Wingding 2015 Trip Day 1
Saturday August 29
If you head north from Indianapolis on I-69, you can't miss the Nesquik
Bunny, an elaborate sign located just south of Anderson, Ind., which towers
Vigo County Historical Society Museum
1411 S. 6th St ~ Terre Haute,IN ~ 812.235.9717
Hours: Tuesday - Sunday 1pm-4pm, Closed Monday
The Vigo County Historical Society was formed in 1922. Members of the
Society were people with a strong interest in the history of the area and
its development. From 1922 until 1957 the Society had no permanent
headquarters. Though it did collect artifacts and historical documents,
it housed them in various locations throughout Terre Haute.
In 1957 the Society, using a donation from the Hulman Foundation and
donations from the general public, purchased the Sage mansion at 1411 South
The beautiful Victorian Italianate home became the headquarters for the
Historical Society and the county's first Historical Museum. It opened to
the public in May of 1958 with three rooms of displays. The museum has grown
from its original three rooms to 18 rooms of exhibits. The Society also
operates and maintains the Paul Dresser Birthplace located in Fairbanks
The Historical Museum is open to the public from 1pm to 4pm daily except
Mondays and major holidays. There is
no admission charge. The Museum is closed during the month of January. The
Historical Society does not limit itself strictly to the museum, but offers
a wide variety of programs and activities. With a strong belief that history
can be both interesting and entertaining, volunteers for the Society's many
events work hard to make programs enjoyable and informative.
Photograph & Paper Archives
Our collection of photographs and paper archives include images of people,
places, and events as well as written documentation. All tell the story of
Vigo County's history.
Today, Ehrmann’s Desiderata — first published in 1927 — is among the
world’s most popular poems and even won a
Grammy Award in 1972. A Prayer, his famed 1906 verse, has been translated
into at least 32 languages.
The Vigo County Historical Museum is home to over 100,000 objects, spanning
the history of Vigo County and Terre Haute. Major collections include the
Bindley Pharmacy and Coca-Cola memorabilia from the Root Family
commenorating the birth place of the Coca-Cola bottle. In addition, the
Museum has a vast research library of photographs and printed materials.
Visit our extensive collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia and learn how the
Root Glass Company of Terre Haute took on the challenge of designing "a
glass package so distinctive as to be instantly recognizable as one
containing Coca-Cola....so distinguishable by touch that even a blind man
could correctly identify it."
In 1915, recognizing the need for a distinctive bottle to stem the tide of
imitators, the Coca-Cola Company contacted numerous bottle manufacturers to
submit designs for consideration. Taking advantage of the company’s summer
shut down, the Root Glass Company of Terre Haute took on the challenge of
designing "a glass package so distinctive as to be instantly recognizable as
one containing Coca-Cola....so distinguishable by touch that even a blind
man could correctly identify it."
Chapman J. Root, founder and president, turned the project over to his
supervisory staff: Alexander Samuelson, plant superintendent; T. Clyde
Edwards, auditor; Roy Hurt, secretary; Earl R. Dean, mold shop supervisor;
and William R. Root, son of the president. T. Clyde Edwards was asked to
research a bottle design that would meet the essential requirements. With
that in mind Edwards looked up both coca and cola at the library. He found a
line drawing of the cocoa bean pod which he showed to Earl Dean. (Cocoa is a
few pages after coca in the 1913 Encyclopedia Britannica he was using)
Together, Edwards and Dean, reported to Samuelson with a sketch of the cocoa
bean and their idea for a bottle design. From this research, Earl Dean
developed a bottle design which incorporated a bulging middle with parallel
vertical grooves and tapered ends.
A limited number of bottles, of this first design was produced. The bottling
equipment then in use, however, would not operate with the bottle’s large
bulge. The Root team devoted most of the summer to redesigning the bottle.
Meeting in Atlanta, Ga., at the 1915 bottlers convention, the judges
evaluated each entry for originality, exclusiveness of design, ease of
handling, production cost, and potential consumer recognition. The Root
bottle, they determined, was the best submitted.
This "bottle-shaped concept" was patented in Alexander Samuelson’s name on
November 16, 1915. The bottle was one of the first glass containers to be
patented solely on its distinctive shape. When it expired, a successor
patent was issued to the Root Company in 1923 and under this license the
company received a 5 cents per gross royalty until 1937 when Coca-Cola
acquired the rights. In 1960 the "contour bottle" was registered as a
trade-mark rather than a patent. Whereas patents eventually run out, a
trade-mark does not; as long as it is kept in continuous use, a trade-mark
lasts indefinitely. Granting a trade-mark to a commercial package was most
unusual, but the Coca-Cola Company convinced the Patent Office that the very
shape, the "distinctively shaped contour" in their words, had become so well
know that it had taken on trade-mark status. Indeed, the Company was
correct, for the "contour bottle" or "hobble skirt bottle" (so named for a
woman’s dress fashion popular from 1910—1914) has been called the most
recognized container in the history of the world.
