I was recently loaned several items from Mal Raher. Most of you know Mal - he is the owner for many years of the trucking company, Portland Express.
He also has been very active over the years in the Portland Rotary Club. All of the items he brought me, he said he found when he cleaned out an old house many years ago. The first two items I will write about are post cards from the Hearsey-Willis Co. in Indianapolis, Ind. and one about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway about 1921.
The first post card was addressed to Central Garage Bloomington, Ind. and the date was Jan 9, 1915, it has a 1-cent George Washington stamp on it. The card reads: “Our Mr. W. R. Cattlett? Will be pleased to call upon you about Jan 11-15. We thank you for your patronage. Hearsey-Willis Co.”
I did some research on this business and found that Mr. Henry T. Hearsey was a businessman born in London in 1863. He came to America as a child in 1885. He was a pioneer for the Wholesale and Retail Bicycle and Auto Business of Indiana, was governor of the Board of Trade since June 15, 1903 and lived in Indianapolis (from pg. 28 Centennial History and Handbook of Indiana by George Streibe Cottman).
The store was first located at on Pennsylvania Street then it was moved to West Market Street and they sold carriages, horseless carriages, and bicycles. In 1909 the business switched from mostly selling carriages into selling autos.
They sold bicycles, carriages, sleighs, portable heaters and even operated a riding school (bicycles) that catered to teaching women.
“Major” Walter Marshall Taylor - the great African American cyclist and Indiana native was an instructor there on North Pennsylvania Street. After moving the salesroom from Market Street, the sales room at 339 Capitol Avenue was ready for business on Sept 15, 1913.
Capitol Avenue was later called “Motor Row” and it became an agency for the Hupmobile in addition to doing a large accessories business. In case you cannot read the circle on the truck and windows of the business it says; “Hearsey Tire” “If Hearsey Tires Could Be Better They Would” “Guaranteed.”
The Willis part of the company name was from Mr. Fred I. Willis, a businessman born in Waterloo, Indiana on Sept. 27, 1873. He graduated from Waterloo High School in 1893 and began as a clerk in 1894 at the H T Hearsey Co.
He moved up to secretary, manager of the company; he was president of the Indianapolis Chamber of Commerce, director of the Indiana State Bank and lived in Indianapolis.
Before 1916 Mr. Willis had resigned/retired from the company and the name of the business was changed to the H T Hearsey Co.
The other postcard is labeled, “Just before the start, motor speedway Indianapolis, Indiana” Aug. 1, 1921 sent to Mrs. Nellie Brooks of Fountain Head, Tenn. to St. Thomas Hospital Room 401 in Nashville.
Unfortunately, the writing on the card is illegible to me except for the first line that says; “Dear Sister, Will write you a few lines…,” and the signature is also missing from the card.
I looked on Wikipedia.org and found a very interesting history about the Indianapolis Motor Way. The speedway was envisioned by Carl G Fisher in 1905. He said, “Indiana is going to be the world’s greatest center of horseless carriages manufacturer, what could be more logical that building the world’s greatest race track?”
Along with other partners, A. Allison, Arthur Newby, and Frank W. Wheeler, Fisher bought the Pressley farm of 328 acres about five miles from Indianapolis for $72,000. The group incorporated the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on March 20, 1909 with a capitalization of $250,000.
The first event held there was a Helium Balloon Competition on June 5, 1909 that drew 40,000 people. The first motorsport event was seven motorcycle races in Aug. 14, 1909. On August 19, 15 car makers got together and practiced on the track. There were 20,000 spectators at a dollar a ticket.
About halfway through the 250 mile race, Louis Chevrolet had his goggles smashed by a flying stone. Wilford Bourque, driving a Knox, suffered a suspected rear axle failure, flipping the car and crashing into a fence post. It killed him and his passenger, his mechanic, Harry Halcomb instantly. This was the first of many tragic accidents.
AAA said that improvements needed to be made to the track, so 3.2 million bricks were put on the track. The final brick was made of gold and a ceremony by Gov. Thomas R. Marshall laid the last brick. The locals began to call the speedway “The Brickyard.” Today, only three feet of the original bricks are exposed at the start finish line.
So what does all this have to do with Fountain Head?
I asked on Facebook if anyone knew or was related to Luther and Nellie Knight Brooks and had no responses so I will just go with what I found on Ancestry.com, granted some things may not be correct.
In the 1910 US Census it lists Luther Brook (s) as being 12 years old having been born in May 1, 1898. His father was Charles Brook (s) and mother was Johnnie Brook (s) and they were living on Cottontown Road in the 14th Civil District in Sumner County.
His mom and dad at this time were age 39 and their occupation was farming. At this time they had a 3-year-old daughter named Jessie Brook (s).
In the same 1910 Census I found Nellie Knight. She was 13, being born on Oct 24, 1899. Her parents were Ida, age 37 and Fannie Knight, age 31. They were also living in the 14th Civil District of Sumner County.
Other members of the household were Robert Knight, 20, Mary Knight, 8, and Oakley Knight, 4. I found a marriage bond for Luther Brooks and Nellie Knight dated 30th March, 1916.
The 1920 US Census has Nellie Brooks, 22, married to Luther Brooks living in the 14th District of Sumner County. The 1930 US Census lists Luther Brooks as 32, and a Lodger in Indianapolis (Marion Co.) It lists his occupation as a machine operator in the industry of auto tire manufacturing.
Others listed living there were; John T Hicks 58, Mary F. Hicks 57, Nellie Brooks 33, John B Hicks 21. The last Census that is available now is the 1940 census. Nellie G Brooks is 43 living in Sumner County Tn. on the road from Fountain Head Sanitarium to Hollis Chapel. Other household member was Luther T. Brooks age 42.
The obituary in the Nashville Tennessean Friday Oct 19, 1979 says services for Mrs. Nellie Gertrude Brooks, 82, of Portland will be Oct. 20 at Wilkinson and Wiseman Funeral Home. Burial will be in Old Brush Cemetery. Mrs. Brooks died Oct. 17 in Highland Hospital. She is survived by her husband, Luther Brooks of Portland.
The obituary for Mr. Luther Taylor Brooks says he was born in May 1, 1898 and died July 14, 1981 at Robertson County Health Care at the age of 83.
Paula Shannon is a member of the Highland Rim Historical Society.