Cauli Le Chat

Cauli Le Chat
Cauli Le Chat, MPL Roving Reporter

Monday, July 28, 2014

Following Paul Hadley's Footsteps, Part Cinq

UPDATED APRIL 23, 2016:  We've added some new information that might prove helpful for those interested in Paul Hadley's Spoon Cabin painting.

In 1939, Paul Hadley painted this cabin.  Well, he painted a picture of the cabin.  I assume somebody else painted the cabin itself.  (There's a great Paul Hadley joke about that.  I'll tell you in a minute.)

"Cabin," by Paul Hadley (1939)
(Click photos to bigify)

For those who have missed my first four installments in this series, Paul Hadley (1880-1971), a longtime Mooresville resident, designed the Indiana State Flag; taught painting at the Herron Art Institute in Indianapolis; was an art curator; and was himself an accomplished artist (primarily in watercolor). Several of his paintings are permanently displayed at Mooresville Public Library, and my minions and I are tracing Hadley's footsteps to see the places he painted and how they look today.

How do we know when Paul Hadley painted this cabin?

 Yep.  Pretty much.

The much tougher question is (wait for it . . .):  Where was this cabin? Does it still exist?  (Okay, that's two questions.)  But first, some comic relief.

Paul Hadley roamed the countryside (literally walking most places near Mooresville, because he never drove a motor vehicle) painting landscapes, structures, and other places. Anywhere that was too far to walk (or that he couldn't conveniently reach by the interurban railway or other railroad) required Hadley's friends to kindly give him a lift to the locations.  These folks were often repaid with a Paul Hadley original painting.  Pretty sweet deal, I'd wager.

I'm getting to the joke!  Once, when Hadley was walking about, he came upon a particularly appealing barn that he wished to grace his canvas.  He saw the barn owner and asked if he (Hadley) could paint his (the farmer's) barn.  The farmer replied, "No thanks.  I just had the barn painted last year."

Back to the tough questions.

According to long-time Morgan County historian Becky Hardin, in her biography of Paul Hadley, she stated:
  • "This painting ["Cabin"] was presented to the Mooresville Library by the Tri Kappa Sorority.  A newspaper story says it is 'The Robb Cabin' but some people think it was the Spoon home. [. . . .]  Spoon's Cabin was the subject of Hadley's Paintings at different seasons of the year.  [One shown in her book] is Spoon's Gate and was probably for his [Spoon's] cabin.  It is owned by one of Hadley's cousins Mrs. Harold Swift.  The gate is something like the one [in "Cabin"], which has an open gate.  Although the location may have been the same the paintings are different."  [Hardin, Becky, The Indiana State Flag: Its Designer (Biography of Paul Hadley with Anthology of his Paintings), p. 16-17 (1976).  Click here to find links to read a digital copy of this fine biography.]
Obviously, Hardin believed that the cabin Hadley painted was the Spoon house.  There is only one difficulty:  There were generations of Spoons who were born, raised, and lived lifetimes in Mooresville (on various streets, including Harrison, High, Madison, Washington, . . .  you get the idea), as well as in the country surrounding town.  Which Spoon family branch belonged to the cabin in Hadley's painting?

During a program celebrating Paul Hadley and the Indiana State Flag's centennial, one of the panelists, Peggy Killian Benson, vividly recalled that Spoon's cabin was situated near White Lick Creek just south of town.  In the video (below), you can hear her talking about her "Uncle Herb" who had lived in the cabin until his death.  This would have been Herbert Spoon (1892-1954), who was a livelong Mooresville resident.

Celebrating Paul Hadley & the Indiana State Flag Centennial, by MPL
(Peggy Killian Benson's presentation begins at the 26:44 mark)

Herbert Spoon's Obituary
(Mooresville Times, August 12, 1954)

The 1920 U.S. Census states that Herbert Spoon lived on a farm "east of the Vandallia Railroad," and Peggy Killian Benson remembers the cabin sitting near White Lick Creek.  If we look at the 1920 Plat Map of Brown Township, Morgan County, Indiana, we can see the probable location of the Spoon cabin portrayed in Paul Hadley's painting.

 Excerpts from the 1920 U.S. Census including Herbert Spoon

1920 Plat Map of Brown Township, Morgan County, Indiana
(Probable Location of the Spoon Cabin in Red)

What does this area look like today?  Paul Hadley painted another picture near Spoon's cabin, according to Peggy Killian Benson.  This was called "East Fork of White Lick Creek" and is on display at the library.

"East Fork of White Lick Creek," by Paul Hadley

 Modern Map of Area Near Spoon Cabin

 Aerial Views of Area

Modern Photo of East Fork of White Lick Creek
(Near Spoon Cabin Site)
Spoon's Cabin Was Near Today's Rooker Trace & Rooker Run Subdivisions

Peggy Killian Benson's living memory of the Spoon cabin site should be dispositive of its true location.  There were, however, many Spoons living in and around Mooresville during the 19th and 20th centuries, and perhaps it would be fun to talk a little about some of them. Using the U.S. Censuses from 1870-1920, along with genealogical information from our Spoon family vertical file (in the MPL Indiana Roving Reporter Room) dating to the 1830's, we found a longtime Spoon homestead at 142 East Harrison Street, at which Spoon family members resided continuously for at least 75 years.

The house is listed by exact address in the 1920 census, when Alonzo and Etta May Spoon lived at 142 East Harrison Street.

 1920 U.S. Census for Mooresville, Brown Township, Morgan County,
Indiana shows Alonzo and Etta M. Spoon living at 142 E. Harrison St.
(the 1870-1880 censuses listed Alonzo's grandfather, Peter Spoon, residing there)

In the 1880 census, Alonzo Spoon was age 14 and lived on High Street with his parents, Mitchel (spelled Mitchell in the censuses) and Tempy Staley Spoon.  However, Mitchel's father, Peter Spoon, who was Alonzo's grandfather, lived at 142 East Harrison Street, according to the 1870 & 1880 censuses.

 1880 Census showing Peter Spoon, Alonzo's Grandfather,
living at 142 East Harrison Street

 Peter Spoon obituary record
(courtesy of MPL Legacy Links obituary database)

Peter Spoon's obituary
(Martinsville Republican, January 26, 1888)

When Alonzo's grandfather, Peter Spoon, died in 1888, the house remained in the family (going to Peter's son, Mitchel, who was Alonzo's father). Alonzo and Etta May Spoon were married on September 14, 1892, when they moved into 142 East Harrison Street (possibly a wedding present from Mitchel & Tempy?).  Alonzo and Etta May lived there until their deaths (1937 and 1946, respectively).

 Alonzo Spoon obituary
(Mooresville Times, December 30, 1937)

Etta May Spoon obituary card
MPL Indiana Room obituary files

Peter Spoon and his descendants lived at 142 East Harrison Street continuously between at least 1870 and 1946.

Unfortunately, Hadley could have spared us all this speculation and historical research if he had simply named his painting "William Spoon's or Herbert Spoon's (or Alonzo Spoon's, or, even, Peter Spoon's) cabin," but the artist probably wasn't imagining that anyone (especially a feline roving reporter) would be writing about it 75 years after the fact.  But, still.

How do things look at 142 East Harrison Street nowadays?

In our next installment, we'll consider the unlikely possibility that the painting actually portrayed "the Robb cabin" (especially improbable, given the testimony of Peggy Killian Benson).  Still, it's a fun road trip for moi and my minions.  That will take us south to Centerton, Indiana (still in Morgan County, though).

Your Roving Reporter On The Go,

Cauli Le Chat

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