This is the legend of the bulldog sitting in a tomb in Highland Lawn
Cemetery. His name was Stiffy Green. He had been the family dog, one that
really loved his master. He would always be on the front porch, just outside
the door, waiting for his master to come home form work. One day his master
died and the bulldog began to grieve. He kept running away and the family
always found him sitting outside the door of the tomb, guarding it, and
waiting for his master. Eventually the family found Stiffy lying, dead, in
front of the door to the tomb. They decided to have Stiffy stuffed and
placed inside the tomb, next to the master that he had loved so much. Now,
if you go out there at night and shine a light in the door of the tomb,
Stiffy opens his cold green eyes and glares at you because he is still
guarding his master's tomb.
The truth is Stiffy was never a real dog, but one made of cement, and he
stayed in the Heinl Tomb until 1983. Unfortunately vandals began damaging
the tomb, including wrecking the bronze doors and shooting at the dog. The
Heinl family decided to have Stiffy removed.
Realizing how popular the legend of Stiffy Green was in Vigo County, Heinl
family descendants agreed to give the dog to the
Historical Society where he is one of our most popular exhibits.
The Preston House
The massive stone house was built by George Dewees, a very rich man who had
moved to Terre Haute from New Orleans. When he built the house in 1824 it
was way out in the country and for people to visit they had to make a
special effort. George Dewees was a nasty man with a violent temper. He did
not like people visiting him and made sure people knew it. His wife,
Matilda, was different; she liked people and wanted friends. George was
possessive and felt his wife should only be
interested in his welfare. Matilda finally could not take it anymore and
filed for divorce, something that just was not done in the early 1800's.
But when it came time for the decree to become final, Matilda disappeared.
George Dewees would not say where she had gone.
Stories began that George had murdered his wife and walled her up in a space
to the side of the huge fireplace, but no one knew how to prove it.
A few years later George Dewees died and another family moved into the home.
They could tell that the side of the fireplace where Matilda was buried was
different, but they did not want to rip up the walls just because of some
old stories. The stories remained unproven. Then people began to swear that
Matilda's ghost was still in the old home.
Cold spots could be found near the fireplace and unearthly blue lights
seeped through the closed and shuttered windows. It was Matilda, lost and
alone, in a house where she never knew love.
The Headless Trainman
After Major Dewees' death the home was also supposed to have been a resting
stop on the Underground Railroad. Fugitive slaves would hide in an old
tunnel that led off the basement. But one part of the tunnel collapsed
trapping the slaves. They could not be rescued and they died there in that
cold underground tunnel. Some swear on a warm summer night you can still
hear spirituals, those songs sung of freedom and better days to be, coming
faintly from the ground.
The Preston House, after several fires and years of neglect, collapsed in
late 1987 and had to be torn down. Unfortunately the room where the
fireplace was located was the portion that collapsed. The structure was too
unsafe for a through search, but no body was seen as the home was
demolished. There was also no evidence of a tunnel. Much of the stone of the
Preston House, and some of the woodwork, was taken to be used in the grist
mill at Pioneer Village in Fowler Park. Whether the
legend of Matilda follows the stones remains for the future to say.
South of Terre Haute there is a stretch of a railroad line that is haunted
by a headless trainman. The railroad runs north and south. One night there
was a freight train that was highballing its way south on its way to
Evansville. One of the rails was too loose for the speed of the train.
The speeding train hit that rail, flew off the track and crashed.
The crash killed the conductor and the brakeman. The conductor's
body was found in one piece, but the brakeman's body was found missing its
head. And even though they cleaned up the wreckage, piece by piece, and
searched all around the area, the trainman's head was never found.
Now if you walk near that track at night you sometimes see someone walking
south on the track. He is holding a softly glowing railroad lantern and the
light first swings to one side of the track and then to the other. They say
it is the ghost of that trainman - still searching for his
The Pharmacy Collection of William E. Bindley, Sr. is an amazing array of
items one would have found the a typical pharmacy during the late 1800s and
early 1900s. This complete antique drug store was displayed for a number of
years at E.H. Bindley and Company, a wholesale drug business which was
at 121-125 North 5th Street. When the business moved to Indianapolis, the
collection, for a time, was housed at Rose-Hulman Institute in the Logan
Library. It came to the Historical Society in the early 1990s and has been a
favorite of visitors ever since.
The Bindley family business history in Terre Haute began in 1864 when
Edward H. Bindley came to Terre Haute and, with Charles Eberle, established
a retail drug store under the firm name of Eberle & Bindley. The store was
originally located on Main Street (Wabash Avenue) between Third and Fourth
Streets. Later locations included Third and Main and 662 Wabash Avenue.
