TERRE HAUTE —
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run.
As much as I enjoyed the adventure and learned much about the official state river, the project seemed complete. But, in a good twist on the famous “Godfather: Part III” line, just when I thought I was out, the Wabash series pulled me back in. Readers offered some enlightening insights, memories and photographs as the series unfolded. Their contributions to the story follow.
n Exploring the 474-mile Wabash on the water poses a challenge. About a decade ago, while reading “Undaunted Courage,” a biography of Lewis and Clark, Stephen Burris bought a kayak and got a copy of Hoosier “riverlorian” Jerry Hay’s definitive “Wabash River Guide Book.” Burris wrote that he “wanted to get a feel for what traveling on a river would be like and decided on a voyage down the Wabash.”
After first checking out the Wabash’s shallow source near Fort Recovery, Ohio, Burris began kayaking in Jay County where the river runs fuller as it crosses from Ohio into Indiana at the State Line Bridge.
He tackled the river in segments, on separate day trips over a three-year span. Burris reached the Wabash’s confluence with the Ohio near Old Shawneetown, Ill., on July 29, 2005. “Thanks for bringing back some great memories,” Burris wrote of the “500 Miles” series.
Thanks for sharing your experience, Stephen. Lewis and Clark would be proud.
n Several Terre Hauteans fondly recalled a local Wabash fun spot in the 1930s and ’40s known as the Eighth Avenue Beach. Complete with white sand, lifeguards and wooden dressing rooms, young people flocked there to swim and soak up some Hoosier sun.
“It was a nice, big sandy beach on the east side of the river, and you could walk almost all the way across the river at that spot,” said Nelson Stephens, 82 years old and a lifelong Hautean. He swam there as a young boy.
Paul Sanders, a 93-year-old Terre Haute resident, frequented Eighth Avenue Beach as a teenager. “They had good crowds there, mostly young people, but some older people, too,” Sanders said. At one time, a dirt path extended from the end of Eighth Avenue at First Street down the river bank to the stream, he explained.
Sanders and Stephens remember the Wabash water as clean, back then. “I guess to us, it was,” Sanders said.
Neither could recall when the popular hangout ceased to be.
n Readers who grew up within eyesight — or a stone’s throw, as Joe Shell put it — view the river as the backdrop to their childhood. Shell’s dad was a sharecropper who loved to fish, use trot lines and nets, and clean and cook the day’s catch from the Wabash, near their home southeast of Newport. As a youngster, Shell and his buddies camped, fished and played “king of the mountain” near a rocky sandbar. From his bedroom window, Shell could see the iron bridge spanning the Wabash on the Parke County side. The waterway held beauty and force.
“That river could be so peaceful and gentle sometimes, but other times it was a raging monster, drowning our corn with no mercy,” Shell said.
n A snapshot from Tribune-Star photographer Jim Avelis’ array of photos caught the attention of Sister Ellen Cunningham at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College. It showed a life-size wood carving of “Red-Haired Nance,” a pioneer woman holding a frying pan in one hand and a baby in the other. “Please, tell us anything you know or can find out about Nance of the ferocious frying pan,” Sister Ellen wrote. “There must be a great story there.”
The sculpture stands beside a replica 18th-century log fort at Fort Recovery, Ohio, where the Wabash originates. The spirited young woman, likely the wife of a militiaman, was one of the few locals to survive the Battle on the Wabash, when Native American forces led by Chief Little Turtle overwhelmed a U.S. Army contingent in 1791 at Fort Recovery. Historians say Nance fought off attackers with the pan, but lost the infant after placing the child on the ground to shield it from the violence. According to legend, Nance spent the rest of her days searching for her child.
n We captured stories and images from dozens of locations along the river’s path, but Sheila Rogers of Indianapolis reminded us of one we bypassed — the Ceylon Bridge in the Adams County town of Geneva. She noted that it is “the last remaining covered bridge on the Wabash River.” Built in the 1860s, the bridge joined the National Register of Historic Places in 2006.
Sounds like a great day trip.
n The drought of 2012 dropped water levels and revealed elements of the Wabash unseen for years at Terre Haute. “The east bank north of the bridges is still the best kept secret,” wrote George Pfister. “During the drought last summer, I was able to take my granddaughter half way across the river on the exposed river bed of pure sand. She played for hours in sand that rivals the finest beaches in Florida.”
n Frank Johnson, a pilot, lives in Fort Wayne, but flies from Huntington, near the most northern point of the Wabash. While reading the series, he scouted the river’s course from his plane and took some spectacular photos between Logansport and Peru. One of his pictures accompanies this piece.
n A fascinating reminiscence came from Rita Long, who shared a collection of photos from a half-century ago. Her pictures show the Wabash bustling with activity as members of the Fort Harrison Boat Club sailed the river, and camped, played cards and pitched horseshoes on a vast sandbar north of the city.
“We used to use the river all the time,” said Long, now 74.
