Gentry Bros. Organize Another Big Show

Gentry Bros. Circus poster–Library of Congress.

The front page of the Bloomington (IN) Evening World on October 22, 1917, announced that Bloomington, the home of circuses and circus men, was to have another big show enterprise organized by J. W. Gentry, East Kirkwood Avenue, who helped make the Gentry Bros. Show famous from coast to coast.  Gentry reportedly was at work on the formation of a company that would take out a big, overland circus next spring to be transported from town to town over the entire United States by motor trucks.


Gentry noted that the new circus will have elephants, camels, lions, monkeys, dogs and ponies and all kinds of circus acts, the best that money can buy.  As soon as the regular season opens, the show will play its opening performance here and then start out on a schedule that will take it to every state in the union.

The new project of transporting a big circus from city to city on motor trucks is no experiment as it was tried successfully last season by two or three men who stand high in the circus world, one of them being the son of Al Ringling of the famous Ringling show.  There are many things in favor of a motor transported circus, the chief item being the fact that one can be hauled and operated for about $500 less per day than those carried by the railroads.  With the wonderful improvement in road building, which is generally all over the country, a caravan of motor trucks can move the biggest kind of load over a hill, and the show has the advantage of being able to stop at all towns, playing them as they lay on the map.

The show will be first class in every particular and will start out with the Gentry stamp on it which means the very highest and best.  I will travel with the show as its head and general manager which will give the enterprise a wonder prestige wherever it goes.  A herd of elephants will be carried which insures that the equipment will be safely transported as the “bulls” could be used to boost the heavy trucks over any hill in case anything should go wrong with the motor.

The Gentry boys always put their whole soul into every project they undertake and with my 25 years of practical experience in the show business, the present undertaking will be like play.

NOTE:  In spite of this announcement, according to the February 2004 issue of the Journal of Gentry Genealogy the Gentrys lost control of the show in 1915 and 1916.  The new owners were Ben Austin and J. C. Newman.  In 1922 James Patterson purchased the circus and operated it as the Gentry-Patterson Circus until Henry and Floyd King took over in 1925.  On Thursday, October 23, 1929, the day before Black Friday on Wall Street, the Gentry Bros, in Paris, Tennessee, played it’s last and final show.  It then went into receivership and was eventually sold in lots.  James William “J. W.” Gentry died on December 3, 1936 at the age of 68 and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Establishment of Salt Creek Township and the Friendship Community

The clipping noted below, written by Mrs. Wesley Hayes, 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.

salt creek…When Monroe County and all the territory of Indiana was a wilderness and only the necessary luxuries of life were considered, salt, the most common article of the present day, was considered one of the most important things to be thought of by the early settlers for at that time salt was a scarce and costly article in the woods, made so by the great cost of transportation.

It was during the year 1822 that Bloomington, along with the surrounding community, felt rather well off when it was discovered that salt could be manufactured within the county.

There were numerous salt springs discovered in Salt Creek Township, made so by the wild deer that came to them to drink. These springs became famous in times as “deer licks,” where, as long as the animals were found in abundance in Monroe County, they could be killed by hunters.  It was from this discovery that the present day Salt Creek Township got its name.

Some of the salty localities showed so much evidence of strength in salt that it was decided by early settlers to evaporate the water and thus began the business of manufacturing salt in Monroe County.  We find from early history that in 1822 Henry Wampler, Thomas Literal (sic) and several others bored a well on Section 12, Township 8 North, Range 1 East, now a part of Salt Creek Township, and found an abundance of excellent brine.

These men erected shanties, procured several large, iron kettles, and began the work of converting the salt water into salt.  They received a large patronage from the start and soon increased their output by adding more kettles and employing men to help refine the salt.  The salt works were conducted for a number of years and older residents tell us that more than 800 bushels of excellent salt was made in one year at this plant.

Traveling to the salt works by settlers became so great, even from the start, that the owners and several others, according to old records, petitioned the county board in 1823 to construct a road from Bloomington to the salt works.  The road was constructed as petitioned for.

In later years other wells were sunk in the township, one being near the iron bridge that now crosses Salt Creek.  This early manufacture of salt was before the settlement of the township and in 1825 the township received a separate existence and was named from the works which made the Salt Creek locality famous in that day and is now known as Salt Creek Township.

