In 1881 an unnamed reporter for the Bloomington Hawkeye shared with the newspaper’s readers his recent experience in downtown Bloomington.
He said he met a fashionably dressed young woman, perhaps 24 or 25 years of age, on the north side of the downtown square. She said she had just come from Indianapolis on the Monon and wanted directions to Bloomington’s “leading hotel.” When he tried to explain to her where the National House was located just a block and a half away at Kirkwood and Washington, she seemed confused. So he walked with her to the hotel.
The following morning, at her request, he joined her in the hotel parlor. It was there that she told him she came to Bloomington to meet her fiancé, a second cousin named Prof. C. L. Simmons of Detroit. They were supposed to be married by her fiancé’s friend, Amzi Atwater.
Barnes Miers was how the reporter identified the woman by name. She had with her, she said, and revealed some documentation to support her claim, the heart of J. Wilkes Booth, the killer of President Lincoln, preserved in alcohol. It was consigned to her by Simmons, the nephew of Joseph K. Barnes, the surgeon general who performed Booth’s autopsy. At the time of the wedding the heart was to be turned over to Atwater to become part of the IU museum collection.
Unfortunately, however, Simmons was not at the hotel to meet her as he said he would. And after her conversation with the reporter, Barnes Miers packed up Booth’s heart, as well as her own grieving one, and returned to Indianapolis.
Could this incredible story be true? It had a ring of truth. Amzi Atwater was prominent in Bloomington and affiliated with Indiana University for many years. President Lincoln was, indeed, murdered by John Wilkes Booth and Joseph K. Barnes was the surgeon general at that time.
The truth to the story, however, seems unlikely. At best, the story seems a mixture of both fact and fiction. Research indicates that Joseph K. Barnes was, in fact, present at one of autopsies performed on Booth, but did not perform the autopsy. Additionally, according to research, several of the vertebrae from Booth’s neck, those affected by the bullet that eventually killed him, were removed and are now preserved at a medical museum in Washington, D. C., but there is , however, no evidence that the heart or any other part of the body was removed except as those noted. Furthermore, there is not enough information to determine whether or not Simmons was the nephew of Barnes or even if C. L. Simmons existed at all. That goes double for Barnes Miers. Such a person was not included in 1880 census record just one year earlier than the news item.
So you must decide for yourself. Should you find evidence to support the story…well, let us know.
We, too, are curious.
Bloomington Hawkeye, February 17, 1881, p. 5.
Clara Elizabeth Laughlin, The Death of Lincoln: The Story of Booth’s Plot, His Deed and the Penalty. NY: Doubleday, Page & Company, 1909.
There is no one yet living that can recall firsthand memories of Bloomington in 1860. And, unfortunately, newspapers aren’t of much help because Bloomington newspapers during that time mostly don’t exist.
We might, however, glimpse one small window into the past with the publication of a column titled “Fifty Years Ago” published in the Bloomington Evening World on June 19, 1920. It was a reprint of a short article from the Bloomington Republican dated October 20, 1860. In November 1860 Abraham Lincoln was elected president and a few months later the North and South would engage in a Civil War.
The principal business firms in Bloomington at that time were: hardware–D. Batterton and James Small; dry goods—Tuley & McCrea, G. H. Worley, W. O. Fee, Marsh, Cox & Co.; jewelry—M. J. Smith; clothing—Kahn Bros.; bakery—J. Misener, A. P. Helton; grocers—W. R. Mason, Dunn & Co.; drugs—J. O. and M. L. McCullough; furniture—Showers & Moffet, A. W. Batterton, J. W. Bower; tailor—Ben McGee. Attorneys were Young and Mulky, M. C. Hunter & Bro., David Sheeks and Paris C. Dunning. A. W. Reeves was sheriff of the county and P. L. D. Mitchell was treasurer.
There was one saloon on the levee, the Arcade.
