Discover more from The Addison Times
Tuesday, January 17, 2023
Local ‘Famous, Infamous and Unknown’ Residents Discussed at Library Program
There are enough interesting - and notorious - people with Shelby County connections to keep the popular Library Genealogy program series going a while. Last week’s session, led by Donna Dennison, head of the genealogy department, covered reputable college and orphanage founders and an “infamous” killer.
Shelbyville enjoyed Ovid Butler’s presence a lucky 13 years. Butler, who moved here from Jennings County in 1825, became the first lawyer admitted to the bar association in Shelby County.
Both Butler’s father and grandfather were ministers, the latter also a captain in the Revolutionary War. It was evident to those in Shelbyville that Ovid would see similar success.
“He was very prominent, very successful here,” Dennison said.
Butler lived in a small cabin on the southeast corner of Public Square, near South Harrison Street. He taught adult reading and writing classes at night above the nearby Gatewood’s Tavern and was active in community affairs, serving on Shelbyville’s first library and school boards. The Shelbyville Christian Church was organized in his home.
“He ran for state legislature and county clerk but was defeated both times because of his outspoken abolitionist beliefs,” Dennison said.
Those same beliefs propelled Butler to success once he moved to Indianapolis in 1838, the same year his 29-year-old wife, Cordelia Cole, died, possibly in childbirth. The couple had married in Shelbyville and had six children, three of which survived to adulthood. Ovid married Eliza McOuat in 1840 and had seven more children.
Butler established a successful law practice in Indianapolis and started the Free-Soil Banner News, a Christian, anti-slavery paper. He was also instrumental in founding Northwestern Christian College on part of a farm he had purchased north of downtown Indianapolis.
Dennison cited a text that claimed the college was “wholly (Butler’s) work as any great institution can be any one man’s work. He conceived the idea of it, gave it shape, devised the plan to carry it out and drafted the charter in 1849.”
“The thing about this college was that it accepted both women and African Americans, and they were welcome at the school 10 years before the Civil War,” Dennison said.
Butler served as college president for 20 years, and the institution was eventually renamed Butler University. Ovid and Eliza’s daughter, Demia, became the first woman to graduate from the newly named institution.
Ovid’s later years were spent solely dedicated to his preferred causes. “He became a recluse, rarely going out, except to church, and was described as an invalid,” Dennison said.
He died in 1881 and is buried in Indianapolis’ Crown Hill Cemetery.
Clara Carl never lived in Shelby County, thank goodness, but her dirty deeds were brought to light in Shelby Circuit Court, where she was represented by local attorney Ed K. Adams.
Clara (Green), who was born in Ohio, had eloped with her childhood sweetheart, Robert Gibson, in 1906. They began traveling the country, writing and selling histories of the towns they visited. The business venture struggled, and when they were in Missouri in May 1920, Robert became suddenly ill and died.
“Clara whisked his body back to Ohio for burial and collected his $3,000 in life insurance,” Dennison said.
By September, she had married Marion County, Ind. resident Frank Carl, and they moved just outside of Greenfield, where Frank’s father, Alonzo, joined them. Shortly thereafter, in July 1921, Alonzo became violently ill and died. In September, Frank became ill and died. Clara collected his $2,000 life insurance.
“The Hancock County Prosecutor was soon bombarded with letters from people who knew Frank, saying a further investigation needed to be done,” Dennison said. “Frank’s body was exhumed, and arsenic was found in his intestines.”
Clara was arrested for murder. Alonzo’s corpse was then sent to the state lab. “It, too, was full of arsenic. A second murder charge was added,” Dennison said. “Robert’s body was also examined; it contained arsenic, but no new charges were filed.”
A change of venue brought the woman known as “the feminine Bluebeard” to Judge Alonzo Blair’s Shelby County courtroom in 1922.
“The town was filled with potential witnesses and news reporters and onlookers,” Dennison said.
Those in the standing-room only court heard allegations that Carl was having an affair with a lawyer in Greenfield, that “beer parties” had occurred at the Carl home, and that Clara had filed for divorce in Greenfield, which she later withdrew. A witness said Clara had purchased the arsenic while claiming “neighborhood cats had been stealing her chickens,” according to news reports.
After the week-and-a-half trial, Blair dismissed the jury for deliberations. “Three women were arrested for listening (to the deliberations) at the window,” Dennison said.
Seventeen hours later, the jury found Carl guilty, and Blair sentenced her to life in the Indiana Women’s Prison, where she remained three years before making a successful escape attempt. She was recaptured about a week later and returned. She was paroled in 1937 at the age of 60, at which point Dennison said her final years become a mystery.
Known as “Knight” since he was a boy in Metamora in the 1820s, Leonidas Gordon’s legacy grew from a reputation as a trustworthy farmer to the namesake of a Shelbyville orphanage that lasted nearly seven decades.
