Friendship Separate Baptist Church

My name is Mason Davis and I go to Tri-North Middle school. In my free time I like to bike around our neighborhood and discover new places. There are a lot of cool things hidden in the woods, but one seemed to stick out to me more than the rest. I was looking at Google Maps and out in the middle of nowhere there was a church. I was curious, so I went out to go find it and all that’s left are some old headstones and a foundation.

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The steps and foundation of the entryway is all that was left after the church (as shown below) was razed.

I went to the Indiana Room at the Monroe County Public and found that Rev. Benjamin Whittington started a church in the log school house located by Friendship Graveyard in 1857. In 1867, a one room log church was built nine miles east of Bloomington on Friendship Road.

There wasn’t a picture and I really wanted to see what it looked like so I went to the Monroe County Historical Society. There I found that what’s left of the foundation is only the stoop and the church was much bigger. The church was actually torn down and saved, then later built in the Indiana University Outdoor Museum.

friendship2I enjoyed hunting down and discovering the church and researching it. I later found out that my great grandpa actually remembered when the church was still established on Friendship Rd. I hope to continue to find new things around my neighborhood. There’s actually an old iron bridge over Stephens Creek that I want to learn about next.

 

The Changing Face of a Funeral Home

Blog post by Randi Richardson

funeral home

For twelve years Charles Gilbert Shaw had his photo studio at 100 ½ W. Sixth Street and lived with his wife, Coralie, a few blocks away at 211 E. Sixth.  In the spring of 1937, Walter Allen purchased Shaw’s home and moved the Allen Funeral Home, established in 1917, from 212 S. Walnut into Shaw’s vacated residence.  A full-page ad in the 1938-39 Bloomington City Directory shows the funeral home, as shown above, in its new location.

For more than 25 years, the Allen Funeral Home remained on the northeast corner of Sixth and Washington across the street from the public library that now houses the Monroe County History Center.  Sometime between 1964 and 1966, the business moved into a brand new building on East Third Street not far from the then new and very popular College Mall.  The vacated property at 211 E. Sixth was converted for use as the courthouse annex.

Later yet, the original structure was expanded, modified, gated and painted white.  It became known as the Allen Court apartment complex.  If you look carefully at the photo below, you can see the bones of the old building under the rather elegant-looking façade at the entrance of the complex.  The appearance of the existing structure is very different from that of any other apartment complex in Bloomington.

We are lucky to have had this historic property so well preserved!

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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.

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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+.

Dr. John Herschel Lemon Reminisces about Early Life in Bloomington

Blog post by Randi Richardson

The item noted below is based on a column in an unidentified Bloomington newspaper 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.  It also includes information and a photograph from Dr. Lemon’s obituary in the Indianapolis (IN) Star, July 11, 1935, p. 5.

John Herschel Lemon, the son of John A. M. and Cynthia Lemon, grew up near lemonHarrodsburg.  In 1856, when he was about twelve years of age, the family moved to Bloomington where he and his brothers attended the university.  Although the Civil War interrupted John’s academic career, he eventually became a physician and settled in New Albany, Floyd County, Indiana.  In 1929, he wrote John Cravens, secretary of Indiana University, a letter in which he reminisced about his early days in Bloomington.

…We moved…to the northwest corner of the campus in 1856.  South across the street lived Sheriff Pleasant Lorenzo Dow Mitchell, the son-in-law of old Col. Ketchum.  Dr. Eckley Hunter married a daughter, and I think Bruce Shield another.  The Mitchell family was large.

Along west side of town…lived Jim Howe.  His son went into regular military.  I think the next was even then a much worse, two-story brick where Joseph A. Wright* had lived perhaps in his janitor student days.  Emmanuel Marquis, who had served in the U. S. Consulate in some German town, wrapped up a brick that Joe Wright had hodded to the top wall of the Bloomington courthouse.  The brick was presented with some ceremony at Berlin where Wright was minister.  Prof. Marquis said the intention was to show his home folks how a man of the humble laboring class could in America go up to a high place…

North of the old Gov. Wright brick was the large white frame house of Mr. Batterton, the tinner.  He had five daughters.  Jake Wolfe married one and Madison Evans married another daughter.  The Battertons belonged to the Christian Church, and Evans was preparing to become a preacher in that denomination.  He often came to our house to see my older brothers, Alexander Downey and Alfred Homer Lemon.  The death of Evans in 1865 or 1866 was a sad time in our neighborhood.

