Beauty and the Billionaire

Throughout the years many beauties have graced the halls of Indiana University-Bloomington.  Only one, however, caught the eye of Howard Hughes, once described as the world’s  richest man, also an entrepreneur, movie producer and a consummate playboy.

That beauty was Indiana native Sallilee Conlon, an 18-year-old IU freshman who studied opera in the School of Music.  She was photographed by one of those ubiquitous photographers who periodically visit college campuses to photograph coeds and then publish their work in various newspapers and magazines.  The editors of Life magazine were so impressed with Sallilee’s picture that they put her photograph on the cover of the May 18, 1953 issue.

Howard, who was magnificently obsessed with girl-finding, routinely scoured magazines for beauties that he might wish to pursue.  Days after her picture appeared in Life, Sallilee was contacted by RKO Pictures, Howard’s movie studio, and invited to come to Los Angeles with her mother.  From there the mother-daughter duo was flown to Las Vegas where Howard , 30 years Sallillee’s senior, squired her about the town in great style for about six months.

Upon their return to LA, Howard put up the mother-daughter duo in a house.  For the next five years, Sallilee was given voice lessons and instructed to be patient while she waited for the perfect movie role or singing offer.  Periodically she spoke with Howard by phone, although there is no evidence she ever again spent time in his physical presence.  At his direction, however, she was forbidden to date, and her behavior was scrutinized closely to determine her compliance with Howard’s demands.

Ultimately Sallilee was informed by her voice coach that Howard had countless young women under contract, all waiting to become stars and/or Mrs. Howard Hughes.  With that information, Sallilee had enough.  She terminated her relationship with Howard and set upon a career path of her own design.

Her journey led her to work behind the scenes in TV news, and she became the long-time companion of George Putnam, a well-known news anchor.  When George died in 2008, Sallillee was noted among his survivors.  It is quite possible that she is still living today, but that has not been verified.

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Photo from the 1953 IU Arbutus.

Sources: Peter Harry Brown & Pat H. Broeske, Howard Hughes:  The Untold Story (Boston, MA:  Da Capo Press, 1996.

Once Upon A Panhandle

Bloomington has its share of panhandlers.  It also has a panhandle.  One of the definitions of a panhandle is a narrow projection of a larger territory.  Located north of Bloomington between the forks of Walnut and College, Bloomington’s 8-acre panhandle has been described as the gateway to the city.

In 1929, the Showers Brothers Furniture Company deeded the panhandle to the city for use as a park.  Two decades later there had been little change, and the Showers Bros. sued for return of the property.  It was discovered, however, that the city did not have clear title to the property.  Judge Q. Austin East, Nick Hrisomalis and others had purchased it a few years earlier in a tax sale after the city inadvertently failed to remove it from the tax lists.

Soon after the suit was initiated, Bloomington did what they should have done a long time ago.  They cleaned up the property and installed some picnic tables on the panhandle to create a little park-like ambiance.

During the next few years, East, Hrisomalis and the others graciously decided to drop their claim to the panhandle.  Showers Bros. also reconsidered their desire to reclaim the property.   Gradually the differences of opinion over who actually owned the property was ironed out.  On June 30, 1953, the Bloomington Daily Herald Telephone reported that Robert K. Dillon, Showers Bros. president, that the company had dismissed their suit with the hope that the city would continue to care for and improve the park property.

Today the panhandle is known as the Miller-Showers Park.  The Miller portion of the name is in recognition of Jacob and Loretta Miller who once owned and resided on the property.  To many, the park might seem a little unorthodox.  It’s a different concept for a different time.  Beauty is, indeed, in the eye of the beholder.  What do you see?



King, Julie, “Gateway to Bloomington,” Meadowood Anthology 1905-1911, Barbara Restle, compiler (Bloomington IN:  Author House) 2012, p. 24.

