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Boonville 150 Years in the making


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Boonville The courthouse at the center of Boonville’s square has been a Warrick County landmark for more than 100 years. Warrick County was settled in 1803 by John Sprinkle, a native of Pennsylvania and Henderson, Ky. A decade later, Warrick County was officially adopted into the state legislature. The original county encompassed all of present-day Vanderburgh, Posey, Perry and Spencer and part of Crawford counties. Evansville, which was only a small village at the time, was made the county seat. In 1814, Perry and Posey counties were carved off of Warrick County. Darlington, a town 4 miles north of Newburgh, was made the new county seat. The earliest court proceedings were held at the home of Bailey Anderson, one of the first residents of the county, in what is now Anderson Township. The first criminal case — James Craw vs. Preston Garforth, for damages — was tried at Anderson’s home on Oct. 18, 1813. The jury

found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded Craw $32.80. During the same session, the grand jury returned its first indictment, against John May for passing counterfeit money. Joshua Elkins was indicted for “selling liquor, or strong water, without license.” One of the jurors in the Elkins case got intoxicated during jury deliberations, was charged the next day with drunkenness and disorderly conduct and fined $5. Court business was handled at the homes of various pioneers for two years before citizens began to demand that a courthouse be built. On Aug. 15, 1815, it was ordered that a court house be built at Darlington. The structure was to be 20-feet square of wellhewn logs, not less than 1 foot thick and one and a half stories high. The law required that the county have three judges, one Chief Justice and two Associate Judges. The associate judges were chosen for their honesty and desire to do justice rather than their knowledge of the law. In one case, an attorney asked the associ-

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ate judges to throw out the case against his client due to a defect in the trial. The judges conferred and threw the paperwork out the window. Courts were held in Darlington for two years before Vanderburgh and Spencer counties were made into their own. Boonville was named the county seat in 1818, which made Darlington decline so rapidly that it was soon reduced to a single farm. The first courthouse in Boonville was a small log cabin. The building hosted only a couple of court sessions before it was deemed inconveient and uncomfortable. The commissioners then ordered a brick structure built. The foundation and frame were roughly weather-boarded and roofed, but the building was never finished. The structure served as Warrick County’s courthouse until 1836, but in that time, it could only be used in the summer months. Abraham Lincoln made a habit of trudging 15 miles through the woods to attend court sessions in the old courthouse. While at a murder trial, Lincoln became entranced by defense attorney John Breckenridge. Breckenridge took Lincoln under his wing and loaned him law books. After the unfinished building was torn down, a new, 40-foot square, brick, two-story courthouse was put in its place. There were offices for the county clerk and the treasurer in the second story. By 1851, the building was again deemed too small, torn down and another put in its place. In 1900, an African-American man named Joseph Rolla was transported to Warrick County for safe-keeping. He and two other men had been accused of robbing and murdering a woman several nights before. After the other men were hanged by a mob, Rolla was transfered to the Warrick County jail. Unbeknown to the sheriff, the mob had followed Rolla. During the night, they descended upon the jail

and battered through the side of the building with sledge hammers and a telephone pole, drug Rolla out and hung him on the courthouse lawn. The activities of that night are said to have sparked the “need” to build a new courthouse. The one built in its place — the fifth — served residents for nearly 100 years and was completely different from anything previous. Even the landscaping had changed. The Evansville architectural firm of Harris and Shopbell designed the building, based on a Beaux Arts design. It was built with Huntingburg yellow brick and Bedford limestone trim. The dome, cupola and classical porticos are reminiscent of several of Harris and Shopbell’s other projects, including libraries in Mt. Vernon and Henderson, Ky. While that courthouse still stands, it is no longer the home of the Warrick County courts. The new Judicial Center opened on the corner of Third and Main streets in 2000 and hosts all three of the county’s courts, as well as most county offices. �



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Boonville For just shy of a century, the Big Boonville Fair was a fixture in the county. It all started in December of 1856 when a group of prominent men got together and founded the Warrick County Agricultural Society. Within just a few days, the men purchased property and began building an amphitheatre, a barn, a wooden fence and a race track. And, the Warrick County fair was born. In the early years, everyone who was anyone was seen walking the midway. Women donned their fanciest dresses and men wore their Sunday best. The advertisements in local newspapers offered discounts on permanent waves, hats and other clothing items. People came — by horse and buggy on muddy, narrow, rutted roads — from all over the county to participate in the festivities. The heavily wooded road made the perfect hiding spot for thieves and robbers and many fairgoers fell victim. Eventually, stones were hauled from the courthouse and county workers cut down the trees to make the road safer for buggy travel. In the late 1880s, Americans had recovered from the financial hardships caused by the Civil War and began to crave more big-time entertainment. So, the Big Boonville Fair began to feature variety shows. As the years went by, the acts that were featured at the fair

