A BLOODY TRAGEDY IN ELLETTSVILLE

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Sometimes the line between “vigilante justice” and just downright meanness is quite thin and poorly defined.  Such is the 1854 case in which Harrison Spear, variously spelled Speer, was a victim and Hugh Butler, one of several perpetrators, died.  The assault was allegedly triggered by Spear’s immoral behavior.  Newspapers in various states carried the story which often differed in detail.  It is believed, but not proven, that the Harrison Spear in question was a resident of Indian Creek Twp., Lawrence County.

knifeOn April 15, 1854, the Bloomington Newsletter published information pertaining to a vicious assault on Harrison Spear of Ellettsville by Hugh Butler, Jacob Young and Jeff Raper who were all well into their cups at the time. Spear was described by the Newsletter as a “peaceable but unfortunately a poor man.” It was alleged that Spear was living with a woman of ill repute. The young men lobbed bricks and rocks toward Spear’s home. At one end of the house they exploded a keg of powder and sand putting the inhabitants in fear for their lives.

In the midst of the chaos, someone fired a gun.  Some accounts noted that it was Raper; in other accounts it was Spear. Regardless of who fired it, it struck Butler.  Butler’s companions took him to a physician who declared that the wound was not serious whereupon Butler and the others took up their pursuit of Spear.

Here, too, the story differs.  According to one, Spear quickly fled for his life with his assailants, joined by Hugh’s brother, Frederick, Jr., in hot pursuit.  They overtook him and were beating him terribly with rocks and, it is believed, an axe, when Spear managed to draw a bowie knife and stabbed Hugh in the right side killing him almost immediately.  According to another account, the ruffians managed to get the “old man” out of doors and had him on the ground beating him over the head with a stone when he drew a knife and stabbed Butler.

Whichever of the stories is accurate, covered with blood, both his own and that of Hugh, Spear escaped and fled to the home of his neighbor, Henry Shook who turned him away, perhaps fearing for his own safety.  Next Spear took refuge at some distance in Worley’s tavern.  He ran upstairs and fastened the door with the assailants close behind.  It was there that Worley found Spear covered with blood, still clutching the bloody knife and terrified almost to death.  He convinced Spear to give himself up with the assurance that he would not be hurt by his pursuers.

While Young and Raper made a hasty retreat, Spear was lodged in jail.  On Friday morning, the case was brought for trial before Jno. M. Sluss, a justice of the peace. Because Young and Rader, witnesses for the prosecution, had not yet been found, the trial was continued until the next Friday.  Paris Dunning was one of the lawyers appointed to prosecute Spears.

On May 6, 1854, the Bloomington Newsletter reported that “no bill” was found against Spear for killing Hugh Butler.  Thus ended Harrison Spear’s brief sojourn in Monroe County.

First Open Meeting of the Ku Klux Klan in Bloomington

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Not much has been written about the Ku Klux Klan in Monroe County.  So one must wonder if it was ever here at all.  A review of the Fiery Cross, a Klan newspaper published in Indianapolis, Indiana, sheds some light on the subject.  Copies are available online through NewspaperArchive, a subscription website. KKK

On August 17, 1921, the Bloomington Evening World noted that the Ku Klux Klan, described as a “fraternal and beneficial” organization, incorporated in Indiana on August 15.  In response, the Indiana Colored Masonic Convention adopted resolutions opposing the Klan and sent them to Gov. McCray with a request that he promote legislation in the next session of the general assembly that would curb the society in Indiana.

A year or so later, on February 23, 1923, The Fiery Cross published news of the first open meeting of the Ku Klux Klan in Bloomington on February 20.  Two masked horsemen in full regalia went up and down the streets around the square early in the day promoting the meeting.  That night 300 people or more, of various classes, assembled at the Carpenters and Joiners Union Hall to hear a speech given by  Rev. V. C. Blair.

Blair read from the Klan constitution which stated that members that must be white, male, gentile, above 18, native born, good Christian gentlemen and must owe allegiance to no foreign prince or potentate.  He then went on to defend the various sections of the constitution declaring that “the Klan is not against the negro but against social equality, against the Jews only who are trying to gain control of the world; also the Klan is against the idea that the Jews are chosen people.  The Klan is not against Catholics but opposed to their system which is against our idea of American ideals…It is time for the scum to be thrown from the melting pot and the Klan is here to stay, and the Invisible Empire will do the skimming.”