Slavin Lauren, “Remembering the Building of Lake Fernandez, viewed online in October 2017 at

“Threat to City’s Panhandle Eased,” Bloomington (IN) Daily Herald Telephone September 30, 1953, p. 1.


Blog post by Randi Richardson

Thanksgiving Day in Bloomington, 1891

While doing research for a patron I came across a timely article in the Bloomington Telephone from 1891 titled “Thanksgiving Day in Bloomington, 1891.” The brief yet charming article is transcribed below:

“Why they gave thanks: ‘E.M. Faris because he is married…George T. Atkinson because he is single…T.H. Sudbury because he has a good county office…Luther Grimes because he is going to be a lawyer…The Baptist church ladies, because of that excellent Thanksgiving dinner…the Walnut Street Presbyterians, because their new pastor, Rev. George N. Luccock is a success…Superintendent of the city schools Carpenter, because of the success of the school savings bank….James F. Morgan and L.S. Fields because they are living in their handsome new houses…The Telephone, because it is doing so much attractive job work.’ ”

Blog post by Megan MacDonald

Online Family Trees: What’s Not to Believe?

Individuals just beginning their genealogical journey are often tempted to believe the information from online family trees.  Unfortunately, a very large majority of online family trees, regardless where they might be found, include significant errors.  Beyond that, most trees provide few, if any, sources that might permit one to determine the veracity or fallacy of the stated information.

Consider, for example, the family trees at Ancestry for Isaac Mitchell who married Phoebe Chambers and died in Monroe County, Indiana, in 1932 at the age of 91.   I researched this individual and his immediate family in September 2017 for a blog item at  It was my intention to include Isaac’s vital information (birth, marriage and death date and place) along with that of his wife and, additionally, identify all of the children born to them.  In this last task, I was aided by Phoebe’s obituary that mentioned she was survived by 12 children.

Unfortunately, however, only 11 children were named in  obituary and one of the names, Earl, was not noted in any census records.  My research revealed that Earl was, in fact, Carl, and the missing child in the obit was Edward “Eddie” Mitchell who moved to Ohio as a young man and continued to reside there for the remainder of his life.  That left only one puzzling child, Martha O., who appeared only once in various census records and was born about the same time as her apparent brother, Arthur O. who was omitted from the same census record that included Martha.   Eventually it was determined that Arthur and Martha were one and the same.  He was simply incorrectly identified in the census record.

Once everything had been gathered about Isaac Mitchell, his wife and children, and posted to the blog, I thought it would be interesting to compare my findings with the family trees at Ancestry.  With lots of descendants from 12 children, it seemed likely that there would be many trees on Ancestry that included information about Isaac and Phoebe (Chambers) Mitchell.  In fact, there were 191 in all—76 private trees (not available except by explicit permission of the compiler) and 115 public ones (available to any member of the subscription website).

Only thirty-eight of the 191 trees correctly identified Isaac parents, and of that number 13 were private and 25 were public.  Because these 38 trees likely represented a deeper level of research, I looked at each of the 25 public trees to determine the number that correctly identified all 12 of Isaac’s children.

Two of the 25 trees were discovered to be blank.  Of the remaining 23 trees, only 6 correctly identified the number of children as 12 and correctly identified them by name.  One tree incorrectly noted that Isaac fathered 21 children.

Eight trees included a photo of Isaac and the picture was identical in each.  Additionally, one of the trees included a photo of Isaac’s tombstone but not of Isaac himself.  Although many of the trees had no sources, one tree had 21 records and 24 sources.

What conclusions can be drawn from this exercise?  First and foremost, it is obvious that more often than not online family trees contain a substantial amount of errors and omissions.  Put quite simply, they are not to be trusted.  Use them last, not first.  On the other hand, if one is diligent and checks all the trees rather than stopping with the first few, it is sometimes possible to find untapped information and resources.

NOTE:  The photo above is from Isaac’s obit.  Although it differs from the photo of Isaac in the family trees at Ancestry, it is really apparent the two pictures are of the same individual.

