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  • 4/19/2019 I’ve got some reader feedback this week!
    Remember Dennis Hester’s hunt for a history of Durbin School? Tom Heller, the principal at Durbin from 1974 to 2002, sent some information about the Durbin area.
    Tom wrote that when he started working at the school, an elderly lady who lived nearby shared her memories of Durbin with him.
    According to Tom, the community was named for Winfield T. Durbin, Indiana’s governor from 1901 to 1905. (Whew, I’d guessed that when I wrote a column on Durbin and Clarksville a few years ago. It’s nice to have confirmation.)
  • 4/12/2019 I knew Noblesville had experienced some big fires in the downtown area during the 20th century and Sheridan’s 1913 fire is legendary, but I wasn’t aware Fishers had also been threatened by a major conflagration until I got a recent email from Mary Kingsolver Ryder.
    Mary mentioned that a huge fire had taken place at the Fishers Lumber Co. when she was a young girl. She wasn’t sure of the date and couldn’t remember all the details, but she knew her father had been a volunteer firefighter who had helped battle the blaze.
    After she raised the subject, I went digging in the old Noblesville Daily Ledgers and I found several articles about the fire, which took place February 2, 1946. In reporting the disaster, the Ledger described it as the largest fire loss Fishers had ever suffered.
    Things could have been much, much worse, though.
  • 4/5/2019 Hamilton County’s best known Asian resident in the late 19th and early 20 centuries was the Chinese laundryman, Tie Loy.
    At least that’s the name he generally went by. On his marriage license he was Chan Tie Loy and his real Chinese name was said to be Chan Yin Sun.
    It’s unclear exactly when Tie Loy arrived in Hamilton County.
    He could have been the “Chinaman, the first on record” to visit Noblesville who is mentioned in the December 14, 1883 Republican-Ledger. He might also have been the person who opened a Chinese laundry in Noblesville in 1884. Unfortunately, neither of those individuals was identified.
    What is certain is that Tie Loy was doing business here by 1888. That February he advertised “Cuffs 4 cents, 10 cents a shirt, collars 2 cents, Underwear 6 cents” in the Noblesville Independent.
  • 3/29/2019 When I was researching the “Rat Supper” held at the Presbyterian Church in 1887, I tried to find out if the four Chinese mentioned in that notice were local residents, or even really Chinese.
    I had no luck tracking down any of those names, but in the process I learned a few things about Asians who did live in Hamilton County in the 19th and early 20th centuries.
    The earliest mention I’ve run across of someone Japanese who might have lived here is found in the March 23, 1939 Noblesville Daily Ledger. The newspaper noted that 30 years earlier a Japanese man, Sodatke Yuchi, had come to Sheridan to learn the milk business.
    It’s not clear if Yuchi stayed to become a resident, however.
  • 3/22/2019 The Herb Society of Central Indiana wants to you to “Get Your Herb On.” That’s the theme of this year’s Spring Symposium, which features the 2019 Herb of the Year, anise hyssop.
    I’d be willing to bet a lot of people out there aren’t familiar with anise hyssop. It’s not something you run across in the average spice rack.
    Just to be clear, anise hyssop isn’t the spice, anise, that’s used in cookies like the German Pfeffernüsse or in liqueurs like absinthe. Nor is it the plant that produces the star anise found in Chinese cooking and potpourris. It also isn’t the small evergreen shrub known as just plain “hyssop,” although both plants are members of the mint family.
  • 3/15/2019 A few weeks ago I wrote how stunned I was to stumble across a notice that famous women’s rights activist Susan B. Anthony had delivered a lecture in Noblesville in 1879.
    I’d barely gotten over that surprise when I discovered Anthony wasn’t the only prominent member of the women’s suffrage movement to appear here. Belva Lockwood spoke in Noblesville on January 2, 1886. 
    If you’re scratching your head and muttering “Belva who?,” don’t feel too bad. I took an informal poll and none of the people I asked knew who she was, either. That’s a shame because she’s an important figure in United States history.
  • 3/8/2019 Sometimes, when I go through the old newspapers looking for column ideas, I find little, overlooked historical nuggets, like Susan B. Anthony’s appearance.
    Other times I’ve run across items that are just plain weird.
    Take the November 25, 1887 Noblesville Independent’s announcement that the Ladies’ Working Society of Noblesville’s Presbyterian Church would be holding a “Rat Supper.” Admission was 15 cents. “Rats will be served by Wgun Wah, Tong Hay, Ah Ying and Guy Ming.”
    Excuse me?
  • Revisiting the Ku Klux Klan
    3/1/2019 I had something else in mind for this week’s column, but a situation has arisen that needs to be addressed.
    In 1995, contractor and former Noblesville High School teacher Don Roberts stumbled across a collection of Ku Klux Klan membership cards in a home he was renovating. Rather than destroy the cards, he donated them to the Hamilton County Historical Society.
  • 2/22/2019 I am WAY overdue for a reader column. Time to correct that!
    Back in early December Dennis Hester wrote that he was hoping to find a history of Wayne Township’s Durbin School. His interest stems not only from the fact he was a student at the school himself (1941-1950,) but his mother, Ruth Hester, also taught there from 1941 to 1971.
    While I’ve run across a ton of references to Durbin School in the old newspapers, I’m not aware of any formal history. If someone out there is, let me know and I’ll pass the information along to Dennis.
  • 2/15/2019 Several years ago, while scrolling through the old newspapers on microfilm, I saw a notice in an 1880 Noblesville Ledger that “John Hoard, the colored man” had been elected constable of Noblesville by a “handsome majority.”
    That intrigued me because at the time I knew of only one African American who’d ever held an elected position in Hamilton County and that was the late Murphy White.
    Unfortunately, there weren’t enough details about Hoard in that small item to make a column, and in those days, trying to find biographical information on someone in the old newspapers was like hunting the needle in the haystack.
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Friday, April 19, 2019

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