Earliest Telephone Book in the County

telephoneWe don’t know with any certainty when telephones were first introduced in Monroe County or the date of the first telephone book.  However, the date of the earliest known telephone book in the county is 1902.  It has been preserved on microfilm at the Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington and is part of the Local History Microfilm Collection.  (See Roll 37, Item7.)

The book is just 28 pages in length including a description of how to use a hand crank telephone.  It was divided into communities and the type of listing, such as farm, residence or business, was noted along with a name and a 3-digit telephone number.  If the name was indicative of the type of listing, however, there was no separate entry for the type of listing.

Names and all other information associated with the listing excepting the phone number have been indexed and put online at the Indiana Genealogical Society website as part of the many databases available for Monroe County.*

Telephone Company officers were identified as:  J. D. Showers, president; W. S. Bradfute, secretary; W. W. Wicks, treasurer; and F. S. Shoemaker, superintendent.

*Must be a member of the IGS to view that particular index

 

Blog post by Randi Richardson

Gentry Bros. Organize Another Big Show

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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

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.

quarryblog

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.

affidavit

Post by Randi Richardson

Tarzan: One in Twelve a Native of Bloomington

All totaled, twelve men played Tarzan on the silver screen.  Three were from Indiana.  One was a native of Bloomington.

Elmo Lincoln, a native of Rochester originally named Otto Elmo Linkenhelt, portrayed the ape man during the silent film era as did   James Hubert “Babe” Pierce  from Freedom, Owen County, Indiana.  Denny Miller was from Bloomington.

Denny Miller, according to the name on his birth certificate, was born Dennis Linn Miller.  Later he was known as Denny Scott Miller and Scott Miller. His parents were Bernard “Ben” W. and Martha (Linn) Miller.  They lived at 314 E. University at the time of Denny’s birth, and “Ben” was employed as a high school teacher.

Ben had a twin brother named Len.  Both boys were local basketball stars in Waldron, Indiana, and later played at Indiana University with Branch McCracken.  Ben later became a physical education instructor at IU.  It’s, therefore, not too surprising that Denny began playing basketball early and played it well.  His younger brother, Kent, followed in his footsteps.  By the time of Kent’s birth, the Miller family was living at 449 S. Henderson.

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Denny lived several years at this Bloomington home, 449 S. Henderson, before moving to LA.

When Denny was in the fourth grade, his father took another job and the family left Bloomington.  After living for a time in Maryland and New York, the Millers settled in Los Angeles where Ben was a member of the faculty at UCLA for many years and Denny and Kent had full-ride scholarships to play basketball.

To help pay for his schooling, Denny had a job moving furniture during his senior year.  A Hollywood talent agent took notice of   the good looking, 6’4” guy with a physically fit, athletic body and signed him to the MGM studio.  Denny’s first starring role was Tarzan in a 1959 remake of the 1932 classic Tarzan, the Ape Man.  It launched his career.

tarzan

Although Denny did not star in other Tarzan films, he went on have a role in more than 200 television and movie productions many of which were Westerns.   He was best known as a regular on 107 episodes of Wagon Train from 1961-1964.  He also appeared in more than 80 commercials.  For fourteen years he played the Gorton fisherman.

In later years he continued to live in LA where he wrote several books.  His first, Didn’t You Used to be What’s His Name, was a well-illustrated autobiography published in 2004.  It was selected for inclusion in Oprah’s Book Club.  The second book, Toxic Waist?…Get to Know Sweat! was published in 2006 and delivered an important message about the obesity epidemic in America.

Having earned his degree in physical education, Denny was an advocate of healthy living for most of his life.  Up until the time that his body was ravaged by ALS, he was able to wear the same loin cloth that he had worn as Tarzan in 1959.  ALS, commonly known as Lou Gerhig’s disease, affects those nerve cells responsible for controlling voluntary muscle movement like chewing, walking and talking.  Most people affected with ALS die from respiratory failure.

Denny died at the age of 80 on September 9, 2014.  He was survived by his second wife, Nancy, and a son and daughter.  His obituary, containing details of his long career, can be found many places online.

Sources: Fred D. Cavinder, More Amazing Tales from Indiana (Bloomington IN:  Indiana University Press, 2003), 208 pages.

Blog post by Randi Richardson

 

A Bear to Remember

Roy H. Schmalz was born and reared in Patricksburg, Owen County.  When he was 12 years old he traded a pig for a gun.  His father instructed him in the use of the fire arm.  That was the beginning of Roy’s lifelong love of hunting.

After owning general stores in Patricksburg and New Market, Roy moved with his wife, Marie, and their three children to Bloomington.  On April 22, 1926, Roy opened Schmalz’s Department Store at 213 N. Walnut which was at the time a one-room furniture store.  Roy was one of the Midwest’s outstanding sportsmen, and he adorned the walls of his new store with many of his hunting and fishing trophies.

