Dr. William Hutchings’ Office and Museum

During my visit to Dr. William Hutchings’ Office and Museum, I felt a bit discombobulated.

The tour was a mishmash of bits that I had to cobble together. I arrived when a tour was in progress and tried to follow along. Then when that tour ended, I started back at the beginning, got partially through it when more people showed up, and the tour guide started all over again.

Even in spite of this, the explanation of Dr. Hutchings’ life and the buildings was a bit non-linear. My confidence in the information took a dive when the tour guide mentioned that the organization and she had told people misinformation for years. (For example, they relayed that the room we were standing in was an examination room and the floor was painted red so that bloodstains wouldn’t be so noticeable. In fact, after they reviewed documentation about the building and Dr. Hutchings’ practice, they discovered that the good doctor made house visits. He never saw patients in this room. The room was in fact his dispensary.)

But I am getting a bit ahead of myself.

I was visiting Dr. Hutchings’ office in Madison, Indiana, down by the Ohio River. This Greek Revival building was constructed between 1838 and 1848 by Michael Bright, who used it as his law office. (Side note: It turns out that after Michael Bright came to Madison, he read law with Judge Sullivan. Yeah, that Judge Sullivan—Jeremiah Sullivan. Early Indiana was a small world.)

Histories show that Michael Bright retired and moved to Indianapolis in 1850. (Another side note: Michael Bright’s brother was Jesse Bright, a Southern sympathizer, a landowner and slave owner in Kentucky, and an Indiana state senator. The good senator was 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 gun manufacturers (!). After his expulsion, Thomas A. Hendricks, whom we met (sort of) at the Jeremiah Sullivan House, replaced him as senator in 1863. Early Indiana was a very small world.)

At some point, the building became the law office of Judge John. R. Cravens. (Cravens married a daughter of J.F.D. Lanier. Early Indiana was a very, very small world.)

But back to Dr. Hutchings.

In 1873, the doctor started practicing in Madison. In 1883, he bought this building that Michael Bright built, using the bottom two rooms as an office and dispensary. The front room—the office— has a small coal-burning stove. The back room—the dispensary—has an herb cabinet (which looks suspiciously like a card catalog to those who remember such things) and floor-to-ceiling shelves housing all manner of bottles still containing medicines.

The doctor was apparently very interested in electricity and electrotheraphy. (As a student, he saw Asiatic cholera up close during the 1849 Asiatic Cholera Epidemic along the Kentucky River. In his thesis at the Indiana Central Medical College, he theorized that Asiatic cholera was caused by electrical phenomena in the atmosphere.)

The dispensary room holds several medical devices for electrotheraphy. One is an electro-magnetic machine. I had a vague uneasiness about this. (Before dying of cancer in 2008, a friend was approached by someone who claimed that an electro-magnetic machine could cure him. Many years ago, the FDA banned electro-magnetic machines, and advocates of them were tried for fraud. I never expected to be looking at a 19th century ancestor of this machine.)

The upstairs contains two small boarding rooms. One of the rooms houses a painting by William McKendree Snyder. Apparently the doctor acquired several paintings by Snyder. (Snyder paid the doctor for his services in paintings.) The docent seemed amazed that I did not know of William Snyder—a famous Madison painter. (Seeing how I enjoy art and have encountered the works of many famous Hoosier artists, I was surprised that I had not encountered what was apparently so famous a Hoosier artist. Perhaps he is not so famous, or perhaps my familiarity with Hoosier art is not so wide. Probably the latter.)

Dr. Hutchings practiced medicine from his office in Madison until his death in 1903. (Side note: He is buried in Fairmount, Indiana, home and burial place of James Dean.) After his death in 1903, his daughter packed up everything in the office—equipment, bottles of medicine, and patient notes—and closed the office. The office became a time capsule, opened only in 1969 when the doctor’s granddaughter gave the building and its contents to Historic Madison, Inc.

Dr. Hutchings and his family (11 children—only 8 of which survived to adulthood) lived in a house next to the office and dispensary. This house was built in 1840. The Hutchings family owned it from 1882 to circa 1965. The house was torn down by the King’s Daughter’s Hospital between 1969 and 1972 to build, of all things, a parking lot (!).

At some point the hospital got rid of the parking lot and moved a historic building built circa 1840—around the same time period as the house that the Hutchings inhabited—to the same spot as the original Hutchings house. In 1999, the hospital gave the land and house to the Historic Madison, Inc. to serve as an extended museum for Dr. Hutchings.

