Primary Source: Fall News from the Indiana Historical Bureau

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Fall 2016  |  News from the Indiana Historical Bureau


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Bilby Steel Tower

On November 5, 2016, the state historical marker honoring the Bilby Steel Tower was dedicated in Osgood, Indiana. The marker examines the tower's revolutionary impact on the accuracy and efficiency of geodetic mapping, which served as a foundation to GPS navigation. It also recognizes the science behind surveying, and its impact on transportation, land use, technology, and the economy. IHB thanks the Surveyors Historical Society for applying for this marker and helping to plan the dedication ceremony. The marker text reads:

Jasper Sherman Bilby, internationally known surveyor, moved to Ripley County by 1893. Joined U.S. Coast and Geodetic Survey in 1884. He performed geodetic surveys, accounting for the curvature of the earth, for commercial and infrastructure purposes. Invented Bilby Steel Tower, 1926-27; improved efficiency and cost. Herbert Hoover commended Bilby’s invention in 1927. Bilby’s tower allowed surveyors to sight over obstacles when measuring long distances. Made of steel instead of wood, they were reusable, portable, and quickly assembled. Saved federal government $3,072,000 within first ten years of use. Used nationally and internationally for over 50 years; the resulting data served as foundation to modern mapping and GPS.

Find out more about Bilby's interesting career through our Blogging Hoosier History posts by Justin Clark, Jasper Sherman Bilby: To Map the Earth Part I and Part II.

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Senate Avenue YMCA

On October 20, the state historical marker commemorating the Senate Avenue YMCA was dedicated in Indianapolis.  The YMCA of Greater Indianapolis sponsored this marker and planned the dedication.  Despite the cold and rain, nearly 60 people showed up for the ceremony.  The event was also covered by WISH-TV. The marker text reads:

African-American leaders formed the Young Men’s Prayer Band in 1900. It became a branch of the city YMCA by 1910. Black and white leaders helped raise funds for a new building here, which opened as the Senate Avenue YMCA in 1913. Booker T. Washington dedicated the building and Faburn DeFrantz led it from 1916-1951. It became one of the largest black YMCAs in the U.S. The Senate Avenue YMCA became a center of community life, social activism, and education for African Americans. For decades, it sponsored “Monster Meetings” with national leaders including Martin Luther King, Jr., W.E.B. Du Bois, George Washington Carver, and Eleanor Roosevelt. The Indianapolis YMCA integrated in 1950. The Senate Avenue YMCA moved to Fall Creek in 1959.

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Central State Hospital

On October 6, the state historical marker commemorating Central State Hospital was dedicated in Indianapolis, with approximately 50 people attending the event.  IHB would like to thank the Indiana Medical History Museum for applying for this marker.

The marker text reads:

People with mental illness were confined to jails and almshouses, often suffering neglect, before Dr. John Evans and local physicians advocated for their treatment; 1840s state laws established hospital here. In 1848, first patients admitted to Indiana Hospital for the Insane; treated for mental illness and addiction. Farm colony work and recreation used as therapy. Since hospital’s opening, lack of funding and understaffing led to patient abuse and neglect; Superintendent Dr. Fletcher attempted to rectify this and burned patient restraints in a bonfire, 1883. Groundbreaking pathology lab opened 1896, served as state teaching hospital. Renamed Central State Hospital in 1927. Closed in 1994 with the goal of community-based care.

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James Overall

On September 29, the state historical marker honoring James Overall was dedicated in Indianapolis.  A ceremony was held inside the Madame Walker Theatre to discuss Overall's significance and the importance of the marker. Thanks to Maxine Brown and the Society of Indiana Pioneers for their support of this project! The text of the marker reads:

Overall, a free African American, sold his properties in Corydon, moved with his family to Indianapolis by 1830, and bought land near here 1832. He became a leader in small black community and played active role in growth of AME Church. Overall’s aid to enslaved persons in 1835 is documented in the escape narrative of black New York abolitionist Jermain Wesley Loguen. In March 1836, Overall shot a white gang member while defending his home and family from attack; white allies came to his aid. Despite an 1831 Indiana law that barred black testimony against whites in court, he sought legal protection from further attack. Though blacks had few legal rights, a judge affirmed Overall’s “natural” right to defend his family and property.

Read more on the IHB Blog - James Overall: Indiana Free Person of Color and the "Natural Rights of Men." Read more about Overall and the dedication through the Indianapolis Star and view their picture gallery of the event.

Upcoming Marker Dedication

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“Chapman Harris” Indiana State Historical Marker Will Be Dedicated Near Madison, Indiana

 A public dedication ceremony for an Indiana state historical marker commemorating Underground Railroad operative Chapman Harris is scheduled for Friday, November 18, 2016. The marker dedication will begin at 1:00 p.m. at the intersection of Eagle Hollow Rd. and SR 56 (Ohio River Scenic Byway) just east of Madison, Indiana, near the Eagle Hollow Marina. Attendees can park at the campground across the street from the marker, just south of SR 56.

