Constitution Elm

I knew it wouldn’t be much to look at but I had to see it: the famous elm tree under which 43 territorial delegates of the Indiana Territory met in June 1816 to draft the first Indiana state constitution.

The tree—or what remains of it—sits on a nondescript residential street. It is literally in someone’s front yard near the street.

The Constitution Elm lived until 1925, felled not by an axe but by the dreaded elm disease. In its glory, it was 50 feet high, with a trunk the diameter of five feet and a spread of 132 feet—quite the shade tree under hot June days.

These days only part of the trunk remains, a testament to the tree it once was. In 1937, a protective sandstone structure was erected over it.

Fond farewell, Constitution Elm, I thought as I wandered away. A sad situation, but then I remembered the three young elm trees planted a few years earlier around the tomb of a signer of the constitution in Crown Hill Cemetery. The Constitution Elm lives on in these young trees around the gravesite of Robert Hanna (1786-1858).

Josephine Jones

I was trudging along on a tour. As we walked through one section, a gravestone caught my eye: Josephine Jones. It was a relatively new tombstone, but the inscription read “1st African American Buried at Crown Hill Cemetery”.

I was intrigued. The date on the tombstone was 1865, a year after Crown Hill Cemetery opened. More intriguing was the fact that she wasn’t buried in what was (at least later) the African American section of the cemetery. She was right smack dab in the central part of the cemetery.

The tombstone looks so new because it is. Josephine Jones was originally one of many buried at the cemetery without a tombstone. In 2015, He Knows Your Name ministry paid for a tombstone for her gravesite.

Nothing is really known about Josephine, other than her status as the first African American buried in the cemetery in February 1865. According to folklore, she was the fourteen-year old daughter of a gravedigger, but this is not a verifiable fact.

I also haven’t located any information about why she wasn’t buried in a segregated section of the cemetery, or when the segregated sections were first established. I love that she wasn’t subjected to segregation in death like she would have been in life. Somehow that feels a bit subversive to me…and makes me smile.

Crown Hill Cemetery: Civil War Generals tour

Another Civil War tour! It shouldn’t be surprising in a city that glorifies war and in a state that sent the most soldiers to fight in the Civil War (with the exception of Delaware).

The focus of this tour was on the generals of the Civil War. It was a morning tour, an outing about history, and a chance to wander around Crown Hill Cemetery. Count me in!

At first, all the tomb sites we visited and the people we discussed were the same ones from the Civil War tour that I attended a few months ago. Hmmm. I started to worry about a third of the way through the tour. The tour became a game of can-I-remember-the-stories-told-about-each-person from the last tour. (The answer was no.)

About halfway through the tour, all this changed. The docent took us to gravesites and related stories about people who were new to me. In the list below, names with * are people discussed in the earlier Civil War tour. (For information about them, see my previous blog post.)

* John Coburn (1825-1908)

* Thomas A. Hendricks (1819-1885)

* Abel Streight (1828-1892)

* Jefferson C. Davis (1828-1879)

* Oliver Morton (1823-1877)

* Edward Canby (1817-1873)

* Samuel St. George Rogers (1832-1880)

* Richard Gatling (1818-1903)

Thomas Butler (1833-1912)
In 1862, Butler enlisted as captain and quickly became the commander of the 5th Indiana Calvary, a unit that he served with throughout the war. I found little information about Butler, except for mention that in 1864 he was a POW. He was brevetted as brigadier general and mustered out after the end of the war. Post-war: He died in Baltimore but was brought back to Indiana for burial.

* Lucy Ann Seaton (1831-1864)
I’m not sure why we stopped here on the tour—her husband was a captain—except for the fact that she was the first burial in Crown Hill.

John Hawkins (1830-1914)
Hawkins was the brother of Canby’s future wife. Hawkins led a division of African American soldiers at the Battle of Fort Blakely, which resulted in the capture of Mobile, Alabama. During the war, he was a brigadier general. Post-war: Hawkins remained in the army, but reverted to his regular rank of captain of the Subsistence Department. Later he attained the rank of brigadier general in that department.

