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

Saturdays at 11:30 a.m. ET on WICR 88.7 FM.
And always online at hoosierhistorylive.org!

You can listen to Hoosier History Live! live on the air each Saturday, or listen online at the WICR website during the broadcast on any computer with speakers, anywhere, or on a smartphone. We invite you to visit our website!

Aug. 11 show

Tiny towns that refuse to die

The S.B. Niblack & Son store in Wheatland, Ind., sold canned goods, barrels of pickles, dried fruit and dry goods such as calico, flannel and gingham. It was named for Susan Brooks Niblack, great-grandmother of Nancy Niblack Baxter. 1903 photo courtesy Hawthorne Publishing.Even though only about 200 to 400 people live in some Indiana towns - and their head count 100 years ago numbered in that range as well - some of these tiny places on the state map are chugging along. To explore four towns that refuse to die, Nelson will be joined in studio by well-known author and editor Nancy Niblack Baxter, whose father grew up in the early 1900s in one of these Hoosier burgs.

His hometown was Wheatland (pop.: about 200), a Knox County town east of Vincennes that's been revitalized thanks to an annual festival known as Wheatfest; the opening last month of a new branch of the Knox County Public Library, a bustling gathering spot called the Crossroads Café and other factors.

As described by Nancy's late father in his newly re-released memoir, The Life and Times of a Hoosier Judge: John Niblack, Second, Wheatland Edition (Hawthorne Publishing), the town in 1900 had "two main dusty roads," one of which had been created from an old buffalo trace - a path carved out by buffalo in their migrations, then the route often was used by Native Americans, followed by the earliest white settlers.

Nancy Niblack Baxter.In addition to Wheatland, Nancy will share insights about Merom, a southwestern Indiana town on the Wabash River in Sullivan County.

With a current population of about 300, Merom has resurrected its historic Chautauqua, a festival featuring speakers and music. During the early 1900s, a Chautauqua circuit flourished across the country, with towns serving as hosts for visiting performers, speakers and musicians.

The Life and Times of a Hoosier Judge John Lewis Niblack book cover.At the other end of the Hoosier state, the town of Bryant (pop. 252) is the home of Bearcreek Farms, a 200-acre complex with a dinner theater. Located about three miles south of Geneva in Jay County, Bryant also is the site of Loblolly Nature Preserve and hosts an annual Loblolly Days festival. Apparently a Loblolly Queen is chosen based on how much hay she can bale in one minute.

Loblolly Marsh was a setting for A Girl of the Limberlost, a bestselling novel in 1909 by Gene Stratton-Porter, the famous Hoosier naturalist and photographer. She crusaded to preserve the marsh.

Kudos to our regular listener, Terri Gorney of Fort Wayne, for suggesting Bryant to feature in this "tiny towns" show.

We also plan to explore Monterey, a town in Pulaski County that almost withered in the 1950s. With just 250 people then, Monterey was in danger of losing its post office (it had been condemned) and folding up.

Instead, residents decided the town could survive if a doctor and dentist were lured to the community, a story that's recounted in Hoosier Lore (Brooks Publishing), a new collection of human-interest columns written by the late Al Spiers. (His daughter, Sally Spiers, was Nelson's guest in April for a "True Tall Tales" show on Hoosier History Live!) In Monterey, the Lion's Club, then the smallest in the state, took up the cause to keep the town alive with a "civic miracle."

In Wheatland, Ind., a newly opened “book station” – a branch of the Vincennes Public Library – is one of the amenities aimed at keeping the town vibrant. Image courtesy Hawthorne Publishing.Our guest Nancy Niblack Baxter is the author of eight books about Indiana or the Civil War. She also has edited more than 200 books and currently is the senior editor at Hawthorne Publishing.

Much of the memoir of her father, John Niblack, is set in Wheatland about 1910. His grandparents' general store then sold canned goods, barrels of pickles, dried fruit and dry goods such as calico, flannel and gingham.

The self-sustaining town included a barber shop, drug stores, a bank and two institutions Nancy identifies as the strength of the tiny community: the school and the church.

