This blog will follow the progress of my research into the history of West Terre Haute, Indiana, which will result in a book tentatively titled Til the Coal Train Hauled It Away: West Terre Haute, the Rise and Demise of a Scorned Town.  As the title indicates, WTH is a town that has ranged from being essentially ignored to being actively derided and scorned as the setting for a perpetual underclass.  The people in towns like West Terre Haute have seldom been given a voice by history.  They have been ignored, or simply gone unmentioned.  They deserve more and my hope for this book is to give both a scholarly view of its history and a compelling portrait of its people.

My family has lived in WTH since at least 1850.  Among the many good people who have roamed its streets were my grandparents, Ray and Hilda Chrisman.  It was they who regaled me with stories of the town and their lives that made me an historian, something I have known I wanted to be since the age ten. 

This blog and book are dedicated to them.

Tim Crumrin, President, Historiker Consulting Group

Mr. Crumrin retired after 25 years a historian at  Conner Prairie and is President of the Historiker Consulting Group.   From 1992-1996 he was Adjunct Professor of History at St. Mary-of-the-Woods College.  He holds an BA (Summa Cum Laude) in European History and a Masters in American History from Indiana State University.  He has written or edited over 35 scholarly publications and made numerous presentations at conferences sponsored by the Organization of American Historians and the Indiana Historical Society, among others.  In addition to his duties as Historian, he was the creator and designer of the Conner Prairie website during its first five years and project coordinator during the implementation and initial programming phase of the museum’s distance learning program.  In addition to winning two national awards of merit from the American Association of State and Local History, he received a national Telly award as writer and director of the PBS documentary, Harvesting the Past.

He was awarded the prestigious 2014 Eli Lilly Lifetime Achievement Award for contributions to Indiana history.

Would you like to help recover the History of West Terre Haute?  You can.  Please check out forms below:


History of West Terre Haute Project


The purpose of the project is to gather materials (letters, diaries, stories, etc) about the history of Macksville/West Terre Haute.  Some of the materials will be added to the collections of the Vigo County Public Library and may be used by historian Tim Crumrin in his forthcoming book. If you would like to take part in this effort, please fill out form below.



Name  _____________________________________

Address   ____________________________________________


Email   _______________________________________________

Phone  ________________________________________________

I have:

Photos_____                                       Letters_____

Diaries______                                    Family Histories _______

Film _______                                     Other ________

Please briefly describe items listed above.

I would like to be interviewed as part of an Oral History _________

Questions?  Please contact Tim Crumrin  tcrumrin@yahoo.com

and put “WTH Project” in subject line.  Thank you.



1.    Please provide a brief biography (age, how long lived in WTH, where you lived, , etc)

2.    Please describe your neighborhood, friends, relatives

3.    What people or events (good and bad) of West Terre Haute do you remember most?

4.    What did you do for entertainment?

5.    Where did you like to shop in town?

6.    What schools did you attend?

7.    What community gatherings do you remember?

8.    What are most pleasant memories?

9.    Any unpleasant memories?

10.What does growing up or living in West Terre Haute mean to you?



Do you have photographs, diaries or letters from WTH past that you would be willing to share for research purposes?





Questions?  Please contact Tim Crumrin tcrumrin@yahoo.com

and put “WTH Project” in subject line.  Thank you.


16 Comments on “About”

  1. Great blog. Thanks. Those of us who grew up there in the late forties and into the early 60’s appreciate the fleshing out of stories we heard from parents and grandparents. My maternal grandfather, George J. Witt, was the station agent at the PRR freight station at the third street crossing. If I can be of any help, I would like to do so.

    Witt Monts
    West Vigo High School 1962

  2. Bobbie Johnston says:

    Have we met? I am unsure.
    We are definitely related. I am a grand-daughter of Iva (Hants) Johnston….Hilda’s sister.
    I have some documents which I ran across after my dad passed away.
    Contact me at your convenience.

  3. Beverly Graber says:

    Was your mother’s name, Joan, and dad,Tom?

  4. Daniel Moore says:

    Mr. Crumrin,

    I read your “Women and the Law in Early 19th Century” at the Conner Prairie site. Unfortunately, I did not see a place to post a comment or question, so please indulge me here.

    Current Indiana law states that an unmarried man who dies intestate with no children and surviving parent(s), that the parent(s) are the heirs.  I suspect that this may have been different in the mid-19th century. Based upon my interpretation of a probate record from Clinton County where the heirs are listed as his brothers and sisters, his nieces and nephews of deceased brothers and sisters, and his widowed mother. Can you confirm that this was the case? …or point me to a resource to study?

    Thank you very much and best regards,

    Dan Moore
    Tigard, Oregon

    • tcrumrin says:

      Dan, according to the 1831 Statutes of Indiana the estate of anyone dying intestate was passed to the children. If there were no children or widow, it then passed to mother or father of deceased. If they were not alive then the siblings were next in line.

