Blog post by Randi Richardson

The new Hotel Graham was one of the most modern in the Midwest.  And at long last, when weary travelers arrived in Bloomington looking desperately for accommodations there would be some relief.

The Hotel Graham was known previously as the Hotel Bowles.  A third of the hotel was razed in 1928 to make room for the new hotel.  Image from the postcard collection of the author.

Early in 1928 there were but few hotels in Bloomington.  William Graham owned both the Hotel Graham, previously known as Hotel Bowles and Hotel Gentry, and the Tourner Hotel.  Preston Gilliatt had managed both for the past ten years.  He knew only too well that most nights there were no rooms available for guests, many of whom stayed away from Bloomington for fear they would be unable to find hotel accommodations.

With Gilliatt’s intimate knowledge of the hotel industry combined with his close business relationship with William Graham, it wasn’t too surprising when he purchased the Hotel Graham from Graham in early 1928.  One of the first decisions made by Gilliatt was to raze about a third of the hotel, that portion facing College and Sixth Street.  Then with financing and collaboration from the newly formed Graham Hotel Realty Company headed by Graham and with Gilliatt on board as vice president, plans were made for 100 new rooms.

Graham was one of Bloomington’s movers and shakers.  At the time he sold the Hotel Graham, he had been the city’s postmaster for a number of years and was also the president of Graham Motor Sales and, of course, he still owned the Tourner. 

Barely a year later, on February 28, 1929, the Indianapolis Star announced the opening of the new Hotel Graham in a lengthy story accompanied by photos of both Graham and Gilliatt.  Perhaps the most notable difference between the old hotel and the new, was its sheer size—eight stories.  Certainly the tallest building in Bloomington, it would remain so until the opening of Ballantine Hall on the IU campus in 1959. 

The news item described the hotel interior in great detail.  It was reported that the entrance to the spacious lobby on the ground floor was through wide, double doors.  From there one could access a large banquet room with a seating capacity for 200, lighted with crystal chandeliers and candle bracket lights along the walls.  A lovely lounge with a terrazzo floor was noted just a couple of steps up from the lobby furnished with rugs, davenports and occasional chairs of all types.  Also on the second floor was a large, well-appointed dining room with seating for 120.  Special china and silver was available for use in that room.

Guest rooms were located on floors three through eight.  Guests would be conveyed to all levels by an elevator.  Drinking fountains would provide guests with ice-cold water on each floor.  All rooms feature a toilet and sink separate from the sleeping room, and 85 % of the rooms also include baths, either a shower or tub, of the highest grade made.

The new Hotel Graham at College and Sixth Street.  The older portion of the hotel is visible on the left.  Photo courtesy of the Monroe County History Center.

The bedrooms themselves offer comfort-giving features that can’t be excelled.  Corner rooms on each floor are fitted up as parlor bedrooms with a large davenport, three easy chairs, writing desk and chair, lamp and vanity dresser.  All rooms have large wall fans, roomy closets and four base outlets for those electric conveniences now carried by most travelers.  There’s also an outlet in the bathroom for a curling iron or a similar device.

According to the newspaper, completion of the new Hotel Graham made it possible for guests to acquire accommodations equal to the best found anywhere.   In fact, it was believed to be one of the finest hotels in the state and a true symbol of the city’s growth.

Fast forward now nearly a century.  In 2020, the exterior of the 8-story hotel remains much the way it appeared in its heyday.  However, after several name changes associated with changes in ownership, today it is known as the Graham Plaza and listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Several retail businesses are situated on the lobby level, but the guest rooms have been turned into offices leased to a variety of businesses by CFC Properties.

Monroe County is fortunate to have preserved this fine building!

Tragedy in the Life of Emma (Breeden) Munson

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Irvin Minneman, an IU freshman from Logansport rooming at the Bloomington home of Emma Munson on Fourth Street, awoke on Wednesday, May 24, 1911, not feeling well at all.  For the past few days he had been suffering from a bad cold.  About 8 AM he asked his roommate, Bernice Hutchins, to go to the drug store and buy him some quinine.  Upon receipt of the medicine, Irvin planned to take a nice, long, hot bath.

