Old Knightstown Houses – 2

508 West Main Street

508 West Main

508 West Main in the early 1900s (how about that nifty 2 story porch…!!).

This is indeed a grand old house however, I confess I know very little of it’s history. Here’s what Frank Edwards had to say about it in his little “History of Knightstown”:

The house at 508 West Main is an old land-mark which was long ago absorbed into the newer part of Knightstown, the present home of Dr. and Mrs. George McClarnon. One can easily imagine that this was a tavern when the red stagecoaches dashed along the National Road, yet there seems to be no evidence that it was ever used as such .But let me say that there is probably no house in town where young people found a more cordial welcome and more merriment . It was, for many years, the home of the grand parents of Mrs. Maurice Holland, Mr. and Mrs. William Welborn and their family of three beautiful and sparkling daughters and two sons (one of whom died in early manhood). In the wholesome environment of this old home, the youth of the so-called “gay nineties” enjoyed many festive occasions.

I’m sorry but I just can’t add any further info to that.

508 West Main

508 West Main today (sans nifty porch…!)

Click here to return to the first “Old Houses” page.

517 West Main Street

Seems the house at 517 W. Main is one of the oldest in town and was once home to a very interesting character.

517 West Main

517 West Main Street

Here’s what Frank Edwards wrote about the house:

Among our old houses, the ancient brick house at 517 W. Main Street, the home now the home now of Mrs. L.S. Shafer, is one which is of particular importance both from an architectural point of view and for historical reasons.
To elderly Knightstown citizens, the name Lehmanowski has for many years suggested a shadowy, mythical personage identified with old Knightstown. Now, thanks to an article from the quill of my old scribbling friend, Henry Wood of New Palestine, I have the true story about this man, Col. John J. Lehmanowski. A yellowed abstract of title discloses that he who had been a prominent officer under Napoleon Bonaparte and had fought in the Battle of Waterloo, once owned a house and was a citizen of old Knightstown. (See the Indianapolis Star of 10-5-1952)

A well authenticated story has it that Lehmanowski was an aide to the celebrated Marshal Ney and served with him during campaigns in Egypt, Russia and Italy, as well as at Waterloo. After Waterloo these officers with several others were arrested and sentenced to death, but escaped and came to America. Eventually Marshal Ney is said to have secretly visited Col. Lehmanowski in Knightstown. The above story was verified by Miss Christine A. Reising of Louisville, Ky. The great, granddaughter of Col. Lehmanowski. Also, I have a memo given me by my father, born in 1846, saying that Col. Lehmanowski preached in a Lutheran Church located across from the Presbyterian Church Manse on Jackson Street, one of his boyhood memories.
And now, about that comfortable, very old brick house, located far back in one of the largest yards in town. Memories,
It has perhaps been seventy years since I was in that house, a guest from time to time of the cultured and genial family of William Beeman with groups of my High School friends. How vividly I recall that long but very cozy living room, with plenty of daylight coming through tall windows on the south which opened onto an inviting porch entirely across the house! The exquisite workmanship shown on the woodwork, every inch of it then, down broad steps to an inviting basement kitchen where corn always popped with a merry pop and taffy always pulled to a proper degree of stickiness. Here again, doors opening to a porch.

There has been a good bit more written about the “Colonel” and I’ll include an article written sometime in the 1960s which quotes a piece written in 1908 by T.D. Deem the Banner publisher at the time. It’s kinda long but pretty interesting so I’ll put it here:

By glimpsing the white stucco house, serene except for the sounds of romping children, one would never know that it is a house filled with history.. It stands, stately, behind a mass of trees on a sweeping lawn on west Main Street near the Sunset Park. It was at this house that Colonel John J. Lehmanowsky, an officer in the Imperial Guard of Napoleon Bonaparte, Emperor of France once lived. Lehmanowsky’s legendary past includes a .daring escape from a French firing squad. He later became a Lutheran minister and a medical practitioner. According to legend, the former French soldier secretly entertained fellow comrade Marshal Michel Ney, Charge d’Affaires to Napoleon, who had likewise escaped a firing squad in France.
The Lehmanowski home is now occupied by John and Kathleen Lustig, and their two children Amy, 6, and Katy, 3, who have decorated and renovated the Federalist style home with an eye to its historic past.
Historical accounts of Col. Lehmanowsky make up an interesting chapter in the annals of Knightstown’s historical past. In a brief biography by the late T.D. Deem., former Banner publisher, the colonel is described as a striking figure, being exceedingly tall and large boned. He had a rather sallow complexion, gray hair and mustachios, wearing the latter curled up at the points after the European fashion. He walked erect, and showed a most soldiery form. His face was somewhat disfigured by a saber stroke which had cut squarely across the mouth, cutting both cheeks. He said the force of the blow was finally stopped by the chain chin piece which held in place the enormous bear skin chapeau of the French Huzzar.
Lemanowsky’s allegiance to the Hussar regiments and his delight in telling stories about the Napoleonic wars on his later lecture tours throughout this area have been cited as a possible explanation of Indiana’s “Hoosier” nickname. According to newspaper accounts in 1858, Lehmanowsky once told the story of an Indiana man, visiting in Louisville, Ky., who was deeply impressed by a Lehmanowsky lecture. The accounts say that the boy was being taunted by several Kentucky “bullies” who ridiculed him as one of the “New Purchase boys,” among other unflattering terms. The roused youth reportedly attacked the entire group of Kentuckians, outslugging them all. At the finish of the fight he was said to have stood up, raising his fist to the triumphant shout of “I am a Hoosar.” Newspaper stories from that time say that Indiana natives were, from then on, termed “Hoosars”. as many Kentuckians had witnessed the event.
Col. Lehmanowsky is also supposed to be the author of a book on the life of Napoleon Bonaparte which was published in Philadelphia in 1816 and in Indiana in 1818. With the exception of the “Indiana Territory Statues” it was the first book published in this state.
It is not known for sure if Col. Lehmanowsky built the house on West Main St., but its style of architecture indicates that it is quite possible that he did. Another indication is a large impressive brass eagle knocker on the Federal blue front door, which could have some connection to Lehmanowsky’s activities with the “Eagles of Bonaparte”, which, according to an account by Deem, took part in “the supreme effort of the French nation that witnessed the colossal struggle at Waterloo and the banishment of the Emperor to St Helena.

Deem’s account describes the soldier’s escape from a French dungeon tower, where he was imprisoned for his part in the rebellion at Waterloo. For his participation in this last rebellion against Bourbon rule, Col. Lehmanowsky was imprisoned with Marshal Ney and others in a donjon (sic) tower in Paris. He organized a plot to escape, after hearing that the court had been active in condemning Ney and others to be shot. By taking the clothes of the several prisoners and constructing a rope they let this down from the window of their jail and descended one by one, a distance of nearly two hundred feet, alighting upon an outer wall studded with iron spikes set in the masonry, and from here they jumped into the moat and thence to liberty. The Colonel often asserted that Marshal Ney also escaped and was never shot as history declares. Lehmanowsky managed to escape to the United States where it is believed he first settled in New York.
He became a Lutheran minister. Following is an excerpt from a footnote to an article by the Rev.R.F. Rehmer, pastor of the University Lutheran Church of West Lafayette in the March 1975 issue of the “Indiana Magazine of History” which consists of letters written by Lutheran missionaries: “John J. Lehmanowsky was a Polish born Jew who followed Napoleon and who was also imprisoned after Waterloo. Lehmanowsky escaped, came to New York, married, and then lived in Pennsylvania for a number of years. Later, using money provided by various benefactors, he purchased land near Knightstown, Indiana, where he farmed and practiced medicine. In 1836 Lehmanowsky was ordained as, a minister of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of the West. After his second marriage he resided near Corydon, Indiana. The source was Roseland’s “American Lutheran Biographies”.

