Tag Archive | Indiana

Circus Trip 2018: Indiana Military Museum

Day 28, Sunday, August 12, 2018

Vincennes, Indiana

Sunday morning was my last day in Vincennes.  Although I loved the town, I needed to keep moving east!  I did want to visit one last place before I headed out; the Indiana Military Museum.

This museum is obviously a labor of love for a military collector.  They had thousands of artifacts displayed, packed in a series of display cases and floor space.  They had weapons, vehicles, uniforms and other military artifacts.  They also had crossover items, including needlepoint and sewing made by the spouse of veterans, military movie memorabilia and an assortment of eclectic items that once belonged to Indiana Veterans.

The highlight of the museum was Sergeant Carey, a Veteran volunteer who showed me around.  He served from 1957 to 1963, then rejoined 20 years later and served for another 13 years.  He took so much pride in his volunteer assignment, and truly enjoyed pointing out some of his favorite pieces.

The photographs of New York City and the Twin Towers taken by astronauts orbiting the earth on the morning of 9/11 made me emotional.  Watching the smoke swirl up into the sky from space was heartbreaking.  There was a cargo dump truck that is one of only three known in the world.  They even have a glass eye from the late 1800s!

An antique glass eye

Outside the museum, there are a number of planes, helicopters and tanks on display.

I enjoyed wandering among the exhibits and seeing pieces of military history up close.  I could have spent much more time there, but I needed to get back on the road!

Circus Trip 2018: Vincennes State Historic Site

Day 27, Saturday, August 11, 2018

Vincennes, Indiana

Just steps away from Grouseland is the Vincennes State Historic Site.  The site preserves a few original buildings from the early 1800s, as well as a few replica structures.

The Visitor’s Center for the site is in an 1830s cabin.

The original Indiana Territorial government building (the red building above) was where the bicameral legislature met.  One part of the legislature met downstairs and the other met upstairs.  It isn’t fancy but it served their purpose!  Fourteen men were elected to the houses of the territorial government and made decisions to be implemented across the territory, which was an enormous area of land!  The building served as the government building from 1800 to 1813.

The Elihu Stout Print Shop is a replica building that housed the printing press, used to print the news that was coming in from the East Coast.  The Indiana Gazette began publication in 1804, using a Ramage printing press.  It often took a month or more for information to make it as far west as the Indiana Territory, so people were eager to hear what was going on in the rest of the nation.

The Jefferson Academy building is a replica built to look like the first school of higher learning in Indiana; it is the predecessor of Vincennes University.  The school began teaching students in 1801!  The school taught only boys at the time, when people largely considered girls’ learning to be exclusively in the home.  It is interesting to think about how children learned at the time, with very few supplies, and none of the technology that we have today.

Jefferson Academy

Desks at Jefferson Academy

The site also contains an old frame house, where Maurice Thompson, author of Alice of Old Vincennes, was born.  It’s likely you haven’t heard of the book; it was written in 1900 and is a novel about the Revolutionary War and an orphan named Alice Roussillon.  Fun Fact!  It was the second best selling book of 1900, and it is still in print and available on Amazon, if you are interested in checking it out.

Old Frame House at Vincennes SHP

I also got to visit the Old French House, built circa 1806.  It is basically just that; an Old French style house.  It was built by a French fur trapper, in the French architectural style of the day – posts on sill.  It has a unique feature in how the framing was done, the upright posts sat on a horizontal beam (the sill) at the base of the structure, instead of the posts being sunk into the ground.  This apparently ensured that it stood the test of time better than a lot of other 200-plus-year-old buildings.  The Old French House also has an antique box bed (known as a lit clos in French).  It is an enclosed bed!  Back in the days before central heating, being able to close yourself up in a box bed meant that you would stay warmer; plus it provided some privacy when many homes only had one or two rooms and the whole family slept in the same room.

The buildings on the site are open only on a tour, and there was only one guide the day I was there, so you might have to wait outside while the tour guide is conducting the tour for others.  Don’t get discouraged – it is worth waiting!  The Old French House isn’t always open, and is a few blocks down the street, so I felt pretty lucky to get the tour of it.  I enjoyed chatting with the guide about some of the area’s history while we walked down there.

It was neat to see these historic buildings, even if some of them were replicas.  We just don’t have many buildings this old on the West Coast!