Next north of the Batterton house lived Mr. McFetteridge (consider McPhetridge and McFetridge as spelling variants) for many years clerk of the court.  After a short distance over low ground was the depot on east side of the railroad.  I think my father owned a lot or two about where the Orchard House is, or was.

We owned a five-acre wood and pasture lot one-half mile or so west of town, south of the Acuff place.  Dr. James F. Dodds’ equal size lot was joining on the south.  Our lot had old, wide-spreading beech trees.  It was a grass slope divided by a small, rippling stream.  Students came often here to declaim or rehearse, especially in commencement time…

I belonged to a militia company.  Several local students belonged, drilling in the clean shade of Dunn’s woods on Saturday, once staying up the night when there was alarm of being attacked by Greene County Butternuts or Copperheads.  The drum beatings, the enlistings and speakings were in the courthouse and public square.  In the college campus, it was quiet as a country Sabbath when a professor was told a student had joined the army, his manner was serious and sad.  Professor Wylie’s son was dead.  Sammy Dodds, the two friends, was dead in distant, bleak Missouri.

Many other young flowers of hope and all faithfulness were dead.  What could these venerable scholar-saints do but enter into a chamber and plead that the time be shortened.

There was always a great crowd at the depot when the afternoon train came with the Cincinnati Gazette.  Oscar McCullough had a news stand opposite the courthouse.  Usually someone read the news aloud.  The others—Wylie, Ballantine, Kirkwood—gathered close to listen, their faces grave as if they heard a voice from land and sea that time was to be no more.  I heard little or no conversation among them.  Kirkwood was slightly deaf.  He had a cane, a worn silk hat and long, black cloak.  After listening to the news they filed away.  They were not good mixers or conversationalists but always polite and kindly mannered and pleased with friendly greeting.  Neither of these three, very great and truly good men, seemed able to contribute to ordinary conversation.

I do not remember Professor Woodburn at the news stand loafing place.  I think he was always busy in the afternoon hammering away with the sometimes large Prep classes.  Truly, the old faculty of the university were a fine, old set of mahogany…

A few months ago I wrote a sketch of Company A, 54th Regiment of Indiana, three month’s men—Captain Daniel Shader [sic] and Lt. William J. Allen.  The company was a fine, made-up group of Bloomington and Monroe County men—some from college.  The names of all are in the reports of [the] Adj. Gen’s office at Indianapolis.  My name appears there as John H. Seamon instead of John H. Lemon.

I have never seen any reference to the service of Co. A, 54th Indiana.  We must nearly all be dead by now.  I was seventeen and one-half years of age in the summer of May 1862…The operations of Co. A, 54th Indiana were for a while as guards over five or six thousand rebel prisoners at Camp Morton and afterwards served in west Kentucky before the slaves were emancipated and shows the attitude of Kentuckians on state rights and against invasion.

Asbury Cravens and his brother were good friends, and their father, General Cravens, and wife, came to see us in Bloomington and to see Richard D. Owen who had a room and board[ed] at my mother’s house when, after my father’s death in 1863, she moved and built a house next to Dr. James F. Dodds, north of his large brick…

Very Respectfully,

John Herschel Lemon, President

Floyd County, Indiana Historical Society

I will mention that in class of 1854, my brother’s name is William Harrison Lemon.  The “Herschel” is in my name.  Also Alexander Dowling should be “Downey” after my mother’s brother-in-law, a preacher about 1824.  South a few miles of Bloomington is [the] Ezra Pering or old Tom Carter neighborhood.

Six years after Dr. Lemon’s letter to John Cravens was published in a Bloomington newspaper, he died in New Albany on July 11, 1935.  His obit was published the same day in the Indianapolis Star (see p. 5).  At the time of his death he was 90 years of age and was believed to hold the record for the longest continued practice of medicine in Indiana.  He also was the father of the Floyd County Medical Society.

*Joseph Albert Wright (1810–1867) was Indiana’s tenth governor.  He served in that capacity from 1849 to 1857 and later became a U. S. Senator.  His father was a brick manufacturer in Pennsylvania who settled with his family in Bloomington about 1819 or 1820.  After the death of his father, 14-year-old Joseph worked his way through Indiana Seminary, later Indiana University, as a janitor, bellringer and occasional bricklayer.