Bernice returned with the quinine about 9 AM and about 11 AM, Irvin entered the bathroom and began his bath by turning on gas jets to the water heater below the tub and lifting a towel from one of jets on the wall that provided the gas heat that warmed the room.   An hour later, some carpenters who were working in the home complained that they smelled gas.

This advertisement for a folding bathtub with an overhead water heater was published by the Mosely Folding Bath Tub Company in 1901.

Emma went to the bathroom and tapped on the door.  There was no response.  She then called upon the carpenters to break open the door.  It was they who discovered Irvin’s lifeless body in scalding hot water.  According to the coroner’s report, Irvin had died from accidental asphyxiation due to gas escaping from the unlit jet on the wall while the jets under the tub continued to heat the water in the tub ever hotter.

Emma was no doubt crushed.  Her life during the past six years had not been an easy one.  George Munson, her husband and a beloved physician, died on May 10, 1905, at the age of 42 leaving her to care for their four young children.  In 1910, she was living in Van Buren Township and working as a teacher.  What prompted her move to Bloomington and the opening of a boarding house is not known.

Within a few months of Irvin’s tragic death, Emma took her children and moved to Arizona.  In September 1913, Emma died there of tuberculosis leaving her children without a mother or father.  After some discussion, it was decided to transport the body back to Bloomington for burial in Rose Hill Cemetery at the side of her late husband.  Her son, Chester, and one of her three daughters accompanied the body on the long train home across country.

Upon the arrival of the remains, R. P. and Sarah (Sparks) Breeden, Emma’s parents, eagerly looked forward to gaze one last time upon the face of the daughter who they had not seen for some time.  There hopes to do this, however, were dashed by Emma’s brother-in-law, Dr. William Munson, a Chicago physician who ordered the casket be kept closed.  R. P. appealed to Bloomington Circuit Judge Wilson who advised that him that parents had the right of control before the brother-in-law.  Wilson told him to repeat his request one last time, and if the casket was not opened he should take tools and open it himself.  It was then opened.

There was one last tragedy in Emma’s life, one for which she was already gone.  Emma’s 19-year-old daughter, Julia, died in Arizona, in September 1917, the place where she had made her home since the death of her mother.  Although Bloomington relatives anticipated that Julia’s body would be returned to Monroe County for burial at the side of her parents, there is no evidence of her burial in Rose Hill.  Dr. William Munson was in charge of the burial arrangements.  Her final resting place is not known.


Mosely Folding Bathtub from the Late 19th Century

Digital image of George Munson’s death record from the Monroe County, Indiana, Health Department available online at  Document dated May 10, 1905.

Washington (IN) Daviess County Democrat, May 27, 1911, p. 1.  “Tragedy in Emma Munson’s Home”

Logansport (IN) Daily Tribune, May 26, 1911, p. 1. 

Indianapolis (IN) Star, May 24, 1911, p. 18.

Bloomfield (IN) News, September 11, 1913, p. 1.

Hammond (IN) Lake County Times, September 17, 1913, p. 3.

Bloomington (IN) Evening World, September 6, 1917, p. 1.

Canine Epidemic Threatens Stinesville

Blog post by Randi Richardson

It was mid-August 1923.  The people of Stinesville were alarmed when a number of dogs living in the neighborhood went mad.  One of those dogs belonged to R. M. Snooks who lived half mile east of Stinesville.  When R. M. noticed his dog had symptoms of the disease, he tried to save it by administering an antidote. During the course of his effort, the dog bit him badly.

A few days later his wound became inflamed which prompted him to consult with two Gosport physicians.  They referred him to a pathologist in Indiana who diagnosed him with hydrophobia and immediately started him on a series of painful injections known as the Pasteur treatment.  Although R. M. was permitted to return to his home on Sunday, August 19, after having taken a treatment every day for days, he was still required to take 18 more treatments to rid himself of the deadly poison in his blood.  Many dogs died during the epidemic.

Sources:  Bloomington (IN) Evening World, August 21, 1923, p. 1.