Ebenezer Dumont (1814-1871)
Dumont served as colonel of the 7th Indiana Volunteer Infantry and saw action in the West Virginia Campaign. In 1861, he was promoted to brigadier general. In 1862, he skirmished with General John Hunt Morgan in Tennessee. Dumont didn’t capture Morgan, but he did get Morgan’s beloved horse (Black Bess) that Morgan was forced to leave behind when he fled. (In 1863, Morgan would lead the famous Morgan’s Raid into southern Indiana, believing that sympathizers to the southern cause in Indiana would rise up. They didn’t.) In 1863, Dumont resigned to resume his political career in Congress. Post-war: He served in Congress until 1867. The president appointed him as governor of the Idaho Territory, but he died before taking office.

Daniel McClure (1824-1900)
McClure was the paymaster for Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin during the Civil War. He was brevetted as lieutenant colonel and colonel during the Civil War. He didn’t actually lead any troops. Disclosure: I couldn’t find any evidence on the Internet that he was a general. Post-war: He served as colonel and assistant paymaster general, retiring in 1888.

* Thomas Morris (1811-1904)

* Joseph Bingham (died 12/13/1898)
Bingham was not a general or in the military at all, but as we were passing by his grave, the docent stopped to discuss the treason trial that he was involved in.

* Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901)

* Robert Foster (1834-1903)

Frederick Knefler (1824-1901)
At age 14, Knefler enlisted with his father in the revolutionary forces during the Hungarian War of Liberation (1848-1849). (My ears pricked up. The Revolutions podcast that I listen to is currently covering the European revolutions of 1848.) Upon the defeat of the revolutionaries, the Kneflers fled to the US, settling in Indianapolis. The Kneflers were one of the first Jewish families in the city, and his father was one of the founders of the Indianapolis Hebrew Congregation.

During the Civil War, Knefler initially served with Lew Wallace, and then commanded the 79th Indiana Infantry. The 79th received accolades for leading the charge up Missionary Ridge. Knefler was brevetted brigadier general. Post-war: Knefler worked as a lawyer and then was appointed to the pension office. He was president of the board of regents of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Indianapolis.

John Love (1837-1886)
Love, who was distantly related to Robert E. Lee, served in West Virginia under Brigadier General Morris. He also trained volunteer troops raised by Governor Morton. His Democratic leanings though were evident; he routinely let captured Confederate officers out on parole. (Calvin Fletcher, on behalf of Governor Morton, entreated him to stop this practice. He did.)

In 1863, Love, along with Lew Wallace, pursued Morgan during Morgan’s raid into southern Indiana. Later that year, Love attended the dedication of the cemetery at Gettysburg with Governor Morton. Post-War: Love represented the company that sold the Gatling Gun in Europe. He was a trustee at IU, part of commission to erect the Indiana State House, appointed manager of the National Soldiers Home, and a real estate broker.

George Chapman (1832-1882)
Following an early stint in the Navy, Chapman studied law and published his own newspaper. In 1861, he volunteered for service, rose in the ranks, and participated in a number of battles, including Gettysburg. (He is the only general in Crown Hill Cemetery who fought at Gettysburg.) Post-war: Chapman served on court-martial boards before serving as a judge, a receiver for two financially challenged railroads, a state legislator, and a Senator.

* George McGinnis (1826-1910)

* Edward Black (1853-1872)

Crown Hill Cemetery: Civil War tour

Not really a war buff, I felt a bit out of place with the other people who showed up for the tour. Hats and t-shirts attested to their passion for the war. As we waited for the tour to start, they shared their own war stories about visits to different battlefields.

I was here to enjoy a docent-led tour of Crown Hill Cemetery during a July morning. After a slow start, the tour guide took off like a shot. And never stopped going. The tour lasted only an hour and half but we covered a lot of ground and viewed a lot of gravesites. The guide peppered us with lots of information, and I attempted to inject with questions.

Crown Hill Cemetery opened in 1863. A section was reserved as a national cemetery. Interestingly, although blacks and whites were segregated in Crown Hill, on the federal lands, USCT (United Stated Colored Troops) were buried among white troops.

