Terre Haute maintained its frequent presence in the national news in 1926, 90 years ago.
The final illness and death of Eugene V. Debs occupied substantial space on the front pages of newspapers around the world through much of the year.
Bantamweight boxer Bud Taylor, “The Terror of Terre Haute,” also made an impact that year in a sport then more popular than either football or basketball.
A year after Max Carey and Vic Aldridge spearheaded the Pittsburgh Pirates to a world title, Terre Haute native Art Nehf, one of the finest pitchers in baseball, was traded by the New York Giants to the Cincinnati Reds.
Nehf, a graduate of Wiley High School and Rose Polytechnic Institute, reached the major leagues in 1915 and was the key pitcher for the New York Giants’ National League champions from 1921 to 1924.
There were local heroes, too. The most tragic may have been Mildred Leban, 10-year old daughter of John and Mary Leban, 2117 N. 20th St., who died March 24 of shock suffered from burns received when she saved the life of her younger sister.
On Tuesday, March 23, the two children were playing near a bonfire on the lawn of the Leban home when the younger girl’s clothes caught on fire. Mildred fought the flames and succeeded in saving her sister’s life but not until she sustained the burns that killed her.
In early September, heavy rains struck the Wabash Valley and damage estimated as exceeding $1 million was inflicted on Terre Haute in the city’s most serious inundation since the historic Easter Sunday tornado-flood of 1913.
Davis Gardens, which boasted the world’s largest greenhouses, was flooded on Sept. 8 by the backwaters of Honey Creek. At least 25 Vigo County coal mines were idled and five railroads were inoperative.
On Sept. 8, Terre Haute coal operator Hugh Shirkie was elected president of the American Mining Congress at a special meeting in Chicago following the death of Col. Daniel Bertsch Wentz of Philadelphia, the past president and a legend in the coal industry.
Bud Taylor nearly ended his boxing career in 1926. For the second time, Taylor’s ring opponent died following a knockout.
Sencio Maldez, a Filipino flyweight who boxed under the name of Clever Sencio, died in Milwaukee following a 10-round match on April 20. Sencio held his own until the final round but had to be carried from the ring. He died the following day.
Sencio was found “perfectly fit” before the match by two Wisconsin physicians.
Taylor was extremely distraught. “I wish I had been knocked out by the first punch of the fight,” he said upon learning of Sencio’s death. “I will have to forego boxing after these two fatalities.”
Frankie Jerome died Jan. 13, 1924, after his Jan. 11 fight against Taylor at Madison Square Garden ended in a TKO.
Taylor’s name frequently appeared in sport page headlines even when he was not fighting. On Sept. 14, 1926, the Illinois Athletic Commission disqualified and suspended Charlie Phil Rosenberg of New York, bantamweight champion of the world, and his manager Harry Segal, for life “in order to protect boxing.”
In addition, the commission suspended all boxers in Segal’s stable who trained with Rosenberg.
As a result of the suspensions, the Illinois commission transferred its title to Taylor. The men had been scheduled to fight for the crown at Cubs’ Park in Chicago in mid-September.
Taylor had defeated Rosenberg Oct. 19, 1923, by decision, at Madison Square Garden in their only confrontation.
Suspensions were imposed, according to the commission, because Segal and Rosenberg “ignored rules pertaining to forfeits” and had not defended the crown.
“Farmer Joe” Cooper, another Terre Haute boxer, caught the attention of former world light heavyweight champion Jack Dillon and boxing promoter “Broadway Johnny” Cox, who made it known that Cooper wanted to fight for the world welterweight title.
He was scheduled to meet Mickey Walker on July 4 in Indianapolis but the bout was mysteriously canceled.
In other sports, Johnny Simpson of Terre Haute won the 1926 Indiana amateur golf championship Aug. 8 in South Bend, defeating John Lehman of Gary in the title match. In bowling, Otto Jensen of Terre Haute finished third in the American Bowling Congress singles championship at Toledo on March 24.
Wesley “Freckles” Barry may not be a familiar name to modern movie aficionados but, in 1926, he was well-known to cinema buffs.
In 1919, at age 12, Barry co-starred with Mary Pickford in “Daddy-Long-Legs.” He also was remembered for peering through a bedroom keyhole to see screen siren Gloria Swanson asleep in her nightgown in Cecil B. DeMille’s “Male and Female.”
Audiences watched Barry grow up. Between cinema appearances, Freckles toured with a vaudeville company. Perhaps his greatest screen success was Booth Tarkington’s “Penrod” (1922).
In 1923, he made a vaudeville appearance in Terre Haute where he met Julia A. Wood, a member of the California Girls Jazz Band playing in the same theater.
“It was love at first sight,” Miss Wood told reporters after their marriage plans were discovered by an elevator man at Newark (N.J.) City Hall on June 11, 1926. “Since we met in Terre Haute nearly three years ago we have been together as much possible under the circumstances.”
Born Aug. 10, 1907, Barry was 18 years old and had to obtain his parents’ written permission to marry. Wood, the daughter of the vice president of a corset manufacturer, was 23. The couple made their first home in Hollywood.
Barry made several screen appearances in sound movies after 1927; his last film appearance was in 1943. He was a director and producer of several second rate movies during the 1950s and died in Fresno, California, on April 11, 1994.
Wood apparently was his only spouse.