Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. The Saturday show airs again at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast.
Also, you can join us at the Central Library on Saturday at 11:30 a.m. to listen to the live show.
Nov. 28, 2009 show - Greensburg town history
What other burg in Indiana – or town anywhere – has a tree growing out of its courthouse? The tree atop the Decatur County Courthouse may be the biggest claim to fame of Greensburg, but there’s plenty of other fascinating folklore and fodder to explore as well. For a show in our rotating series about town histories that already has featured two other "Greens" in the Hoosier state – Greenfield and Greencastle – Nelson will be joined in studio by a proud native son of Greensburg. His guest will be John Pratt, a history teacher at North Decatur High School who is reviving Chautauqua-style events in his hometown.
According to John, Chautauqua guests in Greensburg decades ago included Helen Keller, John Phillips Sousa, hypnotists and comedians. John’s father once owned the Taylor Hotel, considered one of the premier Midwestern hotels.
Of course, Greensburg has made recent headlines with the opening of a Honda assembly plant for Civics, so we will explore the impact on the town of the $550 million facility. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, Greensburg has a population of 10,260. The town, which is located 47 miles southeast of Indianapolis, generally is considered to be half-way between the Hoosier capital and Cincinnati.
Other fun facts:
- During the Civil War, Greensburg resident Elizabeth Finnern was determined to fight for the Union cause alongside her husband. She cross-dressed as a soldier and served in the military for a year until her secret was discovered. Even then, she remained with her husband's unit as a nurse. John will share the intriguing details.
- Indianapolis Motor Speedway founder Carl Fisher was born in Greensburg in 1874. Located just a stone’s throw from the courthouse square, the boyhood home still stands. The colorful life of Fisher, an entrepreneur who was a pioneer in auto sales and development, was the focus of a Hoosier History Live! show in May. He amassed a fortune and, in addition to launching the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911, founded the resort of Miami Beach, Fla. Despite all of that, Fisher was nearly penniless when he died in 1939.
- In 1890, Greensburg was the center of the U.S. population, John says. By then, a tree had been growing in the courthouse tower for nearly 20 years. According to John, the current tree in the courthouse is its 13th.
- The origins of the first tree remain a mystery, but it’s no wonder the town is nicknamed “Tree City.” A history major in college, John wrote his first major paper about his hometown. It was titled A Tree Grows in Greensburg.
- John, 46, was born Jan. 2, 1963, making him the first baby born in Decatur County that year. (“I still have the silver spoon to prove it,” he says.)
- In June, the city celebrated its 150th birthday.
Incidentally, our guest also has an extensive collection of beer cans, license plates, baseball cards and family memorabilia, all housed in the barn behind his home in Greensburg (he says the barn used to be a feed store and it's very large). Watch The Collector's Collector, from WFYI's Across Indiana archives; his segment is about 18 minutes in.
History Mystery question
Decades before Helen Keller visited Greensburg on the Chautauqua circuit, she wrote a letter to a famous woman from Indiana. In 1892, when Helen Keller was 12 years old, she learned that the distinguished Hoosier was ill, so she sent her a kind letter wishing her a recovery.
Question: Who was the famous Hoosier woman who received a letter from young Helen Keller?
The call-in number is (317) 788-3314*. The prize for the correct answer is a pair of tickets to Handel's The Messiah on Dec. 12 and 13, courtesy of the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra, and a pair of tickets to the Indiana State Museum, courtesy of the ICVA.
*Please do not call in to the station until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.
Chris Gahl of the ICVA will report in with a surprise Roadtripper report.
Your friends in Hoosierdom,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Armstrong Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Garry Chilluffo, online editor
Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support:
Antique Helper, Skip Sauvain of Sycamore Group Realtors, Lucas Oil, Story Inn and Slippery Noodle Inn.
Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia Inc., Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Drew Pastorek, and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through sponsorships and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn more.
Dec. 5 - Steve McQueen, roots tracing, Burger Chef and politicos: Live from the Holiday Author Fair
For the second year, Hoosier History Live! will broadcast from a remote (non-studio) location: the Indiana History Center, which will bustle and abound with captivating interviewees as nearly 90 authors with ties to Indiana gather for the Holiday Author Fair. Nelson will be doing round-robin chats with fellow authors who have a range of Hoosier expertise. Our show will feature film historian Wes Gehring of Ball State, whose new biography focuses on a native of Beech Grove who went on to become one of the top movie stars of the 1960s and ‘70s. Steve McQueen: The Great Escape (Indiana Historical Society Press) explores the troubled youth as well as the Hollywood stardom of McQueen, who was born into a dysfunctional family in 1930 and died while undergoing unorthodox treatment for cancer in 1980.
Also joining us will be Teresa Baer, co-author of Finding Indiana Ancestors: A Guide to Historical Research (IHS Press), which offers tips for first-time researchers as well as experienced genealogists. Nelson also will be interviewing Scott R. Sanders, author of a book about a fondly remembered, Indianapolis-based food franchise that became a nationwide success, Burger Chef (Arcadia Publishing). And the show will feature Fort Wayne civic leader Geoff Paddock, author of Indiana Political Heroes (IHS Press); tune in to see if you agree with Geoff’s choices.
(Photo above: Author Susan Sutton displays her book Indianapolis: The Bass Photo Company at last year's Author Fair. Photo courtesy of Indiana Historical Society.)
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Our newly revamped website is chock-full of Hoosier history, including details of past and upcoming Hoosier History Live! shows. Visit us at www.hoosierhistorylive.info to see what's up.