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.

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