Gordon and his wife, Julia Ann Pond, came to Shelbyville shortly after marrying in 1846. He ran a mill in Marion while buying up land in Addison Township and establishing himself as a farmer.
“Knight was said to be a simple farmer, a kind and gentle husband and father, and a friend to everyone, rich or poor,” Dennison said.
Near the end of Gordon’s life, he and P.D. Harris began organizing an orphanage to care for local children in need.
“Harris went to the county commissioners and badgered them for four years before they agreed to give $10,000 to build an orphanage,” Dennison said.
A board of trustees was organized, with Gordon and Harris both serving, and a ladies’ board provided input on what the children would need. Gordon donated 15 acres on a hill behind the present-day Chicken Inn, and the county’s wealthy helped provide the remaining necessary funds.
“Many objected to the location because the area where the home was to be built was called Murdocktown after McGavin Murdock, who owned a lumber mill on the east side of town,” Dennison said. “It was said that side of town had numerous taverns, pool halls, rowdies and troublemakers.”
But construction progressed, although Gordon died just before the April 1891 groundbreaking ceremony. The first cohort of kids moved in that fall, and Gordon’s Children Home served more than 2,000 children between 1891 and its closure in 1958. The building was demolished in 1960.
In the orphanage’s final year, “Mother Mohr,” the long-time home matron, secured funds to mark the graves of 12 children who had died while living at the Children’s Home. The stones are still maintained at Forest Hill Cemetery.
Shelbyville High School’s Jacob Harker and Triton Central High School’s Hadyn Ball were both named conference wrestling champions over the weekend, GIANT FM reported. Other top finishers for the Golden Bears were Carson Linville, Jaylen Eads, Andrew Burton and Luke Dwyer. Tiger top finishers included Ayden Nufio, Braxton Zimmerman, Lucas Kleeman and Andrew Bailey.
The Shelby County Public Library is hosting a college-level Film Appreciation Series through Zoom with Southwestern High School graduate Owen Field, an attorney and film instructor at City Colleges of Chicago, as the instructor. Classes are free for library patrons, but registration is required to obtain class materials. Classes are held via Zoom on Wednesday evenings, March 1 to April 5. Email Michael Daniels at firstname.lastname@example.org or sign up in the library to receive the Zoom credentials.
HOOSIER NEWS: In one of its most significant classification changes in decades, the Census Bureau doubled the minimum population to 5,000 people for an area to be considered urban. A place is also considered urban if it has at least 2,000 housing units, based on the calculation that the average household has 2.5 people. The long-standing distinction between an urbanized area and an urban cluster was also eliminated. The change means 36 towns and communities in Indiana are now considered rural for the first time in decades, despite their populations generally remaining steady. Reclassified communities in Indiana include: (Urban to rural) Attica, Berne, Bicknell, Bloomfield, Bremen, Brownstown, Butler, Covington, De Motte, Delphi, Dunkirk, Fairmount, Fort Branch, Greentown, Hebron, Heritage Lake, Knightstown, Knox, LaGrange, Lawrenceburg, Ligonier, Loogootee, Middlebury, Middletown, Mitchell, New Carlisle, North Webster, Oakland City, Ossian, Paoli, Rockville, Sheridan, Shorewood Forest, Upland, Walkerton and Winamac, and (Rural to urban): Alexandria and Brazil. (Anderson Herald Bulletin)
This Week in Shelby County" works by George L. Stubbs Sr. are owned by the Shelby County Historical Society (Grover Center) and used with permission.
THIS DAY IN SHELBY COUNTY HISTORY
News around Shelbyville and the surrounding area as reported on or about this date in history. Selections are curated from the Shelby County Public Library Genealogy Department.
20 YEARS AGO: 2003
Major Hospital opened a pain clinic, housed in a special suite of rooms on the third floor of the hospital.
Mike Freeman, owner of Carmony-Ewing Funeral Homes Inc., held at an open house at 819 S. Harrison St. The funeral home, which had been closed since July, had recently been remodeled and redecorated. Renovations included handicap-accessibility, a large central hallway and an expansive chapel. The main entrance had been moved from the east end to the west end.
30 YEARS AGO: 1993
Shelbyville residents Frank Learned and Branson “Hank” Agler ran into an old friend on the ski slopes of Colorado. Nick Couch, who used to run the Wellman Thermal Systems Corp. plant in Shelbyville, had been visiting Colorado with his wife, Susan, from England, where they had relocated.
40 YEARS AGO: 1983
Paul Noel, 45, was robbed by two men, both carrying weapons. The robbers took thousands of dollars’ worth of jewelry, coins, gold and silver from Noel’s home. The robbers were believed to be from Johnson County.
50 YEARS AGO: 1973
The Shelbyville Car Wash, I-74 and State Road 9 at a Shell station, opened.
60 YEARS AGO: 1963
Shelbyville Sgt. Dallas Phillips was promoted to the rank of captain on the midnight shift.
