ArchivesFest Spotlight: UASC & Lawrence Library

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

ArchivesFest 2019

October 14-25, 2019:  UASC on the 3rd floor of the David L. Rice Library

Hours: Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

University Archives and Special Collections (UASC) is celebrating American Archives Month with its annual event, ArchivesFest. This year’s artifacts and historical documents are from the Evansville Museum, Historic New Harmony, the Working Men’s Institute, Newburgh Museum, Reitz Home, and other museums, and will be on display in UASC.  Stop by UASC anytime Monday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to view these special treasures from across the Tri-State region.

University Archives & Special Collections (UASC): David L. Rice Library

1. UASC Front Entrance

Front entrance of UASC at the David L. Rice Library.

In the summer of 1972, the Lilly Endowment, Inc. of Indianapolis, Indiana awarded the then Indiana State University Evansville a three-year grant to establish an archival project for the acquisition, preservation and processing of regional material. At the end of the third year the University was to assume responsibility for continuing the growth of the Special Collections. It started with just a few regional history books on Indiana from the library’s own collection. Today, the University Archives and Special Collection has over 850 unique collections, 800 oral history interviews, 6,500 rare and unique books, and 30,000 digital resources.

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University Archives & Special Collections Rare Books

“Rare Books” includes titles that are unique/interesting/worthy of special attention. This collection is a treasure trove of publications from the late 1700’s to the 21st century, with a primary focus on 19th century books–the bulk of the materials were published between 1830 through 1930.  It includes early textbooks on grammar, biology and medicine.

For ArchivesFest, staff and students in the unit have selected some interesting titles for the “Historic Books Cart”. Everyone is encouraged to look at these wonderful books.  Here are some sample titles:

  • Raggedy Ann’s Fairy Stories by Johnny Gruelle, 1928.
  • The Sad Sack (World War II cartoons) by Sergeant George Baker, 1944.
  • Reporting on the War: The Journalistic Coverage of the World War II by Frederick S. Voss, 1994.
  • Climate in Crisis: The Greenhouse Effect and What You Can Do by Albert Bates, 1989.
  • The Indiana Schools and the Men Who Have Worked in Them edited by James H. Smart, 1876.
  • The History of America (books IX and X): Containing the History of Virginia to the Year 1688, and the History of New England to the Year 1652 by William Robertson, 1796  (published in London).
  • Cœlebs in Search of a Wife: Comprehending Observations on Domestic Habits and Manners, Religion and Morals by Hannah More, 1809.
  • The Science-History of the Universe edited by Francis Rolt-Wheeler, 1909.

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John M. Lawrence ’73 Library: College of Liberal Arts, Room 0119

1. Lawrence Library

Glass display case at John M. Lawrence ’73 Library, n.d.

The Lawrence Library is located on the lower level in room 0119 of the Liberal Arts Center of USI’s campus. The concept for this library sprang from the friendship of Patricia (Patty) Aakhus and John M. Lawrence. The library is named for Mr. Lawrence, a graduate of USI’s class of 1973 and an international expert and collector of medieval manuscripts, for his generous support of the College of Liberal Arts. John Lawrence donated many items to the College, including a collection of medieval manuscripts as well as other artifacts, for use as a study collection for students. Patty Aakhus was an associate professor of English and served as the director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies and program director in International Studies. Aakhus also published three novels based on medieval texts that she studied and translated. Patricia Aakhus served as the first caretaker of the space prior to her death in 2012. The Lawrence Library prides itself on the student leadership of the space where student archivists curate exhibitions, research manuscripts and artifacts, and participate in collections management and care.

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Posted in #ArchivesFest, Art, Historical preservation, history | Leave a comment

When the Path to Freedom Isn’t a Legal One

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

In the light of today’s rhetoric, this could be construed as an inflammatory statement, but there’s no political commentary intended here. Instead, this blog delves into the Underground Railroad, particularly in Indiana.

When Francis Scott Key wrote about the star-spangled banner waving over “the land of the free” in 1814, that land included plenty of people who weren’t free. Slavery had existed in America long before the colonial period. “By the time we became a nation, slavery was predominately in the south. Some northern states made it illegal to hold slaves, but the U.S. Constitution did not make it illegal to hold slaves. …The words slave and slavery do not appear in the Constitution….” Early American patriots like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were slaveholders. But Quaker abolitionists were even then advocating for freedom and organizing to help slaves escape. Washington once complained of a Quaker attempt to free one of his slaves.

Still, some states and territories made it illegal to hold slaves even if the U.S. Constitution did not. And slaves were helped to escape via that Underground Railroad. “It is important to realize that while conductors and fugitive slaves were participating on the Underground Railroad, all of their actions were illegal. The federal government had passed Fugitive Slave Acts as early as 1793 that allowed slave catchers to come north and force runaways back into slavery. By the 1830s and 1840s, these laws were expanded in reaction to increased Underground Railroad activity. With the passage of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, assisting or helping hide fugitive slaves became a federal offense, making all Underground Railroad activity subject to six months in prison and a $1,000 fine. Escaping from slavery or helping someone to escape from slavery was a very difficult and dangerous task.” For more information, check out more information on the Underground Railroad from the History Channel at:

What about Indiana? Wasn’t it a free state? After all, it is north of the Ohio River and fought on the northern side in the Civil War.

