Old Knightstown Houses – 4

238 East Brown Street

Crouse House

238 East Brown in November of 2009

Henry M. Crause age 76
The property at 238 E. Brown Street (Lot 7 & 8 of Block 11) was purchased April 7th of 1860 by Dr. and Mrs. Henry M. Crouse for $550. They built the house on the Northwest corner of Brown and Adams Streets in the Italianate style in 1873.
I found a biographical sketch of Dr. Crouse written in 1906 and I’ll copy it here as follows:


Among the leading physicians of Henry County is Dr. Henry Munson Crouse, of Knightstown. He is a native of Knox County, Ohio, where he was born July 25, 1830. His parents were George and Lydia (Melcher) Crouse, both natives of Virginia who lived near Richmond in that State before settling in Ohio. His parents were pioneer settlers of Ohio, having come to that State at an early day and settled in Knox County, near Mt. Vernon, in time to take up and enter public lands. In later years the parents moved to Mt. Vernon and made that place their home. To them were born three sons and one daughter, the subject of this sketch being the third child and next to the youngest son. Henry Munson Crouse lived on his father’s farm until he was about sixteen years of age when he left the farm and went to Gambier, Ohio and became a student in Kenyon College, one of the well known educational institutions of the “Buckeye State.” Here he entered upon a course of study for the full term of four years and graduated upon the completion of his course with honor to himself and his alma mater.

Immediately following his graduation from Kenyon College, Dr. Crouse began the study of medicine, having for his preceptor, Dr. John W. Russell, a prominent practicing physician of Mt. Vernon, with whom he remained four years. While pursuing his medical studies under the direction of Dr. Russell, he also attended lectures at the Cleveland Medical College, Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated from that institution in 1855. His education was now completed and he began to look for a favorable location for the practice of his profession, finally selecting Knightstown, Henry County, Indiana, as his future home, where on March 12, 1855, he began the earnest practice of medicine. From that day to the present time, excepting the period of his absence during the Civil War, Dr. Crouse has lived continuously at Knightstown and completely identified himself with that community and its interests.

The beginning of the Civil War found him firmly established in his profession but the demand for the services of skilled physicians and surgeons at the front became greater, daily, as the war progressed and Dr. Crouse felt himself called to offer his services to the Government. He enlisted in the 57th Indiana Infantry and was mustered into the service of the United States, as Assistant Surgeon, April 23, 1862, and two months later, on June 17, 1862, he was commissioned and mustered as Major and Surgeon of the same regiment, which position he continued to hold until increasing ill health and general disability compelled him to resign, September 9, 1863. As long as his health permitted, he had performed every military duty devolving upon him. His military service covered the sanguinary battles of Shiloh, (Siege of) Corinth, Perryville and Stone’s River, and in his retentive memory are stored many incidents of camp and field which the Doctor takes pleasure in relating.
As soon as his health permitted, after his return from the war, Dr. Crouse resumed the practice of his profession at Knightstown, administering to the wants of the sick and the afflicted until, in the year 1900, when he retired from practice.
Henry M. Crouse and Nancy Helen Mar, daughter of Robert and Hannah Woods, were united in marriage at Knightstown, March 4, 1857, and to this union was born, December 12, 1858, one son, Coleman F. Crouse, who, after attaining his majority, resided for some years in San Francisco, California, where he was inspector of customs in the service of the Government. He afterwards left the public service and engaged in the banking business at Dawson, Alaska. From Alaska he returned to Knightstown, in October, 1902, where he now resides and is engaged in agricultural pursuits. The parents of Mrs. Crouse were old residents of Knightstown and a sketch of the life of her father, Robert Woods, who died October 21, 1892, and incidentally, of his family, will be found elsewhere in this History. He was the founder of the First National Bank, of Knightstown, and the president of the same from its organization to the time of his death.