Circus Trip 2018: Grouseland

Day 27, Saturday, August 11, 2018

Vincennes, Indiana

Grouseland is incredible.  It is the Federal/ Georgian style home of future President William Henry Harrison, during part of the time when he served as the governor of the Indiana Territory.  The home was completed in 1804, and was the first brick home in Indiana, built at a cost of $20,000, which is between $700,000 and a million dollars in today’s money.  Interestingly, it was also built as a fortress to protect the family and the seat of government from Indian attack and other situations of unrest in the territory.

 

Harrison had his home built with a number of unusual features that made it particularly able to withstand any attack.  The walls were 28 inches thick in places, and there are strong shutters on both the outside and the inside of the windows, that allowed them to be closed without leaving the house.  There is an armory in the basement complete with a well, to allow for the collection of water without leaving the house.  This place was definitely ready for any potential siege.  Even with all of its protective features, it is still a beautiful, ornate home.

After Harrison moved out because the territory’s capitol moved to Corydon, the home was occupied by another prominent Vincennes man, and then it was acquired by the Vincennes Water Company, who intended to demolish it.  The Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), managed to buy the home on a limited deed for $2,000, which allowed them to operate it as a historic house museum, and then they saved enough money to restore the home.  It was opened to the public in 1911.  It has been a museum for over 100 years!  Today Grouseland contains some furnishings that were original to the Harrison family, and you can see still most of the original features of the home.

And as for Harrison?  Well, it you are up on your Presidential history, you will know that Harrison has the dubious title of being the American President with the shortest term.  He served 31 days, from March 4, 1841, to April 4, 1841, before dying in office of what was likely either pneumonia or typhoid from drinking contaminated water at the White House – the scholars disagree.  His death sparked a controversy over the succession of the office; some believed that the Vice-President became the next President automatically, while others believed that the VP only assumed the duties until an election could be held. Harrison’s Vice-President, John Tyler, asserted the former, and fulfilled the role until the end of Harrison’s term.  Eventually the language was clarified in favor of the “VP becomes the President” view.

There were three of us on my tour, me and a father son duo who joined a little late.  The docent was knowledgeable, explaining facts about Harrison both before and after his Presidency.  My knowledge of the Revolution and the French and Indian Wars is a bit sketchy, so although I’m sure I heard about the Battle of Tippecanoe, it wasn’t something I feel well versed in.  In case you were wondering, it is where the Presidential campaign slogan, “Tippecanoe and Tyler, too” came from.

Harrison was a controversial figure in his dealings with the Native Americans, with many tribal leaders feeling like he was making deals with chiefs who didn’t have the authority to sell the land.  Of course, we know how that all turned out for the tribe.  It seems having 28-inch-thick walls in his home was probably a pretty good idea.

The mansion is incredible, with 13 rooms and a finished basement.  It was fancy for the time period, and they had period furnishings that show it off as it would have looked at the time.  She also explained the spot outside where Tecumseh is thought to have stood with his warriors and expressed his dissatisfaction with Harrison’s land treaties.

The drawback is that you aren’t allowed to take pictures; I did manage to sneak one of the dining room though – I’m such a rebel!

I didn’t know much about Harrison, but it was a fascinating place to check out!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Vincennes, Indiana

Day 26, Friday, August 10, 2018

Vincennes is considered the oldest European town in Indiana, officially established in 1732 as a French fur trading post.  However, it goes back further than that, as the first French fur trading post was founded there in 1702, and later abandoned.  That’s a long history!  The second post was named for a Canadian military officer, Francois Marie Bissot, the Sieur de Vincennes, who built the post.  He was later burned at the stake by the Chickasaw during a war between the Native Americans and the French.

For a while, the French and the British squabbled over the territory, and then the area was ceded to the British after the French and Indian War in 1763.  Along came Fort Sackville, and the population grew quickly with a mix of Native Americans, French Canadians, and British people all living and working there.

Then came the Revolutionary War, and the American desire to get out from underneath British colonial rule.  Lieutenant Colonel George R. Clark created a plan to capture the British occupied forts in the area.  He and his officers planned and executed a daring winter attack on Vincennes.  Of course, the lack of food, solid supply lines and high flood waters made this an especially courageous (and some may say stupid) attack; thankfully for the Americans Clark pulled it off without losing a single man, although it very nearly turned tragic as his men were wading through neck deep floodwaters in the middle of a winter storm.  Sign me up, right!?  More on this battle in another post.

Me with the George Rogers Clark Memorial

What follows was Vincennes changing hands several times, lawless mobs, angry citizens, and eventually the brand-new United States receiving the new Indiana Territory at the end of the Revolutionary War.  And George R. Clark was a hero!

