Electricity in Monroe County Then and Now

The 1880’s saw the advent of human-generated electricity in Monroe County. In November, 1881, the Republican Progress announced that an electric light would be placed on the court house steeple, the power being furnished by a steam engine at Seward’s foundry. But “The electric light is not quite a success. It is unsteady – flares up, sinks down, and makes an uneven light. Time will develop needed improvements, however.”

It was not until five years later that improvements were realized. By May, 1886, the Jenney Electric Light Company of Indianapolis organized a stock company for bringing lights to streets and businesses, and in June the City Council awarded them a three-year contract. The city agreed to pay for nine lights at a cost of $600/year. They would be operated until midnight (except when there was “good moonlight”). Three lights were placed on the court house tower, three on the school house, and one each at the corners of 7th and Washington Streets, Kirkwood and Lincoln, and one near the United Presbyterian Church. Demand for other lights led to the light company to contract for a “dynamo” for 40 lights, which was located in Ryor’s factory.

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1886 Atlas Corliss Steam Engine

The lights were first turned on during the evening before the 4th of July, 1886 celebration, with people coming in from all around the county to witness the event. More lights were installed during that fall. In the summer of 1887, a separate building, near the railroad depot, was constructed to house the dynamo and “Atlas engine” (a steam engine manufactured in Indianapolis). By January of 1889, the company was running 42 lights, of which 16 were used by the city. Each light cost $60/year. In 1890, plans were announced to furnish 720 lights, with two larger dynamos required.

Turn the page to today, September 17, 2018. At 2 p.m., 120 solar panels atop the History Center’s roof were connected to the electrical grid, joining over 600 other homes, businesses, government, and public buildings in Monroe County sporting these new means of producing electrical power.

The estimate by the panel installers, MPI Solar of Bloomington, shows that these panels will generate 58,000 kilowatt hours annually, saving about $5,400 on our electrical bill during the first year. Estimated total savings over 30 years will be about $180,000. Annually, this will offset about 22.5% of our electricity cost. Two anonymous donors contributed $110,000 to fund the project.

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History Center Solar Panels,
looking west toward the Courthouse

Blog post by Lee Ehman, a long time advocate of solar power.

Civil War Roll of Honor—1883

uncle samBlog post by Randi Richardson

Memorial Day is a day to remember and honor those who served our country in the time of war.  It is a tradition that far exceeds the bounds of Monroe County stretching from America’s east coast to the west. It’s also a very old tradition.

On page one of the Bloomington Telephone published June 2, 1883, and available online at Hoosier State Chronicles, a free website, is a listing of Monroe County soldiers who either died in the service or since the war.  The list includes hundreds of names along with the regiment number and remarks such as place and cause of death.  Occasionally a death date is also included.

Unfortunately, the list is compiled in random order by regiment and not alphabetically.  However, if you have been searching for a Civil War veteran it may be worth your time to scan through this list carefully to determine if your ancestor is included.  A few examples are noted below.

George W. Whitaker, 82nd Reg’t, died at Bowling Green, Ky.

Elvin Farmer, Colored Reg’t, died at Memphis

William McDermott, 82nd Reg’t, died of wounds rec’d at Chickamauga

David P. Sutphin, 28th Ind., died of disease at home in Indianapolis

Francis Otwell, Jr., 27th Ind., died at Indianapolis July 27 ‘74

James W. Nichols, 38th Reg’t, died at Andersonville prison

A few years later a similar list was published in the Bloomington Telephone on May 8, 1922 (see p. 4).  There were many more dates of death in this news item than in the one noted above.  The latter list was viewed online at www.newspaperarchive.com, a paid website, but it should also be available on microfilm at the Monroe County Public Library.  The list took up the entire page but about a third of the page was not legible.

Showers Bros. Heavily Damaged by Hailstorm in 1917

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Skylights in the saw tooth roof of the Showers Bros. buildings provided much needed lighting in a time before electricity was readily available.

On Saturday, May 26, 1917, a terrific hail storm swept over Bloomington.  Shortly after 6 PM, a mass of low hanging clouds rolled up from the west and let loose with hail stones the like of which had never been seen in the area.  They ranged in size all the way from a marble to a baseball.

After the storm subsided, several employees of the Showers Bros. gathered at the factory to assess the damage and found that nearly 75 percent of the skylights had been broken from the saw tooth roof.  The floors were strewn with glass, and there was much danger from more glass fragments falling from the skylights.

Workers rushed to clean up water from the top floors before it could drip through on the cases stacked in the ware room below.  This work was all very successful and would have reduced the loss to a minimum but for the fact that another rain storm arose about 9 PM.  The water swept in torrents through the holes in the roof.  It flooded the packing room in Plant One.

Early Sunday morning, under the supervision of W. Edward Shower and Charles A. Sears, the work of reconstruction was started with the help of a large force of dependable employees.  Mr. Showers worked on the roof right along with the others like a regular fellow.  His presence there was an incentive to all who aided in the reconstruction work.  Broken windows were covered using waterproof paper, all the waterproof paper that could be found in town.