Monroe County History Center Journeys to a Stop on the Underground Railroad

Blog post by Randi Richardson

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An interesting, life-size sculpture at the Interpretive Center.

On a chilly Wednesday, November 14, enthusiastic travelers boarded a bus at 9 AM in front of the Monroe County History Center (MCHC) for an all-inclusive, day trip to Fountain City to visit several structures associated with Indiana’s Underground Railroad.  One of those structures was the Levi Coffin House Interpretive Center featured in the Smithsonian Magazine as one of twelve new museums around the world to visit in 2016.

Our first stop was for lunch at the Old Richmond Inn just a few miles south of Fountain City.  Our group was seated in a private dining room where steaming silver trays of food and a carving station awaited us in great abundance.  The food was every bit as delicious as it looked and smelled which prompted a fair number of us to anticipate an equally great dessert.  Alas there was none.

Our next stop was the Interpretive Center, a 3-story facility that opened in December 2016 with a number of interactive exhibits, a large gift shop that offered for sale abridged versions of Levi Coffin’s historic autobiography,  and an education room where we saw two short videos related to the underground railroad.  One of the videos featured a woman whose slave ancestor wore the wooden, Dutch-like shoes on display in the upper level of the Center.  On the sole of one of uncomfortable-looking shoes was a large, worn hole.  Where had those shoes traveled and what hardships had they known on their path to freedom? I wondered.

Thoughtfully, the Interpretative Center was located just across the street from the Coffin house.  Coffin, a Quaker merchant, had the house built for his family in 1839.  Although he owned the property until 1860, he left Fountain City, then called Newport, in 1847 and never again lived there.

During the course of Coffin’s residency in Fountain City, it is said that he aided 2,000 fugitive slaves in their escape to freedom.  On the uppermost floor of the three-story, brick home, accessed by narrow stairways, were places where the fugitives could be hidden in the eaves.  Fortunately, however, and due in large part to Levi’s legal savvy, the home was never searched.  After Levi’s relocation in Cincinnati, he continued to aid slaves and is believed to have assisted a grand total of 3,300 by his own estimate.  For this reason he is often recognized as the president of the Underground Railroad.

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The Levi Coffin House was identified as an historic landmark in 1966.  Restoration, largely done with the help of the community, was completed in 1970.

The U. S. Department of the Interior placed the house on the National Registry of Historic Landmarks in 19666.  Restoration of the home began in 1967 and was completed in 1970.  Long-time owners of the home, who were aware of its history, kept it in good repair and preserved some of the home’s furnishings.   Today visitors to the home can see most of the original fireplaces, floors, doors and glass in the windows.  The furnishings all predate 1847 and are typical of the time period and those of a Quaker family.

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This lovely piece of textile art in the hallway of the Coffin home is one of its few contemporary furnishings.

Our last stop, a few blocks away via our warm bus, was a restored Friends Meetinghouse established in 1837.  It was here that Levi and his wife, Catherine, attended the Indiana Yearly Meeting of Anti-Slavery Friends along with other like-minded Quakers.  Details of the church are available in an online video and at Facebook as noted below.

If you missed this interesting trip, you may want to gather your family and visit these historic properties on you own.  And if you’d like to receive news of future trips, send an email to Andrea Hadsell, the MCHC educator, at education@monroehistory.org.    The MCHC would love to welcome you aboard on their next journey through history.  Membership is not required.

 

For more information check out these online resources:

Restored Friends Meeting House–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hJ5Zgqs0E4s&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR1COdbUEBZJ_yj4GGAZpMYCw2DxSvAn5k6r-yrEoB-NGQRwJMNsmjTAkH0 or https://www.facebook.com/lccoffin.qwc/.

Levi Coffin State Historic Site–https://www.indianamuseum.org/levi-and-catharine-coffin-state-historic-site.

 

Evolution of College Avenue c. 1929

Blog post by Randi Richardson

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An early view of the west side of Bloomington’s square from the author’s postcard collection.

