There are many interesting places and sites in the Wabash Valley. As time goes by I will try to document as many as I can; hoping you get as much out of this as I do.
Also MANY THANKS to Roxe Anne Kesner at Highland Lawn Cemetery and Ms Pat Meyer for her personal attention at The Vigo County Historical Society and Mike McCormick (Vigo County Historian)
The 1914 Gypsy Murders
(From Mike McCormick) -On May 4, 1914, Demetro John, a 55-year old gypsy tribal chief from South America, killed his common law wife, father-in-law and brother-in-law at an encampment on the National Road at the west edge of West Terre Haute. The triple murder gained considerable regional notoriety for a couple of weeks. The accused eventually was tried, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. According to reports, Demetro John was released after a few months in prison and deported to Brazil, his native country.
During the trial, Demetro contended he was acting in self defense. However, evidence was persuasive that he shot his 24-year old brother-in-law Joe Riska with a high-powered rifle at the doorway of their tent. Then he turned the rifle on his 55-year old father-in-law, Riska Gurick, while the victim was laying down. Finally, he bludgeoned and shot Socca Riska, his 40-year old common law wife. According to newspaper accounts, the small group of gypsy campers had consumed six half-barrels of beer on Sunday, May 3.
For three days after the slayings, mourning gypsies from throughout the Midwest swarmed into Vigo County. Steve Miller, the international tribal chief from Peoria, Ill., presided over the funeral May 7 at P.J. Ryan Funeral Home, then at Sixth and Walnut streets. At Highland Lawn Cemetery, gypsies encircled the three contiguous gravesites on the east side of the main drive with smoking balls of incense. The coffins were lowered into the ground slowly amid rising smoke. During graveside services, women sang and sobbed in dialect while beating their breasts. After the coffins were sprinkled with soil, bottles of wine were broken and the contents were poured over the each coffin in the form of a cross.
After John was tried, the gypsy murders received very little attention. Then, about 40 years ago, a gypsy tribal in Lubbock, Texas, who said he was the son of Demetro John, visited the three red granite stones which mark the graves and made inquiry about the murders. Since Tom John’s visit in 1963, gypsies periodically make unannounced pilgrimages to the cemetery to visit their brethren’s graves. As a result, I think that the gypsy gravesites are among the top tourist attractions at the cemetery.
(From Highland Lawn) - Brazilian Gypsy Murders
Section 14, Lot 198 N ½
On May 3, 1914, John Demetro, a Brazilian Gypsy, shot and killed his common-law wife, Socca Riska, his son-in-law, Bob Riska, and his son-in-law’s father, Joe Riska.
The murders took place at a Gypsy camp located on the edge of West Terre Haute, where the Gypsies had been staying for a few days. They had traveled from Kentucky, where they had camped for the winter.
The police stated the triple shooting was a result of family trouble, which was added to by a drunken carousal the day before the shootings. Mr. Demetro was taken into custody the day of the murder and was charged with murder. No bond was allowed.
(From Highland Lawn) - Chief Bearfoot, also known as Benjamin Harrison Myers
Section 14, Block I, Grave 18
Chief Bearfoot was born March 1, 1888. He was an entertainer who traveled in Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show. He married a woman named Virgie. He resided on Poplar Street in Terre Haute. He died January 5, 1936 in Marion, Ohio. Little other information is known about this man.
On top of his stone are two conch shells painted silver with a silver star bearing the letters “B B” between them. At the foot of his tombstone is a bronze tablet enclosing his photo.
His stone reads:
(in private life)
Benjamin Harrison Myers
March 1, 1888 – Jan. 5, 1936
In Memory – "My Buddy Partner
Husband and Daddy of our only girl Reo Reta and Grandfather of her three babies in life you never saw. We traveled the road together from coast to coast. Professional entertainers. We made them laugh. We made tears come to their eyes. Then the Lord called you and you told us good-by. Wait for me, dear daughter and little Daddy. I will meet you over here.
Buried next to him is his daughter, Reo Reta Myers Brokaw. Her tombstone also bears the silver conch shells and star, hers bearing the letters “M M.” She was born July 7, 1915 and died May 4, 1945. She and her husband, Ralph H. Brokaw, had three children: Marcia Ann, Virginia Rose, and Benjamin H. Brokaw.
C.A.N.D.L.E.S. (Children of Auschwitz Nazi Deadly Lab Experiments Survivors) Holocaust Museum
located at 1532 S. Third Street
The Root Glass Company
The below article is from the Terre Haute Tribune-Star.
