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Hoosier History Live is an independently produced new media project about Indiana history, integrating podcasts, website www.HoosierHistoryLive.org, weekly enewsletter, and social media. 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 at WICR 88.7 fm or stream the show live at the WICR HD1 app on your phone, or at our website.

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April 20, 2024

Hoosiers who claimed to witness Lincoln’s assassination

Nearly 160 years ago this month, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in Washington D.C. Witnesses to the tragic event on April 14, 1865 may have included several Hoosiers who claimed to be at Ford's Theatre.

In the decades following the shooting, residents of Indiana towns and cities including Dayton in Tippecanoe County, Ladoga in Montgomery County, Jonesboro in Grant County and Aurora on the Ohio River – as well as Indianapolis – were interviewed by newspapers about what they witnessed. Or claimed to have seen.

During our show, we will explore these reports, including some involving Hoosiers who even said they helped carry the fatally injured president's body to a house across the street, where he was pronounced dead the following morning, April 15. We also will explore the reaction in the Hoosier state to the shocking news that the Great Emancipator, who lived in southern Indiana from ages 7 to 21, had been slain just after the Civil War ended.

Nelson's guest, retired Indianapolis attorney Libby Cierzniak, has researched and written about the accounts of Hoosier "eyewitnesses". She also has researched and written about the reunions of Union Army veterans – encampments of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) – in Indianapolis, which became the country's major host city for the events. Indianapolis hosted several of the GAR encampments, including the first (in 1866) the largest (in 1893, when about 300,000 veterans, delegates and other visitors came to the Hoosier capital) and the last one. It was in 1949 and attended by six surviving veterans, all of whom were at least 100 years old.

Here's a sampling of the accounts by Hoosiers who claimed they were at Ford's Theater, as uncovered by Libby's research:

  • Samuel Tilford, a mail clerk from Ladoga, told the Indianapolis Star that he was seated near the box of President and Mrs. Lincoln at Ford's Theatre.

  • Dr. Andrew Smith, a Union Army veteran, said he was recuperating from battle injuries in Washington D.C. when he witnessed the assassination. After the war, Smith moved to Indianapolis, where he was a prominent physician until he died in 1915 at age 83.

  • And O.C. Gatch, a Union Army soldier who lived on a farm near Aurora, said he and his brother were seated 10 feet from the Lincolns' box. Gatch told the Indianapolis Star that the brothers were among those who helped carry the President across the street to the boarding house.

When news of the tragedy reached Indiana, many newspapers published special editions. According to Libby's research, the Plymouth Weekly Republican in northern Indiana initially reported that few people believed Lincoln had been assassinated. On April 14 in Terre Haute, a massive celebration was being held in the streets (with fireworks, speeches and bonfires) to mark the end of the war. Less than 12 hours later, the streets were jammed again, this time with people "running to and fro as if they felt the most fearful calamity had overtaken them", according to Libby's research.

Libby, who writes a blog about Indianapolis city history, has been a frequent Hoosier History Live guest, most recently on a show about stories and secrets connected with the Indiana Statehouse. Because of Lincoln's connections to Indiana, we also have done several shows about aspects of his life and death, including a program in 2015 about the Lincoln Funeral Train that traveled across the state.

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Social media volunteer sought for Hoosier History Live

Hey, more and more of our stuff is online. But can people find it? And do people even know that if you click on a podcast link, you can generally hear it?

I'm Molly Head, Hoosier History Live's producer, and if you'd like to post old show podcasts on Facebook, email me at molly@hoosierhistorylive.org. Be aware that I'm an aging baby boomer, and sometimes I like to talk on the phone! Not just text or email.

I create all the initial Facebook posts for Hoosier History Live. Somehow, last week's show had like 22 shares on Facebook. That means 22 people or organizations "forwarded" our post about that week's show.

By the way, we try to keep our website, www.hoosierhistorylive.org, kind of our "information central" on what's going on with us. On its home page, you can also sign up for our free weekly enewsletter.

Also on our website you can click on our ARCHIVES section, you can also pull up old show podcasts and old show enewsletters. Our ARCHIVES are a work in progress. And a shout out to our mighty tech team of Corene Nickel and Ryan DeRome.

As for people who don't like Facebook, I've found that it is easy for me to "get rid" of people or organizations who say negative or dumb things. AS with ALL media, consider the source of what you are reading or listening to! 

Yes, this means that I am the editor of what I read or look at. But that's okay! We should all be the editors of what we read or look at! We should all be discerning! 

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Our "History Mystery" on air contest continues to be very popular!  If you are an organization or business that would like to contribute tickets or admissions, please contact our host Nelson at nelson@hoosierhistorylive.org.

Prizes must fit in a standard business envelope. Hoosier History Live prefers to "snail mail" prizes to our trivia winners. And If prizes are time sensitive, they need to be offered well in advance of the event so that we can get them out in time.

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

  • Anonymous
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  • Ken and Luan Marshall
  • Tom Swenson
  • Mike Freeland and Sharon Butsch Freeland
  • Dr. William McNiece
  • Serita Borgeas
  • Richard Stroup in memory of Robert W. Stroup

Molly Head, executive producer (317) 506-7164 
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Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.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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