Historic Columbus, Indiana

Historic Columbus, Indiana Columbus, Indiana circa the old days. Share any historic photos you may have on this page.

This page is dedicated to displaying images of Columbus, Indiana's past establishments and landmarks. Many of the curated photos are courtesy of Historic Columbus, Indiana (http://www.historiccolumbusindiana.org/) and the Historic Columbus, Indiana Message Board (http://columbusin.proboards.com/index.cgi). Please visit these sites for more historical background and content. If you would like to share any old photos of Columbus' Past then please do! We'd love to see them!

A Water-Works Question I Find Very Interesting To ContemplateMy research has dug up three Indiana cities either interest...

A Water-Works Question I Find Very Interesting To Contemplate

My research has dug up three Indiana cities either interested in, or constructing water-works in 1870:

Indianapolis, population : 50,000
Evansville, population,: 21,830
Ft. Wayne, population: 17,718
Columbus, population: 3,359

What motivated such a small town to take on such an enormous debt and invest $50,000 (in today’s terms, almost a million dollars) for a new water-works?

Cause for speculation is narrowed somewhat by understanding the Holly system of water distribution was solely for fighting fires (and watering down the dusty streets in the summer). As far as harnessing water power for industry? That importance was still several years out.

I have a hunch about this, and it points at Francis Jefferson Crump.

F. J.'s downtown property holdings were great, and, more important, Crump did not believe in insurance policies. Every fire in a Crump-owned building I’ve come across stated the Crump-owned building was not insured.

One of F. J.’s largest losses was the December 30, 1870 fire at the northeast corner of Fourth and Washington. Crump lost everything. Damage was estimated at $50,000. No insurance.
Three years later, F. J. incurred another loss at that same corner (F. J. Crump’s Opera House), resulting in a $25,000 loss. No insurance.

F. J. fancied himself a fire fighter. George Pence has written about F. J. being in charge of bucket brigades. F. J. even bought some sort of apparatus for fighting fires. Turns out, it performed so poorly that after one particular fire, he ordered a group of boys to push it to the Driftwood River and throw it in (it was most likely forever lost when the early 1900s filter was constructed).

I can see where F. J. would have a major stake in the water-works decision, even if he wasn’t sitting on the city council.

Of course, this is all speculation in this day and age.

Columbus is in the Top 25 of the Earliest Cities in the U. S. to Construct a Water-Works (out of 2,000+ cities to eventually adopt and build the Holly system of water distribution), and if my research is correct, the Columbus water-works went online before Indianapolis, thus making it the first city in Indiana to have an operating water-works system.

Photo credit: Cindy Hopkins

A 150th Anniversary Cause for Celebration   I’m back at work writing my history of the Pump House book. It’s a project I...

A 150th Anniversary Cause for Celebration

I’m back at work writing my history of the Pump House book. It’s a project I first began in October, 2016; a project of which I was commissioned to write shortly before the time Upland Brewing opened in the historic building.

I guess you could say this is one of those occasions where the “Reader’s Digest” version of the book came before the actual book itself. Part of my research was published in the brochure for the opening of Upland Columbus Pump House. But this story is too big for just a "Grand Opening Brochure."

Next year, 2021, will mark the 150th anniversary of Columbus’ Water-Works (known as the Pump House today). And, it’s a fitting time to share the story of the most important building in Columbus history, for if our forefathers had not the insight and keen observation to build it, Columbus would be a much different city today.

This is my task: to have the Pump House book finished by the end of the year, and ready for publication by early 2021.

70 Years Ago This WeekOn January 21, 1950, Francis Miller, photographer working for Life Magazine, was in Columbus to do...

70 Years Ago This Week

On January 21, 1950, Francis Miller, photographer working for Life Magazine, was in Columbus to do a picture story on the community.

Since Life never ran the story, the photos Miller took were shelved. Around 2009, the photos were seen for the first time, thanks to a joint venture between Google and Life.

Here is one of the photos Miller took during his time in Columbus.

Washington Street, looking south from Seventh (let's say. The old A&P is on the right).