Although Salt Creek Township in Monroe County has added considerable to the growth of the county life by its salt works, the township can boast of no towns in the domain of boundary lines…[I]n the month of September 1857, James G. Fleener, with the assistance of the county surveyor laid off eighteen lots in Section 21, Township 8 North, Range 1 East, and named the plot thus laid out “Friendship.”

… Friendship was doomed to die on paper, as it seemed impossible to make friends who cared to live at the place through the trials of life.  [A]nd receiving no friendship, how could “Friendship” be shown.  The project was surrendered to the inevitable in a few short months.  Yet many good and prosperous farmers inhabit this township at the present time, but to these residents as well as those who used to live in the township, the at-one-time-town of Friendship will still be known and cherished as a sacred memory.


Ellen Strader Described Nauvoo, Illinois, to Bloomington Friends

In 1880, Ellen J. Strader, age 30 and a native of Illinois, was residing on College Avenue in Bloomington as one of two boarders with the family of Andrew and Martha Hoover.  She worked as a teacher.  When people learned that she was from Carthage, Illinois, only 22 miles from Nauvoo, she was often asked what she knew of the place.  They were curious because Joseph Smith, Jr., an advocate of polygamy and the founder of Mormonism, established a Mormon community in Nauvoo and attracted thousands of devoted followers.  In 1844, after being accused of treason and jailed, he was murdered in Carthage by a mob making it clear that the group could no longer remain in the area.    Three years later, in 1847, 70,000 Mormon pioneers set out on a journey to a new home in Salt Lake City.

Before Joseph Smith was murdered in Carthage, Illinois, he was tarred and feathered in 1832 while residing in Ohio

By 1886, Ellen had left Bloomington and returned to Carthage.  From there, the very place where Smith had been murdered, she soon wrote an open letter to her friends in Bloomington.  It was published in the Bloomington (IN) Telephone on August 13.  In that letter she explained that, having never been to Nauvoo and having been asked so often about it, she determined to make a visit there and see for herself.  Excerpts from that letter are noted below:

“The population, now numbering about 1,200, consists mainly of Catholics who support a large church and convent.  The city is divided into upper and lower Nauvoo.  The business and best portion is built upon the bluff back from the river.  In this part is the site of the old Mormon temple, not a stone of which remains to mark the spot.  Two modern buildings occupy the ground.”

“There is, however, a short distance from the site of the old temple, a storehouse built with the white limestone taken from the ruins.  In the lower part of the city is the large, frame building occupied by Joseph Smith; this is quite dilapidated.  Quite near this is a store building erected upon a part of the foundation Smith had prepared for a large residence.  Preparations seem to have been made for some nine or ten cellars.  These buildings constitute about all a visitor is shown of Mormon relics.”

More than a century has passed since Ellen’s letter was published.  In the interim, much has changed.  Nauvoo today is considered one of America’s premiere historic communities where visitors can explore more than 30 historic sites related to the Mormon community from 1839-1846, including the rebuilt Mormon temple on the original footprint of the building.  It is located about six hours from Bloomington on the western border of Illinois and adjacent to Iowa.

Ellen remained many years in Carthage.  In 1910, at the age of 60, she was enumerated there in the household of Marion A. and Bernice Munson.  She worked as a seamstress.  According to information at FindaGrave, she died in Arkansas on September 10, 1925, and was returned to Carthage for burial in the Moss Ridge Cemetery.


Blog post by Randi Richardson

The Woolley-Garner Wedding

While doing research for a patron I came across the wedding announcement for Frank Woolley and Angie Garner from the October 7 1885 issue of the Republican Progress. Woolley was a prominent grocer in Bloomington who was also elected as Trustee of Bloomington Township and elected Noble Grand of the Bloomington Lodge. I.O.O.F.

The detailed article describes the day’s events as well as the bride’s outfit (‘wine colored silk and embossed velvet’). It also lists all of the gifts the bride and groom received, which I thought would be fun to share:

Handsome set of amethyst jewelry from groom.

Bedroom set and carpet, parents of the bridge.

Singer sewing machine, bride’s father.

Silver dinner caster, groom’s mother.

Handsome family Bible, groom’s father.

Two handsome oil paintings and two panels, Miss Nettie Woolley.