Old Boonville Fair

became more and more exciting. For a time, a big draw was the traveling circuses that performed under three huge tents on the fairgrounds. The circuses came into town in a flurry of trumpet blasts, crashing cymbals and music from the calliope. The elephants were quickly put to work, helping the roustabouts raise the tents. After a long day’s work, the elephants were treated to a bath in City Lake and given all the cool water they could drink, supplied by local boys in exchange for free tickets to the performance. Like the present-day Warrick County 4-H Fair, the Big Boonville Fair featured exhibits by residents. It was not uncommon for families to be close friends most of the year but become bitter rivals in the weeks leading up to the fair. The final Big Boonville Fair was held the week of Sunday, July 31, 1955. It featured more than 1,500 exhibits, Jack Kochman’s Hell Drivers and country-western singer Ray Price and his Cherokee Cowboys. Today, the Warrick County 4-H Fair carries on the traditions of the Big Boonville Fair at the new fairgrounds. In addition to the Big Boonville Fair, the old Boonville fairgrounds was the site of many other events. It played host to the local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan at least six times, as well as annual school picnics, family gatherings and weddings. The grounds saw the likes of President Harry S. Truman and his daughter, Margaret, United Mine Workers of America president John L. Lewis, First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, President William McKinley and President Teddy Roosevelt. This past April, former President Bill Clinton campaigned for his wife, Hillary, where the midway once bustled. The fairgrounds was sold to the Warrick County School Corporation in 1955. Boonville High School was built on the site in 1958. � 7


What’s in a name? When Boon came to Indiana, he originally settled in what would become Anderson Township, which was named after Baily Anderson, Boon’s father-in-law. Both men had traveled from Danville, Ky. to the frontier land in Indiana. Boon and Anderson arrived about four years after Jacob Sprinkle, who set up the small town of Sprinklesburgh in 1803. That town would later be known as Mount Prospect, and is today known as Newburgh. Indiana became a state in 1816, the same year Boon Township was formed by taking a large section away from Anderson Township. Boon supposedly had the first settlement in the area, but that isn’t certain. Boon’s son Perry was also said to have been the first white child born in Warrick County, but that cannot be verified either. What is known, however, is that Boon did not originally settle in what is now

Ratliff Boon came to Warrick County in 1807, before the county itself even existed. He gained such political power in the days before the two-party system emerged that a township and a town were named after him. Boon would eventually serve just over three months as Indiana’s Acting Governor in 1822, when he became officially the second governor of the State of Indiana. Today, Boon Township and Boonville are reminders of Boon’s early influence, a man whose political ambitions shaped Warrick County more than any other person.

Who was Ratliff Boon? A gunsmith by trade, Boon’s early history is not easy to trace. By most accounts, he was born in Georgia, though the Indiana Historical Society list his birthplace as North Carolina. But once he arrived in Indiana, Boon would become one of the most politically powerful men in the state.

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Boonville and only lived in that town for a short time before moving to Missouri in 1839. The only elected office Boon ever held in Warrick County was as treasurer. He did serve as Warrick County’s member in the Indiana House of Representatives and as a State Senator. Boon would serve in the Untied States House of Representatives for 12 years, and was an unsuccessful candidate for U.S. Senator in 1836. Boon eventually retired and moved to Missouri, but he couldn’t stay out of politics. In 1844, he ran for Congress as a Jacksonian Democrat. He died shortly before the election, officially ending his political career.

