A Descriptive History of the Howe/Maxwell House

The clipping noted below, written Agnes McCulloch Hanna, was published in an undated, unsourced Bloomington newspaper under a column called “Looking Back.”  It was found in a scrapbook compiled by a man named Fred Lockwood.  The scrapbook is held by the Monroe County History Center, Bloomington, Indiana.  The item below was abbreviated from the original, as noted by the ellipsis, and excludes information pertaining the Maxwells’ involvement with the authorship of Indiana’s constitution and Indiana University.

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The Howe/Maxwell house on South College near Second Street has been home to many businesses including Planned Parenthood and the American Legion.  From the front, the building doesn’t look its age, but from the view from the back, as noted above, is more telling.  

The bricks for the old Joshua Owen Howe home in Bloomington were brought from Louisville, Ky., although stone lay just under the grass of the building site.  The pioneers of Monroe County knew nothing of the wonderful material within their reach, and when they were ready to replace the early log structures, they sent for brick that as baked in distance kilns.  These in this simple, dignified house on South College Avenue were among those brought from Kentucky.

Joshua Owen Howe came to Indiana and the village of Bloomington in 1819 and became a leading merchant.  His people had come to Ellicots Mills in Maryland before the revolutionary war and were manufacturers there.  In Bloomington he built his first cabin and store on the public square and cleared away great trees and underbrush that the townspeople might have easy access to his store.  He lived there some 15 years.  Then, having made a success of his ventures, he decided to build a new and larger home near the college.  He bought a plot of ground and built the house which stands today much as he built it, although it is possible that the bay windows were later additions.

The house is three stories high.  The woodwork is painted white with the exception of the doors which are cherry.  The treatment of the massive window casings is unusual.  All the carving and grooving is handwork.  In the ceiling the plaster is indented to correspond, a means of decoration not seen before.  The inside, folding shutters belong to the period.

Ten great fireplaces were in the house in the early days.  They were replaced by stoves later and then by radiators.  Three fireplaces are still in the house.  Mrs. Allan B. Philputt of Indianapolis, one of the granddaughters of the Howe family, says that the fireplace in the south room had a very high mantel piece which was so tall that it was difficult to reach for dusting.  In that sunny room Louisa “Dovie” Howe, Mrs. James Darwin Maxwell, could be found most of the hours of her busy life.  The sun poured in there through the bay windows and the fire gave wonderful warmth to the babies who were rocked in the little, old rocking chair and to the older children who brought to her their troubles and joys.  There she sat to mend for her children and to wait for her busy, physician husband who was riding horseback through the country on his long calls or was busy with the affairs of the new state college for which he was resident trustee.  The college was a near neighbor to the Maxwell house.

The center halls of the house are wide and high.  The circular staircase is the most interesting feature with easy ash treads, and the handmade bannister.  The lower hall leads from the recessed front door with its silver luster bell pull to the series of rooms built at the rear, the kitchen, pantry, wash and wood houses.  A brick pavement outside the last rooms had in it two cisterns called the “summer” and the “winter.”  Even in those early days the infrequent rainfall was carefully conserved in Bloomington.  The [American] Legion post which now owns the house has thrown two rooms together and uses the pantry as kitchen.

In 1843, Dr. James Darwin Maxwell, son of Dr. David Hervey Maxwell and Mary Dunn, married Louisa “Dovie” Howe in this house.  The only bridesmaid was Jane Nowland, youngest daughter of Matthias R. Nowland of Indianapolis.  Miss Nowland made her home with the Howe family while she attended the female seminary.

Ten children were born to the James Maxwell, and in spite of the fact that the grounds about the house were large and that through them ran a brook, Mrs. Maxwell said that when each of her four boys brought a companion to play and the six little girls wanted space for their games, she felt the need of a farm at the very least.  So the family went to the country where there was room and to spare.  The house they occupied a few miles from town has been made over into two large houses.