On December 21, 1929, the front page of the World Telephone was devoted to a view of College Avenue both in the day and in the past.  Several photographs of current (1929) business owners and the new Eagle building were included.  Let’s take a walk on the Avenue and see how it looked in 1929.  Should you want to continue your walk, or know more about these businesses than the brief descriptions included below, check out the newspaper on microfilm at the Monroe County Public Library.

College Avenue was considerably different in 1929 than it was thirty-five years earlier.  It was called College Avenue because Indiana University was located at the southern end of the Street.  In the late 1900s it was the best residential section of the city.

Dr. W. L. Bryan, president of Indiana University, had his first home on College Avenue after he became president.  Among other prominent families who have lived or are currently resided on the street include:  Joseph G. McPheeters, for many years postmaster of Bloomington; James A. Karsell, flour mill owner and grocer; Walter Collins; Walter Woodburn, for many years cashier of the First National Bank; Henry T. Simmons, former owner of the Corner Clothing Store where the Kresge Company now has its 5 and 10 Cents store; Dr. James A. Woodburn, professor emeritus of Indiana University; Tobe Batterton; Capt. W. J. Allen; Walter Cornwell; Mrs. Lou Helton; Dr. J. W. Crain; John H. Louden; John C. Dolan; Tolbert H. Sudbury; Moses Kahn; George W. Bollenbacher; James K. Beck; Rev. William Telfer; Dr. L. T. Lowder; Dr. David Maxwell; Joshua A. Howe, B. F. Adams; W. H. Adams; Dr. Dodd; C. N. S. Neeld; Mr. Sheeks and many others.

Initially, College Avenue was almost a quagmire after a hard rain.  It was the first street in Bloomington to be paved.  For many years, it was not opened north father than Eleventh Street.  That changed when the Kenwood Land Company was formed and began the sale of lots up to Sixteenth Street.  About 1927, it was extended to Seventeenth Street and about 1929 was extended through the Showers and Miller lands to Cascade Park.

Bloomington’s biggest hotel is located on College Avenue.  H. B. Gentry built the Gentry Hotel at College and Sixth streets.  At the time it was constructed, it was considered one of the best hotels between Louisville and Chicago.  Since that time it has been rebuilt and in 1929 the new Graham Hotel is one of the finest 8-story hotels in the U. S.

Mr. Gentry also bought several other buildings on College Avenue including what was formerly known as the Bowles Drug Store corner, later occupied by the Citizens’ Loan and Trust Company, and a building where Kresge’s Five and Dime Store is located on the west side of the square.

Several years before the invention of the auto, Craig Worley owned Bloomington’s largest livery stable at College Avenue and Seventh Street.  He sold the property to W. T. Hicks who, in turn, disposed of it to the U. S. Government for a fine, new post office.

At one time the Evening World office was printed on the second floor of a building on College Avenue owned by Gus C. Davis opposite the post office.  It was moved to its present location in 1907 by Oscar H. Cravens who had a building erected as the permanent home of the paper.

The property where Bloomington’s beautiful Masonic Temple is located at College and Seventh streets was once home to Charles Ousler.  He lived in a 12-room, brick building that was one of the first houses ever to be erected in the city.  Ousler used his home as a rooming house.

Three doctors had offices on College in years gone by—Drs. Maxwell, Dodds and Lowder.

As many as fifty years ago a large number of students attended Central School on College.  That building is still standing and is the oldest school in the city.  Anna McDermott taught at the school longer than any other teacher in Bloomington schools.  Central and the colored school building were the only public school structures in the city then.

Sullivan’s Store is among the new buildings on College.  William E. “Sully” Sullivan, formerly associated with the Johnson Creamery, is the current owner of the business long known for its “men’s furnishings.”  He bought the store from Joe Kadison in 1925 and remodeled it extensively.

The Hesler Brothers established Bloomington’s first Super Service Station on College about 1919.  It is one of the largest and finest in Southern Indiana providing motorists with 24-hour service daily.

The Reliable Watch Shop at 108 S. College went into the pawn shop business last year giving Bloomington its first pawn shop.  J. E. Young, a native of Bloomington, is the manager.

The Eagle Clothing Store on College recently opened a new store on College west of the square after 26 years in business.  Attention was called to the “unusual” windows which were of the latest design.

Clyde “Curly” Hare gave one of the most distinctive additions to Bloomington’s architectural beauty when he built the Hare Motor Sales building on South College in 1928.  He is an IU graduate and was connected with the Showers Bros. for five years before entering the automobile business.  Ralph Nelson is the sales manager.