Market prices at that time were: wheat, $1 a bushel; oats, 25 cents; corn, 35 cents; potatoes, 35 cents a bushel; bacon, 12 cents; lard, 12 cents; butter, 15 cents; eggs, 7 cents a dozen; flour, $3.00 a hundred; sugar, 7 cents; dried apples, 80 cents a bushel; coffee, 16 cents; corn meal 60 cents a bushel.
To read more articles about early Monroe County, scattered issues of early Bloomington newspapers dating from 1827 can be accessed online at https://newspapers.library.in.gov/, a nonsubscription website.
The women of Indiana began the year 1917 with high hopes and optimism – it looked as though their years of hard work lobbying the State legislature would come to fruition with the passage of the Maston-McKinley partial suffrage bill (SB 77) in February, which would allow women to vote in municipal, school and special elections. Women across the state and in Monroe County celebrated the good news and began preparing for the fall municipal elections. However, their progress was not long-lived and the opponents of women’s suffrage would again strike a critical blow.
Monroe County suffragists worked hard to rally and organize supporters, lobby their representatives, and speak to the public about the necessity of women’s suffrage for the progress of the country. In the years leading up to 1917, the suffrage movement was gaining popularity and momentum throughout the country. Women in the National Women’s Party stood as “Silent Sentinels” outside the White House, intentionally getting arrested and participating in hunger strikes to bring awareness to the suffrage cause.
In Indiana, the Legislative Council of Indiana Women (LCIW) was established to generate bipartisan support for statewide women’s suffrage and Mrs. Johanna Johnson, of Bloomington, was appointed to the council as recording secretary. Johanna and many other women on the council drafted a partial suffrage bill and had it introduced to the state legislature in 1915. After passing the senate, the bill went to the house and was assigned to the Judiciary A Committee, of which Bloomington representative Thomas J. Sare was chairman. Representative Sare blocked the bill in his committee and the LCIW cried corruption from the liquor industry influenced Mr. Sare and prevented its passage. The LCIW would have to try again in the next legislative session of 1917.
In January of 1917 when both the state legislature came back into session, the partial suffrage bill was introduced in the senate by Senator Maston and the house by Representative Alldredge. With pressure from national leadership and support for suffrage in both Republican and Democratic party platforms, both houses worked quickly to push the partial suffrage legislation through to passage – but not completely without contention. Liquor lobbyists were pressuring legislators to deny women’s suffrage because of the fear that women would vote in favor of prohibition. After several moves by legislators to kill, strike out, or delay the partial suffrage bill, it passed the House in late February with 67 to 24 votes.
Although the battle had been won, the war was not over. Women across Indiana celebrated the victory and Mrs. Caroline Woodburn, President of the Bloomington Franchise League, organized registration drives to register women to vote before the fall election and planned educational lectures and programs about candidates and issues on the ballot.
However, the victory was short-lived. In August of 1917, William K. Knight of Indianapolis filed a lawsuit against the partial suffrage law. Mr. Knight alleged that the law went against the Indiana constitution’s Article 2, Section 2, which restricted voters to male citizens. The complaint also asked for a restraining order barring women to register to vote as the unconstitutionality of the act was a burden on the taxpayers.
On September 17, Judge Rochford of the Marion Superior Court ruled the law unconstitutional. The suffragists immediately appealed the decision to the State Supreme Court. On October 26, 1917, the Supreme Court agreed with Judge Rochford and ruled the partial suffrage bill unconstitutional. It was a bitter blow to Indiana suffragists. News of the defeat spread across the country and the National Women’s Party newsletter The Suffragist worried that “the Indiana decision will have immediate effect on suffrage laws in other states. A dispatch from North Dakota, where presidential suffrage was passed by the last legislature, reports that the law will be tested at once on the same grounds that the constitution defines voters as ‘male citizens.’ The same is true of the suffrage situation in Arkansas, where the legislature recently gave women the right to vote at the primaries.” (The Suffragist, 3 November 1917, page 4.)
