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.)

It seems around the year 1900 local farmers would gather at a store on the corner of State Road 32 and Durbin Road. They wanted to get a post office established there, and to accomplish that they promised to name the town after Governor Durbin.

The original Durbin school sat north of State Road 32. Durbin’s current school, an elementary in the Hamilton Southeastern system, was constructed at the intersection of Middletown Avenue and Durbin Road in the 1980s.

Tom also mentioned that Middletown Avenue was an old Indian trail and nearby farmers had many Indian artifacts. He noted that the school’s athletic teams were originally called the Warriors.

After the column on African Americans in local politics ran, Paula Gilliam emailed that Eli N. Roberts, who campaigned for the Republican nomination for Hamilton County Recorder in 1880, was her great-uncle. Eli’s brother, William P. Roberts, was Paula’s great-grandfather.

Paula added that Eli and William’s homes in the Roberts Settlement area are still standing.

(By the way, Paula has been carrying on the family political tradition, having been a Democratic candidate for the Noblesville City Council since 2007.)
I am SO glad I used the phrase,“To my knowledge,” when I described John Hoard and John M. Porter as the only African Americans to hold elected offices in this county until Murphy White’s election. I recently ran across three more African American office holders.

In 1888, Noblesville voters elected Willis Venable justice of the peace, and Layton Hampton and J. M. Winslow were chosen as constables.
Born a slave, Squire (that’s what they called justices of the peace then) Willis Venable was a familiar figure to nearly everyone in town at the time of his death in 1901. His obituary notes that the local children were especially fond of him because he always made an effort to amuse them.

Several of Squire Venable’s court cases pop up in the old newspapers, along with some marriages he performed and a few editorial letters he penned.
Layton “Late” Hampton was elected constable in 1888 and again in 1890.

Although living in Indianapolis at the time of his death, Hampton spent most of his life in Noblesville. Curiously, his obituary in the December 18, 1920 Noblesville Daily Ledger fails to mention his service as constable. It mainly covers his work as a hod carrier during the 1870s and ‘80s.

I tried to find Winslow’s given name, but information on him is scanty, perhaps because several newspaper issues from that time period are missing.
Also, it appears Winslow died the same year he was elected. The December 21, 1938 Ledger notes the death, 50 years earlier, of the highly respected “J. H. Winslow” (I suspect they meant “J. M.,”) who’d been voted constable at the election earlier that year.

The Blatchley Nature Study Club’s annual Spring Wildflower Walk will take place Saturday, April 27, from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Guided tours of the wildflowers in the club’s sanctuary are free and open to the public. Just follow the signs north of Potter’s Bridge to the Blatchley clubhouse, 125 Boulder Dr., in Noblesville.

-Paula Dunn’s From Time to Thyme column appears each Friday in The Times. Contact her at younggardenerfriend@gmail.com