Monday, July 14, 2014

Oscar R. Ewing

bw photo of Oscar Ewing
(FSA) 1947-1953

Oscar R. Ewing

(1889 - 1980)
Oscar Ewing was born in Greensburg, Indiana. After receiving a bachelor's degree from Indiana University, and a law degree from the Harvard School of Law in 1913, he joined a law firm in Indianapolis. Mr. Ewing served in the U.S. Army during World War I, and upon his discharge in 1919 he joined the law firm of Hughes, Sherman and Dwight, headed by Charles Evans Hughes, who was to become Chief Justice of the United States. In the early 1940's Mr. Ewing was assistant vice chairman and later vice chairman of the Democratic National Committee. At the 1944 Democratic convention he was a member of a group that led a movement to make Senator Harry S. Truman the candidate for Vice President on the ticket with President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was seeking a fourth term. In 1947 Mr. Ewing was appointed Administrator of the Federal Security Agency, a position held until his retirement in 1953.


Thursday, March 27, 2014

John O. Gullian: Decatur County Revolutionary War Veteran

By Guest Columnist Josh Rutherford

Within Decatur County there are roughly thirty-six Revolutionary War veterans buried throughout the local cemeteries. Many, like John Gilleland (Swinney) and George King (Milford) are easily available to the public. A few, like Lucius Tanner (Mowrey) and High Montgomery (Watts) are buried on private property. Because the establishment of military headstones was not adopted until 1873 by Secretary of War William W. Belknap, most veterans of the Revolutionary War have traditionally civilian headstones. There are those, however, that were given one because their grave was either unmarked or had deteriorated. Once such veteran is John O. Gullion.

Located on what is now the Spillman land, around the area of E County Road 500 N and N County Road 150 W, sitting atop a hill overlooking Clifty Creek, the lone headstone of John O. Gullion  resides deep in the woods. The surrounding area is quiet and the view is remarkable, a perfect resting spot to end one's journey in life. However, there are serious doubts as to whether or not this spot is in fact the ground where John Gullion is buried.

The Gullion headstone in Decatur County
Photo by Josh Rutherford

According to family trees available online and local history, John Gullion was born around April 28, 1760 in Carrol County, KY to Edmund Gullion (b 1739). His mother is not known. At the outbreak of conflict with the British, John enlisted in Pennsylvania in 1776, as a private in Capt. Joseph Erwin's CO., Col. Miles' Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment. According to records, he was wounded and discharged at Valley Forge after serving 18 months. In 1778 he re-enlisted, served 6 months in Col. Bayard's Pennsylvania Regiment, and then 6 months in Col. Davis' Pennsylvania Regiment.  Finally, he was in Col. Crawford's Regiment by 1782. After the war, around 1787, he married Catherine Riffle in Washington County, Pennsylvania. From there he moved to Ohio and then in 1819 to Switzerland County. Local records claim he was one of the first settlers in Adams Township, Decatur County when he arrived in the area around 1818-1819. It is thought that he either had five or six children, all born before his move to Switzerland County. Only two are known to have survived in the records. In 1831 he applied for his Revolutionary War pension in Decatur County. In 1845, Catherine died and is buried in an unknown location.

John Gullion died in 1850. Most records show he died near Kokomo in Howard County. When he left Decatur County for Howard county, and why, remains unknown. However, the bigger mystery is who is buried on the Spillman farm? Located in Twin Springs Cemetery near Kokomo lies the reported grave of John Gullion complete with a military headstone. The added inscription on it reads, “In Battle of Long Island wounded in New Jersey served eighteen months honorably discharged at Valley Forge. Erected by Gen. James Cox – Charter of Daughters of American Rev.” So now we have two US Government issued headstones for the same person. One in a cemetery in Howard County, and the other alone and secluded in rural Decatur County.