When the children were grown they came back to this house.  Here Dr. David Hervey Maxwell came to spend his last years.  He had been much interested in the development of the railroads, and as a man of vision had hoped to see one come to Bloomington.  From whispers and hushed sentences about him, he was convinced that the first train was about to enter the town, and he was ill!  When he was left alone on that day in 1854, he got up from his bed, dressed himself and ran across the fields between his home and the tracks and was present at the momentous entrance of the Monon train…

Blog Post by Randi Richardson

 

 

Chapel Hill Established in Polk Township

The clipping noted below, written by Mrs. Wesley Hayse, was published in an undated, unsourced Bloomington newspaper under a column called “Looking Back.”  It was found in a scrapbook compiled by a man named Fred Lockwood.  The scrapbook is held by the Monroe County History Center, Bloomington, Indiana.  The item below was abbreviated from the original, as noted by the ellipsis, and excludes information pertaining to the establishment of Regulators in Polk Township.

The Chapel Hill community, established about 1856 in Section 31, T7N, R1E, of Polk Township, was named for the Chapel Hill Methodist Church. (The location noted in the text below is incomplete as stated.)  In 1860, four years after the establishment of Chapel Hill, John Todd lived with his wife, Elizabeth, and five minor children, in Polk Township.  His occupation was farmer and he owned real estate valued at $3,000 and personal property valued at $1,000.  His post office address was Smithville.  He died on September 14, 1895, and was buried in the Todd Cemetery located in Section 26 of Polk Township.

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Chapel Hill is located in Section 31 noted at the bottom left of this 1876 map of Polk Township.

…Polk Township in the southeast part of Monroe County, like Salt Creek Township, had hopes of building a thriving city at one time.  When the township was created in 1849, it was named for James K. Polk, eleventh president of the United States, the nearest village was established at “Todd’s Big Spring” where elections were held in the house of John Todd for several years; the old blacksmith shop was used later.  Will Davis and Samuel Axam [consider Axsom a spelling variant] were the first fence viewers.  Peter Norman was first inspector of elections and Will Davis was the first constable in the township.

David Miller and John Smith decided that the township should be represented by having a metropolis within its lines, so in October 1856 these men, as [land] owners, employed the country surveyor to lay off 27 lots on the northwest quarter of the southeast quarter of township North, Range 1 East in Polk Township and named the village “Chapel Hill.”

The hope of establishing a thriving city was soon doomed to disappointment, for after the start was made the infant village was too weak to survive.  Although the village died there still remains near the site one of the most picturesque hills with its steep road blasted and carved through and over the solid rock.

Post by Randi Richardson

 

 

A Bear to Remember

Roy H. Schmalz was born and reared in Patricksburg, Owen County.  When he was 12 years old he traded a pig for a gun.  His father instructed him in the use of the fire arm.  That was the beginning of Roy’s lifelong love of hunting.

After owning general stores in Patricksburg and New Market, Roy moved with his wife, Marie, and their three children to Bloomington.  On April 22, 1926, Roy opened Schmalz’s Department Store at 213 N. Walnut which was at the time a one-room furniture store.  Roy was one of the Midwest’s outstanding sportsmen, and he adorned the walls of his new store with many of his hunting and fishing trophies.

Although the original store consisted of a relatively small space, the business had expanded three times by 1948 on the occasion of its 22nd anniversary and was selling goods from five distinct departments:  men and boys’ wear; shoes; domestics; ready-to-wear and sporting goods.  It was the first store east of the Mississippi Rover to sell Levi jeans.

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This picture, taken c. 1926, was sold by Coffey Realty and Auction, January 2007.

Two employees, Mrs. Ruby Welborn and Charles Neal had by that time been with the company since it opened.  Roy was still the manager and was aided by his two sons, Richard and James, and his son-in-law, J. Warren Fox.

