Hoosier History Live is an independently produced new media project about Indiana history, integrating podcasts, website, newsletter, and social media. Its original content comes initially from a live with call in weekly talk radio show hosted by author and historian Nelson Price. You can hear the show live Saturdays from noon to 1 pm ET. It’s over the air in Central Indiana at WICR 88.7 fm, or you can stream at the WICR HD1 app on your phone.
"Both Nelson Price and Molly Head do the public a great service with the creation of independent media project Hoosier History Live. The program adds considerably to the public IQ, at a time when intelligence is much needed."
- Tom Cochrun, former news anchor, WTHR-TV Channel 13 Indianapolis
For a complete list of show podcasts and show enewsletters, please go to ARCHIVES on our website.
July 08, 2023
Digging deep into an early major cemetery on the White River
Almost ever since the city of Indianapolis was platted in 1821, a site along the White River has been distinctive for various reasons. It started as a burial site, then multiple graveyards that became known collectively as Greenlawn Cemetery, where thousands of early residents were buried.
Beginning in 1917, Diamond Chain had a manufacturing plant on the site just southwest of downtown that employed hundreds of Hoosiers. Now the site on White River is planned to be the location of a new stadium for the Indy Eleven pro soccer team.
So Hoosier History Live will do a deep dive into the history of Greenlawn, the burial site of initial settlers and subsequent residents, including civic leaders, early African American residents (in segregated parcels), infants, impoverished Hoosiers and a vast range of other Hoosiers. Because of various factors, including the fact that Greenlawn was prone to flooding, the cemetery was closed in 1890.
But, according to our guests, new burials continued (sometimes illegally) for several more years. Many, but far from all, remains from Greenlawn were exhumed and reburied at Crown Hill Cemetery (which opened in the 1860s) and other graveyards. Diamond Chain continued to discover and report human remains on the site for more than 80 years.
To share insights about the history of Greenlawn, Nelson will be joined by two guests:
In 2020, Indiana Landmarks sponsored a video presentation about the Greenlawn site, titled "What Lies Beneath Diamond Chain?", that's available to view on YouTube. Diamond Chain initially made chains for bicycles, then expanded to supply roller chains for an array of businesses. The company was founded locally, but, following a series of corporate acquisitions, announced the closure of the Indianapolis plant in 2020.
That was almost 200 years after the arrival in Indianapolis of the first residents. They included Chaney Lively, the first African American woman to come to the new city; she was buried at Greenlawn when she died in the late 1850s. Hoosier History Live did a show in 2021 about Chaney Lively, who became the first Black woman property owner in the city. Our guest Leon Bates notes that other African Americans buried at Greenlawn included congregation members of Bethel AME Church and the city's other earliest Black churches, as well as Civil War veterans of the 28th U.S. Colored Troops Infantry regiment.
After the creation of Crown Hill during the 1860s, families who could afford to have their ancestors exhumed from Greenlawn and reburied at Crown Hill made arrangements for the process. The reburials, which continued for decades, were mentioned during a Hoosier History Live show in 2014 that focused on the history of Crown Hill; the scenic cemetery was deliberately located on high ground to avoid some of the problems at Greenlawn.
The remains of some Hoosiers in graves at Greenlawn were moved to Floral Park Cemetery and Holy Cross Cemetery. Eventually, all of the above-ground remnants at Greenlawn, including grave markers and crypts, were removed.
Even before the cemetery's closure in 1890 for new burials by the Indianapolis City Council, the surrounding area was increasingly industrialized. Even slaughterhouses were built nearby.
In contrast, as we discussed during our show about historic cemetery landscaping, Crown Hill was among several scenic graveyards created with park-like designs (including Highland Lawn Cemetery in Terre Haute) as part of the Rural Cemetery Movement. Crown Hill became and remains the third largest private cemetery in the country. Notable Hoosiers who were reburied at Crown Hill after having been interred at Greenlawn included some of the earliest Indiana governors after the state capital was moved from Corydon to Indianapolis.
Greenlawn had evolved as an umbrella name for burial grounds known by names such as the "Old Graveyard" and the "New Graveyard". According to several sources, including the "What Lies Beneath Diamond Chain?" presentation, problems that unfolded at Greenlawn, in addition to flooding, included multiple burials in single graves, which sometimes were "three bodies deep".
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Roadtrip: Marion and its Matter Park along the Mississinewa River
Guest Roadtripper and Indiana history enthusiast Chris Della Rocco suggests a trip north of Indianapolis to the town of Marion in Grant County. Chris tells us that Matter Park is the town’s oldest and largest at 101 acres. Of those, 6.3 acres are gardens that include more than 7,000 annual plants. The scenic area along the banks of the Mississinewa River had been a favorite spot for early settlers to gather. Its land was donated to the city of Marion in 1892.
Matter Park formerly had a zoo, a pool, and a roller coaster. The park now boasts the Mississinewa Riverwalk 2.25 Mile Paved Recreation Trail and a fantastic Splash House Pool area.
From our show archives: Serial killer Belle Gunness and her La Porte murder farm
Our Oct. 23, 2021 show was about serial killer and Norwegian immigrant Belle Gunness from northern Indiana, who in the early 1900s lured unsuspecting lonely Norwegian men to her "murder farm" in La Porte and later murdered them for their money. Nelson’s guest on the show was author and travel writer Jane Simon Ammeson, who wrote "America’s Femme Fatale: The Story of Serial Killer Belle Gunness". Click here to listen to the Belle Gunness podcasts. And all of our podcasts can be accessed by going to ARCHIVES on our website, Hoosier History Live.
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