Decorated molasses pitcher, Anna Woolley.

Clock, Mr. W. Jay King and family.

Glass pitcher and bread plate, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Guy.

Silver butter knife, Mr. Thomas Shroyer.

Oil painting, Mrs. Joseph Shroyer.

Set of dishes, Mr. John Garner.

Chair tidy, Mrs. Sarah Golden.

Glass fruit and pickle dishes, bride’s mother.

Handsome library lamp, Mr. and Mrs. L.D. Rogers.

Silver cake basket, Mr. and Mrs. Tobe Smith.

Two pairs handsome linen towels, Messrs. Will H. and Ben F. Adams.

Glass cream set, and set dessert dishes, groom’s mother.

Cut glass berry dish, Mr. William F. Browning.

Glass jelly dish, Mr. J.W. Robinson and family.

Silver thimble, Prof. Atwater.

Lamp mat, Mrs. Sarah Fry.

Set silver spoons, Miss Annie Donihue.

Wax begonia, Mrs. S. W. Bradfute.

Bath set, Mr. and Mrs. J.W. Shoemaker.

Piece of bronze statuary, Mr. and Mrs. C.H. Showers.

Majolica pitcher and set goblets, Prof. and Mrs. W.C. Snyder.

Panel painting, Mrs. I.A. Holtzman, and son Rice.

Elegant library lamp, by the following students of the State University: Messrs. Belden, Fessler B., Fessler J.W., Heiney A., Heiney C., Fordice, Wiley, Singleton, Peake, Nichols, Debbell, Means, Mutz, Moss, Griffith Kinsey, White, Ward and Ahl.

Sources: Blanchard, Charles, Counties of Morgan, Monroe and Brown, Indiana (Mt. Vernon, IN: Windmill Publications, Inc., 1993), 800 pages.


Blog post by Megan MacDonald



Tragic Accident Ends Life of Sanford Brown

Sanford Harrison Brown is the 3X paternal great grandfather of my husband, Richard T. Richardson.  He was born about 1841 in Kentucky.  In 1862 he married Minerva Jane “Mary” McDonald in Monroe County, Indiana, and with her fathered eight children including a daughter, Laura, who married Joshua Reece Richardson.


In January 1896, Sanford reportedly went to work at the Consolidated Stone Quarry as a night watchman.   It was his duty to “look after the boilers and get up the fire in the morning.”   On Wednesday, March 11, 1896, it being a relatively quiet night, Sanford, who was a hard worker and having nothing better to do, decided to help a fellow employee, Robert Fisher, unload coal cars.  One car had already been unloaded and they were starting on the second.

Sanford was assisting Robert in letting down the car to a position opposite the coal shed.  Several of the cars were coupled together, and Sanford climbed on the front car which was loaded with stone.  Suddenly the car on which Sanford was standing broke loose from the others.  So he set down his lantern and started toward the brake at the other end of the car.  This was the last he was seen alive.

It is supposed that in trying to reach the brake in the darkness he stumbled over a slab of stone and fell headlong to the track where he was immediately run over by the cars following in the rear.  He was found dead lying on the track, his remains horribly mangled.  According to the coroner’s report, the “car wheels had cut diagonally across the breast from the right shoulder to a point midway between the left shoulder and the hip.”  He died instantly.  The time of death was established between 7:15 and 7:25 PM.

At the time of his death, Sanford was believed to be between 54 and 56 years of age depending upon who did the reporting.  He was survived by eight children including:  Laura, Richard, Sarah, Emanuel, Minnie, Florence, Lou and Harry.  Burial was in the Rose Hill Cemetery in Bloomington by the side of his wife who had died in 1888.  His estate at the time of death was valued at only $50 leaving his children nearly destitute.

On May 1, 1896, a suit against Consolidated for $10,000 in damages was filed in Monroe County circuit court.  The case was heard before a jury in January 1897 and a small judgment was secured (the amount of the judgement, as reported in different Bloomington papers, varied from $1,250 to $2,500).  Soon afterward it was set aside “by reason of error in the trial process.”  A second trial was then scheduled for the spring of 1897.  It was also heard before a jury, and that jury deliberated 20 hours before reaching a verdict.  Three ballots were taken.  The question was whether or not Sanford was working at the time of his death.  Jury members were evenly divided on the issue.  As no agreement would be reached, they were dismissed without providing a verdict.  There is no evidence of a third trial.