The museum contains exhibits about different medical devices and displays information about Civil War era medicine, illness, and lives lost. One of the rooms also displays artifacts about his daughter Lida (1878-1968), who was an avid photographer and worked among the Sioux (Lakota) in the 1890s on the Lakota Sioux Reservation. (The destruction of Sioux culture is on display; Sioux children were given to white families to be raised as white.) Lida’s cameras, glass negatives, and postcards are on display.

In one respect, Dr. Hutchings’ Office and Museum was the complete opposite of the Jeremiah Sullivan House. The latter is the original Sullivan house and includes a few belongings. But Sullivan was not a hoarder and the house passed through different hands before reaching Historic Madison, Inc. In contrast, Dr. Hutchings kept everything, his daughter carefully stored its contents, and his granddaughter bequeathed it to Historic Madison, Inc. I have a feeling that Historic Madison, Inc. will be discovering new things from Dr. Hutchings’ archives for decades to come.

Schroeder Saddletree Factory

A saddletree factory. It is exactly what it sounds like, though I never really thought about how saddles were made. Or heard the word saddletree before.

Saddles were built upon wooden saddletrees or frames. Some companies made the saddletrees. Some companies took the saddletrees and finished the product by covering it with leather. (Kind of like how some early car companies made the undercarriage for cars and some companies made the cars that use the undercarriage.)

The Ben Schroeder Saddletree Factory was kind of the undercarriage maker for the saddle industry. And what an industry it was. When Schroeder started his factory in 1878, there were 12 saddletree factories in Madison, Indiana (the so-called saddletree capital). Schroeder’s factory ended up making 250 (!) different types of saddletrees.

The saddletrees are composed of wood that runs on either side of a horse’s spine (to distribute the rider’s weight on the horse, not its spine), a pommel (or not), and the cantle (the back). All of the bits could vary slightly: the length of the wooden sides, the size of the pommel, the height of the cantle. Some could be for men or women (the dreaded side saddle)—or lightweight versions for jockeys.

The factory designed them, cut and shaped the wood, added cloth or rawhide covers, dried them, and then shipped them to factories that would finish the saddles.

John Benedict “Ben” Schroeder was born in Prussia in 1848 and immigrated to the US in 1864. He started his factory in Madison in 1878. Nothing is known about his life before Madison. (Did he grow up in the saddletree industry? Was he an apprentice at a factory when he arrived in the US?)

Schroeder slowly gobbled up competitors over the years. In the 1910s, with the rise of cars, demand started to decline. And then the Great Depression hit. But Schroeder was a savvy businessman. He switched to markets in Cuba and Latin America, where there was still a strong demand for saddles. And he branched out into stirrups and hames (the collars of horse or oxen harnesses), and then other industries, such as clothespins, lawn furniture, and gloves.

He was also extremely frugal. He designed his own machinery or bought it used, and reused everything, such as the cardboard from cereal boxes, which he used to create patterns for the saddletrees.

Schroeder’s factory was handed down to his children. Six of his eight children made it to adulthood. Out of those six, four stayed in Madison to run the business. These four never married but devoted themselves to the business.

The business employed apprentices and journeymen. Although the factory was still operating into the 1970s, I do not know how many employees (apprentices or journeymen) were used in the later decades.

At its height, the employees were making 30 to 45 saddletrees per week. Altogether, from 1878 to 1972, they made 300,000 to 500,000 saddletrees.

The company came to an abrupt end in 1972 with the sudden death of the last surviving Schroeder child, Joe. One January day, Joe was working in the woodworking shop and came back to the office for something. He slipped on the ice, hit his head, and died.

Everything on the property—including the various workshops—was left as is until the city acquired the factory in 1992, twenty years after Joe’s death. Even Joe’s lunchbox that he had taken with him to the woodshop remained where it was left in 1972. As one visitor described it, the factory was like Pompeii without the lava (or the bodies, I would add).

With grants from the DOT and Lilly, the city started to restore the factory to its height in the 1940s. People from Ball State University came to inventory everything on the site, which took two years. (After seeing all the items in the workshops, I could believe that it took that long.) The restoration cost $1.2 million. The workshops look like they were just left as is with half finished products all around. The factory really is a time capsule.

The grounds consist of the house (where the family lived), a sawmill, a carpenter shop, an assembly shop, a blacksmith shop, and a drying room.

The living room is the only room of the house restored to its original use. The room includes a coal fireplace and piano. (I noticed a stereoscope, which I have been seeing everywhere in the last year or two.) The ceiling is covered in wallpaper and the gaslights have a pump for compression. (Something I hadn’t seen before for gaslights and didn’t quite understand.) The front door is a Jenny Lind door. (This was the second reference to Jenny Lind that I had heard during my trip to Madison. Clearly this PT Barnum entertainer was quite the thing in Madison…she apparently came to sing for the city for free.)

