By Stephen Jackson | For The Times Post
Alexandria has the unique distinction of being selected in 1943 from a list of cities across the United States as the subject of a US Government Office war information pamphlet titled Small Town, USA.
The purpose of the project was to correct the many false impressions people in foreign countries had of American life that they had acquired by watching American-made movies.
Small Town USA was to be the only publication that could help convince the world’s people of the overwhelming power and unquestioning good faith of the United States by informing them of the nature of our country, our people, and our way of life.
In May 1943, the New York bureau sent writer Betsy Emmons and photographer David Eisendrath to Alexandria to collect photographs and interviews.
They arrived on May 21.
They finished making the images and compiled the statistical data used in the book on June 14, 1943.
Local press releases mention that the arrangements for the visit had been coordinated with the city authorities and the Civil Defense Council.
Emmons and Eisendrath stayed at the home of Dahl & Eva Strickler, the city’s funeral director, during their two-week stay in Alexandria.
His base of operations was the Old English Hotel on Harrison Street, later the Broyles furniture store.
The interviews were conducted in their hotel rooms.
Eisendrath took photographs everywhere around the city,
The Times-Tribune reported on May 24: “Dozens of photographs were taken in the street on Saturday and Saturday night.”
Records reveal that the photographer took more than two hundred photographs of Alexandrians involved in all facets of daily life.
The Alexandrians were represented as working, playing, studying, and worshipping.
Eisendrath portrayed most of his subjects in natural everyday situations.
Ernie and Carolyn Phillips were photographed working in their Victory Garden.
Location: 310 E. Madison Street.
Some of the photos were staged.
The Blake children clearly remembered that the picnic basket in their family scene was empty.
Pictured left to right: Joe Blake (father), Joyce Ann (Mrs. John Grose) Blake, Rosemary (Mrs. Rev. James Williams) Blake, Janelyn (Mrs. Phillip Levi) Blake, Ruth Blake (mother) Wayne Blake, Phillip Blake.
The emotional image of a grieving family leaving the burial site (Forrestville Cemetery in Boone Township) of a wounded soldier implies that the soldier was recently killed in action.
In reality, the soldier, Private Louis Oliver Reason, had been a World War I veteran.
He had been wounded abroad and sent back home, where he died on May 31, 1943, in a government hospital in New York.
Pictured are: Mrs. Ralph Rayment, Rev. Ralph Rayment, (Minister, Orestes Baptist Church), Grace Laycock, (Private Reason’s sister), Emory Laycock.
However, the touching farewell kiss at the train station was real, as the Elwood resident leaving for the service, Pernod Van Ness, was checked in.
Pictured in front row, left to right: Walter Van Ness, Ruby (Mrs. Penrod Van Ness), Penrod Van Ness, LaVisa (Mrs. Walter) Van Ness.
In accordance with common OWI procedure, Emmons and Eisendrath told local people as little as possible.
Virtually everyone knew that this job was classified activity.
When Sara Culbertson Fox was asked to pose for a photo at a crowded bowling alley (Ault’s Recreation 213 N. Harrison St.), she saw no photographers and got the feeling “it was all secret. No questions asked.”
It did not occur to the participants in the project to question the motives of the government.
The arrival of the Lafayette, Muncie & Bloomington Railroad and the discovery of natural gas served as a spur to another Monroe Township community 1 1/2 miles west of Alexandria.
Orestes was settled shortly after the Lafayette, Muncie and Bloomington Railroad was completed in 1876.
After the discovery of natural gas, a large glass factory and a tile factory were installed there and the population increased.
It was around this time that the city was incorporated, and the order of the commissioners to that effect was made at the end of the year 1894.
But, he was not always called Orestes.
Called Lowry’s (Switching) Station, it was originally a switching station near a grain elevator.
The station was named for Nathan Lowery, who insisted that a town be established on the site.
Later, and at the insistence of Nathan Lowery, he received the name Orestes after a mythical Greek character whose escapades drove him mad.