Through the many challenges and setbacks the women of Indiana faced to gain the right to vote, momentum for a federal amendment was building. Indiana suffragists joined the National American Women’s Suffrage Association to lobby their federal representatives to support women’s suffrage and the Susan B. Anthony Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. On June 4, 1919, the amendment passed and was sent to the states for ratification and Indiana ratified it on January 16, 1920. The amendment became the law of the land on August 26, 1920.
Decades of hard work and perseverance had finally paid off and Hoosier women could now vote in all elections. The vote was never ‘given’ to them. They earned it. But unfortunately, not every Hoosier woman could vote – Native Americans and Asian Americans were not granted citizenship and African Americans were often intimidated and prevented from voting even though they were allowed to under federal law. It is important to remember at this centennial anniversary that we celebrate all that our ancestors worked for but also recognize those that were left behind.
Many Monroe County genealogists are quite familiar with the INMONROE Rootsweb mailing list. The list became active in 1980 and was a place where members could share tidbits and trivia about Monroe County. In 2000, it was a list in need of an administrator. At that time I took responsibility for it. With the help of Connie Shotts and Angel Gebhard for the next 15 plus years ten items went to the list every single day.
Periodically, Rootsweb ran into troubles, regrouped and went on. Then about two years ago it seemed to drop off the face of the earth which was unfortunate, because by then more than 60,000 items were archived in the INMONROE. Mostly the items were from newspaper clippings, however, a real cross section of materials at the Monroe County History Center were also included. Information about nearly everybody who had been anybody in Monroe County pre-1950 could be found among the materials.
Eventually the list was again made functional again. All the archived items seemed intact, but the list was different. That was for sure. I was no longer responsible and no one seemed to know who was. Additionally, I wasn’t able to be a list member so items shared with the list never came to me and I couldn’t contribute to the list. On the other hand, I continued to use the INMONROE archives.
To keep the news from historic Monroe County flowing, I began concentrating my energy on the Monroe County History Center blog at mchclibrary.wordpress.com where a new blog can be found weekly. Many of the blogs at that website are written by me.
Just this week I have learned that Rootsweb, owned by Ancestry, is discontinuing the ALL the mailing lists that number more than 32,000. Dick Eastman shared the sad information on his genealogy blog January 7, 2020. According to his information, all Rootsweb lists by Ancestry will be discontinued on March 2, 2020. After that, mailing list archives will remain available and searchable on Rootsweb. But who knows for how long!
The Second Baptist Church of Bloomington was established in 1872 with eleven founding members. In 1873, members purchased land at 8th and Rogers for a church structure, a frame building that was not completed until 1890. Until that time, members worshipped in various homes.
A new Second Baptist Church on the same piece of property was scheduled for dedication on Sunday, August 2, 1914. It was a day of rejoicing for the colored citizens of Bloomington led by their pastor, Rev. Moses M. Porter. At the time of the dedication Porter had been pastor of the church for five years and stood high as a Christian minister and leader. He and his wife, Lena (Kirk) Porter, a teacher in the Bloomington public schools, were said to do great work and deemed worthy of much praise. A large crowd was expected from all over the state as well as Kentucky.
The new church at the time of the dedication bore the distinction of being the only stone edifice erected and owned by an Indiana colored congregation. It was built of Bedford stone with a full basement and a seating capacity for 500. Thomas Gordon donated the stone and hauled it to the site by horse and wagon. Members of the church took pride in the fact that the architect of the building was a colored man, Samuel Plato of Marion, Indiana, who had a fine reputation in his chosen profession. He had, in fact, had charge of building some of the finest white churches in the state. Marcus Blakemore of Anderson, Indiana, did the electric work.
That church still stands today and has an active congregation. Rev. Dr. Bruce R. Rose is the current pastor, only the 18th since the church was established.
