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.

Irwin house and gardens

I ran into Selma sooner than I thought I would.

I was on a tour of the historic Irwin house and gardens in Columbus, Indiana. I had walked by this walled house with garden, intrigued by the European looking gardens and the Italianate architecture. It was an historic home turned into a bed and breakfast, closed to passersby except for a few hours twice a week when its gardens are open to the public.

Or when a tour is available.

The tour I was on had just moved from the foyer to the parlor. I was scribbling notes, listening to the docent. And then I looked up. I was flabbergasted. There was Selma over the fireplace. Of course, it was a replica. (The original is back in Steele’s studio on his Brown County property.)

I had arrived a bit early, per the tour instructions. As we waited for all the people signed up for the tour to arrive, the guide let us loose to wander the house. I was so focused on all the details of the rooms, I missed Selma on my initial walkthrough!

The house was originally a Victorian structure built in 1864 for Joseph Irwin, who owned a dry goods store. Luck smiled on Irwin. As the sole owner in town of a safe, he stored money for other businessmen. Unsurprisingly, in the 1870s, he founded a bank—Irwin Union Bank & Trust (which went out of business just a few years ago).

Flushed with cash, in 1890 he enlarged and remodeled the house. The house doubled in size and resembled little of its former self.

In 1910, the house underwent a final renovation and transformation, remodeled by Massachusetts architect Henry A. Philips. Gone were Victorian touches, replaced with Edwardian style.

The house stayed in the Irwin family, passed down through married daughters, which explains its reference as the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller house. Multiple generations often lived in the house at the same time. I attempted to make some sense of the generations of this family, its history, and Cummins, the company associated with the city. Clessie Cummins, who founded Cummins, was a chauffeur and mechanic for the Irwin family. William Irwin, Joseph Irwin’s son, financially backed Cummins’ venture.  J. Irwin Miller, great-grandson of Joseph Irwin, was the late great CEO of Cummins.

In 1996, the last family member who lived in the house passed away. The Miller family maintained the house and garden, but the family never lived in the house again. In 2009, the house left the Irwin-Sweeney-Miller hands. In 2010, the new owners, the Stevens opened the house as a bed and breakfast, and maintained the family tradition of opening the gardens to the public on certain days.

The tour started in the current foyer and included all rooms (sans kitchen area) in the downstairs area. (As the house is a functioning bed and breakfast, we did not get to tour the second or third floors.)

The current foyer is dark, covered with wood paneling and filled with a lovely staircase. What, I wondered, was the wood? As if reading my mind, the docent explained that the Irwins had a choice: use cheaper local wood that would keep the remodeling on schedule and in budget OR use tiger oak from England that would last 200 years? They chose the latter. Long-term thinking people. The wood in the house is in mint condition. They clearly made the right choice.

The parlor, as she pointed out, is like other parlors, not a comfortable place, only meant to greet guests before moving to somewhere else. Huh. Not something I ever realized about parlors. Interesting tidbit to learn. The furniture in this room didn’t look particularly comfortable. (But hey, you could gaze at Selma in the Garden here!) The furniture on the first level is all original. For the most part, when the house was sold to the Stevens in 2009, the original belongings were sold with it.

Next to the parlor is a small “music” room. The baby grand is gone but replaced with a smaller piano for guests to use while they enjoy tea in this room. I noticed that the fish in the large bowl on the piano must have been spooked as we traipsed through. He was hiding in the castle archway. (When I initially perused the room, he was out swimming around.)

After the music room is a side door and strange hallway. This was the original entranceway, the docent explained. The entrance and hallway seemed like an afterthought, not a grand entrance like the current foyer. (To my chagrin, I didn’t ask about what the current foyer originally was.) Why is the original entrance no longer used? It opens on the side of the house, not facing the street. Immediately to the side of the house sits the modern public library. A pity that the property lines are so close.

The small entrance and hallway house the phone and elevator, added during the 1910 remodel. The elevator—not an Otis!—is oval shaped and can fit two people with a suitcase. (Otis was THE elevator manufacturer with Indiana roots.) Contrary to typical Amy behavior, I did not investigate the elevator. I blame it on the cramped hallway, the size of the tour, and the tour moving on. But I am disappointed that I didn’t investigate it.