The Perilous Journey of a Fugitive Slave

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Tony, a slave from Kentucky sometime in the years before the Civil War, escaped from his master and made his way north.  He got as far as Monroe County before he was captured on a Saturday night by the Corsaws who were prominent among Bloomington slave catchers.  The following morning James Clark, an elder in the Reformed Presbyterian Church whose members were often called Covenanters, heard the news as he was on his way to Sunday services.

Image from the cover illustration of the Anti-Slavery Record, July 1837.

Clark sent word of the capture to Thomas Smith who lived two miles southeast of Bloomington.   Together the two men then legally secured Tony’s temporary release from the Corsaws.

A trial quickly ensued for the possession of Tony.  Evidence was heard by Judge David McDonald who declared that he should be set free.  Afterward, Tony went to the Corsaw home on the east side of the courthouse square to collect what few clothes he had with him at the time of his escape.  While there, the Corsaws convinced him that Smith and Clark’s true motive in gaining his release was for the purpose of taking him back to Kentucky.  The Corsaws, on the other hand, promised to help Tony to get to Canada where he would be free.

Smith and Clark tried diligently to contact Tony during the next few days, but the Corsaws didn’t allow anyone near their home.   Some IU students who were sympathetic with the cause of southern slave owners aided the Corsaws.  Eventually, Smith and Clark gave up and returned to their homes.  Their absence prompted the Corsaws to start on their journey with Tony.  After a time, Tony noticed the Corsaws were travelling south toward Louisville. 

Realizing he had been duped, Tony racked his brain to come up with a new plan to escape.  He remembered that Samuel Gordon, a member of the Bloomington community who was active with the Underground Railroad, told him that if he ever got into trouble again and wanted protection, that he should make his way to the Gordon home a bit south of Bloomington. 

At the end of the day the Corsaws stopped at Nick Fleener’s home a few miles north of Salem.  During the night, Fleener urged the Corsaws to tie up Tony, but the Corsaws refused.  They argued that they could take Tony anywhere and that he had all the confidence in the world in them and they would rather not arouse his suspicions.  Tony immediately planned his escape.

The next morning while his captors were not looking, he slipped away.  Two or three nights later he made his way to the Gordons.  And before the Corsaws could track him to the Gordon home, he was taken to the Smith home and hidden for over a week.

Illustrated map of Underground Railroad routes in Indiana from a comprehensive history of The Underground Railroad from Slavery to Freedom by Wilbur H. Siebert published in 1898

The Corsaws strongly suspected that Tony was at the Smith home and vowed that he would not escape from them again.  On the pretext of gathering blackberries, the Corsaws and their sympathizers stayed near the Smith home; guards were posted on all the roads.  Meantime, plans were made to deliver Tony to a man north of Bloomington who would transport to Mooresville.

When the agreed upon day finally came, two wagons were loaded, one driven by a Mr. Curry and the other by Smith.  The Smith wagon was open and carried sacks of grain; the Curry wagon was closed.  Tony was hidden in the Smith wagon under the sacks.

Smith drove his wagon to the square and began mingling with the people while Curry drove east toward Unionville and looked rather guilty and nervous.  Curry had not driven far when he began whipping his horses.  That aroused suspicion and prompted a crowd of Corsaw sympathizers to follow him.  Finally he was overtaken.  Although his wagon was searched, nothing was found. 

Smith, in the meantime, unhitched his horses and started north. He proceeded unmolested to the designated point thus successfully aiding Tony on the next leg of his journey toward freedom.


  • Rev. D. J. Shaw, “The Bloomington Congregation,” Our Banner, August 15, 1879, pp. 239-242. 
  • Henry Lester Smith, “The Underground Railroad in Monroe County,” Indiana Magazine of History, Vol. 13, No. 3, pp. 288-297.

The Unsolved Mystery of Josiah Botkin’s Disappearance

Blog post by Randi Richardson

If you are lucky enough to have an ancestor that left behind an oral interview, you may find the material both interesting and enlightening.  Consider, for example, the oral interview of Alva Botkin (variously spelled Botkins, Bodkin and Bodkins) on file at the research library in the Monroe County History Center.

