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History

Unique Business in Martin County
  • Crane Naval Base started development during World War II, in 1940. Crane was one of many government production facilities across the Hoosier state, and started as a naval weapons depot. It was named in honor of Commodore William Montgomery Crane, the first head of the Navy’s Bureau of Ordinance.

  • The geological composition of the soil in Martin County is ideal for gypsum material. Both National Gypsum and US Gypsum operate plants near Shoals.

  • Musseling was once a huge industry in Martin County. Shells of the mussels were used for pearl buttons beginning in 1915 by Fabius Gwin, and became an astonishing industry as time passed. Gwin was known as the “king of the button industry” in the state, and his factories paid extremely well and employed over 300 people during the peak seasons as diggers. The shells from the White River are superior to Tennessee River shells, which is the major shell producing river in the United States. Gwin kept his company afloat until his death in 1947. However, when zippers and elastics were introduced to the market, buttons dramatically lost their popularity and the industry in Martin County took a severe blow. These buttons could still be produced today as the River has a bountiful supply of mussels but they have been protected.

A sampling of buttons made from mussel shells in Martin County.

Photo courtesy of
Bill Whorrall’s
"'A Photographic History of Martin County"

  • Clay pottery in Shoals/Loogootee: About the same time period as the famous Rookwood Pottery was made in Ohio. Upton Stuckey realized the clay from the hills of his farm could be molded and finished by firing. Ovens were built, and the venture later became the first pottery in Martin County, and perhaps one of the very first in the state of Indiana. Containers by Stuckey had a blue and blue-green glaze design that resembles a bird. Devol and Catterson operated two pottery kilns at Shoals and made 92,000 gallons of common stoneware annually, from 1870-1892. The land in and around Shoals and Loogootee was ideal for pottery, and probably still is. John H. Folks made stoneware, flower pots, etc. from a bed of light gray potters’ clay located on the Joseph Cannon farm beginning in 1878. The stratum of potter’s clay used by Mr. Folks is nearly five feet thick and underlies a vein of coal. The area is extant with a variety of yellow-loess potter’s clays and shale and is ideal for this industry.

Some examples of popular Upton Stuckey pottery.

Photo courtesy of
Bill Whorrall,
“ A Photographic History of
Martin County

  • Sherfick Music Company, specializing in operating juke boxes, is located in Shoals and one of the largest companies of its kind in the Midwest.
  • An abundant supply of natural gas and sand led to the growth of a booming glass industry in Martin County. The Loogootee Glass Company, Graham Brothers, New Caladonia Glass Works, and Phoenix Window Glass Company resided in Loogootee, starting around 1902. Everything from fancy, delicate perfume bottles to medicine bottles, glass chains to fruit jars, were produced. It’s been quoted that “just about every man in town worked there at one time or another, even if it was just for a short time.” All of the factories closed, however, by 1915 because the supply of natural gas was extinguished.

Facts and “True Stories”

  • In 1861, a troop train carrying soldiers passed through Loogootee, heading towards Washington, D.C. for guard duty. After the engine cleared the Beaver Creek Bridge, a rail gave way, causing a horrific wreck that killed 40 soldiers and wounded 105. At the time, Martin County had a large group of Knights of the Golden Circle, who were southern sympathizers, and were suspected of loosening the rail.

  • The first veteran that died in the Civil War from Martin County was Private Amos Boyd of the 14th Indiana Volunteers. He was killed in West Virginia at Cheat Summit Fort.

 

A Martin County resident visits the gravesite of Amos Boyd, first Martin County veteran to die in the Civil War.

Photo courtesy of
Bob Greene.

  • Because of its caves and cliffs, the region around and including Shoals was a popular hideout for bootleggers during the Prohibition.

  • Pre-historic Indians lived in the area as far back as 11,000 BC. They hunted now extinct animals such as bison, mammoth, and mastodon.

  • According to the Society of Indiana Pioneers, an individual was a pioneer of the county if they resided here on or before December 31, 1825.

  • Originally a part of Daviess County, Martin was organized as a separate county February 1, 1820.

  • The first state highway was built in 1820. It ran from New Albany to Vincennes, and went through Martin County (Hwy 150).

  • Archer Gang: Martin County had some notorious citizens in the 1880s named Archer that were supposedly robbers and murderers. They were finally lodged in the Martin County jail in March of 1886 after years of roaming free. The people of the community took the law into their own hands, and on the night of March 9, 1886, they broke into the jail, locked up the sheriff, took the prisoners onto the court house lawn, and with ropes in hand, lynched the Archer Gang. At 1:00 a.m., the court house bells rang to alert the townspeople to witness the Archers’ hanging on the court house lawn, where they remained hanging until noon of the next day.