John Ketcham (1782-1865) settled in Monroe County in the spring of 1818. At the time of his arrival he was already quite prominent. Once situated in Monroe County, he remained a person of prominence. Among other things, he built the county’s first water-powered grist mill, was commissioned to build Bloomington’s first permanent courthouse, served several terms as a Representative in the Indiana State Legislature and was one of first trustees of Indiana Seminary, later Indiana University.
John fathered twelve children with his wife, Elizabeth (Pearcy) Ketcham. They spent the majority of their lives in Section 6 of Clear Creek Township several miles south of Bloomington. John’s brother, Joseph, lived nearby with his wife, Ann (Pearcy) Ketcham, Elizabeth’s sister.
Joseph and Ann are among the earliest burials in Ketcham Cemetery as noted at FindaGrave. Joseph died in 1851; Ann in 1855. When John’s son, George died in 1899, he was buried at Ketcham Cemetery which was described as “the family lot near the old homestead.” It was described by Melcherd Kutch as the most enduring monument left in Monroe County by the Ketcham family.
Kutch reportedly visited the Ketcham cemetery only once. That was about 1900. He noted the cemetery was on a square plot, about 200 feet on each side, located on a wooded hillside on the west bank of Clear Creek surrounded by a stone wall “built of pick-up limestone rocks some two feet thick and four feet high.” Briars and wild raspberry bushes trailed over the top of the wall in places. Entrance was gained by “moveable bars” near the southwest corner of the plot. Although Kutch used no words to suggest that the cemetery was less than desirable in any way, he ultimately reported that the physical surroundings were such “that man is not likely to find for it anything more suitable than a final resting place.”
At the time of Kutch’s visit to the cemetery, it belonged to Absalom “Ab” Ketcham, John and Elizabeth’s youngest son. Ab lived on the old homestead after the death of his father. In 1902, Ab sold a very large parcel of his land to Jess Stowell which included acreage in Section 6, Clear Creek Township excepting that portion of the northwest quarter of Section 6 “occupied and used as a graveyard.”
Sometime before his death in 1920, Ab placed $1,400 in a trust fund for the perpetual care of the cemetery. Unfortunately, however, in 1906 Stowell closed up the roadway leading to the cemetery leaving it with no means of access. Today the Ketcham Cemetery is on private property and managed by a private cemetery association. A description of the cemetery location is available in A Summary of the Cemeteries in Monroe County, Indiana.
In an effort to determine when the Roxy Theatre closed in Bloomington at 221 N. College, every issue of the Bloomington (IN) Daily Herald Telephone was reviewed starting on January 1, 1955. This date was chosen because there was no listing for the Roxy in the 1956 telephone directory or city directory which suggested its closure sometime in 1955.
The review determined that a Roxy ad was included in the newspaper every day of its issue from January 1, 1955, until April 31, 1956, when a very small ad announced that the theatre would be closing on Sunday for redecorating. A continued review of theatre ads through May 31, 1956, did not reveal any additional ads for the Roxy which suggests that it did not reopen.
During the course of this research project, several Bloomington residents told of attending movies at the Roxy in the early 1950s where double features could be seen for a quarter. The condition of the theatre at that time was a venue in need of serious updates.
According to research compiled by Penelope Mathiesen and published in the Monroe County Historian in the June/July 2019 issue, the Roxy opened in January 1933 under the ownership of Percy W. Gladden. Census records indicate that Percy, a native New Yorker, lived with his wife, Mattie, Mattie’s son, Doyle, by a previous marriage and Doyle’s wife in Worthington, Greene County, Indiana, in 1930, and the two men were “dealers” in “cars.”
Percy reportedly moved to Bloomington about 1933 and opened the Roxy Theatre that same year in an existing structure. (A government survey indicates the building was constructed in 1922 and demolished in 1956.) Doyle managed the theatre until Percy was forced into retirement by health problems in 1939 at which time Doyle became the new owner and continued in that capacity until he sold the property in 1951.
Bloomington (IN) Daily Herald Telephone, April 31, 1956, p. 14.
Penelope Mathiesen, “Remembering the Roxy Theatre,” Monroe County Historian, June/July 2019.