The creation of Boonville When Warrick County was created in 1813, it covered land that is now Posey, Vanderburgh, Warrick Spencer and Perry counties. Perry and Posey counties were created in 1814, which caused a problem. The first capital of Warrick County was a small river town called Evansville. Hugh McGary, a person with powerful political ties in the western part of the original Warrick County, wanted to keep Evansville as a county seat. So in 1817 McGary carved out a new county, which he named Vanderburgh, for which Evansville would be the logical county capital. At the same time, Daniel Grass held political power in the eastern part of Warrick County. Grass helped create another new county, called Spencer, and he was then able to settle the new county seat of Rockport. That left Boon holding power in the new Warrick County, which was cut down to the size it is today. Boon had holdings near the new town of Darlington in Anderson Township, and that town was named as the second capital of Warrick County. But Boon quickly changed course, and wanted a new capital near the center of the county. The Warrick County Board of Commissioners got four landowners to donate some heavily forested land in Boon Township for the new county seat, which was laid out in 1818. When Boon died in 1844, Boonville was still a tiny place with fewer than 300 inhabitants. Despite its importance as a county seat, with government offices, a jail and a courthouse, Boonville never grew much at all until the first railroad arrived in the town in 1873.

Governor Boon Though he is most often remembered locally as the Governor of Indiana, Boon never ran for that office. Boon was elected as Lieutenant Governor—a post that had been vacant for some time—in 1819 under Governor Jonathan

Jennings. Under Indiana’s Constitution, a governor could serve only six years out of nine in office, meaning Jennings was ineligible to run for the post again in 1822. So instead, he ran successfully for U.S. Representative, and resigned as governor in September. Boon assumed the governor’s office for just three months, until William Hendricks was elected in December. Boon served as Lieutenant Governor under Hendricks as well, but Boon resigned that post in 1824 to run for Congress. When Hendricks later resigned to take a seat in the U.S. Senate, it was James Ray who became governor instead of Boon. Ray later ran successfully on his own as a candidate for governor. Boon’s political career covered 24 years from 1816 until 1839, during which he was the acting governor of Indiana for about 12 weeks.

Boonville or Booneville? There is no evidence that Boonville ever officially had an extra “e” in the middle of its name, though the spelling mistake is nearly as old as the name itself. Records indicate that the local post office spelled the name “Booneville” until sometime between 1841 and 1845. Many early maps—including Augustus Mitchell’s “Roads and Trails of Early Indiana” from 1834 listed the town as “Booneville.” William Darby’s “View of the United States” from 1828 had the same incorrect spelling. Oddly, the very first official record of Boonville has no “e” in the name at all. The Warrick County Commissioners (there were four commissioners at the time) ordered the county capital moved from Darlington to a new town to be laid out in the center of the county, and that town was to be called “Boonsvill.” Boonsvill was laid out by Warrick County Agent John Hargrave in 1818, along with county surveyor Chester Elliot. But by 1819, when the first liquor license in town was approved, the name was officially Boonville. And when the town (it was a town, not a city at that time) of Boonville was incorporated on Sept. 30, 1858, the name had no extra “e.” There are towns or cities named Booneville in Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and elsewhere. But all are named after a different branch of the Boon family (except for Booneville, Ark., which was supposed to be named Bonneville but was misspelled). Despite the fact that the name Boone is now far more common than Boon, it didn’t start out that way. Ratliff Boon and Daniel Boone were cousins, and it was the Boone side of the family that changed the name. (In his youth, Daniel Boone sometimes spelled his last name without the “e”.) � 9

Boonville Eddie’s was just a soda shop. The interior was fairly nondescript. There was no big, flashy sign outside. But it was this soda shop that brings memories of a past era to the minds of an older generation. Eddie’s Sandwich and Soda Shoppe, located first on Main Street, then on the corner of Main and Third streets, etched itself into Boonville’s culture for 28 years. Eddie Goerlitz opened the joint in 1930 with the purpose of giving the students of Boonville High School a place to spend their free time. The Goerlitz family — Eddie, his wife, Amelia, and children, Eddie Jr. and Susie — lived in the space above the shop and helped run the place. Eddie had a certain rapport with the teenagers that frequented the place. It was said that he respected the kids and the kids, in turn, respected him. He was firm in his beliefs — no smoking, no drinking, no fighting, among others — and never had a problem with students. A teenager was once caught spiking his

Soda & Jukeboxes

drink with whiskey while hanging out at Eddie’s. Eddie saw what was going on and took the flask from the boy and smashed it. He told him that if he ever caught him doing that again, he would press charges against him. Many years later, that boy thanked Eddie for what he did. He said he never took another drink. In 1935, several young boys could be found in the front of the shop every night. Police officers would try to pick them up to take them home, but Eddie persuaded them to leave the boys there. He knew that the boys didn’t have much to go home to and that there would probably be no one there to watch them. He wanted someone to take care of them, so he let them stay at Eddie’s. While the teenagers that frequented Eddie’s revered its owner, parents weren’t so sure. Three prominent businessmen in Boonville started rumors that Eddie had installed curtains around the booths to give teenagers privacy to “neck.” Instead of just denying the rumors, Eddie invited the men to