A man suspected of stealing over $6,000 from Louden Foods was flushed from his Sandcreek cabin hideout by an armed posse of Decatur County officers and citizens.
70 YEARS AGO: 1953
Remodeling continued on the Wesleyan Methodist Church in the 900 block of S. Tompkins St. The remodeling extended the rear of the church and involved constructing a tower on the northwest corner and putting a stone facing on the front of the building.
80 YEARS AGO: 1943
A local drive had netted 140,000 pounds of discarded stockings. The stockings would be made into powder bags and parachutes for members of the armed forces. Silk was used in making the powder bags because it left no ashes or dust in the guns. Locals were urged to donate used stockings to J.C. Penney, Goodman’s, Mary Lou Shoppe or the G.C. Murphy Co.
90 YEARS AGO: 1933
City Council indefinitely postponed a plan to eliminate “dips” in two street intersections at Taylor and Miller Streets and at Taylor and Shelby Streets. The Street Commissioner said Street Department employees had a shortage of work, and the project would give them something to do. City Council members, though, said there just weren’t funds for such a project.
100 YEARS AGO: 1923
A frame school building in Milroy burned down. The building was originally a motion picture house, but had been used for Milroy’s eighth grade students in recent years. The fire had been caused by an overheated stove. Local residents had tried to save the building with a bucket brigade. The light of the fire was plainly visible from Blue Ridge.
Wanda Lou McAllister, 78, of Shelbyville, passed away Friday January 13, 2023 at her residence. She was born November 30, 1944 to James and Carlie Perkins.
Wanda married Billy T. Corbin on December 31, 1960, and he preceded her in death. Wanda later married Larry L. McAllister on March 23, 2001, and he survives. Survivors include her children, Billy Corbin of Richmond, Kenneth Corbin, Nancy (husband, Gary) Doremus, Melissa Howard and James Corbin, all of Shelbyville, sisters, Ester (husband, Danny) Tucker, of Knifley, Ky., 8 grandchildren, 11 great grandchildren, and numerous nieces and nephews.
Wanda retired from Central Sterile of Wm. S. Major Hospital in 2008. She was a homemaker who enjoyed spending time with friends, (Bernice, Linda, Boots the dog, and others).
She was preceded in death by her parents; three brothers, Dempsey, Charles and Albert; and two sisters, Joyce and Edna.
The family will have a ceremony at Robinson Chapel & Cemetery in Knifley, Ky at a later date. Funeral Directors Greg Parks, Sheila Parks, Stuart Parks, and Darin Schutt are honored to serve Wanda’s family. Online condolences may be shared at www.murphyparks.com.
Mary Ann Stiers, age 87, of Shelbyville, died at 12:25 pm on January 16, 2023, at Heritage House of Shelbyville. Mrs. Stiers was born December 23, 1935, in Russell Springs, Kentucky. She was the daughter of William R. Brown and Flora W. (Bennett) Brown. She was married on April 30, 1954 to Paul D. Stiers and he survives. No children were born to the marriage.
Mrs. Stiers had resided in Shelbyville since 1952. She and her husband Paul owned and retired from Paul’s Marathon located on North Harrison Street from 1963 to 1977. She was also employed at KCL for 10 years and managed Martinique Apartments for 20 years.
She was preceded in death by five sisters and five brothers.
Visitation will be from 10 am to Noon, Friday, January 20, 2023, at Freeman Family Funeral Homes and Crematory, Carmony-Ewing Chapel, 819 S. Harrison St. in Shelbyville. Funeral services will follow at Noon on Friday, at the funeral home.
Burial will be in the Miller Cemetery. Online condolences may be shared with Mrs. Stiers family at www.freemanfamilyfuneralhomes.com.
Virgil Wayne Marion, 72, of Fairland, passed away Sunday, January 15, 2023, surrounded by his wife and daughters. He was born January 10, 1951, in Louisville, Kentucky to Irma Marion.
Not only was he in the US Army, he was a jack of all trades and retired to Kentucky until recently. Virgil loved going fishing. He enjoyed motorsports, car shows and flea marketing. He loved his two cats Tater and Taz.
Mr. Marion is survived by his wife, Betty Ann (Eversole) Marion and two daughters, Ruth (Rob) Marion-Miller, and Lucy Marion (kitty Oliver), all of Fairland, Indiana. He is also survived by grandchildren, Lauren (Collin) White of Colorado Springs, Colorado; Brody Anderson of Fairland, Indiana; Jarrett (Briana) Miller; Serinity, Harmony, and Wyatt Anderson, all of Shelbyville, Indiana.
A celebration of life is being planned and will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, memorial contributions can be made to the Disabled Veterans National Foundation, 4601 Forbes Blvd, suite 130, Lanham, MD 20706. Online condolences may be shared at www.murphyparks.com. Funeral Directors Greg Parks, Sheila Parks, Stuart Parks, and Darin Schutt are honored to serve Virgil’s family.