Some other then-or-now tidbits about the tiny towns that Nancy and Nelson will explore:

  • In tiny Bryant, Ind., you will find the scenic Loblolly Nature Preserve. Courtesy Indiana State Museum.In Bryant, Loblolly Marsh includes 440 acres and has been named the state's 250th nature preserve this summer by Gov. Mitch Daniels. In a recent column in The Indianapolis Star, outdoors writer Skip Hess analyzed the various definitions of "loblolly." Some say it means "low, wet place," while others define it as a "mud hole" or "mire." (On Hoosier History Live!, Skip joined Nelson, his former Star colleague, for a "Fishing across Indiana" show two summers ago.)
  • Merom is the setting for Bluff Park, which overlooks the Wabash River, and a large conference center.
  • To keep Monterey alive when the town struggled in the 1950s, its Lions Club had auctions, bake sales, fish fries and amassed enough pledges to construct a new civic center. It included medical offices in the hope they would attract a doctor and a dentist - a "big dream," as Al Spiers put it, that came true.

History Mystery

A gourmet restaurant in northern Indiana has attracted national attention from food critics and helped revitalize the small town in which it's located. The town of about 1,700 residents is in a region that once was a popular hunting and fishing area for the Miami Indians.

This wedding was held on a canal boat on May 16, 1872, in Attica, Ind., on the Wabash and Erie Canal. However, the name of another historic town on the canal is this week’s History Mystery. Image courtesy Indiana Historical Bureau.With the construction of the Wabash & Erie Canal, the town flourished as a trading center and shipping point. After World War II, the town declined; many vacant storefronts lined its Main Street.

Beginning in the 1990s, though, its historic downtown was revitalized. The gourmet restaurant - a destination for foodies from across Indiana and beyond - opened in 2000 in an old bank building.

Question: What is the town?

To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show and be willing to be placed on the air. Please do not call if you have won a prize from any WICR show during the last two months. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and please do not call until you hear Nelson pose the question on the air.

This week's prize is a pair of tickets to Conner Prairie and the 1859 Balloon Voyage, courtesy of Conner Prairie, as well as a gift certificate to Tastings, A Wine Experience, located at the Conrad in downtown Indianapolis, courtesy of the ICVA.

Roadtrip: Following Lydia at the Indiana State Fair

Have you heard that fair-train whistle blowing? Roadtripper Chris Gahl of the ICVA tells us that now is the time to head to the Indiana State Fair!

In 1852, the first Indiana State Fair was held in downtown Indianapolis at what is now known as Military Park. Cast and crew members of Following Lydia, 2012 Indiana State Fair.In 1860, the fair was held at the old Marion County Fairgrounds near 19th and Delaware streets, which later became Camp Morton, a Civil War prison camp for captured Confederate soldiers. Now the area is a downtown neighborhood known as Herron Morton Place.

And the gates opened at the Indiana State Fairgrounds on East 38th Street for the first time on Sept. 19, 1892, when that location was pretty much out in the country. The first electric interurban trolley in Indianapolis traveling to Broad Ripple from downtown had a special line to serve fairgoers, and the Monon Railroad had a siding for cattlemen and farmers to drop off goods at the fair, as did the Nickel Plate, the diagonal railroad line that now runs the fair train.

While you are at the Indiana State Fair, be sure to check out Indianapolis writer Rita Kohn's new play, Following Lydia. The Fair Lady Players portray seven women traveling down the Ohio River from Pittsburgh in 1824. The play is presented at the Pioneer Village at the following times:

  • Aug. 12 at 12:30 p.m.
  • Aug. 14 at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.
  • Aug 15 at 10 a.m. and noon.

Admission to Following Lydia is free with fair entrance.

And don't forget the free park and ride lot located behind Glendale Town Center, which offers free bus service to the fair.

