Day 3: Sep. 28, 2003 the County Jail



Sunday got started with a breakfast gathering of the Route 66 E-Group. Despite long standing interest in both asphalt and information highways, the group is a pretty recent discovery for me. I guess I associated online groups with online chat rooms and online chat rooms with silly chatter and avoided them all. The laughable truth is that I entered my first e-group as the result of reading about it in print. Although it seemed impossible, that first issue of American Road contained "Letters from Our Readers". For the most part, the letters were from members of a Yahoo hosted e-group that had been created more than seven months earlier. I followed the printed directions to the cyber gathering place and signed up. The chatter was not silly (at least not often) and I soon realized that there was much to be learned here. I also soon discovered that there were other e-groups that fit my interests and among them was this one that has been around since very early 1999 and had more than 600 members. Something on the order of 50 of those members were present at the breakfast and I appreciated the chance to put faces with some of the names that had become familiar. Once again my picture taking suffered and I came away with little worth posting. I did manage to capture key member Mike Ward addressing the group and the greeting table banner. The empty table reveals that even that picture was an afterthought.

Another day of festival remained but I did not want to repeat Thursday's night time drive and planned to leave fairly early. I made one more street tour. On Saturday, when I walked through the area where hearses had gathered, getting a picture where much could be seen didn't seem possible. It was probably a combination of the size of the cars and the fact that people naturally gathered close to see real coffins, fake skeletons, and other creative accessories. With the official start of the day still a few minutes away, the cars were not yet hidden by people. The fairly open streets also made the pair of Model As look as if they might be parked at a 1931 curb while their owners dined in the fine food establishment behind them.

At breakfast, I had learned that Recycled Records (under the recycled furniture store sign) was a pretty interesting place to visit. Stopping in to see if I could really buy an 8-track tape player there was one of the reasons I had decided on one more walkabout instead of heading home immediately after the e-group gathering had dispersed. But the store was not open and it appeared that it would not be. I headed for the car.

My plans were to connect with I-72 at the edge of town, switch to I-74 when it appeared, and thus have clear expressway sailing all the way to Ohio. I was bored stiff by the time I reached Champaign! When I-72 ended, instead of the intended jog north to I-74, I maintained a due east heading and soon picked up US-150. There was nothing great to see and I was more or less paralleling the interstate but, more importantly, I was not ON the interstate. It wasn't until Danville that I saw something that seemed worth a camera stop. That was the Vermilion County courthouse. When I took the time to look about a little, I spotted this little park which combined some salvaged items along with a new and impressive bas-relief. Just a few blocks beyond, I even got to stop while a train crossed in front of me. Now there's something you don't see on those interstates.

In Danville, I switched to US-136 and that lead me to Veedersburg where this train depot caught my eye. It's definitely in need of repair but it also looks like that repair might be worthwhile. In the middle of Illinois farmland, the rusting elevator looks like a skyscraper and makes an interesting background for the modern memorial. But Veedersburg is definitely not the dying town that decaying buildings like the elevator and depot might indicate. Just across from the small memorial park, in a building with a recently painted mural on its side, is Keeling computer store and ISP. Near the depot, several men were at work residing a building. This place is very much alive.

This pioneer cemetery, just east of Waynetown, holds the remains of William Bratton, the only member of the Corps of Discovery buried in Indiana. It's a pretty safe bet that, when he settled here in 1822, William was the only man around who had actually seen the Pacific Ocean.

Here it is; that surprise discovery that you hope for on every drive but don't always find. In the late 19th century, a pair of Indianapolis inventors patented something called the rotary jail. This high-tech invention consisted of a cylinder containing pie shaped cells that could be rotated inside a sleeve of steel bars. A single opening in that sleeve meant that only one cell on each level would be accessible at any time and a series of gears enabled the whole thing to be turned by a single crank with relatively little effort. In 1882, Montgomery County, Indiana, built the nation's first rotary jail in Crawfordsville and somewhere between 6 and 16 more were built before the concept's several faults proved the idea impractical. The most basic problem was a vulnerability to jamming by prisoners. A variety of "remedies", including welding the cylinder in place and cutting individual doors for each cell, were applied but were never entirely successful. The Crawfordsville unit closed as a jail in 1972 and reopened as a museum three years later. Part of the conversion to a tourist attraction consisted of returning the jail's rotating mechanism to working order making this, since only two others remain and both are quite stationary, the first and last of its breed.

Ray was my guide and he certainly knows his stuff. I was treated to a very educational and entertaining tour filled with details of the jails workings, history, and some of its residents. The front portion of the building was originally the sheriff's residence and now serves as entrance, gift shop, and exhibit area. Birds is the subject of the current exhibit and included several items that Ray has collected over the years.

The unique jail isn't the only point of interest in Crawfordsville and there are plenty of reasons for a return visit. These pictures are of the court house and the plaque in front of Lew Wallace's home. The Wallace home is now the Ben Hur Museum but was already closed when I passed.

Since the area between Indianapolis and home is somewhat familiar, I jumped on to I-74 at the west edge of the city with intentions of following it home. As the circle freeway neared the point where I-74 branches off toward Ohio, traffic grew worse and worse until the right lanes were almost at a stand still. I stayed left until an open US-52 appeared and then headed east on that. Light was fading as rapidly as my hunger was growing when another lucky find appeared. The Kopper Kettle in Morristown serves wonderful food in a wonderful, and wonderfully furnished, old home. I still had a two hour drive home but this seemed a really nice end to the day.

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