There is a town in Indiana called Santa Claus, yes like the man who comes down your chimney with presents. However, it wasn’t always called Santa Claus. In 1854, a town called Santa Fe, pronounced fee, was established. They tried to establish a post office but their application was denied because there was already a Santa Fe, Indiana. So, the town held a few meetings and they decided on Santa Claus. It is the only post office in the world with the name Santa Claus. Because of this they receive thousands of Dear Santa letters a year from all over the world. The town has a group of volunteers called Santa’s Elves that make sure each child gets a reply. This tradition was started in 1914. Most of the streets and businesses have Christmas themed names. Santa Claus is also home to many Christmas themed attractions like Santa Claus Museum, Frosty’s Fun Center, Santa’s Candy Castle and Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari.
So, what exactly are Hoosiers, besides an excellent 1986 basketball film starring Gene Hackman? Indiana is often called the Hoosier state and people from Indiana are known as Hoosiers. But what does it mean and where did it come from? It is one of the oldest state nicknames and its origin has been debated for years. The term appeared in print as early as 1832 and gained popular usage the following year after the publication of John Finley’s poem “The Hoosier’s Nest.” It seems that the term, like “Yankee,” was first used mockingly before it was adopted by Indiana residents with pride. The Pittsburg Statesman reported in the summer of 1833 that Indiana’s citizens had “been called Hoosiers for some time past at home and abroad, sometimes honorably and sometimes the reverse.” However, no one knows when and where the nickname got started. There have been many theories, most of which have been discounted. Some say that a contractor named Samuel Hoosier preferred to hire laborers from Indiana rather than neighboring Kentucky to construct the Louisville and Portland Canal along the Ohio River in the 1820s. The Indiana workers were called “Hoosier’s men,” later shortened to “Hoosiers.” However, there is no record of this. Another popular theory is that it originated from census workers calling “Who’s here?”. No matter how it got started, people from Indiana are proud to be known as Hoosiers.
Robbers on a Train
One claim to fame that Indiana has is that it is the home of the first train robbery. Well, the first robbery on a moving train. Of course, trains had been robbed before but they were all stationary, sitting in depots and freight yards. On October 6, 1866, brothers John and Simeon Reno staged the first train robbery in American history. They made off with $13,000 from an Ohio and Mississippi railroad train in Jackson County, Indiana. The contribution of the Reno brothers to criminal history was to stop a moving train in a sparsely populated area, where they could carry out their crime without risking interference from the law or curious bystanders. This new way of robbing trains quickly became popular in the West. There were plenty of wide-open spaces in the West that were ideal for stopping trains and robbing them. As well as many places for the gangs to hide out. Eventually, railroad companies began outfitting trains with guards to try and stop robberies. The staple of many movie Westerns is a train robbery and it is all thanks to the Reno Brothers and Indiana.
When you think of Colonel Sanders you think Kentucky Fried Chicken and probably not Indiana. Despite being known for the state of Kentucky, he was born and raised in Indiana. Harland David Sanders was born in 1890 near Henryville, Indiana. After his father died when he was six, he was left to care and cook for his younger siblings. Then at age 10, he became a farmhand. At 13 he dropped out of school and began to work odd jobs to help support his family. Then in 1906, he lied about his age to join the army and was stationed in Cuba. After the army he worked more odd jobs and got a law degree via correspondence then moved to Little Rock, Arkansas to practice law. His law career only lasted 3 years and ended when he got into a fist fight with a client in a courtroom. He then moved back to Indiana and again worked a series of different jobs and tried opening a few businesses. He ended up in Kentucky running a Shell Oil Company service station which is where he began serving his famous chicken. After that he opened or ran a series of restaurants that served his secret recipe. Then he started to franchise. By 1964, there were over 600 franchised KFCs in the country and he sold them to a couple of businessmen from Kentucky. He kept the locations in Canada. He then began to travel and act as a spokesman for the company. He was well recognizable in his regular attire of a starched white shirt, black tie and white jacket and pants. He was also never an official Colonel; it was an honorary title given to him. He died in 1980 but his image is still used as the mascot of KFC.
Grave in the Road
If you happen to be driving near Amity, Indiana you might come across an odd sight, a grave in the middle of the road. Why is there a grave in the middle of the road in Indiana and who’s grave is it? Well, that is quite the story. Nancy Kerlin was around 14 when she married William Barnett in 1808. William Barnett was the great-great-great-grandson of Pocahontas and John Rolfe. They had 11 children and lived outside present day Amity. Nancy Kerlin Barnett died at the age of 39 in 1831. Her husband buried her at one of her favorite places, on a small hill overlooking Sugar Creek. Eventually more people were laid to rest there. William Barnett died from drowning 23 years later but he was buried elsewhere. Over time a county road was planned to go through the little cemetery. Most of the graves were moved and reburied but one of Nancy’s sons loudly objected to her being moved and since it wasn’t much of a problem, her grave was allowed to stay. Years later the county wanted to widen the road and this time her grave would have to be moved. Her grandson Daniel Doty was not having it. He argued that his grandmother’s grave be allowed to stay again. He took his shotgun and stood guard over her grave when the road crew would show up. Between him showing up with a shotgun and numerous petitions the county again allowed her to stay. Eventually in 1912, a concrete slab was put over her grave to protect it. Now she is a bit of a local legend, the woman who’s grave is in the middle of the road.