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  • 8/21/2019 I recently received an email from my relative, Kermit Ross, with the subject line, “Murder! . . . In Deming!”

    Needless to say, that got my attention.

    It seems Kermit, who now lives in Texas, but grew up in Deming, was researching his family tree when he made the startling discovery that his second great-uncle was the central figure in one of Hamilton County’s biggest murder trials.

    Better make that TWO of the county’s biggest trials. Amasa J. Foulke was tried twice for the murder of his wife — once in 1874 and again, a year later.

    Although newspaper accounts of the 1874 trial are no longer available, the results are well known. Foulke was found guilty of murder in the first degree and sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • 8/14/2019 August has long been a favorite month for big annual outdoor gatherings in this area — family reunions, Chautauquas, the State Fair and, back when the State Fair was held in September, county fairs.
    Then there are the Old Settlers Meetings.
    If you’ve never heard of the Old Settlers Meetings, don’t feel bad. While they used to be fairly common in this country during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, especially in Indiana and Kansas, only a few continue to be held today.
    I wish I could provide a definite year for Hamilton County’s first meeting, but the county histories are vague about the meetings’ origins and too many gaps exist in the library’s collection of early newspapers to use them as a reliable source.
    There is, however, evidence these gatherings date back to at least 1871.
    Tracking down the history of the meetings is also rather complicated because they were held at more than one site, sometimes in the same year.
    Among the Hamilton County locations were Roberts Settlement, Carmel (the Kinzer farm,) Westfield (Bowman’s Grove,) Sheridan (Compton’s Grove,) Arcadia (Martz’s Grove,) Fisher’s Station (Harrison’s Grove,) and Noblesville (the courthouse and the Swain fairgrounds.)
    Additionally, Hamilton County residents sometimes joined with residents of surrounding counties for meetings at Perkinsville, Broad Ripple and Oakland (today’s Oaklandon.)
  • 8/7/2019 By Paula Dunn
    While researching last week’s column, I stumbled across an item in a 1982 Noblesville Daily Ledger that reminded me of something I’d completely forgotten — daredevil Lucky Teter wasn’t the only person to make a movie in downtown Noblesville.
    For a couple of days in May of 1982, the southwest corner of the courthouse square was overrun with cables, lights and sound equipment as scenes were shot for a feature-length film starring Indianapolis radio personality, broadcast entrepreneur and record-breaking escape artist Bill Shirk.
    By the time of the filming, Shirk was already well known for performing death-defying feats, such as escaping from a strait jacket while hanging from a helicopter 1,800 feet in the air. Along the way, he set several world records in Escapology and raised thousands of dollars for charity.
    In the movie, originally called “Modern Day Houdini” and later known as “The Escapist,” Shirk portrays a fictional version of himself. The plot has him being forced to execute a number of dangerous stunts in order to prevent his radio station from being taken over by a large corporation.
    One of those stunts was actually a recreation of an escape he’d performed five years earlier at the old Hamilton County jail, a few months after the new jail opened on Cumberland Road. (The date, October 31, was significant — it was the the 51st anniversary of the death of Shirk’s idol, Harry Houdini.)
  • 7/31/2019 I doubt many people think about it when they walk the area around Noblesville’s current high school, but there’s a fair amount of history on that land. For nearly 140 years that was the County Farm (also known as the Poor Farm) and the site of the County Home (also known as the Asylum for the Poor or the County Infirmary.)
    Originally, each township had an “Overseer of the Poor” who was appointed to identify and see to the needs of residents who were too poor or disabled to fend for themselves. Then, in 1846, the County Commissioners decided indigents should be gathered together in one place, so they directed the overseers to send their charges to an 80 acre farm northeast of Noblesville and built a two-room log cabin to house them.
    The first superintendent was allowed $300 a year for the care of an average of seven paupers. He started with eight: a mother and her four children from Clay Township, an elderly man from White River Township, an elderly woman from Noblesville Township and a Wayne Township man “of completely unsound mind.”
  • 7/17/2019 After I wrote that column on Hamilton County’s Revolutionary War veterans, Lisa Hayner discovered yet another list of veterans supposedly buried here. This one was created by the Indiana Society of the Sons of the American Revolution.
    While the SAR list contains some of the same names as the Daughters of the American Revolution list, a few new ones have been added. Unfortunately, like the DAR list, the SAR list has some problems.
    According to the SAR list, Henry (or Heinrich) Baltzell (or Bolser) is buried in this county, but Lisa found evidence that seems to indicate his grave is probably in Hamilton County, Ohio, not Hamilton County, Indiana.
    While a man named George Dale was indeed an early settler of this county, I’ve been unable to document his service during the Revolution and haven’t yet found his gravesite.
    John Burke is a puzzle. The SAR list states that Burke served in Virginia. A Virginia veteran by that name did apply for a pension and I was able to track him to Indiana, but only to Clark, Franklin and Dearborn Counties, not Hamilton County.
  • 7/10/2019 More reader feedback this week!
    We haven’t covered all the dedicated benches in Noblesville yet — Donna Holl sent an email with photos of two benches in the Memorial Garden at Christ Lutheran Church on State Road 37, a mile north of State Road 32/38.
    One bench honors Mary Kay and Paul McGlinch, who ran the Uptown Café for 29 years. In the late 1970s and ‘80s Mary Kay spearheaded the revitalization of Noblesville’s annual Christmas parade and downtown holiday decorations. Both Mary Kay, who passed in 2015, and Paul, who died in 2014, were involved with the Lutheran church choir — Mary Kay served as the director for over 40 years — and their bench rather appropriately displays a singing angel.
    The other bench memorializes Ralph and Eleanor Waltz. Ralph worked at the American National Bank in Noblesville for many years and was the bank’s president at the time of his retirement. He was also active in a number of community organizations. Eleanor was a member of the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and that group’s motto, “Serve the Lord with Gladness,” is inscribed on their bench. Eleanor died in 2001 and Ralph in 2015.
  • 7/3/2019 The American Revolution has been an interest of mine for many years, so when I spotted an item in the March 8, 1935 Noblesville Daily Ledger that named several Hamilton County Revolutionary War veterans, I was intrigued.
    According to the article, the Indiana chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution was attempting to locate the graves of all Revolutionary War veterans buried in this state. In the process, they’d compiled a list of soldiers who were granted pensions while living in this county.
    Lisa Hayner and I took a stab at tracking down those soldiers’ burial sites ourselves and had mixed results.
    Of the seven men on the DAR’s list, three gravesites have eluded us so far.
    Samuel Torrens/Torrons/Torrence served two hitches in the Virginia militia during the war and one hitch afterward, guarding British prisoners. Although the 1830 census doesn’t specify where he lived, judging by the names near his on the census form, I’m guessing it was Fall Creek Township. An article in the April 22, 1939 Ledger states that he’s buried in this county, but we haven’t found him yet.
    The 1840 census shows Isaac Haman (or Hamman, or multiple other variations) living in Jackson Township. He supposedly moved to Ohio after his pension was granted, so he may be the “Isaac Hammon,” who’s buried in Hamilton, Ohio. I’ve been unable to verify that, however.
    Micah French appears in the 1830 Hamilton County census, but is otherwise a mystery. According to the DAR, he served in the New York militia. I couldn’t confirm that, nor did we locate his burial site.
  • 6/26/2019 It always fascinates me how one column often leads to another on a completely different subject. That happened again recently when I was doing research on Smith’s Jewelers.
    While reading an article on the jewelry store’s 1959 move from Logan Street to its current location on North Ninth Street, my gaze strayed across the page to a story on the opening of the Hillside Beach Club.
    Whoa. Now, there’s a blast from the past.
    I remember Hillside, although probably not as well as some people. I only visited once in the 1960s when my mother took a group of my friends and me there to celebrate my birthday.
    For those of you who weren’t around then, Hillside Beach Club was a recreation area located on State Road 38, just east of State Road 31. (Wild Feather Farm occupies that land today.)
    The June 5, 1959 Noblesville Daily Ledger article describes the grand opening of “Hamilton County’s newest and perhaps finest privately-owned ‘summer resort.’”
  • 6/14/2019 Cat lover that I am, I feel compelled to note that June is Adopt-A-Cat Month, or Adopt-A-Shelter-Cat Month, depending on the organization doing the promoting.