The Gullion headstone in Howard County
Photo from

So which county has the actual grave and which is wrong? I don't think that can ever be determined, but there are some additional clues which to me point to him being buried in Howard County. Both of his surviving children lived in Howard County in 1860, according to the census records. The application for the headstone on the Spillman farm was submitted in 1902, fifty-two years after his death. I feel that there is someone buried on that secluded hill. A small, broken or worn away stone, much like a foot stone, lies in the ground below the headstone. It looks to be from the time period of his death.

Headstone application for John O. Gullion

My guess is that the final resting place on the Spillman farm is that of John Gullion's wife. Even his oldest child would have been in their 20s by the time they settled into the area. The grave may have been unmarked, or just marked with a small stone with initials or just a last name. Local lore and history around 1900 had him living in that area, so it's quite possible that a distant relative had a stone placed there completely unaware there was already one in Howard County and that the grave was actually not his. 

The issue you encounter with history is that over time documentation and fact gets replaced with stories and lore. Unfortunately, there will always be more questions than answers when it comes to research of this kind.


Thank to Pat Smith, local historian and writer, for the tip on the location of the grave.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Decatur County Girls Return to the Court

In 1975, Decatur County saw the return of competitive girls' basketball for the first time in about 50 years when Greensburg High School and South Decatur High School formed girls' teams.

According to Jack Poole, in his book Decatur County Girls Basketball 1976-1997:
"In the 1920's Decatur County high school girls played the preliminary games prior to the boys' contest. This continued for several years before interest waned and the girls' game was relegated to intramural play."
You can see a photo of Greensburg High School's 1911-12 girls' basketball team here, and you can read more about girls' sports in Decatur County here.

Greensburg High School Girls' Basketball team as pictured in the 1976 Tower Tree Yearbook

Greensburg High School formed a girls' basketball team in 1975 with Trish Walters as the coach. The girls ended the season with a 0-10 record. South Decatur High School formed a team that year also, with Joy Ayers coaching. The team's record was 4-5.

South Decatur High School's first girls' basketball team as pictured in the 1976 Cougerama yearbook

North Decatur High School's first girls' basketball team was formed in 1976 with Ruth Fuhrman as the coach. The girls ended the season with a record of 7-4.

South Decatur High School's first girls' basketball team as pictured in the 1977 Pacemaker yearbook

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

1966: Pirates' first regional win since 1937

Greensburg Daily News, 7 March 1966

From Jack Poore's Decatur Co. Backsetball 1946-1968
"The Pirates breezed through the Sectional and had little trouble in the Regional. In the Semi-State opener against Richmond, the Pirates held a 70-56 lead late in the game before the Red Devils chopped the lead down to four with 30 seconds remaining. But the Bucs held on for the right to play Tech for the Semi-State crown.
In the championship game Greensburg led by 3 points early in the final quarter, but Tech battled back and led 75-73 with 40 seconds remaining. Tech missed a free throw with 32 seconds to play but the Pirates threw the ball away after snaring the rebound. Tech scored a bucket and two free throws in the final seconds and Greensburg scored on an unmolested layup as the buzzer sounded.
Terry Martin's 21 points gave him a total of 995 points for his three years of varsity competition, which was a Greensburg record."
Players certified for Sectional play that year were: Steve McCammon, Bob Lay, Bob Barker, Steve Konkle, Bob DeLay, Dick Bockover, George Lanning, Phil Ogden, Steve Chitwood, Daryl Smith, Danny Jones, and Terry Martin. The team was coached by Keith Greve and Jerry Gegenheimer.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Sandcreek's Sectional Victory!

Almost 50 years have passed since Decatur County's 7 small high schools were consolidated into North Decatur and South Decatur. In the years prior to 1968, instead of three basketball teams competing against each other within the county, there were eight. According to Norm Voiles, Sandcreek High School graduates are still celebrating Sandcreek's historic win over the Greensburg Pirates in 1946, which resulted in Sandcreek's first and only sectional crown. Voiles graduated from Sandcreek in 1947.

