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Hoosier History Live is an independently produced new media project about Indiana history, integrating podcasts, website, newsletter, and social media, created and produced by Molly Head. Its original content comes initially from a live with call in weekly talk radio show hosted by author and historian Nelson Price. You can hear the show live Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET. It’s over the air in Central Indiana at WICR 88.7 fm, or you can stream at the WICR HD1 app on your phone.

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October 21, 2023

Naturalization ceremonies: a judge’s perspective

A rotating series on Hoosier History Live delves into the ethnic heritage of (and immigration to) Indiana. We have explored dozens of ethnic heritage groups, ranging from shows about Ukrainian immigration and Scottish heritage to the state's early Mexican heritage and the Arab heritage in Indianapolis. Many of the immigrants and refugees become U.S. citizens at naturalization ceremonies held at various venues.

This time, we will explore the topic from a different perspective: that of a federal judge who oversees many of the naturalization ceremonies. Judge James Sweeney of the U.S. District for Southern Indiana will be Nelson's studio guest to share insights about an aspect of his job that he considers among the most rewarding: officially making Indiana residents new American citizens.

What has been the homeland for the most immigrants at Judge Sweeney's naturalization ceremonies since he began his stint on the federal bench in 2018? He plans to share the answer during our show, as well as offer other observations about naturalization ceremonies that he's overseen. (The U.S. District for Southern Indiana includes a wide swath of central and southern Indiana, stretching from the Indianapolis metro area, Kokomo, Terre Haute and Richmond to Evansville, Bloomington and New Albany.) According to court officials, 1,333 residents of the district have been naturalized as U.S. citizens so far in 2023, with a total of 1,850 projected by the end of the year. The number declined during the Covid pandemic, when naturalization ceremonies were unable to be held for a few months. (In 2020, only 925 residents of the district were naturalized, compared to 2,286 in 2018.)

Venues for the naturalization ceremonies have ranged from the Indiana State Museum and Union Station in Indianapolis to the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Palladium in Carmel. Judge Sweeney isn't the only federal judge in the district who oversees naturalization ceremonies. Judge Sarah Evans Barker is among the others; she was a Hoosier History Live guest in 2014 in connection with her trail-blazing role as the first woman federal judge in Indiana. Judge Sweeney was confirmed as a federal judge by the U.S. Senate in 2018 after Judge Barker had assumed a "senior status", meaning a reduced caseload.

Before becoming a federal judge, James Sweeney was a partner with the Indianapolis law firm of Barnes & Thornburg; before that, he was a colonel in the Marine Corps and a combat veteran. An Indianapolis native, he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and has represented clients in military forums. In addition to sharing insights about naturalization ceremonies during our show, including what the test to become a citizen is like and how long the process can take, Judge Sweeny also is expected to discuss civic education.

In addition to Judge Sweeney and Judge Barker, other distinguished judges also have been Hoosier History Live guests. Randy Shepard, the former chief justice of the Indiana Supreme Court, was a guest in 2019 on a show about historic perseveration, one of his primary interests.


"Hoosier History Live is a bright spot in my media constellation. I also frequently forward your weekly enewsletters to friends around the globe. I may now be a Californian, but my Hoosier interest is endless. The podcasts and streaming are good tools. By all means, persevere!"

- Tom Cochrun, former news anchor, WTHR-TV Channel 13 Indianapolis

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Roadtrip: Province Park and Franklin Art Garden in Johnson County

Guest Roadtripper and history enthusiast Chris Della Rocco seems to know all the cool historic parks in Central Indiana. Did you know that the recently screened Heartland Film Festival's film "Hellcat", a "returning to small town Indiana" independent movie filmed in Anderson, Indiana by Anderson University professor Jack Lugar, featured a river baptism scene featured in one of Chris's recent Roadtrip picks! The total immersion baptism was filmed in Shadyside Memorial Park, and the park is worth a visit in itself! 

This Saturday Chris will take us to two adjacent small public spaces in Franklin, just south of the Johnson County Courthouse along Young's Creek. The first is the lovely Province Park, platted in the 1840s. The park features many walking paths and beautifully landscaped picnic areas. It has expanded throughout the years to include a large playground, a dog park, an Aquatic Center, and a skate park.

The park is well maintained and has many flowers and flowering bushes and shrubs along the walking paths, especially along the Franklin Greenway Trail and the picnic areas closest to S. Home Avenue. Chris tells us that you can also see projects from the 1930s Works Progress Administration (WPA) like the limestone Creekside Shelter House with fireplace, the original Gateposts off South Main Street, and an original wing wall of a former road bridge abutment that's now a pedestrian bridge crossing Young's Creek.

Adjacent to Province Park is the Franklin Art Garden, which was created in 2015 and is owned by Meg Jones and Richard Goss. Meg Jones has a background in horticulture and landscape design, and developed the garden with a grant from the City of Franklin and her own funds. It is open to the public 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and is free of charge. The Baltic Wheel Labyrinth in the garden was inspired by a hedge maze in New Harmony, Indiana. And the origami crane sculpture is by Franklin artist Gordon Strain.


Hoosier History Live looks back...