  5. mooredan says:

    Thank you for engaging with me on this, I really appreciate it.

    Unfortunately, I’m having some difficulty understanding this passage in a probate record:

    “… that said decedent [James W. Brafford] died sole and intestate leaving surviving him the following named persons as heirs at law to-wit: William W. Brafford aged 45 9/12 years, Thomas L. Brafford aged 44 years, Ellenor L. Gillmore aged 41 years, Martha W Moore aged 37 years Nancy L Logan aged 32 years, Phoebe A. McBride aged 10 years, William W. Hart aged 25 years, John L Hart aged 23 years, Martha M Hart aged 20 years, Margaret Hart aged 18 years, Ann Eliza Hart aged 16 years, Elmira Hart aged 9 years Elvia Hart aged seven years and his mother Nancy Brafford aged 66 years, and no others within the knowledge …” [1]

    Note: Ellenor L. Gillmore, Martha W Moore and Nancy L Logan maiden names were Braford (or some variation of that). The McBride’s and Hart’s were children of Margaret Braford and Mary Braford respectively.

    Image: http://kinfolk.suncup.net/wp-content/uploads/007662122_00929.jpg

    So I’m confused. One way this makes sense to me is to interpret “died sole” as unmarried and the folks listed before “his mother” are his siblings and deceased siblings’ children. …but if his mother were alive, why would the others be listed as heirs? With his mother being 66 years old, several of the others certainly could not be his children. Could this be because women had restricted property rights and could not inherit the property (80 acres of land) outright?


    1. ”Indiana, Wills and Probate Records, 1798-1999,” database with images, Ancestry.com(http:/www.ancestry.com : accessed 18 August 2016), Real Estate of James W. Brafford, 29 March 1860; citing Clinton County, Indiana, Probate Complete Order Book B-2:576-581, Real Estate of James W. Brafford, 1860; Clerks Office, Frankfort.

    • mooredan says:

      Aha, you put me on the right track. The probate case was in 1859. I found a copy of “The Statutes of the State of Indiana, Containing the Revised Statutes of 1852” on Google Books. Chapter 98, Sec. 3 states (p. 409):

      “If any intestate shall die without lawful issue, or their descendants alive, one-half of the estate shall go to the father and mother of such intestate, as joint tenants, or if either be dead, to the survivor; and the other half to the brothers and sisters and to the descendants of such as are dead, as tenants in common.”

      It says that this was approved on May 14, 1852

      So my initial interpretation appears to be valid. Thanks so much!

  6. Cristina Lamb says:

    Tim, my name is Cristina Lamb, the eldest great grandchild of Janette Hants Schwab and granddaughter of Barbara Schwab. I have been working on my family history for a number of years and have always felt a strong connection to Grandfather David M Arthur. I have yet to make a trip to WTH but am enchanted by this blog and wondering if this has been put in print and how I might be able to obtain a copy of your book? My email address is current and thank you.

    • tcrumrin says:

      Christina, thank you for the comments. The book has taken much longer to write than I expected, but I finally have a frft ready to send to publishers. I will let everyone know the results. Jeanette was a wonderful person. I too feel an affinity for David Arthur, as my grandmother often spoke of him,

    • tcrumrin says:

      If you ever make the journey, let me know. I will give you a tours. David Arthur’s house, built in 18981, still stands. As does the house Jeanette and Bill shared with Lulu and Will after they married.

  7. Jennie Lamb says:

    My grandmother was Jeanette Hants Schwab. I am named after my great grandma Lulu Hants.
    I remember my grandpa, Jeanette’s husband, William Schwab, telling me the story of the very first time he ever saw Jeanette. She was carrying water in WTH.

    • tcrumrin says:

      Jennie, I would love to hear the rest of the story, Your grandmother was a wonderful woman. I like her very much. I last saw her a few months before her death. She was visiting my grandmother, and we all remarked about how happy she seemed.

  8. Tim,

    I was surprised today to accidentally find our Great Grandmother – Lulu Hants grave. I was helping another family at Roselawn and looked down and there she was. I was thrilled to also see Mabel and Joseph North at rest next to her. Their family still owns an additional graveside in their lot.

    Do you know where William Hants is buried?

    I think of you often as I search through records at Roselawn, searching families stories. It was wonderful to find ours there.

    For others on the posts here. I’m granddaughter to Raymond and Hilda Chrisman. Daughter to Danny and Sue Chrisman and cousin to Tim!

    • tcrumrin says:

      Honna, I believe he is at Highland Lawn near grandma’s brother Arthur, who only lived 16 months and died 6 months before Grandma was born. Will Hants died in 1932, just a few months before my mom was born. I have a picture of Lulu with Grandma from the late 1920s and another from 1955. I will send to you on Facebook when I dig up the disk.

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