Opening of the Bartholomew County Trail, 1971Aside from General William Henry Harrison Terrell, George Pence (no relatio...

Opening of the Bartholomew County Trail, 1971

Aside from General William Henry Harrison Terrell, George Pence (no relation to the Vice President or his brother) is “the man the citizens of Bartholomew County owe an eternal debt of gratitude for his painstaking research into the beginnings of the county, which at no other time and under no other circumstances could have yielded such a rich harvest of historical lore.”

The words in quotes were written by Ross G. Crump, and published in The Republic newspaper, February 17, 1971 (at the time of the sesquicentennial of Bartholomew County).
Several months after Ross Crump’s article on George Pence, on October 8, 1971, the announcement was made of the opening of the Bartholomew County trail. From The Republic, October 8, 1971, page 3:

"Opening of the Bartholomew County trail planned here Saturday morning would have been a dream come true for the late George Pence (1852-1929), a man who spent much of his life recording and researching Bartholomew County history. Planned and marked by members of Columbus Boy Scout Troop 68, the trail begins at the southwest corner of Mill Race Park here and extends along the west side of White River south to the Azalia bridge.
The trail is parallel to the trail taken by Gen. Joseph Bartholomew and Col. William Russell in 1813 when they returned from punishing hostile Delaware Indians who had assisted the British during the War of 1812. Owners of 42 pieces of property along the trail granted permission to cross their property. About 12 area Boy Scout troops have made arrangements to hike the new trail beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday."

I’m curious if any readers here ever hiked this trail as Boy Scouts? I’m also curious as to when this trail was abandoned?
Both photos are from The Republic, October 8, 1971, page 3

From The Public Ledger, Memphis, Tennessee, June 16, 1884, page 2Origin of “Hoosier”The first that is known of the word ...

From The Public Ledger, Memphis, Tennessee, June 16, 1884, page 2

Origin of “Hoosier”

The first that is known of the word appearing in print was in 1830, when John Finley, the Wayne County poet wrote a New York poem for the Journal entitled a “Hoosier’s Nest,” in which a description of the pioneer cabin in Indiana is given. The poem, in the light of one of the traditional stories, gives something of an idea of the manner in which the word came into use. The first few lines read:

“I’m told in riding somewhere West
A stranger found a “Hoosier’s Nest,”
In other words, a Buckeye cabin
Just big enough to hold Queen Mab in
Its situation—low but airy
Was on the borders of a prairie
And, fearing he might be benighted
He hailed the house and then alighted
The Hoosier met him at the door
Their salutations soon were o’er

It was the custom among the early pioneers of Indiana in traveling through the country to hail a cabin by calling out: “Who lives here?” and “Who’s there?” About the time of the treaty of peace with the Indians in 1818, and when the State was very sparsely settled, travel was attended by great dangers, and no man ever rode away from home without his rifle. As a means of safety when a traveler saw in the distance the smoke from a camp or cabin fire, he would call out, upon coming within hearing distance, “Who’s here?” and from the response he would know if he was among friends. From a corruption of this form of salutation the people of Indiana were called Hoosiers. Doubtless, settlers in writing back to friends at their old homes would say that they “were here among the hoosiers,” and in a few years the appellation sprang into general use. General W. H. H. Terrell*, whose researches in the early history of Indiana have been thorough and who may be accepted as authority, says that this is the true origin of the word and Governor Wright is credited with saying that it was a corruption of the form of salutation of the early settlers of the Western country. A critical interpretation of Finley’s poem seems to give a proof of his explanation.

*William Henry Harrison Terrell spent his early life in Columbus, and aside from his other achievements in life, was one of Bartholomew County’s greatest historians.

Photo is of Gen. Terrell

Elizabeth (Crump) Lucas was one of the most prominent residents of Columbus during her lifetime (1845-1932). The daughte...