Mr. Deem concludes his biography as follows: He brought his family to Rush County sometime about 1838 and bought the farm just south of the old Sears farm near Ogden, Ind. lie had four children — John, Louis, Paulina and Henrietta. His wife died on this farm, and is buried on the farm. He must afterwards have gone away, for several years later he came to Knightstown with another wife and two additional children — Martin and Mary. He bought a small tract of land south of Main Street and east of what is now Hill Avenue. Here they lived for several years, till about 1859 or 1860 when they moved away. Louis married a sister of M. Burt Harris of Knightstown; Mary was at last accounts living at Corydon in Harrison County.
The family removed to the neighborhood of Kansas City, Mo., the writer is informed, and there the father and several of the children died — the deaths ‘occurring within a short period. (Signed) T.B. Deem, Dec. 31, 1908″ (No reference is given for any part of the biography.)

It was evidently the aforementioned residence south of Ogden that Rev. John Frederick Heyer a Lutheran missionary referred to in a letter to church officials datelines, “Wayne County Indiana, May 28, 1836 one of the series of letters in Rev. Rehmer’s article.
“In the afternoon I traveled twenty-two miles east to Greenfield. After riding sixteen miles on Thursday morning I found brother Lehmanowsky and his family about two miles from Raysville right in the woods amidst some of the tallest timber in the eastern country . But even here a comfortable house, well furnished table, clean bed, and pious company, afforded good entertainment Brother Lehmanowsky has no income as minister of the gospel; he preaches in different places through the country, but depends on his little farm and the practice of medicine for support
Whether or not Lehmanowsky hosted the famous Marshal Ney is unknown. History states that Ney was shot by a firing squad, but this was supposedly denied by Lehmanowsky. In 1953, a story in the Sunday Journal and Sentinel published in Winston Salem, N.C. addressed this subject, stating: “Out in Sellersburg, Indiana, you can find the grave of Colonel J.J. Lehmanowsky, a Polish officer who served Napoleon . . . His daughter recalls a tall man coming to their home, shouting an order in French and then running forward to embrace her father. The two men spent the day talking together. Later, when the stranger was gone, Colonel Lehmanowsky would say no more than that his visitor was a person of prominence. Before his death, however, the Colonel told his daughter that his mysterious visitor was Marshal Ney.”
John and Kathleen Lustig are deeply appreciative of the historic significance of their home, and much of their decorating has been done with one eye to the home’s history.
Virgin timber and bricks of clay gleaned from the property have been used, in constructing the seven room, two and one-half bath home. Though Federalist in style, the rear of the home resembles Plantation type architecture with its double balconies. The windows and doors, once much taller and arched at the top, are surrounded with a dentate cornice and black arched shutters. A dark green iron grillwork balcony extends above the front entrance.
The wide plank floors in the living room, hall, and on the lower stairs are of ash, while dining room floors are of poplar, as is much of the off -white painted trim.
A fireplace in the living room, and another in the dining area are of the Federal period. A particularly pleasing batik of red poppies hangs over the living room mantel.
Furnishings in the living room keeping with the home’s historic aura. A large lounge chair believed to be English with handcrafted upholstery.
Just off the living room, in a powder room, an appropriate wall hanging depicts the likenesses of Napoleon’s wives.

Click here to return to the first “Old Houses” page.

130 N. McCullum Street

58 North McCullum

130 North McCullum in 1966

This imposing old Mansard roofed house is located at 130 North McCullum Street. (It was originally numbered 58 N. McCullum but all the address numbers in Knightstown were changed in 1920.) The term “mansard” comes from the French architect Francois Mansard (1598-1666). This roofing style is a characteristic of French Renaissance architecture found in many grand old American Victorian era houses. The house was built in 1868 for Richard Probasco a local dry goods merchant. The second owner, John I. Morrison, was a state public servant and politician. He was also a nationally influential educator. The 1874 Henry county directory lists him thus:
“Morrison, John L; President Board of Trustees State University. Born in Pa. 1806;
settled in H. C. 1873.”
Once again I’m going to fall back on the writings of Frank Edwards and his “History of Knightstown”. I sure am grateful he left it for us.

