our overlooked Montgomery County hero.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Local Letter Reveals Historic Connections

Our local history archives is growing again, this time with the accession of an August 1834 letter written to a local resident, Mary Catharine (Anderson)  Naylor. Mrs. Naylor was born in New York in 1807, and married Isaac Naylor in 1826. The couple moved to Montgomery County in 1833, and here her husband became a judge presiding in the local court. Her sister Jane, living at the time in Indianapolis, penned the letter, beginning with devastating news: Jane’s six-month-old baby girl had passed away, and due to the uncertainty of the mails, she was writing to see if Mary Catharine was aware of the sad event.

Although greatly of interest as a family letter, learning some background of this family lends depth to the story of American history and the history of Indiana. Robert Anderson, the father of Mary Catharine and Jane, was an Irish immigrant who served in the Revolutionary War with General Washington at Valley Forge. Jane’s husband was Samuel Merrill, a  three-term member of the Indiana General Assembly, State Treasurer of Indiana, first president of the State Bank of Indiana (an achievement alluded to in the letter itself), and a staunch abolitionist. In 1850, Mr. Merrill purchased a bookstore in Indianapolis which eventually became the Bobbs-Merrill publishing firm.
Each document we receive helps to add detail to the picture of the history of our county, providing information for genealogy and local history researchers alike.  If you have original photographs or documents relating to Montgomery County history, please call the Reference and Local History Department at 765-362-2242 ext. 117.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bean's Barber Shop

From a recent loan we have received several interesting photographs of the Jolley family. For this image, the donor, Daniel Jolley, wrote: "interior shot of Bean's Barber Shop in March of 1926. My grandfather, Carl Edgar Jolley, is the second barber from the left. In March, 1926, he was not yet 19 years old." 

Mr. Jolley added another image of his grandfather, too ("a photo of my grandfather, Carl Edgar Jolley, standing outside Bean's Barber Shop. It appears to be about the same time as the interior...circa 1926").

We looked for Bean's Barber Shop in our city directories, to see where it was located. The 1926 city directory has Edgar C. Bean listed as a barber, and the shop was at 128 N. Washington Street (where the courthouse parking lot is now). Although this building and these people no longer exist, we can at least preserve an image of them for future generations. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we continue to try to collect and protect the heritage of our county. If you have something for us, consider a loan or a donation!

Monday, November 5, 2012

New Katharine Clugston Items

The Clugston family, ca. 1890
     The library has recently acquired several photos of Crawfordsville playwright Katharine Thatcher Clugston, from her nephew. Although Katharine didn't live in Crawfordsville for long, she is definitely part of the great literary tradition here.
      Katharine was born in Whitley County in 1892, the daughter of Emma Thatcher, a teacher, and Harry Clugston, lawyer and mayor of Columbia City. Harry was associated with the firm of Marshall & McNagny--the Marshall being Thomas Riley Marshall, governor of Indiana and vice president under Woodrow Wilson. The family story is that Katharine's father expected her to go into clerking at her father's store, but Tom Marshall put his foot down. He believed she must go to college, and if her family wouldn't pay, he would!
Katharine Clugston, ca. 1914
      Kate went to Wells College, graduating in 1914, and then studied at Radcliffe. She also studied playwriting at Yale under the eminent George Pierce Baker, who also taught Eugene O'Neill and Tom Wolfe. Her play "Finished" was produced at Yale to great reviews, but it flopped at its New York showing, despite the fact that it starred Katharine Hepburn in one of her first theater roles. Katharine (as well as other knowledgeable parties) blamed the failure on the new third act the producer forced her to write.
      Kate spent a year abroad with a Guggenheim Fellowship, which allowed her to write furiously away from the pressure and financial stress of New York City. She was also head of the play bureau in the Federal Theatre Project during the Depression. Kate kept busy writing, publishing two books, one a psychological thriller and the other a collaborative novel about Daniel Boone. One of her plays was made into the 1934 film "The Last Gentleman" starring George Arliss.
Kate spent her later years teaching, and retired to her home on Chebeague Island, Maine. She died there in 1985.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Election Day, 1906

Men stand outside of the Academy School (also known as the Alamo Academy) on Election Day, 1906. Unfortunately, the school, built in 1868, burned down in 1909, just three years after this photograph was taken.