Repairs were started immediately in the machine and veneer rooms and on the damaged cases.  A large force of men was employed in inspecting and repairing the damaged stock.  A damage estimate was reported at roughly $30,000.

Management was gratified to note the loyal way in which the men set out early Sunday morning to push the work of covering the roof and especially those who remained until midnight on Saturday.  In the course of a week or ten days, nearly all traces of the deluge were erased and operations resumed on a normal schedule.  Executives of the Showers Bros. heartily thanked all of those who rendered such valuable assistance in the time of need.

Source:  Showers Bros. Shop Notes, June 2, 1917.

Blog Post by Randi Richardson.

Arthur Day, Leading Bloomington Funeral Director, Died Saving the Life of His Wife

Blog post by Randi Richardson.

One minute Arthur Day and his wife, Mary, were at the northwest corner of Bloomington’s town square walking toward their home at 302 N. Walnut Street; seconds later Arthur lay mortally wounded in the street.  They had just finished a meal together at the Graham Hotel.  It was to be their last.

As they walked east across Walnut Street on Thursday evening, April 17, 1947, Arthur jerked Mary’s arm pulling her backward.  In this way, unbeknownst to her, he had placed himself between her and an oncoming car.  Mary didn’t see the 1937 Ford sedan driven by 22-year-old Howard Watson of Harrodsburg until Arthur was violently hurled against her knocking them both to the ground.

When Mary realized that Arthur was badly injured, she sat down in the middle of the street and raised his bleeding head to her lap.  As a former hospital superintendent, she immediately recognized his condition as grave.  He was still breathing and his eyes were open, but he was unconscious.

Watson, stopped immediately, leaped from his car, ran to the nearest phone and called for an ambulance and the police who arrived at the scene of the accident almost simultaneously with the arrival of a Day Funeral Home ambulance.   Two hours later, at 9:45 PM, Arthur breathed his last at the Bloomington Hospital without regaining consciousness.

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Arthur Day

After a thorough investigation, Dr. R. E. Lyon, the Monroe County coroner, determined that the accident was unavoidable, a finding shared by the police.  It was believed that the tragedy occurred when the stop-and-go light changed when the Days were in the middle of the street.  Watson did not see the couple readily because the car immediately in front of him turned leaving him unaware that anyone was crossing the street.

At the time of his death Arthur Day, age 66, had been a well-known and respected resident of Bloomington for the past 45 years.  He moved from Brown County to Bloomington in 1902 and was in the grocery business until 1913 when he joined a firm that operated both a furniture store and a funeral home business on the north side of the square.  Arthur bought out his partners and became the sole operator in 1924.

He was one of the best-known residents of Monroe County.  Nearly everyone knew the big, quiet man as a friend.  His pleasant disposition brought him much success in his profession.

In addition to his wife, Arthur was survived by two daughters, Mrs. Gayle Campbell and Mrs. Lucille Pearcy of Bloomington; one brother, Odus Day of Bloomington; and two sisters, Mrs. Nannie Lanum of Bloomington and Mrs. Elma McDaniel in Kansas; three grandchildren and several nieces and nephews.

Source:  Picture and text abstracted from an obituary for Arthur Day published by the Bloomington World, April 18, 1947, pp. 1-2.

IU Union Club Hotel Opened in 1947

Blog post by Randi Richardson

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Postcard of the new Union Club from the collection of the author.

In the 1940s, hotel accommodations in Bloomington were woefully inadequate.  For that reason, hotel accommodations at the Indiana Memorial Union on the IU campus were expanded by opening the Union Club Hotel as an annex to the existing facility in the Spring of 1947.

The new Union Club, which included a dining room that could accommodate 105 patrons, was located directly north of the Union building.  It was once used by the officers club at Bunker Hill.  After being sawed into twelve sections and disassembled, it was moved to the IU campus by truck.

It could accommodate 125 guests in 89 beautifully appointed, single and double bedrooms with a suite of three rooms on the first floor.  The dining room was scheduled to offers meals three times a day and open seven days a week to the public.

In January 1950, Eleanor Roosevelt spent the night in the Union Building and had lunch the next day at the Union Club.

Source:  Bloomington (Monroe County, Indiana) Evening World, April 11, 1947, p. 7.

Barbara (Ellett) Dail Remembers Stinesville

Barbara Rose Ellett was born March 12, 1937, in the old Hoadley Mansion in Stinesville, Monroe County, Indiana.  Her parents were Charles Homer and Blanche Elizabeth (Baker) Ellett.  Her maternal grandparents were Sherman and Sarah Lucy Evaline (Stewart) Baker; her paternal grandparents were W. A. Gorman and Mary Gettysburg “Getty” (Payton) Ellett.

Barbara grew up and spent her childhood in Stinesville surrounded by many cousins on both sides of her family.  At an early age she began writing and was first published when she was only 11 years of age.  By the 1970’s her stories were widely published in literary magazines in both in the U. S. and overseas.

