Thursday, December 5, 2013

History in "Plane" Sight

Yesterday evening, a patron visited the Library with a handful of undated, unidentified photographs.  He said they were taken by Elvin Carlisle, a former resident of Mooresville, Indiana, who had moved to California at some point.  Otherwise, the patron had no details.  Could I determine when and where the photos were taken?

B-24 Liberator
(Click Images to Enlarge)

 Boeing-Stearman Kaydet

The biplane photos are Boeing-Stearman Kaydets, commonly used by the U.S. Army Air Corps and U.S. Navy as pilot trainers during the 1930s and 1940s.  Although it is impossible to definitively determine from these black-and-white photos, the lighter wing color against the darker body color (in two of the images) suggests that aircraft N610M (see number on tail and right upper wing) was Stearman model N2S (or model PT-17), commonly known as the "yellow peril," because of its bright yellow wings and tail.

Boeing-Stearman N2S (or PT-17)
("The Yellow Peril")

The presence of these biplanes in the Carlisle photos suggests World War II pilot training, which narrows the time period to, say, 1940-1945.  The B-24 photo, however, has details that enable us to more precisely date the pictures.

Early 1950s Automobiles

The automobiles in the background of the B-24 photo appear to be early 1950s models, so we may tentatively date the images circa 1950-1953.


Company Name

Our best clue is the company name on the building behind the B-24:  Skyways, Inc.  Preliminary Internet searches determined that Mary Zerbel Hooper Ford, a WWII RAF female pilot from Marquette, Michigan, and her second husband, WWII American flying ace Jack Ford (from Los Angeles, California), opened an aircraft ferrying business, Fleetway, Inc., in the Los Angeles area following war's end.  They later changed the company name to Skyways, Inc.  During the late 1940s and through the 1950s, the Fords and their staff (as many as 50 pilots) delivered hundreds of war surplus aircraft to various air forces and civilian aircraft enterprises worldwide.  Jack Ford was killed in a plane crash in August, 1959.  (Richardson, August 2012 online newsletter).

Having narrowed the probable location of the photos to the Los Angeles area, we should determine if other details from the pictures reinforce this conclusion.  We know from our patron that Elvin Carlisle (who took the photos) moved to California following WWII.  Skyways, Inc. operated in the Los Angeles area.  Are those mountains behind the automobiles in the B-24 picture?  It could be simply an airplane hanger.  Certainly, the grounds in the photos seem arid--what little grass is light-colored, and there are no shrubs or trees (of course, it is an airport, so the absence of trees can be readily explained on that basis)--so a southern California climate is slightly suggested.  Our best indication, of course, is Skyways, Inc., and the 1950s style cars, from which we may safely date Carlisle's photos to the early 1950s around Los Angeles.

 Elvin Carlisle lived in a house on the northeast corner of Indiana and South Streets in Mooresville.  From the late 1960s until around 2011, this was the location of a Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) restaurant, as discussed in one of my colleague's blog posts.

Elvin Carlisle died on January 31, 1984, in Los Angeles, where he is buried.


"Boeing-Stearman Model 75," Wikipedia.  Available online at (retrieved Dec. 5, 2013).

"Elvin Carlisle Obituary," Mooresville Times, Feb. 15, 1984, p. 17a.

Richardson, Frank.  "Back Then: Two Extraordinary Marquette Women Flew in World War II," Marquette Monthly (August, 2012).  Available online at (retrieved Dec. 4, 2013).

Friday, October 18, 2013

Morgan County Cemeteries Database

Genealogy research just became easier for persons searching for burials in Morgan County cemeteries. Try the Morgan County online cemetery database, courtesy of Morgan County Public Library.  Click the logo below to access this valuable resource.