The land that would become the state of Indiana was part of the Northwest Territory, established by the new United States government in 1787. Slavery was forbidden north of the Ohio River under Article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance, but the law didn’t apply to slaves already living there. People who were slaves in 1787 remained slaves, although no new slaves were allowed. Slavery was a familiar part of life in the Northwest Territory. In Indiana, evidence of slavery is recorded in Vincennes and Floyd County in the south, and as far north as La Porte. Indiana became a territory in 1800, with future United States President William Henry Harrison its first territorial governor. Harrison encouraged slavery, thinking it would be a good way for the economy to grow. Harrison and his supporters also thought that allowing slavery would boost Indiana’s population. In 1802, Indiana’s politicians and business leaders petitioned Congress to repeal Article 6 for 10 years. Congress denied their petition. In 1805, the Indiana Territory House of Representatives passed a new law allowing people to keep slaves who were bought in the United States. The “contract holder” could determine however long the person must remain a slave. The slave’s children were also considered property. When Indiana achieved statehood in 1816, its state Constitution contained language similar to Article 6 of the Northwest Ordinance—no new slaves were allowed, but current slaves remained enslaved. So, by 1816, Indiana was a free state, but it was not a state friendly to black people. As late as the 1820 Census, there were Hoosiers still listed as “slave.” In 1831, the state Legislature required blacks to register with the county and post a bond stating they would not cause trouble. (White people did not have to do this.) Indiana’s 1851 Constitution did not allow blacks to vote, serve in the militia, or testify in any trial against a white person.

No matter the law, no matter the consequences, there were slaves who were willing to take the chance to escape and those who were willing to take the chance to help. This is where the Underground Railroad comes in. “The Underground Railroad is a term for the covert network of people and places that assisted fugitive slaves as they escaped from slavery in the South. Most widespread during the three decades prior to the Civil War, this activity primarily took place in the regions bordering slave states, with the Ohio River being the center of much of the activity. Of course, Underground Railroad activity did not literally take place underground or via a railroad, nor was it an official organization with defined structure. It was simply a loose network of people who attempted to move enslaved individuals escaping from slavery to and from safe places in a quick and largely secretive manner.

The language of the Underground Railroad mirrored that of a “real” railroad. Those who assisted escaped slaves were called conductors. Safe houses were stations or depots, with those operating them stationmasters. The escaping slaves were passengers or possibly cargo, depending upon the circumstances. There was one reference to those who went south to find and help escaped slaves being called pilots. It was originally thought that there were 3 main escape routes, but further research proved this to be inaccurate. “It was more of a web of potential paths, hiding places, help, and betrayal. Those helping might have information about hunters up north, so they would go east, then back south, then north, then east into Ohio. It depended on the circumstances. So there was no one definite “they went from house A to house B.” Also, homes changed ownership hands. So a home in the 1830s might not have been a part of the Underground Railroad, but in the 1850s would have. … As people moved north, they would travel in various directions, depending on weather, bounty hunters, people willing to participate. You have to remember that people died, moved, changed their minds, or were not available at all times. For this reason, a “route” in 1850 may not be the same as in 1851.

Harriet Tubman, n.d. Source:

Harriet Tubman, n.d. Source:

The best-known conductor on the Underground Railroad was Harriet Tubman, herself an escaped slave. She was born into slavery in 1822 on the eastern shore of Maryland, one of nine children. Slave families often did not stay together as members were sold off or forced to work elsewhere. This was true of Tubman, who at the age of six was “rented out and forced to work for other masters to care for their children, and catch and trap muskrats in the Little Blackwater River.” She resisted even while enslaved—she once refused to help with the capture of a runaway slave and was struck in the head with a 2-pound weight. Although she survived (barely), she suffered from epilepsy the rest of her life. Working in the marshlands gave Tubman important navigational and survival skills. She also met African-American sailors there who, by virtue of their work, had more freedom than either free or enslaved men and women. She might have learned about the Underground Railroad from them. “During her time working in the marshlands at Parson’s Creek she married her first husband, John Tubman, who was a free man, and changed her name from Araminta Ross to Harriet Tubman. In Dorchester County, free and enslaved African Americans lived and worked in the same community. Some enslaved men and women married free African Americans. Free African Americans provided freedom seekers information on the location of safe houses and routes on the Underground Railroad.

3. Grave of Harriet Tubman

Gravestone of Harriet Tubman, n.d. Source:

In March 1849, Tubman faced a dilemma. Her master died, and it was likely that his wife would have to sell off some slaves to pay his debts. Not wanting to be sold further south, “in the fall of 1849, she escaped from slavery alone, and found freedom in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In Philadelphia, Tubman made connections and found support among other white and black abolitionists. Although Harriet Tubman found her freedom, she was separated from her family. Between 1850 and 1860, Tubman returned to the Eastern Shore of Maryland 13 times and freed more than 70 people, who were her family and friends so they can [could] all be free together as a family.” During the Civil War Tubman served as a Union spy and nurse, once leading a raid in South Carolina that burned plantations, disrupted Confederate supply lines, and freed more than 750 slaves. After the war, Tubman remarried (her first husband, who refused to join her in freedom in the North, had died) and made her home in Auburn, NY. She was active in the fight for equality and woman suffrage until she died on March 10, 1913. Next year Tubman, who was able to claim that “I never ran my train off the track and I never lost a passenger,” will be honored on the new $20 bill.

4. Levi Coffin

Historical marker of Levi Coffin, n.d. Source:

The man known as the “President of the Underground Railroad” hailed from Indiana. Levi Coffin was born into a Quaker family in North Carolina on October 28, 1798. By the time he was 15, he and his family were helping escaping slaves. As time went on, this enterprise became more and more perilous, particularly from within a slave state. He married his childhood sweetheart, a woman who shared his abolitionist fervor, and in 1826, they and other friends and family members moved to the free state of Indiana, to what is now Fountain City (then called Newport). “Coffin was dedicated to peaceful measures to bring about the abolition of slavery. His home became the centre for the Underground Railroad which took runaway slaves north to Canada and freedom. Escaping slaves could only travel safely in the hours of darkness and had only the North Star as a guide. During the day they often hid in the homes or on the property of anti-slavery supporters. … It is estimated that Levi and his wife Catharine helped more than 2,000 slaves to freedom during the 20 years that they lived in Newport. One of the slaves who escaped was Eliza Harris, whose story is told in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin. Catharine and Levi Coffin were depicted as Simeon and Rachel Halliday. The fearlessness the Coffins showed in offering assistance to the fleeing slaves had an effect on their neighbours. Levi Coffin noted that those who had once “stood aloof from the work” eventually contributed clothing for the fugitives and aided the Coffins in forwarding the slaves on their way to freedom, but were “timid about sheltering them under their roof; so that part of the work devolved on us.”