This photograph is in CDPL's collection and can be viewed through our image database.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Genealogy Club of Montgomery County meeting

Archie's War Stories

Genealogy Club of Montgomery County
Tuesday, November 13, 2012 at 7:00 p.m

Archie Krout, club member and local resident, will share his war stories at the Genealogy Club's November meeting. Join us at the Crawfordsville District Public Library in the Donnelley room on the lower level. Public Invited. Call: (765) 362-2242, Ext 118 for more information.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Nellie Coutant and her pocket Kodak

Kodak contest winner "Give the Grandparents a Kodak for Christmas"
The Kodak Film patent was issued on this date in 1884. George Eastman's "invention allowed him to mass produce a small hand-held box camera filled with rolls of film with 100 exposures." The Kodak camera would be introduced four years later, in 1888, and daily life snapshots would soon become popular. Read more at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website.

Crawfordsville photographer Nellie Coutant was only nine years old when the Kodak Film patent was issued in 1884. In a 1903 essay for the Bausch and Lomb Lens Souvenir, Coutant wrote, "My first attempts at photography were made merely out of politeness, a friend having presented me with a pocket Kodak...the little pocket Kodak opened my eyes to a new and delightful pastime and my interest grew until I purchased a 5 x 7 hand camera."

Coutant won a Kodak contest with her photograph entitled, "Give the Grandparents a Kodak for Christmas." The photo shows Ambrose Remley (right), Chauncy Coutant (center), and Barnet Hoover (left) inspecting a Kodak camera in front of a house at 701 South Water Street in Crawfordsville.

See more of Coutant's photographs in our image database.

To learn about Nellie Coutant, check out Hidden History of Montgomery County, Indiana.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

An Autumn Hike

Crawfordsville High School female students stop to pose for a group picture while on an autumn hike, probably around 1917-1918. The girls are not identified, but it is assumed that they are members of the Sunshine Society. Willson included this photo in the section on the Sunshine Society in a term paper entitled "Training High School Pupils to Serve the Community." The complete term paper can be accessed online through our image database. You can also view a larger image of this photograph.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Listen to Your History!

The Reference/Local History Department has started a project that you will certainly find interesting! Over the years, the library has collected a lot of different media: LPs, cassette tapes, slides, VHS tapes, and more. This collection is now safely stored in our archives because we want to preserve the items for future generations. However, we also want them to be accessible. It is your local heritage, after all! Knowing that some day the players needed to play these media may no longer exist or that the media themsleves will degrade, we have begun to digitize this collection. We already digitized two records and several cassettes of oral interviews:

  • Crawfordsville High School: Talking Books (1959 & 1960 Yearbook record inserts with interviews and more)
  • Oral interviews: Local residents (Montgomery County Historical Society interviews with longtime local residents)
  • Oral interviews: World War II veterans (Montgomery County Historical Society interviews with local vets)
You can find our growing effort online:

Technical note: We are making the audio files available as .ogg or .mp3 files in an embedded audio player depending on your browser. Users with older browsers will just see a link to the .mp3 file.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Local Author's Play Now at Library!

Katharine Clugston, ca. 1928
  Although she spent most of her life on her beloved Chebeague Island, Maine, playwright Katharine Thatcher Clugston spent some of her early days here in Crawfordsville. Katharine was the daughter of Emma Thatcher Clugston, a teacher, and Harry Clugston, law partner of vice president Thomas Riley Marshall and mayor of Columbia City, Indiana. After Harry's death, Emma relocated the family to Crawfordsville while Kate's brother attended Wabash College. Emma later remarried Wabash professor Donaldson Bodine. Kate graduated from Wells College in 1914 and went on to study at Radcliffe College and Yale. While studying under George Pierce Baker at Yale, she wrote a play titled "Finished." Thanks to a donation from Kate's family, the library now owns a copy of her play.
  "Finished" was produced in New Haven to great reviews, but when the show made the transition to Broadway in 1928 with a new title, "These Days" fizzled. Kate blamed the play's failure on two things: first, producer Arthur Hopkins ordered her to rewrite the play's third act. Reviews of the play noted that the change did not serve the plot well, and the tone of the third act was too serious for Kate's "faintly ironical comedy." Kate vowed she would never rewrite again.
  Another disappointment for Kate was in the casting of the lead role. Mildred McCoy was cast as Virginia McRae, a boarding school girl around whom the play centers. Kate would have preferred to cast a fresh-from-college Katharine Hepburn in the role, but Hepburn was still too green, and was given a small role as school-girl Veronica Sims. The Hartford Daily Times  predicted that "heaps of natural talent and an unusually attractive personality may well lead her, in time, to do things in the theater."
  Stop by the library and have a look at this rare play by an Indiana author, as well as photographs and documents about Katharine Clugston, shared with us by her family.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Genealogy Club Annual Dinner & Meeting