Although the original store consisted of a relatively small space, the business had expanded three times by 1948 on the occasion of its 22nd anniversary and was selling goods from five distinct departments:  men and boys’ wear; shoes; domestics; ready-to-wear and sporting goods.  It was the first store east of the Mississippi Rover to sell Levi jeans.

schmaltz
This picture, taken c. 1926, was sold by Coffey Realty and Auction, January 2007.

Two employees, Mrs. Ruby Welborn and Charles Neal had by that time been with the company since it opened.  Roy was still the manager and was aided by his two sons, Richard and James, and his son-in-law, J. Warren Fox.

Among the most memorable of Roy’s trophies was a 9’4” Kodiak bear from Alaska, the undisputed king of North American game.  After being mounted it was delivered to the Bloomington store where it was discovered that he was too large to go through the door.  Many hours later, thanks to the efforts of a carpenter, the bear finally reached a respected place of honor.

In 1988 when the store closed, the 1,200 pound bear was donated to the Monroe County History Center where it is on permanent display.  Seth Thomas did a short video clip of the bear and its history for the Bloomington Herald Times.  That video and several interesting photographs of the bear can be viewed online.

Roy died in Bloomington on April 9, 1968, at the age of 91, and was buried in Rose Hill Cemetery.

Blog by Randi Richardson

Sources:

Bloomington (IN) World Telephone, April 22, 1948, p. 1.

Seth Thomas video clip. 2018.

Schmalz’s Department Store, http://www.bloomingpedia.org/wiki/Schmalz%27s_Department_Store.

“Hunting the World Over,” Indianapolis Star Magazine,  January 10, 1960, p. 38+.  Available online at https://www.newspapers.com/image/106033198/

 

Biosketch of Thomas Lewis, Former Slave

In the 1930s and early 1940s, more than 140 years after the U. S. Constitution declared slavery illegal in the United States, former slaves were interviewed under the auspices of the Works Progress Administration.  The materials, archived at the Library of Congress, are known as the Slave Narrative Collection.  Some of the narratives have been published including “Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936-1938—Indiana.”  Although a majority of the narratives in that particular collection are from Vanderburgh County, there is one from Monroe County.  It consists of an interview with Thomas Lewis.  (See pp. 123-127.)

Lewis reportedly was born a slave in Spencer County, Kentucky, in 1857.  His father was killed “in the Northern army” and afterward he lived with his mother, stepfather and several siblings.  When Lewis was seven years old he was set free and when he was twelve the family located in Indiana.

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Instruments of slavery from the Library of Congress

Family members met in Louisville and took a ferry across the Ohio River into New Albany.  The next morning after their arrival, they left for Bloomington.  In Bloomington, Lewis recalled meeting the Dorsett family.  “Two of their daughters had been sold before the war.  After the war, when the black people were free, the daughters heard some way that their people were in Bloomington.  It was a happy time when they met their parents.”

Lewis had a cousin name Jerry.  Before the slaves were freed  “…[A] white man asked Jerry how he would like to be free.  Jerry said that he would like it all right.  The white men took him into the barn and were going to put him over a barrel and beat him half to death.  Just as they were about ready to beat him [a] bomb went off [presumably planted by Union soldiers] and Jerry escaped…There was no such thing as being good to slaves.  Many people were better than others, but a slave belonged to his master and there was no way to get out of it…If a slave resisted and his master killed him, it was the same as self-defense today.”

On June 30, 1885, Lewis married Mary Gill.  Together with her he fathered at least two children, Howard and Ethel.  He married a second time to Geneva Johnson in Monroe County in1923 and fathered four more children:  Anna, James, George and Raymond.

Most of his life was spent in Monroe County where he was employed at a variety of jobs.  Undoubtedly he was limited by his lack of education.  According to the 1940 census, he had completed only grades one through three.

As he became advanced in years, he went to live at the Monroe County Home otherwise known as the poor house.  On September 19, 1951, at the age of 99, he died in the Bloomington Hospital.  According to his death record, completed by his son, Howard, Lewis’s father was unknown and his mother’s maiden name was noted simply as Drake.  Other records indicate Thomas Lewis was the son of Elijah and Sina (Drake) Lewis.  Sina was later married to George Ditto.

NOTE:  Two copies of the book titled Slave Narratives…Indiana are available at the Monroe County Public Library in Bloomington.  One is shelved with Adult Nonfiction; the other in the Indiana Room.  The latter does not circulate.  See call number 306.362 Ind.  The interview with Thomas Lewis as noted in the book is also available online at https://www.accessgenealogy.com/black-genealogy/slave-narrative-of-thomas-lewis.htm

Blog post by Randi Richardson