In his book, Reminiscences of Levi Coffin (1876), he told of another escape, this one of two young slave girls from Tennessee who had made their way to their grandparents’ house in Randolph County, IN, hoping to live there safely. It was not to be, as their master came to town (Richmond) and attempted to seize what he considered to be his property. “In response, an alarm was sounded, which brought together most of the settlement’s black residents. In all, over 200 people quickly surrounded and protected the grandparents’ cabin. As the slave owner was being held at bay by the grandmother’s corn knife, an uncle of the two girls rode up on his horse. Levi writes, “He demanded to see the writ, and it was handed to him by the officer. He read it over carefully and tried to pick flaws in it. He denied that it gave them any authority to enter the house and search for property.” At the doorway, the uncle carried out the debate with the slave owner as long as he could. Inside the house, an escape plan was being planned for the two girls. Coffin writes, “The girls were dressed in boys’ clothes and smuggled through the crowd . . . to where two horses awaited them. They were soon mounted and on their way. The slave hunters were permitted to enter the house. They were completely baffled because the girls were not to be found.” The girls made it safely to Coffin’s house. “We kept the girls for several weeks then sent them on to Canada and safety,” he writes.” Coffin moved to Cincinnati in 1847 and continued his work there, dying in 1877.

Indiana can claim other Underground Railroad conductors and stations. Look at just some of these historical markers from our state.

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Be sure and visit Underground Railroad Historical Markers, Indiana Historical Bureau online to find the exact location of these signs and to learn more about other Hoosier contributions to the cause of freedom.

15. Ira Warrick

Ira Caswell, n.d. Source:

Closer to home, a man named Ira Caswell lived in Warrick County, either Boonville or Lynnville, accounts differ. “Along with Ira’s work as a conductor and stationmaster, he also helped detain a group of bounty hunters travelling in Southwestern Indiana. These bounty hunters planned to abduct free Blacks and sell them into slavery in the South.

In Evansville, there are at least two sites that reportedly were used as Underground Railroad stations. Note that there was, by necessity, a lot of secrecy surrounding these stations and stationmasters, so not all claims can be easily verified.

This is the home of Willard Carpenter at 405 Carpenter Street. Willard Carpenter was born in Stafford, Vermont in 1803. He made his first trip to Evansville in 1822 and settled here in 1837. His main interest was in the promotion of railroads in Southern Indiana. He built Willard Library. “Known as Evansville’s “pioneer of public charity,” Carpenter also acted as an agent for the Underground Railroad before the Civil War. His home became one of the first stops for slaves who made their way across the Ohio River. A stone tunnel led from the river three blocks north to the Carpenters’ basement, where runaway slaves hid until they could be relayed to stations further north.

MSS 184-0506

Carpenter House in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1970. Source: MSS 184-0506.

MSS 157-0340

Main Street and NW 3rd Street., looking along NW 3rd Street in Evansville, Indiana, 1965. Source: MSS 157-0340.

In this photo, the restaurant named the Farmer’s Daughter was located at 230 Main Street. But the building itself was built in was built in 1855 as a fine hotel–the Washington House. Cosmetically changed since that time in this photo, it was the hotel basement that was purportedly used as a hiding place for escaped slaves. A restaurant called Comfort by Cross-Eyed Cricket currently occupies this location.

Today we’d say that the Underground Railroad workers were “on the side of the angels,” but they were breaking the law. The path to freedom wasn’t a legal one, for the slaves or for those who helped them.

Resources Consulted:

“Enabling Freedom: History.” National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Gates, Henry Louis, Jr. “Who Really Ran the Underground Railroad?”

Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Historical Park.

“House Remains a Symbol of Evansville History.” Indiana Landmarks, March 16, 2017.

“Levi Coffin.” Quakers in the World website.

Schons, Mary. ”The Underground Railroad in Indiana.” National Geographic, May 26, 2011.

Underground Railroad. History Channel.

Underground Railroad Historical Markers. Indiana Historical Bureau.

Underground Railroad in Indiana.


Posted in American history, history, Indiana history, Local history | Leave a comment

What’s the Capital of Indiana?

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

The capital of Indiana wasn’t always Indianapolis. Hopefully, if you are from Indiana or have lived here for a while, you know this, but you may be a stranger to these shores and thus unaware of this fact.

1. Midwest Territory

Map of the Northwest Territory, n.d. Source:

First, there’s the question of Indiana as a territory vs. Indiana as a state. The land mass we now know as Indiana was, after the Revolutionary War, part of the Northwest Territory, established in 1787. A vast area of over 260,000 square miles, the Northwest Territory was everything west of Pennsylvania, north of the Ohio River, east of the Mississippi River, and south of the Great Lakes.

2. Indiana and NW Territory

Map of Indiana and Northwest Territory, n.d. Source:

As the population grew, different areas split off. In 1800 the western portion became known as the Indiana Territory, with William Henry Harrison as its governor. The capital of the Indiana Territory was Vincennes.

This “Red House” was built in 1805 as a tailor shop, and was used as the territorial capitol building. The Senate met upstairs and the House on the first floor. This timber frame building is held together with wooden pegs.

