Hoosier History Live! features host Nelson Price, Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on WICR 88.7 FM in Indianapolis.

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Dec. 15 show

Tipton County history and Obama ancestral home

Take a turn in the spotlight, Tipton County. Not only is there a new visual history book about your history, but a documentary is also in the works about the farmhouse owned by ancestors of President Barack Obama that's located near the tiny town of Kempton.

The grand re-opening of the Diana Theater in Tipton, Ind., in 1948 brought back a beloved landmark that was destroyed by fire in 1947. Owner Nick Paikos rebuilt the theater with new amenities, including air conditioning and a baby cry room. Photo provided by Janis Thornton.Speaking of our commanders in chief: Did you know President Teddy Roosevelt gave a rousing speech to a crowd in Tipton in 1902? Not long afterward, the Rough Rider was hustled to St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis for surgery on an injured leg.

That presidential trivia comes courtesy of Images of America: Tipton County (Arcadia Publishing), a visual history book by Tipton-based writer Janis Thornton, who will join Nelson in studio.

So will residential contractor and historic preservationist Shawn Clements, owner of Dunham House, the 19th-century farmhouse built by Obama's maternal ancestors. (Several generations of Dunhams owned the house, until 1969.)

Shawn joined Nelson for a Hoosier History Live! show about the historic homestead in the spring of 2009,  almost exactly a year after Obama (then just a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination) visited the spacious farmhouse accompanied by his wife, Michelle, and their two daughters, with about 100 journalists in tow.

Janis Thornton.Shawn is returning as a guest to share updates because so much has unfolded since his initial appearance on our show, including the documentary under way titled A Single Root.

Janis covered the headline-making visit because she then was an editor at the Frankfort Times newspaper, although she grew up in Tipton. As a teenager, her first date was at a hometown landmark that has become a rare breed: An independent, locally owned cinema house (with a vintage marquee) called the Diana Theater.

Built by a Greek immigrant to Tipton in 1926, the Diana was devastated by a fire in the 1940s but was quickly rebuilt (with the added enticement of air conditioning) and continues to be run by a descendant of the original owner.

Also during the 1940s, the Tipton County town of Windfall was the setting for a World War II prisoner-of-war camp. Thanks to the help of the Tipton County Historical Society, Janis was able to obtain a rare photo taken inside the camp, which became a temporary home for hundreds of captured Germans and was one of several in Indiana administered by Camp Atterbury.

During our show, we also will explore the significant impact of railroads on Tipton (in 1910, there was a tragic collision between a freight train and an interurban, resulting in half a dozen deaths) and the annual event for which the town probably is best known across the state. Six people died when a southbound freight train collided with the northbound Indiana Union Traction Company's interurban in 1910 near Jackson Station, two miles north of Tipton, Ind. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Society.That's the Tipton County Pork Festival, which the community has hosted for more than 40 years.

The festival draws tens of thousands of visitors to the lawn of the Tipton County Courthouse and surrounding streets. In her book, Janis refers to the county's signature commodity as "a hot, juicy, barbecued pork chop."

Both Tipton County and the town that serves as its county seat are named after Gen. John Tipton, a military leader who battled Native Americans. Miami Indians in the Tipton County area were among the last Native American tribes to leave - or, in most cases, be forcibly removed from - Indiana.

In the 1840s, Barack Obama's maternal ancestors, the Dunhams, became the first white settlers of 120 acres they acquired from a government land grant. Some of their descendants - who included farmers, a physician, attorneys, teachers and even a Democratic state legislator - built the Dunham House and were buried nearby in a family cemetery.

Our guest Shawn Clements has moved some of their headstones, which were deteriorating, inside the house for display, with the permission of descendants of the initial settler, Jacob Dunham (1795-1865).

Candidate Barack Obama was escorted by Dunham House owner Shawn Clements during a 2008 visit by the candidate to his family’s ancestral home in Kempton, Ind. Photo by Robert Nichols.Some of his descendants eventually moved to Kansas, where Obama's late mother, Ann Dunham, grew up.