The house was flooded during the 1904 flood. (Madison is on the banks or the Ohio River.) In what points to his dogged tenacity, Schroeder painstakingly took apart the building brick by brick, raised the foundation three feet, and then put all the bricks back. I can’t comprehend doing that.

In the back of the property is the sawmill (built in 1934) with one of those large saws that made you wonder how anyone from that time period kept all of their limbs. (The docent pointed out a guy in one photo of early apprentices and journeymen at the factory who was missing a hand. Mishap in the sawmill?)

The carpenter and assembly shops look like people just finished working in them yesterday. Bits and pieces fill the workshops. Throughout the carpenter and assembly shops are radiators that the Schroeders made themselves. (Remember their frugal nature? Make what you need if you can, or buy it used.)

The carpenter shop is full of machinery to form and polish different pieces of wood—for different bits of the saddletree, clothespins, and furniture. I was surprised to learn that the clothespins required at least three different machines—one to carve the wood, another to make the notch in the clothespins, and a third one to polish them. In one corner stood the huge boiler, fed in part with wood chips from making the clothespins.

While in the assembly shop, the docent warned me to not get too close to a large bucket, which was yellow on the inside. The bucket was used to hold the cyanide-laced paint used on the rawhide covers for the saddletrees.

On one workbench in the assembly shop was a glove (sans thumb) model that fabric was fitted on for the production of gloves. I exclaimed that the length of the fingers on the model indicated that the gloves were for men. (The docent found my observation less than interesting.)

Although the saddletrees were wooden, some of them were reinforced with metal, such as the lightweight, even childlike saddletrees of jockeys. Pommels were made of metal and affixed in notches in the saddletree. Hence the need for the blacksmith shop.

One thing in particular struck me about the blacksmith shop. Not only did the shop have a furnace, which I would have thought kept it toasty even in the winter. But it also had a freestanding stove AND more of those homemade radiators!

The drying room is what you would imagine. A trap door in the floor leads to a vat with chemicals for treating the rawhide that covered some saddletrees. After a dip, the saddletrees were hung up to dry, and for lack of a better word, for the wood to cure.

Touring the Schroeder Saddletree Factory was an eye-opening experience. I had no idea what was involved in the making of saddles, that an industry revolved around the “undercarriage” of the saddle, and that such an industry could survive into the 1970s. This factory that survived against all odds claims to be the only saddletree museum in the country.

Francis Costigan House

I had already visited some quirky historic homes so I should have been primed for oddities. But I wasn’t prepared for the front door.

I turned the handle and tried to open the door. Nothing happened. I stepped back, looked at the open sign, and then tried the door again. Huh. What gives? There was a small illegible sign beneath was seemed to be a doorbell.

I paused, unsure what to do. Perhaps a tour was in progress and the docent had locked the front door. And then all the sudden it opened. The docent looked at me and exclaimed, “Can’t you read the sign”, referring to the small, illegible sign above the doorbell. “No, no I can’t. Not without my glasses.” Her exclamation had rather surprised me. “Oh!” Now it was my exclamation that surprised her.

Apparently the sign indicated that the front door was a pocket door. Neat! I love pocket doors. I had never seen a front door that was a pocket door. I knew that the Costigan House, designed and built by a famous early architect was unusual, but I didn’t know about the front door.

Costigan (1810-1865), originally from Washington D.C., arrived in Madison in 1836. Considered a premier Civil War era architect and master builder, he is responsible for designing several famous houses in Madison, such as the Lanier Mansion and the Shrewbury House (which alas is currently closed for renovation).

He built this house for his family in 1850 but they only lived in it a short time before moving to Indianapolis (sometime in 1851 or 1852), where he designed many buildings. (Unfortunately, none of which survive.) He died in Indianapolis at the age of 55 (!) and is buried in Crown Hill Cemetery. (Oooh. Someone else to search for.)

There is little information about Costigan and no records about how the house looked. He sold the house in 1851 for $12,500. Various families, including the Hintons in the early 1990s, lived in it. (The Hintons’ name appears in stone in the walkway before the front door.)

In 1988, Historic Madison Inc acquired the property. About five or six years ago (according to the docent), an anonymous donor paid to have the house rehabilitated, during which time the house was closed for a year.

The house is a bit odd. Rumor has it that it was built on a dare. Can Costigan design and build a house on such a small lot? The answer is yes, with a few oddities in the design. (One being the pocket front door.) In fact, the house is considered to be a masterpiece design for a narrow lot.