Your Hoosier History Live! team,

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
Michele Goodrich, Jed Duvall, grant consultants
Joan Hostetler, photo historian
Dana Waddell, volunteer-at-large


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Please tell our sponsors that you appreciate their support: Aesop's Tables | Indiana Historical Society | Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library | Lucas Oil | The Society of Indiana Pioneers | Story Inn.

Facebook logo links to the Hoosier History Live! page.Acknowledgments to Print Resources, Monomedia, Indiana Humanities, Indianapolis Convention & Visitors Association, WICR-FM, Fraizer Designs, Heritage Photo and Research Services, Conner Prairie, Derrick Lowhorn 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 Indiana Humanities. Visit our website to learn how you can support us financially.


A helping hand, plus a nice nomination

Thanks to new individual donor Sharon Butsch Freeland, and remember you can always visit Support us to learn more about keeping us going. Our Irvington Library listening group continues to meet to listen to and discuss the show on Saturday mornings.

And thanks to volunteer Gavin Viegas for extra help with tech support this week.

Also, we're happy to mention that Hoosier History Live! has been nominated for the Indiana History Outstanding Event or Project Award for 2012 with the Indiana Historical Society, with letters of support from James Alexander Thom, a best-selling author of historical fiction, and Judy O'Bannon, former Indiana first lady and public television producer.

Aug. 18 show

Ask Nelson

The last time we turned the tables on our host, author/historian Nelson Price, and let our listeners interview him, a caller wanted to know why novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr. wasn't buried at Crown Hill Cemetery near several generations of his extended family. (Answer: The literary lion, who died in 2007, had expressed a desire to be cremated.)

Indianapolis TV news personality Patty Spitler joined Nelson Price on July 28, 2012 for a Hoosier History Live! broadcast about pets. Price has interviewed thousands of Hoosiers over the course of his reporting career. Photo by Shirley Ann Dennis.Another caller inquired about one of the most sensational news stories of 1913: the mysterious disappearance in New Castle of a 9-year-old girl named Catherine Winters. Despite an exhaustive national search that persisted for years, she never was found. Dozens of theories about what happened to "poor little Catherine Winters" (as she became known across Indiana) were suggested but never were proved.

To give our listeners another opportunity to question Nelson, who calls himself a "garbage can of useless Hoosier trivia," Hoosier History Live! will open the phone lines. Listeners are invited to call the WICR-FM studio - the number is (317) 634-7321 - and ask questions of Nelson, who writes books about famous Hoosiers (both historic and contemporary figures) and Indianapolis city history.

As a commentator on motor-coach tours across the state, he also has shared insights on trips to destinations such as Wildflower Woods, the historic cabin near Rome City of Gene Stratton-Porter, the famous author, photographer and naturalist of the early 1900s. Other destinations of his tours have included the T.C. Steele State Historic Site in Brown County, which includes the studio and home (known as the "House of the Singing Winds") of Indiana's most famous painter.

Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman, by Nelson Price. Book cover.Nelson welcomes questions about any Indiana-related topic and loves to share anecdotes and insights. His books include Indiana Legends: Famous Hoosiers from Johnny Appleseed to David Letterman (Hawthorne Publishing) and Indianapolis Then and Now (Thunder Bay Press), a visual history of the Hoosier capital that features historic and contemporary images of about 70 sites. They include the Columbia Club (did you know that, in the mid-1800s, a doctor's home and office were located on the Monument Circle site?), Broad Ripple and Beech Grove.

Speaking of Broad Ripple and Beech Grove: In our four-and-a-half years on the air, Hoosier History Live! has explored the heritage of those communities, as well as the histories of places ranging from Fort Wayne to Vincennes. We also have done rotating shows about our state's ethnic heritage. So we've explored immigration from Germany, Ireland, Scotland, Italy, Cuba, Greece and Brazil, among others. That means Nelson enjoys passing along insights that our expert guests have shared.

Freely conceding he can be stumped, Nelson hopes that won't be the goal. Instead, the idea is to enjoy a spontaneous, informative conversation with listeners about our state's fascinating heritage.

© 2012 Hoosier History Live! All rights reserved.

Hoosier History Live!
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