Dr. Crouse, from his early youth, has been a hard student and from his own experience realizes the advantages of education. He has always taken an acute interest in matters relating to school, college and university. During his long residence at Knightstown, covering a half century or more, he was for some time a member of the school board and watched with solicitude the growth and prosperity of the schools of that place. Besides his services to the cause of education in his adopted home, he has occupied other positions of public responsibility, acquitting himself therein with credit to himself and distinct advantage to the city. In truth, Dr. Crouse has ever been recognized by his fellow citizens as a man of sterling worth and unusual attainments. His high position in the medical fraternity is attested by the fact that he has for many years been an honored member of the medical societies of the State and of the county and is well known for the active part he has taken in the work and deliberations of those respective organizations.

Dr. Crouse is a member of the Masonic fraternity, having taken all of the degrees of the Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, the Royal Arch Chapter, Knights Templar and Scottish Rite up to and including the Thirty Second Degree. He is Past Master of Golden Rule Lodge, No. 16, A. F. and A. M., at Knightstown. He is also a charter member of the Jerry B. Mason Post, No. 168, Grand Army of the Republic, of which organization, nationally and locally, he is an earnest supporter, regarding the right to wear the Grand Army button as a mark of deserved distinction and honor.

In 1882 Henry and Nancy Crouse sold the house and moved to North Jefferson Street in Knightstown. They sold it to their brother-in-law and Nancy’s sister, Charles D. and Alvira Morgan for $5700.00. The following year the Morgans bought the lot directly to the west of the house for $700. Nancy Crouse and Alvira Morgan were both daughters of Robert Woods who was one of the richest men in Indiana at the time.
Charles Morgan, who was a very rich man in his own right, had built a 16 room mansion on a hill just east of Town in 1867. see, Thornhill/The Pest House They wanted to move back to town because Alvira was in very poor health. Alvira died in 1889 and Charles remarried sometime later. He lived at 238 East Brown until his death in 1911. Charles D. had served as a notery for many things and yet he had no will. His children had to file a quick claim deed to get the property.

Morgan House

238 East Brown sometime in the early 1970s
That old fence is probably original from the 1870s

In 1918 the home was sold to Edward G. and Minnie McGraw by the heirs of Charles D. Morgan. Ed McGraw owned and operated a General Store and Buggy/Harness Shop on the corner of Brown and the east side of the Public Square. Minnie was an antique dealer. (The antiques in 1918 must have been pretty early vintage.)
In 1921 the McGraws sold to Dr. Charles A Thompson, a chiropractor, and his wife Della B. He set up an office right in the back of the house and practiced his trade there for many years. The Thompsons later devorced and he remarried in 1940.
Thompson was listed as living there until 1954 when he commenced renting out the house. Knightstown High coach Harlan Clark and his family rented the property for a few years then it was rented to several other tenants until 1976. By then it was suffering some from poor maintenance.
In 1976 Jack and Judy Avery bought the house began restoring it to it’s former glory. In 1986, after renovating the main house, the Averys made an addition to the house designed by an architectural firm from Indianapolis, and Forrest Camplin, AIA. a distinguished local architect., who added the front porch and balconies in 1976. The salvaged iron fince and stone wall were added prior to the family room addition of 1986.
In 1993 G.Con and Erma B. Keller bought the property from Judith and Jack Avery. The Kellers, who had formerly lived and worked in Indianapolis, were empty nesters looking to move nearer their favorite golf course, Royal Highlands of Knightstown, a quarter of a mile away. Presently, 2011, the Kellers have 2 of their childlren near by and a grandson in school at KHS.

A big thanks to Erma Keller who pointed out the errors in this section and helped correct them…!!!

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126 West Pine Street

Dayton Heritage House

126 West Pine Street

The house at 126 West Pine Street is one of the most appealing looking houses in K-town. I think it’s been written up in architectural publications but I can’t find a reference. It’s older than it first appears having been built in 1866.
Once again I quote Frank Edwards’ comments about the property.