The house is narrow, only 21.5 inches wide. The foyer is, well, non-existent. A staircase, curved at the bottom as if to draw you into the front room, immediately faces you as you enter. The entrance to the front room is curved. The docent had me open and close the door so I could experience the incredible design and craftsmanship. The curved door fits perfectly into the doorframe, even more than 150 years later.

The front room is a long parlor with two (coal) fireplaces! The two fireplaces seem odd but probably a necessity for such a long room (35 feet). The lighting in the house was all gas. The city of Madison had just gotten its gas charter in 1850, when the house was built.

Beyond the parlor is the dining room, which runs the width of the house (21.5 feet). The room was renovated to the time period with pineapple wallpaper and patterned carpeting. Beyond the dining room is an unrenovated kitchen (trapped in time in the late 1970s).

Another oddity of the house is the staircase. The docent described it as a ladder staircase. Huh? What do you mean? Well, you go up and then you go down. Aren’t all staircases like that? Oooh. These stairs are like a stepladder—steps on both sides rather than a single staircase. At the top is a wooden swing gate—to prevent you from climbing up one side and tumbling down the other side. (Gosh, the Costigans must have been more balance-challenged than me.)

As with the Jeremiah Sullivan House, I was free to explore upstairs alone—the docent did not climb stairs. In addition to the two front bedrooms were two other rooms used as studies and workrooms with extra gas lamps for improved lighting.

Can’t make it to Madison to see the house? Check out a short video that shows the house as if you are walking through it.

I wish more of Costigan’s buildings had survived. I did manage to stumble across him at Crown Hill Cemetery.

Schofield House

After my tour of the Sullivan House, which was a bit disjointed of a tour, I meandered across the street to the Schofield House. I thought I was ready for anything.

Not really. This was another slightly quirky tour.

I was the only one at the house and I had to guide the docent to explain and walk me through the building. I wasn’t quite sure what I was looking at.

I knew that the Schofield House was a tavern/residence. And that it was connected to the Freemasons. But other than that I was out to sea.

The docent waxed on about different things involving the Freemasons and his connection to them. (He grew up in the house across the street. His father was a Freemason. It was a secretive society—you never knew who was a Freemason. Freemasons are making a comeback. What? You don’t know about the Freemason hospital and retirement community in Franklin?!)

I gently eased him back to the tavern/house. When was the building constructed? 1816. Was it always a tavern/residence? Until the 1920s. And then? A private residence last owned by Schofields.

I presume that the front room was the tavern. Next to it are the rooms of the residence. The front room of the residence was originally a bedroom, now a parlor. “Guess what my favorite thing is in the room?”, he asked. Hmmm…After several guesses, I gave up. “The floor. It’s original.”

Interesting that it wasn’t the swords on the couch in front of the fireplace. I asked about the swords. One was a sword that belonged to Schofield who was a member of the Knights of Pythias, a fraternal organization similar to the Freemasons.

Beyond the parlor is the dining room and then kitchen. Upstairs is the lodge room where the famous meeting to form the Indiana Freemasons happened. (In 1818, 14 Freemasons met to found the Grand Mason Lodge of Indiana.) The room still operates as a Freemason meeting room most Sundays.

The remainder of the upstairs is closed, apparently an apartment for the docent. (Kind of a tour guide in residence?)

With some sleuthing, I learned a bit more about the building. Some of it conflicted what I learned on the tour. The building was constructed in 1817, the first two-story brick house in Madison (which means that it just beat out the Sullivan House for that honor), and the first tavern.

The building is also referred to as the Lanier-Schofield or Robinson-Schofield House. The Laniers were Alexander and Drusilla, the parents of James Lanier of Lanier Mansion fame. Either the Laniers or William Robinson were responsible for the building’s construction.

Along the way, the house came into the Schofields’ possession. Following the death of Charlotte Schofield (the last resident), the Ancient Accepted Scottish Rite in the Valley of Indianapolis bought the property in 1972. In 1975, after extensive restorations, the Masonic Heritage Foundation opened the building as a Masonic museum.

If you are interested in Freemasons, also check out the Scottish Rite Cathedral. The eyes of the docent lit up when we talked about it. The Cathedral in downtown Indianapolis is a real gem.

Jeremiah Sullivan House

I realized at the Jeremiah Sullivan House that I really do not know the movers and shakers in early Indiana. I walked into the Jeremiah Sullivan House blissfully unaware of Jeremiah Sullivan (1794-1870) (and pretty much walked out still ignorant of his importance).

Sullivan was a Virginia lawyer moving west as the country expanded. On his way to Louisville, someone persuaded him that he wanted to go to Madison instead of Louisville. At the time, Madison was devoid of lawyers. Perfect for a lawyer wanting to hang out a shingle.