In the late 1800's, the partners withdrew from the retail business and
devoted their attention exclusively to the wholesale drug business. In 1888,
Mr. Eberle retired from the business and Mr. Bindley organized the firm of
E.H. Bindley & Company with his two sons, Edward H. and J. Bruce as
associates. A quote from C.C. Oakey's book "Greater Terre Haute and Vigo
County, Volume I, 1908, states that "the house is well known for its
reliability and for the honorable and progressive methods with which the
trade is carried on".
The business continued to flourish for over 100 years until the Terre Haute
operation was closed by E.H. Bindley's grandson, William E. Bindley, Jr. The
business was relocated to Indianapolis under the name of Bindley Western,
one of the largest pharmaceutical wholesale businesses in the world.
For many years, Bill Bindley, Sr. collected pharmaceutical memorabilia and
artifacts as he traveled about the Wabash Valley making sales calls for the
family business. He also added a major portion to the collection when he
purchased the Ed Hampton Drug Store formerly located at 4th and Ohio.
The collection includes cabinets and counters, the pharmacist's work
many "tools of the trade", and hundreds of containers of herbal drugs and
For more than eight decades, a colorfully-painted wooden harlequin named
“Punch” occupied a prominent station on Wabash Avenue in downtown Terre
Haute. It was the namesake of a puppet featured by a popular British humor
magazine of the same name first published in 1841. Punch guarded the
front door of Friedrich J. Biel’s cigar factory, successively located from
1867 until 1951 at 409, 322 and 420 Wabash Ave. The eldest son of Henry and
Augusta (Hessland) Biel, Fred was born in Prussia on March 6, 1843, migrat-
ing with his parents to America in 1854. The Biels initially resided in
Sheboygan and Port Washington, Wis., where Fred first learned cigar making.
Locating in Terre Haute around 1861, he worked for other cigar makers. In
1866, however, he embarked on his own.
Seeking something more creative than a standard “cigar store Indian” to draw
attention to his storefront, Biel engaged a woodcarver in New York City to
sculpt Punch and his female companion in the magazine, “Judy,” using the
butt of the mast from an old ship. The magazine Punch, which featured the
two jesters, was near its peak of popularity. Mounted on a platform with
roller skate wheels, the large hand-crafted figure was delivered to Terre
Haute in 1867.
The nameless artisan who created him died before Judy was finished. The
mobility of Punch sometimes caused havoc. On the occasions when employees
forgot to roll him back into the store at closing time, Punch might be seen
accompanying locals on a tour of downtown saloons. Punch certainly did not
hinder Biel’s business. The cigar factory was quite successful. Fred was
active in Masonic circles and served as a Republican on the Terre Haute City
Council. Between 1871 and Oct. 27, 1917—the day Fred died following a
stroke—F.J. Biel’s Cigar and Tobacco Store was largest of a dozen local
cigar factories, employing as many as 60 and focusing almost exclusively on
the wholesale trade.
Meanwhile, in 1866, Biel wed Anna Seeman of Terre Haute, born Nov. 7, 1846.
The couple raised three children: Margaret, Amanda and Charles. Anna died
Oct. 16, 1917, 11 days before her husband. Son Charles became the proprietor
after his parents’ deaths. When Charles died on Aug. 5, 1933, his widow
Ethel and later Fred Bradford, Charles’ son-in-law, managed the business. In
1951 Mary R. Williams and Anna J. Bradford, Fred’s grand-daughters, donated
Punch to the Vigo County Historical Society, where he now stands guard in
the museum gift shop.
A zinc-plated statue of the Roman god Mercury that stood atop a bank
building for more than 80 years is on display on the second floor of the
In 1876-77, William Riley McKeen hired Terre Haute architect Charles
Eppinghousen to design and build a new bank at the northwest corner of Sixth
and Wabash. Eppinghousen went to Italy to acquire statues of Mercury and
Minerva to adorn the building. The Mercury statue stood atop Terre Haute's
McKeen Bank from the late 1870s until 1958, when it was moved to the museum
before the bank was razed.
Mercury had been on display at the museum until 15 to 20 years ago, when the
leg on which it is balanced began to collapse and it was moved onto a
special sling in the museum attic. In 2006, Indiana State University student
Mark Nicklasch received permission from the museum to restore the statue,
which is made of cast zinc plates welded together. He used the same
low-temperature welding technique used to create the figure to mend it.
Nicklasch also put a metal rod in Mercury's leg to make sure it wouldn't
After a brief time on display in a neoclassic exhibit at ISU, it was
returned to the museum where it can be found on display on the second floor.
The statue, with wings on its hat and feet, is a copy of a work by the 16th
century Italian sculptor Giovanni Bologna of the Roman deity often called
the messenger of the gods, or the god of commerce and eloquence.
"On The Banks Of The Wabash, Far Away" by Paul Dresser