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On This Day in Terre Haute History

On This Day in Terre Haute History

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On This Day in Terre Haute History

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Lançado em:
Oct 12, 2015


On the east bank of the Wabash River, Terre Haute was established as a real estate venture in 1816. Two hundred years of history is chronicled here, one day at a time, with stories of its remarkable events and colorful characters. In 1915, Coca-Cola introduced its iconic green bottle, designed and manufactured locally at Root Glass Company. Giving credit to the town's "Sin City" moniker, authorities seized the largest moonshine still ever discovered in Vigo County on July 15, 1929. Many notable Hoosiers have called Terre Haute home, too, including labor leader Eugene V. Debs and Tony Hulman of Indianapolis 500 fame. Every date on the calendar reveals a story to fascinate, educate or entertain.
Lançado em:
Oct 12, 2015

Sobre o autor

Dorothy Weinz Jerse has lived in her adopted city, Terre Haute, Indiana, for more than fifty years. She is a graduate of Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College, the former curator of the Vigo County Historical Society and executive director of the Terre Haute YWCA. The author or co-author of six local history publications, she continues as a freelance writer for the Tribune-Star and Terre Haute Living magazine.

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On This Day in Terre Haute History - Dorothy Weinz Jerse



The story of local history can be presented in many ways. The invitation to write this book offered a challenge I could not refuse. My previous publications have presented the material by category or chronologically. This assignment called for filling each day of the calendar year with a local event. At first I wondered if I could find an event for each day. Instead, I found a number of events, and choosing just one was often very difficult. I hope you, the reader, will find my choices to be interesting.



1900—Happy New Year

The Terre Haute Express asked several prominent local merchants their predictions for the first year of the new century. Anton Hulman of Hulman and Company said, It is going to be a good year, but I do not anticipate doing any better…the year 1899 has been the largest year in the business of this house…Yes, the trade is in excellent shape…taking advantage of the discounts and paying their bills in prompt cash instead of waiting sixty days.

W.S. Rea of Bement, Rea and Company commented, The country is in first-rate condition. The higher prices are not likely to retard trade. Terre Haute has not felt them much yet, as it has been one of the slowest towns in the country to raise prices.

W.H. Albrecht, wholesale and retail dry goods merchant, summed it up well: From all I hear in every direction 1900 is going to be a ‘cracker jack’ year.


1963—Home Packing Explosion

A blast ripped through the Home Packing Company plant at 400 North First Street a few minutes after 7:00 a.m. Sections of the roof and a wall collapsed, piling debris and rubble over the workers. Minutes later, seventeen workers were dead and fifty-two injured. Personnel from area mines shored up the building to allow rescuers, hindered by ammonia fumes, to search for victims. Terre Haute policemen, firefighters and physicians, along with Civil Defense, Red Cross and Indiana National Guard teams, responded. An emergency first aid station was set up at the County Highway Garage at Second and Ohio Streets; the injured were transported to Saint Anthony Hospital. Robert Scott, company president, surveyed the damage where his brother, Don Scott, lost his life. Just the month before, the building had been designated as a fallout shelter by Civil Defense. A historical marker was dedicated on the site in 2015.


1913—Police Department

Daniel Fasig, superintendent of police under the administration of Mayor Louis Gerhardt, issued his annual report for the year 1912. His department was composed of eighty-two individuals, among whom were included sixty patrolmen, five detectives and nine plainclothes officers. A court bailiff, matron and clerk; a humane officer; and a police surgeon were also among those listed. His remarks read, in part:

The automobile patrol, which was installed January 1, 1912, has proved to be more efficient than the horses, and the cost of maintenance is less. I call your attention to the ambulance in use at the present time. This ambulance has been in continuous service for about eighteen years, and at the present time is not in fit condition for ambulance duty. I would suggest that the ambulance be done away, the horses sold, and an automobile ambulance purchased.