The dining room houses a long table, not the original to the room, but the original type of table. The owners recently acquired a similar model to what the Irwins had. The art hanging over the table was another pleasant surprise—a large Audubon print of red-shouldered hawks. (The Indianapolis Museum of Art is currently running a special exhibit of Audubon’s works, full of prints like this one.)

The library is rather the pièce de résistance. Its dark wood paneling is the same as in the foyer. The fireplace is the only one in the house that they use. One wall is lined with books, that any guest is welcome to peruse. (In fact, books, the docent told us, fill the house.) On occasion, guests stumble across interesting tidbits such as letters in the books. The current owners just ass the treasure finders to place the items back where they found them after enjoying their contents. (Gosh, what historic secrets are in the pages of these books?)

In hindsight, the house—at least the main floor—is surprisingly small. I would have LOVED to get an entire tour, including what was the bachelor pad of an unmarried son on the third floor. The gardens, which were built from 1911 to 1913, are about the same footprint as the house.

After sharing a few stories about the gardens, we were left to wander to our hearts’ content. Really? The tour instructions mentioned that we would have limited photography opportunities in the garden. But in fact, the gardens were opening to the public soon.

The gardens are modeled on Pompeii ruins, something that the family must have been smitten with on their travels. (Of course, the style fits in well with the Italianate style of the house.) Pergolas with wisteria (the sole remaining original plant in the garden) mirrored each other, housing busts of four Greek philosophers. The symmetry continued with dual ponds sporting turtle fountains. To one side is a shaded garden, where brides emerge during wedding ceremonies.

Past the dual ponds with turtle fountains are steps that lead down to a sunken garden with another fountain and rectangle pond. To the left is an elephant, originally from the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair (it has been subsequently recast), and steps leading to a mini amphitheater.

Opposite the elephant on the other side of the fountain in the sunken garden is a stone wishing well. In a separate side garden, by the Italian wishing well, is what currently is the herb garden. (It originally was a rose garden.)

The high point of the garden (design-wise and geographically) are steps leading up to a “tea house”. Up the steps are five fountains: a man with a walrus face, a boar, a ram, a bear, and two boys. From the top, you can look down on the entire gardens and gain a good view of the house.

The gardens were a piece of quiet and respite, the sound of the many fountains creating a sense of calm. After the gardens opened to the public, the space gradually filled with people: parents with small children stopping for a quick visit, people coming to take photographs from different vantage points. The world was intruding into this walled space. Time to join it.

The House of the Singing Winds

I’m not sure that I would do well with random people walking through my house whenever they wanted. Of course, societal norms are a bit different now.

Back in the early 1900s, rural Hoosiers were perplexed by this odd couple—a painter and a gardener—who built a huge (relatively speaking) house on a hill in Brown County. In contrast, these Hoosiers were farmers who, by the sounds of it, were probably living hand-to-mouth and inhabited one-room log cabins. (The Dewar Cabin that was moved to the property from a nearby farm housed 17 people. 17. Looking at the cabin, I couldn’t visualize how 17 people could lie down to sleep.)

I was visiting the T.C. Steele Historic Site in Belmont, Indiana, a small town halfway between Nashville (IN) and Bloomington, in the hills of Brown County. By the time that T.C. Steele bought the property and built his house in Brown County (1907), he was a well-known painter, one of the Hoosier Group. He became known as the dean of Indiana painters and the center loci of the Brown County art colony.

All modern-day visitors are welcome to roam the grounds and hike the trails on the property. The grounds include gardens, the Dewar log cabin, and a cemetery. “Formal” gardens exist just up the drive from the official entrance. (The official entrance with stone arches is closed due to needed repairs.) Paths past Steele’s studio lead to two ponds filled with water lilies, lily pads, and frogs. (Despite the numerous plops of frogs jumping into the water upon my approach, I caught a few of them in photos that I took.)