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come to Eddie’s to eat, anytime and unannounced. After they did so, the rumors were quickly quelled and parents began to give their children permission to go. It was the atmosphere that made Eddie’s magical. Booths lined the walls and four fans hung from the ceiling. A dance floor and juke box were housed in a room off the back. In those time, nickels were hard to come by, but someone always seemed to have a few extra for the juke box. But, the juke box couldn’t pay the bills, and neither could the Cokes split between several kids. When customers came in to eat, Eddie chased out the teenagers occupying the booths, telling them that they could come back when the paying customers had left. Many left in a huff, swearing they would never again step foot inside Eddie’s Sandwich and Soda Shoppe. The very next day, he or she would be back in, sipping a Coke and hanging out with friends. In the ‘40s and ‘50s, many of Boonville’s finest enlisted and went overseas to fight in World War II. Each time a soldier left, Eddie would hang his picture up in the front window of the shop. Friends and family members of the boys would gather at Eddie’s and reminisce. The pictures were not taken down until the soldier returned home safely. Several pictures remained on display for many years. The war also brought some new faces to the city. Paratroopers from the 11th Airborne Division of the 503rd Battalion from Ft. Campbell, Ky., frequented Eddie’s on their free weekends. According to Barbara Brown-Meyer, author of two books about Eddie’s, the military men made Eddie a little nervous, but being a former soldier himself, a mutual respect was formed, and no problems were ever caused by the

strangers. Brown-Meyer said that one of her favorite memories is of the snake dance. A line would form at the high school before a game and dance its way in the back door, through the restaurant, around the square and back to the high school. In 1949, Eddie Goerlitz decided that he was ready to retire. Leo and Hennie Krantz took over, renaming the place Joe and Janes after a place that Hennie knew from her native Germany. The Krantzs ran the place for about two years before passing it on to an elderly woman and moving to Texas. The new owner didn’t last long and eventually, due to a high public demand, Eddie came out of retirement in 1951 and reopened Eddie’s. Eddie finally decided to retire for good in 1958 at the age of 65. The last soda was served in August of that year and the doors closed for the final time. Everything was auctioned off, including the booths that held so many memories for several generations of Boonville teenagers. Brown-Meyer called it the end of an era. The building that Eddie’s Sandwich and Soda Shoppe called home for 28 years was torn down in the late 1990s to make way for the new Warrick County Judicial Center. Eddie Goerlitz passed away in 1964. His memory is immortalized in the minds of countless teenagers of the ‘30s, ‘40s and ‘50s. Eddie’s was always a place of happiness for the generations that grew up there. This was the place where couples fell in love and broke up. This is where friends would spend lazy afternoons, giggling and sipping a Cherry Coke. This was the place where lasting memories were made. �





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Boonville In 1930, people who lived in and around Boonville were excited about the news that a “talking picture” would be shown at Forrests’ Temple of Shadowland. Before that, the popular movie theater located on the Boonville Square had only shown silent films, with the script between the actors scrolling across the bottom of the screen. Local musician Ernest Owen provided the appropriate musical accompaniment with a Hammond Organ. In order to make the necessary changes, the theater was closed down for three weeks while the sound system and new plush seats were installed. The “talkies” proved to be a hit in Boonville. Despite the hard times, families saved up their pennies and went to the movies because it offered them hours of diversion from their daily woes. The theater changed hands in the 1940s and was renamed The Ritz Theater. Saturday afternoons were known for their

Talking Pictures

double features — two movies for the price of one. All of the big stars of the era — Abbott and Costello, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans, Gene Autry, Hopalong Cassidy and the Lone Ranger — graced the screen at the Ritz. The original blockbuster, “Gone With the Wind,” was a hit in 1947. Despite failing health, the owners continued to observe several long-standing traditions of the theater. One of the most popular events was Dish Night. All the women who attended the movie received a free place setting of China or a ceramic dish. Many women attended the shows regularly to get a full set of dishes. The theater also hosted Jack Pot Night. An ticket was drawn from a pot and the audience member with the matching number won a cash prize. Eventually, Donald Julian bought the theater and turned it into a drug store, soda fountain and living quarters. Today, American Advertising calls the old Ritz Theater home. � —Barbara Brown-Meyer