Click Logo to Access Database

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

A Brief Mooresville Historical Sketch From Half a Century Ago

On April 11, 1966, as part of Indiana's sesquicentennial celebration, The Messenger, a Plainfield, Indiana newspaper (1964-1984), published a special supplement entitled "Mooresville Week," in which some of the community's historical highlights were showcased.  The articles were written by Wanda Potts, late Indiana Room Librarian at Mooresville Public Library (1966-2002) and Town Historian.  Click the hyperlinks below to read this special four-page edition, which, due to their respective file sizes, we have digitized into parts.  Long-time residents will enjoy the advertisements from nearly 50 years ago.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

2013 Banned Books Week

The American Library Association (ALA) celebrates your right to choose what you want to read year-round but especially next week during Banned Books Week (September 22-28, 2013).  Discover what you're missing at your favorite library. Read banned books (or listen to banned audiobooks or playaways or other formats).  Our promo trailers explain.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Historic Family Barn

Family histories are filled with little known artifacts that were famous in times past but have long since been buried beneath the accumulating dust of passing decades.  Such is the history of this round barn, built by one of my wife's collateral ancestors.  The round barn is located along state road 57 four miles south of Washington, Indiana, at the junction of county road 450 south (in Daviess County). Click the images below to enlarge.

Janet E. Buckley standing before the round barn (looking south)
Built in 1908 by her paternal great-great uncle, Thomas C. Singleton
(Architect:  Benton Steele; Builders:  Bugler, G. Scudder & A. Ragsdale)

 Name & date appearing on the northern side of the barn
(facing county road 450 south)

 The former Thomas Singleton farm
(as seen from state road 57, looking west northwest)

 The southern side of the barn (looking north)
(Singleton's former farmhouse appears to the right)

The barn (looking southwest)
(as seen near state road 57 & county road 450 south)
(Above photos copyright © 2013 by William R. Buckley.  Used by permission.)

Thomas C. Singleton (left) standing in front of his barn
(looking south) (circa 1927)
(Photo copyright © 2013 by Charles D. Griffin.  Used by permission.)

Janet's father, Charles D. Griffin, was Thomas Singleton's great nephew.  Charles, an Indianapolis native who attended Shortridge High School as an underclassman when Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., was a senior, spent many fond childhood summers visiting and working at Singleton's farm.  But that's not why this round barn is famous.

Mug shot of D. C. Stephenson (1925)

In 1925, D. C. Stephenson, grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in Indiana, was tried and convicted of the kidnapping, rape, and murder of Madge Oberholtzer, a state education official. While in prison in 1927, after failing to secure a pardon from the state's klan-affiliated governor, Edward L. Jackson, Stephenson vowed revenge by leaking documents to the Indianapolis News that identified numerous Hoosier elected officials (both state and local) who were bankrolled by the KKK. These documents were hidden in two "black boxes" somewhere in the state, and Stephenson finally told reporters that they were secreted in Thomas Singleton's barn.

Thomas Singleton had no knowledge of the black boxes--he had absolutely no klan connections whatever--and was as shocked as anyone when, in July, 1927, Marion County's deputy prosecuting attorney, Emsley W. Johnson, Sr., met with Stephenson's longtime friend, Evansville businessman L. G. Julian, to recover the hidden black boxes from Singleton's barn.

Independence Day family gathering (July 3, 1918)
Emsley Johnson, Sr. with his children,
Emsley Jr. (nicknamed "Brother")
(later a Marion County Superior Court Judge [1946-47]),
and Mardenna, standing with Emsley Sr.'s mother-in-law,
Dennie Singleton Griffin
(Photo copyright © 2013 by Charles D. Griffin.  Used by permission.)

Emsley Johnson, Sr. playing with his children, Mardenna & Emsley Jr.,
at an Independence Day family gathering (July 3, 1918)
(Photo copyright © 2013 by Charles D. Griffin.  Used by permission.)

By an amazing coincidence, Emsley Johnson, Sr. was a nephew (by marriage) of Thomas Singleton.  Johnson knew first-hand that Singleton was innocent of any involvement with the boxes.  Stephenson probably arranged with L. G. Julian to have the boxes secured in a remote location that could be easily found when subsequently needed.  The round barn's identification (visible from the road) and its location along a prominent state highway (57) immediately south of a county seat (Washington, Daviess County, Indiana) made it an ideal hiding place.

1927 Rand McNally road atlas (Indiana)
(showing state road 57 running through Washington)

The evidence discovered in Stephenson's two black boxes resulted in the prosecution and conviction of numerous KKK-affiliated elected officials.  It marked the collapse of the klan's political power in Indiana.