Sullivan settled in Madison and went on to become a state legislator, an Indiana Supreme Court Justice (1836-1846), and a Jefferson County judge (1869-1870). He also helped found Hanover College and the Indiana Historical Society.

His 1818 Federal-style home was the first brick mansion built in the Northwest Territory. It isn’t clear to me what happened to the house after his death in 1870. At one point, it was a bed and breakfast. In the 1960s, it became a museum. (Our docent talked about accompanying her mom as a child when her mom was a docent at the house.)

The house is in decent shape but given that the building changed hands, little of the furniture is original to Sullivan.

The house consists of three floors and a basement. The first floor includes a front parlor, an office behind it, a dining room to the side, and a kitchen behind it. The docent pointed out a few items that Jeremiah’s son Algernon presumably sent from New York.

The office contains a curious bookshelf with glass doors. Noting that lawyers couldn’t always rely on courthouses to have the books they needed for a case, our docent mentioned that lawyers had to take their own books. She pointed to the handles on either side of each shelf of the bookshelf. You could literally remove a shelf of books and haul the entire shelf to court with you. (Seems like there had to be an easier way to haul books to court.)

In the dining room, the docent pointed out the dishes in the cabinet—Sullivan’s dishware from the Indiana State Museum. She also noted the silver on the sideboard—a gift from Governor Hendricks. I was confused. (The only Governor Hendricks I knew was Thomas Hendricks who was governor 1873-1877. Later I learned that his uncle, William Hendricks, was the third governor of Indiana from 1822-1825. Witness my ignorance of early Indiana history!)

More confusing is the placard in the room that indicated the silver was a gift of Frances Hendricks Ketcham, a descendent of Hendricks. So…was the silver gifted long after Sullivan was dead by either Governor Thomas Hendricks or his descendent Frances Hendricks Ketcham? Or was it a gift from Governor William Hendricks, a contemporary of Sullivan’s?

The kitchen is, well, not the real kitchen. (What?) It was a serving kitchen, where food was brought before being served. Oh, kind of like a staging area or a butler pantry. Interesting. And totally believable given the small hearth.

The docent pointed out a few items. A wooden contraption by the window was a lunchbox from the 1800s. And on a water bench sat the strangest looking homemade device—three square blocks of wood that could be lifted. Any ideas, she asked us? Nope. It was three connected mouse traps. The little rodents would unsuspectingly enter the wood box and trigger the blocks of wood to fall on them, crushing them. (At this point, I am wondering why they didn’t just get some cats.)

The Sullivans used indentured servants. I winced. Indentured servants in early Indiana were just another form of slavery. (Slavery was illegal according to the 1816 Indiana Constitution. However, people got around that legal technicality by forcing slaves to sign lengthy contracts of indentured servitude. In 1821, the Indiana Supreme Court ruled against the indentured servitude of Mary Clark, which helped contribute to the end of indentured servitude in Indiana.)

No, no. The docent insisted it wasn’t slavery. The indentured servants that Sullivan used were apprentices. When they were freed, they were given two sets of clothes, money, and references. (I heard similar stories at other historical sites.)

Well, I thought, indentured servitude did exist as separate from slavery (witness early immigrants who paid for their passage to the New World with servitude limited to a certain number of years). Given some southern Indiana support for slavery and the use of forced indentured servitude as slavery under a new name, it is really hard to know if the Sullivan servants were servants or slaves.

The docent then sent us downstairs to look around. (She doesn’t do stairs.) Two rooms are open: the actual kitchen (with a larger hearth) and a storeroom full of every sort of implement you can imagine. We walked through the storeroom trying to determine what different items were.

The house consists of two other floors. The second floor has only three bedrooms: the master bedroom, one for Jeremiah’s parents, and one for the children.

The third floor is set up as an exhibit area with some information about the family. One woman on the tour discovered an oddity in the family tree. The daughter Charlotte was married to a man with the same last name. (How convenient! She didn’t have to change her name.) Was it just a coincidence or were they distantly related?

In the information about the family, I learned—though it shouldn’t have been a surprise—that the son Algernon fought for the South. (Note: I have found no evidence of this; Algernon did defend Confederates as a lawyer in New York. He was a southern sympathizer and was married to a southerner.) One of his other brothers fought for the Union.

In 1988, Historic Madison Inc., which owns the house, created replicas of the smoke house and bake house that existed out back. A little square brick-lined area in the ground near the house is where milk could be stored to keep it cool.

If you go, be sure to stand next to the stairwell and look up. You’ll get a really cool view of the three stories of stairs.