Alva Botkin, a native of Monroe County, was born to Charles W. and Cora V. (Mitchell) Botkin in 1897.  He graduated from Smithville High School in 1916, received an A. B. degree from Indiana University in 1923, and was principal at Smithville High School from 1936 through 1939.  In 1980 when Alva was about 83 years of age and living in Arlington Heights, Illinois, he came to Bloomington to visit his brother-in-law and sister, Mr. and Mrs. John McMillan.  While in Bloomington he was interviewed by Julia Deckard.  One of the most interesting topics that Alva covered in his interview was the history of his grandfather, Josiah Botkin.

Alva Botkin’s photo from a Smithville Searchlight yearbook c. 1939.

Born in Virginia about 1825, Josiah left his native home for Indiana sometime between 1850 and 1855 when he married Priscilla Thrasher, also a native of Virginia, in Monroe County and settled with her nearby in Pleasant Township, Lawrence County.  Unlike few others in the county, or even in the state, Josiah worked as an engineer to support his family that, by 1870, included six children.

Though Josiah’s roots ran deep in Virginia, a slave-holding state, he was bitterly opposed to slavery.  The level of his commitment to freedom for all may be best demonstrated by his enrollment in the Union army, Co. A, 24th Indiana Infantry, in July 1861.  During the course of his military career, according to Alva, Josiah saw action at the battle on Lookout Mountain in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in 1863 and on Sherman’s march to the sea in Georgia during 1864.

Upon his discharge from the army in 1864, Josiah returned to Lawrence County where he once again took up his work as an engineer.  Then about 1876, according to Alva, Josiah went to Mississippi and set up a sawmill.  Some of his employees were men of color, undoubtedly at least a few of whom were former slaves.  He wrote home to Priscilla that the business was doing quite well.  After a year, however, the letters stopped.  Josiah simply disappeared.  It was speculated that he was killed by members of the Ku Klux Klan who were very active in Mississippi at the time.

An unidentified photo of an early sawmill from the archives at the Library of Congress.

In telling of the story of his grandfather, Alva noted that Priscilla was never able to collect Josiah’s military pension because there was no death certificate and, therefore, she had to “raise seven children the hard way, by manual labor.”  Historical records, however, reveal a bit more to the story.

On March 29, 1877, Priscilla married a well-to-do, much older widower, Leonard Litz, another native of Virginia, who lived in Indian Creek Twp., Monroe County, and had a number of adult children.  After nearly 17 years of marriage to Priscilla, Leonard passed away from natural causes in February 1894 at the age of 86.

Priscilla, who would have been about 60 when Leonard died, could not quality for a widow’s military pension from Leonard because he was not a veteran of the Union army.  Initially she was also unable to qualify for Josiah’s pension because she had remarried.    In 1901, however, Congress changed the law allowing remarried widows to receive a pension from their first husband so long as they were also widowed from any subsequent husband. 

In 1903 Priscilla applied for Josiah’s pension.  But there is little evidence of that application beyond the single index card noted above that was found at the Fold3 website.  On July 18, 1907, Priscilla (Thrasher) Botkin Litz died in Smithville and was subsequently buried there in the Mt. Ebal Cemetery.

Disinterments at Covenanter Cemetery: Truth or Fiction

Blog post by Randi Richardson

On October 28, 1902, the Bloomington (IN) Courier published a very interesting item from the Indianapolis Sentinel in which it was noted that John Blair, who in his old age, was digging up corpses from the “old Covenanter graveyard,” many of whom were friends and associates he had previously helped to bury. The article described the location of the graveyard “on the edge of Bloomington where Mr. Blair has lived all his life” on ground given originally by Mr. Blair’s father.  According to John Blair’s death record, his father was James Blair.

During the course of his work, Blair said he observed many remarkable things.  What struck him particularly was that “human hair will grow after death just as long as there is any substance in the body.”  He remarked that the beard on the face of his unnamed brother-in-law“ had grown a quarter of an inch.”

The Covenanter Cemetery, about 1.5 acres in size, is located at the intersection of Hillside and High streets a short distance southeast of Bloomington.  Photo courtesy of the author. 