Vincennes existed long before either the Northwest or Indiana territories came into existence. In the early days of exploration of the American continent, this area was hotly contested between the French, British, and Native Americans. At stake was the rich fur trade. “Vincennes was founded in 1732 by Francois Marie Bissot–Sieur de Vincennes, a French military officer. This area was part of New France and the military post was built on the Wabash River to protect the rich fur trade here from the British. When the fur trade died out, this area turned to agriculture. This military post became the oldest continuous settlement making Vincennes the oldest town of Indiana.

First capitol building, "Red House" in Knox County, Indiana, n.d. Source:

First capitol building, “Red House” in Knox County, Indiana, n.d. Source:

After 7 years (1754–63) of fighting in the French and Indian War, the British came out on top. In the Treaty of Paris, “Great Britain secured significant territorial gains in North America, including all French territory east of the Mississippi river, as well as Spanish Florida, although the treaty returned Cuba to Spain.” The British victory was not long-lived, however. During the subsequent American Revolution, a Virginian named George Rogers Clark seized control of Ft. Sackville in Vincennes. On February 25, 1779 an American flag was raised over the fort for the first time.

MSS 034-2234

George Rogers Clark memorial in Vincennes, Indiana, 1978. Source: MSS 034-2234.

This is the George Rogers Clark Memorial in Vincennes. Fort Sackville was on this approximate site.

The Ordinance of 1787 established a training regimen or blueprint for the formation of new states from the Northwest Territory. Ohio, in 1803, was the first state formed from the territory. Indiana, in 1816, was the second state formed from the Northwest Territory. The formation and progress of Indiana Territory was a necessity for the ultimate goal of statehood. Throughout the territorial period, there were debates and petitions about the consequences of moving toward statehood. Important issues were the increased costs, an expected increase in taxes, and the lack of services and communication for people distant from the capital. Later in the Indiana territorial period there were two major factions. The western, Vincennes-focused pro-William Henry Harrison/Thomas Posey faction was connected with keeping the territory status, keeping slavery alive, and keeping more power with the appointed governor. The eastern, Corydon-focused pro-Jonathan Jennings faction wanted the democratic benefits of statehood–especially an elected governor with limited power–and the final eradication of slavery in the state. On December 11, 1815, the Indiana Territorial Assembly was ready to pursue statehood, and the Memorial for statehood was sent to Congress. Congress passed the Enabling Act. Delegates elected by the people met in convention, affirmed the Enabling Act of Congress, and wrote and adopted the Constitution. Acting under the Constitution, the people elected a General Assembly, state officers, and representatives to Congress. On December 11, 1816, Indiana was admitted to the union. The vast majority of people in Indiana knew what was happening during this process, and they approved the move to a democratic government which forbad slavery. The preamble to the Constitution of 1816 reached far beyond the federal Bill of Rights. Some provisions of the Constitution–education, for example–were visionary. Statehood held the promise of a better future for Indiana and its citizens. The 1816 Constitution expressed the delegates’ hope and optimism for that future.

Even before Indiana was granted statehood, the issue of where the capital should be arose. After the Illinois Territory split off, Vincennes was no longer central, but on the western fringes. Lawrenceburg, Vevay, Madison, Corydon, Salem, and Jeffersonville all vied for the honor. But wait, you say—those towns are all in southern Indiana and thus not central, either. For population to grow, settlers need to be able to travel to the area. Much transportation in the early 1800s was by water, and all the contending towns (except Salem) are located on the Ohio River. They were not central in terms of the area of Indiana, but were central in terms of population. “In 1813, with John Gibson as acting Governor, the Assembly took up the matter. The House of Representatives favored Madison but the Council would not agree and Corydon was chosen in conference. The [State Capital Act] which was dated March 11, 1813, was to be effective by May 1, 1813.

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The square, Federal-style capitol building, built between 1814 and 1816, is located in the heart of downtown Corydon. Workers hauled limestone from nearby quarries to erect the 40-foot square walls, and logs were cut from virgin forests for the ceiling and roof supports.   After the government moved to Indianapolis, the building was used as the Harrison County Courthouse. When the present courthouse was completed in 1929, the old capitol building was restored and opened as a state memorial in 1930.

Map of the National Road, n.d. Source:

Map of the National Road, n.d. Source:

Corydon was always intended as a temporary capital. Roads were being built that facilitated northern migration, and in 1821 the city of Indianapolis was founded to become the final state capital for Indiana. Indianapolis was but a frontier city at the time the capital was moved, although its official designation as the capital, in addition to improved access via the National Road, caused it to begin to grow. The actual move took place in 1825, very slowly, since Corydon was then an 11-day journey from Indianapolis!

Initially, the legislature met in the Marion County courthouse, but by 1831 monies were appropriated to build an official capitol building. “Commissioner James Blake offered a $150 award for the best plan for the Capitol. The design of New York architects Town and Davis was chosen from the twenty-one entries submitted. Like most of the drawings offered, the design of Town and Davis featured a Greek Revival style. This architectural style had become common in public buildings of the period because a recent political revolution in Greece had reawakened the interest of Americans in their own democratic roots. The contract between Town and Davis and the General Assembly called for a building that would “correspond in character…with the Parthenon” in Athens. The well-known architects added a dome to their design, which proved to be a somewhat controversial element. It drew praise from some, but criticism from others, including architectural purists who pointed out that the Greeks did not have domed buildings and a disgruntled Hoosier who called it a “Greek temple with a cheese box on top.” Initially, however, many Hoosiers were pleased with their Capitol, which was completed ahead of schedule. One local newspaper deemed it “truly splendid.” And so it must have seemed to many whose town streets were “knee-deep with mud” when it rained, a problem made doubly troublesome by the fact that Indianapolis did not yet have sidewalks. The completed Capitol must have shone in that environment. It rose two stories from a foundation of blue limestone, and its brick exterior walls were stuccoed to resemble granite. A zinc roof topped the building and the dome. The interior plan called for offices of the governor and other state officials to be on the first floor. Halls for each of the legislative houses were located on the second floor. The General Assembly charged the state librarian, Nathaniel Bolton, with the care of the Capitol. In addition to his duties of tending to the library, he maintained the fence and gates, trimmed the trees on the property, and mowed the lawn. His wife, Sarah, a poet and advocate of woman’s rights, sewed carpets for the building.

