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 listening group at Bookmama's in Irvington to listen to, and discuss, the Saturday show. We invite you to visit our website!


Oct. 2 show

Indy's oldest Catholic church


Not only is St. John Catholic Church the oldest in Indianapolis, with parish origins that date clear back to the 1830s, the ornate church with twin steeples that are a distinctive part of the city's skyline has evolved into a unique role as a spiritual haven.


St. John Church in downtown Indianapolis.Rising up right near our pro football arenas - Lucas Oil Stadium and its predecessor the RCA Dome - as well as the Indiana Convention Center and downtown hotels, St. John, at 126 W. Georgia St., has become the church where convention-goers, tourists, Indianapolis Colts fans and international visitors go to celebrate Mass.


The odyssey of the majestic church that has become Indy's version of tourist-oriented St. Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan mirrors downtown's journey from "Naptown" to vibrancy. Before its resurgence with a special niche, St. John's membership had declined from a peak of 3,000 parishioners in the 1880s to fewer than 300 by the early 1970s.


Nelson will be joined in studio by St. John's historian/music director Tom Nichols and two well-known civic leaders who were instrumental in the renaissance: Rev. Tom Murphy, who became a Catholic priest in mid-life after a distinguished career as an attorney and state legislator (he helped push through a bill that allowed for the Convention Center's creation in 1971), and Bill McGowan Jr., who served as president and CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association from 1984 to 2002.


Father Tom Murphy and Pope John Paul II, circa 2000.Join us as we focus on the church with a parish rectory built during the Civil War, nave windows and twin steeples that rise to a height of 194 feet.


Not only does our show's spotlight fall on St. John during football season, it comes amid citywide tributes to Rev. Murphy, who is celebrating the 25th anniversary of his ordination. His ancestors were married at St. John, which was partially founded by Irish immigrants. The St. John parish rectory opened in 1863, then was greatly enlarged in 1877 by Bishop Silas Chatard, the first bishop of Indianapolis.


St. John's connection to the Colts and the Convention Center begins with location, location, location: The majestic church practically "greets" spectators as they walk to (or exit from) the nearby stadium and convention center. Downtown hotels also are barely more than a football's throw away, meaning the church is a convenient destination for visiting business officials and tourists.


The entrance to St. John Catholic Church in downtown Indianapolis offers a view of the grand interior.Rev. Murphy served as the priest at St. John from 1993 to 2003. That's been only one chapter, though, in a life that has had a significant impact on downtown Indy and beyond, including stints in Rome and as president of Serra International. As an attorney in the 1960s and '70s, he worked in a law office on Monument Circle. He served in the General Assembly, then studied theology in Rome and was ordained in 1985. Rev. Murphy's assignments as a priest, in addition to St. John, included a pastorate at St. Joan of Arc in Indy. Through it all, he has been noted for his compassion and his efforts to revitalize downtown.


Ditto for Bill McGowan Jr., who has served on a staggering number of civic boards and has been named a Sagamore of the Wabash by four Indiana governors. In addition to (or as a result of) his long-running leadership with the ICVA, Bill was a key player in dozens of major events in Indy, including the 1987 Pan American Games, the Penrod Art Fair and the International Violin Competition.


Our show, though, will focus on the niche that St. John (and our three guests) have played in the revitalization of downtown - as well as the journey of a church that began with Irish immigrants and now involves international visitors, sports fans and tourists.


History Mystery question


A second Catholic parish was founded in downtown Indianapolis in 1910. Many of the founding parishioners were German immigrants and wanted to celebrate Mass in the language of their homeland. Conner Prairie's 1859 Balloon Voyage offers a ride high into the sky for visitors to the interactive history park.They built a Catholic church with twin spires on the east end of downtown. Today the church continues to serve many immigrants, but now they primarily are Hispanic. Mass often is celebrated in Spanish.


Question:  Name the Catholic church in downtown Indy that opened in 1910.


To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show.  The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is two tickets to Conner Prairie and two tickets for the 1859 Balloon Voyage at Conner Prairie, all courtesy of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association.




With Chris Gahl of the ICVA on an extended Roadtrip, we've asked Amy Lamb, media relations manager at the Indiana Historical Society, to fill in. Amy Lamb.Amy will tell us about a very first in Indianapolis, the Inaugural Indianapolis Scottish Highland Games. The Games will take place Saturday, Oct. 9,  from 9 to 5 at the Latvian Center at 1008 W. 64th St. in Indianapolis and are hosted by the Scottish Society of Indianapolis.


