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  • Paula’s a bit ‘icy’ this week
    1/14/2020 It’s no secret that Hamilton County used to be mainly farmland and agriculture was a way of life for many county residents.
    What you might not realize, however, is that harvest time didn’t stop in the fall when the frost was on the “punkin” and the fodder in the shock. During the 19th and very early 20th centuries, one of the area’s most important crops was harvested from the last half of December to about the middle of February.
    I’m talking about ice.
    Long before refrigerators and freezers came along, ice taken from local water sources like creeks, gravel pits and White River was a necessity, not only for businesses like meat markets and breweries, but for individuals who needed ice for their household ice boxes.
    The clearest and best ice came from shallow, slow moving water. Pond ice could be used, but it was considered inferior because ponds lacked enough movement for proper aeration. Without aeration, the ice was often cloudy and holes would form in it, keeping it from cooling as well as a solid block.
    While I couldn’t find a description of the ice harvesting process in the old local newspapers, I did run across one on the internet that I suspect is pretty close to what took place here.
  • Ready for Paula’s phone quiz?
    1/8/2020 It’s been a long time since we’ve had a quiz, but I’ve got a doozy this week, thanks to Ed and Claire Snyder, Jim and Jan Snyder, and Tom and Lisa Hayner. They raised the subject of the two-letter telephone prefixes that were used in this county from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s.
    If you grew up here and you’re around my age or older, you may remember some of those prefixes, but if you’re young enough to wonder what I’m talking about, I’d better explain.
    In the late 1950s, Direct Distance Dialing (DDD) came to Hamilton County, making it possible to place most telephone calls without having to go through an operator.
  • 12/18/2019 My cousin, the Dancing Librarian, and I recently got into a discussion about the various sweet treats our families enjoyed at Christmas during our younger years and I thought, hey, there’s a column!
    The first thing that popped into the DL’s head were the special cinnamon rolls her mother baked for Christmas morning. She said they were made with pie dough rather than yeast. 
    We both remembered the old fashioned Christmas hard candy mix — the little filled pillows, the rectangular filled straws, the mini ribbons and other pieces I’m probably forgetting, all in various colors and flavors.
    In my house chocolate was a must. Every Christmas when Mom and I took the bus to downtown Indianapolis to see the decorated department store windows and to shop for gifts, we always stopped at one of the candy stores for a pound of assorted chocolates.
    My aunts also often gave Dad a box of chocolate covered cherries as a present.
    Maybe that was a Sheridan thing. The DL, who lived in Sheridan like my aunts, said the customers on her brother’s paper route used to give him chocolate covered cherries at Christmas, too.
  • 12/10/2019 While working on last week’s column about Judge Jonathan Colborn, I decided to also research Francis B. Cogswell, since the judge said Cogswell had assisted him in burying the first person in Riverside Cemetery.
    Curiously, although Cogswell was one of the county’s earliest settlers, there are relatively few references to him in the usual sources. However, Lisa Hayner was able to gather some additional biographical information from genealogical documents. (Thanks, Lisa!)
    Francis Beard Cogswell was born in 1800 in Upper Canada, which today is a part of the province of Ontario. He was the first commissioned Colonel of the Hamilton County militia and he represented Hamilton County in the Indiana House of Representatives twice (1838-1840 and 1841-1842.)
    Why someone from Canada would move to the wilderness that was 1825 Hamilton County is a mystery to me, but move he did, and he established one of Noblesville’s first businesses, a tannery.
    I’ve actually found more information on the tannery than on Cogswell himself. It’s mentioned in Augustus Finch Shirts’ 1901 Hamilton County history, as well as in several articles Shirts wrote for the local newspapers of his day.
    Located between Conner and Logan Streets, the tannery took in all the territory from Sixth Street to White River. (That’s the area just west of the Hamilton County Judicial Center.)
  • 12/3/2019 A few weeks ago I mentioned early Noblesville settler Jonathan Colborn in a reader column.
    If you’ve never heard of him, I’m guessing you’re probably not alone. I doubt if very many people today would recognize that name. During his lifetime, however, he was one of Hamilton County’s more prominent citizens.
    (When he was in his 80s, it was said he had shaken hands with every Indiana governor except the one currently in office — but he looked forward to adding him to the count!) 
    Colborn led a long, interesting life and was a good source of information about the county’s first years. Because of that, I felt he was worth featuring in a column of his own.