The Coca-Cola Bottle
1913 was a landmark year for The Root Glass Company and its 850 workers.
The March 23 tornado flattened its buildings, located at the northeast corner of Voorhees and South Third streets, and at least one employee was killed.
In the disaster’s aftermath, Chapman J. Root may have been relieved that Indiana’s humidity justified traditional summer recesses at Terre Haute’s several glass companies.
As the factory was being reconstructed, Root and plant supervisor Alexander Samuelson embraced another challenge. The Coca-Cola Co., bottlers of an “invigorating temperance drink” patented in 1886 by Atlanta pharmacist John B. Pemberton, solicited manufacturers throughout the country to design a new glass container that would be identifiable “in the dark.”
Root’s chauffeur Roy Grimsly, machinist Earl R. Dean and auditor T. Clyde Edwards were dispatched to Emeline Fairbanks Memorial Library to learn more about the libation’s primary ingredients: cocoa leaves and cola seeds.
Ironically, it was a picture of a cocoa pod that inspired Dean’s concept. As he later explained. “[The pod] had a very short neck at the stem end and the body had four different diameter and vertical ribs which I incorporated in my first drawing to show Mr. Root the next morning.”
The design first was fashioned into a wood sample. An iron mold then generated secret “German green glass” prototypes. Later the bottle’s pronounced middle bulge was slimmed down to fit standard wooden cases.
On November 16, 1915, Samuelson submitted the ornamental design to the U.S. Patent Office, assigning his rights to The Root Glass Company. The bottle was selected ofer 11 contenders at Coca-Cola’s convention in Atlanta the following January. The Root Glass Company received five cents for every gross of bottles produced thereafter. When Root died in 1945, his estate was valued at approximately $11 million.
The Root Glass Company was sold to the Owens-Illinois Glass Company in 1932. On April 19, 1994, an official Indiana historical marker was dedicated at the site where one of the world’s most recognizable trademarks was conceived and created.
The below article/profile is the property of and reprinted with the permission of the Terre Haute First National/First Financial Bank.
Root Glass Company
Organized in 1901, the Root Glass Company earned enduring international fame for designing the cocoa-pod shaped Coca-Cola bottle in 1915.
Root Glass Co. was the last of four glass companies to establish new factories in Terre Haute between January 1900 and November 1901. Harry Streeter founded Terre Haute Glass Manufacturing Co. at 16th and Cedar (south of Maple Ave.) on July 16, 1900. The Hays Glass Co. began operations at 25th and Locust streets five months later and North Baltimore Bottle Glass Co. relocated its factory from Albany, Ind., to the north side of Maple Ave. at 17th St. a few weeks later.
In 1900 Wayne County, Pa., native Chapman J. Root moved to Terre Haute while serving as an officer and director of North Baltimore Bottle Glass Co. Root began erecting his own factory at the northeast corner of Third and Voorhees in early 1901. The plant was in operation by November. Business doubled virtually every year. In October 1905 Root acquired the Terre Haute Glass Manufacturing Co. to fabricate Mason jars.
On Nov. 9, 1909, Root Glass sold the former Streeter plant to Ball Brothers Glass Manufacturing Co. of Muncie. The Root plant specialized in light green, amber and flint beverage bottles, primarily for beer and soda water.
On March 23, 1913, a deadly tornado flattened the complex (except for one smoke-stack), killing one employee. While the plant was being reconstructed, Root and plant supervisor Alexander Samuelson assigned machinist Earl Dean and auditor Clyde Edwards to research and design a new glass container for Coca-Cola Co. of Atlanta, Ga., one of Root’s best customers. Dean’s design, patented Nov. 16, 1915, was selected over 11 contenders as the new Coca-Cola bottle in January 1916. The company received five cents in royalties for every gross of bottles produced by any glass manufacturer in addition to manufacturing costs for bottles produced by Root. Three large furnaces were in constant operation. In 1932 — the year his 30-year-old son William was killed in an airplane crash — Root sold the plant to Owens-Illinois Glass Co., which retained the Root name until 1934. Owens-Illinois utilized the plant through 1948, when its buildings were converted into warehouses. American-Wheaton Glass Corp. of Millville, N.J., acquired the land in May 1960, razed the old buildings and built a new plant. American Can Co. acquired the Wheaton Plant in 1962, forming a subsidiary called A-W Glass Corp. The complex was sold to Midland Glass Co. in January 1968. It ceased operations on April 30, 1984 and the buildings were razed 10 years later.
Last year, descendants of Chapman J. Root generously donated substantial Coca-Cola memorabilia from their private collection to the Vigo County Historical Society.
