Early African Americans in Monroe County as Noted by Martha (Maxwell) Howard

Blog post by Randi Richardson

A photo of Martha (Maxwell) Howard shared by Phil Schlee at FindaGrave.

On Reel 18 of the Local History Microfilm Collection at the Monroe County Public Library is a paper titled “An Early Sketch of Bloomington and the Family of David H. Maxwell” written by Martha (Maxwell) Howard, a resident of Terre Haute, Indiana, in July 1907.  According to that paper, Martha is the daughter of Dr. David H. Maxwell and his unnamed wife who is noted in other records as Mary (Dunn) Maxwell.   Martha died on April 27, 1909, at the age of 90.  The transcription, with punctuation added where needed, is eight pages in length.  The paragraphs noted below are excerpts from that paper.  The words in brackets have been added by me.

…[My mother] was fortunate in having for help a colored woman[, Maria,] whom she had brought from her Kentucky home.  But the laws of Indiana made Maria a free woman after she had been in the state a year and, although she remained with my mother several years, she finally decided to go south where she would be among colored people.  Then it was that my mother faced all the hardships of the situation.

It was a Herculean task for two hands to do all the work for a large family, cooking, sweeping, sewing, taking care of the baby and the little children, and a thousand other things that go to make up housekeeping.  Reared in a Southern state, she knew nothing of housework, other than sewing, until she was married.  She became an excellent cook, but when the time came that she had no help, and had for a time to do her own washing, this was the climax of her hardships.  Attempting it, every knuckle on her fingers would be skinned and bleeding, but she learned that there was a way to wash without the skinning process.

In the first settlement of the town there were two colored women by the same name, the one my mother brought from Kentucky, the other one having been brought from Maryland by Mr. Rawlins.  As one was large and the other small, one was always designated as “big Maria” and the other as “little Maria.”  Dr. Maxwell, my father, also brought with him from Kentucky a colored boy, almost grown, a slave in his father’s family, by the name of Richard Moor (sic).  These two colored people from Kentucky were the first of the race in Bloomington.

Dick, as they called the boy, was remarkably bright and smart, so much so that Dr. Maxwell taught him to read and write.  As he was an office boy, whenever he could get any of my father’s writing he would copy and recopy it until it was such a perfect imitation it took the closest scrutiny to tell the copy from the original writing.  After he became a man, he corresponded with several of the noted abolitionists of that day—William Loid Garrison, Thadeus Stevenson and Wendal [sic] Phillips…

The first barber in the town was a colored man by the name of  Notly Baker.  He was owned in Kentucky by Mr. Joshua Howe who brought him from Kentucky.  There were two other old colored persons who were early settlers.  “Old Andy” and his wife, “Aunt Jinney.”  Another old colored woman was “Aunt Hannah.”



Blog post by Randi Richardson

David Starr Jordan was the seventh president of Indiana University.  He was inaugurated on January 1, 1885, becoming the nation’s youngest university president at the age of 34 and the first president of Indiana University that was not an ordained minister.

David Starr Jordan c. 1880.  Photo courtesy of IU Archives.

During the course of his six-year presidency he oversaw the university’s growth at the new campus in Dunn’s Woods, improved the university’s finances and public image, doubled the enrollment and increased the number of faculty.  Eventually Jordan Avenue, Jordan River, Jordan Field and Jordan Hall would be named in recognition of his many accomplishments.  What is lesser known is the role he played in the history of American eugenics.

Jordan, who graduated from Cornell University with a master’s degree in 1872, came to Indiana University in 1879 as a professor of zoology.  About that same time, Francis Galton was pioneering the principles of eugenics in England based, in part, upon the theories of his half cousin, Charles Darwin who published works about the survival of the fittest.  Not long afterward, Jordan became an advocate of eugenics.

Eugenics is a set of beliefs and practices that aim at improving the genetic quality of a population through selective breeding.  On the positive side, eugenics might include programs that encourage particularly “fit” individuals to reproduce.  On the negative side, eugenics has prompted marriage restrictions and forced sterilization of people deemed unfit for reproduction.  After becoming popular in the United States, eugenic programs also became popular in Germany where they evolved into a lethal solution under Hitler and the Nazi regime.