Some of the traditional Highland games will include the Braemar Stone Put, 56-pound weight throw, caber toss, hammer toss and sheaf toss, for all those brawny lads and lasses. Music will include performances by Hogeye Navvy and Highland Reign. Tickets are $10 at the gate and $8 advanced sale, with more at indyscot.org.


Longtime Hoosier History Live! listeners will recall our August 2008 show about Scottish heritage with Dr. Lee Cloe. And expect to hear more from Amy about a painting of a famous Scot who founded New Harmony, Indiana: Robert Owen.


Your team on the Hoosier History Live! e-project,


Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer    
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant




Lucas OilIndiana Historical Society logo.

The Fadely Trust. A fund of the Indianapolis Foundation.Indiana Authors Award.

Story Inn

Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: The Fadely Trust, Indiana Historical Society, Lucas Oil, Indiana Authors Award and Story Inn.


Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Indianapolis Marion County Public Library, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities Council, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Chelsea Niccum and many other individuals and organizations. We are an independently produced program and are self-supporting through organizational sponsorships, grants and through individual tax-deductible contributions through the Indiana Humanities Council. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.


What's new with Hoosier History Live!


Hoosier History Live! salutes Charlotte and Forrest Lucas for their commitment to the preservation of Indiana's past with their recent annual sponsorship renewal of the show. Charlotte and Forrest Lucas.Thank you, Lucas family!


If you are a company or organization with strong Indiana roots, consider becoming a sponsor. Thanks to graphic artist Pam Fraizer for keeping our Facebook page updated. Be sure to visit it if you'd like to comment about the show with other history lovers.


Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Many people believe that we are funded by the University of Indianapolis. We are very grateful to radio station WICR 88.7 FM for being our anchor station. And WICR is owned by UIndy. However, we receive no funding from the university; we are a consortium of journalists, historians and professionals who work independently to produce this program. We rely completely on sponsors, grants and donations to support the program. If you would like to hear more of the shows available online, as podcasts, consider making a contribution to support the program. You can also make a PayPal contribution on our website; that’s easy enough!


We believe that our project has a unique and engaging approach to history. Please tell our sponsors and donors that you appreciate their support of the program. Thanks also to the Indiana Humanities Council for serving as our 501 (c) 3. Visit our "Support the show" page. And you can always call our ever-persistent producer Molly Head at (317) 927-9101 to learn how you can help us out.


Oct. 9 show

The Titanic and Hoosiers


If historians contended there were links between landlocked Indiana and the sinking of the Titanic in 1912, would you argue they were all wet? Well, steady yourselves. It turns out there were 14 passengers on the "unsinkable" luxury liner who had Hoosier connections. Some of the Hoosiers survived, while others were among the more than 1,500 passengers and crew members who perished.


Painting of the Titanic on it maiden voyage. Courtesy Indiana State Museum.To explore all aspects of the tragedy that has captivated the world since the Titanic struck an iceberg on its maiden voyage, Nelson will be joined in studio by Indianapolis resident Craig Ware, whose lifelong interest in the Titanic culminated with meeting one of the survivors. (The final two survivors, women in their 90s, have passed away during the last three years.)


Our guests also will include a curator or representative of the extensive new exhibit at the Indiana State Museum titled Titanic: The Artifact Exhibition. Featuring room recreations and about 240 artifacts that have been salvaged from the wreck site since it was discovered in 1985, the exhibit will continue at the State Museum through Jan. 16.


The Hoosiers who survived included an Irish maid who had immigrated to Indianapolis but then returned to her homeland to visit relatives. Victims included a Hammond resident who had traveled to Sweden to visit her parents. Myths and folklore abound about the sinking, including allegations that distress signals were ignored, that third-class passengers deliberately were kept below deck, and that the ship's cargo included cases of dragon blood.


We will try to separate fact from myth as we delve into a tragedy that for generations has fascinated social historians, analysts of mass panic, science-oriented folks, and those intrigued with a ship that became a symbol of the overconfidence and opulence of the Edwardian era.


"Learn more" links recommended by our guest:

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