The Rod and Gun Club
A nice place for dinner every once in a while and also has a little History
A replica of an old Texaco Gas Station on the Greencastle Road about 4 1/2 miles out from Sandcut.
Road splits around a tree on Greencastle Road about 5 1/2 miles out from Sandcut. Looking at it from both directions.
(left)Calvary Cemetery, 4227 Wabash Avnue
(right)The Hulman plot at Calvary
Located in Parke County along the Big Racoon creek and states:
"10 O'Clock Line - The famous Indian Reserve Line of 1809 which began at the mouth of Big Racoon Creek and ended on the Ohio boundary crossed this point."
(left)Historical Marker - located at the intersection of US 41 and Ft. Harrison Road. The marker states: "Ft. Wm. Henry Harrison - 1811-1822 - Built by Gov. Harrison, Oct. 1811, enroute to Tippecanoe to disperse the Indians at Prophet's Town. Capt. Zachary Taylor defended the Fort against a savage Indian attack. Sept. 1812. De-activated in 1822."
(right)This stone with its inscribed marker which states: “1812. Fort Harrison 1912. This stone marks the site, and commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of the heroic defense, of Fort Harrison by a small body of United States soldiers, assisted by the settlers, against the Indians, September 4, 1812. The fort was built by William Henry Harrison, and at the time of the attack, was commanded by Zachary Taylor, both of whom afterwards became Presidents of the United States.”
Another historical marker which states: “Burial Ground Fort William Harrison – Dedicated to the memory of the courageous pioneers who so successfully defended Fort Harrison in the activities which served as a Prologue to the War of 1912. (Erected by the Fort Harrison Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution)”
This gazebo along the river believed to have been built by Emil Ehrmann, one of the property’s earliest known owners, according to Mike McCormick.
In reference to the historical markers at the Fort Harrison location, Vigo County Historian Mike McCormick states: "First of all, during its existence I do not believe the fort was ever referred to as "Fort William Henry Harrison." It always was merely "Fort Harrison." The addition of "William Henry" was provided, I suspect, by well-meaning people who wished to distinguish it from a fort erected many years later in honor of William Henry Harrison's grandson, Benjamin Harrison, in Indianapolis. Even the Library of Congress confuses the two.
Secondly, the fort was "demilitarized" on June 22, 1818, not 1822. It continued to be used as an Indian agency by the government after it was demiliarized for several years.
Finally, the Fort Harrson burial grounds were uncovered in 1972 during the expansion of a parking lot at the Elks Country Club. Bodies were moved to the location where the marker is located. That marker INACCURATELY implies that the Battle of Fort Harrison was before, or a "Prologue to," the War of 1812. The War of 1812 was declared on June 22, 1812; the Battle of Fort Harrison began Sept. 4, 1812, and the fort was under siege until Sept. 15, 1812. Since June comes before September (and that was true in 1812, too), I would hardly think the defense of the fort should be referred to a part of "The Prologue" to the War of 1812.
In 1991, historian Donald Hickey wrote a book on the War of 1812 and refers to the Battle of Fort Harrison as being "the first land victory of the War of 1812 by the American Army."
Over the years there have been several re-enactments of the Battle of Fort Harrison. The most spectacular probably was the one performed in September 1912, at the centennial anniversary. That was when the stone monument Rob cites was dedicated.
There was a more modest re-enactment at the time of hte Sesquicentennial in 1966.
Emil Ehrmann tried to peddle the property to the federal government to create a national monument in 1911 and, then, to the State of Indiana as a state park, but was unsuccessful in both quests. Ehrmann -- an older brothers of Terre Haute's esteemed poet-philosopher Max Ehrmann, author of "Desiderata" -- was indicted for murder in 1912 for shooting and killing an employee of Ehrmann Manufacturing during a labor dispute. He was found not guilty after a lengthy and spectacular trial (venued to Rockville) but, I think, was anxious to get out of town so he sold the property to a group which founded the "Fort Harrison Country Club." The Fort Harrison Country Club owned the property for more than two decades before it was sold to the Elks.
As John Larrison points out, the Wabash & Erie Canal traversed the Elks' grounds. Much of the canal bed and towpath -- now dry and sodded -- are very visible."
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Chinook Fish and Wildlife Area
Churches around town
Flags around town
J.I. Case Wildlife Area
Markle Mill; Newspaper articles on
Prairie Creek Park
Shakamak State Park
Taylorville and West Terre Haute area
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© Rob Robbins 2000-present. Use only with permission.