News From Terre Haute, Indiana

September 9, 2006

HISTORICAL PERSPECTIVE: In 1906, Vigo County Democrat ceased to exist

By Mike McCormick

In early July 1906 — 100 years ago — the Vigo County Democrat ceased to exist.

With its demise, the West Terre Haute Star — an independent weekly published by Frank H. Guthneck — was the only Vigo County newspaper being published west of the Wabash River.

Established in early 1905 by a stock company headed by William M. Moss, a respected journalist who edited and published the Linton Daily Call, the weekly Democrat had a short life. Initially, Moss was not involved in day-to-day operation. However, in 1906, he relocated to Vigo County in an effort to save the business.

The building which housed the Vigo County Democrat was sold to Guthneck, a resident of Clark County, Ill. Three years later, Guthneck sold the West Terre Haute Star to school teacher A.J. Johnson and became editor of a Danville (Ill.) newspaper. Guthneck and his wife, formerly Catherine E. Donahue, had at least nine children.

III

In mid-August 1906, William Leon Halstead resigned as editor of the Terre Haute Tribune to become assistant business manager of the Boston Post.

A native of Spencer, Halstead attended Indiana University but graduated from the University of Nebraska in 1898. He worked as a reporter for the Evansville Journal before being hired to create a special edition of the Terre Haute Express in 1900.

Terre Haute lawyer-politician James Solomon Barcus hired Halstead to promote the sale of “Messages and Papers of the President,” a special volume prepared by his New York publishing house.

After Barcus bought the Terre Haute Tribune and then Terre Haute Gazette, he made Halstead the advertising manager and then general manager.

Halstead was supplanted as editor by Henry K. Stormont, previously managing editor. E. Guy Davisson, Tribune city editor and at one time managing editor of the Terre Haute Morning Star, was elevated to the managing editor of the Tribune.

III

Terre Haute Lodge No. 86 of the Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks voted unanimously in July 1906 to build a clubhouse for its exclusive use.

The lodge had never had a clubhouse and was meeting each Wednesday night at its hall in the Grand Opera House building.

Five or six sites were being considered, the most desirable one being the Frank Danaldson property at the northeast corner of Seventh and Cherry streets.

Though no building plans had been prepared, members revealed that the clubhouse would be at least two stories high with roof garden, basement, swimming pool and bowling alleys. The estimated cost was $60,000.

III

On July 15, 1906, John Heenan transferred his stock in the Terre Haute Baseball Association, owner of the city’s Central League professional team, to Louis D. Smith, a prominent sporting goods dealer in the McKeen Block at 673 Wabash Ave. Identified with pro baseball in Terre Haute for more than two decades, Smith had been president of the club but was ousted in 1905 by a coup contrived by saloonkeeper Heenan. Smith was a Terre Haute Baseball Club stockholder in 1884 when the city entered a team in the the Northwestern League.

The 1906 Hottentots were losing money under Heenan until John L. Crawford, president of Crawford Coal Co., acquired Heenan’s stock for $900 and sold it to Smith.

Each of the association’s seven shareholders — Smith, Crawford, Samuel Budd, realtor Charles Fox, banker Crawford McKeen, restaurateur William L. McPeak and Sigmund Uffenheimer, general manager of Herz department store — was asked to pay an additional $400 into the capital fund to eradicate existing debt.

Upon assuming the role as chief executive once again, President Smith fired field manager Jack Boyle and replaced him with playing manager Frank “Mum” Warrender.

III

During the last two weeks of July 1906, the Vigo County fairgrounds at the northeast corner of Brown and Wabash avenues was converted into “Chautauqua City” with 45 tents erected to provide living quarters for 50 families comprising 150 people.

To add validity to the name, the denizens conducted a mayoral election on July 25. Andrew J. McCourtney, general manager of the Walz Watson store, narrowly defeated Terre Haute attorney R. Voorhees Newton to become chief executive.

“John Doe” and “Richard Roe” promptly furnished his bond in the sum of $5,000.

Among “Mayor” McCourtney’s first appointments were Chester Fidlar, professor of music at State Normal School, as “Chautauqua City Clerk;” attorney Arthur C. Everingham as City Judge; attorney Eli H. Redman as City Attorney; and Montrose School principal Winfield G. Sanford as Chief of Police.

The apparent success of the 1906 Terre Haute Chautauqua was credited to the leadership of Professor Charles M. Curry of State Normal School, attorney George M. Crane and book dealer Isaac Craft, who converted his store at 629 Wabash Ave. into Chautauqua headquarters.

Rose Poly professor Arthur S. Hathaway, president of the Chautauqua Assembly, and photographer Frank J. Martin, vice president, also were lauded.

III

Vigo County Sheriff William Horsley directed Bob Warren, a saloonkeeper near Ellsworth (now North Terre Haute), to close at 11 p.m. each night and on Sunday.

Warren’s saloon was notorious for “lewd dances” conducted nightly but particularly on Thursday nights when there was a “Grand Blowout.”

Late Sunday, July 22, 1906, Edgar E. Miller, an Ellsworth resident who owned and operated a stable and hack line on N. Ninth St. in downtown Terre Haute, fired two shots into the saloon to silence the crowd.

One man sustained minor injuries.

Attorney John Hickey was hired by a number of Ellsworth citizens to rid the community of the annoyances.