Boonville Life in the 1920s and ‘30s was hard for Americans. Nationwide, countless small businesses failed, the stock market crashed and unemployment soared. But it was in that time that one of Boonville’s most noted businesses got its start. In 1923, a group of local leaders garnered funds to begin a garment factory. The Moses-Rosenthal Corporation opened the first clothing factory above what is now South Side Bar on Third Street. The factory stayed there only a year before outgrowing the space and moving to its final home on Second Street. It was around this time that the name of the factory was changed to Embassy Apparel. The factory produced high-end garments made of expensive materials and catered to large retail stores like Nieman Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s and Sears. Much of the merchandise was so elegant that it had to be drycleaned, even the underwear. The closest stores that sold items made in the Boonville factory were in Evansville. Many local residents couldn’t afford the items, anyway. But, a “scrap sale” was held each summer, selling rejected orders. Embassy put Boonville on the map by filling orders made by some very well-known people. President Lyndon B.


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Johnson ordered pajamas from the factory through Nieman Marcus. The pajamas made were a little different than the original plan — the pants had been cut too short so a cuff was added to the bottom. Johnson loved the pajamas so much that he ordered more. American actor and singer Perry Como purchased shirts from the factory. Christian Dior, one of the world’s most famous fashion houses, ordered dress shirts from the plant. Orders were also filled for underwear for soldiers during WWII. The matierals used were a little different. That’s because the garments had to hold up under the extreme conditions of war. Employees unionized in 1942, joining the Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union. The workers only had to strike once, demanding three weeks paid vacation per 1,600 hours worked. The mayor of Boonville, Bob Millis, helped the picketing workers by offering the high school parking lot as a picket line. The strike lasted only 17 days. Wages earned at Embassy were average for the time. In 1934, the starting salary was 23 cents per hour. When the union came in, employees were paid by the piece, which improved wages for everyone. By 1977, earnings had gone

up to between $4 and $6 an hour. In its heyday, Embassy employed over 200 people — mostly women. By 1977, that number had been cut in half and quality was suffering. Orders were being sent back as rejects. Soon, fewer and fewer orders were coming in. Embassy closed its doors for good in September 1977. �


Boonville The two-story white building that stood atop the hill splitting Locust and Main streets is long gone, torn down in 1958. The building itself stood as a reminder of a bygone era, and, although it was not a particularly happy thought, played a big role in the history of Warrick County, even if many don’t know it ever existed. Plans for the Warrick County Orphans’ Home began in 1896 after George W. Breckenridge, a millionaire who was born in Warrick County, donated the land for the specific purpose of making a home for the poor orphans of Warrick County. It was to be built on what is known as Orphans Hill, and its boundaries would stretch to where TraderBakers and Tractor Supply are now. According to board meeting minutes, the mission of the orphanage was: “That no child shall be admitted to the Orphans’ Home of Warrick County who has any parent or guardian living, unless such guardian or parent shall sign a complete release of all right that they or either of them have to such child.” The home had 15 rooms. Three bedrooms upstairs were dedicated to the superintendent and matron of the home and four bedrooms downstairs were for the children. The rooms were set up as dormitories with cots set up like barracks.

A place to call home

The children also had a large playroom near the front of the home. To cut costs, the orphanage grew all of its own vegetables and raised its own livestock. The children were expected to help out with various chores around the house — the boys did the washing and ironing and the girls did the gardening and farming. The cooking, however, was done by the matron of the home. In the late 1920s, two different Powers families took over running the home. Ma and Pa, as they were known by the children, came to the orphanage after the death of their four children. The first Powers family was kind and compassionate to the orphans and were empathetic to the loss they had gone through. Though they had not had the best circumstances in their lives, the orphans had a nice life at the orphanage. They were allotted 15 cents each weekend to go to the picture show at the Ritz Theater on the square. They were allowed to go to the big social events that Boonville hosted each year. Christmas was an especially fun time of year. After their Christmas Eve play at church, the children went straight to bed. In the morning, a beautiful Christmas tree was glittering in the playroom. A local bank gave each child $1 and the

Congratulations City of Boonville \ 150 Year Aniversary

Phone: 812-897-6210 • • Reduce, Re-use, Recycle! Board Members Duane Erwin Phil Baxter Nova Conner Robert Barnett 16