Almost directly across Pine Street, where Mr. and Mrs. Leslie Cortner now live, is a house unique in the annals of Knightstown. It was selected a few years ago as the subject of an article in a book issued by the State Historical Society by reason of the fact that the architectural design is “Gothic-Italiate”, for an “old K-town” house, THAT IS something to mention! The architect is unknown. For details, I suggest that you knock on the door of the State Library.
That part of town was the new (1861) Caleb White addition to the town of Knightstown. It was about the time young Dayton Heritage started a retail Furniture Store and married. It was he who had the house built in 1866. There, it was that he and his wife brought up their attractive daughter who married John Morris a native of Knightstown. This young man studied law and became our Circuit Judge at the turn of the century. His son, John Morris II, later became our Judge, he, the late Judge Morris whom many of today knew, was the grandson of Dayton Heritage
As may readily be understood, the Heritage family were among the outstanding citizens of Old Knightstown.
I remember Dayton. Heritage well, a tall man, athletic build, quick in his movements and a somewhat modified Charlie Chaplin stride. He was a hustler. With a few pounds off under his vest what a basketball player he might have made.

Dayton Heritage House

The Heritage house in the 30s or 40s.

126 W. Pine

Of course being in a very small town with no TV, things became a bit dull at times, and “Dayt ” was not loath to sitting in, now and then, on a quiet little game of five – cards – round – and -who’s –got ‘em, vulgarly known as poker. Now a few of his buddies knew that “Dayt” was a very keen one at this game, but the lads from the outlyin’ rail-fence country knew him only as that affable furniture man who always passed around the stogies, and made room for them when they wanted to edge in at the table for a few hands. So-o-o, as the story floated all over K-town, “Dayt” confided facetiously to some of his cronies at a little celebration upon the completion of the house, that if there was a brick in that house he didn’t make playin’ poker, he’d like to see it. Now, to get down to the George Washington truth, that poker story may have been started by some old K-town wag who had a penchant for posing as the Baron Munchausen of the “Clothes-line News Association”! We had several of such.

The present owner of the beautiful house at 126 West Pine, Tena Jones, has provided further information about the property for which we are grateful. Tena tells us that Mrs. Heritage, wife of the original owner, had passed away then the Heritage daughter married a man named Morris. Then, the widower, Dayton Heritage married the widowed mother of Mr Morris. So the daughter’s mother-in-law also became her step-mother, gee-whiz…. The Morris family became prominent in Henry County politics and one was Mayor of New Castle.

When Dayton passed away the Heritage House was willed to a niece then it was purchased by the James Rounds family who owned it until 1943. In ‘43 Mr. & Mrs.Leslie Courtner bought it. Mr Courtner was the superintendent at the Childrens Home south of town and lived in a large house on the Home grounds until he retired in 1963. So the house was rented from 1943 until he retired as superintendent of the ISSCH in 1963. Tom and Peg Mayhill prominent Knightstown citizens and publishers of the Banner rented the house when they first came to town in the 40s.

Ownership of the house passed to the Courtner’s daughter, Patricia Gelwicks, on their death and then to her son Steven Gelwicks when Patricia passed away. The current owner, Tena Jones, purchased the property from Steve Gelwicks in 1985.
According to the New Castle Courier-Times, it was the first house in Knightstown to serve ice cream at a party. Also interesting is that several years ago one of the outhouse pits was dug up and there was a gun in it. Outhouse pits were moved about every 15 yrs so there are probably pits on the property from 1865, 1880, 1895, & 1910. It’s amusing to ponder how and why a gun ended up in an outhouse pit..????

Ownership of the unique residence at 126 W. Pine has only been held in four families since it was built in 1866; The Heritage Family, The Courtner Family, The Rounds Family, and the current owner Tena Jones which is remarkable for 147 years.