If you follow the path a bit further, you encounter the Dewar log cabin, which I learned is not technically a log cabin because it was not a temporary dwelling. (Huh? Log cabins were temporary dwellings?) This particular one was built by a Scots immigrant for his son and housed the son, the son’s first wife, his seven children, and then his second wife and an additional eleven (!) children. The cabin has hewn logs, a board floor, stone fireplace, furnished staircase, shake shingles, and evidence of board siding—all aspects of a more permanent dwelling than a log cabin.

A cemetery, which includes T.C., Selma, and many of her family members, is situated a bit removed from the house. On the whole, the tombstones seem recent and well maintained. The exception is T.C.’s. It is weather worn and the inscription on it hard to make out: “Beauty Outlives Everything.”

The trails on the property take you through the woods. Only one trail leads to a structure: a reconstructed painting studio, like the kind that T.C. used when he wanted to be painting outdoors but the weather didn’t quite permit it. The rest of the trails are pleasant meanders through the wooded property.

For a small fee, you can take a tour of Steele’s studio and his house. (I definitely recommend it.) The tour, which lasted about an hour, started in the studio, where we were allowed to peruse the collection of paintings on the walls before our docent started her talk.

The Indiana State Museum runs the historic site and owns the paintings on display (which rotate every two years). The paintings are arranged in chronological order, which allows you to clearly see the changes in his painting subjects and style: portraits, the dark style learned in Munich, the Brookville period, Indiana University paintings, paintings done in the Pacific Northwest, and Brown County landscapes.

After we had our fill of the paintings, the docent started with a fascinating history of Steele, his life on the property, and his wife Selma. He was first introduced to painting when an itinerant sign painter came to town. After following him around, before leaving, the sign painter gave Steele come of his painting supplies.

Then when he was thirteen, T.C. had the opportunity to take an art class. It quickly became apparent that he was by far the most talent (more than the instructor it seems) and took over teaching the class. At fifteen, he was commissioned to paint his first portrait. But then his father died and painting was abandoned. As the eldest son, he took over running the farm for five years—from 1862 to 1867—to support the family, which probably is what kept him out of the Civil War.

He married Libbie, his childhood sweetheart, moved to Ohio, Michigan, and then back to Indiana. In 1880, Indianapolis was an up and coming city. Businessmen, wanting to cultivate the arts, approached Steele about painting in Indianapolis. Lacking a formal education in painting, he convinced the businessmen to sponsor his education at the Royal Bavarian Academy in Munich. Five years later he returned to Indianapolis and painted portraits for the businessmen as payment for their sponsorship.

His heart was in landscape painting, but no one wanted or valued landscape painting at the time—until an exhibition in Indianapolis that included his work and that of other Hoosier painters. A Chicago art critic dubbed the group of painters from Indiana the Hoosier Group, a title that stuck. And then his landscape paintings started selling.

In 1899, his beloved wife Libbie died. His paintings took on a darker tone, until he left to travel to (and paint) different parts of the US. Back in Indiana, he encountered Selma Neubacher, the sister of his daughter’s husband. Despite the age difference (35 vs. 60), the two married and lived out their lives at The House of the Singing Winds in Brown County.

The tour next moved to the house, where the docent related stories and described changes done to the structure. The museum is still renovating the house, reverting it back to its layout and design at the time of Steele’s death in 1926. (His wife Selma lived on the property until 1945.) Because Selma bequeathed the property to IU, rather than the property passing through private hands, 95% of the artifacts at the historic site are original to the site and belonged to the Steeles.

An arbor covered with one hundred year old wisteria (!) leads to the entrance of the house. The arbor was a site of contention between Selma and the grocery deliverymen who routinely hit it with their cars. As was the norm for the times, the men would not listen to women speaking directly to them (!), and because by this time no men were around to speak for her—T.C. had died in 1926—Selma had to get creative with her solution: she replaced the wooden arbor with a stone one. That way if the deliverymen hit it with their cars, it would damage their cars, not the arbor or her wisteria. Gotta love her spunk!

The house itself felt small. The House of the Singing Winds was aptly named for the wind that whipped through the screened porch that wrapped three-quarters of the way around the house. However, over the time that the Steeles lived in the house, parts of the porch were removed to make way for additions.