Although Jordan did not coin the term eugenics, he was among the first to call attention to it in the U. S. when he published The Blood of the Nation: A Study of the Decay of Races through the Survival of the Unfit in 1902.  By then he had become the founding president of Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, ranked as one of the world’s top universities, and an early leader of the U. S. eugenics movement.

In 1906, Jordan became chair of the eugenics section of the American Breeders Association, the first organization in the U. S. devoted entirely to eugenics.  A year later, in 1907, the first eugenics/sterilization law was passed in the U. S.  Hoosiers may be surprised to learn that it was in the state of Indiana and heavily influenced by Jordan’s authority.  That law was revised in 1927 and repealed in 1974 after more than 2,300 of the state’s most vulnerable citizens were involuntarily sterilized.

California became the third U. S. state to pass eugenics/sterilization legislation.  By 1921 that state accounted for nearly 80% of all forced sterilizations in the U. S. thanks in large measure to the prominence and organizational abilities of Jordan, who by then had been in California for more than two decades, and the resources of Ezra Gosney, an American philanthropist and eugenicist.

Gosney founded the Human Betterment Foundation (HBF) in 1928 in Pasadena, California, primarily to compile and distribute information about compulsory sterilization legislation in the U. S. for the purposes of eugenics.  Jordan, then chancellor of Stanford, was an initial member of the HBF’s board of trustees.  In 1935, the HBF took credit for inspiring the eugenics program in Germany.

Adolf Hitler was obsessive in his attempts to create a superior Aryan race through forced sterilization and ethnic cleansing.  From 1933-1945 the eugenics movement in Germany began the cleansing by deportation and ended with the horrific “final solution” and the elimination of some 6,000,000 Jews and other less desireables such as Gypsies and homosexuals in concentration camps and mass killing centers.

Once fairly mainstream, it was through the negative association with Hitler that the eugenics movement fell into disfavor during the second half of the twentieth century.  Support for eugenic theories plummeted.  Ultimately there were more than 65,000 forced sterilizations in 33 U. S. states.  The last forced sterilization in the U. S. was performed in Oregon in 1981.

Jordan Hall, 1962. Courtesy IU Archives.

Jordan died at his Palo Alto home in 1931.  In 1937 a new Palo Alto middle school was named in his honor.  In 2015, a student’s book report about Jordan’s influence on the eugenic movement sparked an interest in renaming the school; in 2018 the name was changed in favor of Frank Greene, Jr., an African-American memory chip inventor.

In June 1956 Jordan Hall at IU-Bloomington was formally dedicated.  It houses the biology department and was named for the university’s past president who was also a foremost ichthyologist.  In the fall of 2017 the walls of Ballantine Hall were plastered with notes urging IU to rename the building in light of the leadership role Jordan played in the eugenics movement.  This was during the same time that the renaming of the Wildermuth Intermural Center was under consideration because Ora Wildermuth, for whom the building named, was identified as a racist.

Although the matter or renaming Jordan Hall came up again for discussion in the late fall of 2018, no action was taken and interest among the students and faculty seems minimal.  Could it be that too few people know Jordan’s history?   Or is it that they don’t care?



Elizabeth Jane (Goss) Martin’s Quilts

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Polk’s Fancy quilt made by Elizabeth Jane Goss c. 1846.

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.


Teri Klassen, “Tracing the Genealogy of a Southern Indiana Quilt Pattern,” Indiana Genealogist, September 2007, Vol. 18, Issue 3, pp. 5-15, viewed online March 2019 at https://scholarworks.iu.edu/dspace/bitstream/handle/2022/20558/INGen%20PF.pdf;sequence=1.

Monroe County, IN, death record for Elizabeth J. Martin.

Federal Population Census Records:  1850, 1860, 1870, 1880 and 1900.

Abstract from Bloomington (IN) Republican Progress, June 14, 1893, viewed online at INMONROE Rootsweb Mailing Lists.

Elizabeth J. (Goss) Martin death record, Monroe County Department of Health, available online at Ancestry.



Blog by Randi Richardson

Minton’s Body Shop was established at 114 W. Grimes and was still standing in 2019.