On the brow of the hill overlooking the Montgomery Creek Valley stands a house known to everyone in this vicinity on account of its beautiful location and its unusual architectural style, with a cupola on top. In the days of early Knightstown, this house, built in 1870, was known as the Probasco House, because the builder, then a Knightstown merchant was a scion of a well-known Cincinnati family. It is now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Rula Jones. The Joneses enjoy the use of a Carriage House for a garage. Where else would one find a Carriage House?
I recall that, when I was a small boy, I spent a happy day in this house, my parents and the family then living there were friends. I think I spent most of the day up in that cupola looking over the town and the creek valley. The records indicate that it was only a few years after this house was built that it became the home of John Morrison, Treasurer of the State of Indiana. Dates seem indefinite; but one son, Robert was there in 1902, (See Biography of John Morrison by the late L.E. Rogers, in the Knightstown Public Library.)
For the glory of Old Knightstown let me digress to mention that one daughter Sarah Morrison was the first woman student to enter Indiana University, where she was graduated with honor.

58 North McCullum

An artists drawing of the property at 58 (130) N. McCullum about 1880.

The 1900 Knightstown Directory has a listing for a J.B. Morrison, Dentist and a R.I. Morrison, Civil Engineer both residing at 58 N. McCullum. They must have been sons of John J. Morrison. Neither of them are listed in the 1909 Directory or in any of the early phone books.
I don’t know who lived there after the Morrisons moved on.

58 North McCullum

Another mid 20th century view of 130 N. McCullum.

Click here to return to the first “Old Houses” page.

316 North Washington Street

316 North Washington

316 North Washington last fall

Cary Street defined the northern boundry of Knightstown until about the middle of the 19th century. The Italianate style beauty at 316 North Washington was just the second house built north of the Cary Street boundry. The lot where the old Knightstown Academy and Hoosier Gym now stands was just a cornfield when it was built. William Penn Hill had the house built in 1867.
Here are Frank Edward’s comments about the property and it’s owners:

Once upon a time there was a Knightstown-Shelbyville Railway via Carthage with wood burning locomotives and, for the rails, sheet metal nailed on heavy timber? Well, there was such a railway, with a sidetrack to the Commercial Flour Mill on Blue River two miles below town; and my dad told me that his father took him for a ride on that railway when he was a little boy, say around 1850. The Conductor was William Penn Hill, later Cashier of the First National Bank and the grandfather of William and Henry Sitler.

I knew William Penn Hill, a jovial, kindly gentleman and for many years a Ruling Elder in the Bethel Presbyterian Church. It was he who built the house at 316 North Washington Street. Now the residence of Mr. and Mrs. Luther A. Pidgeon. When this substantial old brick house was built in 1867 it was the only house thereabout north of Carey street excepting a low brick house set flush with Cary just a few rods east of Jefferson Street . The house of Mr. Hill occupied a large yard with entrance on Cary Street. Where Washington Street now is was doubtless still Cary’s corn field, since Waitsell had been dead but two years.

I think its worth a note here to say that its likely that William Hill was probably closely related to Henry Hill of Carthage who was the founder and President of the Knightstown to Shelbyville Railroad. (See the History of K-town Transportation page.)
I’m not quite sure when old William Penn Hill passed on but H.B. Hill – a clerk, Lillian Hill – an artist, and A.M. Hill – widow are listed living in the house in the 1900 K-town directory. Then in my next reference, the 1909 directory, a Herbert Hill is listed living there. Herbert continues to live there until the late 1930s. I don’t know if he was married or had a family.
In about 1933 or 34 his Niece and her husband, R. S. Sitler, and their children came to live with him there. Mr. Sitler was a newspaper man and worked for the Banner and the New Castle Courier Times.
The Sitlers lived there until 1950 when they sold the house to Luther Pidgeon. The Pidgeon family lived there until well into the 1970s. I don’t know who lives there now.

316 North Washington

316 North Washington another view

Click here to return to the first “Old Houses” page.

You must be logged in to post a comment.