All posts by Chandler Lighty

Indiana’s Earliest Known Basketball Games

On this day in history, one of the earliest mentions of basketball appeared in Indiana newspapers.  This was a momentous occasion for a sport that would become so important to Indiana culture.

Despite popular belief, Indiana’s first basketball game did not take place in Crawfordsville.  In fact, Evansville newspapers reported on basketball being played in their city nearly sixteen months before the Crawfordsville game occurred.  Evansville even played an inter-city game against Terre Haute seven weeks before the Crawfordsville-Lafayette game on March 16, 1894.  I made these discovery using digitized newspapers, and published my findings last December in the Indiana Magazine of History.

Here are a few newspaper clippings from Indiana basketball’s beginnings in Evansville.

Indianapolis Sun
Indianapolis Sun, 23 November 1892
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Evansville Courier, 24 November 1892
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Evansville Courier, 25 November 1892. Foreshadowing holidays to come, a sports contest was the feature of this Thanksgiving Day’s entertainment.
Evansville Journal, 14 February 1893
Evansville Journal, 14 February 1893
Evansville Journal, 18 March 1893
Evansville Journal, 18 March 1893. The business men, in protest of rough play, refused to finish the game.
Evansville Journal, 20 January 1894. The Stars and Crescents played a game of "science and muscle."
Evansville Journal, 20 January 1894. The Stars and Crescents played a game of “science and muscle.”
Evansville Journal, 28 January 1894. In what is currently the earliest known inter-city basketball game in Indiana, the Evansville YMCA team defeated the visiting Terre Haute YMCA team, 26-15.
Evansville Journal, 28 January 1894. In what is currently the earliest known inter-city basketball game in Indiana, the Evansville YMCA team defeated the visiting Terre Haute YMCA team.

Note: Because most of these newspapers were digitized by a commercial firm for the Evansville Vanderburgh Public Library (EVPL), they are not freely available through Hoosier State Chronicles.  However, EVPL resident cardholders can access the content for free.  Visitors to EVPL can also access the digitized newspaper collection on-site.

 

The Crawfordsville Monster

Around two o’clock on the morning of Saturday, September 5, 1891, Crawfordsville ice delivery men Marshall McIntyre and Bill Gray prepared their wagon for morning rounds when suddenly a feeling of “awe and dread” overcame them.  Peering heavenward, the men saw a “horrible apparition.”  The Crawfordsville Journal described what they witnessed:

[It was] about eighteen feet long and eight feet wide and moved rapidly through the air by means of several pairs of side fins. . . . It was pure white and had no definite shape or form, resembling somewhat a great white shroud fitted with propelling fins.  There was no tail or head visible but there was one great flaming eye, and a sort of a wheezing plaintive sound was emitted from a mouth which was invisible.  It flapped like a flag in the winds as it came on and frequently gave a great squirm as though suffering unutterable agony.

McIntyre and Gray observed the phenomenon hover three or four hundred feet in the air for nearly an hour before they retreated to the safety of the barn.  They then quickly finished harnessing their horses and left the vicinity.


Daily Journal, September 5, 1891Daily Journal, September 5, 1891 (2)Daily Journal, September 5, 1891 (3)(Crawfordsville Daily Journal, September 5, 1891.)


McIntyre and Gray weren’t the only witnesses that night.  Perhaps the most reputable witness was G.W. Switzer, pastor of the First Methodist Church.  Shortly after midnight, Rev. Switzer stepped out of his door to retrieve some water from the well when he espied the apparition.  He woke his wife and they gawked as the thing “swam through the air in a writhing, twisting manner similar to the glide of some serpents.”  As the Switzers watched, the mystery apparition seemed at one point as though it might descend on the lawn of Lane Place — home of late U.S. Senator Henry S. Lane’s widow — before it re-ascended and continued its circuitous route above the city.


Daily Journal, September 7, 1891Daily Journal, September 7, 1891 (2)(Crawfordsville Daily Journal, September 7, 1891.)


When Crawfordsville residents heard of the sighting, ridicule came quickly to the eyewitnesses.  On the heels of Professor Burton, “Keeley’s Institute for inebriates” in Plainfield reportedly wrote to Rev. Switzer and invited him to visit — obviously to seek a cure.


(Crawfordsville Daily Journal, September 9, 1891.)


However, reports of the sightings also generated a number of believers.  The Indianapolis Journal picked up the story, as did other newspapers across the country, including the Brooklyn Eagle.  Mail regarding the sighting deluged the Crawfordsville postmaster.  Some correspondents thought the sighting indicated that Judgment Day was near.  A St. Louis woman, fearful of the spook’s western migration, wrote and asked if the apparition could be seen in the daytime, what color was it, and if the apparition had previously been in Ohio?


(Crawfordsville Daily Journal, September 11, 1891.)