Blair indicated that the first burial in the old graveyard took place 53 years earlier which would have been about 1849.  That person was not identified by name.  In fact, only two individuals were noted specifically by name.  One was that of Rosanna Bratney who died 33 years before the disinterment, about 1869, and was well known by Blair when she was yet alive.  Blair said of her that her hair had grown during in the years following her death “until it reached below the shoe soles and turned up clear over her feet in the bottom of the coffin.”  On the other hand, “the body of Prof. James Woodburn, Sr., which had been buried 30 years ago, presented exactly the same appearance as when it was interred.  Even the shirt front was immaculate, but when the air struck the body, it crumbled into dust.”

One might assume that the remains of the deceased were reinterred elsewhere, but there was no mention of that made in the article.  Odd.    Additionally, no corroborating documentation has been found related to the disinterments.

There is no evidence of Rosanna Bratney’s burial anywhere in Monroe County, but a tombstone for James Woodburn (1817-1865) is included among those at Rose Hill Cemetery.  Woodburn, a native of Chester County, South Carolina, came to Monroe County in 1830 in a migration of Covenanters and Associate Reformed Presbyterians.  After receiving a bachelor’s and master’s degree from Indiana University, he taught at several schools and from 1853 to his death in 1865 was principal of the Preparatory Department at IU. 

Like Woodburn, John Blair was strongly associated with the Covenanters and the Presbyterian Church.  According to his obituary, he was an elder in the church for 50 years and a man of deep convictions both in politics and religion.  After the death of his wife, he went to live with his son, James N. Blair on the outskirts of Bloomington.  When he died in March 1908, at the age of 88, he was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery at the side of his previously deceased wife, Hannah.

Again, this seems odd.  Six years earlier in 1902, John Blair would have been about 82 years of age.  Certainly not an age that one might expect to find an individual digging up dead people.  And why, if Blair’s affiliation with the Covenanter Church was so strong, was he and his wife buried outside of the church cemetery that has been reserved specifically for church members and their families.   Unfortunately, these are mysteries that will probably never be resolved. 


  • Rose Hill Cemetery Index.
  • James Woodburn, tombstone photo online at FindAGrave:  Rose Hill, Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana.
  • James Woodburn Biosketch, Woodburn Family Collection, 1848-1978, Archives Online at Indiana University, available at
  • John Blair’s obituary, Bloomington (IN) Telephone, March 27, 1908.
  • Disinterments at Covenanter Cemetery, Bloomington (IN) Courier, October 28, 1902.

Stories of Suffrage, Part 3: Monroe County Women Enter the Race

Blog post by Hilary Fleck

I was fortunate enough through my fellowship from Indiana Humanities to research and rediscover some of the remarkable suffragists from Monroe County. I peered into the lives of Annabelle Miers, Isabella Seward, Agnes Evans, and Lillian Gay Berry and found strong women passionate about equal suffrage. The exhibit Votes for Women at the History Center has shared their lives and suffrage activities with you, but it stops at 1920. 

What happened next?

The follow up exhibit, opening in time for Women’s History Month in March 2021, will feature Monroe County women who have run for and been elected to political office. This blog post will focus on the first four women to have run for office in Monroe County – and not all of them won.  Nevertheless, these women saw their opportunity to serve their community and did what no woman before them had done. I hope you enjoy this sneak peek into the upcoming exhibit “See Her Run: Monroe County Women in Politics” opening in March in the History Center Deckard Education Room.

Maude Luzadder (1873-1948)

Mrs. Luzadder was very involved with the local women’s suffrage movement and joined the Bloomington Franchise League when the organization began in 1913. She so believed that women were able to hold elected office that she ran for office herself as a candidate for County Coroner in 1914. Mrs. Luzadder was the first Monroe County woman we have recorded to run for public office. While the only qualifications to hold the office of County Coroner is you be a citizen and resident of the county for one year, Mrs. Luzadder was married to Dr. John Luzadder. This would have made a quick process for the doctor to pronounce someone dead and then certified by his wife the coroner! Maude unfortunately lost her race to the Republican candidate, but did receive 51 votes.