25 February 1946, Greensburg Daily News

Local historian Jack Poore fills in the details of the big win in his fantastic series of books chronicling Decatur County Basketball:
"Probably the biggest surprise in many years of Decatur County basketball was Sandcreek's first ever sectional title. The Indians were only 6-6 after losing to Jackson on Feb. 1 and were not considered a sectional threat. Actually no team was a clear-cut favorite for the sectional title. The Greensburg Pirates had lost 10 of their last 12 regular season games and finished the regular season with a 6-14 mark, but many thought of them in the favorite role.  
Greensburg easily defeated their first two sectional opponents, while Sandcreek barely survived their opening game against Sandusky. The Pirates struggled in their Saturday afternoon contest against North Vernon, defeating the Panthers 27-25, as a last-second field goal by the Panthers was disallowed. Meanwhile, the Indians won over New Point in their afternoon clash, setting up their battle with Greensburg. 
The final game was close throughout until 4 minutes to play, when Sandcreek pulled out to a 40-33 lead and seemed to have the game won. But Greensburg battled back and scored the last seven points of the quarter to send the game into overtime. In the overtime session, Dick Nugent scored all 3 points to bring Sandcreek their first ever sectional crown.
Ray Hern, coach of the sectional-winning Sandcreek Indians, played on one of the first high school teams in Decatur County and coached 4 of the county tournament championship teams. Coach Hern played with Westport in 1911 when the first high school teams were organized in Decatur County."
You can re-live (or discover for the first time) 65 years of Decatur County basketball through Poore's books. They are available for checkout at the Greensburg-Decatur County Public Library.

Monday, March 17, 2014

The Story of the Ray Family

By Guest Columnist Josh Rutherford

On East County Road 400 North, just before you get to Lake Santee, sits a small, forgotten cemetery known as Memorial Cemetery. Located in this cemetery are around twenty graves from the mid 1860s up until 1939. There aren't many war veterans or civil leaders buried here. Yet, because of story the Ray family, it remains one of my favorite places to take people. In the SW corner are three headstones that could be easily mistaken as a small family plot. However, closer inspection reveals a fraction of the hard life that Edgar Ray endured.

Josephine Boling Ray & William Ray

This headstone reads, “Josephine Boling wife of Edgar Ray. Born Feb 14, 1857. Died Mar 11, 1880.”

This headstone reads, “William F. son of E & J Ray. Born Feb 23, 1880. Died June 30, 1880.”

According to census records, Josepine was born to William and Hannah M Boling in Salt Creek Township, Franklin County. She shows up as the oldest child in the 1860 census. In 1870, as a 13 year old, she has five more siblings. Josephine and Edgar were married on September 12, 1875. It seems she died from complications of childbirth, and that William died shortly thereafter.

Margaret J Land Ray & Morris Ray

This headstone is a shared headstone and reads, “Margaret J. wife of Edgar Ray. 1867-1886. Morris Infant. 1886-1886”

Margaret J Land was born to Moses and Margaret Land in Salt Creek Township, Decatur County. According to the 1870 census, Moses was around 64 at the time of the younger Margaret's birth. Edgar and Margaret J. were married in Decatur County in August of 1884. One can only assume that, again, Edgar's wife died due to complications of childbirth. Three headstones, four tragic death for Edgar Ray, and all by the age of 35.

Edgar Ray was born with what appears to be a twin (Emit) in 1853 to Francis and Nancy Ray. He was one of 7 sons and a daughter. Death was not uncommon to Edgar Ray. His father died in 1858 after falling from a church he was building (Kingston perhaps). On October 14, 1894, Edgar married his third wife, Ida Johnson, daughter of William and Martha A Johnson of Salt Creek Township, Decatur County. Because the 1890 census was destroyed in a fire in the 1920s, I am unable to determine if she may have been married prior to Edgar. There is no marriage certificate that I can find besides Edgar's. Ida and Edgar finally lived a long life together. Ida died first in 1931, and Edgar followed in 1948.