So what exactly did people see in the Crawfordsville sky that early September morning in 1891?  Was it an apparition?  UFO?  A “rod,” like a 2008 episode of the History Channel’s Monster Quest implied?  Or was it, as many internet sites suggest, an atmospheric beast!?!?

Fortunately, two eyewitnesses tracked the creature.  John Hornbeck and Abe Hernley “followed the wraith about town and finally discovered it to be a flock of many hundred killdeer.”  The many birds’ wings, white under-feathers, and plaintive cries contributed to the belief of many eyewitnesses that the creature(s) originated from the otherworld.  Low visibility due to damp air likely compounded the misidentification.  The Crawfordsville Journal hypothesized that the town’s newly installed electric lights caused the birds to become disoriented, hovering and wreathing their way above the city.


(Crawfordsville Daily Journal, September 8, 1891.)


Killdeer Aubudon(Killdeer Plover, watercolor by John James Audubon.)


If that explanation does not satisfy, there is an alternative one. During the prior week, newspapers circulated another story from Crawfordsville.  This one was about a “balloon parachute craze” taking hold among the town’s boys.  While that could explain the billowing, sheet-like apparition, it fails to account for the “wheezing plaintive sound” emitting from the aerial monster.  Well, the same report about the parachute craze also mentioned that the boys also liked to send cats up in their balloons.  Could this have been what McIntyre, Gray, and the Switzers saw and heard instead?


Wichita Daily Eagle, September 4, 1891

(Wichita Daily Eagle, Wichita, Kansas, September 4, 1891.)


As anti-climactic as these conclusions will be to modern readers — they’re also, no doubt, disappointing to cryptozoologists and ufologists — it is the complete story of the Crawfordsville monster as the Crawfordsville Journal reported it in early September 1891.

Incidentally, Crawfordsville published three newspapers in addition to the Journal.  These were the Review, the Argus, and the Star.  None of those papers so much as hinted that anything happened that September morning.  This leads one to conclude that while a few citizens likely did see something unusual in the nocturnal sky, the Crawfordsville Journal overstated the incident to make an extra buck.  And the nineteenth century was no more “gullible” than our own age.  In other places around the world — like Fernvale, Australia, in 1927, and of course Roswell, New Mexico, since 1947 — reports of weird avian or other airborne visitors would pour in during the 20th century.

The Journal’s century old marketing ploy continues to generate lively discussion in the dark recesses of cyberspace and on late night radio talk-shows, where the Crawfordsville monster occasionally still goes out flying through the sky.

Going Back to 1812

Microscope

Over the last week, we’ve uploaded another 22,409 pages!

This is a lot of great new content from Indiana territorial and early statehood days!  But we’ve also ventured later into the twentieth century with the Evansville Argus, Greencastle Daily Banner, and Greencastle Banner Times!

Here’s a list of hyperlinked titles from the recent upload:

As always, happy searching!

 

Programming Note

As of June 4, 2015, INSPIRE.in.gov is being redesigned.

Consequently, the Indiana State Library’s portal to Newspapers.com is currently unavailable.

We’re working to restore access to this resource as quickly as possible.  I’ll be sure to blog again as soon as it’s back up.

We’re sorry for any inconvenience.

Don’t forget you can still search over 250,000 Indiana newspaper pages at Hoosier State Chronicles.

Newspapers.com Update: Greenfield Daily Reporter

Over the last two months, Newspapers.com uploaded another 40,000 pages of the Greenfield Daily Reporter.  Since the Indiana State Library is providing this content to Newspapers.com, the content is freely available to Indiana residents through INSPIRE.  Click here for access instructions.   Currently, there are 1,058,866 Indiana newspaper pages available through the INSPIRE portal.

At the end of June, Newspapers.com should wrap up digitizing the Greenfield Daily Reporter through 1963.  The Steuben Republican from 1860-1963 will be the next title added.

21,676 more pages!

We recently uploaded another 21,676 pages!

Included in the upload are:

Happy searching yesteryear’s news!

The Man Behind the Curtain

Do you love Hoosier State Chronicles?  Do you want to know more about the website? Would you like to know how to get the most out of your searches?  Would you like to know more about how to use the website’s crowd-sourcing and tagging features?

Then come  to a FREE demonstration of Hoosier State Chronicles on Thursday, May 21 at 1:30 pm in the Author’s Room (room 203) at the Indiana State Library (315 W. Ohio St., Indianapolis).  The program will be an hour in length, and will allow time for questions. No registration is required.

Stefan Boddie will lead the demonstration.  Boddie is the managing director of DL Consulting in New Zealand.  DL Consulting developed Veridian the collection management software which powers Hoosier State Chronicles.  Boddie will provide insights regarding how to best utilize the software’s features, and maximize your investigations into yesteryear’s news.

If you have questions about this program, you can contact Chandler Lighty.  His contact info can be found here.