Today, Thomas Singleton's round barn is noted in photo books (such as this) showcasing interesting Hoosier rural architecture.  Few people know about its role in ridding Indiana government of corruption during the years before the Great Depression. It is an interesting historical anecdote, but for Singleton's great nephew, Charles Griffin, the barn remains primarily a place of happy summers spent with family working their farm.

Don Cosby wrote a three-part series in the The Washington Times-Herald (2010) detailing Singleton's barn and its role in bringing down the KKK in Indiana. Parts one, two, and three are available online.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

MPL Bookworm in 2013 Old Settlers Parade

The MPL bookworm float made the "hit parade" this afternoon during the annual Old Settlers parade through downtown Mooresville on its way to Pioneer Park (and the Old Settlers festival itself).  Click images to enlarge.

Since the bookworm was facing left (and our photographer was on the right-hand side of the street), you can't see the bookworm's face very well. Fortunately, we have other photos from a previous blog post.

Great job, MPL float team!

Be sure to visit the Library's booth at the Old Settlers Festival (today through Tuesday, August 6).  There's bound to be some great giveaway stuff.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

I Spy Local History Sliding By

Watch local history unfold before your very eyes!  It's a neat trick, if one can pull it off.

 Click Images to Bigify

Mystery Fingers Erase Letters in Our Messages!

The slideshow continuously runs on our monitor next to our adult information desk (in the Library's grand hall).  Take a peek next time you're here.  You can't miss it.  Just look for the group of patrons looking up, like in the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), directed by Steven Spielberg.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Local History Reading For Old Settlers

Mooresville's Old Settlers picnic, festival, and parade are fast approaching.  This book display from the Indiana Room collections provides many interesting items about our local history.

 Click Images to Enlarge

When is the celebration?  Our handy sign says August 4-5-6, as we previously blogged.

There are loads of great books about local history (Mooresville and Morgan County, as well as Hendricks County, which is literally on the north edge of town, and some general Hoosier historical texts).  Check them out using your Evergreen Indiana library card.

About this time each year, we reprise our video recounting the history of the Old Settlers picnic.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Slice of Local School History

Last night (Tuesday, July 9, 2013) at its monthly school board meeting, the Mooresville Consolidated School Corporation (MCSC) opened the 1959 time capsule recovered from a cornerstone during renovations at Mooresville High School (MHS).  Courtesy of Susan Haynes, MCSC chief communications officer, we have some wonderful photos borrowed from the MHS Facebook page.  (Thanks to Ms. Haynes for the photo captions in quotation marks.)  Click the images to enlarge.

"We appreciate Mr. Jim Patrick carefully slicing through the copper while keeping the contents safe from harm." (Susan Haynes)

"We Opened It! The 1959 Time Capsule contained several editions of the Mooresville Times, a few articles from the Indianapolis Times, a building dedication brochure, a 1959 yearbook, the feasibility study for consolidating Mooresville-Brown Township, Madison Township, and Harrison Township Schools, a photo of the MHS gym being framed, and a typed copy of the original Mooresville High School Articles of Incorporation from the 1800s."  (Susan Haynes)

Members of the public and MHS alumni examine the time capsule's contents

"We were delighted to have Mr. J. Russell Lambert, a member of the 1959 Building Committee, in attendance. He didn't know what had been placed in the time capsule but found a newspaper article with his photo among the items."  (Susan Haynes)

"This article describes the building committee members signing 770 bonds of $1,000 each to finance the building of the new high school."  (Susan Haynes)

"The framework at the top of this photo is the wooden beams which made the MHS gym. The beams are still visible in the 1959 gym today."  (Susan Haynes)

"This article from the Indianapolis Times describes the school with headlines such as 'Shop Has Precision Equipment,' 'Modern Million Dollar School Is Pride of Citizens,' 'New School Has Large Library,' 'Counselor Puts pupils on Right Track,' 'Mooresville School Has Full-Time Nurse,' and 'Complete Curriculum in Commercial Subjects Is Offered.'" (Susan Haynes)

This important slice of local school history will be digitally preserved for future generations to enjoy.  Although there are no plans presently to install a new time capsule during the current MHS renovations, we think it would be a wonderful idea.  Folks in the 22nd century would surely like to see what was happening at our high school in 2013.