Like many who have experienced the loss of their spouse, I do not enjoy this state of constant paradox. My days are filled with joy and sorrow, gratitude and loss, tears and smiles, looking at pictures of happy times and yet they bring tears to my eyes. Wandering Indiana's backroads conjures up a witches brew of emotions. And still, I know it is something I must do for me and for us.
August 17th is now a challenging day and today would be no different. Four years ago, I said goodbye to Beth, my wandering partner. I posted a picture on Facebook of an early trip we took to Turkey Run with Manson Church and my family. I determined that is was taken September 1982 while we were still dating and newly engaged. We started on this wandering thing early.
My brother Stan was my travel companion today as he was last year on this memorial date. After a stop at the cemetery to put flowers in the urn, we headed to southeastern Indiana. We traveled interstate highways only as long as necessary. We took I-465 around Indianapolis to Emerson Avenue and then south into Johnson County. I wanted to drive by Rocklane Church where our mother attended when she grew up. With so many rural churches in decay, it is good to see a thriving church here. I was once in the church when Beth and I attended a wedding of one of her sorority sisters from there.
We drove east a few miles then north one road to Stein (Stine) Road past my mother's childhood farmstead (Stine family), now home to Diehl's K9 Training Center. We turned south, passed Red's Corner and wandered southeast through Needham, near Urmeyville, passing over Sugar Creek and Big Blue River, entering Marietta in neighboring Shelby County. Not having to visit any dots meant we could go any direction rather than trying to knock off towns while driving.
L to R: Stine Farmstead in Johnson County, Former Bank of Flat Rock, Flat Rock United Methodist Church
We eventually turned onto SR252, crossed the Flat Rock River, and entered the town of Flat Rock, then on east to SR9 where we turned south heading for Hope. It is a well-kept town with the Yellow Trail Museum. The trail was an early marketing ploy to help people with automobiles find a local auto garage for service. Yellow bands painted on poles guided people to Hope, so the story goes. Hope was founded by Moravian settlers from the Carolinas and the church is still prominent in town. On the south edge of town is Hauser High School and some other historic buildings saved to share the community's history. Traveling south I spotted a small historic marker on the west side of the highway. We stopped and turned around and returned to read and photograph the marker about Jonathan Moore, a Revolutionary War veteran buried in nearby Sharon Cemetery. Stan and I practiced three of my Wandering Rules in this stop - 1. Always stop and read historic markers; 2. Don’t be afraid to turn around if you miss something, and 3. Curate your experience…take pictures!
Jonathan Moore Historic Marker (see https://www.hmdb.org/m.asp?m=167019)
Our first planned destination was Vernon, Indiana. Driving down SR7 we would pass through Scipio with its signature Covered Bridge painted red and white so we stopped for pix. Continued through North Vernon which grew as a result of Historic Vernon's geographic limitations. We drove through North Vernon's restored business and commercial district before continuing two miles to Downtown Vernon. We drove around the downtown square and captured pictures of its Knights of Pythias Castle, Stone Arch Railroad Bridge, the Jennings County Courthouse and onto Vernon Cemetery. It is a large, sprawling cemetery with several generations of our ancestors buried here. We walked around, drove around, asked questions at the office, called our cousin Mark (the family genealogist), and even helped the staff improve its information about our family's graves. Along with others, our great grandmother and great grandfather Spaulding are buried here along with our great-great grandfather Rogers. There are other relatives named Spaulding, Rogers, Veasey, and Wahl here as well. We made notes and took pictures to be able to find them again when we return.
Top row: Scipio Covered Bridge, Stone Arch Railroad Bridge, Jennings County Courthouse
Bottom row: Historic Jennings County Mural, Log Cabin Inn menu, Log Cabin Inn dining room
Left the cemetery got a couple of pictures in town. Ate at the Log Cabin Inn for lunch - pork tenderloins - one breaded, one grilled, both very good, Talked to Jenny, a cook and server, for a while and I shared that every local restaurant needs to share its story on its menus. It provides a layer of local flavor and authenticity that chain restaurants cannot touch. We captured a photo of the tourism mural across the highway from the restaurant and quickly visible from SR7 before leaving town.
South on SR7, we headed to Freedom Baptist Church, where our grandmother Stine attended as a child. The old bell tower of the white church was covered and encased in dark green vertical sheet metal - not a good look. We walked through the decaying cemetery and couldn't read many of the head stones. I know we have relatives buried here too. We drove back north and then east through Grayford. My grandmother Stine's childhood home(Spaulding) once stood own a knoll on this road, but I couldn't remember its exact location. We continued into San Jacinto located on Graham Creek. Across the creek and a mile or so farther the Graham Baptist Church sits on its bank. Established in 1829, the church is well-maintained and has an old cemetery next to it and newer sections on each side of the road heading south. My great-great grandmother Green-Maltby-Rogers (thrice-married) is buried in the old part and other, even more distant relatives, are across the road.
Back through San Jacinto we drove north to Rush Branch church (where my grandfather attended) and turned in search of my grandfather's childhood home. We missed it by a mile, literally, but the road looped back once it came to the boundary of the former Jefferson Proving Grounds military installation, now Big Oaks Wildlife Refuge. We soon passed the farmstead, which is now decaying quietly year by year. We drove onto Butlerville, home of Hannah Millhous Nixon (President Richard Nixon's mother) and birthplace of author Jessamyn West after whom we named our youngest daughter.
Graham Creek Church and Cemetery, Red Barn near San Jacinto, Stine Farmstead near Rush Branch
We drove north on SR3 to Westport stopping for pictures of its covered bridge a few miles east of town. Restored in 2004, it is still open to vehicle traffic and the best photo is from the other side! Staying in Decatur County, we drove to Millhousen. It used to be home to Smith Bros. Feed Mill, an early customer of mine during my sales career with Allied Chemical/Arcadian. To get to town, we drove past the massive Immaculate Conception Catholic Church with its towering spire, private school, and rectory. In town, diners were filling up the parking lot at Stone's Family Restaurant. We wandered through the fertile farmlands and passed prosperous farms in western-northwestern Decatur County. We got on I-74 at St. Paul and headed toward Fairland, and a volleyball match of my step-niece at Triton Central HS.
Westport Covered Bridge; Immaculate Conception Catholic Church and Knights of St. John, Millhousen
At different stops throughout the day a took a few moments to respond to FB comments about my memorial post. I was grateful for another day wandering Indiana and showing the places to Stan. No matter who travels with me, my mind wanders to the words of a poem I wrote about Beth, Her Empty Seat, which I will share in my upcoming book. Ultimately, that's what this day was about.