Orestes is home to a magnificently beautiful white oak that was named “Tree of the Year” by the Indiana chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture in 1980.
Ten years earlier, arborists at Purdue University estimated its age to date to 1670, and it measured 77 inches in diameter.
The Madison County Historical Society secured and dedicated a bronze plaque to the great oak on May 6, 1973.
It is displayed on a rock next to sturdy hardwood that survived the 1922 tornado and numerous ice, wind and electrical storms.
Osceola, located one mile directly north of Orestes, was laid out in 1855.
Legend has it that it derives its name from the famous Seminole Indian chief.
At one point it promised to become a place of some importance.
EM Trowbridge opened a general store there shortly after the town was established.
David Perry established the first blacksmith shop and Absalom Webb was the first shoemaker.
A large steam-powered sawmill was built, but after the more valuable lumber was converted to lumber, the sawmill was removed.
The loss of the mill, the building of railroads through other parts of the county, and the discontinuation of the post office all contributed to Osceola’s declining growth and prosperity.
Like so many communities in Madison County, the Osceola Post Office, established in September 1858, was forced to change its name likely due to a conflict with another of the same name.
In June 1859, it became the Mercury Post Office, which operated for 20 years.
The name was so widely accepted as the middle name of the community at the junction of CR 300W and CR 1300N that it began to appear on maps as early as 1864 and continued until 1879.
The name Osceola first appears on county maps in 1886.
Gilman was a prosperous place for some 75 years, beginning in the late 1870s.
It was then that Jacob Miller decided to plant a village because the Lafayette, Muncie and Bloomington Railroad ran through the land.
Located six miles southeast of Alexandria, it was considered a “flag stop” by the railroad, so trains had to be given signals to stop.
The town was originally called Business Station, obviously because of all the business that the railroad and the free flow of natural gas brought there.
It once had three taverns, glass and brick factories, school, church and doctor.
It is located on the north side of CR 900N and the west edge of CR 500E.
But with Business Stations mushrooming all over the Indiana landscape, the postal authorities could have handed the Gilman name to the people on a platter.
Between the names of Business Station and Gilman, the community was called Purdue, a post office by that name existed there for less than two years, from August 25, 1876, to June 10, 1878, before it was changed to a third and last time to Gilman. .
The name Gilman first appears on an 1883 county map.
Slickum/Slickville was the name of what must have been a very small farming community near where CR 1250N intersects CR 500E about five miles east of Alexandria.
General store operated by Herschel Hamilton.
Slickville Tile Works – 1883-1910.
Alexandria has had two place names within its boundaries that were created solely for special tax considerations.
When Aladdin Industries Inc. came from Chicago to establish a factory in Alexandria, it established an incorporated city of its own on West Washington Street.
While the factory was active, Aladdin City was administered as a separate entity.
When Aladdin ceased operations and the industrial property was sold, the city area became part of Alexandria again.
The second such arrangement was called Gimco City.
It was a southwestern section of the city established for Alexandria General Insulating and Manufacturing Co. Incorporated (GIMCO) in 1929.
It was abolished in 1977.
The last stop in Monroe Township is a neighborhood clustered around the intersection of CR 100W and Fourth Street on the southwest side of Alexandria called Innisdale.
It takes its name from a family named Innis who once lived there and whose home still stands on the east side of CR 100W, a short distance north of 4th Street.
At one point, Innisdale’s population was enough to justify two elementary schools, one for grades one through four and the other for grades five through eight.
Madison County Historian Stephen Jackson is leading a series of “First Sunday” presentations covering the history of Madison County townships. Talks are scheduled for 2 pm on the first Sunday of each month in the Bowman Room at the Madison County Museum of History, 11 W. 11th St., Anderson. The talks began on September 4 and will run through November 5, 2023. The information he prepares for those presentations forms the basis of this series of columns in The Times-Post.