The Genealogy Club's Annual Dinner and Meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 11, 2012. Dinner will be at 6:00 p.m. followed by a meeting at 7:00 p.m. in the Donnelley Room of the Crawfordsville District Public Library. The meeting will include a presentation by Surveyor Jim Swift that is entitled
"Stone Hunter, Washington, Jefferson, & Me."

No charge for the speaker and meeting, but reservations are REQUIRED for the dinner. Please R.S.V. P. before Friday, September 7, 2012. For reservations, call Mike Mitchell (765-362-0467), Dellie Craig (765-362-2242, Ext 118), or the Library's Reference Desk (362-2242, ext 117). Payment of $12.00 for the meal must be made by Monday, September 10, 2012. VISITORS ALWAYS WELCOME. For more information, please contact Dellie Craig from 9 am-5 pm or email

Friday, August 24, 2012

Voices from the Past

We have recently uncovered some voices from the past!

The 1959 and the 1960 Crawfordsville High School Athenian yearbooks both included a small record, called a Talking Page, in the back. On these platters was recorded memories of the school year! Each side is about seven-minutes long and contains interviews, music, announcements, and more.

Take a step back in time and listen to these long-forgotten recordings!

Sometimes the quality of the recording is a little poor -- some of the recording seems to have been made "live" (such as at a football game or in the high school auditorium). But often a voice from the past will come through as if it were recorded just yesterday.

Go to: CHS Talking Pages

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Spirit Photographs at the Library!

Spirit photography began in 1861 when Boston engraver William Mumler found ghostly images of his deceased cousin in photographs. The spirits reached Crawfordsville in 1869 when photographer A.D. Willis discovered to his dismay that spirits were clouding pictures he was taking. By the late 1880s the craze had mostly died down, but the library has recently discovered that spirit photography was still around well into the twentieth century.
The first picture is William and Bessie May Woodworth. Bessie was born in Crawfordsville in 1885; she married William in 1909. William eventually became the president of the Indiana State Association of Spiritualists. The family moved to Cook County, Illinois, where Bessie was a minister of the Psychic Science Spiritualist Church when she died in 1944. The image that appears next to William in this photo is believed by the family to be William and Bessie's child; the only surviving child mentioned in Bessie's obituary is an adopted son, Leonard Finch.
The next photo is of Benjamin and Dollie Clark (or to be more accurate, Myrtle Dollie Bright Shultz Clark). Dollie and Bessie were sisters, daughters of Cecil and Rachel Redenbaugh Bright. Dollie was married for the first time in 1909 to James Shultz, waiter at a cafe. Dollie had only just met James when they went together to the Tannenbaum clothing store and ran into Dollie's ex-beau of four years, Chick Holland. Words were exchanged, with Holland ultimately daring the new couple to get married. They were agreeable; James and Chick went to the courthouse and got the license. Dollie signed and the couple were married that night--probably not exactly what Chick intended! Sadly, the marriage only lasted about 13 years before Dollie filed for divorce, charging cruel and inhuman treatment and desertion. By 1930, Dollie had married Benjamin F. Clark, a pastor of a spiritualist church in Indianapolis. Dollie was killed in a car accident in 1953. The face on Benjamin's pants leg is believed to be Dollie's mother, Rachel Redenbaugh, who died in 1918. The other two spirits in the photograph are unknown.
Read more about spiritualism and spirit photography in Hidden History of Montgomery County, Indiana, available at the library, or see more photos of Dollie and Bessie on our image database!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Shades State Park: 65 Years Strong

Celebrate the Shades!
In honor of the 65th anniversary of Shades State Park, CDPL is featuring historical photographs and postcards from its local history collection in a new display entitled "Shades State Park: 65 Years Strong." The display is now available at the library on the 2nd floor and was made possible by the generosity of Pat Hauck, granddaughter of J.W. Frisz. Photographs from the Terry family, donated by Walter Terry, were also gratefully used for the exhibit.