For all its splendor and homage to the Parthenon, the building did not last long. This style fell out of favor after the Civil War, but what is worse is that the edifice itself was deteriorating. “By the 1860s the soft blue limestone foundation was failing, and the stucco was chipping off, causing one local historian to call its appearance “disgusting.” In 1867 the ceiling in the Representative Hall collapsed. After an 1873 Statehouse Committee in the General Assembly failed to find a solution to the structural problems, it was only a few years before the Capitol was condemned and demolished.

The competition to design a new capitol was won by Indianapolis architect Edwin May. “May titled his design Lucidus Ordo, Latin for “clear arrangement.” Shaped like a Greek cross, the structure featured a central dome and rotunda. The main floor was built fourteen feet above ground level, and it held the governor’s and other executive and administrative offices. On the second floor, May located the chamber for the House of Representatives on the east, balanced by the Senate chamber on the west. Offices and other rooms surrounded the open atriums, and the Indiana Supreme Court was located in the north end. The interior was designed in the style of the Italian Renaissance. Whenever possible, the plan called for Indiana materials. For instance, wainscoting, doors, and trim were made of Indiana oak, maple, and walnut. … The exterior of the building reflects the Italian Renaissance Revival style with the large central dome and corner pavilions topped with low domes. The limestone facades include Neo-Classical elements, especially in the Greek temple style entries. Here too, the architect used Indiana materials. The walls were constructed of brick, covered with oolitic limestone quarried from Monroe, Lawrence and Owen counties. The foundation of blue limestone came from quarries near Greensburg and North Vernon. Workers laid the cornerstone, a ten-ton block of limestone from Spencer, Indiana, on September 28, 1880. Its inscription read simply “AD 1880.” Placed within the cornerstone were forty-two different items. They included annual reports from various government agencies; a Bible; forty-seven varieties of cereal and vegetable seeds grown in Indiana, “incased in small glass cylinders, hermetically sealed”; new coins; maps and newspapers; a history of Indianapolis; and pamphlets from various institutions in the city.” After many trials, including the death of the original architect, the capitol was completed and open for business in 1888, actually coming in on budget.

7. Current Capitol Building

Indiana Statehouse, n.d. Source:

Since its inception as a territory in 1800, statehood in 1816, and the 1825 move to Indianapolis, Indiana has had 3 locations for its capital, and the government met in 4 permanent structures, not to mention all the meetings in temporary locations. The answer to the question, “what is the capital of Indiana?” isn’t always a simple answer!

Resources Consulted:

City of Vincennes–History

French and Indian War/Seven Years’ War, 1754–63 (Office of the [U.S.] Historian)

Indiana Historical Bureau—The State Capital Act, 1813

Indiana Historical Bureau—225th Anniversary Exhibit

Indiana Historical Bureau—Why Statehood?

Indiana State Museum: Corydon Capitol

Northwest Territory (Encyclopedia. com)

The Statehouse Story (

United States History—Northwest Territory

Vincennes State Historic Site

Posted in Architecture, Indiana, Indiana history | Leave a comment

Believe It or Not …

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

You probably recognize that tagline from the many Ripley’s Believe It or Not! attractions, and the phrase has come into common parlance. I’m going to introduce you to the former Koreshan Unity society, and you’ll soon see why I chose this title.

1. David Koresh

Headshot of David Koresh, n.d. Source:

First, let’s clarify that name—it has absolutely no relationship to David Koresh and the Branch Davidians of Waco, TX fame/infamy. Koresh is Hebrew for the name Cyrus and was taken by Cyrus Reed Teed, a very interesting man born in New York state in 1839. He studied medicine with his uncle, and after serving in the Civil War, completed his studies at the Eclectic Medical College in New York. There were numerous such medical colleges currently. “In nineteenth century America, a number of what today are called “alternative” medical practices—“magnetic healing” (hypnosis), homeopathy, and eclecticism, among others—vied with each other and with regular or “old school” medicine—i.e., allopathy, today’s science-based medicine.” Teed seems to have taken eclectic medicine to new heights by studying alchemy (an ancient belief/study of turning base metals into gold) and conducting electromagnetic experiments. Some sources claim his divine revelation was the result of a severe shock incurred during these experiments.

3. Globe Inside Globe

“Cellular Cosmogony” theory, n.d. Source:

One night in 1869, working late in his laboratory, Teed had a mystical “illumination” that set the course for the rest of his life. A beautiful woman appeared to him and filled him with a profound spiritual understanding, through which he came to realize that he was the new messiah. Teed renamed himself Koresh, the Hebrew translation of his name, and began to gather around him a group of converts to his way of thinking (Carmer 1949; Mackle 89 1971; Michel [1975]; Landing 1997). After failing to win large numbers of converts in New York state, he moved to Chicago in 1886 and there continued his ministry, eventually establishing the Koreshan Unity, a community of Koreshans devoted to putting Teed’s social and religious philosophy into practice.” The newly named Koresh developed a bizzare theory he called “cellular cosmogony.” It seems that “the Earth is a hollow spinning sphere and that we inhabit the inside held to the inner walls by centrifugal force. Actually, Teed went beyond just a run-of-the-mill Hollow Earth theory, he hypothesized that the entire universe was contained inside a super-size womb, called Earth, with the planets and sun suspended in the center, except the moon, which Teed said was just an illusion. Teed’s theory was appealing to many religious fundamentalists because no longer was the Earth just another tiny speck in the Universe, it was important because it contained the whole works inside and absolutely nothing on the outside.