Another of the new buildings on College is the Hook Drug Company.  They opened in September 1928, burned out in January 1929 and reopened just recently.

All these businesses and more will prompt former IU students and residents to be pleasantly surprised with the many positives changes to College Avenue upon their next visit to Bloomington.

 

How Samuel Orchard Helped Put Bloomington on the Map

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Several of the events that helped put Bloomington and Monroe County on the map at an early day were related to efforts put forth by Samuel M. and John Orchard, brothers and natives of Bourbon County, Kentucky.

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This image of the Goddess of Liberty from the photo collection of the Library of Congress was created between 1860 to 1865.  The image of the Goddess used by the Orchard brothers to advertise the inn is not known.

The two men came north to Indiana with their parents, Isaac and Margery (Mitchell) Orchard, about 1819 and the family settled in Washington County.  In 1822 Samuel and John, newly married to Jane McPheeters, formed a partnership to go into the wool carding business.  Isaac commissioned Samuel Pyle, a machine maker in Paris, Kentucky, to make up a full set of wool carding machines for the brothers.

Because the two young men had as yet no idea where to establish their new business, they started out in the fall of 1822 to view the country.  They didn’t go far.  Their first stop was Bloomington in Monroe County which they thought to be a “rich, new country” and the settlers, though few, were “social and friendly.”  Satisfied that the area might work well for them, they purchased a lot with a log house on it.  Nearly three decades later, that lot would be where the Orchard House was erected.

The next task of the brothers was to get the machinery from Paris, Kentucky to Bloomington.  A five-horse team rigged with twelve horses started out in the Spring of 1823.  After five weeks and a lengthy journey through mud and water, they arrived at their destination.  Upon their arrival in Bloomington, the machinery was put to use as soon as possible and ran successfully until 1836.

In 1826 the need for a mill to take in flax seed became apparent.  Nearly every farmer in Monroe County, whether large or small, grew flax in order to furnish their wives with the material to weave linen for the household.  Because there was no place in Bloomington to mill the flax, wagon loads of the raw material were shipped to Louisville for milling.  Seizing upon the opportunity, Samuel and John opened a flax seed mill to accommodate local farmers.  It ran for seven or eight years and was sold along with the wool carding business in 1836.

Seeing how responsive the two brothers were to the needs of the community, they were solicited by their fellow citizens about 1828 to “open a house for the entertainment of travelers.”  John was of a mind to do it and called upon Austin Seward, a fine mechanic, to paint him a sign for the Temperance Inn with a picture of the Goddess of Liberty.  Once completed, it was attached to a post set into the ground where it stayed until time wore it away.  The Inn, located on South College, was the first hostelry in the history of the county’s highways that did not have a bar or serve liquor to its guests.

About the same time the flax seed mill and wool carding businesses were in sold in 1836, the U. S. Post Office department offered a contract for mail service from Indianapolis to Leavenworth on the Ohio River.  No one seemed eager to accept the contract because the compensation was small, the work hard and sometimes dangerous.  However, after putting their heads together, Samuel and John decided there might be a way to combine the mail service with some type of public conveyance–as of yet, there was no such thing in Monroe County or even nearby.  They were encouraged to make a commitment by a large number of Monroe County “subscribers” who promised to patronize the line when started.

Reluctantly they began buying horses and coaches.  They went to Indianapolis and bought two six-passenger coaches especially built for service and durability.  A trustee of Indiana College, realizing the benefit of transportation to and from the school, helped by furnishing teams to run from Paoli to Leavenworth.  And from the time the brothers opened for business they were well patronized.

Four to six large, strong horses pulled each stagecoach.  It was necessary to change them at intervals of about twelve miles when they became fatigued.  Each stage made one round trip a week stopping at towns along the route to pick up and deliver mail. In the spring, the roads were often impassable because streams were swollen beyond their banks and mud was sometimes axle deep.

Samuel Orchard seemed to be the leader of this and every business enterprise operated by the brothers.  In 1837 he began butchering livestock for the trade and continued in this enterprise successfully along with his many other projects for about 12 years.

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This painting of S. M. Orchard once hung in the Coronation Room at the IU Union building.  A photocopy is the in Orchard family file at the Monroe County History Center.