  • Martin County has had the most county seats of any county in Indiana, totaling nine. The first county seat was at Hindostan, because it was the largest town in the county. It was also on the New Albany-Vincennes stagecoach route, which was the first stagecoach route in Indiana. After Hindostan was hit by the Yellow Fever, the county seat moved to Mount Pleasant from 1828-1844. A new community developed near Mount Pleasant in 1853, where the Ohio and Mississippi Railroad came through.  The people of Mount Pleasant moved to this new community, called Loogootee, which remains the largest (and only) city in the county.  Surprisingly, Loogootee has never been the county seat.  Trinity Springs became the new county seat, known for its natural health spas.  The last and final move was to Shoals on the White River, approximately 8 miles from Hindostan, in 1871, where approximately 1200 people reside today.
  • Information provided by Bill Whorrall’s A Photographic History of Martin County, Robert L. Reid and Thomas E. Rodgers’ A Good Neighbor: The First Fifty Years At Crane, Harry Q. Holt’s History of Martin County Indiana, and Bob Greene.

Contemporary Artist, Authors

Author and story teller Wendell Trogdon, has written about Southern Indiana first hand. Published through Country Pines Printing and available online, some of his titles include:

Damon-Beyond the Glory
Incredible Indiana
Indiana at Random
The 1930’s and 1940’s…Pain and Pleasure
Winding are the Roads
Main Street Diners (including Velma’s at Shoals)

 

Legends

LOST-  not just the name of a popular television show.  The history of Martin County is replete with tales of a lost city and buried gold.  Situated on the New Albany-Vincennes stage coach route, the first stage coach route in Indiana, Hindostan is the county’s first seat.

  • The traditional story goes that in the fall of 1820, an illness plagued the town of Hindostan and wiped out the population (about 1000 people).  It appears the illness was Yellow Fever caused from mosquitoes.  Today, there are no signs of an existence of the town of Hindostan, except for the town cemeteries filled with the families lost to the Yellow Fever.  However, we only know for sure that fifteen people died that year.  We do know that the Yellow Fever struck Vincennes in 1820 as well.  By 1825, people had begun to leave Hindostan, and in 1828 the county seat was moved to Mt. Pleasant.  But, as for no one residing at Hindostan after 1828 as is popularly believed, history reveals that ferries ran all the way up in to the 1840s, and the famous mills were still in operation in 1855.  Domestic disputes were recorded in 1830, as were several assaults and batteries.  The depression of 1819-1820 resulted in people moving into Hindostan and buying property on “notes,” and never paying these notes back.  So many debts and lawsuits were accumulated by the citizens that eventually many fled the area.  Therefore, it seems that Hindostan lost most of its residents from moving rather than illness

 

hindostan

 

falls
  Hindostan Falls on the White River, site of mills, ferry crossings,
and the “lost town.”
 

Photo courtesy of Bob Greene.
  • A county treasurer was rumored to have come down with the Yellow Fever, and when he fell ill he took the county taxes that he had collected and buried it in an iron pot.  He told no one of where he had hidden the pot, so the legend of the buried money still lives on today.

  • No one is exactly sure of how Martin County got its name.  A few suggestions were Major Thomas Martin, who was from Kentucky, and John P. Martin, a Revolutionary War veteran.

  • A “Bigfoot” sighting occurred in 1979. 19-year-old Andy Keith saw a “Bigfoot”-type creature cross the road near his home in the hills of northeast Martin County.  He said that the creature smelled so bad, he was unable to get close enough to it to follow it.  Although they tried, no man was able to stomp into the slightly muddy terrain hard enough to create a footprint as deep as the one left behind.

 

Big Footprint

Andy Keith shows off a mold of the giant footprint, belonging to the creature he saw wandering around Martin County.

See http://rking.vinu.edu/big1.htm
for more on this story.

Other links:

Martin County today, a quick profile:
http://www.epodunk.com/cgi-bin/genInfo.php?locIndex=5520

Martin County detailed history sources:
http://home.att.net/~Local_History/Martin-Co-IN.htm

Bill Whorall's Books & Documentaries on Martin County:
http://www.geocities.com/billwhorrall/index.htm

Information provided by Bill Whorrall’s
A Photographic History of Martin County

and Bob Greene.  

     

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