2. The Koreshan Unity Button

“The Koreshan Unity” button, n.d. Source:

Tarlow, in her more scholarly resource, says that “the earth could be understood as being like a giant tennis ball, with the inhabited surface on the inside. The sun, moon, and astral bodies hung suspended in the center (Koresh 1905). For him, it was more than a differently shaped world; it was the foundation for a whole new and better society, which was inseparable from a new theology and a new social order. If humans live on the inside, that meant to Koresh that the human universe is knowable, finite, and ordered. Gone were the uncertainties of infinite space (Koresh 1905:97-101; Hume 1928:170; Gardner 1992:19). Moreover, the universe was now focused on a center, rather than expanding outward.

4. Damkohler

Headshot of Gustave Damkohler, n.d. Source:

The Koreshan Unity was ready to move on from Chicago, and settled in 1894 in Estero, Florida, just south of Ft. Myers. An old German immigrant by the name of Gustave Damkohler who had long homesteaded in this area encountered some of Teed’s writings and was impressed. “Damkohler liked what the pamphlets said and thought it to be a good idea to sell or even give his property to Cyrus Teed and join the Koreshan Unity commune, so he and his son would be taken care of for the rest of their lives. After Damkohler wrote to Dr. Teed, Teed and an entourage of his closest followers came to Estero to look at the property. Damkohler and Teed came to an agreement where Teed would purchase 300 acres from Damkohler for $200. Damkohler’s son, Elwin, did not trust the Koreshans or Teed, and refused to join the Unity with his father. Elwin believed Teed tricked his father into disinheriting him and was angry with him for selling the family property to Teed. After Damkohler grew disenchanted with the deal, Elwin convinced him to sue the Koreshans to get their property back and eventually settled with Teed out of court the return of 160 acres. The big winner, however, was Louis A. Hendry, Gustave’s lawyer, who kept 80 acres as his fee. Damkohler sold his 80 acres for $1,000 and moved to Alaska with his son to mine for gold. Damkohler died in Alaska at age 90, and Elwin returned to Florida and became a charter fishing boat captain.

Here’s the thing—yes, Teed’s beliefs were outré. It boggles the mind that he could convince as many as 200 followers that they were living “inside” the earth. But, to give credit where it is due, the Koreshan Unity had some laudable goals and achievements. “Women at the Unity Settlement enjoyed a level of equality, leadership and self-empowerment long before women had even earned the right to vote.” Alcohol, tobacco, and profanity were forbidden, and excavations show that the settlers largely followed this dictum.


Cyrus Teed house at Estero Koreshan Unity, 1995. Source: CS 662-069sc-0042.

Their community was one of the first in western Florida to have electric lighting, supplied on-site by their own generator, for the Koreshans, unlike some other members of Utopian communities, embraced recent technological developments (Koresh [1900]b; Herbert and Reeves 1977:73). …[Teed had specified that the community] would have underground tunnels (wide enough to carry all the wires, cables, and pipes necessary to an efficient, hygienic, and modern world, as well as carrying a garbage disposal system that would remove all waste.” (The tunnel system was unfortunately never established.) Community members lived well—some 20 buildings, most still standing, were built and the land cleared for habitation. The community supported itself by operating a printing press along with a store and gas station for travelers to the area, produced enough food to sell the excess, and operated manufacturing plants. Among the first buildings built in Estero was the Arts Hall where members enjoyed a wide variety of musical and theatrical performances.


Art Hall at Estero Koreshan Unity in Lee County, Florida, 1995. Source: CS 662-069sc-0006.

The remains of a tennis court have been found, so evidently Koreshans also enjoyed recreation.

The beginning of the end came on December 22, 1908 with Teed’s death. He and his followers believed he was immortal, so this came as somewhat of a shock. Loyal Koreshans waited by his body for 5 days for his resurrection, desisting only when state officials insisted that the body be buried. In a particularly ironic twist of fate, his grave no longer exists—in 1921 a hurricane swept his tomb out to sea. Not surprisingly membership dwindled, although the community continued for some years until in 1961 the 4 remaining members deeded their land to the state of Florida as a park and memorial. The last Koreshan died in 1982. In 2016, the Southwest Florida Television channel posted at aerial video of Koreshan State Historic Site in Estero, Florida. To check out this video, go to:

Koreshans gathered around tomb of Dr. Cyrus Reed Teed at Ft. Myers Beach on Estero Island, Florida, n.d. Source:

Koreshans gathered around tomb of Dr. Cyrus Reed Teed at Ft. Myers Beach on Estero Island, Florida, n.d. Source:

Information for this blog initially came from Rice Library’s Communal Studies Collection. The Center for Communal Studies promotes the study of contemporary and historic communal groups, intentional communities and utopias. Established in 1976 at the University of Southern Indiana, the Center encourages and facilitates meetings, classes, scholarship, publications, networking and public interest in communal groups past and present, here and abroad. The rich research resources of the Center are housed in the University Archives and Special Collections in the David L. Rice Library. The Center archives hold primary and secondary materials on more than one hundred historic communes and several hundred collective, cooperative and co-housing communities founded since 1965. Noted communal scholars have donated their private collections and their extensive research notes and papers to the Center archives. In many ways, intentional communities are natural laboratories for understanding and addressing some of the contemporary challenges facing humanity: conflict resolution, sustainable living, land reform, and relations between individuals and society. The Center For Communal Studies offers unmatched resources for sociologists, anthropologists, economists and others, including active communitarians, interested in the lessons — both successes and failures — that intentional communities can offer to the larger world. These collections highlight documents and photographs of intentional communities in the United States and around the world. New material is continuously being added to these collections, so come back and check often.