Vincennes became the first territorial capital, and by the end of the 1700s, it was no longer a trading post, but a thriving city.  The first Catholic cathedral in Indiana, the St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, was built here in 1826.  It is located on the site of two previous Catholic churches, both unassuming log frontier buildings.

St. Francis Xavier Cathedral – built 1826

All this history, combined with the fact that William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States, lived here as the Indiana Territorial Governor, made me want to visit.  Other notables who lived in Vincennes include Red Skelton, and Sarah Knox Taylor, daughter of President Zachary Taylor and the first wife of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.  Sarah was born at Fort Knox while her father was the commander there in 1814.  Sarah and Jefferson Davis were only married for three months before she died of malaria, leading to a long-time rift between Davis and Sarah’s parents.

 

Vincennes is such a charming place!  The population now is about 18,000, so it is still a very small town, but it has a lot of historical things to do!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Oldfields (Lilly House)

Day 25, Thursday, August 9, 2018

Indianapolis, Indiana

Oldfields was built between 1909 and 1913 on what was then the country outside of Indianapolis.

Oldfields is representative of the Country Place Era that was prevalent between 1885 and 1939; a reaction to increasing industrialization and urbanization around the United States during that time period.  It was built in the French Chateau style of an old country estate, providing the family an escape to the country when life in the city had a tendency to be dirty and stifling, especially in the summer.  While it was originally designed and built for the Hugh McKennan Landon family by his brother-in-law, architect Lewis Ketcham Davis, the 26 acre estate was purchased by Josiah K. Lilly, Jr. in 1932.

After the Lilly family donated Oldfields to the Art Association of Indianapolis they used Oldfields as exhibit space for several years, before putting the home on display as a historic house.  The first floor has eight rooms decorated in the 1930s country house style, and there are a few exhibits upstairs.  Your admission to Newfields includes a self-guided tour of the Oldfields Mansion.  It is beautiful and worth seeing!  I enjoyed wandering from room to room, checking out the period furnishing and the 1930s styling of the home.  Again, though, the whimsical plastic elephants were not really my taste.

If you are at Newfields, be sure to check this home out!

Note: Newfields refers to Oldfields as Lilly House and Gardens, but I am choosing to call it by its original given name.  I’m wild like that.

 

Circus Trip 2018: Oldfields Gardens

Day 25, Thursday, August 9, 2018

Indianapolis, Indiana

I went to the Indianapolis Art Museum!  But first, I must try to explain the names…  Newfields is the official name of the Indianapolis Art Museum complex; it is named for the newer house built on the site that the museum is on.  The art museum is just one building on the site, though.  In 1966, Ruth Lilly and Josiah K. Lilly, the younger generation of the pharmaceutical king family, donated the estate to the Art Association of Indianapolis for their museum complex.  The donation included the country homes of the family; the original home was named Oldfields, and the new house was Newfields!

The Newfields complex includes the Oldfields gardens, the Oldfields Mansion (also called Lilly House), which was accessible through a self-guided tour, and the Indianapolis Art Museum, the Clowes Pavilion (another mansion which is currently closed for restoration) as well as the 100 acre Virginia B Fairbanks Art & Nature Park, which I did not have time to visit.  Admission is $18, which is high, especially after they had no admission fee for years, but it is incredible!  I feel like that $18 was good for two days, but I can’t remember, and I couldn’t turn up any mention of it on their website.

I started with the gardens, figuring that I could spend some time outside earlier in the day before it got unbearably hot.  Well, to be honest, it was already unbearably hot, but I am nothing if not dedicated to my touristing.

The gardens were designed for the original owners of the home; and include a sunken formal garden, a ravine garden, an orchard, a fountain, the Grand Allée (vista) and a border garden. When the Lilly family purchased the estate in 1933, the gardens were mature and thankfully the family didn’t change the design of the gardens.  It is incredible to have these historic gardens available to the public!

There is a lot to see, and outdoor art installations also add a touch of whimsy to the gardens.  I have to admit though, the brightly colored, nearly life sized bears, alligators, meerkats, turtles and other animals scattered around added a bit too much whimsy for my taste.  I prefer my art a bit more traditional.  It was fun to wander around and check everything out though!

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Cataract Falls State Park

Day 24, Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Cataract, Indiana

Who knew that the Midwest has such small waterfalls?  I guess it makes sense, being that the Midwest is so very much flatter than the foothills and mountains that stretch out less than an hour from my sea-level home.  I left Marilyn’s house about noon, and made my way towards Indianapolis.  Cataract Falls was along the way!