    No matter what you call it, the idea is the same — to highlight the fact that this month marks the peak of kitten season, which means many more kittens, as well as cats, will be needing good homes in the near future.

    I’ve been fortunate to have always had at least one feline in my life, dating back to when I was ten years old, and Mom and I came home from a trip to the A&P to discover the dog across the street had treed a kitten in our lilac bush.
  • 6/7/2019 I was still trying to wrap my head around the idea of Key Bank’s downtown branch closing forever when I noticed the “inventory liquidation” banner in the window of Smith’s Jewelers, right across the street.
    Whaaat????
    I had to check that out, so I went into Smith’s and asked what was up. I was told the current owners had decided to retire, but was assured there would still be a store.
    Whew. That’s a relief. I think of Smith’s Jewelers, Kirk’s Hardware, Syd’s Bar and the Uptown Cafe as the four pillars of downtown Noblesville. Those businesses have been around so long, it’s difficult to imagine the courthouse square without any one of them.
    Smith’s Jewelers has occupied the southeast corner of Logan and North Ninth Streets nearly my entire life, but its history goes back further than that — all the way to 1946, to be exact.
    In that year, Claude Shane bought several retail jewelry stores in Indiana and Illinois, including the old Pursel Jewelry Store at 920 Logan Street, just east of the American National Bank. 
    (If Shane sounds familiar, it’s probably 
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