No documentation has been found to indicate when the Todd School was established in Section 35 of Polk Township. One thing is for certain, however. It was opened in 1872 or earlier when Capt. George W. Friedley and Hon. F. Wilson, candidates for the state senate, were scheduled to have a joint discussion there on October 3.
Glodene Terrell Chambers (1915-2010), lived by the school when she was a child and later taught at the school. She noted the school was initially built of logs but later replaced with a wooden building about 1915. Additional information was provided by School Superintendent Cravens when he visited all the schools in Polk Township in October 1887. He noted that Monroe County had 117 teachers working in 94 school houses in that year. Eight of the school houses, with an equal number of teachers, were in Polk Township including: Allen’s Creek, Chapel Hill, Blackwell aka Todd, Tan Yard, Hunter’s Creek, Robinson, Saddle Creek and Burgoon. Samuel Smallwood was the teacher at Todd School which had an enrollment of 31.
One by one the schools in Polk Township closed. Todd School was one of the smallest schools in the county. During the 1954-55 academic year only 20 pupils were enrolled, and only 13 were scheduled to enroll during the 1955-56 school year. A decision was subsequently made to close the school before the beginning of the school year and convert the building into a private residence. The students were reassigned to the Burgoon and Smithville schools.
With the closure of Todd School only three 1-room schools remained in the county: Burgoon and Chapel Hill in Polk Township and Butcher in Salt Creek Township.
Bloomington (IN) Progress, September 25, 1872, p. 3.
Bloomington (IN) Progress, October 19, 1887, p. 3.
Bloomington (IN) Daily Herald Telephone, August 17, 1955, p. 1.
Monroe County Retired Teachers, Echoes from One-room Schools (Bloomington IN: AuthorHouse) 2006, p. 238.
Charles Blanchard in his History of Morgan, Monroe and Brown Counties published in 1884, noted that John Ketcham was given the contract to build Bloomington’s first permanent courthouse in 1820, but the courthouse was not complete until 1826. He supposed the reason for the delay was that Ketcham was paid most of what he was due for the work before the work was done and, thus, lacked the motivation to finish the job in a timely manner.
Before drawing any conclusion, let’s take a look at other information known about John Ketcham (1782-1865). For instance, he was a native of Maryland who lived in several different states before coming to Indiana in 1811 when it was yet a territory. He became quite prominent while living in Jackson County, Indiana, and donated the land on which the Jackson County courthouse is situated. He served two years under the Northwest Territorial governor, William Henry Harrison, to subdue an Indian uprising and was subsequently honored with the colonelcy of a regiment of state militia.
In the fall of 1818, Ketcham settled with his family in Clear Creek Township, Monroe County, Indiana. It was there that he built the county’s first water-powered grist mill. Meanwhile, the county commissioners were making plans to build a permanent and substantial courthouse utilizing a design drawn by William Lowe, Monroe County clerk and signer of Indiana’s constitution.
The first contract was given to Robert Stafford in May 1819. Because he was unable to furnish the required $20,000 security bond, the contract was subsequently re-let to John Ketcham for $7,965. After posting a bond without difficulty, Ketcham began the work on the courthouse in June 1819 and was paid $1,000 of the amount due him in August of that year. A year later the rough work on the courthouse was complete, and Ketcham was paid an additional $4,000 in August 1821. But, as it so often happens with new construction, some changes were made.
According to the original specifications, as reported in the Bloomington Progress of July 27, 1881, the building was to be 40 by 45 feet inside, the floor to be paved with brick, with two huge fireplaces four feet wide for the lower story and two in the upper story two and a half feet wide. Two stairways were to provide access to the second story going up from the courtroom. There was to be a steeple with a wooden ball and above the ball was to be placed “a fish of polished brass 12 inches in length and the make of a perch.” All the sills for the doors and windows were required to be of marble procured from Hamilton’s quarry near Ketcham’s mill.