Resources Consulted:

Brown, Elisabeth. “Koreshan State Park Celebrates Women’s History Month.” Friends of Koreshan State Park, February 28, 2019.

Cyrus Teed’s Shocking Revelation and Hollow Earth Settlement. Weird U.S.

Florida Memory and the State Archives of Florida. Koreshan Unity [photographic] Collection.

Koreshan State Park. Florida State Parks.

Koreshan State Park History. Friends of Koreshan State Park.

Nickell, Joe. “Eclectic Medicine.” Center for Inquiry, July 7, 2017.

Parlin, Roger. “Gustav Damkohler, Florida Pioneer.” Friends of Koreshan State Park.

Tarlow, Sarah A. “Representing Utopia: The Case of Cyrus Teed’s Koreshan Unity Settlement. Historical Archaeology, v. 40, no. 1 (2006), pp. 89-99. Access provided by JSTOR database.




Posted in Communal Studies, history | Leave a comment

Hot! Hot! Hot!

*Post written by Mona Meyer, Archives and Special Collections Metadata Librarian.

Evansville faced a number of devastating fires in the 20th century … let’s take a peek at some of these.

La Fendrich Cigar Box, n.d. Source:

La Fendrich Cigar Box, n.d. Source:

The Fendrich family — a father, mother, and four brothers named Joseph, Charles, Francis and Herrmann — immigrated to the United States in 1833 from what is now Germany. A fifth brother, John, was born in the U.S. The brothers apprenticed in the several aspects of the Maryland tobacco trade and opened their first cigar shop, Francis Fendrich and Brothers Cigar Company, in Baltimore in 1850. Having found success, they opened a production facility in Pennsylvania. In 1855, the company expanded west, opening a shop and wholesaler on Main Street in Evansville to be closer to the tobacco trade in Kentucky, with river transportation allowing them to ship along the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. The family found great success in Evansville, expanding to a nearby five-story building also on Main Street. The company became one of Evansville’s largest employers, hiring mostly women in an era when female employment was uncommon. Fendrich competed with other local cigar manufacturers for workers. They advertised that all cigars were hand rolled, not with machinery, making the job safe for women.” Not only were women skilled in this work, but they were cheaper to employ than men, so by 1910, Fendrich was the largest manufacturer in Evansville, turning out 100,000 cigars a day.

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Hermann Fendrich, Harry Wright, and John Hermann Fendrich in front of the Old Fendrich Cigar Factory in Evansville, Indiana, 1885. Source: MSS 157-0506.

Hermann Fendrich, Harry Wright, and John Hermann Fendrich in front of the Old Fendrich Cigar Factory in Evansville, Indiana. This is the original store at 105 Main Street. Because the business was so successful, it moved into a much larger facility in the next block. It is that building (seen below) which burned, 1885. Source: MSS 157-0506.

Sketch of the old Fendrich Cigar Factory, n.d. Source:

Sketch of the old Fendrich Cigar Factory, n.d. Source:

The old Fendrich Cigar Factory, at 105 Main Street, burned to the ground December 6, 1910, taking many nearby buildings with it. No lives were lost, but all of the company’s equipment and stock was destroyed. Perhaps the biggest issue was that the fire left more than 700 people out of work for nearly 2 years. Some of these buildings were rebuilt, but Fendrich moved its factory to 101 Oakley Street, the current site of Berry Plastics/Berry Global. It would take two years before a new factory was operational. “In the new factory, once machines were installed, four girls working one machine turned out 4,400 perfect cigars each ten-hour shift.” Fendrich stayed in operation for many more years, finally leaving Evansville/going out of business in 1969.

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The next big fire to discuss was that of the H. A. Woods Drug Store at 1022 SE 2nd Street (at the time the address was 1144 Upper 2nd Street). “[George Washington] Haynie (1857-1939) was a well-known and respected business owner, public servant, and family man…. In addition to running his drug store from the late 1800s to 1928, he served as the commissioner of police, a board member of water works and safety, and president of the Indiana Druggist Association. President Grover Cleveland even appointed Haynie as surveyor of customs for the city. The local leader also was dubbed with the unique nickname, Mayor of Goosetown, in reference to the neighborhood’s large population of geese. Haynie’s drug store was situated on the first floor of a Second Street building designed by Weiss & Harris Architects, with his family home on the second floor above, where he lived with his wife Emma and their son Gilmore. Neighbors became Haynie’s longtime customers, calling him by name, and vice versa. But after his retirement in 1928, he sold the business to fellow Evansville druggist H.A. Woods.” This neighborhood is commonly called Haynie’s Corner in his memory.

MSS 287-014

Postcard of Haynie’s Drug Store in Evansville, Indiana, n.d. Source: MSS 287-014.

This building may have proved a bit unlucky … it was destroyed in the 1937 flood, rebuilt, and then destroyed again by fire which broke out early in the morning of March 26, 1944. Newspaper delivery boys discovered the fire and alerted the building’s residents shortly before an explosion was heard in the basement. The drug store occupied the ground floor and basement, while there were apartments above. Fortunately, everyone was able to evacuate without injury.

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Before malls became meccas of consumerism, a city’s downtown was the heart of its shopping district. So, it was for Evansville, and one of its largest stores was the Economy Store, housed in the Arcade building at 316-326 Main Street. Built around 1895, here’s an early 1900’s view of the building.

Central business district along Main Street in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1900. Source: MSS 264-0205.

Central business district along Main Street in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1900. Source: MSS 264-0205.