    He was born in Pennsylvania in 1799, but his family moved to Ohio the following year. That’s where he grew up.
    At the age of 20, he traveled west with a group of men tasked with surveying the “New Purchase,” the central Indiana land acquired from the Delaware Indians as a result of the Treaty of St. Mary’s.
  • Exploring County’s Native Americans
    11/20/2019 Since November is Native American Heritage Month, I thought we’d explore some of Hamilton County’s Native American history this week.
    The Native American presence in this county dates back to prehistoric times, but for this column I’m just going to stick to Indians of the historic period. Those were mainly the Delaware — or as they called themselves, the Lenape.
    The Delawares originally lived along the Delaware River in New York and New Jersey, but were pushed westward by white settlement. They arrived in Indiana during the last decades of the 18th century.
    At that time, the Miami Confederacy claimed this territory, but the Miamis held the Delawares in high esteem, calling them their “Grandfathers,” and they allowed the Delawares to settle here.
    Charles N. Thompson’s book “Sons of the Wilderness: John and William Conner” includes a map and descriptions of Hamilton County’s Delaware villages, all of which were located along White River.
  • 11/13/2019 It’s been a while since we’ve had a reader column. Time to correct that!
    Jeanne Flanders emailed to say she’d run across more wooly worms. One was a dark rust color and another was black. Also, my cousin, the Dancing Librarian, spotted a couple of brown ones. (I’m not sure I trust those wooly worms anymore. They never seem to agree on their winter predictions.)
    The column on Halloween tricks brought back memories to Barb Mitchell.
    Barb said when she was a young girl living in Fishers around 1945, she and some friends spied a couple sitting by a window playing cards on Halloween, so they started “tick-tacking” the couple with a large wooden spool.
    It was the young pranksters who got the scare, though — their “victims” came out and chased them!
    Barb also recalled Fishers’ main street being blocked by farm equipment every Halloween, but said the main mischief was pushing over outhouses.
    Remember the columns about the Revolutionary War veterans buried in Hamilton County? We may have one more name to add to the list.
    I recently ran across a letter in the July 11, 1884 Republican-Ledger written by an early Noblesville settler, Jonathan Colborn. Judge Colborn was one of the county’s leading citizens during his lifetime. (In addition to serving as a judge, his resumé included stints as sheriff, coroner and court bailiff.)
    In the letter, the judge states that the first man to die in Noblesville was Lawrence Willison, a Revolutionary War soldier who’d been present at the battle of Yorktown, the final major battle of the war.
  • 11/6/2019 Sometimes I run across amusing items in the old newspapers that don’t contain enough details of their own to fill an entire column. When that happens, I usually just make a note and set the items aside, hoping I’ll eventually run across additional related material.
    In the accounts below, no related material ever appeared. I thought the stories were entertaining enough to share, however, so this week is just going to be a hodgepodge of anecdotes that made me smile.
    Hopefully, they’ll do the same for you.
  • Putting ‘trick’ in trick or treat
    10/30/2019 After the column on Hamilton County’s covered bridges ran, Kermit Ross sent me a rather timely covered bridge memory.
    When Kermit was in elementary school, his school bus used to pass through Cicero’s covered bridge. He recalled that each year around Halloween someone would hang a straw-filled dummy at the west end of the bridge. (That’s the end closest to the cemetery.)
  • 10/23/2019 I was browsing through the old newspapers, looking for ideas for this week’s column, when I ran across an account of the 1963 disaster at the Indiana State Fairgrounds Coliseum (currently known as the Indiana Farmers Coliseum) on the front page of the November 1, 1963 Noblesville Daily Ledger.
    That jolted me a bit — partly because the Ledger managed to find so many local people who were there that night and were willing to share their experiences, and partly because I came too darn close to being one of them.
    That particular year my mother decided to treat me and one of my friends to a performance of the 19th edition of the ice skating extravaganza, “Holiday on Ice.”
    Luckily, our tickets were for Thursday, November 1 — the evening AFTER the tragedy.
    The Halloween performance was actually the troupe’s opening night, which might explain why the show was late getting started by about 15 minutes — 15 minutes that may have made a huge difference. It’s been noted that, had the acts begun on time, many of the 4,300-plus spectators would have been headed toward the exits when the explosions occurred. 
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Sunday, January 19, 2020

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