Hoosier History Live! with Nelson Price, Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. on 88.7 FM, WICR in Indianapolis.

Listen to Hoosier History Live! at 11:30 a.m. each Saturday on WICR 88.7 FM. You also can listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast or you can join our new listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show. We invite you to visit our website!


July 17 show

Wayne County history


It was the setting for a "courthouse war" that involved the state's most protracted battle over the location of a county seat. With early settlements by groups of Quakers, Wayne County in far-eastern Indiana became a hub of anti-slavery activity and housed significant stops on the Underground Railroad.


The Wayne County courthouse, in Richmond, Ind.And as one of the first counties formed in the Indiana Territory (it was organized in 1810, six years before Indiana became a state), Wayne County will celebrate its bicentennial this year. That makes it ideal for the next installment in our Hoosier History Live! rotating series about town and county histories.


Nelson will be joined in studio by Wayne County historian Carolyn Lafever, who lives on a 40-acre farm near Hagerstown. She is the author of A Pictorial History of Wayne County, Indiana (Donning Company Publishers, 1998) and the new Wayne County Indiana: The Battles for the Courthouse (The History Press), which describes the bitter feuds that resulted in six courthouses and three county seats, with Richmond finally winning out over Centerville.


Book cover image: Wayne County Indiana: The Battles for the Courthouse.Wayne County is home to everything from Abbott's Candy in Hagerstown, a legendary locally owned candy-maker/retailer that opened in the 1890s, to the Levi Coffin House in Fountain City (the town once was called Newport), which became known as the "Grand Central Station of the Underground Railroad." Many of the escaped slaves helped by Levi Coffin and his wife, Catharine, chose to settle in Wayne County after the Civil War.


Speaking of the Civil War: Indiana's famous governor during the conflict, Oliver Perry Morton, was a Wayne County native who practiced law in Centerville for many years. An early supporter of the Republican Party, Morton's first official act as governor was to alert President Lincoln, his close friend, that Indiana would send 10,000 men for the Union Army.


Carolyn Lafever.Prior to the Civil War, Wayne County was the most prosperous county in the state "by virtue of the National Road passing through," according to A Pictorial History of Wayne County, Indiana. In her book, Mrs. Lafever notes that Wayne County had the state's largest population in 1848. At that point, Centerville was the county's hub; only with the advent of railroad lines in the next decade did Richmond eclipse it.


Richmond may have triumphed in the courthouse war, but not quite 100 years later the city endured a horrific tragedy. On Palm Sunday in 1968, two explosions devastated the downtown, damaging a 14-block area and causing 41 deaths and more than 100 injuries. Nelson and Mrs. Lafever will explore the aftermath and the still-disputed causes of the explosions, which have been blamed on a gas leak, followed by the igniting of gunpowder stored at a sporting goods store.


Centerville courthouse, reconstructed.For several years after the tragedy, a major part of downtown Richmond became a pedestrian-only zone known as The Promenade. When controversy ensued, vehicular traffic was allowed to return to the downtown area in 1997. (Does the conflict sound a bit familiar, Indy?)


Some fun facts:

  • Centerville became the first town in Indiana to get paved streets, according to A Pictorial History of Wayne County, Indiana.
  • The Whitewater River in Wayne County is considered the state's fastest-running river.
  • The Wayne County Historical Museum even has an Egyptian mummy. It was purchased in the 1920s by a wealthy Richmond woman during an overseas trip.


History Mystery question


Faculty members at Earlham College in Richmond included one of the country's best-known Quaker authors and scholars. He lived on campus into his late 80s, was quoted in everything from "Dear Abby" advice columns to the Philosophical Review and wrote books about spiritual and ethical topics. Postcard of Earlham College's Carpenter Hall.Born in 1900, he became known as "Mr. Earlham" in much the way Herman B Wells was regarded as "Mr. IU."


Question: Name the legendary faculty member at Earlham College.


The call-in number for the correct answer is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is a DVD of Movers and Stakers, Stories Along the National Road, courtesy of Executive Director Nancy Carlson of Ball State University. The National Road, of course, went through Wayne County, and you'll learn more about Richmond, Centerville and the Salisbury Log Courthouse.


By the way, if you don’t win the prize, the film also will be screened at the Indianapolis International Film Festival on Saturday, July 24, at 2:45 p.m. at the Indianapolis Museum of Art.




What was the first Indiana state capital? Where did the nickname "Hoosiers" come from? Hoosier Heritage Day logo.Chris Gahl of the ICVA has picked Hoosier Heritage Day on Thursday, August 12, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds as a Roadtrip to learn answers to these questions and more.


Hoosier Heritage Day, aimed to educate visitors about Indiana history, will test your knowledge of Indiana trivia, trace your Hoosier family history, expand your understanding of Indiana archeology, and much more.


Approximately 25 organizations will be present on the Boulevard from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. to educate, re-enact and talk about Indiana history. And don't forget to order corn on the cob at the fair, an Indiana specialty!


Your friends in Hoosierdom,


Nelson Price, host and creative director

Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101

Chris Gahl, Roadtripper

Richard Sullivan, tech and web director    

Garry Chilluffo, consultant



Lucas OilIndiana Historical Society logo.

Barrington Jewels logo.The Fadely Trust. A fund of the Indianapolis Foundation.

Henry's Coffee Bistro logo.Story Inn

Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support:
Barrington Jewels, Henry's Coffee Bistro on East, The Fadely Trust, Indiana Historical Society, Lucas Oil and Story Inn.


Acknowledgments to Scott Keller Fine Art and Antiques Appraisals, Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Drew Pastorek and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through sponsorships and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn more.


July 24 show

Beer heritage in Indiana


Beer ad from 1914, featuring pretty woman. Courtesy New Albany Public Art Project.Did you know one of the country's largest brewers 100 years ago was in Terre Haute? Before Prohibition, a German immigrant section of the Hoosier city bustled as the setting of breweries, with the Terre Haute Brewing Company located in a five-story brewing complex.


Terre Haute-made Champagne Velvet became wildly popular with the World War II generation. Fort Wayne and even tiny Aurora on the Ohio River also have a beer-making heritage.


Thirsty for details? Our guests will include the writer recently dubbed "one of Indiana's grand dames of beer" by The Indianapolis Star. Rita Kohn writes the "Beer Buzz" column in Nuvo newsweekly and is the author of a new book, True Brew (Indiana University Press), that explores all aspects of the Hoosier state's links to beer, present and past.


And the past goes way back. According to Rita's book, a brewery was built in LaPorte in 1831 - even though the town's streets weren't laid out until two years later. In the 1840s, a brewery in Aurora was so productive it exported beer to Germany. Even one of the most prominent residents of early Indianapolis, banker Calvin Fletcher, wrote diary entries about his occasional beer-making endeavors using local ingredients. And some accounts indicate in 1915 the country's largest brewery was in Terre Haute.


Fun fact: According to True Brew, the monks at St. Meinrad Archabbey in southern Indiana started a brewery in 1860. Alas, their beer was so lousy the brewery closed the next year.


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