Robert Addington Mayor Pam Hendrickson Don Williams

Staff William Kavanaugh - Director Trayce Wilson - Controller Alan Ahrens - Operations Manager Tom Bodkin - Attorney

county commissioners, business people, local organizations and the people of Warrick County donated gifts. The Elks Club, in particular, gave each orphan a bag filled with candy and fruit. Once a child was adopted, the board visited the family often to make sure living conditions were satisfactory and that the child was well taken care of. Adoptive parents had to sign a contract saying that they would treat the child kindly and properly, take her/him to church and Sunday school on a regular basis, keep her/him in school and to make sure the child has skills to be self-sufficient. They were also granted a 60-day trial period to decide if the child was a good fit. Parents were expected to provide the basics — food, good clothing and healthcare. When the

child turned 18, adoptive parents had to provide the child with two nice outfits and at least $25. As the country began to come out of the Great Depression, conditions improved and orphan care was no longer a necessity in Warrick County. The last orphan left the home on July 8, 1939. The county wasn’t sure exactly what to do with the home and the land. The commissioners finally decided to have a tenant live in the home for one year. That person was to keep the home ready for a child to move in. But the need was no longer there and the entire property was sold at auction in 1945. The home was torn down in 1958. The hill, still known as Orphans Hill, is now home to McDonald’s. �



City Square

The north side of the Boonville City Square has changed quite a bit since 1896, when the top photo was taken. The county built a new judicial center to house all three county courts on the northeast corner of the square (seen at far right in the photo below).


A portion of the south side of the Boonville City Square was destroyed by fire before the 1896 photo below was taken. A wide range of colors today show the individuality of the Boonville City Square shop owners’ tastes through the years.



City Square

The facades haven’t changed much along the east side of Boonville’s City Square, but the businesses have changed several times since the early 1900s, when the photo below was taken.


Although so much has changed since this 1896 photo was taken of the west side of the city square, one thing has remained the same — locallyowned and operated businesses in downtown Boonville.


Boonville Warrick Publishing has a history of providing news and advertising services to Warrick County dating back to 1851. In 1885, Charles H. Johnson was hired by the Boonville Enquirer, later to become the Warrick Enquirer. For the next 100 years, either Charles or his son, C. Richard Johnson, had a hand in producing at least one of the Warrick County newspapers, now operated by Warrick Publishing Company. The Johnson’s family love affair with Warrick County newspapers began when Charles Johnson joined the staff of the Boonville Enquirer in 1885 at the age of 15. His son, C. Richard Johnson, became editor of the Boonville Standard in June of 1935, the same year his father completed his 50th year in printing. The elder Mr. Johnson was promoted to foremen of the Enquirer the later part of 1888. He left the Enquirer’s employment Jan. 1, 1895 to join the staff of the Boonville Standard. In January 1899, he accepted the foremanship of the


Boonville Standard and in December 1905, a partnership was formed between Johnson and Thomas Downs, resulting in the purchase of the Boonville Standard on Jan. 6, 1906. The partnership lasted until Down’s death on March 19, 1928. Soon after Downs death, Johnson purchased the partner’s interest and became the sole owner of The Boonville Standard. He died in May 1944 following an extended illness. C. Richard Johnson joined the paper as editor following his graduation from Indiana University. After taking over sole ownership of The Boonville Standard, with his wife, Louise, following the death of his mother, he bought his next paper, The Newburgh Register in 1961. This was followed by the purchase of the Chandler Light, which was renamed The Chandler Post in 1963. The purchase of the Boonville Enquirer was made in 1966, when illness resulted in the sale of Boonville's oldest newspaper by the owners, Mr. and Mrs. David Newby. The Boonville Enquirer was established in 1851; The Boonville Standard in 1875; The Newburgh Register

Editor Charles H. Johnson, Richard Johnson, Richard Byers, Ora Harris, Margaret Hatfield, Edward Altmeyer, Lula Tweady, Lloyd Alexander and Frank Bohrer. 22

in 1886; and the Chandler Post in 1955. The newspapers represent 409 years of combined service to the communities and citizens of Warrick County, a record few newspapers can boast. The papers were bought by Brehm Communications in 1983. Staying on staff as publisher, Johnson celebrated his family’s 100 years of community journalism in 1985. Sadly, Johnson died in 1997 on Aug. 21 at the age of 85. He is survived by his wife, Louise, who to this day still stops by the newspaper’s office and chats with employees. The “family” tradition did not come to a halt with the Warrick Publishing purchase. The family element is clearly reflected in the fact that Bill Brehm Sr., his wife Mona, and son Bill Jr. are all actively involved in day to day management of the company. Brehm also regards long time employees as members of “the newspaper family.” �

Gary Neal, Debi Neal, Jennifer Hall, Emi Schaad, Lindsey Frederick, Karen Monks, Samantha Lowe, Sarah Nelson, Timothy Young, Wendy Wary, Amanda Kipp, Emily May and Morris Barnett. 23

Boonville All that is left today on this spot is a small, green sign that reads “BOONEVILLE.” As a final insult, not only is the depot that once stood here gone, the sign that replaced it isn’t even spelled correctly. But in 1873, when the railroad finally did reach Boonville, the depot was a center of town and county activity. The building survives, as does the railroad itself. But, while the building is now miles from the rails it once served, locomotives still trudge through the heart of the town. Of course, that’s pretty easy to miss these days. Railroads aren’t what they used to be. America once moved on those twin bands of iron, and the history of Warrick County would not be complete without a nod to them. This is a history of Warrick County’s first railroad, which opened the doors to a new world of opportunities to the residents here more than a century and a quarter ago. Boonville twice tried and failed to get a railroad in the middle 1800s. In 1843, a town meeting was held to discuss the matter. But at that time, there were no steam-powered railroads anywhere in southern Indiana. Canals were still considered a better option by many, and the idea of a railroad wasn’t acted upon. In 1854, Evansville got its first railroad, the Evansville &

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Terre Haute. Evansville is still the transportation and cultural center of the tri-state today because of it. And in 1863, Boonville again tried to get a road of its own. This time, the city gave a deposit to a local railroad company to get the work started. But, again, the project failed, mostly because the country was in the middle of a Civil War. Fortunately for Boonville, the third time was a charm. In 1873, the Lake Erie, Evansville and Southwestern reached Boonville from Evansville, a distance of 17 miles. The line was projected to reach Bellefontaine, Ohio, but it never got close. Of course, in 1873, no one really cared. The town threw a party when the track finally reached town on a summer afternoon. The last rail was laid at 2 p.m. and the first train, carrying dignitaries from Evansville, arrived at 3 p.m. The depot — on which, by the way, the name “Boonville” was correctly spelled —was built on the north side of the tracks. It was a sturdy wooden structure with separate waiting rooms for men and women, as well as ticket and express offices. The railroad sank into receivership in 1875, though that was fairly common in those days. Almost every railroad

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entered bankruptcy at some point in its history. The name of the road was changed to the Evansville Local Trade Railroad, and it did not extend past Boonville for seven years. That was okay with most, though, because the line connected to the Evansville & Terre Haute and the Louisville & Nashville in Evansville. Boonville residents could now buy anything from a bundle of shingles to new fashionable clothes to an out-of-town newspaper. Farmers could now sell their perishable goods to other towns, and coal mines boomed in the area. In 1880, the line was pushed to Gentryville and connected with another railroad that reached to the Ohio River at Rockport and went as far north as Jasper. The two lines merged to form the Evansville, Rockport & Eastern Railway. That was the third name of the 7-year-old line, and not its last. That railroad was sold to the Louisville, Evansville & St. Louis Railroad in 1881, which was then reorganized as the Louisville, Evansville & St. Louis Consolidated Railroad in 1889. If all that seems a bit confusing, that’s pretty natural. But the changes in ownership are also pretty common in 19th century rail lines. Boonville’s railroad has gone by seven different names since its inception, but others have gone through more than 20 name changes in their lifetimes. The LE&StL also purchased a line from Lincoln City through Tell City and into Cannelton in 1887, giving the rail-

road three connections to the Ohio River. In 1900, the line was sold to the Southern Railway, and it stayed that way for 90 years. Southern was a major company in the area, and it was a factor in the local economy. Until the 1970s, the railroad ran weekly advertisements in the Boonville Standard. The Southern had also purchased the line from Cincinnati to Louisville through Huntingburg, giving Boonville residents a route to almost anywhere in the country. Passenger trains — as many as three a day in the 1920s — stopped at the Boonville depot daily. In 1907, the Southern completed a connection to the Monon Railroad at French Lick, which also gave passengers a direct route to the nationally-famous twin spas of French Lick and West Baden. The Barton Tunnel — one of eight tunnels the Southern drilled in Indiana — was completed in 1907 about 6 miles south of French Lick. But by 1935, only one passenger train came through Boonville. That train, which went from Evansville to Louisville, ran for the last time in 1939. Southern continued to operate the line through Boonville until 1990, when the company merged with the Norfolk and Western Railroad to form Norfolk Southern. that company, with its black diesel locomotives and distinctive NS striping, Continued on Page 26 25

Boonville continues to operate today. The lines to Cannelton and Rockport still exist, too, but with different owners. Hoosier Southern operates those branches, though trains no longer reach either of those towns.