Blog post by Randi Richardson



William B. Hoadley and the House He Built on Park Street

William B. Hoadley, a native of Monroe County, was born March 29, 1899 to John W. and Dovie (Figg) Hoadley, Jr.   His grandfather, John Hoadley, Sr. a native of England, immigrated to the United States in the 1840s and soon afterward became quite prominent in Ellettsville’s stone industry. 

Although William appeared to have some interest in a legal profession and graduated from the IU Law School, he eventually followed in the footsteps of his father and grandfather and began a career in the stone business.  A few years later, on May 31, 1923, he married Lucille Hughes, the daughter of Louis and Maude (Orr) Hughes. 

Soon after the marriage the couple began dreaming of a home.  William wanted to design the home himself and felt qualified to do so because he had been exposed to hundreds of house plans in the estimating work he had done at the stone mill.  He wanted a home that reflected the fine features of limestone and his personal success in the industry.   

In 1926 that home was completed on a grand scale at 513 N. Park Street in Bloomington.  Although there were a number of substantial homes belonging to prominent people living in the area, the Hoadley home was by far largest, nearly 10,000 square feet, and of the greatest value.  It had plenty of room for a large family, but William and Lucille had only one son, William Hughes Hoadley, who was born February 3, 1924.  Given the cost of the home and the effort that went into its construction, it is surprising that the family lived there no longer than they did.   

In October 1944, while serving as a soldier in Germany during World War II, young William was killed in action.  Afterward William B. and Lucille moved into the Graham Hotel in downtown Bloomington.  Perhaps the big house held too many memories of the only child that was no longer among them. 

They continued to reside at the Graham for many years.  They were living there in 1951 when Lucille fell victim to cancer and died at the age of 47.  A few years later, in the 1960s, William moved to Los Angeles, California.  He died there on May 30, 1968, and was survived by his second wife, Glee.   

 The house on Park Street eventually became home to Zeta Beta Tau and later to Alpha Sigma Phi.  Today it is part of the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop at Indiana University.

Blog post and photo provided by Randi Richardson

James Noah Parks: A Biographical Sketch and the Dissolution of a Marriage

Divorce is ugly no matter how one looks at it.  And it was especially ugly before the no-fault laws when spouses were pressured to write the nastiest things imaginable about each other in order for their petition to be taken seriously by the court.

Many petitions for divorces filed in Monroe County are buried among civil court cases archived at the Monroe County History Center in Bloomington Indiana.  There is no particular index to them, although some of the earliest ones may be found in an index to all civil court records (1818-1875) available online at

Typically, the divorce petition and related documents can be quite rich providing the researcher with previously unknown information.  This is especially the case when a couple cross files.  It is, however, important to keep in mind that the information may also be embellished or biased.

In February 1884, James Noah Parks sued his wife, Dulsena (Briscoe) Parks for a divorce in Monroe County.

James was born in October 1849 to William and Mary Jane (Woods) Parks, natives of Indiana and Tennessee, respectively.  William appeared in Monroe County in 1850 but disappeared from the picture sometime between 1850 and 1860.  The exact reason for his absence is not known.  Afterward Mary Jane took James and went to live with her parents, Jacob and Matilda Woods, in Bean Blossom Township, Monroe County.

In 1864, when James was nearly 15, Mary Jane married again.  Her second husband was Jacob Daggy.

Although some step-parents are reluctant to take on the responsibility of another man’s child, this did not appear to be the mindset of Jacob Daggy.  In 1870, when James was 20 years old, he was residing with his mother and stepfather in Bean Blossom Twp.  The household also included Mary Jane’s parents and Jacob Daggy’s son, Charles, by a previous marriage.