After Hours Genealogy Research

Research your family history after hours
at the Crawfordsville District Public Library!

Join the Genealogy Club of Montgomery County for After-Hours Genealogy Research on Friday, July 27, 2012, from 5:00 p.m. until 9 p.m. The library is locked at 5 p.m. so you will need to arrive before that time.

At 5 p.m., we will meet in the Donnelley Room to eat a pizza supper (donations are accepted towards pizza). From 5:45 p.m. until 9 p.m., you will have access to the library's computers and local history collection for research.

Visitors are welcome to attend! Please confirm your expected attendance by Wednesday, July 25. Call 765-362-2242 ext. 118 or email

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Genealogy Club Meeting

Come share your family artifact! 

Join the Genealogy Club of Montgomery County for their monthly meeting on Tuesday, July 10th at 7:00 pm. Club members and guests will participate in a discussion entitled Round Table: Sharing A Family Artifact. Please limit individual talks to 5 minutes.

The meeting will be held at the Crawfordsville District Public Library in the Donnelley Room. Public Invited. Call: (765) 362-2242, Ext 118 for more information.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Shades State Park celebrates 65 years

Earlier this week, an article in the Journal Review explored Shades State Park history in honor of its 65th year anniversary. The Crawfordsville District Public Library has many Shades photographs and postcards in our Image Database.

The images below are from a family scrapbook loaned by Walter Terry; the pages were scanned by the library in August 2011. The scrapbook contains more than 600 photographs; 141 images were added to this database (series: 20110815). Most photographs are from Montgomery County, near Whitesville. A photocopy of the scrapbook is available in CDPL's Local History collection.
"1919. Taking a boat ride at Shades State Park, Vora, Cora, & Clayton, Frank & Clella VanCleave." Another small girl, unidentified, is also in the boat. 
"The Shades, Aug, 1914." A couple pose on a footbridge over Sugar Creek.
"1919 Shades State Park." The covered, drive-thru wooden structure that served as an entry point is pictured from the front. Over the top of the entry reads: "The Shades." 
"1919 Shades State Park." Three men and a woman stand on a bridge (which is probably over Sugar Creek).

Monday, June 18, 2012

200 Years Ago Today: War of 1812

William Miller
On June 18, 1812, the United States declared war on Great Britain.  The War of 1812 was also known as Mr. Madison's War (after President James Madison) and the Second American Revolution. Many early settlers of Montgomery County, including Isaac Compton Elston, Ambrose Whitlock, and William Miller, were veterans of the War of 1812.

Ambrose Whitlock
CDPL's Veterans Database includes the names and burial locations of Montgomery County war veterans. You can search or browse the database at If you have information about a veteran not included in our records, please fill out our information request form.

The Saturday Evening Journal dated March 15, 1979 lists Montgomery Residents who had been granted 1812 pensions. The list of pensioners follows:

John Walkup, New Ross
Elizabeth Farlow, widow of William Farlow, Orth
Isaac Naylor, Crawfordsville
Elizabeth Clifton, widow of William Clifton, Pleasant Hill
Joel Hixson, Pleasant Hill
Henry Clement, Pleasant Hill
John Oliver, Pleasant Hill
Zeneth Hallett, Waveland
Alexander McClelland, Crawfordsville
Preston Beck, Darlington
Murwine Wilkinson, Wallace
Margaret Booher, widow of John Booher, Darlington
Mary Endicott, widow of William Endicott, Darlington
Jane A. Warbinton, widow of James Warbinton, Ladoga
Nancy Hall, widow of Elijah Hall, Waynetown
Mary Harter, widow of Philip Harter, Linden
Mary Cunningham, widow of John Cunningham, Crawfordsville
Martha Woodruff, widow of Daniel Woodruff, Crawfordsville
Jemima Williams, widow of Andrew Williams, Crawfordsville
Mary Miller, widow of Jacob Miller, Whitesville
Catharine Fletcher, widow of Robinson  Fletcher, Waynetown
Catharine Fruits, widow of George Fruits
Clarissa Hicks, widow of James Hicks, Alamo
Sophia Newhard, widow of Abraham Newhard, Crawfordsville
Sophia Brasfield, widow of George Brasfield, Crawfordsville
Lucinda Irons, widow of Thomas Irons, St. Joseph, IL

Friday, June 8, 2012

Go east, Wabash grads!