The Indiana-American Water Company, Inc., had begun to comply with a judge’s order to fluoridate the water supplies to Terre Haute and Seelyville. The Terre Haute City Council had approved the fluoridation ordinance thirty years before, but Mayor Ralph Tucker vetoed it and the council erased the veto. Another ordinance, passed in 1959, was repealed by the council to the amazement of fluoridation proponents. The issue continued to be very controversial in the community. In 1984, an anti-group filed suit to prevent water company action on the Board of Health fluoridation order under Dr. W.W. Drummy, county health officer. The judge’s order, as reported this week, was expected to finish this issue debated for three decades. Yet in John Halladay’s Tribune-Star interview with Darrell E. Felling, attorney for Seelyville, Felling said, They were not ready to open the faucet to fluoridation—not yet anyway.


1967—Ivy Tech

The Wabash Valley Region of Indiana Vocational Technical College (Ivy Tech) was chartered. It was the first region to have a permanent location, as the site five miles south of downtown Terre Haute on U.S. 41 had been acquired earlier. C. Huston Isaacs, director, presided over the groundbreaking ceremonies on June 30, 1968. Prospective students and their parents were invited to an open house on May 3, 1969; they were informed that fees would not exceed $100 each quarter. In September, 150 full-time students began classes in auto mechanics, auto body repair and painting, diesel mechanics, welding, accounting, drafting, electronics and secretarial science. Forty years later, the 2009–10 enrollment was 9,405 students working toward associate degrees and/or technical certificates and credits that could be transferred to four-year schools throughout the state. Learn a living continued to be more than a slogan.


1870—Normal School

The State Normal School in Terre Haute opened with thirteen female and eight male students. Its object, as declared by law, was the preparation of teachers in the common schools of Indiana. The law required a Model School to be organized in connection with the Normal School, in which Normal students could be trained in teaching and managing schools. Admission required students to be sixteen years of age for women and eighteen years for men, be in good health, possess undoubted moral character and submit a written pledge that the student would teach in the common schools of Indiana for a period of twice the time spent as a Normal student. Tuition was free to all residents of the state. No religious or sectarian tenets were to be taught, but Christian morality was to be observed. The institution became Indiana State Teachers College in 1929, Indiana State College in 1961 and Indiana State University in 1965.

Old Main was constructed in 1889 on the east side of North Sixth Street after a fire destroyed the first campus building in 1888. Courtesy J. S. Calvert Collection.


1954—Motor Carriers Association

The results of a survey by the Terre Haute Motor Carriers Association were released today. Bert L. Wheat, president, pointed out the terrific impact trucking had on the local economy. Terre Haute was one of the six largest trucking centers in the state. Motor Freight Corporation, which began operation in 1928, was serving 267 midwestern communities. The city was also home to Eastern Motor Express, the largest motor freight line in the state, employing 244 workers at its Terre Haute headquarters. Other national lines with home offices in the city included Lovelace Truck Service, Gerard Motor Express, Green Line Motor Express and Merchants Freight System, founded in 1923 by F.S. Yenowine as the city’s pioneer trucking firm. Eleven other over-the-road firms used city truck terminals and provided service to the city. J.W. Coakley, president of Teamster’s Local 144, who had seen the industry grow after World War II, commented, Trucking ought to be our community’s No. 1 business.


1979—New Elementary Schools

Deming Elementary School was the first of four new elementary schools for grades kindergarten through six to be opened this year by the Vigo County School Corporation. An enrollment of 484 students occupied the new building that had replaced the old Deming and Lange Elementary Schools. DeVaney Elementary was occupied on February 19, replacing Montrose and Thornton Schools. Enrollment was 489 students. A total of 478 students moved into the new Ouabache Elementary, which replaced Collett and Rea Schools on March 19. Occupancy of Hoosier Prairie Elementary, which would move Pimento School students and some who had attended Dixie Bee, was delayed. An enrollment of 500 was expected.