In 1866, Union soldiers were moved from Greenlawn city cemetery to Crown Hill. (Greenlawn is no more; it is the current site of Lucas Oil stadium.) In 1930, the Confederate soldiers were moved to Crown Hill.

The gravesites that we visited were for people somehow tied to the Civil War. They were mostly Union soldiers and supporters, but Democrats, southern sympathizers, and a Confederate soldier rounded out the mix. The stories we heard about people are too numerous to relate in detail. I’ll share a few interesting war and post-war tidbits about the people discussed in the tour.

John Coburn (1825-1908)
Early in the war, Coburn surrendered to Nathan Forest and spent time in Libby Prison before being exchanged. He fought with Benjamin Harrison. The city of Atlanta surrendered to him and his troops. Post-war: Coburn helped ensure the construction of the Soldiers and Sailors monument in Indianapolis. He and his father helped found the Indiana Historical Society.

Thomas A. Hendricks (1819-1885)
As a pro-Union Democrat during the Civil War, Hendricks kept the Democrats in the Indiana legislature from passing anti-war resolutions. In 1863, he was elected to the Senate, replacing Senator Bright. Bright had been expelled for addressing Jefferson Davis as President of the Confederate States in a letter where he suggested that the South should buy guns from Indiana manufacturers (!). Post-war: Hendricks served for eight months (until his death) as the 21st Vice President under President Cleveland.

Abel Streight (1828-1892)
In 1863, Streight led a raid (the Mule Brigade) on Alabama to disrupt the railroad (and Confederate supplies) from Chattanooga to Atlanta. He was caught by Nathan Forrest (the same Forrest that caught Coburn), but demanded a do-over after he learned that Forrest tricked him with only 500 men to his 1,700. (Naturally, Forrest did not agree to a do-over.) He escaped from Libby Prison, along with 102 others (of these two drowned and 50 were recaptured). Post-war: After his death, his wife buried in their front lawn. “I never knew where he was in life, but now I can find him.” (He was reburied in Crown Hill Cemetery.)

Jefferson C. Davis (1828-1879)
Davis has the unique distinction of killing a superior officer who insulted him in front of lots of witnesses but was not put on trial. Because he was a good career officer, and good career officers were in short supply, he wasn’t tried but he was barred from future promotions and pay increases. He was also known for the pontoon boat incident. After crossing a river in the south, he cut the pontoons loose, leading to hundreds of slaves who were following his troops to drown or be captured. His tombstone is covered with a concrete US flag.

Oliver Morton (1823-1877)
Morton was the 14th governor, and was devoted to Lincoln and the Union war effort. He secured men and money for the Union Cause despite a legislature filled with Copperheads (Democrats) who opposed to the war. He accomplished this by exceeding his constitutional authority, e.g., disbanding the legislature, taking out federal and private loans to run the state government. Post-war: US Senator.

Edward Canby (1817-1873)
Like Davis, Canby was a career officer. He was friends with Lew Wallace; both grew up in Crawfordsville. After Lew’s mother died, Hawkins, the mother of Canby’s future wife, took in the three Wallace boys until their father remarried. The brother of Canby’s future wife, John Parker Hawkins, led a division of African American soldiers at the Battle of Fort Blakely, which resulted in the capture of Mobile, Alabama. Post-War: Canby ended up in California negotiating a peace treaty with the Modocs, which ended in his death. Several generals, including Lew Wallace.

Samuel St. George Rogers (1832-1880)
Rogers is the sole confederate soldier buried in Crown Hill Cemetery proper (vs. the National Cemetery). Because he was buried in Crown Hill rather than on federal property, his tombstone was allowed to sport the image of a confederate flag. Post-war: Rogers was a congressman from Florida.

Richard Gatling (1818-1903)
Dr. Gatling was a medical doctor by training and an inventor by profession. He is best known for the Gatling gun, which was first used in combat by Union forces during the Civil War. His wife Jemima was the sister of David Wallace’s second wife (Zerelda). David Wallace was Lew Wallace’s father, and Zerelda was the model for the mother in Lew’s novel Ben-Hur.