Shawn. who grew up in Lebanon and had been living in Noblesville, bought the Dunham House in 2005. As he explained on our show in 2009, Shawn was unaware of the farmhouse's link to Obama, who then was merely a rising political star unknown to much of the general public. Acting on a tip from an elderly Tipton County resident that Shawn explore the home's history, he established the  multi-generational link to Obama.

The house has 12 rooms, a spacious porch and 5,000 square feet. When Barack and Michele Obama visited it in May 2008, they were accompanied by their daughters Mala and Sasha, as well as by Secret Service agents, a caravan of news media and bomb-sniffing dogs.

Photos of the visit are featured in the new book by Janis Thornton, who returned to live in her hometown of Tipton after spending 20 years in Los Angeles. Since then, she has worked as a writer, editor and communications director for St. Luke's Methodist Church in Indianapolis, the Frankfort Times and Purdue University.

According to her new book, railroads greatly stimulated Tipton's growth, beginning in the 1850s.

"So eager were farmers to get their grain to market by rail that they donated rights-of-way, despite some old pioneers who insisted nothing could ever replace a good team of horses," Janis writes.

She notes that north-south and east-west tracks eventually formed a junction in Tipton County; at the turn of the last century, passenger trains from each direction met at the junction three times daily.

In addition to the visits by Obama and Teddy Roosevelt, President Harry Truman made one of his whistle-stop speeches in Tipton in 1948. According to Janis' book, Truman's visit drew 9,000 people.

The Tipton County Pork Festival often has drawn even larger crowds. In 1991, for example, about 20,000 festival-goers jammed the courthouse square to enjoy musical entertainment and the assortment of pork products.

History Mystery

President Theodore Roosevelt addresses a crowd during a train stop in Tipton, Ind., in 1902.Two years after President Teddy Roosevelt's speech in Tipton in 1902, his vice presidential running mate was a Hoosier. The vice president from Indiana was a conservative selected in part to balance the Republican ticket because Roosevelt was regarded as a crusading progressive. The conservative Hoosier had been an extremely successful attorney for railroads. Then he served as a U.S. senator from Indiana.

Roosevelt and the Hoosier won a landslide election in 1904. However, the two men had a cool - and sometimes even antagonistic - relationship during Roosevelt's presidency.

Question: Name the Hoosier who served as vice president in the Teddy Roosevelt administration.

To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show and be willing to be placed on the air. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.

This week's prize is gift certificate to any Arni's Restaurant, and two tickets to the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, courtesy of Visit Indy.

Roadtrip: Schimpff's Confectionery in Jeffersonville

Chris Gahl of Visit Indy suggests that we enjoy a Roadtrip to Jeffersonville to visit Schimpff's Confectionery, which is decked out for the holidays and has been operating as a candy store, soda fountain and lunch counter over 120 years.

Schimpff’s Confectionery has served Jeffersonville, Ind., for 120 years.Schimpff's is in Jeffersonville's historic, walkable downtown, with its many enticing shops, at 347 Spring St. You can watch candy being made at the candy museum next door. Stroll south down Spring Street and you come to the Ohio River and the Jeffersonville RiverStage with its magnificent view of the river and Louisville on the other side.

You'll also see the long-abandoned Big Four Railroad Bridge over the Ohio River being converted to a bicycle and pedestrian bridge connecting Jeffersonville and Louisville.

Other sites in the area include The Depot in Jeffersonville at 600 Quartermaster Station, an 1874 formerly segregated restroom that serves as headquarters for the Southern Indiana African American Heritage Trail. You can even have lunch at The Depot in its attractive small cafe. Also in the area is the Howard Steamboat Museum, and of course the splendid Falls of the Ohio State Park. This Roadtrip was recommended by Eric Grayson and Glory-June Greiff.

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director

Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large


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Dec. 22 show

Lincoln's youth in Indiana and historic high school gyms: two classic shows

The new movie Lincoln - currently playing in theaters and generating widespread critical praise - focuses on the final era of the life of "The Great Emancipator." So how about a refresher about the character-shaping and life-impacting events that happened during his youth in the new Hoosier state?