Cataract Falls State Park contains the largest waterfall by volume in Indiana, a two fall combo that separately measure at 18 and 20 feet, and combine to create an impressive 38 foot cascade!  It is considered to be a little taller than that, because there are a series of smaller cascades over the course of the half-mile of Cataract Falls.  Alright, maybe impressive is a bit of an overstatement, especially for those of us who have seen waterfalls over 600 feet tall at home.  However, if 38 feet is what Indiana has to offer, I’ll go see it.  I wandered around and relaxed a little bit, but it was too hot to hike that day.

The park also has a covered bridge, which largely looks like the covered bridges near Dana, Indiana, except that it a solid red with no white accents.  The Cataract Falls covered bridge was finished in 1876, and is the only remaining covered bridge in Owens County.  It is unusual because of its construction with a Smith Truss design, rather than the more common Burr Arch Truss that is found on most Indiana covered bridges.  It was pretty, but given my experience from the day before, I waited until another man walked inside before I did.  I will probably always do this with covered bridges now.

I also stopped at the tiny community of Cataract just outside of the state park.  They have a historic general store, originally built in 1860, filled with various antiques and snack items.  I didn’t find any antiques I had to have but did purchase a few of their unique soda options – I bought two to try.  That’s one of the nice things about traveling – you get out of your comfort zone and try foods and drinks that you might not otherwise pick at home!

That evening I headed to my friend Will’s house, outside of Indianapolis.  That evening we had turkey tacos for dinner, the first time in almost a month that I actually made a home cooked meal, in a home, with more than a couple ingredients.  It was soooo delicious!

Circus Trip 2018: General Lew Wallace Study and Museum

Day 23, Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Crawfordsville, Indiana

Marilyn took me to the Lew Wallace Study and Museum.  I had no idea this was in Crawfordsville, Indiana.  Wallace was born in 1827 in Brookville, Indiana, and lived in Crawfordsville at several points during his life, retiring to his family home after a long career in the military and public service.

Lew Wallace was a lawyer and a Civil War Major General (and also one of the youngest Union officers to ever hold the rank).  He played important roles in the battles of Fort Donelson, and Shiloh, and he went against orders to protect Washington, D.C. from the Confederates at the Battle of Monocacy.

At the conclusion of the war, he served as a member of the military tribunal who tried those responsible for assassinating Abraham Lincoln, as well as the tribunal that tried Commander Wirz, the infamous officer who ran the Andersonville Confederate POW camp.

 

After the war tribunals were over, he went down to Mexico to provide supplies to the Juaristas so they could kick the French out of Mexico, and he served as the governor of the New Mexico territory from 1878 to 1881.  During his time in New Mexico, he signed the execution warrant for Billy the Kid (who then escaped again and died after being shot by Sheriff Pat Garrett instead of being executed).

In 1880, he authored Ben-Hur, the epic biblical saga, despite the fact that prior to writing the book, he wasn’t a particularly religious man.  He also wrote several other books, including his own auto-biography.  Marilyn gave me her vintage copy of Ben-Hur, since I have never read it.  I haven’t yet, but plan to!

In 1881 Wallace was appointed by President Garfield as the U.S. minister to Turkey and the Ottoman Empire.  In 1882 he and his wife Susan made a pilgrimage to Israel.  Makes you feel like kind of a slouch, right?

 

Those accomplishments made him pretty spectacular already, but in addition to that, he also invented a fishing pole with an internal reel, and he even designed the study we visited.  Yes, you heard right.  Wallace wanted his own study where he could read, design and invent; basically the 19th century man-cave with fewer neon beer signs and flat-screen TVs with football games.

Wallace designed a gorgeous brick building, and had it constructed between 1895 and 1898, at a cost of $30,000 dollars.  It combines several different architectural styles; Byzantine, Romanesque, and Greek.  The outside of the study has a face on each side; each one a character from Ben-Hur.  He filled it with amazing books, art and historical artifacts.

 

I would love to have a study like this!  Our tour was wonderful, and I was so excited that they allow photographs inside!  Our docent had an incredible knowledge of Wallace and his accomplishments, as well as the historical details of the study.  This is truly a labor of love for these folks.

And get this – they had a little library in the shape of the Lew Wallace Study!