In 1850, two Wabash seniors wrote a letter to the Reverend Samuel Riddel from the Andover Theological Seminary in Boston, hoping to pursue their studies at this institution after graduation. Students F. A. Wilbur and William McCorkle reported that Wabash was "prospering" but that they were more than ready to make "an acquaintance with eastern habits." Of course, like any most students of today, Wilbur and McCorkle were going to graduate "in debt."

Read the original letter (.pdf)

Postmarked: Crawfordsville May 6

Written on envelope:
Letters from April 10 to July 11 1850
F. A. Wilbur &
Wm. A. McCorkle
Students in Wabash College
In. inquiring the cost
Education in Andover
Theological Seminary

May 3

Rev. Samuel H. Riddel
(Education Rooms 15 Cornhill)

Rec’d May 13-
Ans’d- 17-with particulars obtained from Prof. Edwards for which see his letter on file.

Crawfordsville May 3 1850

Rev. SH. Riddel:

Dear Sir,

Remembering the interest you manifested while here, in the beneficiaries of the Education Society. We feel free to apply to you for some information. You will recognize us both as beneficiaries of your Society. And also as members of the Senior Class of Wabash College. We wish to commence a course of theological study immediately after graduating; and the information we wish is relating to the expense incurred in attending upon Andover; and the assistance which indigent young men can obtain.

Our minds have been led to Andover from the following considerations.

The advantages at Lane -- always inferior to those at Andover -- we think are decidedly impaired by the loss of Prof. Stowe. True one or two new profs. Are to be obtained; but there is a strong probability that they will not be secured in time to enter upon their duties at the commencement of next term. Should they be, however, they will be new professors, although they may be talented men.

Another strong reason for going East is that our connection and education have been wholly western, and we think an acquaintance with eastern habits, eastern men, and eastern minds will be a decided advantage.

True we expect to labor in the West; but we think the western element will be sufficiently predominant in our combinations, even after it has been modified by a portion of New-Englandism, to qualify us for laboring in the Mississippi Valley. These are the most important reasons for going East. There are two obstacles in our way, the climate, and want of funds. We will graduate in debt; our age forbids our delaying to earn funds, consequently we are shut up to the necessity of studying theology where we can, not where we would. Will you be kind enough to reply to the following questions? What is board at Andover? How much will fuel, light, washing, and room rent, each cost? How much furniture is provided for each room? How much assistance can be obtained from the Education Society? If it does not furnish sufficient, can any, in addition, be obtained? What facilities will a young man meet with, by which to assist himself, by his pen or otherwise? This last question refers principally to vacations. Any information respecting Union or New-Haven will be thankfully received. We think the probability is that we will be obliged to remain in the West, yet we feel like knowing whether or not it is possible for us to go east.

Our college is prospering. The health is good, and all things move quietly forward.

By replying to this, as soon as convenient, you will confer a favor on your friends.

F A Wilbur

William A. McCorkle

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Athens of Indiana

Why was the name "Athens of Indiana" given to the city of Crawfordsville? A visitor's guide published circa 1930 describes how Crawfordsville earned the famous nickname:

The name, "Athens of Indiana," which has long been applied to Crawfordsville, was originally bestowed not merely because Crawfordsville is a college town, but more especially because it was the home of Lew Wallace and four other writers of national prominence—Maurice and Will H. Thompson, and Misses Mary Hannah and Caroline Krout. And this was at a time when the writing of books had long been almost a monopoly in the hands of New Englanders. Under these circumstances, "Athens of Indiana" was really a very modest title—it might almost as well have been "Athens of the West."

Their example was encouraging to younger citizens of the town with talent for writing, and a number of these have won great success. Meredith Nicholson went out from Crawfordsville to become one of the principal American novelists of his time, and in the last few years three of Crawfordsville's young people have been writing plays for Broadway—Kenyon Nicholson, Maurine Watkins, and Catherine Clugston.