On May 11, 1923, the Fiery Cross reported that 2,000 people gathered on the courthouse square on May 7 to hear an “eloquent appeal” for the Klan that was received with much enthusiasm.  Apparently the Klan’s recruitment efforts met with some degree of success for a few months later, on October 15, an all-day gala in downtown Bloomington attracted a crowd of 10,000.

The Fiery Cross was not in the business of outing members.  Unless they were dead.  When George Sellars, a U. S. Marine and Bloomington native, was accidentally killed at Paris Island, South Carolina, in August 1923, his body was returned to Bloomington for burial.  After the funeral service, his body was carried under military escort to Rose Hill Cemetery where 74 Klansmen in full regalia carried a floral cross to the grave of their departed brother.  With head bared, the leader of the Klansmen led others in singing “Nearer My God to Thee” after which the procession filed silently by the grave and departed.

Joseph Stine of Ellettsville was another individual for whom the Klan provided last rites.  They accompanied his body to the Chambersville Cemetery in September 1923 and provided a floral tribute of red roses in the form of a fiery cross.

Indiana’s Klan organization reached its peak of power in the early 1920s with an estimated membership of 250,000, about 30 percent of the native-born, Indiana male population.  It was all but dismantled, however, in 1925 with the conviction of Grand Dragon D. C. Stephenson of Evansville for the rape and murder of a young school teacher.

By the end of the 1920s, the Indiana Klan was all but dismantled following the conviction of Grand Dragon D. C. Stephenson for the rape and murder of a young school teacher.

 

DAVID STARR JORDAN AND THE HISTORY OF EUGENICS

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.

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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.

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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?

 

 

No Laughing Matter: When Did It Happen

Blog post by Randi Richardson

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The abbreviated article from the Telephone

Last week our readers were asked to guess when June Fulford assaulted the teacher of her first-grade son who had been whipped for laughing out loud.  If you guessed 1937, you were right.  The story was based on an article published on page one of the Bloomington (IN) Daily Telephone on April 22, 1937.

Although it was June Fulford featured in the Telephone’s story, there was no June Fulford in the 1930 or 1940 census records for Monroe County.  There was, however, a Sarah Jane Fulford in Washington Township among the 1940 census records, the mother of a son old enough to be the first-grader in question.  Sarah Jane was the wife of William Fulford, and in 1940, the Fulford family was noted on Harris Road in a household with five Fulford children and a nephew, 19-year-old Robert Lydy.  The children ranged in age from 5 to 20.  Austin, age 9, was likely the first-grader who received the whipping.

According to information in the census record, first grade was the highest grade Austin completed.  His three older siblings—Lillian, Harley and Mildred—had sixth-grade educations and his parents only a second-grade education.  Five-year-old Ralph, the youngest child in the family, had not yet attended school.

The Fulfords owned their own home valued at $1,000 and William was a laborer who worked on the roads.  In the year just past, he had worked only 29 weeks out of 52, and had earned only $429 for his efforts.  He died on February 28, 1948, of a fractured skull suffered in a car accident.  Sarah Jane, a widow, died at the age of 78 on January 7, 1967, at the Indiana State Hospital for Chest Diseases in Rockville, Indiana.   Her body was returned to Monroe County for burial in the Hindostan Cemetery.

No Laughing Matter

Blog post by Randi Richardson

On a warm, spring day the son of June Fulford came home from school covered with bruises, or so June said, from being whipped by his teacher.  A few days later June confronted the teacher, Betty Jane Robinson, at the school house in Washington Township, Monroe County.  She called her from the classroom into a hallway.  When June asked why her boy, a first-grader, had been whipped, Betty Jane confessed that it was because he had laughed out loud when tickled by another student.

spankJune determined to give Betty Jane taste of the same treatment her boy had received.  Although somewhat smaller than the teacher, she began raining blows upon Betty Jane’s face.  When the principal attempted to intervene, June gave him a few swift kicks on his shins.

Assault and battery charges were filed against June, and she was called into the mayor’s court.  When her case was heard, she claimed that the teacher had picked on her boy because he came from a poor family.  The mayor fined June $1.00 and court costs which amounted to another $10.  She was also given a suspended sentence at the state penal farm and placed on probation.