Elizabeth (Crump) Lucas was one of the most prominent residents of Columbus during her lifetime (1845-1932). The daughter of Francis and Emilia (Smith) Crump, she married Captain William Lucas in 1865.
Elizabeth’s father, Francis Jefferson Crump, was one of ten pioneer capitalists to organize and open a new bank in Columbus in 1865: the First National Bank (se corner, Fourth and Washington streets).
Elizabeth served as President of First National from 1927 to the time of her death in 1932. It is believed she was the first woman to hold such office in the state of Indiana.

From The Evening Republican, December 7, 1908

From The Evening Republican, December 7, 1908


The First Street Signs in Columbus

From The Evening Republican, January 18, 1911

Bink Schnur, who has been awarded the contract to make the signs to mark the city streets, will have over 1,000 signs to make. There will probably be two for each street corner—placed diagonally opposite each other—and it is the intention to plainly mark every street corner in the city. It is the intention to place the street names on corner houses where a corner building is available but where no corner house can be found posts will be put down at the corner and the signs placed on these posts.


From The Evening Republican, October 11, 1910, Page 1

“Mother Goose was evidently busy sweeping the cobwebs from the sky Saturday afternoon and citizens of Rush County witnessed a peculiar phenomenon. From about 2 o’clock until 3, the heavens, as far as the eye could see, were full of cobwebs, some in strings, others in bunches which resembled flocks of geese, others in tiny flocks which, floating down, settled on trees, fences, bushes, telephone poles, etc. By actual measurement some of the strands in Washington township measured twelve to fourteen feet in length.

The telephones along the country lines were kept busy as neighbor after neighbor passed the inquiry along only to find that the same thing was being witnessed all along the line. For hours after the sky had seemingly cleared, travelers along the country roads were forced to drive through the weather-like strings, which clung to the harness and the rigs. Some of the oldest inhabitants insist nothing like it was ever seen before. They can assign no reason for the phenomenon.—Rushville Republican

The same conditions, but in a less degree, were noticeable hereabouts one day last week. No reason has been assigned for the phenomenon, but weatherwise folks say it pressages an extremely cold winter with lots of snow.”

Columbus Indiana Animal Services TriviaIn 1909, the city dog pound was in the basement of City Hall (then, sw corner, Fi...

Columbus Indiana Animal Services Trivia

In 1909, the city dog pound was in the basement of City Hall (then, sw corner, Fifth and Franklin streets).
Having not spent any time researching this topic, I have no idea if this was Columbus' first dog pound (I doubt it), nor do I know any of the pound's history.
Having said this, I do know the dog pound was once situated in Death Valley (site of Mill Race Park today). The photo shows both the old and new facilities. In 1949, the pound was moved from Death Valley to Water and Washington on the city's far south side.
The photo/news clipping is from The Evening Republican, March 19, 1949, page 1. The reference to the pound being in the basement of City Hall is The Evening Republican, May 29, 1909, page 5.


From The Evening Republican, May 28, 1909

The Columbus baseball fans are to be given an opportunity to witness an exhibition on the diamond the like of which has never been witnessed here. The Columbus Independents are shortly to play a team of Cherokee Indians two games, one of which will be played at night. The other game will be played in the afternoon. The night game will be played in the glare of electric lights, which will be furnished by the management of the visiting team.*

* a quick search for this game comes up empty. I'm uncertain if it took place


Local News from January, 1920

Claude Stevens, 21 years old, recently of Indianapolis, was arrested in this city Saturday night on a lazy husband charge and lodged in the county jail.

Many thanks to James Willis for posting this wonderful, downtown Christmas pic several years ago. It's one of my favorit...

Many thanks to James Willis for posting this wonderful, downtown Christmas pic several years ago. It's one of my favorites. Washington Street looking south from Fifth. Circa 1964-65

Photo of Francis T. Crump's mausoleum situated at the east side of the city cemetery as completed, December 6, 1912

Photo of Francis T. Crump's mausoleum situated at the east side of the city cemetery as completed, December 6, 1912

A Local Connection to the TitanicFrom The Evening Republican, 29 April 1912, page 1The reason John B. Crafton of Roachda...