As we moved through the house, the docent explained which parts were added or changed over the years. Currently, the front room is the living room. Originally it was the painting room, but with locals constantly dropping in and traipsing through, little painting could get done there.

The dining room was the original kitchen plus part of the screened porch. Small and dark, the kitchen was moved to a new room behind it.

The current kitchen is much more light and airy. The sink has a water pump rather than a faucet. (There is actually no running water on the property, even today.) For the first five years of their life at The House of the Singing Winds, the Steeles paid local boys to haul buckets of water up the hill to their house—water needed for cooking and cleaning as well as painting and gardening. Given the soil and bedrock, a well was not possible. Instead, they eventually turned to using a cistern to hold water that drained from their gutters.

And I thought, wow, Selma agreed to leave the city, marry T.C., and move here after seeing this rustic property?! She did put up with a lot. But it seems that T.C. might have sacrificed a bit too. Selma was not a cook. They assumed that they could hire a local girl to cook for them. That did not pan out. So they were stuck with Selma attempting to cook in rather rustic conditions; apparently, it wasn’t uncommon for them to scrap food that exploded during baking off of the oven door.

Past the current kitchen is the sleeping porch, with the narrowest bed that I have ever seen. (If you rolled over, you would roll onto the floor.) To my delight, this room contained a Gustave Baumann print (!), one of the many Brown County artists who were friends with T.C. On the shelves were large shells, including an abalone. I wondered if these were from his time in the Pacific Northwest—abalone shells were plentiful on the Monterey Peninsula when I was there.

The master bedroom is quite small, in the interior of the house with no windows. The last room in the house is a tiny study, which seemed much too dark to do any writing or reading in. I didn’t ask but no bathroom existed in the house—no running water, so the “bathroom” would have been an outhouse.

The House of the Singing Winds was a peaceful respite. Time slowed the minute I stepped out of my car onto the grounds. Although no singing winds greeted me, the twittering of birds, the croaking of frogs in the ponds, and the breeze in the trees made modern-life seem a million miles away. The visit to nature and art fed my soul—I imagine that is what drew and kept T.C. and Selma here. I learned quite a bit more about one of the influential Hoosier artists. The tour and collection of art was well worth the drive.

And I got to meet Selma in the Garden.

Haan Mansion Museum of Indiana Art

I was flabbergasted as I entered the museum.

I was there for a special tour. Two other people were there ahead of me. But due to a snafu with the credit card paying system, they left in search of cash to pay the entrance fee. This gave me a much welcome chance to wander among the art in the house.

I quickly realized that I was in for a special treat. The space has a different feel than an art museum. It is a house filled with art—American furniture, Hoosier paintings, and Hoosier ceramics. Everywhere I turned was art. The intimacy of the experience reminded me of theatre that I see at the Benjamin Harrison Presidential Site—where the audience sits inches from the actors and is sometimes included in the play.

The house itself is a kind of art. It was originally built as the State of Connecticut building for the 1904 World’s Fair. After the fair, it was dissembled and moved, eventually (not sure when) ending up in Lafayette, IN. The Haans bought it in 1984 and called it home for 31 years. They moved out in 2015 to dedicate it as an art museum to exhibit the Indiana art that they had been collecting since 1995.

The Haans focus on three areas: American furniture, Hoosier (oil) paintings, and Hoosier ceramics. Their collections are amazing. Jaw-dropping amazing. Apparently a curator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art visited and exclaimed that the Haans have a better collection of Hoosier artists than the IMA (!). The IMA and the Indiana State Museum have both borrowed art from the Haan Mansion Museum of Indiana Art for their shows. The Haan Mansion Museum of Indiana Art has the best Indiana art and ceramics, best regionalism, and best women artist collections. And it sounds like their collecting is not slowing down.

Bob Haan led the tour of us three visitors on the day I went. He clearly loves to talk about the collections and led us through the house, pointing out items and relating stories about the pieces for over an hour and a half. There is way too much art in the house for him to go piece by piece. Instead, we went room by room. He pointed out certain items and fielded any questions we had about anything. It was a wonderfully informative tour and astonishing to see such an incredible collection of Hoosier art.