It's pride in its writers and its schools has by no means made Crawfordsville a chilly and exclusive community. Instead it has greatly enriched the church, school, club, and general social life of the town. It has done much to make Crawfordsville a very pleasant place in which to live.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Memorial Day 1888

Available in CDPL's image database, this flier contains the agenda for a Memorial Day (also known as Decoration Day) service on May 30, 1888. The service was held at the Crawfordsville Music Hall, on Green Street and was later the site of the Strand Theater. The ceremony included music by the College Glee Club and Male Chorus, a prayer by Reverend R.J. Cunningham, and a recitation by Flora A. Darter.

Genealogy Club meeting

Genealogy Club meeting
The Genealogy Club of Montgomery County will meet at 7:00 pm, June 12, 2012.

"Social Media & Genealogy"
by Larry Truitt, Sugar Plains Friends Church, near Thorntown, IN.
The meeting will be held at the Crawfordsville District Public Library on the lower level in the Donnelley Room.
The public is invited. Call: (765) 362-2242 Ext 118 for more information.

Monday, May 21, 2012

100 Years Ago Today: Ben-Hur dedication

The Ben-Hur building was dedicated on May 21, 1912.
On today's date 100 years ago, the Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur building was dedicated. The dedication ceremony, held at 2:00 p.m. at the Princess theater adjacent from the building, was witnessed by over 500 delegates from various states. In his speech, Dr. Royal H. Gerard, supreme chief of the Tribe of Ben-Hur, said:

Crawfordsville is proud of the elegant structure we meet today to dedicate, and Crawfordsville is proud of the fact that she can be the host to you, the representatives of the membership of this society, who have made possible such a monument. It is not a monument erected and to be dedicated to past endeavors, but rather a living monument to the genius and progressive spirit of the fraternal beneficiary system in America.

The building during its construction phase in 1911.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Dr. Kirtley and Mr. Hemingway

Dr. James Marion Kirtley
What connection did Ernest Hemingway have with Crawfordsville, Indiana? Dr. James Marion Kirtley made a house call on Mr. Hemingway in France during World War II! Hemingway was a war correspondent and Kirtley was serving in the 4th Infantry Division as a medic. They were bivouacked in a small French town in August of 1944. At the request of Colonel Charles T. Lanham, Kirtley attended Hemingway, who complained of a cold. Being without medicine, Kirtley gave the writer a few aspirin tablets.
Ernest Hemingway
The Deweys Do book club will be discussing Hemingway's book, A Moveable Feast, on Monday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m. A Moveable Feast is a set of memoirs about Hemingway's expatriate days in Paris. You can also read Dr. Kirtley's account of his meeting with Hemingway in his memoirs, Kirtley Kronicles: The Life and Times of James Marion Kirtley, M.D.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Thompson the Poet

Maurice Thompson's biggest commercial success was his book, Alice of Old Vincennes, but he was noteworthy for another reason: he and his brother, Will, popularized archery in America. Thompson channeled his skill with the bow and his enthusiasm for the sport into various articles and books, including the classics, The Witchery of Archery (1878) and How to Train in Archery (1879). Thompson, who was born in Fairfield, Indiana, in 1844, spent his childhood in Georgia and moved to Crawfordsville after the Civil War (during which he fought on the Confederate side) where he practiced law and wrote. He served as Indiana state geologist and chief of the department of natural history between 1885 and 1889. Thompson died in 1901, just one year after completing his only bestseller.
In addition to writing novels and archery manuals, Maurice Thompson was a poet.

