Thursday, May 30, 2013

Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur, 1911

The Supreme Tribe of Ben-Hur, a fraternal organization providing insurance benefits to its members, was incorporated in Crawfordsville on January 9, 1894. By 1910, the growing brotherhood had need of a larger headquarters, so plans were made for a five-story, concrete-reinforced building intended to bring glory both to the organization and to Crawfordsville. On Thursday, April 6, 1911, at 2 p.m., the marble cornerstone was laid for the new building, located at the corner of Main and Water Streets. A large group of approximately 250 delegates from across the country attended in addition to the local residents who gathered for the event. A crowd of 1,000 out-of-town guests was anticipated, and a committee was formed to help visitors find lodging with local families due to the scarcity of hotel rooms and boarding houses. Music was furnished for the occasion by a band, and speeches were delivered by R. H. Gerard, the Supreme Chief, and by the Honorable Thomas Riley Marshall, the Governor of the State of Indiana. Children of the founding families were chosen to handle the ceremonial trowel for the occasion: Bryson Gerard and Estella Snyder.

Until April of this year, it was not known that there was a photograph surviving of this event, but recently Dolores Fleming, a resident of Tennessee, discovered this photograph of the 1911 laying of the cornerstone placed behind a framed artwork. With the permission of Doris Carney, relative of Wright B Carney who can be seen holding the "Tennessee" sign in the photograph, she has generously provided the library with an electronic copy until the original can be hand-delivered to us. We thank Ms. Fleming and Ms. Carney for providing us with this valuable piece of Montgomery County history.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day ... A man worthy to remember

Dr. Edward Howard Cowan (E.H.) began his medical practice in Crawfordsville in 1873 and practiced here for more than fifty (50) years.  As if this isn't amazing enough, he also was the surgeon general of the National Grand Army of the Republic, Crawfordsville's first city health officer, a school board member for nine years, Montgomery County's last survivor of the Civil War (135 Ind, listed as Co. H under Capt. McClelland), and it is also probable he is the last survivor of the Wabash College roll of honor of students and alumni who served with the Union Army.

Tintype photo of E.H. Cowan taken in 1873 when he began his medical career.

In the Crawfordsville Journal Review (3 Aug 1942) it is stated that Dr. Cowan was admired and loved by all who knew him for his wit and humor, for his wide knowledge, his sincere friendliness and kindness, and for his wonderful philosophy that kept him "many years young"  (he lived to be 95).

Below is Rev. Arthur, Ray Townsky, Dr. E.H. Cowan and Rev. Gronseth at a Memorial Day Celebration at Wesley (Wayne Township) on June 2, 1940  (Dr. Cowan would have been 93).                     

This link will retrieve numerous photos from Dr. Cowan's collection:

Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday of May.  It was formally known as Decoration Day and commemorates all men and women, who have died in military service for the United States.  Many people visit cemeteries and memorials on Memorial Day and it is traditionally seen as the start of the summer season.  Read more about Memorial Day.

This link will take you to more information in the library's images database regarding the Civil War: Civil War information.

So whether you eat hot dogs or cheeseburgers, watch baseball or go swimming ... this day is also to honor those who fearlessly fought for future generations.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Vanished Villas & Bygone Burgs

Montgomery County is rich in history and since the 1820s over 300 towns have existed; sadly, nearly all but a few dozen of these have disappeared or been forgotten.  There are still churches and cemeteries bearing the name of the old boroughs like Potato Creek (Church in Sugar Creek Township), Fruits Corner (Fruits Cemetery, Ripley Township), and also Shiloh (Cemetery in Union Township near 136).  Scouring the old Crawfordsville and county newspapers, plat maps, census records, and family histories often uncover more hamlets.  The discoveries usually lead to more exciting revelations.  A recent detection was the town of Roll's Run which was settled in 1828 in Coal Creek Township.  The matriarch of Roll's Run presumably would be "Aunt Polly" or Mary Roll.  She is one of the first eight charter members of the Pleasant Hill Church.  

Another fascinating area of Coal Creek Township was Bedbug Corner which received the name from, yes, TOO many bedbugs at the local Inn.  Bristle Ridge, also in Coal Creek Township, obtained its name because squatters would steal hogs, and to escape detection would hide the bristles under floorboards of cabins.  These bristles were later discovered when the squatters moved to other locations, and the name stuck.  There were also several name changes; Boston Store became Elmdale, Middletown became Waynetown, Valley City became New Ross, Clinesville became Bowers, and Binford became Garfield.  Numerous other places like Orth, Duck Pond Corner, Frog Island School, Gravelly Run, Hog Heaven, Iola, Little Egypt, Wringneck, Mount Olivet, Muddy Run, Pine Breeze, Soap Factory, Pumpkin Ridge, Sodom, Tadmore, Tiger's Valley, The Cut, Swamp College, and Wildcat Swamp bear some of the most intriguing names in the county.  

Gravelly Run Church (Franklin Twp.)

So, whether you reside in Alamo or Bowers, remember there is a reason this site has a name...and the explanation just might surprise you!

Obviously there is more information on the "Vanished Villas & Bygone Burgs" in our community that we would love to uncover, but for now the Images database, Vital Statistics database, and old Montgomery County Magazine articles allow a researcher to discover some of the uniqueness of our beloved "Neck of the Woods"...check it all out here!


Montgomery County Magazine

Vital Statistics

An ongoing list of the Montgomery County hamlets can be found at:

Montgomery County Genweb

Monday, May 13, 2013

Chadwick Court ... before it had CHEERING fans or walls

Louis Spilman, a CHS grad, landed the first plane in Crawfordsville and kept an amazing scrapbook that has enlightened the Local History Department about so many wonderful events occurring in our fair city.  Numerous pictures, handbills, and even dance cards from Mr. Spilman's scrapbook are located in the Images database.  The one photo that caught our eye was this young man sitting on the Wabash Gym prior to the completion of the walls/roof. (July 29, 1917)  Notice in the background the scaffolding and the ladder.  

According to Wabash College's website, Chadwick Court has been in existence since 1917, obviously not long after this photograph.  There have been changes made to Chadwick Court since this day in July 1917, but the enthusiasm heard when the fans root for their home team is probably just the same as it was for the last (almost) 100 years!  Wabash Always Fights!

To read more about Louis Spilman and his eventful life please stop by to see the display at the library, search the Image database, or read these other blogs ...

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

1913 Flood ... Oh Wait! 2013 Flood

Currently, in the Local History Department has a display which highlights the 100 year anniversary of the 1913 flood.  This catastrophic event left the Midwest in turmoil.  Tornado-type winds destroyed barns, ripped off roofs and uprooted trees on Good Friday.  By Easter (March 23, 1913) Sugar Creek was beginning to hit record levels. Days of thunderstorms and, per the Department of Agriculture, the largest snow fall of the season left Montgomery County saturated. No human lives were lost, but, animals and property were not as fortunate.  Unfortunately, due to "new" flooding the display was altered because Crawfordsville was again submerged.  The North side of the City near Sugar Creek was hit hard during both floods.  Because of rushing currents, crevices were 5 feet deep (March 25, 1913) in the Lafayette Avenue thoroughfare.  100 years later, this same location was impacted.  The Old Coke Plant (Power Plant) area was overcome with water, but luckily the road was untouched.  For other information or photos please utilize or visit the library to enjoy the exhibit.

Looking North from Lafayette Avenue

March 25, 1913 -- Creek Crested at 17.30

Water as high as Goal Post - soccer/football field (Old Coke Plant - Power Plant location) South side of Lafayette Avenue

April 19, 2013 -- Creek Crested at 15.31