Lela Smith (1886-1956)

Another enterprising young woman was Miss Lela Smith, a candidate for County Sheriff in 1928. Less than a decade after women gained the right to vote, Lela tossed her hat in the ring to bring reform to the office. Newspaper clips announcing Miss Smith’s candidacy state that she would personally hold the office, indicating that this was perhaps not the case before. She was not free from public mockery for her groundbreaking candidacy. In The Lafayette Journal Courier, the writer adds “If any umbrageous prisoner gets snooty with Sheriff Lela, she’ll paste him one, adorn him with an ogee and put a dado around him.” This is a play on Miss Smith’s occupation as a paper hanger, which today would equate to an interior decorator and specifically wallpaper hanger. An ogee and dado are elements of interior and architectural design. The joke being that if any prisoner causes Lela trouble, she will simply decorate him. Such comments proved effective as unfortunately Lela lost her election.

Journal Courier, Wed March 28, 1928

Alice Parmer (1882- unknown)

The first woman to run for mayor of Bloomington was Mrs. Alice Parmer in the Republican primary of 1934. I could not find much information on Mrs. Parmer (including when she passed away) but the 1930 census and two newspaper articles provide some sort of insight. In the census, Mrs. Parmer was the head of a boarding house with four male boarders. Four years later the two newspaper articles announcing her candidacy for mayor describe her as the proprietor of the Bloomington Massage Salon and a former Federal government employee in the secret service department. It seems that Alice lived an interesting and storied life. Mrs. Parmer’s platform was “the golden rule” which, though not described in the article, is to treat others as you wish to be treated. Alice was up against four male candidates for the nomination and lost her race after receiving just short of 3% of the vote.

Indianapolis Star, April 19 1934

Vanna Thrasher (1900-1980)

To end on a positive note, the first woman elected to political office in Monroe County was Vanna Thrasher, elected Bloomington Clerk-Treasurer in 1934. Miss Thrasher served as clerk-treasurer for thirteen years and saw the election of only two other women to city and county offices during her time. A scandal occurred in 1943 when Vanna was accused of mishandling city funds when repaying a bond to the Barret Law Office for nearly $12,000. The chief deputy attorney general, Frank Coughlin, was quoted by The Indianapolis Star describing Miss Thrasher as an honest individual who had made a bookkeeping error with city funds. Vanna was however vilified in the press. After years of litigation, Vanna settled the claim for $1,500 in 1946 and retired from public service. 

Indianapolis Star, Nov 13 1934
Image from collection


Blog post by Randi Richardson

Much is known about the early history of Monroe County because a significant amount has been written.  The earliest and most comprehensive county history is that compiled by Charles Blanchard in Counties of Morgan, Monroe and Brown published in 1884.  Several decades later, in 1922, Forest M. “Pop” Hall also provided a good bit of local history in his book, Historic Treasures.  His material was mostly gleaned from newspaper clippings.

Pictures, on the other hand, are a whole different story.  There are no early photos of Monroe County for the simple reason there were no cameras in the early part of the nineteenth century.  When they did come along, they were few and far between, expensive, complicated to operate and quite heavy and bulky.  An exception to the dearth of early pictures is the limited work of Cornelius Pering who did some miniature watercolors and at least one oil painting on canvas depicting Bloomington. 

The watercolors were part of a letter sent by Pering from Bloomington to friends in England in 1833.  A few years later, about 1846, Pering created the oil painting depicting the Monroe County Female Seminary with additional buildings in the background.  Eventually, this painting became the property of Maria Louisa (Arnold) Hinkston/Hickston Bollman who was living at the time with her husband and daughter a block or so north on the Seminary on College Avenue.

Gift of Judge R. D. Richardson, Indiana University Campus Art Collection.

Pering, a native of England who studied at Cambridge and was primarily interested in art, came to Monroe County about 1832 along with his wife, Susannah (Orchard) Pering, and a daughter.  Susannah’s uncles, John and Samuel Orchard, were already living in Bloomington and were established as inn keepers and also had a thriving stage coach business.  Undoubtedly their success influenced the Pering family’s decision to settle in the area. 

When Pering realized that he could not support his family with art, he took a position in 1833 as principal of the newly incorporated Monroe County Female Seminary and institute.  Not long afterward, about 1835, the old seminary was replaced with new, brick building at the northeast corner of College Avenue and 7th Street. 