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.


Blog post by Randi Richardson

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.

John H. Shepard, undated picture probably from Bloomington Telephone, received with Shepard clippings 2018.

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.

The Hopewell House was Bloomington’s first hospital.  It was razed in 1963.  Photo from the author’s personal collection.

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.


House at 601 W. 1st Street prior to its relocation on the hospital grounds.  From the Bloomington Telephone, September 26, 1961, received with the Shephard clippings.

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. 

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.



New Book Reveals History of the Curry Family and the Curry Dealership

Blog post by Randi Richardson

curryThe 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.




Blog by Randi Richardson

The Institute for Sex Research (ISR) at Indiana University was established in 1947 under the leadership of Alfred Kinsey.  Prior to that time Kinsey had been extensively involved in sex research and had compulsively collected a great number of books and other related materials.  Obviously thinking ahead to the needs of the Institute, he offered Jeanette Howard Foster a lucrative position as the Institute’s librarian.

Photo from the IU Archive Collection.  Used with permission.

Jeanette was no ordinary librarian.  She was among the first librarians ever to graduate with a Ph.D.  Her degree was obtained from the Graduate Library School at the University of Chicago, the first school in that nation to offer a doctorate in library science.  Jeanette entered the library program in 1933 just a few months short of her 38th birthday and received her doctorate in 1935 taking only two, rather than the customary three, years to complete her degree.

Like Kinsey, Jeanette also collected books with a sexual theme.  Unlike Kinsey, however, Jeanette’s collection was strictly focused on lesbianism.  An avid scholar and a lesbian herself, Jeanette hoped one day to publish a comprehensive bibliography of lesbian literature.

When Kinsey offered Jeanette a position at the Institute, she was well aware that the position would provide her with easy access to Kinsey’s goldmine of rare books including those relevant to her own research.  So not surprisingly, she accepted Kinsey’s offer and began working at the Institute in early 1948.

Initially, Jeanette lived in the IU Union Club but soon found more permanent lodging at 416 E. 4th Street.  In 1950, she fell in love with one of her co-workers, Hazel Toliver, who lived with her mother, Myrtle Toliver, in a nearby apartment at 425 ½ S. Henderson.  Although Jeanette found her personal life to be quite to her liking, that same did not hold true for job satisfaction.

The Institute staff found Kinsey to be a leader who always needed to be in control.  He was a micromanager who “cracked the whip” and expected others to be at his beck and call at any time of day or night.  Jeanette, who had held several responsible faculty positions, was not used to Kinsey’s management style.  Additionally, she was offended when Kinsey made sexual overtures toward her.  And lastly, but certainly not among the least of Jeanette’s complaints, Kinsey would not let her catalog books according to the either the Library of Congress or Dewey Decimal Classification system.

Kinsey had developed his own system for cataloging his books.  “Using a self-made pneumonic taxonomic system of approximately 25 categories, he expected books on medicine to be classified under M, prostitution under PR, modern fiction under MF, erotic books under ER, and so forth.”  Adhesive tape on the back of the spine, down near the bottom, identified the category and a line under that noted the first three letters of the author’s name.

Jeanette did everything she could to persuade Kinsey to use one of the standard library classification systems, but he simple would not budge.  He boasted of Jeannette’s doctoral training yet made her feel as though she had never had any training or experience.  She found herself playing more of a support role, and a clerical one at that, rather than being an integral part of a team working at the forefront of sex education.  Four years later, she was at her breaking point.  Along with Hazel, they began searching for alternate positions with other universities.

They left the Institute in 1952 and moved to Kansas City, Missouri, where both had positions at the University of Kansas City–Jeanette as a reference and interlibrary loan librarian and Hazel as an assistant professor.  Jeannette, however, remained friendly with Kinsey.  They corresponded occasionally until his death of natural causes in 1956, and for the remainder of his life Kinsey never hired another librarian.

SOURCE—Joanne Passet, Sex Variant Woman:  The Life of Jeannette Howard Foster (Philadelphia PA:  Perseus Books Group, DeCapo Press) 2008.  For more information about Kinsey visit https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfred_Kinsey.