The Deming, Montrose and Collett school buildings would be razed. Covered Bridge Special Education District offices were housed in the former Lange building; the Thornton building was being converted into an instructional materials center.


1957—Tribune-Star Cooking School

The four-day annual Cooking School was in session each morning at the Grand Theater at Seventh and Cherry Streets. Long before the doors opened at 9:00 a.m., women began congregating in front of the theater to be sure of seats. The theme for this year’s two-hour daily sessions was Rhapsody of Recipes, presented by Florence Gattshall and Alice Watters of the National Livestock and Meat Board. Laurine Hardie, consumer education agent, represented the Vigo County Extension Service and Helen Ryan the newspaper. Members of Tri Kappa assisted in the smooth operation of the event. As in former and future years, the cooking school was free. Overflow audiences were made up of homemakers, teachers, students and club groups from throughout the Wabash Valley. Everyone attending received a free recipe book, and the lucky ones won one of the fifteen food baskets given away at the close of each day’s session.


2003—Interstate 69

Governor Frank O’Bannon’s announcement that Interstate 69 between Indianapolis and Evansville would be constructed over new terrain past Bloomington was front-page news in the Tribune-Star. County and city officials and the Greater Terre Haute Chamber of Commerce had worked very hard for a long time promoting the use of Interstate 70 and U.S. 41 for this new portion of Interstate 69, but now the new road would bypass both of them. Bert Williams Jr., chairman of the I-70/U.S. 41 task force, said, It will cost hundreds of millions of dollars more than the upgrading of U.S. 41. The upgrade of U.S. 41 is at least 50 miles of road construction less and lots of money less and that money will be robbed from road projects of other communities. So the next time your car hits a pothole in South Bend, thank the governor.


1940—Interurban Service

Once an interurban center, Terre Haute saw passenger service to Indianapolis end on this day, forty years after the first line in the Wabash Valley was completed from Terre Haute to Brazil. The Clinton line was constructed to Ellsworth (North Terre Haute) and on to Clinton in 1903. Service was offered to West Terre Haute in 1905; Farmersburg, Shelburn and Sullivan in 1906; Greencastle in 1907; and Indianapolis in 1908. In 1952, local historian A.R. Markle explained:

Almost any community of any size, on this wide-spread system, was a station though it seldom had a ticket office and all freight was prepaid. The numerous unnamed stops, which in many cases were only road crossings, were actually whistle stops, where one-half mile away the motor man sounded his air chime, and people desiring to board the car stood at the side of the track and waved their hand in the daytime or burned a newspaper torch at night to attract his attention.


1842—Another Soldier Gone

Joshua Patrick, an American Revolutionary War veteran, died on this day. A muffled drum announced the funeral procession to the Congregational Church, where the Reverend M.A. Jewett delivered the sermon. Patrick was buried in the new Woodlawn Cemetery. The obituary in the Wabash Courier was captioned, Another Soldier Gone.

The publication of Revolutionary Soldiers of Vigo County, Indiana by Dorothy J. Clark, under the sponsorship of the Fort Harrison Chapter, Daughters of the American Revolution, in 1976, lists Patrick as one of the thirty-eight veterans who had some connection with the early years in the Terre Haute area: Of these it is known where twenty-seven are buried within the county…Born in far places, they entered the army, fought for and would have died for that spiritual intangible thing—freedom. In maturity, they sought a new land where they might live in freedom and leave to their children that priceless heritage—freedom.


1974—Snow Removal

According to the Saturday Spectator:

A few years ago after a heavy snowfall, Mayor Leland Larrison took a lot of criticism for the city’s inability to clear the streets of the city effectively. God sent it, and God will take it away, was his reply. Larrison may or may not have said those words, but in any case they accurately sum up Terre Haute’s usual response to any sort of snowfall. It was true during Mayor Ralph Tucker’s long regime, just as it was during Mayor Larrison’s and now, as simply demonstrated by the last two snowfalls, during Mayor Brighton’s administration…The agonies were many: stuck cars, slippery roads, lost time, canceled meetings, decreased business, falls, colds and other assorted ills. But Terre Hauteans can take heart. As Mayor Larrison noted, God will take it away. Eventually.