The text for the “Chapman Harris” marker reads:

Harris, a free African American, came to Madison, 1839, as the fight over slavery along the Ohio River became more violent. He worked as a teamster, farmer, and Baptist minister. His family owned land in Eagle Hollow and Madison. Harris’s activities to aid enslaved persons crossing the Ohio River at Madison became widely known throughout Indiana after the Civil War. Harris faced assaults from slave-catchers; his hostility toward them and their allies led to his arrest and conviction for causing a riot in Madison, 1847. After the Civil War, Harris’s influence continued as local political leaders sought his help to promote allegiance to the Republican Party among newly enfranchised African American voters. He died in 1890.

You're invited to attend the dedication ceremony for this Indiana state historical marker that examines race relations along the Ohio River in the years prior to the Civil War and commemorates Harris’s efforts to aid escaping slaves despite threats to his own safety and freedom. The dedication will include first-person interpretation, with Lillian Sue Livers portraying Chapman Harris’s wife, Patsey Ann Allen.

NEW 2017 Marker Applications Approved

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IHB would like to thank everyone who submitted Intent to Apply forms and Applications for this year's Marker Program. We received a record number of submissions this year and are excited to begin working on topics that were approved by the Indiana Library and Historical Board at its meeting on October 7. 

Interested in applying for a new marker? The next time to apply will be in the spring of 2017. Be sure to check our website and upcoming newsletters for details and deadlines.

Topics Approved by the Board for 2017:
Birthplace of Poet Kenneth Rexroth, St. Joseph Co.
Better Homes of South Bend, St. Joseph Co.
Killing of FBI Special Agent Nelson B. Klein, Union Co.
St. Augustine's Home for the Aged (Little Sisters of the Poor), Marion Co.
Eugenic Sterilization Program and Law, Clark Co.
Creek Chub Bait Company, DeKalb Co.
Home of Erwin "Cannon Ball" Baker, Marion Co.
Passenger Pigeon, Franklin Co.
Red Skelton, Knox Co.
Caroline Scott Harrison, Marion Co.
Indian Murders in 1824 and the American Justice System (Fall Creek Massacre), Madison Co.
T.C. Steele Home and Studio, Brown Co.
Demise of German Language Newspapers, Marion Co.
Booth Tarkington, Marion Co.
Madame Walker, Marion Co.
Monrovia: Home of Branch McCracken, Morgan Co.

Marker Survey Close to Complete!


Hunt for Hoosier History during Indiana’s Bicentennial

This year, during Indiana’s Bicentennial, IHB is working to complete a comprehensive survey of every state historical marker installed across Indiana since the mid-1940s – over 600! Thank you to everyone who has already submitted photos!

We only have a few counties left!

IHB is currently surveying Sullivan, Vigo, Parke, Vanderburgh, and Marion counties and we need your help! If you live, work, or play by an Indiana state historical marker or come across any in your travels, please snap a few photos and send them to us at or tweet them to us @in_bureau. Feel free to make it a selfie! You may be surprised at the number of markers you pass each day.

Interested in learning about what markers are in your county? See our website for more information. Once there, you can also access additional information on the marker topic, including marker reviews, detailed annotations, and links to extra resources.

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Get Involved!

Looking for a way to get involved during the Bicentennial? Consider repainting one of our state historical markers! IHB has seen a large increase in the number of groups and individuals interested in repainting markers this year. We want to extend a big thank you to everyone who has volunteered thus far and helped us preserve this history for future generations.

If you are interested in repainting a marker near you, please contact us at This year’s volunteers have included county historians, local bicentennial coordinators, school groups, libraries, 4-H groups, and many individual citizens. Thanks to all!


IHB thanks Bonnie Maxwell, Carroll County Bicentennial Coordinator, and other volunteers in the county for helping to repaint our Wabash and Erie Canal marker (pictured above) and Sycamore Row marker this summer. Thanks to their efforts, these markers have been restored to excellent condition!

Blogging Hoosier History Highlights


We are lucky to have Annette Scherber as an intern this school year, a fantastic graduate student from the IUPUI Public History. She has written some great posts for the IHB Blog, including:

Charles C. Deam: From Typhoid Survivor to the Great Hoosier Botanist

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After surviving typhoid fever at 16 via an old pioneer remedy of boiled milk and Old-Field Balsam, Charles Deam's botanist spirit was ignited and Indiana's forests and fauna never the same.

Learn about Deam's dedication to Hoosier plant life as a botanist, 1st state forester, and author (and find out what his "weed wagon" was):

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Annette Scherber also used her research to write a related post for Indiana Humanities' Next Indiana Campfires blog.  Check out: Indiana's Father of Forestry

(Next Indiana Campfires is a unique way to connect nature, literature and Indiana’s Bicentennial)


Lincoln's Forgotten Visit to Indianapolis


The most popular fall post from the Indiana Historical Bureau blog was one by Director Chandler Lighty: Lincoln's Forgotten Visit to Indianapolis

Quick, Abraham Lincoln buffs! Can you name all the dates Lincoln delivered a public address in Indiana after moving to Illinois in 1830?