"Slaughterhouse and saw factory history in Indy"

Kingan Advertisement

Atkins Saw AdvertisementTime to listen to a fun and creepy show from our Archives! Listen to the show podcast here of this Hoosier History Live show from October, 2022. We time-traveled to the late 19th and early 20th centuries when, as our guest puts it, "the city of Indianapolis had all the makings of a perfect horror movie set, the largest saw factory in the world, acres of stockyards and slaughterhouses, and the specter of ceilings dripping with something that appeared to be blood but on closer inspection would turn out to be catsup."

Libby CierzniakWith the multiple slaughterhouses and pork-packing businesses, the king of the heap for about 100 years was unquestionably Kingan & Co., which had a five-story plant as part of a massive operation that encompassed 27 acres spanning both sides of the White River west of downtown Indy. Ironically, thousands of hogs once were slaughtered daily at the enterprise not far from the site today of the Indianapolis Zoo.

Also for about 100 years, Atkins & Co. Saws had the world's largest saw factory, which eventually employed more than 1,200 workers at the flagship plant in downtown Indianapolis. "With its trademark 'Atkins Always Ahead' slogan, the company was on the cutting edge of the saw industry," our guest, retired Indianapolis attorney Libby Cierzniak, has written in her blog Indypolitan.

During the 1870s, more than 500,000 hogs and 100,000 sheep and cattle were slaughtered in the city each year, according to newspaper accounts that Libby quotes in her blog. "In 1914, the city's pork packing industry employed 15,000 people at eight different packing houses," she writes. "And while Kingan's was the undisputed king, several other slaughterhouses also left their bloody mark on the city's history."

They include an enterprise run by an entrepreneur named Albert Worm who, Libby notes, "realized that consumers would likely reject a processed pork product labeled 'Worm Bacon'. So he adopted the 'Crown Brand' moniker for his growing product line and touted the cleanliness of his plant in advertisements."

Albert Worm PaperweightKingan's opened in 1863, eventually became the largest pork house in the world and finally shut down in 1966. It's been blamed by environmentalists for decades of pollution in White River, even while being innovative in the industry. During the 1920s, according to Libby's article, Kingan's "became the first meatpacker to sell sliced bacon".

Saws made by Atkins remain prized for their quality or as collectibles, even though the factory in Indy closed in the early 1960s. Founded in the mid-1800s by E.C. Atkins, the business "made saws for every conceivable purpose, from four-inch jeweler's saws to 75-foot long saws," our guest Libby Cierzniak has written. Libby is retired from the law firm of Faegre Drinker and is a former trustee of the Indiana Historical Society.

In a recent blog post, Libby wrote about Sellers Farm, which was derided as "Smeller's Farm". That's because the city purchased the 225-acre property from farmer Amos Sellers "to solve an increasingly odorous problem that was plaguing Indianapolis", as described in her article. The slaughterhouses and meat-packing industries "brought the smell of dead and decaying animals" to the Hoosier capital. The former farm became a dumping ground as well as the site of businesses that converted the animal remains into products such as fertilizer. Today, the southwest side area is near the site of the Indianapolis Wastewater Treatment plant. Enjoy your listen; and you can always visit our ARCHIVES on our website!


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Podcast listening, and Hoosier History Live copyright policies

We still do a live radio show every Saturday from noon to one broadcasting on WICR 88.7, but more and more of our listeners are listening to our podcasts, which are basically audio copies of our live shows. Our website is www.hoosierhistorylive.org, and you can sign up at our website to get our free weekly newsletter.

At the top of our newsletter and website we put notice, and links, to our newly published podcasts. We also provide a link to ARCHIVES, which is a list of our past enewsletters and published podcasts.

If you have a preferred podcast provider like Apple Podcasts or Spotify, you can use their search function to call up Hoosier History Live as well. Look for the yellow Hoosier History Live logo.

We copyright our work, and we have a crew of very talented people putting it together. But we WANT you to share it! We believe that learning should be accessible to everyone! You are welcome to copy, link to, or forward any of our Hoosier History Live material. Just please do not edit it! Our underwriter logos and voiced credits are on our material; and these underwriters make our work possible. 


We'd like to thank the following recent individual contributors who make this show possible. For a full list of contributors over the years, visit  Support the Show on our website.

  • John and Flo Stanton
  • Susan Life and Mark Ostendorf
  • Dave and Theresa Berghoff
  • Joseph B. Young III
  • Tom Cochrun
  • Norma Erickson
  • Marion Wolen
  • Jane Ammeson
  • Kathleen Angelone
  • Bruce and Julie Buchanan
  • Mark Ruschman
  • Robin Winston

Molly Head, executive producer (317) 506-7164 
Nelson Price, host and historian
Corene Nickel, web designer and tech manager

Richard Sullivan and Ryan DeRome, tech consultants
Cheryl Lamb, administrative manager
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer


Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support!

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Twitter logo for Hoosier History Live.Acknowledgements to WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Monomedia, Henri Pensis, Maddie Fisher, Austin Cook, and many other individuals and organizations. We are independently produced and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorship and through individual contribution, either online at our yellow button on our newsletter or website, or by U.S. mail. For organizational sponsorship, which includes logos, links, and voiced credits in our podcasts and in our show, please contact Molly Head at (317) 506-7164 or email her at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org.

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