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Miss Austin’s Rare and Powerful Flower, and Other Tales

I was told last week’s column on Joseph Morse was “kinda sad,” and I guess it was.

Since it’s the holiday season and no time for sadness, I’m making up for that this week with some more funny/odd miscellaneous items I’ve run across in the old newspapers.

(By the way, it’s just a coincidence the name “Morse” is connected to two bodies of water important to this county’s history. Morse Reservoir was named for Howard S. Morse, the chairman of the board of the Indianapolis Water Company when the reservoir was created. As far as I know, Howard and Joseph weren’t related.)

The July 25, 1884  Republican-Ledger describes the reaction of Miss Josie Austin’s Polk Street (Eighth Street) neighbors to suddenly finding themselves in “the loveliest spot, in point of odor, this side of the Queen’s green-house.”

Everyone was said to be peering through their doorways and windows with “necks craned and in wonderment, envying the person who possessed a flower of such rare and powerful fragrance.”

That was no flower they were smelling. A perfume salesman who’d called on Miss Austin had accidentally dropped his sample case, spilling four pounds of perfume out of the broken bottles. (FOUR POUNDS!)

The March 13, 1885 Republican-Ledger reported that on the day Democrat Grover Cleveland was inaugurated as U. S. President, the county’s deputy treasurer, William DuBois, received an unusual phone call.

A man declaring himself to be a spokesman for a committee at Tipton informed DuBois that the new vice president (and former Indiana governor,) Thomas Hendricks, was ordering DuBois to remove pictures of the defeated Republican presidential and vice-presidential candidates, James G. Blaine and John A. Logan, from his office and that of the local postmaster.

DuBois allowed as how Hendricks had some authority over the post office, but he balked at taking down the pictures in his own office, arguing that they were private property.

When the man told DuBois he’d call back later to make sure the order was followed, DuBois blew a gasket.

“What in the —— ! —— !! —— !!” DuBois sputtered.

After that, “there was so much sulfur in the air that the windows had to be raised.”

When a second phone call came through, checking to see if the order had been followed, DuBois, a Civil War veteran and faithful Republican, told the man to come on down and they’d fight it out all summer if need be.

DuBois was in the middle of hunting weapons for a serious battle and “mustering a crowd of the boys who had smelled burnt powder before” when someone finally revealed that the Tipton spokesman was really Frank Hawkins, calling from the Citizens’ Bank building a block away.

DuBois was taken home to settle his nerves, where he later acknowledged that he’d been thoroughly duped.

Finally, in the spirit of the season, the December 21, 1921 Ledger  (it was the “Noblesville Daily Ledger” by that time) related the tale of an “awful battle” that took place at the American Express Company.

Attorney Roscoe R. Foland decided to send a turkey to a friend in Indianapolis so the friend could enjoy “a fine Christmas dinner” — not a dressed turkey, mind you, but a live one.

As the bird was being weighed  — all 39 pounds of him — he escaped his box and proceeded to run amok through the building, leaving all manner of destruction in his wake.

George Bowman, the American Express agent, finally corralled the fugitive, but not before blood was spilled. (Bowman’s, not the turkey’s.)

“There, you old sinner,” Bowman told the turkey. “Stay there now and we will soon have you on the way to your destination.”

I think it’s a safe bet that’s one turkey that didn’t get pardoned.