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June 16, 2013

Historical perspective: Engraver Fahnestock among local headlines in 1856

While perusing antique Terre Haute newspapers, the following story by editor-publisher Robert N. Hudson in the April 2, 1856 issue of the “Terre Haute Daily Express” attracted attention:

“It always affords us pleasure to commend merit, wherever it is found, whether at home or abroad – among our friends or in those with whom we have no personal acquaintance.

“It is doubly a pleasure to us when that merit is connected to those who are known to us and residents of our own city. We have of late seen several engravings executed by our young friend John Fahnestock, of this place, which would reflect credit on an older head and a more practiced hand.

“Mr. Fahnestock evidently is a young man of decided genius and we feel we are doing nothing more than a simple act of justice to the public in recommending him to those who may have anything to do with this line.”

Fahnestock is a familiar name in art circles, earning biographical sketches in “Who Was Who in American Art, 1564-1975” and “The New York Historical Society’s Dictionary of Artists in America, 1564-1860.” Some of his work is visible online.

Unfortunately, he is identified as a Hoosier from Indianapolis, where he moved in 1857. Several years later, John relocated, perhaps permanently, to New York City.

He definitely lived in Terre Haute from 1852 to 1857, probably much longer, and quickly earned a reputation as a premier engraver. Even after he moved to Indianapolis, Samuel Fahnestock operated a printing and engraving business in Terre Haute.

John received three awards for engraving at the 1858 Indiana State Fair.

In 1861, John, Orrin and Dr. Samuel Fahnestock were listed in “Sutherland’s Indianapolis Directory and Business Mirror.”

III

Another issue of Hudson’s “Daily Express” during April 1856 noted that Terre Haute jurist Samuel Barnes Gookins had been named an editor of the “Western Star,” a weekly newspaper published in Lebanon, Ohio.

Judge Gookins, who began serving as judge of the Indiana Supreme Court on Jan. 1, 1855, was placed in charge of the Agriculture and Horticulture department.

The assignment was fitting. Gookins was an avocational horticulturist whose 13-acre estate south of Terre Haute, called “Strawberry Hill,” was adorned with exotic flora.

Hudson noted that Gookins’ “talents and experience are a sufficient guaranty that this department of that newspaper will be excelled by none in the West.”

Gookins had previously served as editor and publisher of the “Vincennes Gazette” and “the Western Register and Terre Haute Advertiser.” On Jan. 23, 1834, he married Mary Caroline, daughter of pioneer publisher John Willson Osborn.

The Western Star ceased publication Jan. 17, 2013, after 206 consecutive years.

III

Terre Haute was well served by railroads in 1856. The Terre Haute & Richmond Railroad, with headquarters in Terre Haute, transported passengers and freight east several times daily. The Terre Haute, Alton & St. Louis Railroad provided two trains daily to the west, one an express and the other a mail train.

Chartered by Terre Haute attorney William D. Griswold, the Evansville & Crawfordsville Railroad offered two passenger trains daily to Vincennes and Evansville.

On April 2, 1856, Terre Haute & Richmond refused to transport mail from Terre Haute east. Under its original contract with the U.S. Post Office, Terre Haute & Richmond was to receive $100 per mile for the mail service.

After the agreement was signed, the post office doubled the original load by transferring mail from other railroads. The Terre Haute & Richmond demanded $200 a mile – the sum most railroads were paid -- and notified the Post Office department that it would cease transporting mail on April 1 if those terms were not met.

The post office countered with an offer of $125 a mile, which was refused.

III

During April and May of 1856, two circuses visited Terre Haute, each for one day.

Yankee Robinson’s Circus arrived April 24, performing a 2 p.m. and 7 p.m., presumably at the show grounds on the northwest corner of Seventh and Wabash.

On May 5, G.F. Bailey & Co. Circus and Menagerie, successors to June & Turner’s Circus, performed at identical times. It featured sensational equestrian acts directed by W.B. “Barney” Carroll, who had few equals as a manager, and 11-year old Marie Elise, his adopted daughter known in show business as “La Petite Marie.”

The circus also included the Lee Brothers, Eugene and Theodore, who introduced “a perch act,” using a 25-foot pole, to the American circus, and clown James Ward, who fell to his death while performing Oct. 28, 1888 on a trapeze in London.

III

The Alleghanians, one of America’s most popular singing groups between 1850 and 1880, appeared at Corinthian Hall at Third and Wabash on Saturday, March 15, 1856. It was the first of several appearances here.

The Alleghanians made their show business debut as a trio in 1846, initially consisting of bass James M. Boulard, tenor Richard Dunning and the alto leader William H. Oakley. The extraordinary voice of soprano Miriam Goodenow was soon added.

The troupe made a celebrated trip to California during the Gold Rush in 1852 and later made several “world tours.” Goodenow died shortly before the group visited Terre Haute. She was replaced by talented soprano Carrie Hiffert.

Professor John Fletcher succeeded Dunning as the tenor and soprano Sallie Fletcher, probably John’s relative, was added, joining Oakley, Boulard and Hiffert.

The Alleghanians, including Boulard and Hiffert, became an institution, performing until 1882. Horace Greeley once wrote in the “New York Daily Tribune:

“The Alleghanians deserve great credit for all they have done in the cause of Music, and for the high-toned character they have uniformly sustained through the land.”

 

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