The following year, on April 13, 1871, James married Dulsena Briscoe in Monroe County, and in 1880 they were still living at home with James’ mother and stepfather and Mary Janes parents.  Apparently their living situation was not altogether unpleasant because they continued to reside together until April 15, 1883, when they went their separate ways.  James alleged that he was a loving and affectionate husband at all times while Dulsena neglected him and tried to damage his reputation by saying he was running around with another woman.  Finally, in February 1884, James filed for divorce.

When the petition was first heard before the court in February it was dismissed.  Wilson decided that the cruel treatment James described “didn’t amount to much.”  The petition was later refiled and a divorce was granted to James on September 21, 1885.

Perhaps James had some clue that Dulsena was not exactly true to her marital vows.  Or maybe Dulsena was just tired of living with her inlaws.  At any rate, three days after her divorce from James she married Frank Moore.

James, on the other hand, did not remarry.  Ever.  He seemed quite content to remain where he was.  In 1900 he was still living with his mother and stepfather.  The following year, however, his mother passed away, and his stepfather died in 1908.  Both were buried in Chambersville Cemetery in Owen County.  Then James went to live with the family of his stepbrother, Charles and was still living there in 1910.

On March 28, 1918, at the age of 63, James died of chronic nephritis.  He died without a will because he had no assets.  He died without an heir because he was never a father.  Today he lies at rest in Chambersville not far from those he loved, from the people that sheltered him his entire life.


  1. Monroe County federal population census records: 1850, 1860, 1870, 1880, 1900 and 1910.
  2. Monroe County death records online at Ancestry for Noah Parks and Mary Jane Daggy.
  3. Monroe County marriage record indices.
  4. Monroe County Civil Court records, James N. Parks vs. Dulsena Parks, Box 475, Monroe County History Center, Bloomington, Indiana.
  5. Bloomington (IN) Saturday Courier, February 23, 1884, p. 1.


Blog post by Randi Richardson

Smells of Local History

MCHS Photo: 1998.082.0001

The Monroe County courthouse has nice restrooms on the north end of the first floor. This was not true for the earlier courthouse buildings. The first log cabin (1818-1826), the second wooden building (1826-1856), and the third, with its brick wings extending that (1856-1906), lacked these facilities in the fourth, and present, courthouse. Instead, they had a privy, or outhouse. The privy smelled, particularly when it was being cleaned out.

There were other persistent smells and threats to public health around the courthouse, primarily caused by horse manure and urine collecting around the hitch racks on all four sides of the building. The Federation of Women’s Clubs, in 1897, headed up a drive to eliminate the hitch racks, but this wasn’t finally done until well after the advent of automobiles ( See “The Courthouse Hitch Rack and Public Health in the 1890s” from the Monroe County Historian, Aug/Sept, 2012, pp. 5-7)

By 1900 the privy smells must have received sufficient complaints that the judge of the county circuit court ordered the grand jury to investigate and make recommendations. Here is their report:

State of Indiana, Monroe County

To the Monroe Circuit Court

March Term, 1900

We the Grand Jury in obedience to the Court’s instructions concerning the “dry plant” or privey [sic] in the court yard, beg leave to report thereon as follows:

We have made our examination and find that said “dry plant” when the same is burned (?) out causes the atmosphere in the neighborhood of the same to become foul, nauseating and injurious to health. We find that the floor of said privey is permitted to become unclean and filthy. The latter can be easily remedied by the janitor.

We find that the conditions above described constitute a continuing nuisance. We have caused the County Commissioners to be brought before us as witnesses and after consultation with them we feel assured that they will be diligent in their efforts to abate said nuisance within a reasonable time and we feel that until they have further time to abate the same they should not be held criminally liable for maintaining said nuisance, and we therefore do not return an indictment against them.

Respectfully submitted, Jacob Carmichael. Foreman.

Whatever the outcome of this report, the wheels of progress were already underway, leading to the replacement of the old courthouse and smelly privy, with its replacement, complete with modern restrooms.

Blog post by Lee Ehman