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Eventually Barbara married James Raymond Daniels with whom she had three children:  Debra Rae, Patrick James and David Eugene.  Her second husband was Roy D. Dail, Sr., who had three sons by a prior marriage:  Roy D., Jr., Douglas Jerome and David Nelson.  The family settled in Arkansas.

It was while living in Arkansas in 1998 that Barbara wrote and privately published her autobiography, a slim volume of only 72 pages.  Although small in size, it is rich in pictures and detail about Stinesville people, places and events.

Several years ago I purchased the book for fifty cents.  Because of its small size, it became lost among the larger books in my library.  Recently I discovered it while rearranging my library shelves and took the time to read through it.  It was so interesting that I knew others, particularly those who grew up around Stinesville, would also find it of interest.  But when I checked to determine where it might be available and in what libraries, I found to book to be practically nonexistent.

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So, folks, I’ve decided to donate this little jewel of a book to the library at the Monroe County History Center.  It’s there on the shelves for everyone to enjoy.  But remember it is small and easily lost.  If you can’t find it, check with the library director for assistance.

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Hays Market One of a Kind

Many people who have lived for a while in Bloomington remember Hays Market at 6th and Morton streets.  It wasn’t always a market, however, and the stone carving over the door provides a clue to its origins.

The first owner of the building was Lawrence Currie and his son, John.  Lawrence Currie, whose name was sometimes spelled Curry, typically worked as a farmer.  He followed this career path from his teen years in the 1870s when the family lived in Owen County well into adulthood when the household moved from Greene County to Bloomington.  In 1900, the Currie family lived at the intersection of Morton and 6th streets in Bloomington.  Lawrence made monuments and his son, John, age 23, was a stone cutter.  They joined forces and opened a storefront, Currie & Son, in 1903 at the northwest corner of Morton & 6th.  Someone, probably John, carved the company name in stone above the door.

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Sometime between 1910 and 1920, the business collapsed.  Lawrence continued to live at Morton and 6th streets, but went back to farming.  John moved to Indianapolis and worked as a stock clerk in an auto factory.  Afterward the store changed hands a number of times.  For a while it was home to the Charles Cavaness Garage, one of the first garages in Bloomington.  Unfortunately, due to the limited number of cars in the area at the time, the demand for garage work was small and, ultimately, Charles was forced to sell out.

In the meantime, James D. Hays, a resident of Clear Creek Township in Monroe County, owned and operated a market near Smithville.  His grandson, Jerry Hays, recalled that his grandfather was a savvy businessman who didn’t wait for business to come to him.  “He made sandwiches in the morning and took them to the quarries where workers bought them for their lunch.”

Later, sometime between 1945 and 1948, James moved his market from the Smithville area into the empty Currie & Son building.  It quickly became known for its dairy products, fresh produce and mostly meat.  “On Friday nights,” according to Jerry, “when people received their paycheck they used to wait in long lines to buy meat.”

In the evenings and on the weekends Jerry, who was then quite young, and his father, also named James, would drive around the country side to visit farms and dairies to purchase products for the store.  “When we got back to the store we’d use this handheld device to check the eggs to see if there were embryos inside,” recalled Jerry.  “If so, they were discarded.”

Sundays was the only day the store was closed.  On that day James would visit his store to check on the equipment and determine that it was functioning properly.  Often he was accompanied by Jerry who was told to help himself to whatever he wanted.  “Quite literally” Jerry noted, “I was that kid in a candy store.  But I liked meat, especially liked pickled bologna.”

Digging back into his memory, Jerry recalled that his grandfather’s office was located in the southeast corner on the second floor of the building above the door as pictured below.  “At that time the only lighting upstairs were bare bulbs hung from a cord.  The hallways were dimly lit with wide, worn floorboards.  It was scary to a kid.  When I had to go up there, I would run.  On my seventh birthday, my father told me that my present was in grandfather’s office.  I ran down there and discovered a bright, new bicycle.”

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In 1973, at the age of 70, James passed away.  His son, Paul Hays, then assumed management of the store.  He was assisted by his sister, Mary (Hays) Douthitt.  The other two siblings, including Jerry’s father, James, had no interest in the business.  After Paul died in 1996, the business closed.

For a while the building sat empty.  Then it was purchased by a number of different owners and occupied by a number of different businesses.  Finally it was purchased by David Hays, the son of Jerry Hays and the great grandson of James D. Hays.  His motivation was based partly on sentimental reasons and also because it seemed like a good investment.  Space inside has since been remodeled to accommodate offices of various sizes and leased to a variety of businesses.  Today the future seems quite bright for a building established more than a century ago at 6th and Morton.

To read more stories like this one, follow the Monroe County History Center library blog at http://www.mchclibrary.wordpress.com.  Blog subscribers will be notified of a new blog posting once weekly.  Each blog post will pertain to the Monroe County history of a person, place or event.

Post by Randi Richardson