A block north of the Seminary was the home to Lewis Bollman.  Only 18 at the time of his arrival in Bloomington, Bollman had been a student at Washington University in Pennsylvania where Dr. Andrew Wylie was president.  When Wylie accepted the position as first president of Indiana University, Bollman was among the fourteen people who journeyed to Indiana with Wylie in four, two-horse wagons. 

The site of the Female Seminary at Seventh and College became home to a new Masonic temple in 1923.  Shown here in 2020.

After his graduation from the university, Bollman married Harriet Stone and about 1836 they settled in a home located at College Avenue and 8th Street, just a block north of the Female Seminary.  Two years later, Harriet died.  Lewis Bollman then married Maria Louisa (Arnold) Hinkston/Hickston and with her fathered a daughter, Mary, in 1846. 

Pering’s wife, Susannah, died in 1845 leaving behind six children ranging in age from 14 to 3.  He took a second wife, Charlotte Carmichael, who taught French at the Seminary.  In 1846, the same year that the painting of the Seminary was completed, Pering took his new wife and family south to Louisville and opened an art school.

Sometime between 1860 and 1870, Lewis and Maria Bollman divorced.   Following the change in her marital status, Maria left Bloomington for Evansville in company with Mary, Mary’s husband, Robert Dale Richardson, and, apparently the oil painting by completed by Pering.  She never remarried and for the remainder of her life lived with her daughter and son-in-law in Evansville.

Robert, a graduate of IU who worked as a lawyer and a judge, was eventually made a member of IU’s board of trustees.  It was his close relationship with IU that no doubt prompted him to donate Pering’s painting of the Seminary to the university in 1906, a few years after Maria’s death.  In the spring of 2020, the painting was on loan to Mathers Museum.  Typically it is at the Morton C. Bradley Education Center at the Wylie House.

Cornelius Pering died in Louisville in December 1881.  His remains were brought to Bloomington for burial in Rose Hill Cemetery at the side of his first wife.


Woodburn, James Albert, History of Indiana University 1820-1902 (Bloomington IN:  Indiana University) 1940, p. 70

Wanted: Ox Team for Centennial Pageant

Blog post by Randi Richardson

A postcard made from a photo in the Monroe County History Center’s photo collection.  Information on the reverse side of the postcard notes that the team was taking bark from the Showers Brothers Furniture Factory to Bloomington c. 1910.

Two hundred years ago, in the early 1800’s, oxen and ox teams were common sights.  They pulled many of the Conestoga wagons that brought pioneers into Monroe County, hauled trees chopped from virgin forests and helped to break the sod to make the ground ready for crops.  Even after trains were introduced oxen continued to have a place of prominence.   But by the turn of the century with some of the main roads being paved and more and more cars taking the place of horses, ox teams became fewer and fewer until there were hardly any left at all. 

In 1916 the county began planning a centennial pageant to celebrate the history and development of the county from its very beginning.   The pageant committee wanted to include an ox team to reflect the important role that they played a century earlier, but it was discovered they were then few and far between.

Ultimately, someone suggested hiring Nelson Boyer, who lived near the Bear Wallow farm north of Nashville in Brown County.  Boyer owned a team of two four-year-old oxen, “Mike” and Jerry.”  He purchased them when they were only calves.

Boyer was lame, having lost one of his legs at the knee in an accident several years ago.  So he was doubly careful on his wooden leg while driving his team.  His animals were said to be gentle, very reliable and strong on the pull.  They were driven with lines fastened to rings in their noses.

All were in agreement that Boyer and his oxen were the best option for the pageant.  He was to be paid $25 for his participation, a few days of rehearsal and the 3-day pageant 

Nelson started for Bloomington, at least a 25-mile journey, on Sunday at midnight, May 13, over what some called the “worst roads in the state.”  Mike and Jerry were fitted up with their Sunday best, brass tips on their horns and the rings in their noses polished up bright as a new silver dollar.  Not exactly rapid transit, they pulled a cart with a slow and steady gait–about two miles per hour.  It was Monday morning by the time of their arrival. 