At some later point before the courthouse was finished, David Armstrong was hired to build a cupola on top of the courthouse that was to include a clock and bell. As the work progressed a dispute arose with Ketcham over changes made to the cupola. Ketcham maintained the tower, as it was being built by Armstrong, was not stable. He asked the commissioners to be exempted from any damages that might occur to or from the cupola and wanted to be relieved of any responsibility for the cupola’s construction. Armstrong stuck to his guns and declared his part of the work was substantial. After a lengthy debate among the commissioners, Ketcham was granted the exemption he requested.
Finally, in May 1826, the courthouse was complete. Austin Seward had by then painted the building a bright red and “penciled” it with white. Blanchard described it as a fine building for the day.
For reasons unknown, Ketcham was never paid the full amount due to him. And by the time the building was complete, Ketcham owned nearly all of Section 6 in Clear Creek Township, had fathered 12 children, was one of the first trustees of Indiana Seminary later known as Indiana University, and later served twice as a member of the Indiana State House of Representatives.
Pop Hall included a lengthy sketch of Ketcham’s life, including his obituary, in Historic Treasures. According to Hall, Ketcham was “probably the most popular and well-known man among the pioneers of Indiana and especially Monroe County…whose titles showed great honor, as he was known as Colonel Ketcham, Judge Ketcham, and the Hon. John Ketcham, as representative in the legislature.” An eloquent sermon preached at Ketcham’s funeral described Ketcham as a man of bravery, honorable character who was generous with his neighbors.
In light of Ketcham’s many and varied achievements that can easily be verified by reports and documents created close in time to when the event occurred, and the fact that Blanchard never knew Ketcham and penned his words well after Ketcham’s death, it seems likely that the real reason for Ketcham’s delay was due to his dispute with Armstrong and NOT a lack of motivation. Longevity is testimony to the quality of his construction. Completed in 1826 and enlarged in the 1850s, the building remained in use until it was replaced by a new and much larger courthouse in 1908.
Charles Blanchard, editor, History of Morgan, Monroe and Brown Counties (Chicago IL: F. A. Battey & Co., Publishers) 1884, p. 383.
Bloomington (IN) Progress, July 27, 1881, p. 3.
Bennett P. Reed, “Col. John Ketcham One of Early IU Trustees,” Bloomington (IN) Daily Herald Telephone, May 12, 1951, p. 12.
The old town pumps were a part of Bloomington’s early endeavors to furnish water for the community.
One of the first acts of the Monroe County commissioners in 1818 was the cleaning out of two springs near the square for public use. As the community grew, so did the need for an additional water sources. So wells were dug on or near the square as a matter of public convenience and benefit because the square was a gathering place and the center of town life.
In 1881, there were three town pumps. One was at the curb in front of the property where the Woolworth store was once situated on the north end of the west side of the square. For years this corner was referred to as Campbell’s Corner.
A second pump was located on the southeast corner of the square. Man and beast could stop to quench their thirst at the pumps and folks living nearby could fill their buckets and pans for home use.
A third pump was situated at Walnut and Sixth on the curb in front of Hall’s Electric. This pump is believed to have been the first pump authorized by the commissioners, but it was the pump on Campbell’s Corner at College and Sixth that ranked higher in esteem. A railing was placed around the latter pump in order to provide some protection from traffic on the street. Additionally a wooden bench was placed nearby where arguments might be settled and footsore and weary loafers might rest a bit or exchange the latest news. Occasionally the sidewalk became blocked by bystanders prompting the law to restore passage.
The water at the pumps was there for all comers. Everybody drank from a heavy tin cup of generous proportions attached to a substantial chain. Initially no one gave thought to sanitation. On August 1, 1916, after it became well known that the common drinking cup was a disease carrier, the State Board of Health ordered that the public drinking cup be abolished.
Bloomington (IN) Evening World, August 3, 1916, p. 4.
Bloomington (IN) Daily Herald Telephone, February 28, 1956, p. 9.