2000—Historic Haley Tower

The Haley Tower was moved to be the cornerstone at the Wabash Valley Railroaders Museum, at 1316 Plum Street, by the Haley Tower Historical and Technical Society. On the morning of October 22, 1999, at 7:00 a.m. CSX time, Haley ceased operations, ending seventy-five years of service as a manned interlocking tower. CSX Transportation sold the tower to the society for one dollar after the tower work was performed via switches operated by a dispatcher in corporate headquarters in Jacksonville, Florida. The Spring Hill Tower was purchased by the society in 2000 and moved to the museum site in 2001. Other acquisitions include a 1943 caboose, a ninety-nine-year-old Pennsylvania Railroad car built in Terre Haute and a World War II vintage Pullman troop sleeper car. The society operates this railroader museum as an ongoing tribute to the men and women of the railroad industry…past, present and future.


1917—One-Street Downtown

Why were the majority of retailers located on Wabash Avenue until the move south began in the 1960s? The Saturday Spectator gave this opinion:

When the start is made in the direction of making Terre Haute something besides a one-street town, there is going to be an exodus of merchants from Wabash Avenue, where for the last few years owners of business property have squeezed every penny possible from the store keepers in the matter of rents. There are buildings on Wabash Avenue renting for $300 to $500 a month that in reality ought to be condemned…[The owners] point to their old buildings as worthless shells, and plead they are being taxed to death; yet when it comes to rentals, the screws are clamped down on the merchant who feels he must stay on Wabash Avenue or get out of business.

This column also predicted that Ohio Street would become as good a business street as Wabash, but the majority of retailers remained on Wabash.


1943—USO Lounge

The opening of Terre Haute’s second USO lounge to serve armed forces in transit had the distinction of being the 100th USO lounge in the country. It was named for the late Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin H. Wimer, veteran of the Spanish-American War, the Mexican Border Campaign and World War I. It served service personnel traveling through Terre Haute by bus, whereas the first USO lounge in the city served those traveling by rail. The Union Station lounge opened on November 14, 1942, staffed by forty-seven volunteer hostesses serving six hours each week and aided by seventeen substitutes. In addition, to meet the needs of U. S. Army cadets and U. S. Navy V-5 and V-12 men stationed on local campuses, USO lounges were made available at the YWCA and at the parish house of Saint Stephen’s Episcopal Church.

The bus station at Sixth and Cherry Streets was located adjacent to this USO lounge established in a former gas station. Courtesy Vigo County Historical Society.


1936—Oakley Economy Stores

Twenty-seven years ago, H.N. Oakley opened his first small grocery store at 1105 Wabash Avenue. Since then, he has built an organization of sixty food stores throughout the Wabash Valley employing more than three hundred people. But on this day, each of the stores in the chain was closed to make them all self-service to cut operating costs. On the next day, a Saturday, the grand opening of the serve yourself system was inaugurated. Oakley sold his chain to the Kroger Company in 1939, and the name changed to Oakley-Kroger Economy stores. In 1954, the Hollie and Anna Oakley Foundation was formed to promote religious, educational and charitable purposes, particularly in the states of Indiana and Florida. Recent Oakley Foundation projects have included the Ivy Tech Oakley Auditorium, the Oakley Playground in Deming Park and Oakley Place at Third and Cherry Streets on the Indiana State University campus.


1919—Detective Dorley

Physicians at Saint Anthony Hospital reported that Detective Matthew Dorley, who had been shot by Raymond Buck Smith, had very little chance of recovery. He died five days later. Smith had died the day before from bullet wounds inflicted by Detective William Baker. His last words to the physicians were to get him well, so he could get some more police. Dorley, a member of the Terre Haute Police Department since 1900, and Baker had battled with three

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