In March 2019 two quilts by Elizabeth Jane (Goss) Martin, a native of North Carolina and the daughter of David and Mary (Kooter) Goss, were placed on display in the lobby of the Monroe County History Center. One of the quilts, Polk’s Fancy, was donated to the History Center by Mary Lee Deckard, a family descendant. Mary Lee also made available to the History Center on loan for this exhibit a second, smaller, quilt also completed by Elizabeth Jane.
Polk’s Fancy, a rare quilt design with an estimated 40 pieces per square, has Elizabeth’s initials, EJG, embroidered in a corner. The design is believed to be a reference to James K. Polk, U. S. president from 1845 to 1849. Polk spent some time with 2,800 Indiana volunteers in the summer of 1846 camped near Elizabeth’s home in Wood Twp., Clark County, Indiana, while enroute to join Gen. Zachary Taylor in the war with Mexico. Elizabeth would have been 12 that year.
Netty Goss, Elizabeth’s cousin and the daughter of George and Mary Goss, lived near Elizabeth. She, too, liked to quilt and made one in the Polk’s Fancy design. Her quilt has the date 1846 stitched in a corner. In 1846, Netty would have been 26 and yet unmarried. It seems likely the Netty, undoubtedly the more experienced quilter, helped Elizabeth with the piecework for her quilt.
On December 16, 1850, Elizabeth married Thomas Martin in Clark County, Indiana. Ten years later, in 1860, the couple was residing with four of their children (Marietta, Washington, Laura E., and Lucinda) in the household of her father and two siblings in Bean Blossom Twp., Monroe County, Indiana. Eventually two more children, Clara Bell and Eva would be born to Elizabeth and Thomas.
Thomas died on June 2, 1893, while living on S. Park St., in Bloomington. Afterward Elizabeth moved to 803 S. Washington in Bloomington where she lived with two of her daughters and a son-in-law, Benjamin Morris, the husband of Eva. She was still living at that address when she died on April 13, 1907.
In the 1950s, two little girls, Margie and Linda Eberle, daughters of Earl and Marjorie (Minton) Eberle, believed their grandfather, Floyd “Dick” Minton, could fix just about anything. “He had a garage,” recalled Margie, now a grown woman with grandchildren of her own, “just west of the red brick building on the corner of South Walnut and Grimes where Bloomington Paint and Wallpaper now does business. Chancellor Wells always took his car there for repairs. He’d loan it out to various students, and it sometimes came back a little worse for wear.”
On the day she told this story, Margie was a bit out of sorts. She claimed her grandfather never received the credit he was due for the repairs he made to the courthouse fish when it was blown from the dome during a late night storm on August 6, 1957. According to the newspaper account, at first the fish was thought lost. It wasn’t anywhere on the ground. Then Pete Siscoe and a Star-Courier reporter borrowed a key to the clock tower, scaled the dome and discovered the iconic fish on the floor of the dome. The only damage was a badly dented head.
According to various newspaper accounts from the vertical files at the Monroe County History Center Library, the individuals most often credited with the repair of the damaged fish were Fred and Austin Seward, both descendants of Austin Seward, the man responsible for placing the fish over Monroe County’s original courthouse. However, at least three of the stories mention Minton’s Garage. Then, too, there was a very large news photo in the file, nearly a quarter of a page, undated and unsourced, of Floyd Minton of Minton’s garage as he prepared to “operate” on fish blown.
Although some reports describe the courthouse fish as 3’9” in length, in a photo of Pete Siscoe standing with the damaged fish held upright, much like the catch of the day, it appears to be nearly as tall as he is. So either Pete was very short or the fish was closer to five feet in length.
Regardless of its length, or the different men credited with its repair, clearly Margie and Linda’s grandfather played a part in restoration of the fish weather vane that still reigns supreme over Monroe County’s courthouse, a relic now two centuries old or close to it. The evidence being the photo, a copy recently sent to Margie.
Oral interview with Margie Eberle-Polley, Bloomington, Indiana, December 2018.
Rose H. McIlveen, “Vane Topic of Fish Tales,” Bloomington Herald-Telephone, October 25, 1984, p. 20.
Byron Spice, “Fish Eyes Focus on Bloomington Folks,” Indiana Daily Student, no date noted.”
“High Winds Hit City; Courthouse Fish ‘Lost,’” Bloomington Herald Telephone, August 3, 1957, p. 1
Other undated and unsourced clippings in the vertical files of the Research Library, Monroe County History Center.
Although the location, or even the existence, of certain buildings in Monroe County are a mystery to some residents, everyone knows the tall, limestone building at Second and Rogers—Bloomington Hospital.
I learned the early history of this building recently when Cynthia (Shephard) Burroughs from White Bear Lake, Minnesota, stopped by the History Center with a fat envelope of clippings collected by her mother, Alice Shephard. Alice was married to the late John H. Shepard, a native of White Bear Lake, who came with his wife and three children to Bloomington in 1960 at the age of 33, from Tarpon Springs, Florida.