WARRICK COUNTY Chamber of Commerce

Congratulations on this Historic Milestone 897-2340 224 West Main Street, Suite 002 Boonville, Indiana 47601 Office Hours: 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. M-Th. 26


The line to Cannelton is still intact, though it now rests under a thick growth of weeds east of Tell City. The line from Huntingburg to French Lick is now owned by the French Lick, West Baden & Southern tourist railway, which also operates a freight business south of Dubois as the Dubois County Railroad. Tourist passenger trains still operate through the Barton Tunnel during the spring, summer and fall months. Norfolk Southern also operates a daily freight from Alcoa to the wye in Boonville over tracks put down in 1954 by the Yankeetown Dock Corporation. Five days a week, that train meets one from Huntingburg, switching is done, and the trains part ways. Few people notice trains these days, unless they happen to be stopped at a crossing. Since the mid-1950s, diesel locomotives have replaced the steam monsters that once required so much care and sparked so many imaginations. The station agent is gone, too, and with him went an important connection to the town. Still, the strings of boxcars and gondolas that slip through Boonville today continue a tradition begun 135 years ago. The railroad is alive and well in Boonville, even if the name on the sign isn’t spelled quite right. �

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Then & Now

The Boonville Post Office was located on the northwest corner of Main and Second streets, just off the Boonville City Square, before moving to its current location three buildings west of the southwest corner of Locust and Second streets.



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Then & Now

The photos above and at top right show the Warrick County Courthouse as it was in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The photo above, of Grand Army of the Republic members, was taken c. 1887. The photo at bottom right shows Warrick County’s current courthouse, built in the early 20th century to accommodate the county’s growing needs. The new courthouse was constructed on the same site as the old one in the center of the Boonville City Square. The Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) was a fraternal organization composed of veterans of the Union Army who had served in the American Civil War. The GAR was among the first organized interest groups in American politics. It was succeeded by the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War.

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Then & Now

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Boonville City Lake Park has provided a variety of outdoor recreation for local residents for several decades. Although lake swimming is no longer allowed, the community still enjoys cooling off at the park at the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s 2-year-old splash park. -Ă&#x152;>Â&#x2DC;Ă&#x160;EĂ&#x160;>Â&#x2C6;Â?Ă&#x160; >Â&#x2C6;Â?iĂ&#x17E;

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The former Boonville Public Library, located on East Locust Street, now houses the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s police department. The library moved after construction of the new facility on West Main Street.



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Then & Now

Miss Ella Williams teaches a class at the Ella Williams School in Boonville in the photo above. The school, located on South First Street, took her name after Williams’ retirement. Today, the Ella Williams School houses the Warrick County Museum, which has on display a variety of exhibits that provide insight to everyday life in Warrick County’s past. A special thank you to the museum for loaning several of the old photographs that can be found in this book.

The Geo. J. Roth & Co. Department Store is one of the Boonville City Square’s most noted shops from the city’s past. It was located on the southeast corner of the square. The building, which looks different today, most recently housed Town Square Furniture. Below is an interesting perspective of the east side of the square.

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This float in a patriotic parade on the Boonville City Square boasts Kindermann’s Hardware, Stoves, Wire & Nails’ newest heating device — the Florence Hot Blast Heater. The float advertises the heater can heat a home for the whole winter for only $3.

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Neighbors since 1960, the shared history of Alcoa Warrick Operations and the City of Boonville goes back nearly 50 years. Alcoa has been part of the fabric of the Boonville community for decades— many of the city’s residents have built their careers at Alcoa Warrick Operations.

Celebrating a Shared History One of Alcoa’s most deeply-held values is supporting our community. We’re especially proud to congratulate the

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P. O . B o x 1 0 | N e w b u r g h , I N 4 7 6 2 9 | w w w . a l c o a . c o m | W a r r i c k F e e d b a c k @ A l c o a . c o m


Boonville 150 years in the making  

Published by Warrick Publishing in 2008. • The Standard

Boonville 150 years in the making  

Published by Warrick Publishing in 2008. • The Standard