David Wallace (1799-1859)
Wallace’s connection to the Civil War is through his sons Edward and Lew who both served in the Union forces. He served as state representative, lt. governor, governor, and then US Senator. He had the misfortune of being governor when the negative effects of the Mammoth Internal Improvement Act were being realized and the state almost went bankrupt. His wife Zerelda was a leader in the temperance movement and a suffragette.

Samuel Fahnestock (1804-1874)
Dr. Fahnestock has the distinction of being the third person buried in Crown Hill Cemetery (6/7/1864). He was murdered in Louisiana where he served as a volunteer physician treating freed slaves.

Lucy Ann Seaton (1831-1864)
Seaton is the first person buried in Crown Hill with her infant baby Lucy in an unmarked grave by her side. Her husband, John L Seaton, was a captain the Union Army. In recent years, Boy Scouts raised her tombstone, added bricks around the gravesite, and covered the grave with ground plants. If Seaton was the first person buried in Crown Hill and Fahnestock the third, who is the second? I haven’t solved that mystery yet.

Caleb Blood Smith (1808-1964)
Smith was given the position of Secretary of the Interior under Lincoln in return for his support of Lincoln at the 1860 Republican Convention. No one in government thought Smith had any administrative aptitude. He himself seemed to want a position the Supreme Court. He resigned, accepted a judgeship in Indiana, and died not long after. Post-war: Smith’s body is apparently AWOL. He is not buried in the Smith mausoleum. I have read conflicting accounts of him being buried in Greenlawn (whose burials were later moved to Crown Hill) or the Connersville cemetery.

Louisa Magruder (ca. 1808-1900)
Magruder is buried on the Noble family plot. Her father Tom, who was a slave in the Noble family, is nowhere to be found in the plot. Louisa’s tombstone reads “daughter of Uncle Tom”. Her father is believed to have been the inspiration for Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which was published in 1852. According to historian J.P. Dunn, Harriet Beecher Stowe regularly visited the Magruders—Stowe’s brother was a Presbyterian minister in Indianapolis and friend of the Nobles—and actually wrote much of her book there. Post-war: Magruder was a servant in the Noble family in Indianapolis. After the war, Noble’s granddaughter gave Magruder a small house and plot of land.

Dr. John Kitchen (died 2/8/1916)
At the beginning of the Civil War, Dr. Kitchen was in charge of the sick at Camp Morton, the largest of the eight prison camps established for Confederate noncommissioned officers and privates. His mausoleum is the only hillside mausoleum in the cemetery. Post-war: Kitchen continued to practice medicine until 1886.

Miles Fletcher (1828-1862)
Oliver Morton requested that Calvin Fletcher accompany him on a trip to talk to Indiana troops. Fletcher, a prominent resident of Indianapolis, supported USCT, let troops use his farm lands to train, provided for soldiers’ families, and purchased arms for Indiana’s regiments. Unfortunately, he could not accompany Morton and sent his son Miles in his place. Miles was killed by another train car when he poked his head out of the train’s window.

Charles Brouse (1839-1904)
On May 16, 1899, Captain Brouse was awarded the Medal of Honor for valor at the Battle of Missionary Ridge. Citation: “To encourage his men whom he had ordered to lie down while under severe fire, and who were partially protected by slight earthworks, himself refused to lie down, but walked along the top of the works until he fell severely wounded.” Post-war: Brouse died in sleep of apparent heart failure.

Cyrus Hines (1830-1901)
Hines married Maria Fletcher, the daughter of Calvin Fletcher and sister of Miles Fletcher. She died in 1860 and he enlisted in the 11th Indiana Volunteers in April 1861. In August 1863, he resigned due to an injury sustained in 1862. Post-war: He practiced law with Benjamin Harrison, and married his late wife’s sister (Lucy).

Thomas Morris (1811-1904)
Brigadier General served with Mcclellan (who presumably never gave Morris the credit he deserved). He played a vital role in what led to the creation of West Virginia. During the Western Virginia Campaign in 1861, he cleared the Confederate army from western Virginia, which fostered pro-Union sentiment. Post-war: Morris returned to the railroad industry, becoming president of the Indianapolis and St. Louis Railroad in 1868. In 1877, he oversaw the construction of the Indiana State House.