Shephard was hired by the twelve-member board of hospital directors, six of whom were elected by the Local Women’s Council, to be the hospital’s new administrator. The task before him would be a challenge. It would be his responsibility to make the board’s proposed expansion of the hospital a reality.
There was no doubt that the hospital was badly in need of expansion. As late as 1962 the hospital had only 75 beds, just one for every 1,000 Monroe County residents, and the State Board of Health recommended four per 1,000. Patients were tended to by 53 doctors on staff and a grand total of 181 other hospital employees including nurses to housekeepers and everything in between. Due to the shortage of space, patients who required more than a short-term stay were often transferred to other facilities.
Upon his arrival, Shephard discovered the only thing done toward the expansion was the completion of a community survey. In the first four months he was here, he did 130 speeches in an effort to pull the community together so that a successful fundraising campaign could be initiated. The estimated cost of the new hospital was $3,800,000. Of that amount, an anonymous Mr. X had pledged $150,000 to the campaign fund. Eventually, nearly half the cost of construction would be funded by private donations.
It was anticipated that the actual work on the expansion would begin late in 1963. Prior to that time several important changes took place. In late 1961, a 19-room, 2-story house at 601 W. 1st St. was moved to the north side of the hospital property. This house had been owned by the hospital for a number of years. It was originally purchased as a residence for nurses but in the recent past had been used for furniture storage. Once situated on the hospital grounds, the administrative offices, waiting room, dining room and labs from the first floor of the hospital were moved into the house making room for a 25-bed nursing unit. Although considered only temporary, the relocated departments and operations would remain in the repurposed house until the new hospital was complete. Moving day into the repurposed facility began in February 1962.
Another major change took place in the summer of 1963 with the razing of the 10-room house purchased in 1905 for use as Bloomington’s first hospital and later used as a residence for nurses. It was built by Absalom “Ab” Ketcham. Ab worked as a station manager for the Monon. He and his wife, Nora, sold the house to Isaac Hopewell around the turn of the century and it became known as the Hopewell House. After owning the house for less than three years, Hopewell sold it to the hospital.
Right on schedule, the bones of the new, 5-story hospital began to take shape. It was to be connected to the old hospital by a two-story walkway. Floors one through three would be totally finished with bed space for 140. As a cost-efficient measure, however, space for an additional 160 beds on floors four and five would be shelled in and finished at some future time when community growth demanded more expansion.
Under the direction of Shepard, work progressed without apparent incident. Finally, in March 1965, the much needed and long dreamed of new hospital was a reality—quite a feather in the cap of such a young administrator.
Having finished what he started, Shepard looked around the country for other career opportunities. It wasn’t long before he was approached by a hospital in Oakland, California. They had expressed interest in him before his sojourn in Indiana. In the late summer of 1966, they made him another lucrative offer, one he couldn’t refuse. His new job began on January 1, 1967, and Roland “Bud” Kohr was appointed to fill Shepard’s vacancy as the hospital’s new administrator.
Today Bloomington Hospital has been expanded a number of times. However, once again the building has been outgrown and no longer meets the needs of the community. There is no more room to expand on the existing property, and a new hospital is already under construction in a new location off the Highway 45/46 Bypass. Ground has been broken and a new dream will become reality in the next year or so.
More information about the history of Bloomington’s hospital is available in a vertical file labeled “Hospital–History” at the Monroe County History Center. The file includes all the clippings donated by Shepard’s daughter in 2018.
The Curry family has lived around Bloomington for generations. The earliest of the Currys appeared in 1830 census records where William Curry was noted as a head of a household.
In 1915, William. S. Curry established what is now known as the Curry Auto Center south of the College Mall. In 1920, however, the census taker simple noted that William was the owner of a garage. Today, if you didn’t purchase a car from the Curry dealership, there’s a high probability that you know someone who did. The business is just that big and well known.
Cary Curry is the fourth generation of Currys to own and manage the family business. He is the son of Richard Curry, the grandson of Glenn Curry and the great grandson of William. Passionate about his belief in Christ, he has written a book with Dann Denny, An Unlikely Discipler, telling his personal story along with a practical look at what he describes as the ministry of discipleship.
This faith-based book is filled with lots of stories and family photographs, both black and white and in color, from Cary’s personal collection. It is 312 pages in length, interesting and quite readable. Copies of the book may be purchased on line on at local bookstores.
If, after ready the book, one wants to know yet more about the Curry family, take a look at the Curry family file at the Monroe County History Center in the research library. According to information recorded there, William S. Curry (1880-1949) was the fifth child of John and Elizabeth (Moore) Curry and a native of Bloomington. He was a member of the United Presbyterian Church and at the time of his death was the oldest Buick dealer, in years of service, in the State of Indiana.