The Elks Club maintained a lift that guided motor boats from the cliff down to the water, she said. Women in the boat club walked up the sandbar’s bank to an eatery in Clinton to bring back Italian beef sandwiches for the group. In the evening, guitars, banjos and harmonicas rang out around campfires on the sandbar, where boaters pitched tents. The Wabash provided a place to relax.
“You were just off away from everything,” Long said. “You could go down there in the morning and the river would be as smooth as glass.”
Like many residents, she’d like to see the community reconnect with the Wabash, which is the goal of the 2013 Year of the River project.
“We’re on the banks of the Wabash, and we’re not far away,” Long said, referencing Paul Dresser’s state song. “We’re right there.”
Mark Bennett can be reached at 812-231-4377 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Readers recall fascinating long-forgotten experience along the river
TERRE HAUTE —
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run.
- 500 Miles of Wabash
MAX JONES: Telling a river’s story, in words and pictures
Among a newspaper’s most valuable assets are its storytellers, the men and women who employ their journalistic skills and talents to report, write and capture pictures of topics relevant to readers.
500 Miles of Wabash Part I: The Wabash has humble beginnings
FORT RECOVERY, Ohio — The Wabash River reaches its romantic stage far downstream from here.
It begins amid a homely, isolated patch of tall grasses and weeds at the edge of a farm field four miles south of the tiny village of Fort Recovery on the western edge of Ohio.
MARK BENNETT: Living downstream: From source, Wabash bears mark of mankind mile after mile
Something was missing. I’d never visited this spot before, but the view looked familiar. I’ve walked the banks of the Wabash River and its tributaries countless times, catching crawdads and skipping rocks in Honey Creek as a kid. On the other side of the state, where the Wabash crosses from Ohio into Indiana, trees arched over the water as it ran under a bridge on a quiet country road. It looked like western Indiana, except for one absent element. Litter.
Points of interest along the Wabash: Nondescript origin can fill in some blanks of Hoosiers' Wabash knowledge
For Hoosiers, the birthplace of the Wabash River - in rural western Ohio - amounts to a curiosity point.
500 Miles of Wabash Part II: Where the Wabash gets its name
WABASH — Wearing sweatsuits and smiles, they hold hands and briskly stroll the Wabash River Greenway on a crisp June morning.
Points of interest along the Wabash: Small northern Indiana towns display Wabash front-and-center
BLUFFTON — A quest to see the white limestone bedrock that gave the Wabash River its name requires tenacity.
The Miami Native American tribe labeled the waterway “waapaashiki,” meaning “water over white stones,” describing the clear river they witnessed in its upper reaches in northern Indiana. Their moniker morphed to “Ouabache” by French fur traders to the pioneers’ Anglicized “Wabash.” The river water appeared clearer in those Native Americans’ days than now, thanks to a murky tint from sediment and nutrients.
500 Miles of Wabash Part III: Lafayette makes Wabash ‘magnet’
Thick fog sat atop the Wabash River as the morning sun lit the valley between Lafayette and West Lafayette.
Points of interest along the Wabash: Parks, diners, nightspots — even ice skating — surround Wabash at Lafayette
LAFAYETTE — Lafayette and West Lafayette share the liveliest riverfront on the Wabash.
The most compelling sights depend upon a visitor’s tastes.
500 Miles of Wabash Part IV: ‘Adventurers’ see Wabash’s most famed stretch from a different perspective
On the water. Down in the valley.
The view of the Wabash River looks starkly different from that vantage point, compared with overlooks, scenic as they may be.
Points of interest along the Wabash: A few public access points provide unique peeks at river communities
While giving a presentation on the Wabash to a gathering of Indiana State University’s Osher Lifelong Living Institute in June, river enthusiast Brendan Kearns asked how many people in the audience had been “on the river.”
500 Miles of Wabash Part V: Historic homestretch
The Wabash River ends at its most secluded point.
Points of interest along the Wabash: Small towns along southern stretch of river offer peaceful sights, historic stops
A drive along highways running parallel to the Wabash River’s southern miles offers peaceful sights.
MARK BENNETT: Current Information: Put your Wabash knowledge to the test … or quiz
Just for fun, ponder a few questions concerning the large waterway flowing through Indiana and Terre Haute, as the Tribune-Star’s series, “500 Miles of Wabash” concludes in today’s editions. Those who’ve followed the five-part series of stories, photographs and videos about people and communities uniquely embracing the Wabash River may have a head start. If you’re just catching up, check them out in the online editions at www.tribstar.com.
MedExpress to open newest Indiana center in TH
MedExpress, the national leader in providing high-quality, convenient health care, plans to open its eighth center in Indiana later this month at 3051 S. U.S. 41 in Terre Haute. Construction has already begun on the site, which was acquired from API Minor Emergency Clinic. MedExpress will be hiring and staffing the center with a full professional medical team.
MARK BENNETT: Reflections on the Wabash
The series “500 Miles of Wabash” wrapped up last Sunday after a five-week run. Readers offered some enlightening insights, memories and photographs as the series unfolded.
- MAX JONES: Telling a river’s story, in words and pictures