 

Circus Trip 2018: Indiana’s Historic Cemeteries

Day 23 & 24, Tuesday & Wednesday, August 7 & 8, 2018

Vermillion County, Indiana

Marilyn knows about a million little roadside cemeteries and we checked out a number of them in those couple of days.  Some were tiny, some were larger, and they were in various states of being cared for.

The earliest graves we could read were from the 1830s.  We just don’t have that on the west coast, and I loved these little community plots.

Robert Highfill died on March 9.  Findagrave.com lists his death year as 1855, but the stone looks to me like it says 1835.  I’m sure the 1855 date is correct, as the census records show him marrying his wife in 1845.  Interestingly, he is buried in Highfill Cemetery, so apparently the cemetery was named after the family.

Here lies Frances Remley Johnson, the wife of Robert Johnson.  She died in October, 1837 at the age of 28.  The location of the grave has probably been lost, and that is why her stone is leaning against the tree.

Charlotte Allen’s husband had an unusual name.  Eliphalet means “God, his deliverance,” in Hebrew.  She died February 18, 1845, at the age of 31.  Her husband Eliphalet lived five more years, dying at the age of 54 in 1850.

William Malone was a Freemason; he had the Masonic compass on his grave.  William was born in 1785, and he died during the Civil War, but his death date is unknown and is unreadable.  If he did indeed die during the Civil War, he had a pretty long life…  He was married twice; his first wife Sarah died in 1851, and is buried nearby.

Tuesday evening we ate leftovers for dinner, went and got ice cream for dessert, and then decided to go find another cemetery in the back of a cornfield.  It seems weird writing that, but the Pisgah Burying Ground is an active cemetery, that is literally tucked in behind a cornfield.  It was getting dark when we visited, which made for some eerie photographs.

We went back to the Pisgah Burying Ground the next day in the daylight, and found a well tended graveyard that had none of the creepiness of the night before; the caretakers were there mowing the grass.

Here lies Sebert Pearman; Sebert is another unusual name, meaning “shining sea.”  He died on January 19, 1853.  He was born on January 16, 1793, which meant that he was 60 when he died.  According to information at Findagrave.com, “he was the son of Randolph Nelson (Randall or Randalf) and Judith Pearman. He was a millwright by trade. He was a veteran of the War of 1812 in the Kentucky Militia. He moved to Vermillion County, Indiana in 1829. He married Sarah Rose Nichols February 15, 1815 in Breckinridge County, Kentucky. They were the parents of: Malinda, John, Mary (Francis), Jane Weltha, Benjamin Franklin I, Samuel D., Elizabeth, Sarah Wright, Judah Ann, William II, Elisha, Martha, Sebert Jr., David and James.” He had 12 kids!  Well, perhaps better stated – She had 12 kids!  An urn on a grave is a symbol of the soul, immortality or penitence.

The next morning before I headed on my way, we tried to find another old family burial plot, this one on Marilyn’s land behind a soybean field.  Unfortunately, a few years ago, thieves stole the wrought-iron fence that surrounded the plot.  When we visited, we were unable to find the stones, but found the ground cover that had been planted marking the plot.  It would be sad if someone stole the headstones too.  The plot had been in that thicket of underbrush on the right side of the photo below; not exactly something you would stumble across.

 

Circus Trip 2018: Indiana’s Covered Bridges

Day 23, Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Vermillion County, Indiana

Marilyn and I got up for a day of Indiana countryside sightseeing.  We decided we were going to check out several covered bridges, as this tri-county area around Dana, Indiana is known for having many of them.  Unfortunately, the very first bridge we went to, at the Ernie Pyle Memorial Rest Park, we came upon a tragic scene.  I won’t revisit it here, because I blogged about it last year.

That day we visited a number of bridges, historic cemeteries, murals and the General Lew Wallace Study & Museum.  I’m going to divide the posts up by subject, and group the photos together.

Once we steeled our nerves again from our morning, we saw several more covered bridges.  They are gorgeous, each painted red with white accents, each with the same neat, black lettering indicating the year it was built, along with name of the bridge and sometimes the builder.  The earliest bridge we saw was built in 1873, and the most recent was built in 2006.  I suppose now they are probably maintained by the county, or a historical society, but it still seemed odd that they are all painted the same.

They are scattered all around, with some of the bridges off to the side of the road, and others still part of the road so you could drive through them.  One is close to an old historic mill that has been redeveloped – it is quite picturesque!  I got to see quite a bit of the countryside, the Amish homes, and even a few Amish buggies.

The history here is incredible!