Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast or you can join our new listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show.
March 27 show
Brown County history
Has any Hoosier not marveled at the scenic beauty of the southern Indiana county that includes the Hoosier National Forest, the charming towns of Nashville and Story, colonies of artists, and a mountain (or at least a Hoosier hill) of other attractions? With at long last the arrival of spring, Hoosier History Live! will explore Brown County in all its wonder.
Nelson will be joined in studio by the co-authors of a new book about the county's rich history. Titled (naturally) Brown County, the visual history book is part of the Arcadia Books "Images of America" series. The co-authors are attorney and historic preservationist Rick Hofstetter, owner of the historic Story Inn, and Jane Ammeson, a travel writer who has put together several other books about southern Indiana. Jane and Rick will guide us through the heritage of a once-isolated county that, as they put it, attracted generations of photographers, painters and potters, as well as a mix of lifelong locals, including "hardworking 'hill' people sometimes just eking out a living."
The story of Brown County involves everything and everyone from Abe Martin, the cartoon character who attracted a huge national fan base in the early 1900s, and renowned artist T.C. Steele to covered bridges, ice cream parlors and bed-and-breakfasts. In 1859, the Nashville House was built as the county's first hotel. Although the original structure burned in 1943, the rebuilt Nashville House (located on the same site) is among the county's wildly popular dining spots, known for fried chicken, fried biscuits and apple butter.
Several captivating images in Rick and Jane's book were taken during the early 1900s by renowned photographer Frank Hohenberger. Initially based in Indianapolis, he was inspired to move to Brown County in 1917 after seeing photos of, as Rick and Jane write, "a log cabin, an old water mill and some people who looked to him like Southern mountain folk." His nationally distributed photos were credited with increasing tourism to the area, as did the artwork of painters such as Steele, whose hillside home, the House of the Singing Winds, is now a state historic site. Such attractions along with festivals and events – next up is the Indiana Wine Fair in the town of Story on April 24 – make the county a perpetual destination for visitors.
Before the boom in Brown County's popularity, though, it actually had been losing population. According to Brown County, the number of residents dropped almost by half between 1890 and 1930, declining from 10,308 to 5,168 "due to poor land management and the Depression." Electricity did not arrive to parts of the county until the late 1940s, and the first automobile didn't appear until 1913, two years after car-crazed Indianapolis already had celebrated the inaugural 500 Mile Race. The county's isolation was among the reasons famed cartoonist Frank "Kin" Hubbard chose it as the home for his bumpkin philosopher creation, Abe Martin. According to Brown County, Hubbard found material by sitting near the potbellied stove in a Brown County hardware store.
Some fun facts:
- In 1837, when Nashville was named the county seat and 75 people lived in the town, wolves were so abundant that Brown County officials offered $1 per wolf scalp, according to Rick and Jane's book.
- Stone Head, a neighborhood with distinctive stone markers, began during the 1850s when a farmer was asked to carve some directional markers. In more recent times, the best-known Stone Head marker was stolen and missing for several years before being discovered in an IU dorm.
- The oldest covered bridge in the state, according to Brown County, is located off State Road 46 at the north entrance to Brown County State Park. The covered bridge, which spans Salt Creek, was built elsewhere in 1838 and moved to the county during the 1930s.
Roadtripper Chris Gahl of the ICVA will have a surprise pick for us this Saturday. Tune in!
History Mystery question
The Hoosier History Trivia Mystery is part of our salute to Women's History Month. In 1999, a "first" for women occurred in the campaign for Indianapolis mayor. A major political party nominated a woman in the race. Although she lost the mayoral election, she previously had made Indiana history by serving as the state's first female secretary of state, from 1994 to 2003.
Question: Name the first woman to run as a major-party candidate for Indy mayor.
The call-in number for the correct answer is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is a CD of Movers and Stakers, a documentary about the history of the National Road in Indiana, courtesy of producer/director Nancy Carlson of Ball State.
Your friends in Hoosierdom,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Richard Sullivan, tech and web director
Garry Chilluffo, online editor
Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support:
Antique Helper, Dream Home Company Realtors, Lucas Oil, Indiana Authors Award and Story Inn.
Acknowledgments to Scott Keller Fine Art and Antiques Appraisals, Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, 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.
April 3 show
Booth Tarkington's magnificent life and home
"A Decorated Past" was the headline on a recent newspaper story about the historic North Meridian Street mansion once owned by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and playwright Booth Tarkington. The "decorated past" included glittering dinner parties the author of The Magnificent Ambersons (1918) and the Penrod series hosted for guests such as Helen Hayes and the Marx Brothers.
But there also is a "decorated present" at the Tudor-style home, as its current owner, former Marion County Clerk Doris Anne Sadler, will explain when she joins Nelson in studio along with Sally Sebeckis of St. Margaret's Hospital Guild, which has chosen what's commonly known as the "Booth Tarkington Home" as the 2010 Decorators' Show House.
By the way, the Decorators' Show House, which benefits Wishard Health Services, has quite a history of its own: This marks its 49th year, making it one of the nation's oldest show-house events.
Tarkington, who first drew national attention for his novel The Gentleman from Indiana (1899), bought the house (part of which dates to 1911) from a widow named Mrs. Hare, who lived in it with her six children. Then he significantly enhanced the mansion, filling it with artwork as he flourished as a writer there and entertained his distinguished friends until his death in 1946.
Since Doris Anne, her husband Tim and their two young children moved in, visitors have included former President George H.W. Bush, who shared memories last fall of his encounters as a young boy in Kennebunkport, Maine, with Tarkington, who spent his summers at the New England resort. There's much history and folklore to share as Hoosier History Live! spotlights the home and life of one of Indy's literary greats.
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