However, tragedy still found Edgar. In 1898, Martha J. Ray is born and dies. Three years before that, in 1895, William Harrison Ray (pictured) is born. He survives childhood and enters military service on Aug 6, 1918. He is first listed at Fort Thomas, KY and then is transferred to Camp Sheridan, AL. It is there that he dies of pneumonia on Nov 12, 1918. He was laid to rest in Kingston Cemetery where Edgar, Ida, and Martha are also buried. William H. Ray can be found among the Decatur County soldiers lost in WWI. Another child born to Edgar and Ida, Cora E. Ray, shows up on the 1910 and 1920 census but disappears after that, though that may simply be because she married and had her last name changed.

William Harrison Ray

Photos from

There are stories similar to this that I have found in the cemeteries throughout Decatur County, and I hope to touch on a few more in the future. However, The story of the Ray family always seems to be a bit more tragic to me. Life in the 1800s and early 1900s was not easy, this is obvious. The story of the Ray family is probably more the exception and not the rule. But it is still a reminder of how far modern society has changed.


Monday, February 17, 2014

Big Brothers Big Sisters in Decatur County

Big Brothers Big Sisters (BBBS) has been changing lives in Decatur County for over 30 years. BBBS is a non-profit organization whose goal is to help all children reach their potential through professionally supported, one-to-one relationships with volunteer mentors. BBBS is one of the oldest and largest youth mentoring organizations in the United States. 

BBBS as we know it today was born in 1977, when two organizations - Big Sisters International and the Big Brothers Association - merged. These two independent mentoring organizations had been operating since around 1904. Today, Big Brothers Big Sisters operates in all 50 states, matching children with caring adult mentors.

Big Brothers Big Sisters in Decatur County was formed in December 1981 as a satellite of the Columbus branch by Rev. Mark Gottemoeller, Mary Mitchell, Marty Ogden, and Patricia Henry. Other early board members and organizers were: Barbara Dairl, Peggy Polanski, Connie Mitchell, Debbie Schilling, Bill Blasdel, Angie Brinkman, David and Linda Fry, Dave and Sandy Hamilton, William Henry, Bill Hunter, Mike Porter, Nora Prieditis, and Bill Wenning.

Early seed money was provided by a Federal Juvenile Justice grant, which was used to hire a caseworker, Jeanette Guthrie. In July 1982, an office was opened at 117 E. Main Street. But finding adult volunteers for the program proved to be a struggle. By February 1983, only five matches had been made, and the list of children waiting for a mentor continued to grow.

The organization stepped up its recruiting efforts, and a year later, 15 matches had been made, but 12 kids were still on the waiting list. In 1993, the program held its first-ever recruitment challenge to match several children that had been waiting for a mentor for several years. The challenge resulted in 19 new "Bigs" signing up.

Bowl for Kids' Sake is the primary fundraiser the Decatur County Big Brothers Big Sisters organization utilizes to raise its operating funds. In the 1980's, the event brought in around $5-6000 each year, with about 150 people bowling for a good cause. By 1995, the event was bringing together 600 bowlers and raising over $30,000. This year's goal is $65,000.

Many local businesses and organizations collect money for Big Brothers Big Sisters during the Bowl for Kids' Sake fundraiser. Last year, Gecom raised $3,342.
Photo provided by Big Brothers Big Sisters

This year, the library has organized a team of bowlers for the event. If you would like to sponsor our team and support Big Brothers Big Sisters in Decatur County, you can make a donation online or send a check to the library at 1110 E. Main St., Greensburg IN 47240. Please make checks payable to Decatur County Big Brothers Big Sisters. You can also make a cash donation at the main circulation desk. Thank you for supporting Big Brothers Big Sisters in Decatur County!

Information for this post was drawn from Greensburg Daily News articles.