In what year did this happen?  Although I’ve given you enough clues to find the answer, resist the effort to research the question.  Then take a guess and comment below.  The answer will appear next week for those with an inquiring mind.

 

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Cemetery Committee Publishes Book

Blog post by Randi Richardson

blog cemeteryJust in time for Christmas 2018, the Monroe County History Center Cemetery Committee published a new hardbound book, A Summary of the Cemeteries in Monroe County, Indiana. It’s a big one, 356 pages in length, the result a joint effort. Although typically it does not include a list of burials in a given cemetery, the book includes 298 cemeteries found in Monroe County including some not previously noted.

The cemeteries are noted in alphabetical order by township which makes a given cemetery a little tricky to find if one doesn’t know the township. however, the Table of Contents lists the townships and the cemeteries by name, so one most peruse the various townships to find a given cemetery.

Each township is illustrated with a separate map showing the location and section of each cemetery which is marked with circle, star, cube, or cross. Because there is no key to the symbols, it is not immediately obvious as to what the symbols mean.

Most of the cemeteries include a description of the location. Some include maps; others the physical coordinates. Many include a history, if one could be found, and the names of prominent people buried within the cemetery bounds. Nearly every page includes colored photographs.

On the last few pages of the book are three appendices; “A Selected List of Cemetery Preservation References,” “Cemetery Safety Guidelines,” and “Identifying Types of Materials Used in Tombstones in Monroe County.”

One might expect a comprehensive book like this one to be quite expensive. Not so. Copies can be purchased for $18 from the Monroe County History Center gift shop while quantities last. It is my understanding that the cost of printing was offset by a grant. Don’t miss this incredible opportunity to add a piece of Monroe County history to your library at such an affordable price!

 

First Methodist Church Destroyed by Fire

Blog post by Randi Richardson

The First Methodist Church, dedicated in 1909, was destroyed by a $250,000 fire discovered on the morning of Wednesday, April 7, 1937.  Also destroyed by the fire was a $30,000 organ and great sheets of valuable, imported art glass.  Located at 4th and Washington streets, the First Methodist Church was the largest church in the community.  As a crowd watched the building burn, many commented on the fact that the cross was still intact above it.  The cross, lighted each night, had been one of Bloomington’s landmarks since it was erected after the death of the late Benjamin. F. Adams in 1910.  He donated the cross and his will provided a fund for its lighting and maintenance.

methodist

Rev. W. E. Moore of the First Christian Church, a block north of the fire, discovered the blaze from a window of his study and turned in the alarm.  By the time firemen, under the direction of Chief B. M. Hazel, arrived on the scene, the interior of the dome was already in flames.   Heavy smoke handicapped the ability of the firemen to train their hoses on the center of the blaze.  Approximately 3,000 feet of hose was laid down.  Efforts were continued inside the church for more than two hours before firefighters were driven to the street by the heat, smoke and falling debris.

A crowd of probably 3,000 gathered near the church as news of the fire spread quickly all over the county.  Police were compelled to rope off the area to keep the crowd out of the way of firemen and to prevent injury.

The 2-story, frame home of Len Field, head of the Field Glove factory, located on Washington Street across an alley and north of the church, was endangered by showers of hot embers.  Firemen who kept streams of water playing on the house from time to time were able to save it.

It is recalled that two men were killed when the church was under construction.  One of them, a steel worker, fell to his death from the high dome when he was loosening a rope which had caught on the derrick which was hoisting steel beams to the top of the tower.  The rope struck him as he loosened it, knocking him from his position.  The other fatality occurred when one of the workmen was tearing down scaffolding on the inside of the building–the board on which he was sitting fell and he met death in the plunge to the floor.  Much of the stone used in the construction of the church was donated by devout quarry owners of Monroe County.

The destruction of the Methodist Church by fire brought to Bloomington in 1937 the largest loss by fire since the destruction of the Telephone office and the Gentry building in March 1924 when the fire burned out of control for more than 12 hours.  The loss of that fire ran to over half a million dollars.

For a brief synopsis and somewhat different version of the disastrous fire check out the information on the Monroe County Time Line compiled by the Monroe County Public Library.  Scroll down to 1937, Apr 7—First Methodist Church fire.

 

Source:  Bloomington Daily Telephone, April 7, 1937, p. 1+.