Hopefully the older Brown children, at least three of whom were married by the time of Sanford’s death, were able to care for the younger children.  But no more information about that is known.

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Affidavits for Soldier’s Exemptions

In 1927 the federal government determined that “any honorably discharged soldier, sailor, marine or nurse who had served at least 90 days or more in the military or naval forces of the United States and who was totally disabled as evidenced by a pension certificate or the award of compensation, and the widow of any such soldier, sailor or marine, may have the amount of $1,000 deducted from his or her taxable property providing the amount of taxable property as shown by the tax duplicate shall not exceed the amount of $5,000 and the amount remaining after such deduction shall have been made shall constitute the basis for assessment and taxation.  PROVIDED, FURTHER, that the age of 62 shall constitute the basis of total disability for any pensioner.  Acts 1927, p. 519.)”

In 1938 and 1939, Monroe County collected the information from those claiming an exemption under the 1927 Act and compiled them into books, one for each year.   The unpaginated books are compiled in alphabetical order by surname and available at the genealogy library at the Monroe County History Center in Bloomington, Indiana.

An index to the two volumes was recently completed and made available to the many county databases available online through the Indiana Genealogy Society website.  Although many of the Monroe County databases at the IGS website are free to anyone, the combined index to the two volumes of affidavits is restricted to members only.  The index includes:  name, address and age of recipient; war in which the veteran served; and year of volume.


Post by Randi Richardson

Bloomington Man Loses Life Aboard the Titanic

The clipping noted below, written by Blaine W. Bradfute, 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. 

In 1900, according to census information, 47-year old John B. Crafton, the owner of stone quarries, lived with his wife, Sarah, and son, Harry, at 115 E. 7th Street (sic) in Bloomington; in 1910, Dr. J. Edmund Luzadder lived at 115 E. 8th St.  A digital image of Crafton’s January 1912 passport application indicates that he was born in Owen County, Indiana.

titanicThe first man who planned and boasted to his friends that he would make a million dollars out of the local stone industry was John B. Crafton, the only local man who was lost in the sinking of the Titanic when that great ocean liner struck an iceberg on its premier voyage nearly two decades ago.

Mr. Crafton was undoubtedly the most farseeing man of his day in the Bloomington stone belt and had he lived to an old age he would likely have cashed in his stone holdings for more than a million.  Having a great belief in the future of stone, Mr. Crafton leased many hundred acres of land in the local belt and at one time had a large amount of the finest stone land in the county under lease.  For twenty-five years Crafton dabbled in stone land, leasing tract after tract.  Four decades ago the investment in stone quarries and mills was very small and the output was correspondingly small.  The Hunter Valley quarry was one of the first successful companies operated northeast of Bloomington, and when the Hunter Valley was sold for $100,000 to become the Consolidated, the selling price was held up as a big fortune.

The writer as a boy heard John B. Crafton remark, “I may not live to see it but my son, Harry, will someday get a million dollars for my stone holdings.”

Mr. Crafton’s prediction that out of his stone leases would come a fortune of a million dollars to his son did not prove true as his life was cut short when the Titanic was lost; the Crafton stone operations ended just about the time stone properties began to greatly increase in value.  Had he lived and continued his stone operations as he planned, he would have undoubtedly left a fortune of over a million, and as it turned out he left a comfortable estate to his wife and son—or so it was generally supposed at the time.

Mr. Crafton was in his stateroom at the time the Titanic ran into the huge iceberg which ripped one side of the vessel open much as if it had been a huge can opener.  Mr. Crafton was not seen about the vessel by the survivors at any time after the accident, and it was supposed that he met an instant death in his stateroom when the iceberg was struck.

The Crafton family during the years of residence in Bloomington lived in the house on East 8th Street, now occupied by the Dr. Luzzader family.  Although the body was not picked out of the sea, and undoubtedly found a burial place in the hull of the Titanic which sank in the deep water off the Atlantic, a stone monument in Rose Hill Cemetery was erected by the widow to the memory of Mr. Crafton—one of the men who in the early days had a true vision of what the great Bloomington stone belt was to become.

Post by Randi Richardson