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....

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Abstract and Title

First, we need to do a big shout out to Joan Hostetler of Heritage Photo. Back on September 13th, Joan conducted a class, "Researching Your Historic Home", at the Irvington Library. One of her tips lead us to find an early abstract of the Horner House.

We had expected the normal types of entries as the property changed hands over the past 190 years. As we began reading through the file, we realized that we had hit the jackpot. I won't bore you with most of the land descriptions or details. If anyone is interested, we'll be adding more documentation on our website - once we finally get it up. Documented below are the first 32 years and they're pretty much as we expected.

The story starts in the Tract Book from July 26, 1821. (History reminder - 1820 was the year Indianapolis was declared the new state capital.) The United States of America deeded to Harvey Pope the North East Quarter of Section 9, Township 15 North, Range 4 East, 160 acres.  The next entry, dated 11/15/1822, was to Hervey Pope, his heirs and assigns. It was for the east 1/2 of the property above equaling 80 acres.

This is a US Land Record showing Hervey Pope's ownership of the east 1/2 of the 160 acres. (

And this is the US Land Record showing ownership of the West 1/2 of the 160 acres. ( Unfortunately, they were both indexed as Henry Pope but when you open the records, you can tell it's Hervey.

On 8/31/1835, Harvey Pope (signed Harey Pope) and Mary Pope deeded to John Williams the entire 160 acres.  Since there are 48 John Williams in Indiana in the 1830 US Census and 98 in the 1840 US Census, we aren't currently trying to identify the Horner House's John Williams. Some day, we'll have to try to figure out who he is and if John Williams is any relationship to Ron's family. Ron's Williams line has been in Indiana since before 1850. We just haven't figured out how long yet.

Then 2 years later, in 1842, part of the property changes hands again when John Williams & Adah Williams deeded to John Hannah (or Horner) 70 acres. The abstract shows that John Hannah (or possibly Horner) purchased but John Horner sold the property. There are too many John Hannah's & Horner's in the 1840 & 50 Census to be able to tell which one might be correct. We many never know for sure who this owner is but we'll keep it on the list of things for further research- some day.

In May 1853, John Horner deeds to Samuel Shank, the full 70 acres.  Per the next transaction, we know that this Samuel Shank is married to Sarah Shank. Samuel & Sarah are living in Warren Township, Marion County, IN in the 1850 Census with their children and his father. By 1860, however, Samuel & Sarah Shank are no longer in Marion County in the US Census.

Samuel Shank and Sarah Shank sell 25-3/4 acres to William R Shimer in August 1853. The Shimer family owned a lot of land in the vicinity and had a major impact on early Irvington. The next several transactions lead to some amazing discoveries.

To Be Continued...

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

Last month, over Labor Day weekend, we did some serious supplies procurement for the bungalow. Both Lowe's & Menards had major sales and we made the best of them. Amanda and Eric spent hours figuring out what we needed to purchase to get it updated and livable. Then they spent several more hours comparing prices to get the best deal. We still spent so much money that we ended up getting dedicated CSRs to help us find everything, load things and get our purchases up front to the registers. We bought everything including, literally, the kitchen sink. Both stores ended up providing three people to load our supplies onto the trailer. I think the managers wept with joy when we left.

Of course, at that point in time, we thought we'd be much farther along than we are today, due to Eric's broken ankle. The work required to get moved into the bungalow is much more extensive than what we originally thought.  We have lots of "stuff" but we're kind of short on workers at the moment.

 In this picture are several toilets, sinks & vanities.

And in this picture, about 30 gallons of paint, interior & exterior.

During this down time, we're learning a lot and working on a comprehensive project plan to help us be more realistic about the time/effort that will be needed to get things done. Not to mention how to add in some padding for the unexpected (like broken ankles). I'm used to planning major projects at work. This, however, is project management on steroids. It includes: work on the bungalow, work on Toad Hall, work to get the Beech Grove house ready to sell, and scheduling for the business and how that might impact our "time off".  In the process, we're beginning to try to define what "free" or "down" time really is these days.

Oh, happy Family History Month. I'm trying to figure out all the resources that are available at the IN State Library and IN State Archives. I think that I'd prefer to spend my next vacation at the IN State Library rather than Disney World. Amanda says I'm crazy, but I truly think I'd be happier with the information I'd get at the library than buying a ticket and just wandering around WDW. Not only am I finding out a lot about my ancestors but we are finding some very tantalizing clues about the early history of the house.

More to follow!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


As a follow-up to the toilets blog, we thought we'd do a blog on sinks. Luckily, the sink in the Beech Grove bathroom has no issues so there is no real story there.

The bungalow has the same problem with bathroom sinks as it has with toilets. They were not winterized prior to the house being abandoned so they will all need to be replaced along with the plumbing. The kitchen sink also has an issue with broken pipes. Upon closer inspection of the plumbing under the kitchen sink, Eric discovered that the drains had no traps, which is a code violation. Since everything must be replaced, it will be brought up to code with appropriate drains before they move into the house. So yes, we need to replace all the plumbing fixtures, even the kitchen sink.

More interesting, however, are the sinks in the Horner House. While the toilets were just randomly sitting around the house, some of the sinks, but not all, had actually been installed in the house at one time.

We'll start with the random sink. This one is just sitting on the floor in one of the rooms. Sorry it's so blurry but I was laughing when I took the picture.

Then there is the kitchen sink that is hanging on a wall in a bedroom. We figure it was re-purposed as a kitchen when the house was divided into apartments. It appears that the pipes were all disconnected long ago. The stove is a circa 1910's Roper gas range, which has unfortunately been stolen by metal thieves since this photo was taken.

My favorite is the one on the wall in the West wing. Keep in mind that the floors of the West wing have fallen into the cellar. When we were shopping for sinks for the bungalow, Amanda didn't really think it was funny when I suggested rescuing this sink off the wall of the Horner House and installing it in the bungalow. And we likely couldn't have figured out a way to rescue it anyway.

Stay tuned! We thought we'd slowly show the current interior condition by highlighting a few items at a time. Coming up are blogs on the bathtub/showers and more kitchen items.