A Local Connection to the Titanic

From The Evening Republican, 29 April 1912, page 1

The reason John B. Crafton of Roachdale, Indiana, was one of the victims of the Titanic disaster was because he was homesick and had sailed earlier than he originally anticipated in order to reach his family sooner. This was the information brought here Sunday when William G. Irwin returned from abroad. Mr. Irwin brought news of Mr. Crafton that the latter’s family does not know, but the local man will communicate with the relatives and tell them the additional facts he knows about Mr. Crafton.

Incidentally, it is developed that Mr. Crafton once lived in Columbus and worked for Miles Thompson when the latter owned a livery stable here. At the time of his death Mr. Crafton was a special agent of the Monon railroad, looking after real estate for the company.

Mr. Crafton sailed from this country a few months ago on the Cincinnati, and Mr. Irwin, Mrs. Sweeney, and daughter, Miss Elsie Sweeney, were passengers on the same boat. On shipboard Mr. Irwin overheard a man remark that he noticed from the passenger list there were some people from Columbus, Indiana on board. He said one’s name was Irwin and the other Sweeney. He remarked that they must be children of the late Joseph I. Irwin and that as Mr. Irwin had once befriended him when he lived in Columbus he wanted to meet Mr. Irwin and Mrs. Sweeney. Consequently Mr. Irwin made himself known and the friendship thus made continued throughout the voyage.

Mr. Crafton was then homesick, although the boat was just starting for the other side. He explained that he did not want to go abroad, but that he had been suffering from rheumatism and had been persuaded to go to Carlsbad and take the cure. Because of his homesickness, Mr. Crafton was given special attention by the Indiana people in the party and every effort was made to cheer him up.

After Europe was reached several people advised Mr. Crafton that he had selected a bad season to visit Carlsbad and as he was looking for an excuse to get out of taking the cure, he accepted the advice given him and began killing time until his ship, the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, sailed on April 17. In Paris, Mr. Crafton met Dr. Whitesides of Iron Mountain, Michigan, and a Mr. Dulaittre, of Minneapolis, men he had known on board the Cincinnati. He was so glad to see them that when they told him they were going to London he accompanied them. In London, the men told Mr. Crafton of the new Titanic. They said it would make a record trip across the Atlantic. Mr. Crafton decided that by taking this ship he would reach home several days earlier than if he remained and sailed on the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria. So he cashed in his ticket on the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria and bought passage on the Titanic. His sole purpose in taking the faster ship was to get to his family sooner, as he had been homesick from the start. How he became a victim of the wreck and was lost with the ship had been told. Had he waited and sailed on the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria, the boat which brought Mr. Irwin home, he would have been alive today.


Here is the announcement for the first of two tours of the historic Crump Theatre, coming up September 21.

Tours are free and limited to 25 persons per tour. Sorry, I cannot take reservations.

Hope to see you on the 21st!

It was nice to see so many people turn out this past weekend for the Crump Theatre tours.53 people toured the Crump on F...

It was nice to see so many people turn out this past weekend for the Crump Theatre tours.

53 people toured the Crump on Friday.
Saturday’s total was 74.
Grand total: 127!

It was so wonderful to be able to open the Crump Theatre and share some history of this important, historic, and endangered building. I’d like to thank Tracy Sousa, Hutch Schumaker, Matt Noblitt, and Richard McCoy for making the tours possible.

Also, thanks to Ricky Berkey and Wilma Abella for their assistance.

In the next few days, I will be posting the Crump Theatre tour schedule for September. If you couldn’t make the tours last weekend, don't worry! You’ll have several more opportunities to take a peek inside and learn why this building matters!

Alden Meranda, Trueman Rembusch, our Crump Theatre, and WCSI RadioA few days ago, Gordon Lake posted this photo on the “...

Alden Meranda, Trueman Rembusch, our Crump Theatre, and WCSI Radio

A few days ago, Gordon Lake posted this photo on the “If You Grew Up In Bartholomew County, You Remember” page. It just so happened I was doing some quick research on Alden Meranda for my upcoming Crump Theatre tours, thus the timing of posting this photo was serendipitous. I hope he doesn’t mind if I share it with this posting.