Joseph Bingham (died 12/13/1898)
Bingham was the state chairman of the Democratic Party and editor of the Indianapolis Daily State Sentinel, where he was a vocal critic of the Republican-controlled government and its policies. He was caught up in the unconstitutional treason trials in Indiana and turned government witness in the Copperhead conspiracy trial.

Eli Lilly (1838-1898)
Lilly, a pharmacist and drugstore owner, enlisted in the Army in 1861 and moved up the ranks. He ended the war as a Colonel. Post-war: Lilly lost his wife to malaria on a plantation he bought in Mississippi. Moving back to Indiana, he ultimately started a medical manufacturing company.

Benjamin Harrison (1833-1901)
In 1862, Harrison helped Governor Morton with the recruitment of troops. That same year Harrison was commissioned as a captain. He was part of Sherman’s March to the Sea. Post-War: Harrison practiced law. He represented the government in cases including the treason trials of 1864. (See Bingham.) H was a US Senator and the 23rd President of the US. (Cleveland won the popular vote, but Harrison the electoral college. Interesting tidbit: Cleveland was a two-term president—immediately before and after Harrison.)

Robert Foster (1834-1903)
Foster enlisted as a private but quickly rose through the ranks. He was promoted to captain in Lew Wallace’s 11th Indiana Infantry Regiment. He played a prominent role in the siege of Petersburg and the Appomattox Campaign, and saw action in the Battle of Rich Mountain in western Virginia. Most unusual, he never lost a battle. Post-war: Foster served as a member of the commission that tried the Lincoln conspirators, as did Lew Wallace.

George McGinnis (1826-1910)
McGinnis volunteered for three months of service in the 11th Indiana Volunteer Infantry Regiment that Lew Wallace raised. He rose through the ranks along with Wallace. Post-war: He ran a fiduciary business and served in local political offices. His daughter Mary Ella died in 1875; the family plot includes a statue made in her likeness.

Edward Black (1853-1872)
Black was the youngest soldier in the Civil War. He started out as a drummer boy in the 21st Indiana Volunteer Infantry at eight years of age and then enlisted as a regular soldier with his father. His drum is on display in the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis.

Sarah More (1815-1898)
More was a stage actress in New York in the mid-1800s. Her link to the Civil War? She starred in a production of Money with John Wilkes Booth.

Kissing the bricks

One thing that you cannot escape in Indiana is its automotive history and love of racing, particularly in central Indiana, which is home to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Over the last several years, I have made the rounds of automobile museums throughout the state and seen umpteen early cars in various venues. I’ve heard the tales of titans in the US automotive industry and often walk by “Crazy” Carl Fisher‘s mausoleum in Crown Hill Cemetery. While I haven’t been to a running of the Indianapolis 500, I have enjoyed some events such as practice and the legendary Carb Day at the track.

Before The Greatest Month in Racing commenced this year, I decided to take a behind the scenes tour of the track and peruse their museum. The tour and the museum were well worth it.

The tour is quite a production. I made a reservation but lots of people just showed up and clamored on one of two buses. (On scheduled days, the ninety-minute tour runs several times a day. They seem to expand or contract the number of buses based on how many people show up.)

We started by being driven around the track, listening to a tour guide and a tape by Derek Daley. It was super cool to really feel the effect of the 9-degree banking of the corners as we slowly puttered around the track. To the race car drivers, this banking has the effect of 3 Gs on their bodies.

We stopped midway through what feels like a “canyon”. This is where the race starts and ends, with the media center, control tower, corporate suites, and victory podium consolidated in one area. As race car drivers approach this area, they are greeted by stands on either side of the track; they are kind of encapsulated by fans as they race through.

In contrast, we came to a slow halt and tumbled out of the bus at the famous Yard of Bricks, where the race starts and ends. The track was the brainchild of Carl Fisher, along with a few other automotive industry bigwigs. When the IMS opened in 1909, the track was composed of crushed stone sprayed with tar. It did not work out well. The third race (and first auto race) at the track had to be cut short due to fatalities and wrecks resulting from the road conditions. Fisher immediately had the track repaved with bricks. In 1961, the track was repaved again and all the bricks but a yard at the start/finish line were buried underneath the track as it exists today.