Did you guess February 11 and 12, 1861? That visit occurred during his trip to Washington to be inaugurated.  The next two are probably tougher to guess.  Advanced Lincoln enthusiasts are likely able to identify his visit to his childhood home in 1844 while campaigning for Henry Clay for president.

A third visit to Indiana in 1859, the subject of Lighty’s blog post, is largely forgotten.  But, did his address to an Indianapolis audience spur his ascent to the presidency?  Read the blog to find out!

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Social Media Highlights

Check out the two posts that our social media followers liked best. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.



Did you know that renowned astronomer Edwin Hubble taught at New Albany High School for the 1913-1914 school year?

The beloved Mr. Hubble instructed students in Spanish, Mathematics, and Physics. He also oversaw study hall and coached the basketball team. Although he didn't stay long, he endeared himself to students, inspiring a dedication to him in their high school yearbook. After trying his hand at teaching, Hubble went on to change how humans conceive of the universe and is credited as "the man who discovered the cosmos."

Learn more about the legendary scientist:

dick and jane


Q: Which Hoosier helped nearly 85 million American children learn to read?

A: Zerna Sharp, creator of the iconic Dick and Jane children’s books. The Hillisburg native taught elementary school in Indiana, before taking a job as a textbook consultant. Sharp believed children were expected to learn too many new words at once, which discouraged their interest in reading. She created the Dick and Jane illustrated primers, which followed the adventures of a brother and sister. Children she observed playing on the beach in Chicago inspired the dialogue and plot, making the tales realistic for her young readers. Schools used these books widely from the 1930s through the 1970s.

Learn more about the Sharp Hoosier:

Hoosier Homecoming


Hoosier Homecoming

On October 15, as a part of the bicentennial celebration, IHB participated in the Hoosier Homecoming. We were there for the dedication of the Bicentennial Plaza and the Statehouse Education Center in the State Library, and to celebrate the Bicentennial Torch Relay. We met many of you in the plaza where we were set up with items from the IHB Shop (which is now online!).  But that's not all...


IHB Historians Present

At the homecoming event, IHB historians presented talks at the Indiana State Library on a range of subjects from Abraham Lincoln to Hoosier basketball to 19th-century spiritualism.  IHB Outreach Coordinator Lindsey Beckley presented her talk on Camp Chesterfield to an interested audience - a perfect lead-in to Halloween!  You can read the blog post based on her research on Blogging Hoosier History.

Indiana State Flag Talk at Lafayette


On October 4, IHB Research & Digital Content Editor Nicole Poletika spoke at the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette as part of the museum’s bicentennial gallery series. She discussed the history of the Indiana State Flag, including why it was not recognized by Hoosiers for decades, and how it symbolized home in wars abroad.

She also informed the audience about the life and artistic career of the flag’s designer Paul Hadley, of Mooresville. The talk was followed by a viewing of the banner. Check out IHB’s new Indiana State Flag marker and learn more about its history:

PHOTO: Indiana State Representative, Shelia Klinker; Kendall Smith, Executive Director, Art Museum if Greater Lafayette; Indiana State Senator, Ron Alting, courtesy of Susan Chavers.


New Online IHB Shop!

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You can now shop and check out online at:!

New Shop Items

Holiday Gifts

Upcoming Events

The IHB Gift Shop has something for everyone on your holiday shopping list! For bicentennial souvenirs, ornaments, hand blown glass, and more visit our shop in the Indiana State Library or our online shop at!

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Spirit & Place

The Spirit & Place Festival aims to be a catalyst for civic engagement through creative collaborations among the arts, humanities, and religion. This Saturday, November 12, Indiana Historical Bureau director Chandler Lighty will present an interactive experience using Hoosier State Chronicles. The day will also include the opportunity to learn about and participate in IUPUI's project Chronicling Hoosier.

Chronicling Hoosier will provide avid “Hoosier” hunters, burgeoning genealogists, and the just plain curious equal delight in discovering the power of digital historic newspapers.   Learn more from Spirit & Place.

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Hoosier Women at Work: Science, Technology, and Medicine


Building on the success of last year’s Hoosier Women at Work conference, IHB and the Indiana State Library will host “Hoosier Woman at Work," a women’s history symposium, on April 1, 2017.


This one-day conference explores and expands our knowledge of women’s contributions to Indiana’s science, technology, and medical fields via speakers, presentations, and panel discussions. Graduate students can win a $500 prize for best original scholarship. (Undergraduates are also encouraged to apply).


Learn how to submit your proposal:

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Stay Connected to History

Check out Blogging Hoosier History for more in-depth posts about Indiana's past.  Follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter , where you can find Hoosier history facts, stories, and resources.  Leave us comments too. We love hearing from you!

Did you miss the spring issue? Read it here.


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