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39 West 3rd Street

Joseph Woods House

39 West 3rd. Street last November

This beautiful old house situated on a huge lot at the southern most end of Harrison Street was built in 1868 by Joseph Woods. I think he was a farmer, grocer and real estate developer but I haven’t confirmed any of it.
Frank Edwards was not very flattering of Woods in his “History of Knightstown. Here’s what he had to say:

The other dead end street is south Harrison where Joseph Woods with about five large acres to build on, and, as they say “nothin’ to worry about but taxes”, set up house keeping smack in the middle of where Harrison Street might want to run some sweet day.

Gossip passes down word that he was eccentric. Well, I dunno ! BUT, if he wasn’t why in the Sam Hill did he add misery to misery by buildin’ a Family Burying Vault right in the middle of North Jefferson Street! That is to say, right where North Jefferson wanted to extend. itself beyond Cary Street. And there it was, year after year. Finally, much to their embarrassment, the City Administration had to do something, they did! So that’s why we have two dead end streets instead of one very proper one which was ended by Blue River. Just as Pine Street was, which I overlooked, ’scuse me!

Back there by that Woods place, where they kept house in the middle of the street. Ages ago some man wanted to build away from the growing town, have a little elbow room, perhaps keep a cow and have a little garden, built a one story brick house facing the sunshine and thought lie had built the cozies little nest for himself and his wife this side of- Paradise. Now Mrs. Patricia Gelwick has bought the place, regardless of its age, her friends say she has given it a new lease on life with modern improvements.

(I think Frank was rambling a bit there and I’m not sure I understand all of it.;Ed)

By the time 1900 rolled around Joseph had left this world and his Widow; Elizabeth, his Daughter; Eliza, a student and his Son; Wilbur, a lawyer are living there.
I can’t discover who occupied the house from 1900 until 1932 when Charles Thornburg is listed there. Thornburg is there until 1948.
Glen K. Fort, father of Kenny and Eddy Fort of my generation, is listed there in 1950 and throughout the 50s. Ed tells many good stories of growing up in the big house which was practically in the country. They even got to keep a horse there.

Joseph Woods House

39 West 3rd St. as it looked before the fire. Notice the large cupola on the roof. It was destroyed in the fire and never replaced.

In 1938 there was a tragic fire which took a life and nearly burned the house down. Darrell Deck has written a good article about the fire for the National Road edition of the Courier Times which was published in the late 1990s. I’m going to copy it here;