The American furniture in the house comes from auctions, mostly sight unseen and restored by Mr. Haan. In contrast, the Haans rely on dealers for the oil paintings that they purchase. And the ceramics…the Haans purchase these directly from the artists, often invited into homes to pick the items that they want.

The walls and the rooms are filled with art and furniture—every nook and cranny bursting—too much to recount, but here are a few highlights to whet your appetite.

The Haans snagged an 1875 Wooten desk. I first saw this unusual desk in Richmond at the Wayne County Historical Museum. These desks, I learned, came in different grades. Superior grade—the grade in the Haan Mansion Museum of Indiana Art—seems to be rare. (The Smithsonian has three but none are superior grade.)

An unusual item caught my eye in the foyer: an orchestral regina. Basically, an orchestral regina is a large upright music box that consists of a 27″ metal disk with holes punch into the metal. The holes are punched in such a pattern to play a particular song. This circa 1900 orchestral regina still works and we were treated to a song. Mr. Haan opened the regina, fished out a coin from the innards of the device, and added a metal disk.

An 1872 Chickering piano, an early competitor to the famous Steinway pianos, graces one of the rooms. Mr. Haan restored the exterior, but the innards are in desperate need of attention. A fundraising campaign is ongoing.

Two clocks caught my eye: a grandfather clock and a hanging wall clock. The Herschedes grandfather clock is from the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition, where it won the grand prize. The Tiffany hanging wall clock is from the World’s Columbian Exposition of 1893 in Chicago.

In one nook is a historic US representative desk, desk #83 which was used by Thaddeus Stevens from 1857-1873. (Tommy Lee Jones played the staunch abolitionist Stevens in the movie Lincoln.) In another nearby nook are stone sculptures by modern-day Hoosier artistic Peter Rujuwa. (Other sculptures of his appear in the sculpture garden behind the house.)

Hundreds of pieces of ceramics by modern Hoosier artists occupy tables, cabinets, walls, and mantles throughout the house. These works of art include those by Laura Ann Fry, the Overbeck Sisters, Richard Peeler, Karl Martz, Julia Livingstone, and numerous other artists. Mr. Haan pointed out the tell-tale signs of shell shapes in wood-fired pottery. One wall of the butler’s pantry is covered with teapots from approximately 40 different artists.

The kitchen itself is unique. Mr. Haan made the cabinets, a dark wood, imitating styles used in American furniture throughout the house. As we admired the cabinetwork, he asked us standing near a cabinet to open both sides of the cabinet. One side housed a fridge, the other side a pantry. Wait a minute, I exclaimed. The pantry seems much shallower than the fridge. And then he pointed to the top of the wall. He had built the cabinets around a chimney for a fireplace on the second floor.

Large oil paintings of western art lined the walls going up the stairs to the second floor. The part of the second floor that overlooks the main foyer is filled with a special 100-cup exhibit by Julia Livingstone. Each of these ceramic cups is unique and reflects moments in Julia’s life. Bob pointed on the special styles in the cups that she made when she was diagnosed with cancer and then finished treatment. The cups are so numerous that they spill over into some of the bedrooms.

I rounded out the tour with a self-guided visit to the sculpture garden in back. A path winds through several sculptures, including two by Peter Rujuwa. I enjoyed his Birds, made of serpentine stone from his home country. I was also struck by the  metal sculptures of Greg Mendez, especially Effortlessly Buoyant. The most striking sculpture is the one that greets you at entrance to the garden: Venus Rising by Tuck Langland. The sculpture reminded me both of Shiva dancing the creation of the world into being and a sculpture of the Buddha in the Japanese gardens in Golden Gate Park.

If you enjoy art, especially Hoosier oil paintings and ceramics, you must make a trip to the Haan Mansion Museum of Indiana Art. Its collection is truly stellar. I also highly recommend attending one of the special guided tours. (It’s unclear how long they will continue them.) I will definitely be going back to the museum in the future to wonder through the artwork in the rooms and discover jewels that I missed on my first visit.