We had the opportunity to see the Yard of Bricks up close and personal—and to participate in the newish tradition of kissing them. (NASCAR winner Dale Jarrett initiated this tradition in 1996, which winners since have emulated.) It was a bit surreal to be standing on the track, in the canyon, looking over at victory podium. (I was struck by how compact the space was. Victory podium seems so large and the area so spacious on TV.)

After a few minutes of taking in the sites, snapping some photos, and, er, kissing the bricks, we got back in the bus and continued on around the track to access the media center and the control tower from the back.

The media center was built in 2000. As we waited for the elevator to take us up to the fourth floor, I poked my head inside an open doorway right off of the lobby. And I found myself looking into the room where press conferences are held—the surrealness of seeing places in person that I had only seen on TV continued.

No time to dally as we were going to the fourth floor where the media hangs out. And I do not mean a few media personnel but several hundred. The room is the size of a football field, the guide said, as I turned to look. The room, with rows of chairs and tables, can hold more than 300 people. A cafeteria in the same building feeds them all several meals a day.

Our next stop was to walk out the doors to the victory podium. Now I was seeing the canyon from the perspective of a Grand Prix winner. (Grand Prix winners gather at the top of the podium, Indianapolis 500 winners below.)

We sauntered into the adjacent building, the control tower. On the second floor, we visited where timing and scoring occurs. Special cameras monitor the cars as they zoom across the Yard of Bricks with each lap. We learned how special transponders on the cars (that’s what those antenna on the cars are for!) communicate with instruments in this room.

One corner is where broadcasts from IMS take place—another location seen on TV. A special inner room with glass windows is where three people responsible for monitoring and calling the scores hole up for the race.

In the control tower, we also saw corporate suites, where the lucky few can shell out money to watch the race in enclosed rooms overlooking the track. The suites go for $75,000 for 80 people for 15 days of festivities. A real bargain when you think about it, we were told. One hundred and twenty suites exist, but they had to create extra ones in 2016 for the 100th running of the race.

I was stuck on the idea that $75,000 is a bargain and then stunned by the realization that 75,000 x 120 is a heck of a lot of money when our guide relayed a story about Andrew Luck, the QB of the Indianapolis Colts. Apparently in 2016 Luck called to reserve a suite, but as luck would have it—sorry, I couldn’t resist—all suites had already been reserved. That was how the IMS came to construct additional corporate suites. It wouldn’t do to NOT have a corporate suite for Andrew Luck. (Of course, there was also a lot of money to be made.)

We meandered up to the tenth floor of the control tower to a different viewing suite—one for the sponsors of the race. With money, it seems, come benefits…and creature comforts.

We then rejoined the bus to putter through Gasoline Alley and the garage area. Many manufacturers and suppliers already had their names above the single garages in anticipation of the month of May. Special drivers (like four-time winners of the Indianapolis 500 Al Unser and A.J. Foyt) have their own offices with their names etched in the glass windows.

Afterwards we were let out at the front of the museum. The ninety minutes went by quickly. All through the tour, the guide outside of the bus and the recording of Derek Daley inside the bus gave us lots of interesting tidbits. In 1935 warning lights around the track were installed. In 2002, protective walling (SAFER barriers), developed at the University of Nebraska, was installed. A golf course—which I met by chance as I was looking for the IMS entrance—was built in 1929. Currently four holes exist inside the track (!) and 14 holes outside. The IMS fits 400,000 spectators (in the stands, suites, and infield). It is the largest sporting venue in the world.

I am glad that I ventured out on a cold—and what was ultimately rainy—day to tour the historic IMS—it’s on the Nation Register of Historic Places. I learned a lot of interesting facts, saw things I hadn’t before (or only on TV), and experienced bits of the IMS such as the Yard of Bricks that mere mortals normally do not. Right in time before the madness that is May in central Indiana…and before my next trip to watch the cars practice for the next Indianapolis 500.