The ex-confederate soldier writes in "At Lincoln's Grave":

"May one who fought in honor for the South
Uncovered stand and sing by Lincoln's grave?
Why, if I shrank not at the cannon's mouth,
Nor swerved one inch for any battle-wave,
Should I now tremble in this quiet close,
Hearing the prairie wind go lightly by
From billowy plains of grass and miles of corn,
While out of deep repose,
The great sweet spirit lifts itself on high
And broods above our land this summer morn?" (continues)

Read more by and about Maurice Thompson at the library.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Miss Krout, the Writer

Indiana was home to many feminists in the decades before women won the right to vote; Mary Hannah Krout is among the most famous of these feminists. She was born in Crawfordsville in 1851, the oldest of nine children. Her literary career began at an early age, with the publication of a poem in a newspaper before she was twelve. She earned her first money with her poem, "Little Brown Hands" when she was fifteen; this poem made such an impression that her work was in huge demand and she was invited to speak before an audience in Lafayette when she was sixteen. After teaching in Crawfordsville for eleven years, she started writing for newspapers and magazines, eventually earning a position on the staff of the Chicago Inter-Ocean, where she remained until the paper was sold to the Chicago Tribune. She lectured on women's rights often during her life, although she withdrew from public life around 1906. Mary Hannah Krout died in 1927 in Crawfordsville.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Staff Research Online Now!

The Detchon family in front of the family home.
The staff research page on the Detchon family is now online! Learn about the life of one of Montgomery County's first doctors, Elliott Detchon. Elliott was a successful businessman as well as a doctor, and also concocted and sold proprietary medicine. Elliott's son Irwin Agnew was also a doctor but actually spent more time on his business and political pursuits than on medicine. Lee Detchon was a local painter whose work you may have seen around town, and you can read more about Esther Detchon's World War I adventure in Europe here! Then check out our image database to see the collection of Detchon family photos that have been donated to the library.

Inside the Detchon home, 1905.
Do you have photos or other items you would like to donate or loan to the library? Email us at or call 362-2242, ext. 117!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Mrs. Lew Wallace

Civil War general Lew Wallace is famous as an author in Indiana. But did you know his wife was also an accomplished writer? Susan Elston was born in Crawfordsville in 1830 to Major Isaac C. and Maria Elston and married Lew in 1852. In addition to writing her own books, she was a mentor to other authors, such as Mary Hannah Krout and Elizabeth Boynton Harbert. Her biography in Seven Authors of Crawfordsville, Indiana says, "Perhaps her place in the literary field was that of consultant, and it may be that Lew Wallace's success as an author was due in large measure to her criticism and his respect for it." Mrs. Wallace died in Crawfordsville in 1907.

Her famous poem, "The Patter of Little Feet," first appeared in the Cincinnati Daily Gazette in 1858:
"Up with the sun at morning,
Away to the garden he hies,
To see if the sleepy blossoms
Have begun to open their eyes.
Running a race with the wind,
His step as light and fleet,
Under my window I hear
The patter of little fleet.

Anon to the brook he wanders,
In swift and noiseless flight;
Splashing the sparkling waters,
Like a fairy water sprite.
No sand under fabled river
Has gleams like his golden hair;
No pearly seashell is fairer
Than his slender ankles bare;
Nor the rosiest stem of coral
That blushes in Ocean's bed,
Is sweet as the flush that follows
Our darling's airy tread." ...

The rest of this poem can be found in Poets and Poetry of Indiana.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Bard of Alamo

James Buchanan Elmore
Celebrate National Poetry Month with Montgomery County poet James B. Elmore. Elmore, who was nicknamed the 'Bard of Alamo,' was born on a 900-acre farm in Ripley township on January 25, 1857. He graduated from Alamo Academy and taught school for twenty years. He published six volumes of poetry in his lifetime. His obituary from March 12, 1942, claims that the "pastoral scenes with which he was familiar inspired most of the writings of the benign bard from Ripley township."
Here's an excerpt from his poem, "Crawfordsville, Alias Athene":

The city of Crawford is a beautiful town,
Where knowledge and learning doth abound,
In the great theatrical arena;
It is a place that has much fame,
And transient people are gently tame
When in the city of Athene.

"The Monon Wreck" describes a train accident; Elmore describes the aftermath of the wreck in these verses:

Tears are flowing thick and fast
From every one of the mangled mass;
And, laying there, we hear their prayers,
Asking the Lord to relieve their cares ...

But there they lay on the crimson snow--
Their hearts have ceased to ebb and flow;
Quite as cold as a frozen chunk,
With a lady's heart upon a stump. ...

And yonder in the wreck I see
A man that's pinioned down by the knee,
And hear him calmly for to say:
"Cut, oh, cut my leg away!"

These poems and more can be found in Love Among the Mistletoe, Poems by James B. Elmore.