Among the most memorable of Roy’s trophies was a 9’4” Kodiak bear from Alaska, the undisputed king of North American game.  After being mounted it was delivered to the Bloomington store where it was discovered that he was too large to go through the door.  Many hours later, thanks to the efforts of a carpenter, the bear finally reached a respected place of honor.

In 1988 when the store closed, the 1,200 pound bear was donated to the Monroe County History Center where it is on permanent display.  Seth Thomas did a short video clip of the bear and its history for the Bloomington Herald Times.  That video and several interesting photographs of the bear can be viewed online.

Roy died in Bloomington on April 9, 1968, at the age of 91, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Blog by Randi Richardson

Sources:

Bloomington (IN) World Telephone, April 22, 1948, p. 1.

Seth Thomas video clip. 2018.

Schmalz’s Department Store, http://www.bloomingpedia.org/wiki/Schmalz%27s_Department_Store.

“Hunting the World Over,” Indianapolis Star Magazine,  January 10, 1960, p. 38+.  Available online at https://www.newspapers.com/image/106033198/

 

Biosketch of Thomas Lewis, Former Slave

In the 1930s and early 1940s, more than 140 years after the U. S. Constitution declared slavery illegal in the United States, former slaves were interviewed under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration.  The materials, archived at the Library of Congress, are known as the Slave Narrative Collection.  Some of the narratives have been published including “Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938—Indiana.”  Although a majority of the narratives in that particular collection are from Vanderburgh County, there is one from Monroe County.  It consists of an interview with Thomas Lewis.  (See pp. 123-127.)

Lewis reportedly was born a slave in Spencer County, Kentucky, in 1857.  His father was killed “in the Northern army” and afterward he lived with his mother, stepfather and several siblings.  When Lewis was seven years old he was set free and when he was twelve the family located in Indiana.

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Instruments of slavery from the Library of Congress

Family members met in Louisville and took a ferry across the Ohio River into New Albany.  The next morning after their arrival, they left for Bloomington.  In Bloomington, Lewis recalled meeting the Dorsett family.  “Two of their daughters had been sold before the war.  After the war, when the black people were free, the daughters heard some way that their people were in Bloomington.  It was a happy time when they met their parents.”

Lewis had a cousin name Jerry.  Before the slaves were freed  “…[A] white man asked Jerry how he would like to be free.  Jerry said that he would like it all right.  The white men took him into the barn and were going to put him over a barrel and beat him half to death.  Just as they were about ready to beat him [a] bomb went off [presumably planted by Union soldiers] and Jerry escaped…There was no such thing as being good to slaves.  Many people were better than others, but a slave belonged to his master and there was no way to get out of it…If a slave resisted and his master killed him, it was the same as self-defense today.”

On June 30, 1885, Lewis married Mary Gill.  Together with her he fathered at least two children, Howard and Ethel.  He married a second time to Geneva Johnson in Monroe County in1923 and fathered four more children:  Anna, James, George and Raymond.

Most of his life was spent in Monroe County where he was employed at a variety of jobs.  Undoubtedly he was limited by his lack of education.  According to the 1940 census, he had completed only grades one through three.

As he became advanced in years, he went to live at the Monroe County Home otherwise known as the poor house.  On September 19, 1951, at the age of 99, he died in the Bloomington Hospital.  According to his death record, completed by his son, Howard, Lewis’s father was unknown and his mother’s maiden name was noted simply as Drake.  Other records indicate Thomas Lewis was the son of Elijah and Sina (Drake) Lewis.  Sina was later married to George Ditto.

NOTE:  Two copies of the book titled Slave Narratives…Indiana are available at the Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington.  One is shelved with Adult Nonfiction; the other in the Indiana Room.  The latter does not circulate.  See call number 306.362 Ind.  The interview with Thomas Lewis as noted in the book is also available online at https://www.accessgenealogy.com/black-genealogy/slave-narrative-of-thomas-lewis.htm

Blog post by Randi Richardson