Abe Lincoln's years in Indiana - he moved here from Kentucky with his family at age 7 in 1816 (the same year we became a state) - are often overlooked.

Many people associate the Hoosier state with high school basketball. Is it any surprise, then, that creative reuses have been found for historic high school gyms in towns across the state?

Those two topics - Lincoln's youth in Indiana and Historic gyms across Indiana - will be the focus of "encore" broadcasts of two popular Hoosier History Live! shows. Instead of a one-hour broadcast, you will be able to enjoy two back-to-back shows from our archives.

Lincoln's youth in Indiana

Andrea Neal.For the first classic show (original air date: Feb. 7, 2009), Nelson is joined in studio by two young people and their well-known teacher, who immersed themselves in Lincoln and Indiana lore.

His guests are Andrea Neal, a history teacher at St. Richard's Episcopal School (and Nelson's former colleague at the Indianapolis Star, where she was editor of the editorial pages and continues to write a column), as well as two of her outstanding students. They are Courtney Burke and Caroline Tucker, who were eighth-graders at St. Richard's when the show was originally broadcast.

Because Abe Lincoln and his family didn't move to Illinois until he was 21 years old, all of his "wonder years" were spent as a Hoosier. Young Abe, who was tall and gangly as a 7-year-old, helped his father clear the unbroken forest in southern Indiana so they could build the family's cabin.

Courtney Burke and Caroline Tucker visited the Old State Capitol in Springfield, Ill., c. 2008.During our show, Andrea, Courtney and Caroline explain the dramatic changes in the Lincoln family - and in their Little Pigeon Forge settlement - that unfolded during the future president's boyhood.

They discuss his schooling, his tastes in reading (which became a lifelong passion during his Indiana years) and the influence of various adults during his youth. They included his mother, Nancy Hanks Lincoln, who is buried in Spencer County.

Nelson's guests also share insights about the Lincoln family's motivations for moving to Indiana - as well as explanations for why they eventually left to resettle in Illinois.

Historic gyms across Indiana

The Little York gym in Washington County was built in 1936 and resembles a barn. Image courtesy History Press.During the second classic show (original air date: Jan. 1, 2011), the focus is on the fates of former gyms, which often served as "town halls," pulling basketball-crazed communities together on Friday nights from the 1920s through the '50s.

One historic high school gym is owned now by the Miami Nation of Indians. At least two others are private homes. In another small Indiana town, a high school gym built in 1925 is a fire station.

To explore these and other former gyms, Nelson is joined in studio by Indianapolis Star sportswriter Kyle Neddenriep, the author of Historic Hoosier Gyms: Discovering Bygone Basketball Landmarks (The History Press), and by Chris May, executive director of the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle.

Chris shares folklore about well-known current high school gyms across the state.
Kyle's lavishly illustrated book spotlights 100 former gyms; he photographed these "gym gems" in their current uses, which include a church. (That's in tiny Honeywell in far-northeastern Indiana, where a hoop and basket hang over the pews of the Eden Worship Center.) A former gym in the southern Indiana town of Sidney now is a flea market.

The midcourt line at the College Corner gym is the Indiana-Ohio state line. The gym and school were built in 1925. Image courtesy History Press.In Peru, a former arena for Peru High School that was the home court of Kyle Macy, 1975's Mr. Indiana Basketball, has been owned for more than 20 years by the Miami Nation of Indians. They have used the gym in various ways, including as the setting for bingo night three times weekly.

In far-eastern Indiana, the Wayne County community of Greens Fork has turned its historic gym (built in 1925) into a fire station.

Tune in as we explore these and a hoops-high stack of other gyms, including the New Castle Fieldhouse, which opened in 1960. As many Hoosiers know, the Henry County landmark seats more than 9,320 spectators and is the world's largest high school gym.

© 2012 Hoosier History Live! All rights reserved.

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