Open Door

Open Door
Indianapolis, Indiana

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Abstract & Title Part 2 - All I can say is WOW!

We left off after the first 30 years of the abstract with Samuel & Elizabeth Shimer owning the property. As before, because there are so many redundant entries in the abstract, I'm just going to hit the major points. We can post all the details on the website once we've got it set up.

The Shimers took a portion of the afore mentioned land, pieced together with some adjoining property, and sold it to Charles Brouse on July 22, 1873. (Remember, Charles was one of the first Metal of Honor winners in the nation.) Charles and Margaret Brouse then deeded the property to James Downey, his uncle, on the same day. This sounds suspicious to me but maybe I'm just the wary type. There were many ups and downs in the national economy after the Civil War but the worst was the "Panic of 1873"  which was world wide. This 'depression' lasted for about 10 years in Indiana.

On June 11,1875, Downey and Brouse plat this property as the Downey and Brouse addition to Irvington. They sell lot 1 to Abraham Horner on September 1, 1875. Less than a year later, on July 7, 1876, Abraham sells the property to Mahala Shoemaker. If you read the History of the Horner House - Part 1, we ended with the following regarding why they owned for such a short time: Was transportation the issue or was the area too rural? Did their fortunes change during the numerous economic downturns post Civil War? We’ll likely never know.  

Well, we now know and as I promised, this is where things begin to get interesting. Between August of 1875 and May of 1876, there were 23 Mechanics Liens placed on the property. These were initially part of 3 different complaints against Abraham Horner, his wife, John F. Cooper, and Henry M. Cooper. At least 6 of these liens were written on Christmas Day 1875. I think it's pretty safe to say the Horners didn't envision their first Christmas in their new house would turn out this way. We're still digging through all the details but know that these liens were for more than $4000.00, a small fortune in those days.

In March of 1876, the Sheriff of Floyd County served a summons to the Coopers and the Sheriff of Marion County served Abraham Horner. The 3 complaints were consolidated into one and a Judgment was rendered on 5/20/1876. The judge ordered the house sold at auction on the last day of July 1876 to pay off the Judgments on the liens. If the house sold for more than the total of the liens, the remaining monies were to go to Abraham Horner. If the house sold for less than the total of the liens, the Sheriff was to seize the property of the Coopers and divide the proceeds between the lien holders.

This is the add for the Sheriff's auction in the Indianapolis Sentinel 1876.

The auction was conducted on 7/31/1876, however, there were no bids. The property was purchased via a Sheriff's Deed later that day to Willis S. Webb for $92.46. This is only about 2% of the total of the liens and an unknown percentage of the actual cost of the house & property. Since Abram Horner had already sold the house to John & Mahala Shoemaker, they had to  enter a Quit Claim Deed on  10/17/1876 to clear the title. This allowed Webb to assign the Sheriff's Deed to Franklin Insurance Company in November.

Abraham owned the house for just 10 months. And just who were those Coopers - John & Henry? Since the Floyd County Sheriff served their summons, Amanda called the Indiana Landmarks office in New Albany, IN. The Floyd County Historian found them listed as Contractors & Builders in the 1877-1878 City Directory. There is also a George B. F. Cooper, at the same address, listed as an Architect. Since then, we've found several of the lien holders were also from New Albany. Did the Coopers bring them to Indy with them? And exactly what was each subcontractor responsible for completing?

Don't know if any of you have ever been to New Albany but the architecture down there will knock your socks off. One of our many areas to do further research on is in regard to which buildings in New Albany our lien holders may have helped build. We have contacted a master plasterer in New Albany who may help us identify whether or not the Horner House shares the same plaster crown mouldings as the Culbertson Mansion or another historic building there.

Wow! Now we know that the house was really built in 1875 not 1876. We have solid leads on who some of the craftsmen were who assisted in building the house and that some were from New Albany, IN. We know why the Horners lived in the house such a short period of time. And, although we didn't mention it before, we know that some of these lien holders also filed liens on other homes in Irvington, some in Downey & Browse or other additions, at the same time. With every answer we get, we have 4 more questions. We plan to keep digging.

Now we have more questions than when we finished the History - Part 1. We  will continue to dig into the data. We hope to share more as soon as we can find additional data. This is an amazing puzzle!

To be continued, again....


  1. Very cool! Are you aware of this New Albany newspaper index (heavy on deaths, births, and marriages, but it might give you lead:

    Also, Sally Newkirk of the Carnegie Center for Art and History might be able to help you. Thanks for updating us!

  2. Wow, this is like an old serial movie - I can't wait till the next installment! Thanks for sharing. Best of luck with your continued digging and the restoration project.

  3. @ Joan - Thanks for the link but we had already done searches at ISL. We haven't found much on the Coopers so far but we're not giving up yet. We're hoping that Amanda & Eric can make a quick trip to New Albany when Eric is off his crutches. They want to see if there is anything more down there.

    @ Tom - We're continuing to dig and hope to find more details. We're actually hoping we can find the names of the people who did specific work on the house.

    We're actually starting to make some progress on the restoration, too. Our next couple of blogs will be about the little bit of progress we're making. Thanks so much for the words of encouragement!

  4. My near-brother (Murray Porath, aka Azarael Soul-Separator) lives in New Albany now, and is very interested in historic structures. He's also a lawyer. Do you want me to ask him about looking things up at the courthouse there? -- Alisa

  5. We would love for you to ask him if he's interested in doing some poking around for more information on the Coopers. If he is interested, let us know and we'll give him some information on what we're looking for. THANKS!