Most of Evansville was asleep at 1:30 a.m. when the fire department alarms began to sound around the city as a bright orange blaze was spotted Downtown. By the time the first engines arrived a few minutes later, almost half the block of Main Street between Third and Fourth streets was ablaze and the fire was quickly spreading. The city Christmas wreaths were still on the double-acorn top streetlights and the entire area was as bright as morning. Newspaper reporters and photographers raced to the rooftops of the tallest buildings to watch in horror what was happening below. … The fire started in the rear of the Economy Store and quickly spread to the adjoining Walgreens Drugs on the corner (where the closed Roger’s Jewelry store now stands) then south across the alley to Reed’s Shoes and the Bon Marche. Nearly all of the fire department’s 180-man force, plus an additional 20 or so firemen from outlying towns, eventually were on the scene of the conflagration which by 2 a.m. had jumped across Main and set Hoffman’s clothing store ablaze and threatened the Citizens Bank tower (now Kunkel Square), set the Evansville Federal building alight, and threatened the Hulman Building. Fast acting firefighters created a “firewall” to protect both high rises. After several hours the fire was finally under control, but the central retail area of the city was in ruins and insurance estimators put the damage at $6 million ($58 million today). The fire destroyed or damaged 11 stores and six office buildings, and more than 200 people were unemployed as the large retail establishments were rebuilt. Some never re-opened and others took their place, like the Evansville Store. Several firefighters were injured and all suffered from the cold night air when temperatures fell to below freezing.

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3. Evansville Furniture Company

Sketch of Evansville Furniture Company, n.d. Source:

In the mid to late 1800’s, Evansville had more than 40 furniture companies. The availability of a wide variety of hardwoods nearby, along with an influx of German immigrants skilled in the lumber and furniture trade, contributed to this bounty. One of these businesses was the Evansville Furniture Company, at 1419 Pennsylvania Street (the original address was 301-305 West Pennsylvania Street), founded in 1870. There was a fire early in its history—in 1879—but the business was rebuilt. It was successful enough to warrant the construction of additional showroom space nearby. In the 1950’s, the business was sold to Universal Furniture Company; although it razed the extra showrooms, it operated until 1985. At that time, Corporate Design, Inc. moved in and is still in business there today.

On February 24, 1975, a four-alarm fire did massive damage to the structure.

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Today you would drive by this building as you head west on the Lloyd Expressway—it’s just east of the Pigeon Creek bridge, the 4-story red brick structure on your right.

Later that same year, right before Christmas, Inland Marina on Waterworks Rd. suffered from a massive fire. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, $850,000 worth of pleasure boats were destroyed. At least 19 boats were involved.

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You might know Inland Marina as the site where LST 325 is currently docked, until it moves to a new location on the downtown riverfront.

The last conflagration is that of the Upstage Dinner Theatre on January 16, 1977. The building itself was the former Elks Home/Club at 100 SE 1st Street. The Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks (a fraternal organization) built this building 1904-1906. A hotel had previously been at this location, but after it was razed, another nearby hotel owner offered the Elks some funding to build on this spot and thus eliminate the competition from another hotel. Over the years, membership dwindled, and in 1974, the Upstage Dinner Theatre took over this facility. It quickly became a popular entertainment venue, with the Stage Door Night Club operating out of the basement.

Elks Club in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1909. Source: RH 033-204.

Elks Club in Evansville, Indiana, c. 1909. Source: RH 033-204.

The winter of 1977 was brutally cold—the Ohio River froze, and the temperature was below freezing for 26 days in a row. For one 58-hour period, the temperature stayed below zero. On January 16 the overnight temperature dropped to 21 degrees below zero. It was COLD! Firefighters had a terrible battle after the fire broke out. “Water used to fight the fire froze quickly and encased the remains of the building in a sheet of ice, causing a delay in the investigation as to the cause of the fire. It was eventually determined that the fire started in the liquor store room of the Stage Door Night Club and declared an arson. Almost $1,000 in cash was found to be missing from a cash box in the store room, leading investigators to believe that the fire was started to cover up a burglary. In January 1978, just ahead of the one-year anniversary of the fire, the Vanderburgh Prosecutors Office announced that they would renew the investigation into the arson and determine if sufficient evidence existed to bring charges, but no charges were ever filed in the case.

In the photographs below, note the snow the firemen are standing in, the frozen hydrant and pumper truck, and the fire set by the hydrant to keep the water flowing.

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Amazingly, there were no casualties in all these fires. This blog utilizes a lot of UASC digital collections and highlights some of the “hidden” riches. Take a look and see what you can discover!

Resources Consulted:

Digital collections from David L. Rice Library, University Archives/Special Collections:

RH 033: Evansville Postcards Collection

MSS 034: Greg Smith Collection

MSS 157: Schlamp-Meyer Collection

MSS 183: Hammond-Awe Collection

MSS 184: Brad Awe Collection

MSS 205: Anna Orr Collection

MSS 264: Thomas Mueller Collection

MSS 287: Bob Haynie Collection

Coures, Kelley. “The Main Street Fire.” Evansville Living Magazine, May/June 2014.

Evans, Zach. “Haynie family pushes for plaque at historic corner.” Evansville Courier and Press, February 1, 2017.

Hyman, Tony. “Herrmann & John Fendrich/La Fendrich & Charles Denby.” A Cigar History Museum Exclusive, July 12, 2012.

Nay, Brittany. “The Name Behind The Corner.” Evansville Living Magazine, July/August 2017.

Smith, Daniel. “History Lesson: Elks Home, Upstage Dinner Theater.” Evansville Courier and Press, January 16, 2018.

Smith, Daniel. “History Lesson: Evansville’s Arcade Building fire in 1951.” Evansville Courier and Press, June 20, 2016.

Smith, Daniel. “History Lesson: Fendrich Cigar Company.” Evansville Courier and Press, April 28, 2018.

Posted in Evansville, Indiana, Local history, Natural Disasters | Leave a comment