On September 1, 1947, WCSI-FM made its official, over-the-air debut, broadcasting from a Quonset-hut building on Carr Hill Road. Trueman Rembusch’s Syndicated Theaters owned WCSI-FM, as well as the Crump, Mode, and Rio theaters in Columbus. Rembusch had applied for both FM and AM licenses in 1945, but the AM license was not approved because no channel was available. In 1950, WSUA was sold to Sarkes Tarzian, owner of WTTV-TV, Bloomington, and its 1010 frequency license was not included in the sale. In February, 1950, Rembusch applied to the Federal Communications commission for authority to move the license from Bloomington to Columbus and assign it to Syndicated Theaters. Contingent on approval by the F. C. C., plans called for setting up WCSI-AM on the standard band frequency of 1010. WCSI-AM began broadcast operations on October 14, 1950. Both AM and FM stations were broadcast from the Carr Hill Road facility.

In preparing my Alden Meranda spiel for the Crump Theatre tours this past weekend, I learned that Meranda was the architect for the WCSI-FM facility on Carr Hill Road. WCSI-FM was Meranda’s first radio station.

One of the things that struck me during my hasty and rather quick Meranda research was something I read in an obituary. It said that Meranda was commissioned for more than 900 buildings over the course of his life. And that got me to thinking:

Of the 900 buildings Meranda designed, how many were art-deco?

I was able to piece together a paltry list of his work, which includes the following:

Indiana Bell Telephone, Seymour
Indiana Bell Telephone headquarters, Indianapolis
Indiana Grain Dealers building, Indianapolis
Methodist Home for senior citizens, Franklin
Flanner House homes, Decatur, Illinois
And quite a few private residences.

But what of his art-deco work? Well, we know of the Gibson Theatre, Batesville, Indiana. There’s the Artcraft in Franklin, Indiana, and I believe the Ohio Theatre in Madison, Indiana. During one of my tours on Friday, Michael Rembusch (son of Trueman Rembusch), President of Canary Creek Cinemas, Franklin, Indiana joined us. Michael told me the Eagles Theatre in Wabash, Indiana is also an example of Meranda’s theater work (it was also nice to see folks from the Artcraft Theatre in Franklin take part in the tour, and I will note here that all of the above mentioned theaters were, at one time, owned by Trueman Rembusch’s Syndicated Theaters.

So, let’s include the Eagles. That brings the Meranda Art-Deco Designs total up to five. Five out of 900? Possibly. I don’t know.

This is just a matter of personal opinion, but I do believe that, of the five, our Crump Theatre is the best example of Meranda’s art deco work, adding one more historical reason why we need to ensure the Crump Theatre will, one day, be restored.

Photo credit: Gordon Lake


Columbus, IN


Be the first to know and let us send you an email when Historic Columbus, Indiana posts news and promotions. Your email address will not be used for any other purpose, and you can unsubscribe at any time.


Nearby government services


I am interested in getting information about the Columbus Inn Bed and Breakfast. My husband and I stayed there 31 yrs ago and it was beautiful. We had a wonderful long weekend there and in your beautiful town. What happened to the bed and breakfast? I cannot find any information! Any help would be appreciated! Thanks!
Can anyone give me any information on the building right on the corner of 500E 250N? Looks to be a old church house or maybe schoolhouse. Just curious about what it was used for.
This is the old Haw Creek Tannery on 1st and Washington where my great-grandfather worked in the early 40’s. I’m wondering if anyone remembers anything about the place.
I'm a reporter with the Indianapolis Star. I'm trying to reach David Sechrest. Could he please give me a call at 317 444-6043?
I've enjoyed reading your posts and seeing pictures. We're purchasing a house on 22nd street across from Donner Park. It was built in 1935, and would love to see some pictures of the area around the time it would have been built. Any advice on how to find? It would be awesome to see the house/area around that time. During our inspection I was surprised to find they built the house using 2 railroad ties as the main beams.
Is anyone still here?
Has this page been discontinued?