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Farewell…

Dick and his good friend Dan Evans in Hawaii

While shelving another piece of local history yesterday, I saw a small pamphlet entitled, “Some Early History of Montgomery County.” This little booklet is a reprint of a paper given by Thomas H. Ristine in 1913. As I was reading about the founding of Crawfordsville by three young men, one of whom was a Ristine, the phone rang with the news that Dick Ristine had died over the weekend.

While many on campus knew it was coming, it is hard not to feel that we have lost something big. It is true that, as Dick liked to say, he was the last of the alums closely connected to someone who knew Caleb Mills very well. Dick’s family history is a history of this college and of this town in equal measures. I would like to share a little bit of that excellent history in this posting.

It starts in the pioneer era…In 1823 Henry Ristine built the second log structure in this new town and it quickly became a gathering place. Ristine Tavern was where most of the business of this young community was discussed and then settled. An early court hearing even took place there. In fact a history of the young town is in many ways a history of the Ristines as they were in this area right from the first. They have served as trustees, lawyers, public officials, church elders and across many charitable committees. From 1823 on the Ristines have left their good mark on our community in dozens of ways.

Nine Years later, in 1832, a small group of Presbyterians came to town to hold a meeting on the subject of an academy here in Crawfordsville. It was agreed that this would be the best way to supply enough teachers and preachers to the “Wabash Country.” Leading the founders were James and John Steele Thomson. James was the first President of the Prudential Committee and John was on the first faculty. Their younger brother Samuel Steele Thomson was in Caleb Mills’ first class and became the first alumnus to join the faculty. Professor Thomson’s daughter married Theodore H. Ristine, an alum of the class of 1865 uniting these two pioneering families. It was this same fellow who wrote the “Early History of Montgomery County” that I mentioned earlier.

The Ristines lived in Crawfordsville and raised their children at the edge of campus. Theodore Ristine served the college as a Trustee for 48 years. Dick would sometimes speak about being a little shaver and playing under the table as his grandfather met with the various trustees and officers of the college.

Dick’s parents were yet another example of the melding of town and gown as Dick’s mother was the daughter of long-time professor James Osborne. Her brother was the legendary English professor Insley Osborne. Dick would tell me stories about “Uncle Insley” and other legends of the faculty. His stories were always told with a chuckle and a grin – often things no one else knew or that few remember…Stories about Doc Mackintosh, George Kendall, Bryon Trippet, Frank Sparks or Eli Lilly.

While I will greatly miss the chance to listen as he spins a yarn, perhaps even more I will miss the sense that Dick had of Wabash – as something timeless, something bigger than any era, bigger than any person. Dick lived the history of this place, it was truly in his DNA. Dick also loved this place and served it well in nearly every capacity. Dick lived and loved well all of his life – his family and his friends, his beloved Alma Mater, the state he served as Lt. Governor, the state he retired to and the natural world around him were all objects of his affection – and all benefited from his passion.  The world is a better place for the life of this good man.

Indeed, we will all miss our good old friend Dick Ristine…

Best,

Beth Swift

Archivist,Wabash College



Historic Downtown

A few months ago I posted a picture of East Main Street. As a follow up, here is an image of our downtown taken in the middle of Washington Street and looking south. In this photo we get a sense of Crawfordsville as a bustling county seat.

In the furthest point visible on the right side of the photograph is the Wabash Avenue Presbyterian Church steeple. On the left side and back is the St. Bernard’s Catholic Church bell tower. The Catholic Church had a lovely cathedral on the corner of Pike and Washington Streets. It was demolished and a bank was built on that spot. We can also see that the building that was destroyed in the Tommy’s Silver Dollar fire is looking good and holding down that end of the block. Note the train tracks in the middle of the street, there was also a set of tracks running east and west that served the interurban railway. Crawfordsville was well connected by trains at this time. The ladies of the town would ride over to Indianapolis for shopping or lunch and students were frequent passengers as well. Many of the “big” games were played in Indianapolis as the stadiums could seat more fans. I love the idea that our students could hop on a train, ride to Indy for a day and then ride back in the evening. Those were the days!

Best,
Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College

Chapel Sing

Chapel Sing 1938

This past weekend as I watched the reunion classes at the Big Bash participate in the Chapel Sing it was like watching time travelers…the year was not important. For the alums,  it was the gathering of their class on the steps, all together, to sing “Old Wabash”.  From the smile on their faces, it was a pleasant journey.

This morning as I was looking through some pictures, I came across this small snapshot from 1938. This picture is labeled “Chapel Sing 1938”. Most of the young men in the shot are wearing freshman “pots”. Perhaps the organization of the event? Perhaps photos of each fraternity class, the photographer appears to be at work.

At any rate, this picture put me to mind of the Chapel Sing at Big Bash and from what I could see, a great time was had by both alums and their appreciative audience.

Beth Swift
Archivist
Wabash College