The Hoosier Movie Company was engaged to film the spectacular historic drama of the pageant on Saturday, the last day of the event, that it might be preserved for years to come.  Saturday would provide a time when many people who had been unable to be present earlier because of mid-week work could attend.  Some businesses would close, including the mills and quarries.

Image from the IU-Bloomington Photo Archives.

The final performance was scheduled to start with a parade at 12:45 on the pageant grounds in Dunn Meadow, then west on Kirkwood to the Square and back to the pageant grounds along Third Street.  Mike and Jerry in the lead as usual.

It was, in fact, filmed as planned.  The film debuted in Bloomington in late May and again in June.  In order that commencement visitors might see the pageant, it was shown three times at the Union Movies in the IU Auditorium on June 14.  The ownership and location of the film today is not known.  What a shame.

As for Nelson Boyer, Mike and Jerry?  Well, it was discovered that the long journey on foot, like the one from Brown County to Bloomington, was hard on the oxen.  And when pageant planners from Bartholomew County contacted Nelson and requested Mike and Jerry in a centennial pageant of their own, Nelson stipulated that the journey must be made by truck and not on foot.  Because the pageant planners couldn’t find another suitable oxen team, they acquiesced though it cost them considerable inconvenience and expense.


Bloomington (IN) Evening World, August 17, 1915, p. 1.

Bloomington (IN) Evening World, May 13, 1916, p. 1.

Indiana Daily Student, May 19, 1916, p. 1.

Indianapolis (IN) News, August 31, 1916, p. 17.

Muncie (IN) Star Press, May 15, 1916, p. 9.

Early History of the Bloomington Creamery aka Johnson Creamery

Blog post by Randi Richardson

The Johnson’s Creamery smoke stack is a Bloomington landmark.

The Johnson’s Creamery smoke stack that rises skyward 110 feet is one of Bloomington’s most recognized landmarks.  Although the smoke stack was not built until 1949, the original creamery building at 400 W. Seventh Street was completed in 1914.  As the creamery business grew, it was necessary to expand the building.  The last addition was completed in 1951.

Johnson’s Creamery vacated the building in 1987, and in 1995 the building was restored and adapted for use as the Johnson Creamery Business Center.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

A nice article pertaining to the early history of the Johnson’s Creamery was published on page of the Bloomington Evening World, January 13, 1922.  It read as follows: 

“The business operating under the name of the Johnson Creamery Company is owned by E[llis] W. and W[ard] W. Johnson.  The Johnson Brothers hail from Orange County, Indiana, where they had their first experience in the dairy industry. 

“Before coming to Bloomington they managed a successful creamery and ice cream plant at Iola, Kansas.  In December 1912, they purchase the small plant of P. B. Martin and Son which was located on South Washington Street [in the brick building later used many years by the Coca Cola Bottling Plant] and continued the business under the name of the Bloomington Creamery Company.  This business soon outgrew the plant on Washington Street, and in the fall of 1913 a new building was started at the present location of the Johnson Creamery Company at Seventh and Madison streets. 

“It was at this stage in the development of the business that an ice plant was added.  The business grew steadily until it became apparent that additional manufacturing capacity was needed. 

“In order to adequately supply the needs of the community the firm has doubled the capacity of their plant this year.  Work is now in progress on the new creamery addition and large ice storage.  The new ice storage with a capacity of 1600 tons insures Bloomington against having another ice shortage like many in the past years.  As soon as the additions are completed, new and modern machinery will be installed which will afford Bloomington an up-to-date creamery and ice storage that not many towns can boast of having.  All improvements are being made with special attention being given to sanitation and improvement of the service.

Johnson’s Creamery photo from the Monroe County History Center’s photo archive.

“The chief products of the Johnson Creamery Company are Shady Brook Butter, Johnson’s Ice Cream, Pasteurized Milk and Cream and Distilled Water Ice.  It would be a hard matter for anyone to group a larger number of the real essentials to modern living under one manufacturing head.  All are recognized as ‘Bloomington products.’

“In addition to supplying local citizens with the above-mentioned products, this institution affords a profitable market to Monroe County for its dairy farmers.  The advantages of having such a manufacturing plant in this county is appreciated by local dairymen.”