 

In 1850 he also established the Orchard House on the property that eventually faced the Monon station.  This was just before the building of the New Albany Railroad, and the brothers gave liberally in subscription for stock in the new railroad enterprise which was to mean so much for the city’s progress in later years.  They even deeded land to the railroad for a small consideration.  The railroad evidently appreciated the efforts made on their behalf because for many years the passenger trains routinely stopped in Bloomington long enough for passengers to take their meals at the Orchard House where tables were piled high with produce from Samuel’s 60-acre farm.

In 1850 and 1860, enumerators noted both John and Samuel Orchard on the same page as head of adjacent households.  Both were noted as landlords and both owned an equal amount of real estate.  The brothers, however, had dissolved their partnership in 1855 with the jointly owned property amicably divided between them.

Samuel retained ownership of the Orchard House.  In 1860, there were six permanent residents living at the Orchard House along with four members of family.

By the 1870’s both men were getting up in years.  John’s wife died in 1865 and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.  John joined her there in the spring of 1872.  Samuel then began operating the Orchard House and its subsidiaries with the help of his sons.  However, 78-year-old Samuel was still functioning as the hotel keeper when he was visited by the census enumerator in 1880.  Two of his sons, James and Isaac S., were members of the same household.

In early November 1888, the Orchard House was one of only a few hotels in Bloomington and certainly the largest.  Before the month was out, it would exist no more.  At 2 AM on Tuesday, November 6, an alarm of fire was sounded.  People hurried from their beds to find the Orchard Block, which by then extended from College Avenue to Railroad Street from east to west and from 5th Street to an alley running north and south, to be on fire.

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The Orchard House as noted on the 1887 Sanborn Fire Map.  Bounded on the north and south by Fifth and Fourth streets and on the east and west by College Avenue and Railroad (now Morton) Street.

The wind blew hard, fanning the flames and rapidly spreading destruction.  Many of the building were frame and in less time than it takes to tell it, the whole mass of building, frame and brick, seemed to be on fire.  In just a few minutes, almost the entire contents of the Orchard House, accumulated through years of business and labor, were swept away.  Samuel Orchard, then 86 years old, was able to save nothing—neither clothing nor bedding.

According to newspapers, it was the most disastrous fire that had ever occurred to date for the simple reason that the destruction was almost total and the insurance on the various businesses comparatively nothing.  There was not one dollar of insurance on the Orchard House.

Samuel Orchard at his advanced age was done.  Martha McPheeters, his wife of many years, was gone, having died in 1885.  That entrepreneurial spirit that so characterized his youth no longer existed.    So it was that one of the best known hotel men of the state, proprietor of the first regular hotel in Bloomington, one that bore his name, decided to spend what remaining years he had left comparatively idle.

When he died on December 3, 1891, at the home of his son and namesake, Sam Orchard, he was 89 years of age.  According to his obituary he was respected and revered by all who knew him.  He was a faithful member of the Walnut Street Presbyterian Church, and from that place his funeral was held.  Afterward his remains were placed at the side of his beloved wife in Rose Hill Cemetery.


Much of the information for this blog came from an “Old Bloomington” column published in the Bloomington World Telephone on December 1, 1944, titled “A Short Account of the Orchard Family Written by Samuel M. Orchard in 1888.”  A copy of the item is also available on Reel 14, Local History Microfilm Collection, Monroe County Public Library and a transcript of the article was posted by johnb1959 on Ancestry’s website in 2011 and can be found online at https://www.ancestry.com/mediaui-viewer/tree/29407238/person/12174227396/media/012e5a64-0ca2-456d-ab5a-b32297e9ff9e?_phsrc=gat1705&_phstart=successSource.

Other sources include:

  • An article by Mrs. Wesley Hays published in an undated and unsourced column titled “Looking Back” from Fred Lockwood’s scrapbook. A very similar article to that of Hays was written by Forest M. “Pop” Hall and published in the November 29, 1921, issue of the Bloomington Evening World.  Both Hays and Hall included much information from Samuel Orchard’s biosketch included in Blanchard’s early history of Monroe County.
  • Samuel Orchard’s obit, December 8, 1891, p. 1.
  • Various federal population census records for Monroe County, Indiana.
  • Sanborn Fire Map