In my last column I mentioned a fire at what I called the Thornburg House in Knightstown. Over the years I have mentioned this fire many times to many different people and no one ever associated the Thornburg name with this house. After writing my last column I went to the Knightstown Library and looked back in old newspaper files. I found the article about this fire and it answers a lot of questions. The newspaper was dated November 4, 1938. I mentioned previously that I thought the fire was in 1937 or 1938. In 1938 I was five years old.
The news article was headlined, “Fire Causes Death of Mrs. Emily Knowlton; Destroys Interior of Old Joseph Woods Home.” The headline alone answers two questions. It identifies the elderly lady who died — I had never known her name — and it identifies the house. This fire was listed as the most disastrous fire in Knightstown since the Masonic Temple burned in 1899. The article continued to say that the home was owned by Miss Eliza Woods and was located on South Franklin Street. The location was in keeping with my observations in the previous column.
The article states that the house was occupied by Mr. and Mrs. Charles Thornburg. When I think about it now, it amazes me that a five year-old child could remember this name for 60 years. It goes on to say that the home was almost completely destroyed by the fire, which was discovered around 2 a.m. on Sunday morning when Mrs. Thornburg was awakened by smoke in her room. She called Mr. Thornburg and when he investigated found that the basement was a mass of flames.
When the fire department arrived the entire house was in flames. With much difficulty the firemen entered the house and the room occupied by Mrs. Knowlton who was an invalid. I was always under the impression that the victim was in the wheelchair when she died, but in actuality she was in bed at the time. She had evidently tried to get out of her room but was overcome by smoke and was dead when rescued. She was a retired music teacher and had taught at the local school at one time. The 80 year-old woman was one of the town’s most beloved ladies. She had lived with her sister, Mrs. Susie Furgason, in Knightstown for several years. When her sister died she went to live with the Thornburgs. The paper stated that, “This lovely old home had been built by the late Joseph Woods, father of Eliza Woods, in 1868.” So I had misjudged the age of the home as I was guessing it was built around 1840 with the west addition being put on in 1860. It was actually built just after the Civil War Instead of before the war as I had suggested. It was listed as one of the landmarks of the city. Ed Fort had told me that he remembered that a Red Woods lived in the house at one time with his sister, “Biddy.” This was evidently Joseph Woods, the builder.
The article went on to say that Mr. Woods had built several houses in Knightstown, and some two story storerooms on Jefferson Street just north of Pennsylvania Railroad. Later, he built the Valley House in 1871. The Valley House was evidently a hotel and it and the storerooms were torn down when the railroad was double tracked. Mr. Woods also operated a general store at one time in the location of Rihm’s Meat Market which was at the time on the southwest corner of Main and Washington streets. At one time Mr. Woods owned all of the land north of the railroad between Jefferson and Madison streets. I’m not sure if Eliza was living in the home at the time of the fire or not but the article says she spent her entire life in this old home which contained some of the finest antique furniture in the whole area and many other old articles of great value.
The plate glass windows mentioned in the previous article were put in the house in 1888 by Omer Mattix. Evidently, Eliza Woods, the Thornburgs and Mrs. Knowlton had guests on this Saturday night. Miss Stella Rhodes, Mr. and Mrs. Brice Thornburg of Anderson and Mrs. Vance of Elkhart were all spending the night. Mrs. Rhodes was overcome by smoke and carried out by the firemen. She was taken to the home of her sister in Mays and later to the hospital in Rushville for care and treatment.
Mrs. Vance was unable to make her way out in the hall and was removed from her room on a ladder by the firemen. The fire damaged all the house with the exception of the kitchen and dining room. These two rooms comprised the addition made to the original house which we mentioned in the previous article. The loss was covered only partially by insurance.
The funeral service as conducted for Mrs. Knowlton on Tuesday at the Wilson Funeral Home on West Main Street. I believe this was located in the brick home with the tower, the second door east of the present day Todd (Butcher) Funeral Home. If I remember right, Orville Wilson operated the funeral home there and then moved it to its present location before it was sold to the Butchers.
Again, thanks for all your responses. Let me hear from you anytime. I would especially be interested in any old pictures of Knightstown. Darrell Deck, Knightstown.

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106 North Jefferson

Jerry B. Woods House

106 N. Jefferson Street in the early 70s

Here’s a magnificant pile of American Victorian excess. This old beauty had 17 rooms. I really don’t have many facts about the original builder or when it was built. It looks like it should be about early 1880s but there’s no way to find out for sure.

Jerry B. Woods House

Here’s an old post card that shows a Victorian paint job on the house.
(before Jefferson was paved)

Jerry B. Woods House

Here’s another old post card which shows the huge barn that was with the house.
That barn was still there when I was a kid. It was in better condition than the house in ‘51.

I think it was built for Jeremiah (Jerry) B. Woods. He lived here in the late 1800s and early 1900s until his death at age 80 on the 4th of July, 1924. His occupation was given as farmer and blacksmith. His first wife, Lou Sample, died at age 72 in 1921. I think she was from the wealthy Barrett clan. He married again to Eva Thomas who lived to be 90.
As you can imagine the house had been badly neglected and was in need of much attention when Fred Frazier bought it and his family moved there in about 1952. (I can remember it being covered in almost all blackened paintless bare boards in ‘52.) I was friends with the Frazier kids and was in the house a lot back then and saw the massive amounts of work being done by Fred.
Fred worked his butt off and had it in wonderful condition in the late 50s.
I guess it has suffered another long period of neglect and it’s in pretty bad shape again.
The present owners, the Bohnerts, are working hard to bring it back to life and preserve it for the future.

Jerry B. Woods House

106 N. Jefferson Street as it is today.

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